Though I am rarely in a position to be forced to participate in this barbaric custom (I don’t go out much), the very idea of tipping–especially expected tipping–totally offends my way of thinking how a society should operate. What astonishes me is how few people I’ve talked to feel the same.
At its most basic, tipping is a way for someone to bribe a service worker to give them better service than someone who doesn’t tip. In the big-picture sort of deal, this is a way for a higher class to find some privilege over the huddled masses. In an effort not to be treated badly, those less able to afford these pay-offs still have to pay in order to achieve a level of service that should ordinarily be expected.
Some will argue that tipping is a way of rewarding a service worker for good service. Silly me… I thought the expectation was for there to be good service. “But,” they then argue, “many of these workers are only earning half the minimum wage. They depend on tips.” I don’t see that argument as being my problem. How the heck am I supposed to know what employees earn?
You see, I’m in the camp that employers should be paying their workers a fair wage regardless of what the minimum wage is. Patrons should not be the ones to be directly paying these workers. Here’s a classic example: restaurateurs complain that if the customers didn’t tip (the usual 15%), then they’d have to raise prices. Really? You mean, to cover that 15% that the customers have been paying anyway? Calling it a “service charge” is equally ridiculous. It’s simply a forced, fixed-price tip…effectively a raise in the basic cost of whatever the customer is buying. Worse–if you have been given good service, in many cases your worker isn’t the direct beneficiary–the day’s tips being shared with all.
No, it’s really all a rich man’s game, when you come to it. These businesses depend, to an extent, on their workers to under-report the tips–not so much that the tax man would force them to make up the difference, but enough so that their share of an employees taxes won’t have to be paid. I imagine that for a large hotel or restaurant chain, that could be quite a hunk of change over the course of a year. The same, too, goes for many of the employees who expect to be able to hide some of this cash income from the tax man.
The irony is that those who don’t notice the extra expense of tipping (i.e. the wealthy) are, anecdotally, the worst tippers. Even so, there are enough apocryphal stories of exorbitant tips that the rich still get better service, in the worker’s hope for one of those big pay days, even though the middle-class shlubs are often paying more in these “gratuities.”
Now, I’m not against gratuities. I’m talking those special bonuses that are once-in-a-blue-moon oddities that simply just happen (like your grandma giving you an extra $5 for mowing her lawn). It’s when it’s socially expected that it gets my goat. And don’t even get me started on those ridiculous tip jars. Honestly, if we simply outlawed tipping, wages would rise, as would prices…not that anyone would notice as prices would only rise to the level of the tipping.
I call on you all once more, my fellow readers: Let’s end this insidious practice. Not one person at a time (you come off as cheap and rude), but as a large social group, eager for a change to fairness.