Tipping: The White Man’s Burden

Tipping in its current form is an assault on fairness for employers and employees as well as consumers’ rights. It reinforces an economically and socially dangerous status quo, while buttressing a functional aristocracy. Oh, yeah: it’s also often a racist, superficial practice and yet, like capital punishment, gun ownership, and of course, the abolition of slavery, America is one of the last industrialized nations in the world still desperately holding on to it.

How did we get to the point where anything less than the standard for gratuity – 15% — is widely considered déclassé, and anything less than 10% — no matter how abominable the service – might get you chased down the street by a waiter long after you’ve walked away from your table? Why are consumers categorically obligated – though not technically forced — to compensate for the failure of employers and our government at-large to ensure fair compensation? Does it really take more skill to serve a $100 dish than a $20 dish, and should it really fall on the customer to pay no matter how poorly that dish gets served?

I never really thought about it this way! At first I thought this was  yet another whiny rant by some privileged white guy who wants to believe he accrues food and love just because he is a good person, But no! It’s not that the anti-tipper doesn’t want to tip! It’s that tipping is demeaning to the tippee. You know how awkward it is to get paid. Turns out, it’s a lot like slavery, this getting paid for your work! It upholds the aristocracy! Also, why do homeless people take up space in the subway and smell so bad, why must I pay taxes, how come that guy gets all the hot chicks, why do hot chicks have such totally fantastic lives, have you noticed that now that there are quotas for everything, a white guy can’t get ahead at all in this world, if minorities just worked harder they’d be equal, too, why don’t women appreciate it when I tell them to smile, I resent people who like bands I haven’t heard of, but I’m confident I am cooler than anyone from my high school, obviously the people who work in restaurants should just ask for raises, if I say it’s racist, then I won’t seem racist, I think my brave blog post here is more important than writing one about a better minimum wage structure or any other meaningful type of  change, like even the one before the New York City Council right now about paid leave for people like the ones I don’t want to give a tip to, because appealing to the privileged and making them feel like they are the ones suffering is a sure way to ensure change, and for real seriously, I would tip but it’s a matter of principle. Why can’t they work for love?

4 thoughts on “Tipping: The White Man’s Burden

  1. First, yeah, this guy seems like a dick.

    That said, I’m anti-tipping, too. I do it. I tip really well, in fact. I don’t think I’ve ever tipped less than 20% even for poor service and the reason is simple: I think it’s seriously fucked up that a server’s wages are directly tied to how well they do their job in a way that no other profession’s are. When I have a bad day, I take home the same pay check as when I have a good one. I think that’s only fair that servers should enjoy the same privilege.

    There’s a restaurant I go to all the time where they actually pay their staff a living wage (gasp!) and actively discourage tipping. It’s a much more pleasant way to pay for my food. Yes, the food is marked up to compensate for the higher wages and that causes a little sticker-shock when you see that the burger and fries is $12. (That might not seem like much in your part of the world, put in Columbus it’s a pretty steep.) But, by the time you factor in the fact that you don’t have to tip it comes out about even with comparable burgers at shittier restaurants with shittier service. It should also be noted, that turnover at this place is almost non existent. The staff seem to stick around for years and years.

    Further, there’s a long history of being anti-tipping on the left. When the CNT took control of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War one of the first things they did was outlaw tipping. They thought it created an undesirable power dynamic between the tipper and the tippee. Of course, they’d also collectivized all the restaurants by that point, too, but I think the principle remains the same.

    People should be paid a living wage for the work they do. If they do a bad job, it is management’s job to correct their performance or terminate them. It shouldn’t be my responsibility as a customer to decide how much that manager’s employee gets paid.

  2. Yeah, this guy is a total ass.

    I worked in the service industry for a long time, and I agree that there are times it sucks to give a server 15% or more for poor service. I kind of *have* to because when you work in that industry there’s an unspoken obligation to pity your waitress or waiter and do right by her or him… but I’m often even more critical of service as a result as well.

    Of course, you could also consider it a re-distribution of wealth as well… If the rich guy walks in and wants a $300 steak dinner, why not give people of low SES (those that are generally working in the service industry) and opportunity to get a piece of the pie? I made really good money serving, and if some well-off douche is willing to part with as much money I would find in one paycheck at a minimum wage paying job for that one meal… I say to hell with it, I’m certainly not going to feel guilty for expecting 15%.

    All this being said, it’s a sticky subject. Carry on.

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