Saturday, September 4, 2010

The 15% Dilemma

The other day a discussion came up somehow about eating in restaurants and leaving a tip. I'm a notoriously bad tipper, as my usual M.O. is to leave 4 dollars and be done with it. My dining companion will always make up the difference.
My question today is: why does there have to be a difference? If I order a burger and fries, my meal might be around 10 dollars. If I order lobster or filet mignon, the price of the meal goes up to about 30 or more. However, and here is where my argument lies: the waitress only comes over the same amount of times. One, to greet and take drink orders. Two, to bring back said beverage and take food order. Three, to bring meal. Four, (if you are lucky) to ask if things are "all right". and finally, Five, to check on dessert and then bring the check. Why should I pay more just because I'm having an expensive meal?
Don't get me wrong. If I'm eating at a five star restaurant or if I'm dressed specially for dinner, that means I'm at a swanky place. I'm talking about a regular place like a diner, or Friday's, or a casual place like that. Why should my tip be more because I'm having salmon instead of grilled cheese?
I was told that "If you order more expensive food you tend to stay at the table longer to eat and they cannot turn around the table as fast to gain more tips, so you are paying for time."
That sounds good, except I can recall eating on the cheap and hanging about to chat and relax just as long as when there was a steak in front of me.
Look, I didn't invent the pay scale for waiters. I understand that they are there to make a living just like all of us. I do think, however, that most people are decent tippers and that those of us who cannot tip to the extreme need to make ends meet. That thought may lead us to the statement that if you cannot afford to leave a good tip, you cannot afford to eat out.
To which I say: and there are plenty other jobs out there that pay by the hour, if you have to find a job that has tipping as part of your pay, perhaps you need to check your skill level and work towards another career.
I can feel the hate right now.
Listen, I used to drive a cab and work for tips a long time ago. My dispatcher was resentful of the fact that I was a girl, and thus sent me on jobs where I would come to no harm, like picking up all the senior citizens and taking them to doctor's offices. Sometimes I would get a dime as a tip. I didn't make a lot of cash driving that cab, so I took a second job. Eventually I embarked on another career, one that paid by the hour.
I didn't resent the elderly, I knew they were on a fixed income and needed every penny.
I may not be on that same fixed income, but I need every penny as well. I can go to Five Guys and get a great burger and not have to tip, or I can go to the good old diner and get the same meal and have to budget for money left on the table.
I just don't agree with the system.


nighthawk said...

Were we separated at birth? What has gotten worse is that 20 per cent seems to be the standard. It used to be 10 per cent plus what the sales tax is. I agree it makes no sense. Neither does tipping a hairstylist or worse yet the car wash attendant for toweling down your car. Everybody wants a frigging tip. And there are too many male waiters! Way too many. Maybe I should go back to 15 per cent. If the service is below par I tip 15. I remember when I used to deliver flowers and I knew that the wealthier the area I could expect to get no tip and the more working class, the people would be generous and it was correct to a fault. Only one guy in Metuchen disproved my theory.

JayMonster said...

Tipping (To Ensure Promptness) is a suggested amount based on current economic and standard practices. Somewhere along the line, it became some sort of tax.

Now, I do tip as a customary practice. Reason being, if they had to pay wait staff on a normal salary, then you can be damn sure that $5 burger deluxe is going to start costing $10, so the standard 18% tip on that works out to less than a buck (remember you do not tip on alcohol or tax) which is clearly less expensive than the alternative.

Am I saying you have to tip the 18% (or more) every time? No. You go by the level of service received. If you got $4 service... give $4. If you didn't then don't feel obligated to do so.