Tuesday, November 9

Tip Wage Rant in a Small Coffee Shop

*Today I go on a rant. You've been warned.*

I had a rough conversation today with my boss. I finally got up the guts to confront him about something that I completely disagree with, and with Carbondale soon to be in my past anyway, today was as good as any other.

Tips. They make someone working in service feel so good. It could be a quarter, or five bucks, but it is worth so more than face value. In a coffee shop, usually a tip cup (or jug, or bowl, or cheeky vessel) sits there encouraging you to help with someone's college fund, or selflessly lets you restore your center by donating to a Karma cup. Where I work is no exception, only ours isn't in your face. It is chipped and blends in with the counter, and is small.

Anyone out there ever been a waitress? Your relationship with tips is different. You bust your a$$ for your tips - breaking into a sweat to get drink refills, extra ranch, more drinks, a new steak to replace the one that wasn't quite right only after your guest ate 3/4th of it. Waitress, you probably make tip wage, less than the rest of the minimum wage workforce, because you have the potential to make a great deal more, and your state wants to give your boss a break. Yeah, you make $4.95 an hour, but you end up making $15/ hour after all the theatrics you go through on your shift. And your patrons acknowledge this. They know they are "supposed" to tip you.

Now, have you ever heard of a person in a coffee shop making tip wage? Would you take a job making coffee for $4.95 an hour?

And this is the confrontation I bring up with my boss today.

In the world of tip wage, if a person doesn't make enough in tips to cover the difference between the tip wage and minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference - hence, the person makes minimum wage no matter what.

In Illinois, the law says any person making a minimum of $30 a MONTH in tips is in an industry which can pay its workers tip wage. The basic run down is this:

1) The worker must be told they are making tip wage
2) At no time may the employer hold the employees tips unless there is a stated tip pool
3) the employer must make up the difference if the tips are less than the difference between tip wage and minimum wage

**You can reference the Department of Labor website here if you are interested in reading up on this. Illinois specific fact sheet is here.

Right now at the shop I work at, there is a tip cup on the counter. At the end of a shift, the money is counted, put in a bag with all of the deposit bags, and each person is responsible for reporting the money at the end of their shift. At the end of the pay period, the money is totaled for each person. There is a report generated and all of the credit card tips and cash tips are totaled, and if the total is more than the total amount needed to supplement a tip wage to minimum wage, that employee is given their extra money on that period's pay check.

Here is my problem. When people are hired at the shop I work for they are not told they make tip wage. They do not get to take their tips home at the end of their shift. Most don't understand what happens with this cash once it is put in their tip bag. Most employees think they make minimum wage and never make tips.

It LOOKs like the money is taken by the shop and not given back. Some people make enough tips and are given, what he calls "*bonus checks."
*I won't tell you the amount effort I went through to get him to admit he didn't actually calculate the wage difference, then get the report so I could calculate the wage difference, then get him to give the "bonus checks", then get him to do all this himself.

Today, when my boss was explaining his system to a new employee, I hit my limit. I asked to talk with him and called him out on taking advantage of working group (ironically, students) uninterested in researching this system, and told him I couldn't work for someone that was openly dishonest with his employees. I pushed up my last day to November 19th, and asked him to be honest with his current employees, and rethink his methods when hiring new employees. He claims he has spoken to someone who has authority in this matter, and claims he is doing his reporting correctly, but I won't go into how I know this is untrue.

I hate having waited so long to do anything about this. I hate knowing the main reason I didn't do anything was for my disinterest is working in a hostile environment or looking for a different job. I was lazy. If any of the people I work with are reading this, I'm sorry it has taken me so long to do anything other than have him re-explain, and re-explain in hopes that I missed some little thing that would make his method make sense.

So, now I've made him think about how he is going to change his system. He needs to be upfront when hiring and let applicants know they would be making tip wage. He needs to report tips, and wage, correctly. He needs to let people take their tip money home with them. This is, if he wants to keep operating on a tip wage scale. He could be like every other coffee shop I know of (including one you may have heard of: STARBUCKS) and let his employees make minimum wage (or whatever wage above that) plus their tips. I don't think he will find many people interested in working for tip wage + tips. How can someone make more in tips when they aren't a full service establishment?


So, I put it all out there. I told him all of my observations. I called him out on his hiring practices. I told him he was being sneaky and inconsistent. I told him it appeared he was stealing from his employees. I wish I would have busted out the big word - fraudulent - but it didn't come to me. I told him I would be leaving the shop sooner rather than later because I wouldn't train people thinking they would be getting money that they weren't getting. I hope he takes me seriously.

1 comment:

  1. YOU GO GIRL!!!!

    It's about time someone laid it out for that idiot. Go one step further and report him to the BBB in your area. That will really get him "Thinking" and may encourage more change knowing an outside group is looking into his business practices.

    Document your converstation with him, and e-mail it to yourself (if not someone in the state comptroller's office-- I think that's the name of the office in charge of pay-roll violations) and make his life a frustrating as your's has been.

    Only, you wree fighting for good Super Girl and he has been fighting to make is life easier. It's time the tables were turned (Mu HA HA HA!)

    Love you. Way to earn your big girl pants.


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