February 24, 2014

Should Tipping Be Necessary?

Tipping at restaurants is a practice that involves rewarding a server for their excellent service. Here in the U.S., it's a social convention you get crucified for not following. So, at the risk of being judged, I'm going to go ahead and say that I'm not a huge fan of the gratuity system. Now, when I say that, I am in no way claiming that waiters shouldn't be paid for their services. I'm critical of the current system, which is to say that waiters should not have to rely on public charity to earn a living. 

Waiters rely on tips because minimum wage works differently for servers and tipped workers in general. Their specialized "minimum wage for workers who receive tips" is a putrid $2.13. The law states that their wages combined with tips has to equal at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25, so employers only need to pay their workers a minuscule amount of money while their customers make up the difference.

Do you see the problem here? Waiters have to work so desperately for tips because their employers are not legally obligated to pay them more than a few bucks. Workers stress and anger whenever a customer leaves them a bad tip, but is it even ideal (or fair) for the customer to have this responsibility? Perhaps we should be more concerned with raising the minimum wage so that the people who should be paying the workers are required to do so?

One could argue that the gratuity system serves as an incentive for workers to provide better service (a la bribery) but that logic is inconsistent. There are hundreds of jobs that require people to provide service, and most of them do not involve getting rewarded for doing your job well. People simply do their jobs because it's their job. It's nonsensical to imply that waiting tables is somehow unique.

It seems that tipping is customary in just a handful of countries. Most cultures do not practice it, and some even find it offensive. It's clearly just a social custom; there's never an instance where it is economically necessary. If there is a legitimate economical or political purpose, I'd like to be enlightened. Otherwise, we should all just agree to have our waiters get paid a regular wage so paying customers don't have to pick up the government's slack.


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