Tipping

I’ll start by saying that tipping at restaurants isn’t something that has existed for a long time. Its origins come from owners needing to pay their employees less, not as a reward. It is one of the biggest and dumbest myths that many people perpetuate.

PS: The biggest misconception of all is that waitstaff who strive to give better service are better rewarded: they aren’t. Studies continue to demonstrate that it simply isn’t true. It is another misconception related to our mistaken belief that harder work yields greater pay.

“Adam Ruins Everything.”   Snippet of “Adam Ruins Everything”   Watch the full episode regarding restaurants, if you can find it or have TruTV. If you watch this episode, you will undoubtedly at least be receptive to discontinuing the tradition of tipping, especially if you follow the statistics and studies that demonstrate that tipping is not effective in improving service and perpetuates a bad relationship between customer, owner, and server. Otherwise, google ‘tipping’ and how it all came about and you’ll have a different perspective on the argument of tipping.

If the tipping system seems antiquated and simply stupid to you, I agree totally.

The entire tipping system is broken and many of us know it. Like most people I know, I tip well. Sometimes, even when the service seems to have been provided by the most hateful and forgetful person on the planet, I tip well. When I don’t, I give it to the next server I encounter. We are victimized by the stupidity of the tipping system in restaurants. Studies show that the amount of the tip is more likely to be based on random criteria and issues not related to your eating and service experience. Despite the evidence, many servers are in favor of the tipping system, mistakenly believing that can earn more this way. While some might, the anecdotal evidence is dismissed by facts of studies which show little correlation between tips and effort.

By earning a decent wage instead of relying on tipping, servers would gain the ability to plan for fair, consistent wages. Most of us would love to live in a society which demands a living wage instead of a minimum wage. Everyone bitches and moans about what a living wage is, or gets upset that someone else seems to be making more than we feel they might be worth, but those are separate issues. Personally, I would love to see an immediate change wherein waitstaff earns at least minimum wage. Restaurant owners who can’t compete when they are required to pay at least the minimum simply should go out of business. Again, no other industry gets by with the kind of unfair wage structure that restaurants can push on their employees by using a tip wage system.

To restaurant owners – go ahead, include the expected tip in the price of my meal, and pay the servers a good wage. Instead of seeing you advertise a 2-for-$20 special, I will know in reality that it is actually 2-for-$25 or $30. I’m good with that. That is what I’m paying anyway. I’d rather know how much it costs me “all-in.” It also allows me to go to the manager or owner and demand quality, speed and service without personalizing the involvement of the server in our transaction. It’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure all the details result in the agreed-upon transaction, including if the server is disorganized or terrible at his or her job. It’s the owner’s job to staff enough servers, to train them, as well as to ensure that the expected functions of the job are being performed. If he or she doesn’t, that deficiency is between the server and owner, rather than me and the server. Instead of forcing the manager to explain our bad experience, the server suffers, while the manager or owner rarely does.

While not all dining out is a luxury, much of it is. It sounds spoiled to whine about a modest increase, if any, to the price we pay for the privilege of having someone else serve us food. We can pay our fair share for a better system. If it means we eat out one time a year less, that’s not a reasonable burden to invoke as an excuse to continue to victimize employees of restaurants.

It is ridiculous that restaurants are allowed to pit me against the person bringing me my food and drinks. This doesn’t happen in other industries. Every aspect of what the waitstaff does or does not do is between them and their employer; yet, we participate in a system which allows waitstaff to be victimized or underpaid. No mistake about it, it is the employer’s job to pay their staff a living wage. Include the cost of their employment in the price of the food and eliminate the issues involved with tipping.

How often do we get irritated at the server? He or she doesn’t determine how many servers are available to help the fluctuating number of customers. They also don’t get to decide how many other functions they are expected to perform in addition to regular waitstaff duties. They don’t cook the food, decide on quality issues, or inspect the dishes. Yet, instead of focusing on these truths, we tend to continue to blame the server. All of these things are the owner’s fault, not the server. Servers want to do a good job, just as all of us do strive to do in our own work. If anything is wrong with the meal, it is the owner’s fault to fix. The idiocy of removing the person who owns the place or manages it continues to plague us.

Managers know when there aren’t enough servers or if a specific server isn’t quite performing. As a customer, it is none of my business as to the process behind the food I’m paying for. The owners and managers are tasked with providing the food and service in the expected way. It’s not our job to tell you when the food is bad or the service is inadequate. You expect us to reward or punish your employee serving us, when in reality, it is you who should be directly punished. Many of us don’t return food or ask for a fix precisely because servers hold great power over our ability to continue a life without having eaten a pool of their spit. I will go out on a limb and say that most times, bad service has nothing to do with the server at all. The next time you are having bad service, stop the conversation at your table and discuss it openly. Chances are, the owner hasn’t staffed enough servers, or the server is doing another function that should be addressed by another type of employee.

Managers might whine about not having enough employees or blame the competition. The competition is experiencing the same job market that you are, with the same expectations. Like any other industry, you need to compete on a level playing field by paying employees a fair wage for the work they perform.

People are smart and innovation is never in short supply. There will be restaurants which figure out how to serve good food and pay their employees very well. It is a myth that demanding a living wage for servers will result in an industry meltdown. It’s an easy cry for mercy, but it is one drowned out by the lack of fairness under the current tip wage system.

Servers, if customers have mistreated you, we stand with you. Kick the customers out, permanently, if necessary. Until we get rid of this horrible tipping system, if you’ve been shorted the customary tip despite providing good service, I am sorry. The system allows people to not tip if that is their wish, for whatever reason. It sucks. Most of us agree. The reality is that we should have never been forced into a tipping system in the first place. Getting out of it is going to be almost impossible.

Most eateries and corporations don’t care about our feedback -and when we don’t tip, we punish the server instead of the management team whose job it is to ensure quality food and service. Let’s have a system where the manager(s) and owner(s) earn less than minimum wage if our rating for our meal is less than it should have been. Better yet, let’s patronize places which provide wages and benefits to all employees – wages not subject to the pettiness and insanity of personal whim. Until businesses don’t find it economically beneficial to pit customers and servers against one another, they’ll continue to use the tip system to wink and nod at us, all the while knowing that we aren’t going to easily find and frequent places which use traditional wage structures.

 

 

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