A Gratuitous Conversation about Tipping

My problem with tipping isn't that it's "unfair" - if you feel your job sucks or you're underpaid start working on finding another job. My biggest problem is that it doesn't work. On top of the links in the OP, I think it was Freakanomics that talked about how tipping rarely affects the quality of service and has little to no effect on the quality of food. And social stigma is so strong that even if you're justified in not leaving a tip, you're going to get backlash for not doing so. I was out with friends recently and service was horrible - super slow, multiple errors, etc. I wanted to leave a buck or two at the most, but everyone else at the table were horrified.

Speaking from my usual foreigner perspective, I find the practice weird. It doesn't surprise me that it's ineffective. This is coming from a person from a country where "tipping" is ubiquitous. You could almost say that we tip everyone - except the waitstaff.

More accurately, we just tip everyone, but we don't expect them to make a living off of it, in general. Waitstaff have minimum wage, AFAIK, and there's a service charge (probably used by the restaurant to offset the wages. If we're going to tip, we tip on top of that. But we don't imagine that it's going to result in better service on the whole. No sir. What tipping does is it makes the entire waitstaff remember you and then favor you above other customers. Tipping does work to do that, and quite effectively, too.

You gotta be super-gratuitous about it, though. Something like 40% of the entire meal charge, where the meal charge already includes an itemized 15% service charge. You may have to tip more than that if you're not within the usual profile - richly dressed, fancy car, foreign accent, and so on. The tip isn't for services rendered, but to make you more memorable. It's really more in the nature of throwing gold on the street while your elephant parades through the main thoroughfare.

Nevin73 wrote:
What, no one has posted the clip from Resevoir Dogs yet?

Seriously, WTF is wrong with you people?

NSFW, language.

I admit i skimmed a little but I can generally give my perspective. I live in Israel and a few years ago the court have made it illegal to write "service not included" on the check or asking for tips but it's still customary to tip at least 10% .

Tipping has cause a few negative things to happen . Some waiter got paid less than minimum wage and some were forced to give a part of their tips to the owner and/or share the tips with the cook. There is also an issue of tax evasion .

I and my wife usually tip in accordance to the service if the service is bad we leave none or at most 10% . The tip also depend on the food quality but if the food is bad and service is good the waiter will get a decent tip. If we had a good experience at the we usually tip 15-20% .

It's still considered illegal to ask for the customer for anything extra . There was a time where there were "security" issues and some places started charging for the security guard at the door but that's also illegal and at some point most customers refused to pay this fee despite the fact it was about 0.5$ per customer.

The problem in my country is that it's one of the top in the rule in work rule violation. It's very likely that some businesses abuse the customer's generosity toward their employees. The only way it's actually regulated is by the active press here. With the rising popularity of the social networks it is another way to deter businesses to abuse their power. People will not hesitate to boycott places of business that have been abusive against their workers. This is one reason businesses will avoid going to court at all cost unless they are sure they can win against a slanderer .

We are still somewhat sympathetic to waiters because they are generally students which try to offset the high cost of living and education costs. It wouldn't surprise me that some employers abuse that generosity .

As a clarification, American tipping generally involves tipping out the bartenders and barbacks, but rarely the cooks. Which is weird since people complain about food quality at least as much as service quality.

Seth wrote:
As a clarification, American tipping generally involves tipping out the bartenders and barbacks, but rarely the cooks. Which is weird since people complain about food quality at least as much as service quality.

It is very common in the UK that all cash tips go in a communal jar and are shared among the kitchen and front of house staff at the end of service.

if you feel your job sucks or you're underpaid start working on finding another job.

Because it's super easy to find a higher paying job... those people under the poverty line just don't want to try?

Demosthenes wrote:
if you feel your job sucks or you're underpaid start working on finding another job.

Because it's super easy to find a higher paying job... those people under the poverty line just don't want to try?

That's not what I said and you know it. I recognize that not everyone is going to be the next Steve Jobs. But if you're a good server in a crappy restaurant where either your tips get stolen by the boss or the customers rarely tip (studies show different demographics tip way differently so maybe your average clientele are stiffing you), then start trying to find a restaurant that treats you better. Turnover tends to be high in the service industry so it's doable. I'm not saying it's super easy but it's doable.

I do have some sympathy towards the idea of just paying a set wage, but since very few people in this thread were focusing on the customer's perspective of paying a lot of extra money for limited results, I decided to bring it up.

I combed through those studies i originally linked and did some interviews with bar owners and restauranteurs. The biggest resistance to going to a service charge model is the IRS.

The IRS assumes a business's employees are making 8% in tips on food/drink revenue. That's what business owners have to pay in FICA, and what employees use to calculate income tax. So...reporting more than 8%, like, say, leaving a clear paper trail where you collect 18% tips as a service charge, places a new tax burden on the owner as well as the employee.

Everyone knows employees don't claim all their tip money, which saves everyone but the IRS. Most of them make a high enough percentage over 8% average that there's just not much enthusiasm on either party to change the system. Add to that the the service industry is basically a perfect haven for people avoiding "the grid," people who prefer cash-only lives, and you start to see the road blocks.

This also shows why America differs from Europe. Our tax code encourages this ridiculous structure.

jdzappa wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:
if you feel your job sucks or you're underpaid start working on finding another job.

Because it's super easy to find a higher paying job... those people under the poverty line just don't want to try?

That's not what I said and you know it. I recognize that not everyone is going to be the next Steve Jobs. But if you're a good server in a crappy restaurant where either your tips get stolen by the boss or the customers rarely tip (studies show different demographics tip way differently so maybe your average clientele are stiffing you), then start trying to find a restaurant that treats you better. Turnover tends to be high in the service industry so it's doable. I'm not saying it's super easy but it's doable.

I do have some sympathy towards the idea of just paying a set wage, but since very few people in this thread were focusing on the customer's perspective of paying a lot of extra money for limited results, I decided to bring it up.

Sorry, that line just made me do a double take and I had to confirm what you were saying there, but I think I may have just been reading it as somewhat angry, I dunno why, so my bad on that.

That said, I still really don't like the idea of "get a job elsewhere". Even in the service and customer service industry (where there certainly is high turnover in a lot of companies), it's still not EASY by any means. A lot of other factors go into place there that are not always under that person's control (what if that is the only place they can get to transportation wise?).

One big problem with tips is that they can depend a lot on when and where you're working. I've heard servers talking about this at a local restaurant, so this is only second-hand, but...

Imagine that you're working at one particular branch of a restaurant, in one particular shift, for a long time. Including tips, you make a decent chunk more than minimum wage. You don't make a lot of money, but you can do okay by budgeting. Then the local branch manager is replaced, and suddenly you're getting your hours shifted around, and it turns out that different shifts get different amounts of tips--the clientele varies. The density of patrons varies. If you go to a different branch to fill in, things might be different again there.

So now, suddenly, things get a lot less predictable, and now your budget is blown to sh*t. A manager who's actively trying to be a jerk could routinely put you on shifts that don't do well. And, of course, you figure that if you complain, that's going to make the manager more likely to be a jerk.

Through all of this, you're being "paid" the same amount of money by your employer. You're guaranteed that they'll make up the difference if you're below minimum wage. But that doesn't mean that what you're going to get isn't fluctuating wildly.

And, of course, even if you do have the peach shifts, that's not exactly fair to the other employees who theoretically get paid the same but have the sh*ttier shifts.

I personally agree that tips ought to be abolished: I think it would increase the degree to which management of such businesses treat their employees as human beings. I think it would increase the income stability of good employees dramatically. And, I think it might even reduce the amount of assholishness perpetrated by customers on service staff.

(And, for the record, I tip 30% except for small orders from take-out places, which I tip 10%.)

Shift churn is pretty typical. Oddly it's one of the things that actually reacts as a libertarian would expect; bad shift churn increases employee churn as they redistribute to places that have more palatable hours.

Then managers change and the cycle repeats. I've spoken to probably a thousand servers and bartenders in the last two years regarding this (3-5 servers per location, 2 locations per week) and the number of servers who've only worked at 1 place is functionally zero.

Seth wrote:
Shift churn is pretty typical. Oddly it's one of the things that actually reacts as a libertarian would expect; bad shift churn increases employee churn as they redistribute to places that have more palatable hours.

Then managers change and the cycle repeats. I've spoken to probably a thousand servers and bartenders in the last two years regarding this (3-5 servers per location, 2 locations per week) and the number of servers who've only worked at 1 place is functionally zero.


Of course that could be eliminated by paying wait staff a living minimum wage, irrespective of their shifts, and doing away with tipping.

Yeah Dan. I think the OP, which I authored, mentions that.

Tipping is sh*t. This doesn't mean that I don't tip when I visit the States, but it's one of the many reasons for my not visiting that often.

I'm just not used to tipping. When I was growing in the States, my parents would handle that, and in France, it's just not done. Service is included (and marked explicitly on the check), servers are paid minimum wage, at the very least (minimum wage is 1 430,22 € per month, which is 9,43 € an hour, but 1 120,43 € a month once you remove all the non-wage labour costs).
It's very rare to have restaurants that offer continuous service like in the States. There's a noon shift and an evening shift. Cafés offers continuous service, I guess, but you don't really eat there, just have coffee/tea/hot cocoa/beer/juice/soda/croissant/whatever depending on the hour of the day, so I guess shifts might have an impact, but people don't really tip. A couple of euros at very, very best.

Which means I'm always in a pickle when I go back and need to figure out how much to tip if I don't want to make a faux pas.

mwdowns wrote:
Tipping is sh*t. This doesn't mean that I don't tip when I visit the States, but it's one of the many reasons for my not visiting that often.

When I visited home for Christmas, I was apalled at the shoddy service I was constantly given and then forced to tip. Extremely frustrating.

Slate ran an article from a former San Diego restaurateur who eliminated tipping and found service improved:

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
Slate ran an article from a former San Diego restaurateur who eliminated tipping and found service improved:

I'd say that around 80% of UK restaurants include service charge in the bill although you remain welcome to tip more on top of that if you wish.

What is not clear is whether or not service charges do actually get divided up among the kitchen and front of house staff. And from what little I know this varies completely from restaurant to restaurant. UK law obligates restaurants to allow staff to keep their cash tips but there is no such provision for service charges or tips paid via credit card

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
Slate ran an article from a former San Diego restaurateur who eliminated tipping and found service improved:

It's an interesting perspective, which is why I linked it in the OP originally.

Last year on a whim I picked up a book, Waiter Rant, and it turned out to be a pretty interesting read. It mentioned the usual things, like knowing which regulars are good/bad tippers and giving them corresponding attention, but being a big tipper and an ass will only get you so far until they get fed up. He also mentions servers giving part of their tips to the host/manager in order to get the good sections, guests and shifts.

He started out writing it as an anonymous blog. He doesn't hold back on the telling, with names changed so as not to be recognized. Some of the behind the scenes stuff is pretty nasty and shady, but he tells it well.

He came out with a second book, Keep the Change, which focuses on tipping in different service industries. He does research with cab drivers and at strip joints, amongst other things.

Strewth wrote:
Last year on a whim I picked up a book, Waiter Rant, and it turned out to be a pretty interesting read. It mentioned the usual things, like knowing which regulars are good/bad tippers and giving them corresponding attention, but being a big tipper and an ass will only get you so far until they get fed up. He also mentions servers giving part of their tips to the host/manager in order to get the good sections, guests and shifts.

He started out writing it as an anonymous blog. He doesn't hold back on the telling, with names changed so as not to be recognized. Some of the behind the scenes stuff is pretty nasty and shady, but he tells it well.

He came out with a second book, Keep the Change, which focuses on tipping in different service industries. He does research with cab drivers and at strip joints, amongst other things.

I enjoyed his first book and haven't read the second. It turns out that there's a subgenre of irritable food server blogs too if you want to read more along the lines of the book.

Tipping also fits well into American culture, not just from the premise of rewarding individual effort but also from the notion that privately funded charity/rewards are more than sufficient and there's little need for the government to step in. Whether that's true or not is another matter.

Tipping by itself is an ok thing for me. But a whole wage system based on tipping, is just cheaping out on the employer's side.
The wages of someone should cover it. Should be at least minimum wage, otherwise it's illegal anyway to pay that low?
Don't like that a tip is expected either, again, because the wages are too low. Not my problem, the government should fix
that if they feel the need to.
Recently I've been introduced to service charges. And here in Curacao the employer pockets all that money. That's 10% on top
of the bill gone, just like that. I asked once what it was for. No one could give me a decent answer. So on top of that 10%, society
expects me to at least put on another 10% or 15% tip even. Making my dinner suddenly 25% more expensive. Screw that.

I will tip if I am a regular somewhere and know the person a bit better. Or if the service was really excellent.
Places that have service charges won't see me as a customer at all.

Sparhawk wrote:

Don't like that a tip is expected either, again, because the wages are too low. Not my problem, the government should fix
that if they feel the need to.

I'm the same except that I also usually always tip because I don't feel that it's right to potentially punish the waiting staff because of the system they're stuck inside...

Of course, if the system changes then the wait staff also need to change their attitudes. I haven't encountered many staff who accept a tip but the ones who did really put my back up about it. Especially because they were normally expecting a tip from lacklustre or average service and food.

So last night I had this really surreal dream. I dreamt I went to a restaurant and as they were taking my order the owner came over and said, "sure you can eat here but you're going to have to pay part of my staffs wages because I've decided not to".

Weird right? Would never happen in real life.

strangederby wrote:
So last night I had this really surreal dream. I dreamt I went to a restaurant and as they were taking my order the owner came over and said, "sure you can eat here but you're going to have to pay part of my staffs wages because I've decided not to".

Weird right? Would never happen in real life.

Same thing happened to me, but it was a cable/mechanic/hairstylist/contractor. Weird.

Good article on how tipping works in NYC restaurants:
http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2013/...

Also a helpful link from a comment after:

Observations From A Tipless Restaurant, Part 1

This is the first of a multi-part series detailing what I learned from operating our farm-to-table flagship restaurant, the Linkery, as a “no-tipping” restaurant that instead charged a fixed percentage for service, from 2006 to 2013.

...

Once established, the tipless/service charge model made us more successful in every dimension. Having a sister restaurant that used the traditional model was helpful in evaluating this — at our second restaurant, for instance, we could never achieve a consistently high quality of service. We believed the block came from the sense that, once the guest delivers a tip, the quality of service has been validated — even though studies clearly show that, across a large sample, guests tip basically the same regardless of quality of service. Meanwhile, our revenue was always higher at the tipless restaurant, I think because quality of food and service were both better due to the more consistent pay system (which at the Linkery was much closer to that of a normal, non-hospitality business than that of most restaurants, where server pay varies with a lot of randomness). With higher revenue and more consistent pay system, our retention was better. This continued to be a “virtuous circle” of benefits we saw from having a tipless/service charge model. On a personal level, it was much more fun to work with the non-tipped team; in that environment it was easier to build a focus on doing great, worthwhile work, and doing it well, when those thoughts weren’t being interrupted every couple minutes by a guest deciding how much to pay a team member for their last few minutes of services rendered.

So... yeah... sounds like we need to squash the whole system and just pay people a fair wage.

Guys, more and more I'm seeing credit card receipts at counter service with a line for tip. Do you guys tip if you aren't being waited on, and the most service you receive is they bring your take-out when it's ready?

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Guys, more and more I'm seeing credit card receipts at counter service with a line for tip. Do you guys tip if you aren't being waited on, and the most service you receive is they bring your take-out when it's ready?

If I'm at a restaurant with takeout service, usually yes, but not that much. If it's at a place that's simply take out... only for the pizza place I really like.