10 votes

So how should your favorite restaurant pay its servers? Well, it's complicated

14 comments

  1. [11]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    [...] As an American, I hate tipping. It's an exploitation of the unpredictability of customers, if it didn't provide an inherent advantage to the business (over the employee) then it would never...

    The tipped wage structure is a relic of the Jim Crow era, when businesses looked for ways to avoid paying a full wage to African Americans and women.

    People of color and women today make up a huge chunk of the tipped workforce, and discrimination and sexism persist, affecting servers such as Melton.

    [...]

    According to the Economic Policy Institute, a greater proportion of workers live below the poverty line in states where the tipped minimum wage structure is in place, compared with those living in states where employers must pay the same minimum wage to all hourly workers.

    As an American, I hate tipping. It's an exploitation of the unpredictability of customers, if it didn't provide an inherent advantage to the business (over the employee) then it would never have caught on as much as it did. Also on a personal level, it's frustrating. I don't want to think about all of the factors that are needed to figure out a tip. How much is appropriate based on the service I got? Is this normal or above/below average? How do I tell if I've never been here before? If my budget is low this month, how low of a tip can I leave without being insulting? Does this business divide tips among staff, or does it all go to the server? What are other people in my group tipping?

    It also annoys me that this is different from many other service-oriented business. I don't tip my plumber, the grocery checkout clerk, the bank teller, or the bus driver. Could I tip them? Sure, everyone appreciates some money. But there's also an expectation that they're already being paid fairly, and that the price I'm paying is sufficient to cover that compensation and other business costs.

    25 votes
    1. [10]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      Yeah, so much this. Not only that, but it makes it damn near impossible to figure out what your meal is going to cost. Plus all the cultural aspects of it. Do I just take the whole bill and...

      Yeah, so much this. Not only that, but it makes it damn near impossible to figure out what your meal is going to cost. Plus all the cultural aspects of it. Do I just take the whole bill and calculate some percent of that? Well, this guide says you don't include tax because that's just something the government adds on and isn't part of the business's cost. This other guide says you don't include drinks. How the *@#$ am I supposed to calculate the total without drinks and tax, since it's not written on the bill that way?

      Also, do I tip the supposedly customary 15% that now gets you called a cheapskate? 20%? According to some it's now supposed be like 22%?! WTF? How is anyone expected to keep this straight? I remember getting raked over the coals by my brother many years ago when I rounded off like 5 cents from a $5.05 tip to get an even dollar amount. Oh no! They're getting 14.8% instead of 15%! How will I ever live with myself?

      But even all that aside, the shitty way service employees are compensated needs to stop. This nonsense about being able to not pay them minimum wage because they get tips is a scam. Sure, it works out great for a small percentage of servers. It's terrible for everyone else. If your business can't survive paying minimum wage, you don't deserve to be in business. And when your business dies, another better one will likely take its place.

      15 votes
      1. [7]
        Gatonegro
        Link Parent
        I must've missed that memo. I thought 10% was still the usual amount 🤔 Between that, and delivery apps now pestering you to tip the driver and the restaurant and pay a service fee, and gods know...

        do I tip the supposedly customary 15% that now gets you called a cheapskate?

        I must've missed that memo. I thought 10% was still the usual amount 🤔 Between that, and delivery apps now pestering you to tip the driver and the restaurant and pay a service fee, and gods know what else, I can't be bothered to keep up anymore.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Oh don't get me started on delivery apps. It turns out many of them keep the tip and don't even give it to the delivery person. But of course, you rarely know which is the case. I absolutely don't...

          Oh don't get me started on delivery apps. It turns out many of them keep the tip and don't even give it to the delivery person. But of course, you rarely know which is the case. I absolutely don't want a give a tip to the company, but I also don't want to stiff a driver making below minimum wage. It's a no-win situation.

          (And for the record, during the pandemic we've been giving out "hazard pay" tips for all of our deliveries.)

          6 votes
          1. Gatonegro
            Link Parent
            Yeah, at best the delivery person will get a fraction of a tip given via the app. At worst, like you say, they won't get a cent. Personally I've decided to give drivers a cash tip instead. In...

            Yeah, at best the delivery person will get a fraction of a tip given via the app. At worst, like you say, they won't get a cent. Personally I've decided to give drivers a cash tip instead.

            In principle, I'm against the concept of tipping — businesses should pay adequate wages to their employees instead leaving them at the mercy of customers who've paid a bill that, one would assume, already covers the costs of the food and services involved. But, in the real world, businesses aren't desperately interested in what I think is fair to their employees. Least I can do is make sure that the person receives and keeps 100% of the tip I'm giving them.

            4 votes
        2. [4]
          heavyset_go
          Link Parent
          Don't tip on delivery apps, just give the delivery person cash tips. Too many of these apps pocket the tips or take significant portions of them before giving them to the person who actually made...

          Don't tip on delivery apps, just give the delivery person cash tips. Too many of these apps pocket the tips or take significant portions of them before giving them to the person who actually made the delivery.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            joplin
            Link Parent
            Easier said than done in this era of COVID. Since my spouse has an immune condition, we cannot answer the door or physically interact with people outside of our home. We have to wipe down all...

            Easier said than done in this era of COVID. Since my spouse has an immune condition, we cannot answer the door or physically interact with people outside of our home. We have to wipe down all packages we receive, etc. I have left an envelope with cash taped to the door on one or two occasions, but I don't go to businesses and use cash either, so I'm out of anything smaller than a $20 bill. For now, our only realistic option is to tip on the app and hope they get at least some portion of it. But normally I do try to tip in cash whenever possible.

            2 votes
            1. heavyset_go
              Link Parent
              Yeah, there's no reason to put yourself or your loved ones at risk of catching COVID over a tip.

              Yeah, there's no reason to put yourself or your loved ones at risk of catching COVID over a tip.

              1 vote
          2. Gatonegro
            Link Parent
            Yeah, that's how I've decided to do it. Only way to make sure the person I'm giving the tip to actually gets it.

            Yeah, that's how I've decided to do it. Only way to make sure the person I'm giving the tip to actually gets it.

      2. [2]
        jcdl
        Link Parent
        Never heard not to include drinks. Does the bartender making your Shirley Temple not deserve their chunk of the tip out at the end of the night?

        Never heard not to include drinks. Does the bartender making your Shirley Temple not deserve their chunk of the tip out at the end of the night?

        1 vote
        1. joplin
          Link Parent
          I never understood this one. Maybe it was originally for the case where you get your drinks at the bar while you're waiting for your table, but they add the drinks onto your food tab so you don't...

          I never understood this one. Maybe it was originally for the case where you get your drinks at the bar while you're waiting for your table, but they add the drinks onto your food tab so you don't have to settle at the bar. But maybe the assumption is you leave a cash tip on the bar before you go to your table? I honestly don't know, but I know I have heard that before.

          5 votes
  2. EgoEimi
    Link
    There's a Prisoner's Dilemma for restaurants. I've read that restaurants that incorporate servers' wages into menu prices lose customers. The game incentivizes restaurants to play pricing mind...

    There's a Prisoner's Dilemma for restaurants. I've read that restaurants that incorporate servers' wages into menu prices lose customers. The game incentivizes restaurants to play pricing mind games with customers.

    It's a losing move for a restaurant to unilaterally change their pricing/tipping system; so, state governments — or whatever appropriate level of government — should essentially force all 'prisoners' to cooperate by requiring restaurants to pay waiters minimum+ wage. I'd also like to see businesses be required to have their listed prices to include all taxes and surcharges, so people won't be given false impressions about the cheapness of things.

    As an another American, I hate tipping culture — and the absurd expansion of tipping culture into other domains like coffee shops, barber shops, and even some eateries. I always have to keep in mind that what seems like a $30 meal is really closer to $36~40 after taxes, surcharges, and a tip that's expected to be 12–20%. I dislike the swivel tablet payment terminals at coffee shops that the barista turns to me, asking me to tip $1, $2, $3, or nothing. There's an imposed obligation to tip something — it feels awkward to select No Tip and turn the screen around back to the barista. But it's silly that customers are made to feel that they should pay extra on top of listed prices to persuade staff to do their jobs properly. If I wanted an amateurish or sloppily-made coffee, I could just make one at home for cents and forego the trouble of playing a game of The Price Is Right.

    I recently had been living in The Netherlands for several years. There I found it refreshing that the prices that I saw on menus were the prices I would pay in the end. They were a bit high but they were honest. Dutch restaurant service has a reputation for being bad, but I liked it for minimalism and adequacy: servers would answer my questions about the menu, take my order, bring me my order, and leave my friends and me to enjoy our evening — without hanging around pretending to be friendly or refilling our water glasses after every other second sip like they would in America. Many places would simply leave a water carafe, which was sensible and economical.

    13 votes
  3. knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    Full disclosure: I work in this industry as a busser (tipped), and a dishwasher (not tipped) and some serving experience, and working in both environments for 9 years (before a year of furlough),...

    Full disclosure: I work in this industry as a busser (tipped), and a dishwasher (not tipped) and some serving experience, and working in both environments for 9 years (before a year of furlough), I know both sides fairly well. I'm protected partially by where I work (a major resort in California), and while this may influence my outlook, I would like to think I'd come to the same conclusion not working a union-protected resort gig through college. In fact, some of my reasons are why I would refuse to work in this industry without a union. This article attempts to give voice to the people that may be impacted by it, but a lot of this is also by asking people who significantly benefit from this system without considering the other side.

    "The tip credit represents our economic system; hard work means more money,"
    "And to take that away, you're hurting the very people you're trying to help."
    -Laurie Torres, in the article

    There is a fundamental issue of equity at play here. Her answer is very much the typical business owner answer, and only feeds the micro-economic exploitation that happens in the restaurant industry. Instead of an owning and a working class, it's front of house and back of house, under the already existing class dynamics.

    As a beneficiary of this system (I get 12/hr plus anywhere between $50-$150 in tips, three days a week, depending on season, or 15/hr if I'm in BoH), I can't help but think about the kitchen staff who arguably do the more essential parts of the work for long hours who don't get a tip. When asked why they don't get tips, even jokingly, I get a little sad about it because they deserve the money as much as the people making the sale, if not more. It'll fuck up my day, honestly. Servers where I work lose their paychecks to taxes on their tips, so the tips are the only money they take home. Even if they wanted to, they can't tip people who they can't hold financially accountable for the tip, either, further reinforcing the system.

    I think we need to seriously reevaluate how this industry pays its employees. Our current tipping system is largely engineered to offset the cost of business, especially in the more egregious cases like the states that allow ~$2.50 for workers making over $30 in tips per month if the tips exceed state minimum wage per hour worked. I also think we need to prepare for the damage that will happen with the pay hike, across industries. Business owners will justify their layoffs however they want, and it will hurt, but to make it clear, it is the decision of business owners, not the "invisible hand" at work.

    Karim Sumah has the right idea: You'll still get tipped at a higher wage, but you'll just make more (and, if reported, lose a little more to taxes), and I really like how Vang is structuring his restaurant by just paying out of the cost of the meal, instead of redistributing tips.

    I don't oppose tipping, I think it should be fine to give a few bucks, or however much you want, for a job well done. I don't think it should be a built-in part of a large part of our economy.

    10 votes
  4. pycrust
    Link
    All tipping does is shift risk to the least powerful people in the restaurant. If workers in the restaurant were just page a normal wage, the restaurant margins would be smaller. Instead, the...

    All tipping does is shift risk to the least powerful people in the restaurant. If workers in the restaurant were just page a normal wage, the restaurant margins would be smaller. Instead, the restaurant gets to fatten its margins and pass the risk of turning people away due to higher costs (from having higher paid workers) on to the workers.

    7 votes