Tipping Point

Friday, August 7, 2009
Is tipping really necessary?

I can't be bothered to do the research, so I'm sure there are plenty of blog posts about this, but it occurs to me that there's no legitimate reason to continue the practice of tipping servers at restaurants.

Some places allow servers to be paid less than minimum wage on the assumption that they'll make above the poverty line via tipping, which is ignorant and unfortunately false sometimes. It's much easier to wrap your head around the idea that servers should be paid the wage they are now, except via their paycheck, and the cost transferred to the customer at a reasonable 15-20%.

Why should this bother anyone? I typically tip 20%, both because I used to work as a bus boy, and recognize the need, but also because it's easier to do the math. As long as what I end up paying is the same, why do I care that the money goes through the check instead of a few disgusting dollar bills on the table? Servers are then guaranteed a certain amount per check, which leads to dependable and predictable income, increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover.

Ok, you might say it gives them incentive to do a worse job. But honestly, how often have you had terrible service that was a direct result of the server? More often than not, they're as upset as you are if your food is late, or incorrect. And it's not just because of the potential for their tip to be reduced; the whole server-diner relationship becomes somewhat tinged with guilt, the server for the lackluster performance, and the diner for having to tip. And if you feel that you regularly overtip those plundering servers, perhaps you also feel we should extend tipping to other service industries as well, such as paying %20 less at Radio Shack (no, I'm not calling it that), when the service is awful, uneducated and ambivalent, which is always. That's a fair point, but only if it's fairly applied. The way it is now gives the tippER the burden of rating service via cash and the tippEE the burden of relying on the good-heartedness of his or her clientele. I can't tell you how many times someone I've been with has over-emphasized how bad their service was to get out of paying a tip.

Just get rid of the idea already. The only damage it'll do is cause the makers of the 20,000 Tip Calculator iPhone Apps to go belly up.