Living off tips is frightening.

Waiting tables is not an easy job. It is demanding, degrading, and involves one to have impeccable time management, customer service, and problem solving skills. I have waited tables on and off for six years. I left the industry to pursue a career as a SCUBA Instructor. Having to return home to take care of my ailing mother I still teach dive classes in the summer, however my primary source of income is from serving and bartending at a popular family restaurant. I take medications, every month I must pay for them out of pocket without any insurance. I am terrified if I were ever in a car accident and required treatment in a hospital as I would have no way to pay off that bill. I am trying to go back to school, however I can’t afford it and I do not qualify for financial aid as I was unable to pay back student loans from a vocational school I attended when I was younger.

I am 27 now and between phone bills, car payments, rent, electricity, and paying to feed and care for three rescue dogs (i only ever meant to adopt one, however the other two landed on my door step) How can I cover healthcare, or school tuition? It is absurdity that the government doesn’t make the restaraunts pay their employees!

After taxes my pay check is always $0. I LIVE off the tips I bring home every night. I believe most customers would prefer to have the gratuity included in their bill, or would be willing to pay increased food costs in order to not have to tip us. The corporate managers who run my restaraunt are making millions of dollars while I am struggling just slightly above the poverty line. I will never get vacations nor do I know if I can even afford to eat at the end of the month. It’s frightening, it really is, knowing that at this rate I might be able to finish school in about seven years being able to cover the cost of one class per semester on average. In the event of an emergency I have no idea what I would do. Regardless of years at attempting to build my savings account I cannot ever seem to save up more than $1000. I feel trapped as where the current minimum wage is set I do make more on average than an employee earning minimum wage. However, on several nights I do average less than $7 per hour and my company will not ever compensate for that loss. It’s a crap shoot every night. Luck of the draw we say, but something needs to change.

If the federal minimum wage is raised I will surely be tossing my apron aside to be a cashier at Kroger or a department store clerk. At least then I will know exactly how much money I can expect to bring home every week. Presently, I just never know if the strangers I’m serving and placating to will be kind in return or will choose to stiff me. Do the customers I’m serving know that I make $2.13 aka $0 per hour without their tip?? At the very least awareness needs to be brought to this issue, for if the general public were aware of our wages or lack there of, I do believe more would choose to tip us decently for the service we provide.