'Guilt Trip' Restaurant Flyer Sparks Online Debate Over U.S. Tipping System

A flyer hanging in a restaurant requesting that customers tip has sparked conversation, after a customer shared it, and their subsequent Facebook argument, to Reddit.

In the Subreddit, "Murdered by words," user Mialunalight shared the flyer, which read: "Servers make state minimum wage. Which is only $5.65 an hour, most of which is taken away in taxes! They rely on your tips to make a living! When you don't leave a tip, they would have served you for the duration of your meal for nothing! Take care of those who take care of you!"

The customer, however, reasoned that the flyer was "condescending," as the restaurant chose to pay only $5.65 an hour, and questioned what the markup on the food was being put towards, if not their staff's wages.

"You do know that it's just a minimum wage requirement and you can take care of your employees, right? The server wage is bad enough as is, but you don't have to make it worse by trying to guilt your customers into over-tipping when you could very easily take the markup you're making on a side of potatoes alone ($3 if you were curious) to pay a liveable wage. Your staff is taking care of your restaurant, you'd think that you'd take care of your staff in return," they wrote to the establishment's Facebook page.

"You should ask how our servers feel about us. Bold of you to assume we don't take care of our own. Btw, a side of potatoes here are $2.00. If you're upset with a restaurant price markup, you should be just as outraged that restaurants charge $3 for a fountain drink. When you go out to eat, you pay for a luxury at a premium. If you don't want to pay restaurant prices, stay home and make it yourself," responded the company.

The customer wrote back: "Please see where you clearly state on this flyer, 'servers make $5.65 an hour, most of which is taken away in taxes!'" as well as "'they would have served you for nothing.' That's what indicated to me, based on your own words, that you aren't paying them beyond the minimum. Makeup is expected and is something we accept as costumes when we go out to eat. Part of the point of markup is to pay for costs of supplies, rent and labor.

"What isn't okay is that your tone on the flyer sounds exactly like your response...condescending. If your servers are happy with how you treat them, then you shouldn't need to tell customers to tip. As someone else stated in these comments, tipping is a uniquely US problem, but that is another part of restaurant culture we as a consumer expect. I've been in many restaurants, but you are the first one I've ever seen to post such a tacky flyer on their door, given the respectability of your restaurant beyond that.

"If you go out to eat, you're expected to tip appropriately. Baring a handful of really awful people that don't tip (who are the same type to ignore flyers like this anyway), everyone knows that servers are routinely screwed over by wages and depend on tips.

"Point being, you made yourself look tacky by the wording alone on your flyers, but your response just reinforced it."

Although the original poster blurred out the establishment's name, they described it as an "'upper-class' restaurant in a very nice area," and explained their view that the relatively pricey menu should mean they are able to pay staff well.

"The average meal at this place is $12 for lunch, but they also sell by the pound seafood boils (which are more popular) which starts at $10 and goes all the way up to around $50 and none of those prices include the sides or drinks, they should be able to pay their servers at least the extra $2 an hour to meet federal minimum wage," they wrote.

In some states across the U.S., businesses are required to pay a "tip credit" to meet the state minimum of tips and wage combined, if their hourly pay and tips don't equate to it.

"The majority of the restaurants in this area pay more as a base wage to their servers than just the state minimum. The issue here is that the restaurant responded by contradicting themselves. If their servers are taken care of, they shouldn't need to post a flyer on printer paper to the door like a health code violation. If they aren't making enough in tips, the restaurant is legally going to have to match federal non-tipped. They are basically saying 'tip our servers so we don't have to pay them,'" they added.

In 17 hours since being shared, the Reddit post has gained over 69,000 votes and 2,000 comments, sparking opposing views on the U.S. tipping system.

"If your business model means you can't pay your employees a living wage, you need a better business model," wrote one user.

"At the end of the day, I'd love to see the exceptions to minimum wage laws get abolished, and give servers and other restaurant employees a real wage. Raise the prices a bit, and move on. Consumers aren't gonna moan when their meal costs $24 instead of $21, particularly when they were gonna tip around that difference anyways.

"There has been quite a bit of evidence collected over the years indicating that paying a real wage to restaurant employees improves basically every facet. Servers are generally more engaged and happy, etc," added another.

Others felt differently and defended the U.S. tipping system in the Reddit post. "As a waiter, I prefer this tip based system. I'd be annoyed if I came into a busy restaurant and was locked in a meager $12-15 an hour vs the potential to make 40+ an hour given volume and tip average. I'd reckon any server with half a brain and understanding of arithmetic would agree," wrote one Reddit user.

"As a server, I like getting tips. I usually make between $25-40 an hour with my tip percentage usually being around 23 percent. I work in a restaurant that is pretty busy and has high menu prices though. I doubt any restaurant would be able to pay me hourly as much as I make in tips," defended another user.

Waitress serving diners in a restaurant
Waitress with face mask serving happy couple outdoors on terrace restaurant. A flyer shared by a restaurant has sparked debate over the tipping system. Getty Images. Getty Images