I’m not sure where my breaking point was on the American custom of tipping. Perhaps it was the 18% I automatically had added to my bill for a dinner for two at Chez Panisse. Or maybe it was a recent meal with friends where they insisted on leaving what amounted to a 33% tip. I’m not really sure, but my ire towards the system of tipping in the US has swelled to an indefinite point of frustration and to a large degree, disgust. No, I’m not disgusted with friends who leave large tips (I used to do this as well), but more our society as a whole wherein we feel compelled and forced to leave large tips for any variety of reasons (they make no money, I know how it is for them, you can afford it, etc.) My disgust also lies with the restaurants who seem to revel in this practice as it allows them to pay squalid wages to their employees, thusly levying the salary of their workers solely upon the backs of the customer.
As you can see in the Almighty Wikipedia link above, the origin of the word came from, “to give unexpectedly”. My, but how we have strayed from the original intent and naturally this is something that varies greatly by region. My preference is often for the European models where it is still not an expected item, but more a bonus for a job well done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against tipping; I’m just against it as a constant when doing anything outside of your home and having a service charge that is part of the price is fine too. But my favorite tipping model overall has to be from the Japanese, “…tipping is rare, it is usually assumed that if you liked a restaurant you will reward them by returning.” I have never seen logic in a more easy to digest form than that.
I don’t really don’t need to rant anymore about tipping I suppose, as Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs did that oh so well. But even there, he was eventually cajoled in to putting in a tip, which seems to be the way it goes for all of us eventually. Having gotten sick of this practice, I’m starting to see why my cousins in Slovenia flat-out told me to stop when I went to leave a 10% tip. I know what you’re thinking, “I’d hate to work in that country.”, but the difference is that people who work in service jobs are paid a lot better. The tip is again, back to its root of being “given unexpectedly”. Ah, but how can we do this in the US? People earn so little here in restaurants! To which I greatly beg to differ. Servers in San Francisco will often earn up to $60,000 a year and for what? Bringing my plates to me? Honestly, I could do that myself if it were allowed. And then of course there are bartenders who make even more than that because of tips drunken idiots shower them in. I mean, why does some guy get a 25% tip for opening a bottle of beer for me in a place where they’re charging $4 for it and it costs them around $.50? Yeah, I know, you’re paying for ambiance which is most likely the reason I’ve all but stopped going to your typical bar.
It’s all a ridiculous circle that ends only when we as the customers say, “Enough! Charge me the actual cost and be done with it!” To this end, I feel like taking a first step and when at restaurants where there is good service and an actual reason to do it, leaving a 5% tip. I do acknowledge that peoples’ salaries come from this, so I would never suggest ended it all overnight, but maybe that would be the straw that broke the crappy system.
No more tipping at the damned bars until the bartender has actually done something worthwhile and not just stared at my lack of hipster apparel when I first enter. And that’s it. This is a systemic deep-rooted problem with the culture in the US by which we put our fingers in our ears when it comes to knowing the full cost of something (ex. sales taxes, cleaning fees, extended warranties that are added on to the price tag) but if we can get past this, then, as silly as it sounds we can actually have systems like national health care. Explaining that is for a future post.
Okay, yeah, everyone is going to start throwing eggs and booing me at this point, but I don’t care. I’m done with this system. You can even call me Dutch if you want, but I can take it and my 5% tipping is coming soon to a table near you even if that means I get called out in a forum.