Stingy tippers hurting service industry workers
Tipping - or lack thereof - in a tight economy is taking a toll on service industry workers, who are being pinched in the pocketbook by the frugal customers.
"People are not tipping like they used to," said Pearlene Bell, owner of a cab company named after her. "You can't make (customers) tip. It's a courtesy."
Hourly gratuities have dropped on average. For workers in some jobs, they have fallen as much as 50 percent this year compared with last, according to an annual year-end tipping study released this week by PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data.
This year's study, developed with the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, found that on average across the 80 jobs tracked, hourly tips dropped 5 percent from 2008.
Researchers also found that employees in several jobs that rely on tips, such as wait staff or bartenders, experienced a decrease in their take-home income. For some, take-home pay fell as much as 10 percent when compared to last year, with the median hourly tips down to $8.60, according to the study.
For a longtime waitress at one of the popular restaurants on Prospect Road in Peoria Heights, the decline is 25 percent compared to last year.
"My tips have gone down greatly," said the waitress, speaking on the condition of anonymity, including the location of where she works. "It never used to be like that."
She's also noticed a surge in credit card usage by clients. And, while business still is steady at the restaurant, more customers are tipping about 10 percent, not the standard 15 percent.
"Times are tough, but if you can afford to go out to eat, you should go the extra mile and tip your server accordingly," she said, adding she has been forced to get a second job because of the drop-off in tips.
Bartender Kristina Zimmerman, who pours drinks at a pub on the Peoria riverfront, has seen regular customers skimp on the amount of money they give her for a tip.
"It's still decent," she said not wanting to reveal her employer. "It's not what it used to be."
The 23-year-old also has been "stiffed" more than ever before in her five years of being in the service industry.
"I'm seeing it occur more often now," said Zimmerman.
For Bell, running a cab company the last 36 years has had its ups and downs, but never before like this, she said.
"The economy," Bell said, is to blame, adding not only are her six cab drivers earning less in tips, the number of customers also has taken a dive.
"It's lower than it's ever been," she said of the last six months.
Leslie Williams can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.