By Anna Smith
Staff writer

As well as going to school full time, I am also a barista. Before working as a barista, I worked as a server for more than four years. Needless to say, I know what it means to work in the service industry and rely on tips to pay my bills.

It means putting a smile on for customers even when you’re having a bad day. It means working when all of your peers are out having fun. Forget about having nights, weekends, and holidays off. Fridays have become my Mondays. When people leave work, I clock in.

It’s not all negative. It can also be incredibly rewarding. It makes my shift when someone tells me I have made the best cup of coffee they have ever had. Or even when they simply tell me “It looks so pretty” and post it on their social media. I get a sense of accomplishment by creating something that looks, smells and tastes delicious.

Unfortunately, compliments don’t pay the bills.

According to, servers are paid $5.08 per hour. If a student works 30 hours a week, they still would only come up with just over $150.00 a week — before taxes. This is simply not a sustainable wage to live off of.

Many students find themselves working in customer service or the restaurant industry during their college career. In fact, according to a study conducted by Statista, people ranging from the ages of 16 to 24 make up more than 40 percent of employees in the restaurant industry.

So why are students some of the biggest offenders of pretending the tip jar doesn’t exist?

You would think there would be a sense of support among students. We all should tip each other for the services that are being provided to us. I have worked for tips since I was 17 years old, but as my 23rd birthday is nearing, its time that I face the facts: students don’t tip.

The industry standard for tips is 20 percent. The absolute minimum is 15 percent. As college students, we all have at least a base level of math skills. We have a calculator on our smartphones and many businesses now do the math for you at the bottom of the receipt. There is literally no excuse.

You may ask, “What if I receive bad service?” Simple: tell the manager. This will either allow management to develop the employee or open the position to someone who will take the job seriously and give good service.

About one-in-three millennials admit they usually tip less than 15 percent when dining out, according to a national survey of 2,019 adults conducted in December 2013. According to Bruce Horovitz of USA Today, “That makes millennials about twice as likely as adults 35 and up to be lousy tippers. Only 16 percent of adults in the older age group tip less than 15 percent.”

Being a poor college student is no excuse. I recommend you plan your tip ahead of time. Almost every business now has their menus with prices online. If you have plans to eat out with friends, decide what you can afford and budget in your 20 percent tip.

If this is too much work for you, or if you truly don’t believe in tipping, then I recommend fast food or eating at home.

To those of you who don’t tip, I’m here to say: tipping is a choice — it’s your choice, and it can determine whether the peers you sit with in class can afford their rent for the month. So the next time you are faced with the choice, I encourage you to say “Keep the change.”