As an employee of the food service industry, it astounds me to see so many people cave in to social pressure. In this country, tips are expected to be given liberally to people holding arbitrary jobs in some ridiculous circumstances. We feel so pressured to hand out tips as if we weren’t already paying for the product.
Why do we tip hairdressers? I was already charged for the damn haircut and I expected it to look good before I tipped you. Maybe my hair is actually being held hostage, and a low tip would result in an uneven trim? But that would only screw the next guy getting his hair cut. Why shouldn’t I tip my professor? I’d really like to keep him on his toes and I’m sure he’d love the extra cash. Why tip a cabbie and not an ambulance driver? One saves me time, the other saves my life.
People expect to get tips in all the wrong places. If some schmo offers me a paper towel in a hotel bathroom, he’d better not expect a dollar back. That’s insulting, and not just because I’m a cheap bastard. I’d actually expect something more like an apology from the guy for creeping me out. Instead of just washing my hands, I become forced to avoid eye contact and make a quick getaway. Tipping is supposed to be an incentive – a reason to impress the customer and make them feel like the service they’ve received is above and beyond.
Simply put, the incentive is just not there. In restaurants, the default rate for tips goes at about 15 percent of the bill, excluding taxes. Making a default tip makes for some mighty crappy service! I’ve been a server for a couple of years now, and there’s no incentive for me to try any harder than the bare minimum required for the job. Should I try hard for the sake of personal gratification? Dream on. Respect for the profession? Doesn’t exist.
I’m an asshole to my guests: I’m slow to deliver their meals, I’m too lazy to refill their drinks, and I prefer not to talk to them. If there’s too much effort required, I just don’t see the point. But hey, I still make my 15 percent. And my patrons are such suckers that they’ll always tip at least that much. I’ve got the guilt factor on my side! Most of the time they’re too embarrassed to tip less than 20 percent, so I make bank for doing a shit job! Not bad, eh?
Tipping should be based on amount of work required. Here’s why: Consider Table A at Olive Garden, which orders two “Unlimited Soup, Salad & Breadsticks!” for $6.95 each as their meals, and Table B at Chili’s, which orders two Presidente Margaritas for $6.99 each as theirs. Table A will make their server a personal slave, sending him back and forth, endlessly refilling their minestrone, their leaves with Italian dressing, their doughsticks and their free water. One without ice. No onions in the salad.
Table B, however, makes me smile. Two margaritas? I don’t even have to make them myself! I just ring in the order, pick it up from the bar, slap it down on the table, and voila! I’ve even got enough time to down one myself. My patrons are kind for making my life so damn easy.
Both tables will tip the same. Actually, Table B will probably tip more, since they’re obviously the happier of the two tables. Note the cheap-assery of Table A. Is it fair that these tables will tip the same 15-20 percent? After six bowls of soup and 19 breadsticks, you’d better leave me more than a $2 tip. And no, I will not wrap up more breadsticks for you to take home.
All in all, tipping is a gratuity. It should be something extra given for extraordinary services, not given automatically for mediocrity. So the next time you get crappy service and have the expectation to tip, grow a pair: Don’t.