I Was Today Years Old When I Learned Tips Are a Thing at Sonic
So I decided I wanted Sonic for lunch yesterday afternoon. And I was caught by surprise when the app told me I could leave a tip after placing my online order. I mean, tip at Sonic? They're fast food, who does that? Well, apparently more people than I thought tip Sonic's carhops.
Restaurant Business Online reports that the chain has implemented the tipping function at over 2,000 of the brand's 3,500 units. And Sonic representatives say it's one of the app updates most requested by customers.
Now I know Sonic's a little different than most fast food places. At Sonic, it's a drive-in. So you park and they bring the food to you. Depending on where you park, a Sonic employee may have to hustle a little more to get your food to you than working the counter or drive-through at McDonald's or Burger King.
Yet until today I never even contemplated tipping there. I just don't do that at fast food places, coffee joints like Starbucks, and other businesses where really, the service you get from the staff is generally limited. Apparently though, whether or not you should tip a Sonic carhop has been the point of discussion for years, maybe even a decade.
Someone asked that question on Reddit a decade ago. And I don't think there ever was a consensus reached. The original poster summed up his or her query with the statement, "I appreciate all your responses. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one stuck in the gray area or feeling a little guilty." One thing the post did do was illuminate the fact that a fair amount of people DO tip their carhops.
A couple of posts on Quora, where several of folks who answered said they worked as Sonic carhops, said tips were greatly appreciated and that the job isn't the easiest, and in a lot of cases your carhop is helping get your drinks and ice-cream treats ready for you. One thing that wasn't very clear from the Quora and Reddit posts was whether or not carhops at Sonic make minimum wage. There seemed to be some conflicting answers.
Doing some background research I found that the answer to that question is it's complicated. What carhops make is determined by the individual franchises. Some franchises pay their staff a flat rate, others pay their employees more like a traditional restaurant server.
So should you tip your Sonic carhop? I'm not sure we've come anywhere close to answering that question, at least from an etiquette standpoint. And I suspect there's a variety of viewpoints on the topic.
I will because I believe the minimum wage should be higher, and if it was I'd probably be paying more for that SuperSONIC Double Cheeseburger anyway. So in this case, why not put a couple of bucks in my carhops pocket and a little good karma in mine.