An article I read the other day got me thinking about the practice of tipping servers, bartenders, etc. I was perusing the internets, as I am wont to do, and I came across an article about DeAngelo Williams, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Apparently he left a lousy tip at a restaurant–to the tune of $0.75 on a $128.25 bill. Now, in his defense, the service was apparently horrible.
He waited an hour and half for his food, then got the wrong order, and generally put up with lousy service. Thus the lousy tip. That seems fair. Naturally, the server didn’t think so. So she put him on blast on Twitter. She was promptly fired by the restaurant. Which is probably a good move on their part. Shaming customers after you gave them bad service, especially famous customers who have the eyes and ears of many followers, is just bad business.
But it made me think about tipping in general. I realize it’s probably not going to make me popular, but I hate the idea of tipping. And I hate how pervasive the practice has come. It seems like everyone is obligated to tip people in the food service industry, no matter what they do. They even have a spot for a tip on the receipt at the local ice cream parlor. For someone who literally spent 30 seconds scooping ice cream and putting it in a bowl.
The problem is that for a lot of people in the food service industry, the tips are what they depend on to survive. And I get that. I empathize with that. But it doesn’t make me the jackass. The jackass in this scenario is the employer, who refuses to pay their employee enough money to, you know, actually live. In many states it’s perfectly legal for employers to pay people below the federal minimum wage, because the tips will make up for it. And so you have someone who makes $4/hour who will pretty much be screwed if I don’t leave a tip.
The situation is certainly shitty for the employee, but I’d argue that it’s also shitty for the customer. The employer is essentially making ME subsidize a cut in their employees’ wages. That’s the egregious part, that some asshole thought, “Hey, if people are tipping my employees, I can pay them less.” At the risk of sounding like a commie pinko, people should be paid for the job that they’re doing according to the law and human decency. It’s abhorrent that people are allowed to pay some employees wages that essentially impoverish them while passing the buck to the consumer.
It’s the perfect system. If I protest it and don’t tip, I’m the bad guy because I’m taking away someone’s livelihood. If I tip, then I’m just letting the assholes win. Of course the argument from the assholes is that if they pay their workers more that the prices at the restaurants and bars will increase. You know, that old chestnut.
First of all, bullshit. We all know you’re overcharging us for food and drink in the first place. Don’t act like $12 for a Mai Tai is a steal. Second of all, if I end up paying $20 for a $15 meal because of the tip, then I’m already paying more, you ass. Forcing me to tip is already making me pay an artificially inflated price. But this “Oh, I’ll have to drastically raise your prices to be fair to my employees” threat is completely hollow. There’s this place that tripled their profits after getting rid of tips and paying their employees more. In my neck of the woods, several places are eliminating tips. They are, of course, raising their prices…by 18%. Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that in some places “expected gratuity” can run to the tune of 20-30%.
I’ve never really understood why this business model only exists in the food business and not other industries, but that’s the way it is. And that’s the social convention. To the point that even thinking about not tipping someone makes you a douche. But instead of being mad the customer, the employees should really be mad at the real douche–the one who won’t pay them fairly to begin with. It’s not that I don’t think you deserved the tip–it’s that I think you deserve a decent wage to begin with.