I hate asking for tips but I need them as a minimum-wage worker. It feels so awkward to swivel the tip screen around to customers.

I hate asking for tips but I need them as a minimum-wage worker. It feels so awkward to swivel the tip screen around to customers.
This service worker said without tips they wouldn't make a living wage.SDI Productions/Getty Images
  • This service worker gets paid below minimum wage, but doesn't like asking for tips.
  • They said it feels so awkward to swivel the tip screen around to customers.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a service worker at a craft bar in Illinois. They asked not to be named to protect their job, but their employment has been confirmed by Insider. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I work at a craft bar where customers come in to create art. I lead them through the work of creating their masterpiece and at the end, they get to choose how much they tip me. It makes me feel so awkward to swivel the tip screen around to the customer — it's one of my least favorite parts of my job.

It's uncomfortable for a few reasons. First, I don't think our customers realize that we rely on tips to make the bulk of our paycheck and we're not even paid minimum wage.

Editor's note: The Illinois state minimum wage is $13 an hour.

We're legally paid lower than minimum wage because we're tipped

Before I worked in a craft bar, I had no idea the industry was this way. If I had been a customer who paid $50 to walk through a crafting experience and I was asked to tip at the end, I would've been confused. Now, I know the people behind the counter are relying on those tips to make money.


At my job, we're trained to repeat the tip amount back to the customer. Let's say someone cashes out and leaves a five dollar tip — I'm supposed to say "thank you for the five dollars!" I guess it's to confirm the amount of the tip, but it feels super awkward.

To be honest, I go against my training and don't repeat the tip amount out loud, most times. It almost sounds like I'm being sarcastic and judging them for the tip they left when the truth is, I'm grateful for anything people leave me, even a dollar (which has happened before).

I honestly don't judge people on whether they tip or not

I've been in a situation, as a consumer myself, where I've been faced with the tip screen and I just can't afford to add more on to what I already paid. I wish customers knew that most of the time, the people behind the counter understand and we're grateful for whatever they can spare.

Also, our tips are pooled, so even if I do a really involved project with someone and they tip me well, it goes into the communal tip jar — so to speak. At the end of the night, I may still end up with only $20 in tips.

It's really messed up because without tips, I wouldn't make a living wage

It doesn't seem fair that the company, and so many other companies and corporations, are able to offload the cost of labor onto consumers without the consumers even really knowing. It seems like it should be the company's responsibility to pay a living wage, not the customer's.


It's hard to know what to do these days with the tip screen popping up everywhere. I wish more businesses would take responsibility for their employees and make sure they can afford to give the people who work for them a good life.

We know the tip screens are awkward — they're awkward for us too

I grew up with parents in the service industry and I've always gone by the ethos that you need to tip your baristas and servers and nail technicians. But I can't afford to tip everyone I come into contact with — and I know a lot of customers can't either.

I hope that we get to the point where companies are paying their employees a living wage instead of relying on customers to subsidize it. But until then, we'll all have to stumble through the awkwardness together.