Stepping Into Hot Water Yet Again

Before I even get started on this subject, let me be very clear – I tip waiters and waitresses about 20% of my bill – every time. I always have and always will. I’m generous with my hairdresser and pizza delivery guys, too. That said, however….

Tonight, I got into a rather ugly debate on Facebook. Why? Because I believe employers should charge a little more for whatever service they offer, pay all of their employees a fair wage … and do away with tipping altogether.

Kristy K. James restaurant tablePhoto courtesy of Morguefile.com

Obviously, there are those who disagree with me, but I have my reasons.

1. Contrary to what most people believe, many cooks earn a straight minimum wage while waitstaff often earn a whole lot more than that – thanks to their hourly wage and tips. Most people also don’t realize that cooks work at least as hard as the waitstaff – and in miserably hot kitchens, too. I can’t help it. I don’t think that’s fair.

2. Customers are not owners of the businesses we frequent, yet we’re expected to pay most of the wages of their employees because employers are too cheap to do so. Unlike ‘real’ employers though, we aren’t allowed to deduct those ‘wages’ paid from our income tax bill.

3. Tipping is no longer considered a way to say thank you for good service, but an obligation instead. I actually had a 15% gratuity added to a bill at one restaurant. That was the first and last time I ever ate there – largely because the service sucked and I had to pay a hefty mandatory tip anyway.

If you read the comments on articles about tipping anywhere online, it’s scary. Pizza delivery guys who ‘mark’ the houses of poor tippers – pretty much guaranteeing you’re last on the delivery list – every time. Restaurant staff who serve your food with a little something extra… (some of the pizza guys admit to doing that, too)

For some people, just the cost of a meal or a haircut – or whatever – is absolutely all they can afford. Seniors on fixed incomes, other minimum/low wage employees really can’t afford the tips some of these service employees expect. A couple dollars extra in actual price would be much more affordable to them than a five or ten dollar tip. Yet if they don’t pay, they’re at risk for poorly cooked foods, or food that comes with added bodily fluids from unscrupulous, disgruntled employees.

This is just wrong. Eliminating the tipping system would eliminate the risks of food tampering and poor service – but only if employers were forced to start paying a fair wage to their employees.

Although, based on my brief experience as a short order cook many moons ago, I imagine waitstaff and delivery persons would be up in arms if someone tried to change the current payment system.

I know for a fact that the waiters and waitresses I worked with would much rather have kept the lower hourly and tips because most days, they earned three and four times more than I did as a minimum wage employee. There was no day when they didn’t leave with at least twice as much as I’d earned, and I worked at least as hard as they did.

Again, I’m not knocking any person who performs a service for me. They work hard (most of them), and as long as this system is in place, I will continue tipping them well. It’s not their fault their employers are cheapskates. And contrary to what some might say, it’s not that easy for them to just say “I quit,” and then go find another job. There aren’t that many jobs to be had anymore.

So what’s your opinion about all of this? Do you think employers need to suck it up and start paying their employees fairly, or are you okay with the way things are? Would you be okay with paying a couple more dollars for your meal, your haircut, or your hotel bill instead of having to leave a tip?

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