Today I was talking to some coworkers about cruises and looking forward to going on one. (It's a slow day in the office. Nothing new.) I remarked how cost effective they were when one coworker commented how extra costs piled up, including 3 days worth of his wife's duty-free shopping, an $800 bar tab, and the usual "voluntary" tips. (God help me, I'd better not get Dooced for that.) Do you ever think about the process of tipping? I'm sorry if I offend any of you current or former waitstaff, but it's a pretty corrupt way of doing business, and it's probably time to put a stop to it.
The straw that broke my proverbial back was at a bowling alley. I had ordered chicken fingers at the greasy food bar and saw the ubiquitous "tip cup". I'd always been led to believe that tips at restaurants made up for the low wages that servers made, usually far below minimum wage. Tips apparently make up a large portion of their salaries. But at the bowling alley, this guy was making minimum wage. In addition, his job was not complex. If I ordered chicken fingers, his job was to get them for me. Somehow I got the feeling from this guy that I needed to tip him - not a feeling I usually get from tip cups in Subway's or Dunkin Donuts. Sure enough, when I got my food, it had a double portion of fries. My fried who didn't tip, had a single portion of fries and it looked as if he was missing a piece of chicken as well. All I could think about was how the tip cup encouraged corrupt behavior. The owner of the bowling alley paid for my extra fries, yet I paid off the server. And my friend developed a little bit of "bad will" for the place, which the server got a mouthful of chicken. I can't understand why any fast food manager would allow a tip cup in his or her store, and to this day I refuse to contribute a penny.
Tipping in full service restaurants promotes bad behavior as well. Shouldn't the employees treat the customers well all the time, not just when they're being bribed? The arguments I've heard are that servers aren't paid enough (fair complaint) and that I can't expect someone to be on their feet that many hours and still be pleasant. You know what - I can. I've been very consistent with this issue. If you have a job, you are expected to fulfill the obligations of that job. And if you can't, you need to find a different job. This applies to bowling alley attendants, to waiters at fancy restaurants, and to pharmacists who balk at dispensing birth control. This is not to say that employees should get taken advantage of. But when the job description is clear from the start, I have no sympathy for not fulfilling your duties to the job.
In addition, when I pay good money for dinner, I expect to be treated nicely. If I'm not, I simply won't go to that restaurant again. Is competition so lax between restaurants that they can afford to alienate customers? This brings me to server pay. Why am I, the customer, asked to subsidize the cost of employment for the restaurant's labor? If the restaurant advertises steak for $25, why should it cost me $30? Put $30 on your menu and don't expect me to pay your waiters' salaries. Can you imagine another business that relied on customers to pay the salaries of its employees? Imagine tipping the UPS guy $10 so your packages arrive on time. Imagine having to pay off the woman at the DMV to get a new license before the old one expires. Imagine having to pay off the cops to get better treatment. These are stories we attribute to 3rd world countries like Mexico or Pakistan.
It's not that difficult to ensure quality in a world without tipping. Those of you lucky enough to be familiar with Publix supermarkets know that tipping is prohibited. Yet you'll have a hard time leaving the store without someone asking if they can help you with your bags. Why? Because service is an expectation of the staff, and because salaries compensate for the lack of tips. Surprisingly, Publix also has lower prices than its competitors. Maybe it's because customers feel more comfortable in their stores and come back. You may recall when Saturn was launched 15 years ago, it touted its no-haggle policy at dealerships. It made money because people preferred to know the price of the car before they went in to buy it. No sneaky dealers, no trying to outfox the foxes. They promised great service with no hidden extras. And guess what - they charged less, too.
I'm pretty sick of tipping for mediocre service, having the true cost of goods and services hidden from me until the end, and allowing poor service to exist in exchange for a few dollars of tip. What happens when I get bad service at a restaurant? I withhold $5 from the server? $5 buys a server a night of misbehavior with no other repercussions? And even that $5 I feel guilty about, because I know part of that gets split with the dishwashers and the busboys and the cooks. Isn't it time to stop tipping?