Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tipping Is Part Of The Problem

It really annoys me when people talk about tipping like its a legitimate practice. In Rochester there's a particularly popular diner named Charlie Brown's. Mr. Brown, in his infinite wisdom, has placed a message on the back of his menu to the effect that he expects you to tip his waitstaff, ostensibly because he's concerned with their well-being. Uhuh... right.

Mr. Brown, if you're so concerned with their well-being, why don't you fucking pay them a living wage? The whole practice of tipping isn't beneficial to restaurant waitstaff; its beneficial to the restaurant owner instead. Because the staff receives tips restaurateurs are legally obliged to pay them only $2.65/hr (or thereabouts, depending on the locale). This keeps their fixed costs low, allowing them to serve huge meals at bargain prices. I believe there's also a tax benefit, since waitstaff are solely responsible for declaring and paying taxes on their tips. Meanwhile you, the restaurant patron, are expected to pay an additional %15-%20 on top of your bill for the maintenance of the waitstaff.

Why do otherwise progressive people fail to see that by buying into the practice of tipping their actually perpetuating a system thats unfair to food service workers? Get rid of tips, and treat restaurant waitstaff like any other profession.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're forgetting the rest of the story.

Along the lines you noted, according to the indifference principle in economics, you can't make waiters better off by tipping them: all this does is make waiting tables more attractive as a profession, which attracts more people, which drives paid wages down, leaving you back where you started.

But it doesn't really make restaurants any better off either. Restaurants are also competing with other restaurants, and increasing the demands on tipping just makes the meal more costly, which means that menu prices will have to be lowered in order to compete... so ultimately the tips you pay are returned to you in the form of lower menu prices. In the end, no one is any better off.


7:04 PM  

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