It's time we do away with tipping people completely

It's time we do away with tipping people completely

CultureOctober 12, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

There's a reason tips aren't accepted in Europe or Australia; they create more problems than they solve. Save for the biannual viral story of a waitress receiving a $1,038 tip from a kind-hearted rich couple with white guilt, tips make working in a restaurant more dramatic and difficult, and it's about time the act is done away with completely. 

Not because a fat roll of one dollar bills sticking out of your pocket isn't super flattering and all ... but because there are better ways. 

Here are five reasons why tipping should be exterminated like scourge that it is ... and a practical solution to the problem for all of you wondering where your collection of strip club money will go. 

1. Twenty percent is just a suggestion

Sure, a 20 percent tip is expected and average, but hardly required. This means tip amounts are wildly subjective and unreliable. Two separate parties may experience the exact same quality of service and food, but one table will tip 20 percent and the other will tip 10. That's more discouraging than the fact that your philosophy degree lead no further than the "Assistant Manager" position at some coal-fired pizza restaurant that claims to be famous for its use of cheese. 

This is especially true in younger demographic cities like Boulder and Denver, where the kinds of people who eat out are likely starving artists, debt-laden college students or drunk kids who just turned 21 four hours ago. In youthful, creative cities like these, people either can’t afford to tip you adequately or haven’t morphed into a fully-formed human with an awareness for others’ well being just yet. Oftentimes, these are the hardest people to serve, yet come with the least reward. There's a reason these kids are in art school; they clearly can't carry the decimal and double the total for a 20 percent gratuity. 
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2. Tipping can perpetuate bigotry

When restaurant guests have the option to choose tip amounts, it can create a situation in which the guest will tip based on the type of person their server is. It’s not unusual for people of color, young people, old people, women, and foreigners tend to get worse tips than white males. In a tip-based system, non-white servers make less than their Caucasian coworkers for equal service.

Same deal with sexual harassment. There’s a power imbalance between tippers, who are typically male, and servers, 70 percent of whom are female. Given this statistic, it’s not surprising that the restaurant industry generates five times the average number of sexual harassment claims per worker. What’s to stop some douchebag from tipping an attractive female server with luscious boobies more than one who’s conventionally average-looking?

Clearly, this doesn’t happen all the time … but it does enough that we should figure out a system where discrimination isn’t that easy.
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3. The kitchen staff gets screwed

Servers and cooks typically make similar base wages (minimum wage, usually), but servers keep all the tips. This means they usually take home around three times more than kitchen staff, and in some cases, more than that. In fact, in some states like California at that time, it was illegal to tip cooks and chefs, although recent court rulings in the have loosened that restriction somewhat.

Being that the restaurant wouldn’t exist without the kitchen staff and that the whole reason customers come in is to eat the food the kitchen prepares, doesn’t it seem fair that they’re compensated equally as well?
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4. Tips mean restaurant owners can take advantage of employees

Tips are a way for a restaurant to keep their overhead lower than low. Minimum wage for tipped employees in Colorado is $5.21 and $8.23 for non-tipped employees, meaning restaurant owners are saving about 37 percent more by using tips.
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5. Tips are supposed to motivate servers to perform, but nope

Some proponents of tipping like to argue that it's an incentive to work harder and provide better service, but hard work and a perfect night doesn't mean you'll be compensated for your performance. For that reason, it’s not the motivator it’s supposed to be. Why try extra-super hard when there’s a pretty great chance it won’t pay off?

I can't tell you how many nights I busted my ass and fake-smiled like serving paella was an actual life-goal of mine, going above and beyond to ensure all my tables weren't just happy, but impressed, only to walk away with barely enough money to drink away my knee pain.
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So, without tips, what is there? Ladies and gentlemen, meet the “standard service charge.”

This is essentially just a flat-rate fee that gets added onto the bill regardless of service or food quality, then gets distributed evenly throughout the entire restaurant staff.  Restaurants all over the country are abolishing tips in favor of a standard service charge rate of between 18 and 20 percent, ensuring everyone on staff, even the chefs and dishwashers, are compensated equally.

Chef Jay Porter of the Linkery in San Diego described his experience swapping out tips for a standard service charge to Slate:

By replacing tipping with a service charge, we were legally able to redirect about a quarter of that revenue to the kitchen, which reduced the income disparity and helped foster unity on our team.

We had considered just incorporating that charge into the cost of each menu item, but we decided that it was easier for consumers to understand our pricing if we kept it analogous to that of a tipped restaurant. In a similar vein, we applied the service charge only to dining-in checks, since tipping is not yet a firmly established social norm for takeout. We used this service charge as a substitute for tipping from 2006 until we closed the restaurant this year to move to San Francisco.

When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn't feel taken for granted. In turn, business improved, and within a couple of months, our server team was making more money than it had under the tipped system. The quality of our service also improved. In my observation, however, that wasn't mainly because the servers were making more money (although that helped, too). Instead, our service improved principally because eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service.

Well ... that worked out. 

So, fuck tips. Let's get rid of them. Let's pay our servers and restaurant employees fair, competitive wages and let a welcoming workplace environment and other work benefits motivate us to do our jobs well. Let's do the standard service charge thing; it's the same price as it would be if you included tip in the end, without the hassle of using your pea brain to do the math or having to sort out a pile of crumpled ones after closing when you just went to go home.