Thursday, June 28, 2012


What's going on with tipping?  When I was young, my mother the accountant taught me that a standard tip was 15% for good service, with bad service being something less and excellent service being something more.  Now, advice columnists espouse 20% and a floor, and tell people that even the business owner should be tipped, at least in the context of a hair stylist.

How's that?  The hair stylist is getting all of the money from the cost of the service if the hair stylist owns the business.  The point of a tip is to provide more to a low paid employee for being particularly good at the job.  It's a sort of incentive program for good service.  The employer already has the incentive, to go along with all the money from the basic charge.  If the owner doesn't provide good service, the business goes under.

Then there's the issue of mandatory tips.  Those are reserved for large groups.  It's just that what constitutes a large group seems to be shrinking.  When I waited tables about 23 years ago a large group was 10, at least 8.  Just a few weeks ago at The Green Turtle it was 6.  That mean an 18% tip, without me having any say about it.  And the service was maybe 15% on that occasion.

Which brings about my bigger beef.  I'm not a fan of tipping in the first place.  It allows employers to pay below minimum wage to people who are working hard and takes the management of those employees' performance out of the hand of the employer and puts it into the hands of the customer.  I want the employer to be responsible for the employee's behavior.  I don't want to have to be the one to regulate it, and indirectly at best.  It's not like I can sit down and have a lengthy conversation with the server about performance and goals.  I'd much rather the tips were abandoned and a full, living wage be paid to the employee, with commensurate firings for those not performing adequately.

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