Thursday, October 16, 2008

10, 15, 18, or 20% ?

I recently read a New York Times article about tipping and it made me think a bit about what's behind the whole idea of tipping. I've never given the practice of tipping my waiter a second thought. Whenever the bill comes, I quickly compute the percentage in my head and round up or down to around 20%.

The logic behind tipping is that the customer is able to reward or punish the waiter for good or bad service based upon the size of the tip. This encourages the waiter to be more attentive and friendly to the customer. As the article says:

"Tipping, its defenders say, improves service by rewarding good waiters and punishing bad ones. But that’s not what Porter saw when he looked out on his dining floor. In his brief experience, working for tips encouraged selfishness rather than teamwork. Moreover, good service was not always rewarded with a big tip, nor bad service with a poor one.'"

Instead of promoting god service by the waiters, tipping produced the opposite result! It promoted dissension between the waiters and the kitchen crew and the pressure to perform in fact made the waiters less friendly.

Instead, the writer of the article promotes a flat service fee of 18%, to be evenly distributed amongst the staff. This practice is similar to ones found in Europe. Instead of giving license for waiters to spit in people's food, this seems to promote good service. As one waiter said, “For the first time, I get to concentrate on the job, and I’m looking at the guests without seeing dollar signs or worried about what anyone else is making,”

The other issue the article tries to address is the reasons why most people tip to begin with. While there is no clear cut answer, the article suggests two reasons: guilt and ego. Peopel tip out of guilt because “the need to pay, psychologically, for the guilt involved in the unequal relationship is so strong that very few are able to ignore it.” Those who don't tip our of guilt ususally tip out of ego. The practice of tipping prey upon our need for control and the supconcious enjoyment one has of having such financial power over another person.

All this to say theologically that tipping is another form of the law to the waiter. In the face of the demand for better service, the waiter becomes stressed or disingenuous in their service (think of Jennifer Aniston's character in the movie "Office Space"). Yet when the waiter is given "grace" in the form of a guarenteed pay check, it enables true freedom to fulfill that which the law demands.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

What happens if you get crummy service when you still have to tip 18%? I guess I usually tip that much anyway, even if the service wasn't that great.