ó Julio Valdez, a valet at a major hotel chain on
South Beach, has parked cars for more than a decade. But
in recent years, a crucial part of his income has
changed: fewer drivers are tipping him.
if you worked valet, you earned good tips. It didnít
really matter that companies paid little," he said.
culprit: Cash ó and lack of it. It seems fewer and
fewer customers are carrying bills in their wallets, he
a tourist and hospitality destination, South Florida is
home to an army of doormen, waiters, valets, hotel
housekeepers, tour guides and drivers. Like Valdez, they
rely on cash tips to help make ends meet.
for these workers, getting by is getting harder as more
people ditch cash for cards and apps.
said his current employer has not upped his pay, despite
the fact that he and his co-workers can no longer count
on tips to boost their hourly wage of around $9. (The
employer declined to comment.)
many valets, he said, he now must work two jobs to make
ends meet. His second valet job is in Fort Lauderdale.
I get out of here at 3 p.m. and I have to be in Fort
Lauderdale by 4 so I can work until 11 at night,"
hotel housekeeper Gerdine Verssagne says she once got a
few hundred dollars a year in tips ó a significant
amount for someone earning around $14 an hour. Now, the
hotel management no longer puts tip envelopes in guest
rooms, so she has to hope guests are conscientious
enough to leave a tip on their checkout receipt.
a roll of the dice. Often, she says, "they donít
give you anything," she said.
of cashís disappearance goes beyond anecdotes.
According to the Federal Reserve, only about 7 billion
cash notes were printed in the U.S. in 2017. That was
the lowest volume in four years and well below the
20-year high of 11 billion reached in 1999.
year, publicly traded U.S. Bank found that 50 percent of
respondents to a survey said they now carry cash
"less than half of the time." When they do
carry cash, nearly half of respondents said they keep
less than $20 on hand. And 46 percent said they use cash
fewer than eight days each month.
traded Total System Services, a payments processor, also
found cash now ranks a distant third behind credit cards
and debit cards as usersí preferred forms of payment.
Those findings came from a 2016 survey.
South Florida, table-service restaurants have long faced
issues with tipping. Because many tourists come from
countries where tipping is not customary, some
restaurants now include automatic service fees on the
bill. Many establishments make a point of letting
customers know when tips are not included, and nearly
all sit-down restaurants include a "tip line"
on credit-card receipts ó though it doesnít always
the cashless quandary is new for the more than 200,000
leisure and hospitality workers in Miami-Dade and
Broward accustomed to quick cash that plugs financial
holes and ó letís be honest ó isnít always
traceable by tax authorities. Most are paid by employers
on the assumption that tips will subsidize their wages.
In Florida, the minimum wage for tipped workers is only
$5.23 per hour rather than the regular minimum of $8.25.
By law, itís up to employers to make up the difference
if the $8.25 threshold is not being met through tips.
doesnít always happen.
employee needs to know enough, if theyíre not
represented by a union, to go the Department of Labor,
file a charge, and then the Department, through the Fair
Labor Standards Act, would investigate and prosecute to
get the back wages for that employee," said Wendi
Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355,
which represents 7,000 workers in South Florida, about a
quarter of whom receive tips.
can imagine how rare that is," she said.
have no obligation to make up for tips that once may
have far exceeded the minimum with higher wages.
the valet, says his predicament has been further
compounded by Uber and Lyft, which means fewer guests
are renting their own cars.
those very app-based services are accelerating the
transition to a cashless economy.
has Ö ingrained a culture of no tipping," Harry
Campbell, an Uber driver and author who blogs about
rideshare services on The Rideshare Guy blog, said in an
email. "So even though they now have the in-app tip
option for passengers, itís rare that Iíll get a tip
on Uber, where as taxi drivers are still tipped on most
of their rides."
it comes to tipping in 2018, platforms matter. Drivers
have told Campbell they are more likely to receive tips
on Lyft than on Uber. And the Curb app, which lets
riders call traditional taxis, includes the option for
passengers to set a default tip amount for all their
advantage enjoyed by some taxi drivers, as well as
workers like baristas at independent coffee shops, has
been the arrival of tablets that let customers choose
how much tip to leave. Walsh, the union rep, said this
technology, which lets customers choose from
pre-selected tipping amounts, has increased the
likelihood of leaving a tip ó and a good one at that.
help tremendously," she said. "Anywhere where
you have that option where a person can give a tip
simply by clicking a button, it tremendously increases
the likelihood for giving a tip."
estimated that 80 percent of customers leave 20 percent
ó even if theyíre choosing between 15, 18, and 20
might think people would choose middle option, (but)
most people give 20 percent gratuity when itís easy to
she said many Miami workers, like those who work at
Starbucks, still donít have access to this kind of
South Florida, itís still the overwhelming majority
that are still under the old system, where you either
give a tip or you donít ó thereís no tablet to
Miami workplaces are adapting. When Genevie Jacomino
opened the Art & Chemistry salon near Westchester in
2014, she had been in the haircare business long enough
to know that cash tips were becoming a thing of the
would sometimes go, ĎOh, Iíll get you next time. But
they never really came through," she said.
many other small businesses, she doesnít allow tipping
on a credit card because of the time required to
separate out tips and declare them on tax forms, she
she asks that clients download the Cash App to tip, even
if they use a credit card to pay for their salon
service. Each stylist has his or her own Cash App
handle. If a customer is uncomfortable paying through an
app, they can go to a nearby ATM machine to withdraw
cash for tips, Jacomino said.
(stylists) live paycheck to paycheck," she said.
"Itís super important to have take-home pay for
daily expenses like gas or food. A lot of times people
use their paycheck for constants, like their bills.
Without tip money they donít have much flexibility for
local unions have been proactive in addressing the
tipping shortfall. Last month, Miami-Dade approved
applying a living wage to all concession workers at MIA
Airport, including tipped workers. Thanks to bargaining,
that group will now earn $16.15 minus the state tip
credit of $3.02, meaning a tipped worker will make
$13.13 per hour (or $9.97 if they have qualifying health
union also successfully lobbied some employers to move
tip jars from the pickup counter to the cash register
ó a small change that Walsh said can make a huge
tips continue to dwindle, even at restaurants with table
service. During recent negotiations at Miami
International airport, the union produced dozens of
restaurant receipts with the tip line left blank.
Caballero, a server at Miami airportís Jose Cuervo
tequilera, said the drop-off heís seen in cash tips
has been "incredible" since he started working
there four years ago. Heíll see some relief when the
new airport wage minimums go into effect. But that wonít
happen until his employerís lease is renewed. There is
no current timetable for when that will happen.
the meantime, he tries to take on extra hours.
"Just having 18 percent makes an incredible
difference in our lives," he said.