The Tipping Point

IMG_20150114_131631Many restaurants across the country are giving their employees raises and benefits, & banning tipping.  This is seen as a victory for workers in the fight for a living wage.  Many people who frequent restaurants think this is a great idea as well.  I have heard the argument that it should be the employer’s responsibility to pay the employee, not the responsibility of the customers.  I have a very strong opinion on this, because I know many people who have worked in the service industry (including myself).  And that opinion is…I’m undecided on this issue.  Strongly undecided.

On the surface, it sounds great!  No longer does the employee have to worry about providing excellent service and still getting stiffed by some cheapskate and maybe not make rent.  And no longer will the restaurant customer have to worry about whether they should tip 15% because it is lunch and not a particularly nice place, or 20% because the service was good, or more because the service was exceptional, it is a fancier restaurant, they want to impress their date, or they think their server was hot.  I’m not even going to mention how hard it can be to do the math when you’re out to eat after drinking 13 shots of Jameson.

Furthermore, this would eliminate the chances of a good waiter or waitress having a bad shift of tips for service problems that may have actually been the fault of the kitchen staff, expediter, or management.  Generally, if your server seems to be moving quickly, attentive, and mostly pleasant, you should understand that any slow service is likely not their fault!  Never under-tip because it took a long time to get your food when everything else was good.

Another great thing about this trend is that many very, very stupidly managed restaurants require tip sharing.  I’m not talking about a waiter or waitress paying out their section’s busperson, I’m talking about tip-pooling.  This is a travesty!  I worked for a company where we pooled tips.  It sucked, because I hustled, I smiled, I put up with the biggest jerks and made the best damn coffee those terrible machines would let me.  And in that business, that fast-food of coffee location, when I was on the window, that box was stuffed full.  There was a reason I was always on the window during the morning rush.  And then we would get the tips and I’d watch the slow, lazy co-workers who were picking their noses in front of the pastry case while I was running back and forth between the machines, the frozen drink machine (you know the frozen drink I’m talking about), and the window…I had to watch them take the money that was given to me!

Which leads me to my next thought.  Tips aren’t wages!  The government should not be allowed to tax tips!  Since I am not a server’s employer, anything I give a server is not their wage, IRS!  It is a gift.  I give a gift to the server because I appreciate the way I was served.  I’m not paying their wages, greedy government bastard!

So with all these problems with tipping, this new trend of paying restaurant workers more and offering benefits in exchange for no tipping policies should be a great thing right?

Not so fast, Speed Racer.

Let’s look a little closer.  Who really benefits?  Good servers, on a good shift can make bank.  Does anyone really believe the few dollars more an hour will make up for a lack of tips?  A weekend evening shift at a restaurant with good traffic for a good server can be more than an office worker makes in a month.  And those coveted weekend shifts?  Well, without tips, who wants to work the busy weekends?  Instead of the best workers getting scheduled on the busiest nights, you’ll get stuck with whoever couldn’t get out of it.

Let’s look a little deeper.  If you haven’t noticed, cash is quickly becoming a scarce resource.  Plastic, or even phone payments are quickly becoming the preferred method.  (Until the chip implants & “credits” take over.)  Why does this matter?  Well, for every transaction on a credit or debit card, a business typically gets charged a percentage of the total.  So imagine a scenario where you go out to eat, and the service is so great, you tip 50%.  (It has happened to me a few times.)  So the food was $100.  The restaurant would get charged…let’s say 3% on that transaction.  $3.  They build that into their pricing.  But you tip $50.  So the transaction is $150.  The charge to the restaurant is now $4.50.  That extra $1.50 cost to the restaurant exists solely so you can tip their employee.  So it is costing the restaurant additional money to allow tipping.

Granted, it is a very small amount of money, and the raises provided to the workers would likely be more.  But those fees for tips are unpredictable.  Wages can be budgeted for.

Also, with the exception of the horrible tip-pooling operations, getting rid of tipping gets rid of the incentive to provide service that is above and beyond.  If you believe that they can rely on their manager to notice the great job they’re doing and give them performance raises, you must be a manager who probably doesn’t notice your employees taking shit about you behind your back.  You are so out of touch, you likely have an issue with your nervous system.

Finally, as a frequenter of eating establishments (okay, not really frequent, because I can rarely afford it, or feel too sick to go out), I like to give the person providing exceptional service a little extra.  They could do the nuts & bolts of the job, and still deserve their pay and position.  But when they make you feel like a friend, or a respected individual, and are a little quicker than they could be, and strike that perfect balance of being attentive enough without hovering…I like to let them know monetarily, that their extra effort is appreciated.

So to summarize, I am really against this new trend of paying restaurant workers salaries in lieu of tips, except that I really think this idea could be quite good.  Don’t try and change my mind, it’s already made up.  I am 100% completely undecided.

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Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

Comments appreciated

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