The New Rules About Tipping

In my latest advice column, I teach a reader how to be kind and appreciative, because I am so kind and appreciative:

Have you noticed that food stores--delis and the like--have started subtly asking for tips for their employees? I went to a deli the other day, ordered a sandwich at the counter, and handed over my credit card. When the receipt came back, it had a space for a tip. I always thought that tips were supposed to be given only to waiters at sit-down restaurants. These new demands are creating anxiety for me. Are the employees behind the counter now working for tips as well?

J. H., Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear J. H.,

This is indeed a disturbing trend, but not one that should cause you anxiety. If it's anxiety you want, I will provide you with a list of more-substantial worries (the national debt, Ebola-infected burritos, the Washington Nationals). Food-service workers who are not waiters must be paid at least the minimum wage, so they do not, in fact, work for tips. (Waiters are paid a base salary less than the minimum wage, and are expected to report their tips as income. "Expected" as in "not expected.") If you are a kind and appreciative person, you could ask the clerk serving you at the counter if he does, indeed, work mainly for tips. If he answers yes, leave him a generous gratuity and report his employer to your local tax authority.