I’m assuming that many of my readers understand that tipping is largely an American custom. In many European countries tipping is not compulsory and the servers are generally making a higher hourly wage. In America servers make anywhere from two to five dollars an hour and rely on tips to pay their bills. This is, or should be, common knowledge to most people. So why don’t American restaurants just pay their servers more and put an end to the custom of mandatory tipping? I have many opinions on why this American custom should steadfastly ensue but I’ve never felt the need to exert them via the internet until I watched this unsettling video from College Humor……
He makes a good argument. If restaurant owners simply paid their servers a livable wage customers could simply enjoy their meals stress and computation free and servers would not be scrambling to make ends meet, right? This sounds great in theory but, like Communism, when put into practice, it doesn’t work, at least not for America. Here are a few reasons why.
1. A So-Called “Livable” Wage is not Actually Livable.
How much do you think a server deserves to make an hour? Ten, fifteen dollars? Sounds reasonable. But wait a minute, I make more than that. A lot more. On an average busy day I can make anywhere from twenty to thirty dollars in hour thanks to the generosity of the general public. However, if you think I’m living the high life, think again. Due to inflation my wages only afford me a steady roof over my head, a daily cup of Starbucks, and the ability to keep my linens smelling of Gain laundry detergent. Why, you ask? The truth is, most servers don’t work a normal forty hour work week. Due to business demands, our shifts are usually only about six hours long. On top of that, many servers work less than five days a week. This is why so many people are able to serve their way through college. If servers were to get paid a so-called livable wage, we’d actually be taking a serious pay cut. Do you honestly believe any restaurant owner is willing to pay their server $180 dollars for six hours of work? I don’t. Serving would become just another crappy customer service job and no longer be a respectable way to make a living without the luxury of an education. As a result, professionalism would suffer. This leads me to my next point.
2. A Tipped Employee Wants to See a Business do Well.
Anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry knows how exciting it is when business is booming. No matter how flustered we get at the sheer volume of business, we remain positive because we know that at the end our shift we are going to make it rain ones and fives. Our goal is in line with the restaurant owner’s and this creates a unique dynamic between restaurant employees and owners. Servers often advertise for their employer through word of mouth. Servers also try to ensure they give quality service to new patrons to elicit their return. But what would happen if the custom of tipping were to be eliminated? Servers would have no reason to take pride in their performance and no desire to see their employer do well. They’d take little pride in their work and simply become another work mule for “the man” instead of working together with their employer to bring in business. Ultimately, morale would drop and the pleasant ambiance of dining out would become a thing of the past, which brings me to my final argument.
3. Hourly Employees Have Little Reason to be Nice to You.
Think about the last time you went to a fast food restaurant. How was your experience? Did the employee go out of their way to ensure you recieved superior service? Or did they roll their eyes a little at your annoying request for no onions? Most likely the latter. Why? Because the employee has no reason to be nice to you. He’s going to get his eight bucks an hour no matter what. Sure, if he were to be outright nasty to you he’d probably be fired. But so long as he is reasonably pleasant, he will maintain his employment and hourly wage. His only motivation for treating you with respect is to remain employed. As Peter Gibbons from “Office Space” said, “That’ll only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired”.
Do you really think your server would jump at your request for more ranch if she weren’t expecting a tip? Sure she’d get it for you, but you’d be waiting much longer. Of course, many people are professional enough to provide superior customer service no matter what the incentive but there are just as many people who would slack if tipping weren’t an expectation. Think about the reasons you go out to eat. Sure, you may have heard raves about an establishment’s food but a big part of any restaurant experience is the quality of its service. If you eliminate this aspect of the dining experience you will have diminished its appeal.
So to all those claiming to be rallying for us servers by suggesting our employers pay us a “livable” wage, to all of you who so bodly assert that tipping is an archaic custom that should be done away with, I argue this; the custom of tipping is what makes the restaurant experience what it is. If you want ambiance, you have to live with tipping. Thank you and have a good night!