To Tip Or Not To Tip
September 14, 2005
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on national talk radio shows about the move to automatically add a gratuity (tip) to the final price of a meal purchased in a restaurant. It seems that some folks in the hospitality industry feel that you should be forced to leave a tip, regardless of the level of service you receive.
A Web site for a local, South Carolina-based restaurant marketing firm stated, “Wait staff live off of tips. Most are paid below minimum wage by the restaurant.”
A few years ago, a BBC News Talking Point Web site asked people from around the world if they objected to tipping wait staff. One responder said, “An individual's remuneration should be an issue between them and an employer. I shouldn't have a part in it particularly where there is 'emotional blackmail' as a backdrop.”
Another responder stated, “I object strongly and never tip unless the service received is quite exceptional. Tipping is only required because employers pay inadequate wages - but that is not really the customers problem!”
Under federal law, people who work in jobs where they “customarily receive tips” can be paid as little as $2.13/hour, as long as their tips bring their hourly average to at least the minimum wage of $5.15/hour. While I don’t support a minimum wage, I can only imagine the political wrangling and back scratching that went into getting this exception passed for the hospitality industry.
Let’s break it down: Folks in the hospitality industry lobbied to get an exception, so that they are only required to pay about half of the normal minimum wage, and that’s fine—just don’t attempt to make me, the customer, feel guilty for not wanting to make up for it.
Personally, I don’t feel that the government should be telling businesses what certain jobs should pay. Those details should be negotiated between the employer and the employee—and the employee who has educated and trained himself will be a lot better off, because of it.
Some folks say that they leave a tip for wait staff members who do an exceptional job, but shouldn’t you always expect top-quality service when you go to a restaurant? Customers shouldn’t have to pay extra to receive something that the restaurant should already be supplying, as a part of its regular service to customers.
Employees who don’t deliver quality service to customers should be terminated—and managers who don’t demand this type of work ethic from their employees should be terminated, as well. Of course, managers can run their businesses any way they choose, but don’t expect high rewards if you don’t deliver high quality.
Do I really want to go to a restaurant where I see employees grumbling about customers who don’t leave a big tip? Do I want to watch members of the wait staff give sub-par service to a particular family, simply because they don’t look like they will have enough money to leave a tip at all? No, that’s not the type of restaurant I want to visit.
It’s almost as if wait staff members have come to expect tips, whether they give you quality service or not, and I won’t support it.