Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Americans have always agonized over tipping



     Tipping is back in the news. The Sun-Times ran a full page analysis on Monday.
     “Fourteen years ago,” Ohio journalist Connie Schultz began, in a column syndicated across the country, “I wrote a column about a tip jar in Cleveland and how the managers took all the money….”
     She goes on to discuss the Labor Department’s latest efforts to make it easier for tips to flow into the pockets of management and not, necessarily, to the workers for whom they are supposedly intended.
     There’s no reason why our view of the topic should stop in 2004. Tipping has been an issue of heated debate in this country for over a century, with the discovery of who really benefits from tipping being a reliable scandal that, though periodically revealed, somehow never quite sinks into general public
knowledge.
     “The bestower of this always reluctant largess is a notably unsophisticated person if he thinks that it goes to the young man or woman who collects the coin,” the New York Times noted on Aug. 31, 1917. “Neither one or the other receives more
 than a minute weekly salary, paid by the corporation that employs him or her. All the rest, and by far the larger amount … is divided between that corporation and the proprietors of the hotels and restaurants.”

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19 comments:

  1. No one in my family has ever agonized over tipping, it just is a part of our culture. I had a great uncle who made a decent living for decades as a waiter at the Blackhawk, also several cousins who worked for years at high end restaurants. You tip based on the quality of the food and service between 10% and 25%. Any employer who routinely confiscates tip money will have trouble retaining quality employees, and be put at risk of going out of business. The overlord in tipping laws is the IRS, they can't tolerate unaccounted for income. If your restaurant's tax schedules don't show enough tips you may be flagged for an audit. The current agonizing is over rule changes concerning tip pooling. In 2011 the Labor Department limited eligibility to employees who interact directly with customers. The Trump change would allow cooks and other kitchen staff to participate in the tip pool. Most states, Illinois included, prohibit owners and managers from receiving any portion of the customer's gratuity. The only possible exception I can think of is a head chef being a part owner of the restaurant becoming eligible to participate in the tip pool. After reading about Illinois Law, I'll be more inclined to tip with cash.

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    1. Any employer who routinely confiscates tip money will have trouble retaining quality employees, and be put at risk of going out of business.

      This is a variation on the old smug glibertarian line: "If you don't like it, go work someplace else."

      Most states, Illinois included, prohibit owners and managers from receiving any portion of the customer's gratuity.

      Even if that's true (and I have my doubts), if you think that's going to stop restaurant management from stealing tips, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

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    2. Is it fair to tip based on the quality of the food, over which the server has no control?

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    3. Yes Bitter Scribe, Illinois has more laws regulating businesses then you can shake a stick at. And if Lisa Madigan gets wind of employer theft, I trust she will do the right thing, grabbing headlines while doing so. Although I can play the cynic game also, perhaps if a restaurant chain makes the proper campaign donations, Lisa may give them a pass.
      An expert critic put it best, running a successful business requires attention to detail. First priority is taking care of customers. If an owner steals tips, they are likely going to cut corners, and do things like purchase lower cost food just shy of expiration. The waitstaff will have a bad attitude, and customers will go elsewhere.
      Coey, exactly right, that is what the change in tipping pool laws is all about, if more emloyees have skin in the game they will work together towards the goal of having happy customers.

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    4. The problem with that is that unless the tip is accompanied by a note that says "Tip decreased because the food was bad," the message will be lost on the kitchen staff.

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  2. Interesting thing about no-tipping in Europe...

    In Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Nickel and Dimed," where she describes working a variety of low-status jobs including waitress, she says management often padded the bill of anyone who sounded European on the assumption that they wouldn't realize they were supposed to tip. She says it amounted to a penalty for speaking English with an accent.

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    1. Works the other way too: my experience is that tipping is not customary in Korea, but is often looked for in places that cater to Americans.

      john

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  3. Tipping waitstaff at a restaurant or diner? Sure. Usually 20% just because it's easier to calculate than 15%.
    Tipping a bartender? Sure, seems required.
    Tipping pizza delivery guy? Yes.
    Tipping at a buffet? Just a buck, maybe two, mainly because the poor person cleaning up has such a miserable job.
    Tip jar on the counter at Starbucks? No.
    Tip jars on counters in general? No.
    Picking up a carry-out order that I called in? No.

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    1. Mr. Creosote, a fine job describing my tipping philosophy. Although I always pickup pizza, the one time I ordered pizzas for delivery, my sister publicly shamed me for the faux pas of not tipping, by tipping the delivery guy herself. Now I know better.

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    2. Yes, have your sister on hand for all tipping opportunities.

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    3. Up until now I haven't tipped on a pickup order, but in the future I intend to, when picking up from a sit -down restaurant, after reading this article yesterday:
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2018/02/12/an-outback-server-gets-no-tip-on-a-735-takeout-order-complains-and-gets-fired/

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    4. mr. creosote don't keep going back to the same places with tip jars with that philosophy .

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  4. I've long been on the "wrong" side of political correctness when it comes to tipping, which I've discussed with many friends who've had stints of waiting tables in their earlier years. Not that I don't tip -- I do, and would cosign Mr. Creosote's regimen. And, like our genial host, we leave a few bucks for the motel housekeeping folks.

    But I don't get why the percentage needs to constantly move upward. From 15 to 18 to 20 to, lately, suggestions of 22% on checks. The price of the meal is ever more expensive, so the tip is increased naturally, as well. If one goes out to breakfast in some of the "cool" or even not-so-cool spots on the North Side these days, a $35 to $40 check for 2 is easy to hit. 20% of that 40 is $8. Even 15% is $5.25 on the smaller amount. For one table, which we're unlikely to even occupy for a full hour. Given the number of tables being waited on, seems like that would be acceptable.

    Tipping bartenders seems particularly odd to me, though I do it. I'm paying $6 for a draft beer, and the 45 seconds it takes to pour and deliver it calls for at least an additional dollar? Isn't much of the tipping etiquette illogical? Seems like tips should be based on the amount of time and effort involved in providing service. Rather, they're based on the dollar amount. So, somebody who delivers a steak to your table gets much more than somebody who delivers pancakes, for the equivalent amount of time and effort. That doesn't make sense.

    Of course, if it wasn't covered in snow, I'd cordially request that you get off my lawn! ; )

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  5. I find myself fascinated by the photo - is Leonidas chocolate easily available in the US these days? I left the US over 10 years ago (visiting yearly) and I am always surprised when I see my "local" brands in the US.

    The column is excellent. I have stunned and flummoxed many a guest when I leave between EUR 2-5 as a token on a dining bill, versus the classic American 20%. We remind our guests that the staff earn a living wage and are professionals so it really is a tip, not a subsidy of the wage.

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    1. I don't know if it's easily available, but there is a branch two blocks from my house. So it's easily available to me.

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  6. Tipping is certainly out of control. In a restaurant you tip on the "cut-of-meat". It should be on the service. Wait-staff takes as many trips to serve a hamburger plate as they do a steak & lobster plate....Who's tipping more. And, as the price of the meal goes up, so does their tip... you do not have to increase the percentage. Why do I need to tip a massage therapist after I just her paid her $60-$90 for her services. She wants to be called a therapist...would you tip a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, or a your psychotherapist??? And, why a hotel "chambermaid". I just paid the hotel $200 and up for a night's rest. Isn't her service included in this cost. NEVER IN MY LIFE HAVE A RECEIVED OR EXPECTED A TIP FOR DOING MY JOB, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I DID OVER & ABOVE! Perhaps I need to tip the Streets & Sanitation Worker..after all, he did plow my street this week.

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  7. Corrie G’s logic is impeccable. That said, if you’re gonna do it, do it right. Consider the difference between a merely ok tip and a great tip; it’s usually a very small amount.

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  8. Superb column and right on the button, NS.

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  9. (that comment was meant for the Reader blog) please place it there

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