Flaws with the restaurant tipping system

Restaurant tipping seems to be an all-around flawed system.

Oftentimes a waiter/waitress will get penalized for factors outside of his/her control - such as the cooks taking too long to cook the food, and a disgruntled customer reacting by giving little or no tip because of the irritating delay. It’s not the waiter’s fault the food is late.
To paraphrase what someone once pointed out, a waiter at Restaurant A who serves a customer a $200 bottle of wine doesn’t have to expend more, if any, labor or effort than another waiter at the same Restaurant A who serves a customer a $20 bottle of wine, yet gets a much larger total tip due to $200 being more than $20. Why exactly should waiters be tipped based off of the value of the meal? A waiter who serves $50’ worth of food to a demanding, grouchy family of five people, with some who have dietary allergies, may end up expending much more energy and effort than a waiter who serves a $100 meal to a quiet, calm, wealthy couple.
The tipping system also allows for discrimination in numerous ways. Attractive waitresses may be tipped more than ugly waitresses. Thin waitresses may be tipped more than fat waitresses. Tipping may vary based off of race and numerous other factors.
The tipping system also allows restaurants to get away with paying less than minimum wage, provided that customers’ generosity in tips will cover the difference.
All around, it sounds like an inherently flawed system. I understanding that getting rid of the tipping system is almost impossible, but I would propose a halfway measure; requiring restaurants to pay minimum wage regardless of tips, and having tipping being done as a gesture of appreciation that is unrelated to the dollar value of the meal. After all, sometimes the waiter serving a $20 meal is working harder, or being nicer, than the waiter serving a $100 meal.

Also, are the people spreading this meme aware that they are lying, or do they actually believe it?

How about you, Construct?

Ummm, were you trying to post in the Sweden-is-being-called-Swedistan thread?

Unless you want to have to do a spreadsheet of line items for your meal to determine the tip, it’s easiest to just tip on the total. There are lots of things that are measure as a percent of the total, more out of convenience than anything else.

But… you are free to tip anything you like. Bring your Excel spreadsheet and tip different amounts of the entre, the desert and the wine. No one is going to stop you. If you don’t like a restaurant’s policy of adding in the tip for larger parties, go to a restaurant that doesn’t do that.

Restaurants are not “getting away” with anything. Waters have to be paid min wage, and they are.

Generally agreed.

Generally it’s not the waiter’s fault, but when such things threaten to ruin a diner’s overall experience, it’s the waiter’s job to mitigate the damage and advocate for their diners. A good waiter should never have diners who are wondering what happened to their food. It’s definitely not a perfect system, but there is almost always something a waiter should have done better if an otherwise rational person has a terrible experience at a restaurant for almost any reason.

Again, this is generally not true. There aren’t too many places that sell both $20 and $200 bottles of wine. The latter establishment generally requires their servers to be more professional, knowledgeable, and competent. That is part of why they are compensated more. Just as a realtor selling a million dollar house is compensated more than one who sell a $250k house, and car salesman selling Ferraris is often paid more than a guy selling Buicks.

Waiters are not paid directly for their efforts or energy. They are correlated but not based on one another.


Maybe, but the reality is that those wages would come from the customer in one way or another. A more transparent system would be better in some respects, but it would likely remove the incentive for a waiter to do as good a job.

Restaurants always have to pay at least minimum wage regardless. A waiters take home pay including tips cannot be less than the minimum wage in a given state even where there are exceptions for rates for tipped workers.

Then you are back to square one.

Only 7 states require tipped employees to be paid the same minimum wage as non-tipped employees. In the rest of the Union, they can be paid as little as $2.13 per hour and the employer only has to pay them more if they aren’t able to cover the difference between that and federal minimum wage.

Frankly, the idea that it’s up to the customer to decide how much the waiter gets paid is absurd, and I salute the restaurateurs who have done the right thing by prohibiting tipping and simply paying their staff a higher wage.

You mean pay the same minimum wage that non-tipped workers are required to receive? I don’t see why.

How would this be implemented?

I know a woman who has been working as a waitress for many years. Last year I told her that here in NJ, if in any hour she has not received the non-tipped minimum wage when tips and her hourly rate are added, her employer must make up the difference. She was not aware of that. I asked her if she would do anything about it now that she is. She wouldn’t. She knew her job would be on the line.

Except for what I mentioned in post 8. :smiley:

Your preferred thing is not “the right thing”. Frankly the idea that it’s up to the customer to decide how much the water gets paid is brilliant. The system is set up so that employers are required to make sure the waiters make at least MW. If customers want to pay the waiters more than that ore even a LOT more than that, why would you want to get in the way of that?

The tipping system is horrible and needs to go. It’s ludicrous that an employee should have to negotiate their wage with each individual customer, many of whom will be drunk, mean-spirited, or belligerent. It’s not set in stone either and some conscientious restaurateurs are already doing away with it. There are a couple of high end restaurants in NYC and elsewhere where tipping is expressly forbidden. There are no tip lines on CC receipts and cash tips are returned. Waitstaff have a choice of being paid 20% of sales at their table or a low hourly wage. Most choose 20%, with the hourly wage an insurance policy for very slow nights. I hope this trend grows.

As far as the issue of someone being tipped more for a $200 bottle of wine than a $20 bottle, the waiters at high end restaurants have generally worked their way up the food chain. Also, they have to be a lot more charismatic and attractive and more skilled at seeing what their tables need. If you don’t want to tip on a $200 bottle of wine, don’t order it. You’re being ripped off anyway. But if you do get a $200 bottle of wine, just to show you’re the kind of person who can afford $200 bottles of wine, show that you’re the kind of person who will tip the waiter $30 dollars for said bottle.

ETA: Here’s a story from Pittsburgh.

The point obtains. A restaurant has to ensure their staff are compensated equal to or in excess of the minimum wage.

Yes, it would seem to be a better system (and it may in fact be), but by and large, both customers and waiters don’t mind the current system in the US in my experience.

First, customers often decide how much people in the service industry get paid. Being in the service industry be it stock sales, real estate, or waiting tables means you are somewhat at the mercy of your customers to make a living.

Second, paying a higher wage and discouraging tipping often means lower wages for tipped workers than under the current system. It also means higher prices which could lower demand for your services, and it remove the aligned incentives of servers and management. Right now, the market of tipping essentially functions as a (flawed) real-time job performance indicator. Under a strict system of wages, management needs to do more careful oversight which costs money. Restaurants already operate on razor thin margins. Raising fixed costs in terms of wages and oversight would be really problematic for a smaller or marginally successful establishments.

Tipping also means waiters want to turn their tables more often, encouraging more money to be spent at the restaurant in aggregate. This is why few employees complain if you sit for hours at a Starbucks or McDonald’s, but they would be annoyed if you sat at an Applebee’s or any other restaurant for hours.

Lastly, it encourages employees to be on their best behavior. People generally respond to incentives, and the immediate incentive of a tip changes behavior more than the remote disincentive of being fired or disciplined for poor performance.

That said, I think the system is flawed for a variety of reasons, but there isn’t an alternative that isn’t equally (or more) flawed.

I like the tipping system, because I eat out a lot and frequent the same places. I tip well and usually get great service. But if you don’t like to tip, or would like restaurants to run differently, don’t claim that system is “flawed”. I know a lot of people who work in that industry and they like the system just fine. There’s room for both types of restaurants (tipping and no-tipping) in the market so let the market sort things out.

The expectation of tipping is itself bad service, in my view. Part of good service is not deliberately low-balling the quote given to a client and making up the difference with hidden fees. If you want me to pay $60 for a meal, say so, don’t put $50 on the menu and then add a 20% gratuity on top of that.

Casino tipping is fucked up, too, at least in Steve Wynn’s casinos, ever since Wynn won his lawsuit allowing the tip pool to be shared with management a couple of years ago.

When these wage discussions come up, I can never quite understand why people get worked up about the ‘poor’ servers out there instead of the real poor dude (or duddette) who is in back washing the dishes. They are the ones who are being worked off the clock, bringing ing jack shit, and likely stuck with it because they have no other options. Yet, we’re concerned with the tax dodging servers who are taking home cold hard cash every night?

The only reason to even be a server is to make more than minimum wage! Are there honestly people out there who think servers are routinely brining in less than minimum wage? Next time you are out, ask one if they would prefer to be paid minimum wage.

Personally, I don’t like the emotional blackmail / guilt trip aspect. Even if someone does a crappy job I don’t feel good giving a low tip. Maybe they’re just having a bad day. So I usually don’t. I’m breaking the system! Anarchy!

The meal is still what the menu says. The tip is for table service. If you don’t get table service, as in a carry-out order, you don’t pay for it.

And it’s not like a gratuity should come as a surprise, except to someone who has never eaten in a restaurant in the US. How on earth is that a “hidden fee?”

Despite all of my inherent and acquired old-fogeyness/resistance to change, there are things that I wouldn’t mind at all happening.

The elimination of restaurant tipping, and having fair compensation for waiters/servers/them who brings the plates incorporated into the cost of the meal is high on the list.