To Tip or Not to Tip?

Big news in the New York dining scene as Danny Meyer has decided to eliminate tipping from Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. Fox’s Outnumbered chimed in, but I generally found their comments useless, as per usual. In fact, it appears that Meyer is seeking to eliminate tips because of the ideas espoused by Fox’s Outnumbered crew. (Seriously, why is that a show?)

I currently live in a country where tipping is not the norm and I have traveled in Europe and South America where service is included in the bill. There are definitely differences – most notably people leave you alone while you’re eating. I’m not saying that they ignore your needs. Rather, we just have to indicate to someone we need assistance, and it’s dealt with promptly. It’s nice because it doesn’t have to be “our” server who assists. I have no complaints about it at all.

There are events going on in the background that make this move a seeming necessity, particularly in New York and other big cities. In Seattle, for example, the minimum wage is on its way up to $15 per hour. (Note that in Washington, there isn’t a separate minimum wage for tipping – everyone makes the minimum wage.) The minimum wage rise is going up in other cities as well. If I had a choice between a demanding waiting job subject to getting scheduled for slow shifts and assholes for customers and working at McDonald’s, I’d probably choose McDonald’s. No, it’s not glamorous, but I also wouldn’t be waiting on the same assholes for an hour or more, only to get stiffed at the end of the meal.

Meyer’s point about not leaving someone’s wage up to the customer is valid. People definitely use the tip as a means of power and control, servers get sexually harassed, and it contributes to a hostile work environment. I dated a guy who took his irritation of the day out on servers in their tips. That’s bullshit.

Of course, there have been times where I left nothing because the service was poor. Rather than suggest anything to the server about their service that occasion, I’m sure it just pissed them off. Comments to managers are more likely to yield a positive result, and it seems like that’s where Meyer intends to go once he removes tipping from his establishments.

The cost of dining out will have to go up when we switch to a hospitality/service included model. People balk at the idea of paying more for their food when they go out, whether it’s for fast food or in a sit-down environment. With minimum wage hikes and the skyrocketing costs of food, and goods and services that support restaurants, we’re all going to end up paying more. Of course, we could all just stay home and make the food ourselves. When it comes to fast food, that’s probably what we *should* be doing since most of what we make at home is going to be healthier for us anyway. Dining out is a luxury. With luxury comes cost. No one bitches about paying more for a Lexus than an Accord. Why should food be any different?

I’m all for switching to a service included model and I’m willing to pay for it. Are you?