Why You're (Probably) Not a Jerk for Ordering Food in a Blizzard

March 14th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Every time there is a snow day it seems there is a debate about whether ordering delivery is socially acceptable or just plain rude. 

"If I order delivery in a snow storm," one might ask, "am I a jerk?" That's certainly what many were wondering when a winter storm hit the Northeast U.S. this week.

People on Twitter debated the ethics of ordering food amid a snowstorm, with plenty of conflicting views.

While the debate rages, there is a strong argument — safety allowing — that ordering delivery could actually help low-income workers who need the tips. 

After a 2014 storm, The New Yorker reported that particular zip codes in New York City saw a surge in tipping from online food delivery services. In 2015, Seamless told The Huffington Post that New York City customers raised their tips by 9 percent after a January blizzard. 

Delivery drivers usually make minimum wage. 

In a 2015, New York City bicycle delivery driver Gabriel Martinez Rios told The Huffington Post that he works 40 hours a week making $7.25 an hour, plus $200 to $300 in tips a week. Even using the high end of Martinez's tip range, he only made $30,680 — before taxes — while working 40 hours a week. In 2015, the Economic Policy Institute said that a family of four in New York City would need to make $84,972 just to pay for basic necessities. 

The minimum wage for tipped employees can be as low as $2.13 an hour.

Every state sets its own minimum wage, above the floor set by the federal government. However, several states stick to the floor — $7.25 an hour, which hasn't been raised since 2009. Meanwhile, the federal tipped minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1991, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Last year, Mark Egerman and Rachel West of the Center for American Progress wrote an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report about the federal tipped minimum wage. They argued that forcing workers to rely on tips to make up the difference in wages is inherently unfair and that tipped minimum wages should be abolished. 

"What's more, the tipping system is inherently unfair and discriminatory: Tips differ markedly by race, gender and physical attractiveness, regardless of the quality of the service," they wrote. "It's a system that damages morale, encourages sexual harassment and leaves workers unable to budget and plan for their future."

RELATED: This New Fee on a Restaurant Receipt Exposes a Bigger Issue