, , ,



There is a troubling movement afoot in the restaurant industry and it has nothing to do with, quinoa, buffalo wings, or smashing burgers. It has everything to do with the post meal gratuity. Or, rather, the lack of it.

Due to the upward pressure on the minimum wage and the competition to keep good help, some restaurants are doing away with tipping. How does it work? The restaurant raises the price of meals or charges an “administrative fee” in order to pay servers a higher wage. And the customer puts his wallet away after paying the bill.

But isn’t the customer the loser in this deal?

Assuming the food is palatable, the restaurant makes money from selling the meal. Whether the server provides excellent, fair, or poor service, they get their wages (potentially as high as $15 an hour in some states). What recourse does the customer have if the service is less than satisfactory? Ask for a different server next time or patronize another restaurant? Those are not very desirable options.

Shouldn’t the gratuity help separate the great servers from the not-so-great? If a server is personable, helpful, and follows up at all the right times, they should be rewarded with an excellent tip. A server who is surly and never around when you want them should see their performance reflected in a smaller tip. A customer should be able to request seating in a great server’s section, not try to avoid a poor server.

I’ll grant you the $2-3 minimum wage for tipped personnel is kind of a joke. But if a server worked four hours at a busy restaurant, wouldn’t they take home more than $60 (the new $15 per hour rate) in tips? With a couple of $8 glasses of wine or a $10 appetizer or dessert thrown on top of the meal, I would suggest they’d make more. Probably a lot more.

But I am open-minded enough to see the value of eliminating tipping in other areas. How about the coffee shop? My large coffee (not a latte or espresso) costs roughly $2.50. Do I really have to give the counter person the extra fifty cents for pouring the coffee and slapping on a lid? In many coffee shops, the cashier and the pourer aren’t even the same person.

You can pull the tip cup off the counter at the dry cleaner, too. What sort of tip should I give to someone who grabbed five shirts or two pairs of pants off a rack and handed them to me? A dry cleaner can be a nasty environment to work in with all the chemicals they use, but is the person pressing the clothes the one who gets the tip?

I have to give my tailor A+ when it comes to getting tips. She charges around $10 to hem a pair of pants. She doesn’t have a tip jar on the counter that you could drink coffee out of. She has one of those jars that looks like it held cheese balls from Sam’s Club. And it’s chock full of bills in all denominations! Is it the cash register or the tip jar? I don’t know, but you feel foolish if you don’t put something in it.

The top of our list for tipping audacity has to be the frozen yogurt shop. At one establishment we frequent, the customer gets the cup, dispenses the yogurt, adds the toppings, and gets a spoon. The cashier weighs the cup to tell you how much to pay. When did reading a scale become a skill worthy of a gratuity?

Some restaurants have come out to say that, even if they switch to a no-tipping policy, they will still allow customers to give the server a little extra. You know, if the service is really over the top terrific. If that’s where we’re headed, I may have to ask for extra sprinkles at the yogurt shop after they weigh my order.

Please leave a comment…