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Springville Journal editorial: Here is a tip for you

SPRINGVILLE — I was patronizing a Springville restaurant, enjoying one of the more spicy menu options. I beckoned to the waitress, who looked at my empty glass and promised a refill. After 15 minutes, I caught her eye and, once again, she assured me that my drink was on its way. As 10 more minutes ticked by, I stared at the delicious, yet spicy, food that beckoned me from my plate.

“We are out of [X soft drink],” the waitress finally told me, wringing her hands, after I asked her for a refill, for the third time. “I don’t care,” I said, mouth burning. “Bring me a water. A different soda. Anything.”

My check came, with an empty line for the tip. Confronted with choosing whether or not to leave a tip comparable to the service I had received and risk having my leftovers somehow defiled, I left a standard tip.

My experience violated the theory that servers’ pay is directly impacted by their performances.

“Esquire” writer Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn recently proposed that tipping should be eliminated, across the board. I am beginning to agree with her suggestion.

Servers make very little base pay. Gunnison Dunn pointed out, “When you leave a bad tip, you are docking a person’s wages.” While most of us are told that good service should equal good tips and vise versa, Cornell School of Hotel Administration Professor Michael Linn said that “perceived service quality only accounts for 2 percent of the variation between tips.”

That means that most people leave the same amount of money for a server, whether or not he or she was attentive.

Gunnison Dunn said that a waiter’s receiving a higher tip for retrieving a $400 bottle of wine, versus a $40 one, is irrational. Did the server work harder, to grab the more expensive bottle? Does an individual employed at a diner work less hard than a higher-tipped waiter at a five-star restaurant?

Female servers earn higher tip amounts than their male counterparts, on average. Younger individuals generate higher tips than older servers. In the United States, white servers make more money than non-white individuals.

“Even within the context of the restaurant, some roles receive salaries and others rely on tips,” Gunnison Dunn argued. “Why do I tip the bartender who made my Manhattan, but not the line cook who grilled the excellent steak I’m eating with it?”

A fair question.

“Servers, whose job demands are not fundamentally different than that of hard-working office assistants, or hotel concierges, or spin instructors, or flight attendants, should be paid the competitive wage for what they do and how well they do it, and that cost should be factored into menu prices,” the author suggested.

Some servers I talked to balked at the idea of eliminating tips. One said that her boss was so cheap, the menu prices would go up, if tips were included in the price of a meal, but her wage would not.

I hope that is not the case across the board. In my opinion, servers should be treated by their bosses the same way the rest of us are. If they do a good job, they should be retained and receive promotions and/or raises. If they do a bad job, they should be let go. It should not be up to us, the customers, to decide whether or not someone who is not our employee deserves more money.

Eliminating tipping would do away with so much confusion. Are we supposed to tip the hairdresser, the person at the car wash, the hotel bell hop, housekeeping, the coat check person and the gas station attendant?

“Imagine if, when you went to the doctor, you decided how much he got paid, based on how happy you were with the diagnosis,” Gunnison Dunn said. “Or if actors and musicians were paid discretionary sums by the audience, post-performance.”

While that almost sounds like a good idea, it is illogical. None of those people would allow their pay to be subject to the approval of patients or an audience.

A blog commentator suggested that, instead of eliminating tips altogether, restaurants incorporate a comment card standard with every meal, such as the one the Ellicottville Brewing Company provides. That restaurant gives customers the comment card and provides them with the added incentive that, if they rate the server, the food and the business itself, they will receive a free item on their next visit.

“The servers with the best comments regarding service would receive a bonus or some other similar practice,” Jason Wynn from National Oilwell Varco said, in attempting to bridge the gap between eliminating tips altogether and allowing the continuation of this disparity.

I personally would not mind having my servers’ pay rolled into the price of my meal, as long as the restaurant informed me of that provision. Any time I can get out of doing math problems, I jump at the opportunity.

I was excited that Rayzor’s Dawg House included the tax in its posted prices and I think that’s a good idea, as well. No more tip calculator or mental numbers crunch.

Most of us are paid the same, regardless of how hard we work. Why does one portion of the population live by a different standard?

Many European countries have asked the same question and concluded that tipping is a bad idea. I would wager that America could follow in their footsteps.

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2013-07-15 | 20:13:59
"Many European countries have asked the same question and concluded that tipping is a bad idea. I would wager that America could follow in their footsteps." I DOUBT THAT - THE US COULD NOT EVEN FIGURE OUT THE METRIC SYSTEM [only 3 countries in the world did not change to the metric system].
2013-07-18 | 07:59:03
pay and tips
The editor states: "Most of us are paid the same, regardless of how hard we work". Very interesting. This again shows how journalists are out of touch with the actual working pubic. Or maybe you are talking about unionized workers, the only time that statement would be true.
2013-07-18 | 08:03:39
I agree with the first comment. We are not on the metric system, therefore we cannot possibly eliminate tipping restaurant servers.