I'm always a little shocked and disgusted when I discover that someone I'm friends with is a lousy tipper, or expects some ridiculous level of service in order to extract a meager dollar bill from their miserly pocketbook. It's not usually a case of that person simply being an insensitive or cheap individual, although there probably are lots of diners that fit that description out there.
I've never been a waiter or depended on tips to make money, but lots of people in my life have been in that position, and I feel like the time has come to do away with tipping at restaurants. I have several reasons for feeling this way, so bear with me, before the cries of "That's crazy talk! Kill him!"
In Texas, it's legal to pay waitstaff as little as $2.13 an hour, with the rationale that they will make up the difference in tips. Yes, there are people that make great money relying on this system of tipping, but there are also many more that get shafted at the end of their shift.
Interestingly, while the idea of tipping food workers is a very American concept today, it was originally a custom brought over from Europe when wealthy Americans visiting there decided it was a cool way to show off their elevated social status when they returned to the States. In the early 20th century there was actually an anti-tipping movement in America, because many people thought that the entire idea ran against the ideals that this country was founded on. They felt that it imposed a system of inequality that was Un-American by its very nature. Sadly, that movement didn't catch on, and the haven't been major drives to abolish the system of tipping in this country since.
Many Americans have weird attitudes about the people that prepare and serve them food. The attitude that those people are a servant class or somehow lesser than others is pretty common, just look for the "You want fries with that?" or "You should've stayed in school" comments that occasionally arise when someone is pissed off at a food worker.
I've people with college degrees that went into food service jobs for many different reasons, and the idea that food service workers are either dumb or somehow "beneath" the rest of us is ridiculous. Yet we have a system of payment reserved for them that allows the restaurant patron to decide to a large degree how much their labor is worth.
How many other vocations rely on tipping as the main way a worker makes his or her money?
I can't even fathom a situation where say, the local auto mechanic only made $5 an hour, and had to rely on tips to get by. Or a company's I.T. Department? Yep, reroute the servers, and if we like what you do, we'll tip you. I'm sure that would go over well.
How about we just get rid of tipping at restaurants, and require that their employees get paid the same way most other jobs are? Because the sad truth is that a lot of people that eat out are creeps when it comes to tipping their waiters.
There seem to be a lot of different types of bad tippers, but a couple of major categories would include "The Total Jerks," which are just that. They're bullying creeps or cheapskates that will abuse anyone they temporarily have power over just because they're miserable pricks. I'd prefer to just see these types of individuals humiliated or banished to the desert whenever they're discovered, but that's not a popular opinion unfortunately. These folks sometimes seem to just have an antagonistic attitude toward servers in general. They might consider them losers or less than human. They should take a long hard look in the mirror.
Then you get the "Super Picky Performance Analysts." These are probably the most common under-tippers I've seen. They'll tip a server, but only if their ridiculous high standards are met. I'm sorry, but there is a difference in the dining experience depending on the type of restaurant you're eating at. It's unrealistic to expect the "jumping through hoops" level of attention at Denny's that one might expect at a 3 star restaurant.
As long as the service is competent and friendly, what more does a person want for a $10 meal? The type of person that routinely goes radically "off menu" and is so picky that their requests veer towards Crazy Town should just do everyone a favor and eat at home.
There are also the "Punishing Cheapskates," people who will argue that a restaurant is just too expensive, and use miserly tipping as some way to punish the place. The logical disconnect is astounding, as all they're doing is punishing the person serving them. The restaurant doesn't care. To put it simply, if you don't have enough money to tip a server at least 15 percent, you don't have enough money to eat out at that place.
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Folks that leave "joke tips" like religious tracts instead of real money are also out there. See you in the Lake of Fire, creative cheapskates, you've just made your savior cry!
Although America originally imported its custom of tipping at restaurants from Europe, many European countries have done away with it. If you eat out at most places in France, tipping isn't expected or encouraged. The waiters get a normal paycheck just like people working other vocations, and this hasn't caused the death of the French restaurant industry.
Some will argue that without tipping, that service will slip because restaurant workers won't have to try as hard, but I don't see how that would be the case. If a waiter provided consistently bad service, his manager would deal with him just like any other would. No restaurant would stay in business if customers avoid it because the service is terrible. The bad waiters would eventually be fired, just like any other rude or incompetent employee of a service business would be.
Restaurants aren't going anywhere, too many people in this country love to eat out. But I feel that it's time to reexamine the system of paying food service workers primarily through tips. It's a system that can empower creeps and punish restaurant workers for no good reason.