Check, please!

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.

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7 thoughts on “Check, please!

  1. “It’s abhorrent that people are allowed to pay some employees wages that essentially impoverish them while passing the buck to the consumer.”
    ~ I agree, Ryan. I look forward to the day when this unjust wage system changes.

  2. First, I would make the point that those who take a job as a waitress/waiter, do so knowing what the rate of pay is right from the get go. I will also note that service has dropped dramatically over 20 – 30 years. Wait staff earned their tips by being polite and courteous. Nowadays, by and large, servers are brash and impatient and inattentive, which I attribute to little princes and princesses growing up thinking everything is all about them; if such is the case, the service industry, in any form, is not for them. So, I start my meals with the intent of tipping. The percentage at which I tip, goes down, or up, based upon the server, not some predetermined amount: serve me well and you get a large tip* if not then you will get a low tip or none at all.
    *I have been known to tip $50 to $100 for a $25 meal because the server was excellent and attended all of our needs.

    Now having said all of that, I believe that all waitstaff should make minimum wage PLUS tips and no business should try to take or split any portion of a tip (I believe their was a restaurant in New Orleans where the manager/owner was taking a portion of the waitstaff’s tips.)

    1. All fair points.

      If service is truly excellent, above and beyond, I have no problem with the idea of tipping someone–that’s what tipping should be all about in the first place. And I definitely agree that there shouldn’t be any funny business when it comes to management splitting or taking a cut of the tips.

  3. Interesting, in several of your posts, you discuss aplenty about your feelings about businesses (small or large) making a profit. Yet, you do realize that a profit system, much like tipping, is a representation about pleasing your customers. Many hundreds of years ago, decades ago, etc races and differing cultures were brought together by a means of trade. In fact, it’s often argued that the Renaissance would not have existed without trading ports and banking as whole. The printing press would not have been revolutionized and widely used without trade. The primary reason is that it brought people together. And the only reason why it did this was because of people conducting business with one another. In the same example would be profits and tips. Although obviously different, it meant that businesses would appeal to their customers regardless of difference. The only way a waiter/waitresses are similar in this way is that they are essentially an ambassador for their employers and business. If they are rude and condescending towards customers, the business will not thrive.
    When I go out to dinner etc I always think that there is a good 7 bucks in my pocket for a tip unless the bill will be bigger with more people. If it’s busy and the service is so-so, I will still leave a tip. It’s their business and my right to believe so. If they are just rude and it’s not that busy, the tip will dwindle for each beverage or food not offered.
    Tangent, I know. Sorry.

    1. How do you type so fast?! Haha

      I see the logic in your argument. The issue that I have is that this seems to extend to only ONE industry in this country. If employees are indeed ambassadors for their companies, why isn’t it expected that every employee should be tipped?

      I realize of course that there’s nothing stopping me or anyone else from tipping anyone who provides me with customers service, but it’s really only *expected* in certain situations, which I find odd.

      I also find it odd/horrible that an employer would adjust someone’s wages downward because of tipping. I don’t think that was the original intent of the idea of tipping, wouldn’t you agree?

      1. I am on a roll. Hahaha. I think it sad that people should feel expected to pay a tip. The same thing applies to free trade, or even socialist-inclined countries. If you don’t like the product or service, you choose a different one. However, in many cases in socialist-inclined political climates, you have less choices. Sometimes, the government is your only choice….and they were already paid with a budget. Capitalism and free trade or whatever people call it forget that is not merely a profit-driven system. It is a profit and loss-driven system. Loss driven even more so. If you suck at providing for customers, you won’t have any. You lose business, people lose their jobs etc. If you’re good at it, most of the time, your company makes more. It’s a like a response from your consumers. Like an ***hole waiter. They don’t get tips and it sucks that people feel obligated to just give your money to someone that sucks at their job. When they’re good at it, I usually give a real good tip. Upwards of 20% or more. Which is far over the “recommended amount of gratuity” and usually applies to parties of 6 or more etc.

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