Imagine getting a box of cupcakes from your colleagues as thanks for all of your hard work on a project, only to have most of them ripped from your hands by your boss?
The devastation of knowing you’d put your heart and soul into work and were being rewarded – only to have that reward taken away.
It would feel you leaving gutted and under appreciated, wouldn’t it?
I can only imagine that’s what it feels like when your tips are taken off you by business owners.
That’s tips from paying customers who are none the wiser that their money, which has been given for the service staff provided, isn’t going anywhere near their bank accounts.
When I worked at a hotel in my Aberdeenshire home town where I grew up during my school and student days, I’d live off my tips. It was marvellous.
They helped pay for nights out, any public travel I needed to take, new clothes, meals out with my friends, cinema trips, were put towards holiday funds that let me get away for my sixth year holiday to Salou with my best friends, and they even allowed me to fill up my car up with a full tank of petrol.
Could I have done that had my employers taken my tips from me?
Not a chance.
Don’t get me wrong, when I worked in hospitality leaving tips on card machines was relatively new and wasn’t as mainstream as it is nowadays, especially as card is the preference over cash as a result of the pandemic.
But for those of us working in the industry a decade ago, cash was king and we loved it.
We had a communal tip pot where I worked.
We’d split with all waiting staff who were working – with a share going to the kitchen staff too – and in my opinion, it was pretty fair. We’d split them whenever a new shift was about to start, or new staff clocked on.
It was a fairly simple and rewarding process that ensured everyone felt valued.
Those who worked on functions also did the same, as did the pub staff.
Could I stomach taking a card payment now, knowing the tips customers were leaving would never see my colleagues’ pockets?
And you’re damn right I’d be telling the customer that, too.
Unfortunately too many hospitality staff have to endure this awful feeling at every service they work.
Law set to change card payment rip-off
Don’t get me wrong, card payment tips aren’t as straight forward as cash payments, but this is 2021 and if we can wire money across the globe in the blink of an eye, surely we can ensure the staff who work hard for their tips actually get them.
Recently it was reported that the government is looking to introduce a new law that will stop business owners from keeping card machine tips.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is expected to announce a change that will entitle staff to receive all of the service charge.
Currently it is up to owners to decide what they do with card machine tips, although they are not allowed to keep cash tips.
The plans were first announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019.
But tips on card payments have become more popular, especially during the pandemic.
And this is an industry that employs more than 220,000 people – 8.6% of Scotland’s jobs – and, indirectly, a further 120,000 people according to the British Hospitality Association.
It is about time we treat them with the respect they deserve and give them what they should have always been retitled to.
So what can you do?
Just think how many people might stay in the industry longer and picture it as a desirable career if we paid them well and also let them keep their hard-earned tips too.
Customers also need to take note and question business owners on where card machine tip payments are going. Maybe they are put into a separate pot and kept for staff treat days? Or maybe they are lining the pockets of greedy restaurateurs who don’t properly value their staff.
There was a storm earlier this year when it was reported that Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela Kitchin had allegedly pocketed thousands in gratuities (reportedly up to £700 a month for five years) earned by front-of-house employees.
Tipping staff is a part of the hospitality sphere across the world.
Customers should make certain any gratuities they leave are going to the team who have made the occasion special.
It is our responsibility as diners to question motives and stand up in support of hospitality workers.
Because if we don’t, who else will?