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The Tipping Point
By Felicia Lawrence
JOPLIN, MO.--- A new IRS tax policy, that went into affect at the beginning of this year, has some restaurants around the country ending the tradition of tipping. This ultimately means a service charge would have to be added to the price of food and as a result, servers would receive a flat hourly wage. It's an age old custom here in the U.S., but with new IRS regulations, some people are thinking it may be easier just to put servers on a guaranteed salary.
"They're trying to get every dime they can get," said Ahmad Enayati, Restaurant Owner.
Ahmad Enayati, who is the owner of Chatter's in Pittsburg and Crabby's in Joplin, says tipping should stay the same and it's just another way for the IRS to get more money.
"So, that's one way of tracking everyone because it is hard when servers, you know, someone leaves them a 20 dollar bill, they may report 5 dollars. There's no way of me finding out what they actually receive in cash tips," said Enayati.
As of January 1st, the IRS will tax server tips for big parties of eight people or more. With the government getting more money in taxes, that has some restaurants putting these workers on a fixed income, causing food prices to increase by at least 15%. How would that idea work here in the Four States?
"I don't want to ever require people to put a fee. That right there, just makes people- the servers, not work as hard because they'll know they're already be getting paid x-amount of dollars," said Enayati.
Servers in the Four States seemed to be against a fixed income as well, but for different reasons. Natalie Bycroft, who works at Granny Shaffer's, has been serving since she was 19. She doesn't want the way we tip in this country to change, but sometimes she wishes she had the benefits of a fixed income.
"I don't think people know that we don't really get a paycheck, because the paycheck that we get basically covers the taxes of our tips. And when our tips aren't well, we don't bring home enough money to live off of," said Natalie Bycroft, Server.
Lucas Jarrett is a bartender at Crabby's. He's completely against the idea of ending tipping and adopting a fixed income, only because he says he already makes good money.
"I don't want the guy that's down the street that doesn't work hard, to make the money I make because it's a tax that gets added onto his paycheck," said Lucas Jarrett, Crabby's Bartender.
According to Jarrett, it's all about working hard.
"A tip isn't something you have to have. They don't have to leave that. So, I don't think it should be like a tax. I think it should be you know the relationship you build with that customer. And they know, you treat the people good, they treat you well," said Jarrett.
"I want to say no, because you would hope that people would say 'okay look, these guys are only getting paid $2.13 an hour," said Enayati.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, servers in Missouri receive $3.75 an hour. In Kansas, $2.13. In Arkansas, they receive $2.63 and in Oklahoma, servers receive $2.00-$2.13 an hour. This means all servers depend heavily on tips.
"I want to say no, that we shouldn't have to do that. But then, someone comes in and they have a $50 check and then they stiff you, and they leave you zero dollars when they sat there for an hour and a half. Well now I'm inclined to say, throw it on there as a service charge," said Bycroft.
For now, it doesn't look like any local restaurants will adopt a fixed income for servers. Just because it isn't happening in the Four States, doesn't mean other cities will shy away from it.