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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Institutionalized tips allow for worker abuse

    While tipping has become almost standard in the United States, depending on the service rendered, that was not always the case. It was actually a custom brought to the U.S. by wealthy Americans who had observed the practice in Europe, which is ironic considering it is now as widely frowned upon in Europe as it is practiced here. Tipping was originally greeted with hostility because of its aristocratic roots and many people in late 19th century and early 20th century Europe were none too fond of aristocrats.

    Tipping has become a social norm and one I will continue to practice as things stand. Those who do receive tips derive a significant portion of their income from them, sometimes even to the point of reliance. This reliance, however, is where the problems begin.

    Tipping advocates often say that it lets them pay what they think the service was worth. Waiters in some states receive a minimum wage of as low as $2.13 because of the expectation that tips will supplement that income. If I were a greedy restaurant owner looking out for my economic self-interest, I would hire a gross number of waiters for miniscule wages to ensure my patrons had speedy service and thus higher profits for my business, regardless of the dilution of tips.

    Spreading tips five ways goes a lot further than spreading them 10 ways; however, especially if those 10 waiters are making $2.13 an hour, as the owner of the restaurant tips are of no consequence to me since they do not affect my bottom line. I could even argue that it is in my best interest to make the average amount of tips my waiters receive as small as possible. If, however, I had to pay a waiter’s entire and complete salary, I would think twice about hiring any additional ones, and the ones I did hire would enjoy a much higher standard of living than those in the previous scenario. So you can see how easily an employee and employer can become economic adversaries when tipping is so institutionalized.

    There are other practical reasons for doing away with the practice of tipping as many other countries have. It reminds me of the metric system in some ways. Our system of measurement, like tipping, is more cumbersome, sloppy, and lacking in efficiency compared to the metric system which countries around the world have happily adopted. It is far easier to evade taxes on tips than on hourly wages which are much more easily accounted for. Wages are automatically reported while tips, by and large, are not.

    Tipping advocates argue that tipping allows them to pay what they think the service was worth, but in reality how often do you do you adjust your tip to any significant degree based on the quality of service as opposed to the social acceptability of tipping? You don’t tip because you think the service was good, which it may very well have been; you tip because it is expected.

    I’m not against tipping in general; on the contrary, I encourage it because the people you are tipping probably really need you to tip them. The problem is that it has become such standard practice here that it can adversely affect employees. This is done particularly by states who allow service employees like waiters to be paid below the minimum wage. There are plenty of times where my service at Mickey D’s has been prompt and adequate, but I’ve never tipped there. There are also plenty of times where I’ve been to a sit-down restaurant where the service was sloppy and slow and I still left a tip. I’m sure such scenarios are not unique to me and the explanation is simple: I was expected to tip at the restaurant so I did and vice versa for Mickey D’s.

    In such a case the expectation to tip was far more of a factor than the quality of the service, and that is the case in the vast majority of transactions. So to argue that tipping lets you pay what you think the service is worth is to ignore the other, far more important factors.

    -ÿJavier Espitia is a philosophy and political science sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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