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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tipping should be a thing of the past

    On Sunday I took a friend for breakfast at Grill, a restaurant on East Congress Street. The food came highly recommended, and we walked into a packed house. We weren’t greeted, but we found our own seat.

    After two or three minutes, a waitress dropped two menus on the table and walked away. A few minutes later she brought water and took our order. She never looked us in the eye, seemed to be hung over or just miserably tired and didn’t come close a smile. It seemed like our presence bothered her.

    I was enjoying my company, plus the food was quite good so I was fine with her less-than-stellar service. But when it came time to determine the tip, the experience made me realize what an inefficient, wasteful practice tipping is.

    The point of tipping is supposed to be to ensure prompt service, but it has degenerated into something that is at best uncomfortable, and at worst racist.

    Tipping, in theory, rewards good service, but instead it has become an expectation. Waiters know they’re getting their 15 to 20 percent, and patrons know they will be looked upon as stingy if they tip a dime less. We tip for the social acceptance of the waiter. A weak tip also creates fear of a confrontation or poor service in the future.

    In a survey by www.Tipping.org, 70 percent of people surveyed felt pressured to tip even in the face of bad service.

    Indeed, when we paid our bill at Grill, we still left a tip. If we can’t even punish poor service, then what is a tip for?

    “”The point of tipping is supposed to be to ensure prompt service, but it has degenerated into something that is at best uncomfortable, and at worst racist.””

    This isn’t to say that waiters and waitresses should just lose that part of their income. Instead, they should receive about the same amount in their salary and the cost should be priced into the menu.

    There are countless professions that don’t need a tip for good service. The receptionist at the dentist, the employees at the Apple Store and customer service representatives for Verizon Wireless all answer to a higher power – their bosses.

    Tipping was imported from Europe to America in the roaring ’20s. Ten percent was the norm until some time in the ’70s or ’80s when 15 percent became the norm. Now 15 percent is seen as the minimum.

    But still, there is variation between who tips more and who tips less. According to a friend who worked at BJ’s, waiters usually give good or bad service based on what size tip they think they’re going to get. This leads to racial, sexual and age-based discrimination.

    He alluded to the practice of buttering up the hostesses to get the likely big tippers. He said Middle Easterners are often big tippers, that men tip more than women and that pre-college or elderly patrons are poor tippers.

    How absurd is it that we’ve encouraged stereotyping in order to make more money?

    While traveling abroad, students often find that they get good service despite not leaving tips. Germany, France and most of Asia, for example, don’t commonly engage in tips but waiters still provide good service. So why do we need to tip?

    In reality, however, the system is unlikely to change. Waiters love it because they can (illegally, though easily) avoid paying taxes on their income. Owners love it because they can avoid paying benefits. Guests even love it because they feel a (false) sense of control.

    One small change was seen last week in another profession that also relies on tips – casino dealers. Steve Wynn, the casino magnate who built many of the casinos in Las Vegas and now owns his namesake hotel and casino, has forced dealers to share their tips with their supervisors.

    Wynn had two main complaints. One, it was hard to get people interested in being “”promoted”” to supervisor when the loss in tip income meant they would actually face a pay cut from $100,000 to $60,000 per year. Two, he said players shouldn’t have to feel so much pressure to tip.

    And neither should anybody. It’s time for a policy that actually accomplishes better service. Since a big change isn’t in the cards, let’s start small. Stop tipping at places that should never have jumped on the tipping bandwagon in the first place – Jamba Juice, Subway, Oriental Express and the like. And hope that some day it will be gone all together.

    Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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