Workers Losing out with Cashless Tips
Workers across America who have traditionally relied on tips to supplement their wages are losing out as the number of cashless customers increases. A Washington Post article explores what this trend has meant on a personal level, especially when combined with a global pandemic.
Blanca Limon, a veteran housekeeper with 27 years’ experience, currently works at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. Throughout her career, she has regularly received tips of between one and three dollars per room, adding up to a supplement of $20 or more for a full shift. Given the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, it’s easy to see how much this modest addition meant to workers. In 2022, Blanca says no one makes that extra money anymore. After the shift when she was interviewed, she had earned just three dollars in tips.
While the article notes many restaurant servers and food delivery workers have seen an increase in gratuities, it says millions of other tipped workers have been excluded from this trend. Hotel housekeepers, bellhops, carwash jockeys, airport skycaps and wheelchair escorts are among those who normally receive tips in cash, and are now losing out. The scale of the problem is hard to assess, given studies typically focus solely on the restaurant industry.
Even in traditionally cash-driven businesses, such as strip clubs, a decrease in people carrying notes and coins is impacting earnings. Brandi Campbell, a dancer at a Midwest club, says her tips have declined and business in general is declining after the pandemic encouraged more people to look online for entertainment.
Campbell, an advocate for better employment protections, says she only knows of one dancer who has experimented with cashless payment systems. There are numerous barriers, such as difficulties with getting the technology set up, its reliance on internet connectivity and third-party involvement, and the requirement for customers to use potentially unfamiliar services. For Campbell, privacy concerns are the number one reason she prefers cash and has opted not to try cashless.
Jesus Sanchez, another worker at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square who provides room service, says his tips have dwindled from around $80 per shift to around $8 or less. The pandemic has been the major factor, since he is now required to leave food outside a room and doesn’t have any interaction with guests, however the trend may not change as the pandemic subsides. Sanchez also works at the hotel’s grab-and-go market, and says many customers don’t wait for a paper receipt, or simply pay with their phones, leaving no opportunity to earn a tip, cash or otherwise.