The author has some fair points. Better service doesn't actually beget better tips is pretty right on. When I started serving at Red Lobster - 16 years ago - I would make okay tips. Actually, I started out as a line cook. Throwing beer-battered shrimp into the fryer by the armful. Split and cleaning lobsters. That was on the daily for me. I was even an Alley Coordinator for a while. You know the little dishes of ketchup and tartar sauce that come on your plate at some places? Yeah. Getting them on there was my job. And I was an excellent server too. I deconstructed the process and turned it into a game. I was a ninja on the dining room floor. I'll never forget the time I served the fattest dude 15 cokes without letting him miss a sip. The service he told me was jaw-dropping. And BAM - 15 percent for that. 1 percent for each coke. Ultimately, I understood that the difficulty in breaking the 18% tip ceiling was simply a matter of perceived value. At that point, after two years of serving garlic-butter scampi, I realized my tips were so consistently tied to the bill amount that I thought it better to work in a place with pricier food and a decent wine list. Enter fine dining. Which I did for the better part of a decade. Paid my way through undergrad lickety-split. Thing is, the boss only chipped in $2.65 an hour for my effort. The rest I had to smile for. (and god I hate smiling). But $200 tabs were the regular at my new place and after all was said and done I walked out the door averaging $18 per hour. In cash and after tax. When I started bartending it went up to $28 per hour. Not too bad I thought for being 22 - where I would wake up at 11 to get to work at 4 - where I would eat and drink for free. I often made rent in one good weekend. Even got hit-on occasionally! No doubt I've benefited from the current tipping culture. My income and work allowed me an insanely flexible schedule. I made quick gobs of money, took weeks off at a time, traveled all over, and partied along the way.

I'm intrigued by the idea of outlawing tipping and am incidentally in complete support of it. Folding tipping into the general price of the menu is definitely the way to go as I see it. The only thing that would happen if the U.S. did it is the general level of service would decrease dramatically (and if you think you've had bad service, try living in Canada). By outlawing tipping, servers will stop working for people and start working for companies. And companies cut corners. Bottom line. It's the food or the service. Personally, I think it's not a bad trade off because I feel that the tipping culture in America has an odd kind of systemic oppression to it - not the typical - meat and potatoes - sexist or racist kind of oppression as the author wrongly indicated, but more a delineation of class that we all could use a good heaping less of. In fact, in the States these days, it seems like a little equality should be the main course.

posted by mk: 2282 days ago