A number or restaurants are starting to ban tipping, and instead are paying their employees a real, living wage and even providing benefits.
I say it is about time. I wish more restaurants would ban tipping. I think it is evil. Why?
Did you know that the minimum wage for tipped workers (not just waiters) is $2.13 an hour? For a full-time worker, that’s less than $370 a month. What a joke. Adding insult to injury, mandatory tax withholding (based on an assumed level of tips they may not get) normally eats up all of their hourly wages. And the typical lack of benefits makes that even worse – no vacation time, no paid sick days, and no employer provided health insurance.
But wait, you say (pun not intended), doesn’t tipping encourage good service? Well, numerous studies have shown that tipping is almost entirely unrelated to quality of service. A waiter is more likely to get a big tip if they are attractive, especially a young, sexy (i.e., busty) woman, so tipping is sexist and ageist. And white waiters get bigger tips (more than 30% more than black waiters), making it racist as well.
Leaving big tips is really no incentive for better service. In fact, low wages for waiters encourages high turnover, resulting in worse service. Instead, the factor that most influences whether you get good service at a restaurant is whether the waiter is happy at work. And paying them a real wage and benefits is a great way to make them happy.
I lived in New Zealand for a while, where tipping is not prevalent and definitely not expected, and they pay their wait staff real wages. I always received very good service there (but it is hard to tell if that is because server’s lives aren’t dependent on tips, or just because Kiwis are really nice people anyway). One thing they normally did there was if a restaurant was open on a holiday like Christmas, they would add a surcharge (typically 15%) to the bill so they could pay their staff overtime. I think that is great.
It is said that we are moving to a service economy. It is about time we paid all our service workers a real salary and stopped stiffing them.
UPDATE: If this interests you at all, go read this fantastic rant: “The Gratuitous Injustice of American Tipping Culture“.