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June 21, 2012


Well, that is how it's done in many parts of the world, no? Tipping in German speaking countries is just rounding up the bill, and although waitstaff may not like a small tip, you're not endangering anyone's income by it.

I would also be interested to know why this system has never been tried in the US. Having waited in both diners and upscale places, I seem to remember that the "pay" was the same, the difference lay in the size of the tips.

The tipping discussion comes up from time to time on various places around the internet and this "no tipping" suggestion gets trotted out.

Why doesn't it happen? The bottom line is...people who work as food servers like tips. Tipped food service jobs almost always have an effective pay rate well above the minimum wage. That's why being waitress or waiter is generally a much more desirable job than working in a fast food joint.

I'd also like to point out that the tipped minimum wage varies from state to state. Here in New York it's $5.00 and some states, like California, the minimum wage is the same for everyone, tipped or no.

Oh, now you've done it, Doc. You may as well have posted a MacOS vs Windows column. Now we're going to see an attack of the Tipping Brigades, each of which tips precisely the right amount, and not a penny more or less, and will scorn you for not following suit.

Which should be just grand for traffic.

Anyway. Not being critical, just bracing myself.

All I can think of is Mr. Pink in Reservior Dogs.

The case for tipping seems to rely on something that, in my experience, almost never happens. It could be an incentive system, where those who do their job well are rewarded. In fact, most people tip a set amount (15%, 18%, 20% -- apparently 10% got left in the dust a while ago), regardless of how good or bad the service was.

Try tipping zero when the service is bad. (Better yet, tip 1 cent -- just to make clear that you didn't accidently forget.) See if that acts as a wake-up call for the waiter to do better. My bet: the service staff feels that they deserve a tip as part of their wages. And they just feel that you are a jerk if you actually expect them to earn those tips.

That being the case, there isn't any obvious reason other than inertia to keep it in place.

Tip That Waitress

I don't see a Loudon Wainwright III performance, but this one is OK.

Try tipping zero when the service is bad.

Low-tipping or no-tipping I approach with caution. If the service is good but the food gets there slow, I don't penalize the server for problems if they're possibly or even obviously occurring in the kitchen.

A good server will communicate so you're not left wondering, and give you some choices. If things are really bad, he/she will send the manager your way without you having to ask.

My expert searcher provides a Loudon Wainwright recording.

Oops... paste failure. It's http://www.myspace.com/lw3lw3/music/songs/tip-that-waitress-live-34634103">http://www.myspace.com/lw3lw3/music/songs/tip-that-waitress-live-34634103">http://www.myspace.com/lw3lw3/music/songs/tip-that-waitress-live-34634103

[note to self: always test links]

So much angst, so little facts.

Food server includes everything from the mentioned burger joint to your local bar to the highest end restaurant. The average age of the workers is? How many of those support a household? What is the average stay in a job? How many states have a minimum wage greater than the federal one? What is the average cost of living in the ones that don't? I am sure there are a few more relevaant ones.

I know quite a few people who are food servers as a career, none of these numbers apply to them, they do quite nicely thank you, they get the jobs at the higher end restaurants, get to pick the better shifts, etc. because it is what they do, not what they do because they can't find another job yet. Oh yeaah, and because they get to pick shifts they tend to work 3 or 4 days a week, leaving the newer or less good servers to work 6 days in cruddier shifts to make the money. They also get to work at restaurants tht give them insurance, or at least the choice.

And they would be appalled at the idea of getting rid of tipping. Because they know how to provide the little extra that makes the tips 20% or more.

And, yes, there are many people who are in the industry because it is "the job they can get" so we should consider minimum compensation and benefits generally. But it is an industry with a starting at the bottom and working your way up career path also.

Chuchundra, CCDG:

You're arguing that the waitstaff would resist the idea of getting rid of tipping, because with tips they get paid more. Why do none of these factors apply in the many countries where tipping is *not* customary and where wait staff are paid real wages?

Thinking about the workers' (hypothetical, because as far as I know the experiment hasn't been tried) resistance to moving away from tipping, I just noticed another factor.

Tips are frequently cash with no paper trail. This means that at least a certain proportion of tip income will not be reported and won't be subject to payroll or income taxes. In other words, tip money is more valuable, it is worth more to the worker because it's not discounted.

It's also more valuable because you generally take it home with you at the end of the shift, instead of waiting a week or two until the next pay period comes around. It's a bird in the hand compared to payroll money.

It's also more valuable because you generally take it home with you at the end of the shift, instead of waiting a week or two until the next pay period comes around.

For a lot of the 20-somethings (and not just them) who wait tables and/or tend bar, this often means that you take your cash to the bar at a nearby restaurant after your shift, tipping generously, since you're in the business and highly sypmathetic, though you also get, reciprocally, free and/or generously poured drinks. In any case, having cash handed to you and going out for drinks can leave you with less at the end of the week than would a paycheck, depending on your proclivities.

I tend to think it's the bartenders who benefit from this dynamic, though the waitstaff at the restaurant on the receiving end of the bar action probably don't have to put much money out if they stick around for drinks after the neighbors show up, provided management isn't too uptight.

There's a huge difference between places that do not serve alcohol and those that do. Also, there's nothing preventing any place from putting a notice in the menu that an X% gratuity will be added to every check. A lot of places already do this for tables over a certain size.

That would preserve any potential "performance incentive" (great service? Add more tip!), keep some of the payroll off the books (customers paying or tipping in cash), and prevent customer sticker shock at the higher menu prices that would be necessary to support a flat higher wage.

Slarti, my benchmark for bad service (as opposed to stuff being slow getting out of the kitchen) is the waiter who was so busy chatting with his buddy (the restaurant was practically empty) that even after the dishes were cleared it took him 15 minutes to get around to bringing the check.

Slow kitchen work may be a reason not to go back. But it isn't something the service folks have any control over.


All of those things,(some not reported, taking it home that night) do make the money more valuable. And for those people who are adults and do this for a real living, they do take a little out with them after work sometimes. However, they mostly take it home, put it in there safe place and put it in the bank eventually.

It is like any incentive system though, the people who get good tips as a rule like this way better. Keeping in mind that head servers, head bartenders, etc. can make 7-14 dollars an hour plus the tips. So bartenders and those who get to work the private parties seem to like this way best.

I find that lumping food service workers all together is like lumping programmers together, the range of income is really wide in those generic categories.

Not to clog up the thread(sorry lj) but I also find that I tip a minimum based on time I spend at the table, no matter what the bill. At lunch if I go in and take up a table by myself for 45 minutes and get say,an $11 tab, I always tip at least 4 dollars. A singleton $20 dinner tab gets 6-8 based on service. The servers depend on turns and I am a loss leader if I take up a table by myself. The extra 3-4 dollars means less to me and covers the tables expected yield for that time.

Yes, some of the tips aren't reported. However, remember that the IRS requires the empoyer to assume a minimum 8% tip rate and deduct from their pay check based on wage plus tip total.

Here in Florida the minimum wage for tipped employees was $4.65 until this year. It was lowered to the Federal $2.13 on party line votes this year. The Republicans called this a pay increase because the increased the mandated wage plus tip rate to $10.00. This was a bad joke. As noted above, the mandated total is widely ignored and enforcement is non existant. To drive home this point, I would note that Florida is one of the few states with no agency dedicated to wage enforement and the last time any state attorney in Florida brought a minimum wage enforcement action of any kind was in 2004.

no worries ccdg. The suggestion to avoid repeated comments is just a metric I use and I think it works pretty well, but if I were really as organized as I should be, there would be no replies, because the power of my logic would overwhelm you. And what would be the fun in that? ;^)

I know there are some places where the income tax includes 'assumed' tipping for those professions where tipping is common. The state simply assumes that the average worker in those professions will make X in tips and this X is automatically taxed as income. If the worker gets more tips than that, good for him. If not, his/her problem.
A common reaction is to put the tip on the bill treating it as a mandatory fee.

One of the captcha words was 'cooking' and the other sounded like Mexican food.

Does anyone want to weigh in on level and quality of service between tipping and non-tipping countries? I don't much see it myself but friends swear by the promptness and responsiveness of service in the US vs here in Australia.

(I felt the difference in US service was mostly busier and more intrusive, which I don't see as a plus).

And why not other industries? We should introduce tipping in notoriously slow places like law courts and at the DMV.

The pigeons-prefer-random-seeds experiment would suggest participants would go for the unpredictability of tips as a draw in itself.

We have one restaurant in my town that pays their wait staff a living wage. They pay $8 an hour, and they leave a jar out for tips.

It's a small, Mom and Pop place, so theres only one or two servers at any time, but the service is always great, the food is consistantly awesome, and the town loves the place.

The servers there are VERY happy with the system and the pay, and they stay on for years from loyalty and pride in their work.

Past time the US started treeating EVERYONE that their work is worth paying a living wage for.

I don't much see it myself but friends swear by the promptness and responsiveness of service in the US vs here in Australia.

It has been long enough since I spent time in Australia that I can't comment directly, but I'd be wary of such comparisons in general: Australia seems to have a much more laid back work culture than the US across the board. One of my Australian relatives is a physician and she described her part time residency program. A part time resident. The (American) mind boggles.

It's been over 25 years since I lived in Oz, but I recall the restaurant service there as being fine, just not as grovelling as it is in some American places where they're clearly angling for a tip. The Aussie waiter attitude seemed (to us) to be: "We're doing a job here, and doing it properly, with dignity. We don't need to kowtow to you (or coyly pretend to befriend you) and you shouldn't condescend to us." Which worked, and which we very much appreciated.

When I was a waitress in the 60s and 70s, I worked in a bar that served food if requested. Thus, I mostly served drinks. I made $1.85 an hour. I worked with a bartender who made $3.50 an hour. At the end of my shift, I was required to "tip" the bartender 10 percent of my tips. I had to give the busboys a minimal amount of money; and the Chef, too. So, if you get rid of tipping, make sure it is gone in all forms. Also, the IRS is aware of the tipping in cash. If they audit a waiter/waitress, the IRS will assume tips at a certain percentage of the total amount of food/drinks served and you will be held liable to pay the amount or find some way to prove that you did NOT earn as much as they are claiming you owe. Oh, and, why do we tip hairdressers?

My understanding of Oz labour unions is that it has been much more vibrant and energetic over the past century than in the US (though from the 90's, there has been a concerted effort to reduce that), so I wonder if the attitude that dr ngo speaks of is in part due to that.


I also find that I tip a minimum based on time I spend at the table, no matter what the bill.

This is actually pretty sensible. The whole percentage approach is strange when you think of it. It's no more work to bring a steak to the table than a salad. Time seems like a better metric, but getting everyone used to it is probably impossible.

"or is it, like underpaying farm workers, a custom that reflects more about social status than about how valuable the work is, in either moral or free-market terms?"

Exactly. Once you realize that THOSE people aren't really human (being either Homo Waiterus or Homo Pickerus), it becomes MUCH easier to stiff them on the pay.

And if you can berate a food server because your soup isn't hot? Or fire a farm hand right before a holiday? That's win-win! It's like castrating a bull without anesthesia - enjoyable for you and excruciating for the bull. Cause it's not enough to have ONE restaurant or farm owner be a jerk and pay out low wages - we have to institutionalize the low wages so as to make sure those people stay in their place.

I doubt whether many servers would want to get rid of tipping. If they work at a halfway decent bar or restraunt, they can often make $100 in 6 hours.And trust me, much of that is not reported to the IRS[although credit card tips are ruining that for servers. which is why i always tip cash]

If a bartender is on a slow shift, thier pay rate is often adjusted for that. No one is going to work a shift where they only make $2.15 an hour and dont get many tips

In the UK there pretty much is no tipping at pubs.And i didnt feel guilty about not tipping there since the service was horrible[the food was good though].

I myself tip around 25%-35% .And i like the idea of tipping. Im not rich.But when im traveling and am at a diner in a small town where the waitresses dont get much tips, i try to tip more than 30%. Especially since ive always gotten great service and plenty of information about the area from small town diner waitresses

I know bartenders who work at run of the mill bars.And they often make $200-$300 a night in tips.I doubt whether they feel oppresed by the tipping system

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