How much should you tip post-quarantine? Here’s why you might want to consider giving a little extra

In the U.S., we give service professionals—from our hairdressers to waiters and waitresses—a few extra dollars as a tip to show our satisfaction for a job well done. But what you might not realize is that those few bucks are actually a portion of those workers’ salaries. And especially with the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) disproportionately affecting several of those service jobs, receiving tips could be even more important now than ever. As quarantine measures are slowly being eased in several states across America, how much should you tip? We asked a few financial experts to weigh in.

Why do we tip?

You might say, “Why do I have to tip someone just for doing their job?” But that would be misunderstanding the point of tipping altogether. Tipping has been traditionally used in service-type industries where the wages are smaller. Oftentimes, this means the tipped employees make minuscule hourly wages under the promise that tips will make up the bulk of their earnings.

For a bit of perspective, the federal minimum cash wage for tipped employees is just $2.13, according to the Department of Labor, while the federal minimum wage for non-tipped, nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour. Of course, each state has different wage policies, and, thankfully, many of them pay above this. But for the vast majority of servers, bartenders, and even beauticians in America, tips make up a substantial part of their income.

Should I tip more post-quarantine?

It’s no secret that service industries—especially those that depend on customer-provider interactions or involve the congregation of large numbers of people—are those that have been hit the hardest during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a study conducted by Pew Research, people who work in the food and drink services—along with those in personal services (i.e. hairdressers, nail technicians, dry cleaners, etc.)—are some of those at the highest risk of losing their jobs, especially as more and more brick-and-mortar shops are forced to close permanently due to the financial strain of closing temporarily for the last few months. This is in addition to hundreds of thousands of food and accommodation businesses that have already taken a hit and had longstanding lower-than-average earnings.

So as things start to slowly open up, and you’ve finally scored that long-awaited appointment with your hairdresser or decided to dine al fresco at your favorite local spot, experts say you just might want to consider upping your standard tip amount.

“If you can afford it, I would consider tipping people extra right now, particularly those like delivery people who are out there on the front lines so you can stay at home,” suggests Leah Bourne, personal finance expert and managing editor of The Money Manual. Because many people are experiencing financial hardship right now, she says the tip doesn’t have to be double or triple what you’d usually give, either. She suggests you consider upping your normal tip amount by five percent. So, if you normally provide 10 percent, do 15 percent. Or if you normally do 15 percent, do 20 percent, and so on.

According to Bourne, “You can assume a couple of things: First, because these folks are working, they’re forgoing unemployment insurance. And second, the volume [of business] is down, and because these people depend on tips for a large portion of their income, that means they’re going to be really impacted.”

Additionally, there might be one small way you can help the economy get back on its feet.

“From a financial point of view, tipping is and will always be essential to the economy,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of the financial site Loanry. He says that while it may only seem like a few bucks here and there, it adds up. “What most food workers can’t get [from] their job, they can get in tips, which they put back into the economy, and the world keeps turning,” he says. “Tipping more than you did before will mean a great deal to that worker and restaurant but also to the economy itself. I think that tips should be mandatory in essential businesses like this, but for now we can just continue to contribute as much as we can.”