A Mardi Gras Reminder: Tip Your Bartenders, Waitstaff, Drivers, and Buskers

Photo by Craig Stanfill

Mardi Gras in New Orleans has an average attendance of around 1.4 million people each year. Tourists and locals alike head to the French Quarter, Central Business District, and Uptown to watch parades and experience one of the city’s most well-known cultural events. That can translate into a lot of business for city bars, restaurants, and Uber or Lyft drivers. The only problem?

A lot of people neglect to tip.

According to Glassdoor, the average bartender in New Orleans makes only $5-$8 per hour before tips. That’s not much when you consider that they’re on their feet for 8-10 hours per day (and sometimes longer, especially during the Mardi Gras rush), pouring drinks for demanding patrons. It’s even less when you remember that parking in New Orleans is impossible during Mardi Gras, and many of them will either have to take the bus (the streetcars are shut down) or get a Lyft or Uber to work. If they do drive, they’ll likely have to pay anywhere from $10-$20 or more for parking during their shift – and Mardi Gras lasts for a week. Put some money in that tip jar when you order your drink – your bartender will thank you.

It’s even worse for waitstaff. The typical server makes only $2.13 per hour before tips. They spend their entire day being run ragged by the crowds, carrying hot food for often impatient (not to mention somewhat inebriated) patrons. They work hard to bring customers their food in a timely manner, keep drinks refilled, and engage diners in cheerful conversation, often only to find less than 10% of the bill waiting for them once the meal is over. Keep in mind the standard tip for decent service is 15%, and if you were served well with zero complaints, 20-25% is better.

It’s true that Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t doing too badly when it comes to their pay – they can average around $9 per hour ($11 on a good day). But before you start questioning why you should tip at all, remember: they are also paying for all of their own gas, maintenance costs, and (especially during Mardi Gras) cleaning costs. It’s been a fairly wet Mardi Gras so far this year, and that means taking breaks to clean up mud. And it’s Mardi Gras, and that means occasionally taking breaks to clean up vomit and… well, other things. When you also consider that a lot of drivers provide their customers with extras such as water, Mardi Gras beads, mints, or candy (all of which they pay for out of pocket), a few extra dollars for helping you avoid the snarl that is Mardi Gras traffic and parking in New Orleans doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Finally, the buskers. A lot of people turn up their noses at these street performers, thinking that they probably make more on an average day than some of the above do in a week. And that may be true, for some. But if a performer entertained you enough for you to stop, listen, and perhaps even photo or video them, don’t they deserve to be paid for that service? Stick a few dollars in that bucket, guitar case, hat, or whatever to show your appreciation.

Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.

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