Oh, this is going to be baaaaaad.
Come on, italics man. I haven’t even started yet!
Way back in 2010, when this blog was the internet version of a cranky toddler who still periodically wets the bed, I posted an article that made fun of tipping. It might have been the first post I ever wrote that went “viral”, which really only meant that somebody other than my mom read it.
The logic goes something like this. Tipping is supposed to be an exchange for good service. The server comes out, kisses your ass, really impresses you, and you give her a little bonus in exchange for making the dining experience so memorable.
Think about the last ten times you went to a restaurant. How many of those experiences would be classified as memorable?
Of the top of my head, I remember the time Vanessa and I waited more than an hour for our food at a local restaurant while the owner decided to clown around with his family instead of helping out the frazzled waitress.
I also recall the time I ordered a Coke and didn’t get the damn thing. At least she didn’t try to charge me for it.
And just last week, we went to a local pizza place where it took longer than an hour to get our food after they burned our first pizza. At least that meal was free.
According to the unwritten rules of tipping, I’m supposed to give each of these people a bonus cash payment. They tried, after all. Poppycock. They screwed up and deserve nothing.
Servers quickly figure out that as long as they show up and don’t screw up too badly, they’re getting anywhere from 15% to 20% of the bill. So they lower their output accordingly, doing just enough to ensure they get most of those tips.
Tipping has evolved from an optional bonus in exchange for good service to a form of institutionalized blackmail. You give me a little extra, and I’ll make sure the cook’s secret sauce doesn’t make its way on your hamburger.
Servers don’t make a living wage? Sucks to be them, then. Why should I be expected to make up somebody’s wage out of my own pocket? I’m already paying 14 bucks for a hamburger.
The average Wal-Mart greeter doesn’t make a living wage either. Neither does the guy who sweeps and mops the floor, most fast food employees or the guy who pumps your gas. Why don’t they get tips? Is their service any worse than your server?
Yet I still tip…sort of
I still tip, even though I’m opposed to the whole practice. I’m getting more selective about it, though.
We live in a small town, and therefore go to the same few restaurants on a semi-regular basis. You better believe I tip at each of these places, mostly as an insurance policy. It’s too easy to be remembered as the jerk who didn’t tip.
I also tip when I’m out with people, no matter where I’m eating. The last thing you need is for your guests to remember nothing about your evening other than how you stiffed the server on their tip. It’s the quickest way to be labeled a cheap-ass.
I’ve started experimenting with not tipping in certain situations, like when I’m a long way from home in a restaurant I know I’ll never visit again. And you know what?
Nobody made a scene. If the server was disappointed, she sure did a good job of hiding it. I took my receipt and was on my way.
But here’s the kicker. I still felt bad about it.
Tipping has become such an ingrained part of our culture that I feel bad when I don’t give my waitstaff an extra few bucks. I envision some struggling young woman who can barely make ends meet, who legitimately could use the few extra bucks I toss over after eating too many fries.
It’s not the best system
There are two major things wrong with our tipping culture.
We believe that the only thing separating us from literal crap thrown on a plate is the expectation of a tip. Anyone who has been to Asia (where you don’t tip) knows that isn’t the case. Hell, I’d argue service is better in Asia. It was in Korea and Japan, that’s for sure.
The other issue is tax evasion. We all know restaurant employees who just pay taxes on their salary, conveniently forgetting to tell the government about the extra. Others only pay tax on the tips received from customer cards, keeping the cash for themselves.
Either way, waitstaff are committing some major tax evasion. Every loonie and toonie you give them is giving them further encouragement.
So what’s the solution?
It should be simple. Restaurants should open that charge 15% more and ban tipping. I’m not forced to give bonus payments for mediocre service, and employees still get paid the same amount. Everyone is happy.
But that’s not going to work. We’ve tipped for too long. We feel cheap if we don’t do it. Peer pressure has made sure of it.
I don’t see anything that will change the status quo. Which is why I think you’ll be 100% fine if you just refuse to tip from now on.
If 99 people tip and you don’t, your server isn’t going to care. She’ll (internally) call you a cheapskate and move on with her day. It’s just not that big of a deal to her.
As long as you don’t go to the same place every Friday, you’ll be fine. And even if you do, don’t sweat it. You’ll still get treated 90% as well as anyone else.
You can easily just bypass the institution with very few consequences. It’s that ingrained. Everybody else is doing the heavy lifting for you.