Earlier this year there was some crazy talk in the news about restaurants adopting no tipping policies, and this past October a Time Magazine article reported, a “small but prominent group of restaurants across the U.S.” is now testing out this blasphemous cultural change.
According to the article, participating restauranteurs, who are opting to pay their waitstaff whatever they deem a livable wage and do away with the nearly 150-year-old American custom, claim that they want more control over how much their staff makes. They say that tipped employees make a substantial amount more than back-of-the-house workers, i.e. cooks and dishwashers etc., and that’s unfair. To make it feasible, they’ll charge a built-in service fee and raise prices.
Basically, customers will spend the same amount of money, but establishment owners get to dole it out as they see fit, which will surely include into their own pockets.
As someone who lived on tips for 15-odd years as a server and bartender, I say hourly pay shmourly-shmay. True, a livable hourly wage sounds enticing during the slow seasons, but overall the busy times more than make up for it. Plus, there is something really satisfying about counting your cash at the end of each night, then blowing most of it at a nearby bar, and doing it all over again the next night. How would a boring ol’ biweekly paycheck enable the restaurant night-lifestyle that many a server and barkeep embrace? We gotta ask the important questions.
Admittedly, tipping is not a perfect system. Sometimes we get stiffed, or work hard only to get a 10% tip and a useless Christianity pamphlet, or an old-guy favorite — a couple of $2 bills. We curse people upon finding that they are crappy tippers, but on the flipside of that, a great tip can boost our faith in humanity and make us feel appreciated, and everyone wants to feel appreciated for their work. Otherwise, we’d all go get jobs at RadioShack.
Good servers and bartenders engage, flirt, ask and listen, share our own stories, recommend and dissuade, or leave people alone if we can tell that’s what they prefer. We laugh at lame jokes and put up with arrogant jerks and insecure girls that give us the stinkeye for existing in front of their date, and we do it all for the hope of a fat tip.
That’s why prohibiting tipping in restaurants would never work. It would dissolve the incentive to hustle, or to pretend to like every-damn-body. That may sound pessimistic, but it’s also realistic. Just ask anyone who's ever been waited on in London, or any other place where tipping is less prominent. We Americans like our egos stroked and our drinks re-filled on the reg, and we have always been willing to give monetary rewards in exchange. Why stop now?