Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tipping should die


Yeah, I said it. What say you?

This column, from the new Gourmet Live (which is actually an iPad application, but you can get certain parts on just your regular old whatever-you're-reading-this-on), hits points I've agreed with for years, though I think he leans a little hard to the customer side. Favorite point: It's not actually any harder -- given proper training and situations -- to serve a $4 hot dog than a $59 steak, so why does one server make 15 times as much? But author Foster Kamer adds a point I had not considered: "Tipping, which has been proven to be discriminatory, could be downright unconstitutional." Whoa. (Note: There's a bit of strong language here, but thankfully he doesn't go into that whole Mr. Pink tirade against tipping.)

NOTE: Several commenters are making it clear they didn't read the story that this post is about. This isn't a referendum on tipping in general; this author makes several points specifically and does NOT advocate (as I do not) simply eliminating tipping as a practice without other forms of compensation. He also references European service; please read before commenting, and please be polite. I will delete rude posts -- not afraid of an argument, but insist on a respectful, thoughtful environment.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gratuity automatically added to large parties should die. But tipping promotes good service. Without it, service would REALLY suck!

Anonymous said...

The service who has been "given proper training" and can gracefully deal with "situations" is the reason those servers are tipped more. Anyone can serve a dog- but to consistently offer the experience a $60 steak deserves, even to the most rude customer, is where the "15 times" is justified.

Anonymous said...

I hope you're not expecting a tip for opening this can of worms. ;)
But, yes, I believe our current tipping system should be re-evaluated.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to a country that does not tip? Most of Europe comes to mind and Germany in particular, since i travelled there a lot. Servers don't work for tips and the service shows. They could care less if you get what you want and how long it takes. In fact some collegues would joke about the attitude of the german wait staff

Anonymous said...

Of course if there was a bill that would ban tipping the entire restaurant industry would fight it tooth and nail since tipped employees are allowed to be paid a slave wage (in most states it's $2.13 an hour). As a former waiter I would love to see tipping outlawed and servers be paid a living wage because far too often restaurants take advantage of the $2.13 an hour and require servers to do hours of side work while not getting tables. The end result is that for the bulk of the time they are there they are only earning $2.13 an hour.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:27, The exception would be Italy. The servers are exceptional as is the food and there are no 'hand outs' expected.

Dr. Horrible said...

Without tipping, at least one of two things will happen:

1) You will wind up paying more for your food as the eatery in question has to pay more for capable servers, or

2) Service will suffer as capable servers move to more rewarding career choices.

Most likely it would be both, since servers would now have to be paid minimum wage (hiking prices) and service would suffer.

Once the latter happens, it also triggers more of the former, as eateries have to give away more food for free or reduced price to not lose business due to bad service - and guess where that cost is going to be made up?

Tipping is, ideally, merit-based pay. Take it away and you will pay a flat fee for it regardless of the merits. It will especially harm those too cheap (or culturally predisposed not) to tip.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:28, why would there have to be a bill to ban it? People can just stop tipping now. What are they going to do? There is so much competition right now, they won't refuse to let you back into the restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Waiters and waitresses should just earn a living wage. There is no more difficulty serving a over-priced steak than it is a hot-dog. Not to mention tipping does not guarantee quality service. Just as good service does not ensure a good tip.

Anonymous said...

It is very disturbing that some comments are being deleted and not posted. More sensorship. If the writer is afraid of an argument on this topic, then why would you bother printing the thing in the first place?

Julian said...

Tipping has its good and bad components. Even though discretionary, tipping has made restaurant service amongst other service jobs desirable. Maybe a question for the person who was a former waiter.....does the waiter keep all of the tips or is there a percentage going else where? I often question why waiters at larger restaurants deserve anything when they don't seat me, do not bring my food, and don't clean the table when I am finished. They only take on the responsibility of taking orders and making sure the tab is paid.

I am from Charlotte and now live in NY where they often impose rediculous tipping percentages onto your bill simply bc of the time of day. That to also encourages a waiter to not provide good service thinking that the tip will be given no matter what. And even worse I have experienced serveral instance where I was asked if I could give my tip now. Unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago one of my sons and I were eating breakfast at Keystone, South Dakota. Our waiter / server brought our food to us, noticed how small the meat serving was, shrugged his shoulder and said "Gee that's small. Well, I guess that's what the chef gave you."

We ate our food, paid our bill, left a dime on the table. As we exited I called to the waiter / server "I left you a tip. Gee it's small. Well, I guess that's what you get." Please share it with the chef.

Anonymous said...

We will not handle payroll for restaurant owners. Once the wait staff is paid what they should be by them, then they won't be begging for tips all the time.

Anonymous said...

"We ate our food, paid our bill, left a dime on the table. As we exited I called to the waiter / server "I left you a tip. Gee it's small. Well, I guess that's what you get." Please share it with the chef."

And you are the exact type of self serving d-bag that servers have to put up with. Not only did you take out something the chef did on the server, you also wasted their time and depending on the restaurant, probably ended up making the server pay for the "honor" of waiting on you since most places require them to tip out based on their sales. And on top of that you were incredibly rude to someone making $2.13 an hour (excuse me, $2.23 an hour based on your "generous" tip). Not only should you be ashamed of yourself, but you should be forced to wait tables for a week to see what they go through.

Helen Schwab said...

I'm leaving the dime story and response because it illustrates that both sides agree on something -- the serving size wasn't the server's fault. Subsequent comments by both server and diner were unfortunate; repaying rudeness with rudeness. I do agree that everyone should have to wait tables, though I'd say at least a month -- people should also have to work in retail for a month and answer phones at a reception desk. Wouldn't the world be a better place fast?

Phorla Tipper said...

Good Link.

The 15% Service Charge would solve the tipping problem. I am all for this solution. Eventually some restaurants would start including the service charge in the price.

If you receive bad service you can discuss with the management as you would do at any other establishment (store, bank, etc.) We don't tip store clerks or bank tellers, why just at restaurants.

Anonymous said...

Hey Helen, you may want to read the Dime story again because the only person in that story that admitted that it was the chef's fault was the server who got blamed. By leaving the dime it was quite obvious that the person leaving the "tip" blamed the server just as much as the chef.

Yamo said...

The most ludicrous idea I've ever heard. People survive on tips. If you get decent service, then 15% the server. Parties SHOULD have a mandatory gratuity - often servers handle large parties by themselves. I've worked in the service industry and regularly tip up to 33% because most of the time you get good service. If you cannot afford a tip, then stay at home! You wouldn't believe how many customers complain over a difference of $3. Also, servers pay for walk-outs out of their tips.

Anonymous said...

I think in the dime story, the customer blamed the server for not sticking up for the customer with the chef and not for what the chef did.

Anonymous said...

To the person who thinks a service charge should be added, you're forgetting about competition. Restaurants not only compete with each other, they compete with cooking at home, grabbing ready made food at grocery store, etc. Eating out is a luxury and not a necessity. They have to keep food prices down.

paulie said...

"Favorite point: It's not actually any harder -- given proper training and situations -- to serve a $4 hot dog than a $59 steak, so why does one server make 15 times as much?"

I don't get why this would be your favorite point. Have you done both? You are only considering the act of serving and not the ones served. High-end restaurants usually come with high-end, hoity-toity demanding customers. Maybe you should spend more time at hot-dog stands so that you can appreciate the difference.

Read more: http://helendining.blogspot.com/2010/09/tipping-should-die.html#ixzz112kB0sMn

Anonymous said...

The reality is that ending tipping and paying a flat wage that is enough for servers to live on would result in better service. Since restaurants only have to pay servers $2.13 an hour they can afford to flood the floor with servers so that each server gets 2-3 table sections. When this happens the good servers loose incentive to actually be good because they know no matter how hard they work, they are only going to get a handful of tables and end up walking out at the end of the night without a lot of money. If restaurants had to pay, say, $10 an hour for servers only the best servers would get the hours, and they would be motivated to do a good job because not only are they making money, but they know if they slack off there is someone waiting in the wings to take their position.

Anonymous said...

Yes, tipping is definitely an odd thing. In many parts of the world, Asia in particular, tipping is seen as rude. It implies that you think the owner doesn't pay the staff well enough.

I'd like to see tipping disappear here, too. It seems like a lot of energy is wasted on both sides fretting over it.

Anonymous said...

Here is a tip: Keep your head down on your backswing and don't plant your corn too deep.

Anonymous said...

There is no tipping in the vast majority of Asian countries and service and food prices are generally fantastic! Of course, the standard of living for a food server is lower there- alone with the server's expectation of lifestyle. Asians don't have the sense of "entitlement" that Americans do.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:31 was exactly right on the "dime" story, the reason the customer is upset in this scenario is because of the apathy of the server, and the general rudness that he/she displayed by a.) noting that their serving was sub par, and then b.) basically shrugging his/her shoulders and basically saying to the customer "wow, sucks for you huh?"

As someone who waited tables and tended bar for the better part of 8 years, I know how hard a job it can be, but I would somewhat agree with the customer on this one. If as a server you are that slack, and can't stick up for your customers, then you aren't doing your job properly, and don't deserve a tip. I can name you at least 20 times in my career as a server where when something came out of the back that wasn't quite right, I made sure the kitchen got it right, that's how you earn a tip.

Having said all that, a better course of action from the customer would have been to speak to the manager instead of playing tit-for-tat with the server.

Sorry to keep taking this off topic, very intersting article though, not sure if I agree with it, but there are some intersting points.

Anonymous said...

I used to wait tables, and I hated getting a bad tip when the kitchen sucked.

I remember one time having a table wait almost an hour for food, I kept bugging the kitchen, the manager came out and apologized (at my request), I tried to keep them happy, but in the end they left me $1 because of their experience. I always worked my butt off, and to have someone do that when it wasn't my fault is not right. I remember telling the owner, do you think he compensated me because the kitchen was in the weeds? ha!

So I completely agree that this should just be a flat service charge or built into the food price so that the waiter doesn't suffer when it's not their fault.

It's like another comment said, if you stink as a waiter they'll fire you and hire someone else, so there is the motivation to do well.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the dime story is that it is not the server's responsibility to speak up for sub par food it's the patrons. Just as the person who wrote the story, pointed out it (unintentionally) the kitchen staff affect server's tips and upsetting them is not the thing to do. The behavior of the patrons, the writer of the post, was immature and passive aggressive. You take it to the manager if their is a problem with the quality of food. It's not the servers responsibility to make sure you get your money's worth. SMH, at the poster thinking this was proper behavior, clever or a cute little story to tell.

Anonymous said...

I'm a flat fee kinda guy. $1 per person for lunch $2 per person for dinner. But sometimes I compensate. The real issue with me is a beer in the bar - a $1 for a $4 beer seems too much but change doesn't really work. So I try to get two or three 'trips' out of one tip. But it never really makes sense so often I just try to get by without tipping. Now if beer is $1 then I give a $1 tip. $2 total works for everyone. Plus I give the management props for keeping the initial beer low. If they keep it low, I'll pay their staff.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Just for the sake of computation, Lets say an establishment goes through 20 tables of 3 customers an hour. Increase the price of a meal 2 dollars, That's $60.00 an hour. Pay that to the 3 to 6 wait staff. Then they have a living wage, And tipping is off of the table.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Just for the sake of computation, Lets say an establishment goes through 20 tables of 3 customers an hour. Increase the price of a meal 2 dollars, That's $60.00 an hour. Pay that to the 3 to 6 wait staff. Then they have a living wage, And tipping is off of the table.

Anonymous said...

Why pay a percentage of the bill? Just because the FOOD is high priced does not equal better service! I can go to a family diner and get FAST, PERSONALIZED service and pay tip of $2 or go to an expensive restaurant and get the same service (may be worse) and am expected to pay $12! Yes I'll gladly pay the difference for the quality of food... but many times the diner waitstaff gives better service than the formal dining waitstaff BUT we are EXPECTED to pay more to the formal waitstaff just because the food they sit in front of you is more expensive?!

I think waitstaff should be paid more per hour and tipping should be based on PER PERSON (based on the amount of time you stay at the table and the atmosphere of the restaurant) and a smaller percentage of the bill. ie, Diner=$1 person +5-10% of bill. Fine dining=$2 per person (per hour of dining) +5-10% of the bill. So figure 5-10% of the bill then add $1-2 per person

John said...

Yeah I didn't read the article. Anyone stupid enough to suggest that tipping is unconstitutional isn't really worth the effort since there is no way to construe it as unconstitutional because it isn't mandated by any governmental authority.

Anonymous said...

I like the Seinfeld/Kramer method. Put a stack of bills on the table. Add one when the service is good, take away when it is bad. That way the server can see how things are going.

par said...

I agree with killing tipping. I travel often to Europe and no tipping other than some parts of Italy. The service in may cases is better than the USA.

Anonymous said...

I've never been a waiter or had any job where I earned tips. But I love the concept of tipping. I tip a lot. Good service at a restaurant and I give 25% plus. Which is really just an extra dollar or two more at lunch and a few more at dinner. Love helping a friendly server who probably really needs that money. Valet guy gets $5 minimum. Hotel staff, drivers, barber/stylist, etc. They all enjoy a generous tip. And my service is always excellent as a result. Especially next time through. Do the few extra dollars here and there add up? Absolutely. They add up to me having less wait time (if any) for a table, or when I check in, or when I need a quick favor. Eating out and travel is much more convenient and efficient and enjoyable. And that's hard to put a price on. But my few extra dollars helping these hard working folks does it. It's a win-win. And makes you feel good too. When they see that oversized tip and smile, guess what I do naturally? I smile too. Worth every penny.

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

AMEN.

My boyfriend has long been vocal about wishing restaurants were like any other business -- compensating their employees fairly and, to account for that, charging reasonable prices from the consumer to cover their expenses. Tipping doesn't even do what it's "supposed to" be for!

I want waitstaff to earn fair wages, and I don't want to have to do math at the end of each meal (or while trying to figure out the menu, if I'm dining on a budget, for goodness' sake). I think we can make it happen!

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

PS for those who enjoy tipping extra, it's not as though you couldn't still do that -- just that it wouldn't be like it is now, with an essentially "obligatory" tip amount. Why not just put it in the cost? Tip over that if you'd like!

Rae said...

This was an eye-opening article! I've had my doubts about tipping but they were only 10% of the issues the author brought up. Wow! I'm in full agreement with him.

I truly don't believe service would suffer if tipping ended as long as good management is in place. At my 'normal' corporate job, if ppl stink, they get canned. Same thing w/ bad service at a restaurant. If ppl are getting bad service, they won't go back, owner loses money so he won't stand for bad service and he'll make adjustments.

And holy smokes... "$1.6 Billion in tax revenue would be lost to Americans..." That is not cool!

Thank you for this eye-opening post.

Anonymous said...

As a former server, I have some questions.
1. Fast food workers make at least minimum wage, and no tips, granted most don't bring your food to the table, and sometimes you're lucky if your order is right. So how do those places make money?
2. Some states (i.e. CA, WA, OR) have a minimum server wage of $8-10/hour, so how do restaurants in those states make money?

Anonymous said...

I took a group of high school students to eat lunch at Taco Mac following a school field trip. I asked the students to bring enough to $10 to cover lunch a 15% gratuity--which I thought was standard. To my dismay, the waitress informed me that an 18% gratuity would be added to every check. My students never grumbled about the gratuity--even though I saw them carefully re-calculating the costs of their lunches to include the 18% gratuity. My students even took it upon themselves to clean off every table we used and stacked all the glasses and dishes in the middle of one table....I was so proud of them but felt that an 18% gratuity was excessive.

Anonymous said...

I *HAVE* waited tables so I CAN make an educated comment. Servers make more money than I do and I don't work a blue-collar job either. If servers make more than $12-$15 an hour they're making too much. And I know most servers make at least that. I worked more than one service job when I was younger & it wasn't like breaking rocks in a quarry. Younger people these days need to work a REAL tough job & then see if they whine about being an "under paid" server. -eye roll- I spent some time in Europe & LOVED the fact that I didn't have to tip.

Anonymous said...

If tipping is deemed "unconstitutional", then it seems that working a commission only or low base + commission (where the commission is to be the bulk of your salary) should be "unconstitional" as well....

Wake Forest said...

I worked at a restaurant in Australia while I studied abroad and while there were no tips, minimum wage there was a living wage. It was great, and I made the equivalent of about $15 an hour. The only disadvantage was that there was no strong incentive for the employee or the management to treat the customers well. If there was a complaint about food or service, the response was generally "Then get out of my restaurant," instead of trying to accomodate the customer. An interesting situation, but it was fabulous for the employees--our boss really stood up for us, which is very different from a culture where employees can easily get fired over complaints from finicky customers. I don't know if no tipping will ever fly in the US where people are accustomed to having more skilled and attentive waitstaff at an establishment where they're paying for the steak instead of the hot dog. Perhaps just a higher average wage in general? It's a shame some waitstaff have to work 80 hours a week to put food on their own tables and are still struggling to make ends meet, while others can bring home hundreds in a night... The system also really disadvantages youth, who will readily accept jobs that pay $2 an hour "plus tips!" and then end up doing work no one else would do.

LizFun said...

Interesting discussion here! Here's some more food for thought:

When I lived in Taiwan I was surprised to discover that the hotels added gratuity, but the staff received salary and NOT the gratuities. I was even more surprised when I got back home and discovered the same is true of many of the private clubs in Charlotte. What are your thoughts on that?

FYI, most wait staff does have to tip out one or more co-workers based on sales: Bartenders of course, but also hostesses and busboys who typically don't declare any tips.

Naturally, declaration of tips to the IRS is a hot topic, but here's what is interesting about it: A server in banking town Charlotte with a white collar clientele is declaring most if not all of their tips because they are tipped mostly on credit/debit cards and by the time they tip out they are making what the computer shows. I worked for a small chain with cafes in CLT, Raleigh and Wilmington. About 95% of the CLT customers paid with a card. In Raleigh, it was about half, and in touristy Wilmington it was mostly cash. Inequitable for sure - what do you think?

Amy said...

I love the comment from the person who said-"I've never been a waiter or had any job where I earned tips. But I love the concept of tipping. I tip a lot."- It would be great if more people had your attitude. Julian asked if-"does the waiter keep all of the tips or is there a percentage going else where?- The answer is yes, the waiter usually must tip out a percentage of the tip to the busboy, the bartender, the food runner, and the host. If people under tip the server still has to tip out the set percentage of their sales.

Anonymous said...

The lack of diverse media covering "food" in Charlotte makes me laugh. Helen Schwab and Tricia Childress are the two leading columnists on food, and no offense, really haven't been in the game for quite some time, if ever. Why don't you report on something prevelant in the restaurant industry rather than a story "why we shouldn't tip". It is insulting for those who make a career working in the industry. But I guess it is easier giving a play by play of who is going to own the penguin, than educate readers about new and exciting food, wine, or restaurants. This is a reason Charlotte lacks culture. Furthermore I haven't seen any legitiment reviews lately, which leads me to believe the observer cut your budget, which sucks, im sorry, now you have to eat like the rest of us. Maybe you can edit my comment, and I'll worry about your hot dog having the right toppings and your 83' Lafite being decanted. Peace from the N'East where the food is GOOOOOD!

Anonymous said...

A fixed tip percentage is just another form of socialism.

Anonymous said...

I live in Europe and LOVE the no tipping rule. And, service hasn't suffered as a result. It's amazing what waiters will do to make sure your dinner is a pleasure when they're paid a living salary and take pride in their work.

John said...

Anon 3:55...what are you referring to? I didn't read a single post advocating a fixed tip percentage, except for some comments about large parties. Thats NOT what this article and discussion is about.