The Tipping Point

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An op-ed contributor condemns the practice of tipping at the New York Times today. I've got no strong dog in this fight either way; if customers, waitstaff, and restauranteurs prefer their service compris, whatever, and that model will eventually become more prevalent. But some of the arguments offered are a little silly. For instance:

Michael Lynn, an associate professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, has conducted dozens of studies of tipping and has concluded that consumers' assessments of the quality of service correlate weakly to the amount they tip.

Rather, customers are likely to tip more in response to servers touching them lightly and crouching next to the table to make conversation than to how often their water glass is refilled—in other words, customers tip more when they like the server, not when the service is good.

This is an awfully narrow concept of "quality of service": When I think of places where I feel like I've gotten "good service" I'm likely to remember feeling as though the interaction with the waiter was friendly and pleasant, that they didn't get irritated if something needed to be sent back, and so on—at least as much as the speed with which my dishes were sprited away when I was finished with a course. And I can recall plenty of friends who, precisely because they associated friendliness with better tips, would make an effort to be pleasant and polite even when they were in a bad mood. Then there's this:

The best service in the Western world is at the Michelin three-star restaurants of Europe, where a service charge replaces tipping.

Well, yeah, of course. At a three-star, the level of screening of waiters at the hiring stage and oversight thereafter is sufficiently intense that it doesn't make that much difference to move to a tip-pooling or compris model. (As the op-ed notes, there's also rigorous supervision at McDonalds…which is easier when manager and staff are all squished behind the same counter.) It's silly to apply that example to diners and mid-range restaurants more likely to be staffed by college kids pulling in some pocket money. As the op-ed points out, not all waiters are "transient employees"…but lots are, which is why different models will make sense for different types of restaurants. Possibly the silliest part, though, is this:

For their part, restaurateurs believe it is their right to have consumers pay servers, so they don't have to pay their employees a living wage. They prefer the current system because it allows them to have a team of pseudo-contractors rather than real employees.

Err…what? "Consumers" are ultimately paying the servers either way; doing away with the tip and then filtering a "service charge" equal to the average tip amount filtered through the restaurant to the server via a higher wage doesn't have an obvious effect in either direction on the restaurateur's balance sheet—are we supposed to think people who run restaurants are too obtuse to appreciate as much? Again, I'm perfectly prepared to believe the service charge model makes sense for many restaurants, but the idea that it's better for all of them only works on the incorrect assumption that all restaurants are basically the same. Surely this isn't too subtle a point for a guy writing a book about restaurants?

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  1. He did make one good point, though, about the stupidity of restaurants who make their waitstaff “pool” their tips.

  2. I’ve always thought that restaurant owners were in favor of tipping because that way the menu didn’t reflect the actual cost of the meal. People see a $10 entree and may not think at the time they order that it’s actually an $11.50 entree when the standard tip is included.

  3. I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.

  4. I worked in restaurants for years. I honestly miss the direct work-to-pay ratio. It was just so much more honest compared to what I do now (which is, apparently, posting here).

    In my experience of working in fine dining, The people who tipped the best were the business guys who wouldn’t even look at you. I’m not totally disagreeing with what Michael Lynn’s research seems to point out. I am certain that it is true in many places. It’s just that you always have the option of moving to another restaurant if that kind of service bugs you or you are better at filling glasses than you are at interacting with people.

  5. More irritating is the recent trend of putting tip jars in places where there were no such jars just a couple years ago. Newspaper stands and Dunkin’ Donuts leap to mind.

  6. What an unpleasant article.

    Of course tips are not allowed in France, everyone must pay their taxes or the system doesn’t work. I always tip in cash, even if paying with credit cards, just so the wait staff doesn’t have to declare the money.

  7. Julian you are missing the shift in risk from the restaurant owner to the wait staff. Perhaps over time this works averages out, but this is why the transient nature of waitstaff is important.

  8. The editorial also contended that service compris was better because it eliminated a waiter’s current incentive to sell extra products such as appetizers. Of course, under both tipping systems, the waiter’s wage is based on a percentage of the total bill. Changing systems would not get rid of the waiter’s incentive to push the mozzerella sticks. Forget the subtlety needed to write a book on restaurants. This kind of mistake indicts the author’s capacity to read a book on restaurants.

  9. guy in the back row,
    On behalf of those who have lived off tips, thank you.

  10. As I read the article on my way to work, I couldn’t get one fact out of my head: I went to Per Se two months ago for a family dinner. And the service sucked. At $100 per person, there is no way in hell you are getting a good tip or worse a “set” tip.
    Also, I generally tip better than any set tip percentage (normally 10% to 12%- but if they have already done the math and removed my right to determine their tip- their loss.

  11. Regarding the contractor vs. employee argument, I believe there may be a tax avoidance incentive for restaurants. As far as I know, restaurants don’t have to pay payroll taxes on their employees’ tip income. Servers are supposed to report tip income themselves but notoriously [substitute neutral synonym here] underreport.

  12. Rather, customers are likely to tip more in response to servers touching them lightly and crouching next to the table to make conversation

    This is especially true at places like Hooter’s.

  13. does anyone else not care about the state of tipping in the western world at all?

  14. Ha…I was waiting for Mr. Pink to show up.

  15. Jay:
    While you’re right, so long as service charges are pooled and split among the waitstaff (rather than giving a particular waiter the service charge from only the tables that waiter served) the individualized incentive to “upsell” varies inversely with the size of the staff.

  16. For their part, restauranteurs believe it is their right to have consumers pay servers, so they don’t have to pay their employees a living wage. They prefer the current system because it allows them to have a team of pseudo-contractors rather than real employees.

    One thing you can tell about this guy, other than that he doesn’t know how to spell “restaurateur”: He, like the jerks who rewrote the IRS tip-wage rules in the early 90s, has never had to hustle for tips.

  17. Any waiter that touches me or crouches next to the table automatically gets no tip. I didn’t go out to eat so I could interact with the kind of moron who waits tables for a living. Take my order, bring me my food, and go the fuck away. Then, you’ll get 20%.

  18. Tim:
    Whoops; no, I’m the idiot there. Lemme fix that…

  19. The comments so far miss the larger issue, that being the really crappy service in Europe.

    The author goes to great length discussing the great service at three star restaurants in Europe and comparing that to U.S. establishments well I lived in London in college and ate mostly at midpriced restaurants. The service as a rule was beyond abysmal. It seemed as though the wait staff secretly played paper, rock, and scissors to see who had to wait on you.

    The author also discounts the importance of keeping the water glass full, hey the fullness of the water glass combined with the promptness of my service is my primary criteria by which I tip.

    Even at a restaurant like Denny’s the service is pretty good, regardless of whether it is 3:00 pm or 3:00 am the servers get the job done. To say that this isn’t at least partially due to a direct economic link is ludicrous.

    Regards

    Joe

  20. In regard to those establishments that include the automatic gratuity fee of 15% in the check, do they have to pay payroll taxes?

    I extremely dislike those places and when I see the automatic gratuity fee, I walk. Their service tends to suck and they know it.

  21. I dislike the service charge model because it doesn’t allow me to penalize for bad service. As someone who has had every member my family work as a waiter/waitress for non-trivial amounts of time (my mom was a waitress for 26 years, my sisters for over 10 each) I have a clear expectation from my waitperson. The service charge model doesn’t seem to motivate the staff to do anything above and beyond dropping some food on the table. This is a situation I have come upon whenever I eat out when I go to Greece on vacation. I don’t like the idea of knowing that the server who does the bare minimum could potentially get the same tip as the server who busts their ass.

    Also it makes it very hard for servers to avoid hiding their tips. I too prefer to tip in cash whenever possible since most servers (esp. at diners and such) aren’t really making a killing off tips I don’t want them to have to pay tax on every dollar they tip.

    The only drawback is that many MANY people just don’t know how to tip. I can’t tell you how many times I have been with a group of people that think leaving $10 on a $120 check is an acceptable tip when the server was attentive and pleasant. Many times I have found myself either lecturing people on tipping ettiquite or adding money to the tip myself to make it respectable. Yes I know we aren’t “required” to tip, but if 12-15% is too much for you, you should go get your food at McDonald’s. These people serve others for a living and tips are their livelihood.

    Finally when Shaw says: “In this, the world’s most generous nation of tippers, most restaurants don’t even offer service as good as at the average McDonald’s. While it lacks style, service at McDonald’s is far more reliable than the service at the average upper-middle-market restaurant.”

    That’s just a load of crap. The “service” I receive at McDonald’s is not only inferior to most any middle of the road restaurant chain, McDonald’s (in my experience) has a much higher rate of getting the order wrong if it is non-standard. And don’t even get me started talking about how many times food or requested condiments are missing from the pot-luck bag of food I get from the drive-thru window. Like it would be SUCH a big delay for them to go through the order right before they give it to me??

  22. If you don’t believe in the minimum wage laws to begin with, then of course you will see no problem with an end run around those laws.

    However, I think the author was assuming that the reader would be solidly behind the broad, non-food-service-biz-specific principle of minimum wage laws. Here at Hit and Run, we aren’t and we would never dignify mw laws by admitting that they could embody something as noble as a principle. That is the author’s mistaken assumption — not that thing Mr. Sanchez said.

  23. I don’t tip to “reward” good service I receive on a particular visit so much as I do to try and ensure good service on my next visit.

    Between regular league play and just goofing off, I play pool in bars and clubs with a frequency that quite a few ex-girlfriends have found depressing. Tipping is an investment for me and it has never failed to pay off so this guy can bite my crank.

    He’s right about tip pooling though, that’s lame.

  24. ChicagoTom:

    You must eat at a non-standard McDonalds. I’ve eaten at hundreds of different McD’s in all 50 states. I eat there at least once per week and I have perfect service, fast, friendly, and correct 99.99% of the time.

    As an additional bonus, I have a very weak stomach, and McD’s has never made me sick, where-as about 75% of the “fancy” restaurants I go to will make me violently ill.

  25. ChicagoTom

    I didn’t get the author’s McDonald’s thing either. The last time I went there and finished my drink, I had to get my damn own refill. Where was my “superior service?”

  26. Umm…

    Servers pay taxes on 8% of sales regardeless of tip. So when you don’t tip they pay to serve you. Oh, they also have to pay a percent of sales to the bussers, bartender and host for the honor of serving you.

  27. If you’re not a “people person”, the only thing that sucks ass more than being a waiter is, oh, every other service industry job that is not tipped – like cashier and hotel desk clerk (two careers I’ve had about 4 jobs each in). I don’t really understand why waiters get tips and these other service people don’t. Trust me, there is NO incentive to sucking up to your customers at a supermarket or hotel – which is why the service so often sucks.

  28. Joe Dokes,

    I had similar experiences whenever I was in Greece (spent most my summers there). At a middle of the road cafe or restaurant, it wasn’t extraordinary for our party to be sitting for over 15 minutes before we were even approached by a server. Once the food was dropped good luck ever seeing the server again. Very few people offer refills of beverage or check to see if there is anything else I need. Even getting the bill could be a chore. There was never the concept of a “quick bite” at a restaurant. They also don’t really push items to pad the bill(as compared to a Friday’s staffer pushing their super amazing appetizer platters or new Electric Lemonade’s for the summer!) which I kinda like.

    I admit that I believe that economics does play a part in that but I also believe that the culture as a whole tends to be much more slower paced and laid back when it comes to leisurly activities. Many Greeks just don’t demand better service or complain when service is bad. They’re used to it, and its fine with them. In fact, until I adopted their attitude of “so what?? whats the hurry?? you’re on vacation” I was looked at as the impatient one.

  29. abc,

    Are you Jane/Juanita? I don’t believe a word of that.

  30. I agree that there is a minimum wage sensibility at work here – the notion that the wait staff deserves a set tip, and that the customer and restaurant owner are jointly robbing them when they don’t deliver it.

    I also think there is a “union” type sensibility at play here – there seems to be a tacit resentment of the fact that different servers will earn different tips. The combination of the attempt to offer an argument that “real” quality service isn’t being rewarded, with the advocacy of a system that treats all employees the same regardless of performance, smells very “union” to me. [“Union” in the “bad” sense of “hating any worker who does more than the bare minimum and who thereby screws up the curve for the other workers” and not in the “good” sense of “nice people bargaining collectively for better outcomes”].

  31. “nice people bargaining collectively for better outcomes”

    That definition is obsolete, I think.

  32. For disclosure purposes, by the way, my own attitude about tipping is to find a set of restaurants I like, and then to outrageously overtip there [35-40%].

    For the extra $20 or $30 bucks you end up getting treated very well, and you make a lot of the upfront cost back in comps on subsequent visits.

  33. abc,

    I eat at the McD’s in the Chicago Metro area. Ill admit that the service is better (and food quality as well) at the McD’s in the suburbs than the ones in the city, but again its not that great. The food quality at McD’s is also hit or miss depending on how busy they are at the moment as well. Sometimes I get cold fries from the end of the supply, sometimes I get fresh ones When I ask for no onions of no pickles or something, my experience has been McD’s messes that up more often than traditional restaurants.
    Also, at most restaurants if condiments aren’t on the table already my server asks me if I want ketchup or mustard or any other condiment, whereas at McD’s *I* have to ask them if I can have ketchup, and then I have to ask them for more than 2 packages of the stuff.

    I’m not trying to attack McD’s but when this columnist says that the “service” at McD’s is superior to traditional restaurants, I think he is talking out of his ass. They aren’t “serving” me at McD’s they are handing me a bag of food.

  34. Once upon a time I delivered the afternoon newspaper. Tips were my livelihood. They were an excellent motivator, and a great source of income (well, great for a 12 year-old). As a salute to those who work in the trenches of the service industry, I tip well. 15% is my minimum unless the service totally sucks ass. Usually I tip 20%, 25%, maybe even 30%, depending on the service.

    But I never thought to leave the tip in cash instead of credit. That’s a good point!

    As an aside, I have to say something in praise of a dying American institution: The paperboy. Once upon a time newspapers, especially afternoon newspapers, were delivered by kids between the ages of 12 and 16. It was a good way to develop work habits and earn spending money. And those Christmas calendars? Oh, man! When I was 13 my family moved across town in the beginning of December, but I kept my old route until December 24 just so I could deliver the Christmas calendar and get the huge tips. Alas, a lot of kids can’t start working for a living until the age of 16 these days, what with the demise of the paper route and the 16 year age limit for a work permit. (Or at least that’s what it was in Milwaukee in the early 1990’s.) I got my start delivering newspapers, I saved money for college, and now I have a Ph.D.

    The demise of the afternoon newspaper was part of the problem. The tendency toward hiring adults for delivery was the other part of the problem. It’s sad.

  35. A service charge only enforces the belief that a tip is automatically required regardless of the quality of service. Already there are all these tip jars in the strangest places.

    Also, when it comes to “Automatic gratuity of X% on parties of Y or more” X is increasing and Y is decreasing. I recently ate at a bar where we weren’t approached by the waiter for about 20 minutes while the entire bar filled up. Once we finally got our food, they gave us the check and were trying to take it away 5 minutes later, before we were even done. Even though my wife and I were eating alone together, there were several other tables of her coworkers who had come in earlier to drink, so we were charged an automatic 18% gratuity.

  36. On a side note…

    Am I supposed to tip my postal worker on holidays?

    I’ll admit that I know that it used to happen quite a bit, but is it still common? I have never met my postal worker, she (I think my mail is delivered by a female) always delivers while I am at work (although I imagine I could try and catch her on Saturday or something) and I have never actually seen her deliver anything.

  37. If you’re not a “people person”, the only thing that sucks ass more than being a waiter is, oh, every other service industry job that is not tipped – like cashier and hotel desk clerk (two careers I’ve had about 4 jobs each in). I don’t really understand why waiters get tips and these other service people don’t.

    As someone who paid for part of my college education by jockeying a register at Waldenbooks, and who worked for several years as a customer service professional, I say please PLEASE let cashiers have to work for tips. Too many cashiers today are impolite, distracted, incompetent little sourpusses, and I’d love to unleash a little karma on their asses.

  38. I don’t tip to “reward” good service I receive on a particular visit so much as I do to try and ensure good service on my next visit.

    A coworker (and good friend) was on a buisness trip with me, up around Portland. We went some place with a very outgoing, frendly, and good looking waitress. My friend was single, so he tipped $20. We went back to that place several times so he could see the same waitress, no luck . . .

  39. That definition is obsolete, I think.

    My definition is “attempt at labor cartel, usually backed up with some form of force”.

  40. Dear God I’d love to see Michael Lynn try to run an upscale restaurant for a weekend. The sole fucking goal is to maximize continuing revenue and how do you do that? By pleasing the customer, please them and they tip out the ass and come back for more. Pool tips? Yes, in some fashion, cuz your want everyone down to the dishwashers busting their ass for the night.

    Lynn utterly misses the point that I WANT the servers to be semi-contractors, I want them to be working for me on some level when I ask about dishes or wine pairings. That’s valuable information when a server raves about one dish, or points me to a bottle $10 cheaper as a better match. Why not? He or she is working for me and has every incentive to make me one happy and full bastard.

    In the process the house should get a good dollar per-seating outcome, coveted return business, and the server should get their 20%. Where’s the problem? Oh, that’s right, it’s not like Europe.

  41. Will there be a predetermined number of pieces of flair along with the predetermined service charge. I’d go along with that.

  42. Servers pay taxes on 8% of sales regardeless of tip. So when you don’t tip they pay to serve you.

    This really pisses me off. The IRSis absurd. Just because it’s hard to get the exact amount doesn’t give them the right to just guess. After all, a bad waiter who gets bad tips gets punished twice.

    I once had the upleasant experience of sitting next to a table where the couple paying the bill got this whole thing explained by an obviously ticked off waitress. She basically demanded to know what she could have done better, and if nothing, then they needed to pony up because of the tax problem. I think they were from another country and didn’t understand the tipping situation.

    And what’s the deal with car washing and movers? When I worked as a mover, I didn’t expect a tip and was happy when I got one. Now, they get in your face about “gratuities expected”. Or the car washers that in as many words told my wife that if she didn’t tip an extra $10 they weren’t going to do a very good job. The dangerous flip side of tipping (in restaurants, this would only apply to a place you go back to often) is that good tipping becomes required to get *adequate* service, not just good service.

  43. Jeff T. said it well. I’ll add that when I was a server, I would have loved for people to ask me what I thought they should order. Wine and food knowledge are what separates waiters from trained monkeys. You should find some good ones at the places you frequent, rely on their expertise and tip them accordingly.

  44. Ammonium,

    I usually try to carry cash with me so I can stiff when appropriate. This applies to your case excellently.

    In general, I’ve always been a lousy tipper because I had a number of service industry yobs in HS and college and didn’t get tipped, so why should I give what I can’t get?

    Now that I’m a professional (and worse yet, have a wife with a waitress sister), I’m always tipping 15-20% unless we get a multi-snafu dinner. It sucks.

  45. Oh, and the fastest way to get no tip at all is to complain about another customer’s tip within my earshot. I appreciate that some waitstaff make their living doing this, but don’t get all preachy. It’s just going to cost you.

  46. Guy In The Back Row: Me too. I Tip in cash whenever possible. I also remember the old days when tips didn’t have to be accounted for by the employer.

    Jeff Taylor; as usual I couldn’t agree more.

    Tipping is an American custom that originally was done before service was rendered in order to guarantee good service (To Insure Prompt Service). Over time it has morphed, but I don’t find it to be an annoying custom at all.

  47. I think tipping is just wrong and I’d bet the cows don’t like it either.

  48. The ins and outs of tipping, at least in the car wash industry:

    1. If an employee does not report enough tips to raise his/her wage to the legal minimum, the employer has to make up the difference.

    2. Employees pay income tax on all their tips as well as on their direct wages.

    3. Employers pay payroll tax on tips as well as direct wages.

    So, we wind up with a system wherein employees have an incentive to claim no tips, and employers are best off if the employee claims exactly the difference between their direct wage and minimum wage. Since it’s easy for employers to trump up reasons to fire employees who don’t play ball, employees usually wind up claiming the amount the employers want them to.

    Of course, I’ve seen more than one employee who was really making $20/hr including tips, wind up getting turned down for a loan or an apartment because his pay records only showed him making $6/hr. I tried not to laugh.

  49. To clarify #2 above, employees pay income tax on all the tips they report as well as on their direct wages.

  50. Oh, that tipping. Mr. Shaw strikes me as one who has put little thought into what he is trying to say, fortunately it’s just opinion.

    I wonder if Michael Lynn noted a relation of repeat business and tip amounts. Do regulars tip more or less on average than a person visiting only once? Does he disregard the situation where your bartender buddy slides you the occasional “mispour.” Do regular tippers pay full fare? I recall someone (here?) talking about the variability of coffee prices as the server got to know the regulars.

  51. Anyone who doesn’t believe in tipping should work in the hospitality business for a while. I’ve tended bar and served tables in Ireland, London, and the US (and eaten out plenty in many countries), and I can say without hesitation that the service in the US is far superior to Europe. We used to make a game out of being rude to customers in London.
    After all, it made no difference to our tips and the customers would put up with it. One day a German woman asked one of our servers to change the pounding techno on the restaurant stereo. The server said “no problem” and put on a William S Burroughs monologue CD at very high volume. As he started into a graphic description of diarhea in the race track men’s room we all fell over laughing.

    Anyway, puting aside the sily anecdotes and utilitarian arguments, there is one really good reason to tip good servers well. It’s just the right thing to do! Serving tables and bartending is soul destroying work, and most of the people who do it try pretty hard to do a good job. Some don’t give a damn and deserve to be stiffed. Most try their best and I’ll tip them 15%. A good server should get 25%. BTW, I own a restaurant and credit card tips cost me money in witholding. Please tip in cash, we all win that way.

  52. Tipping seems a *lot* more beneficial in a bar, because it pays dividends after only a few drinks. It’s much more difficult to be recognized as a good tipper in a restaurant unless you only go to the same restaurant or two over and over again.

    Anyway, I don’t know about the rest of Europe but tipping is quite customary in Germany in the same situations as in the US – just not as much. Usually you round up the bill or give 5 to 10%.

  53. Oh, BTW, does somebody know how much you’re supposed to tip the bellhop, er bellman, er bellperson?

    Do you tip when one guy helps you get the bags out of the car and again at the room?

    How about some guidelines for the porter at the airport?

  54. The best thing about tipping is that it makes for a good anti-tax example.

    Many people say that almost nobody would pay for a public good that they could avoid paying for.

    But, lots of people tip at restaurants that they don’t expect to return to.

    They’re doing it because they think it’s a good thing to do, supplemented with social pressure.

    Why wouldn’t they voluntarily pay for worthy charities, defense, police, courts, etc. too?

    It would be less coercive than taxes, and the service would improve (or, maybe they’d just touch us and crouch next to us more).

  55. Why wouldn’t they voluntarily pay for . . . defense, police, courts, etc. too?

    Because rich people have a lot more to protect than poor people, but they don’t want to pay their fair share of providing this protection, which is what would happen with a private army, police, etc.

  56. Oh, BTW, does somebody know how much you’re supposed to tip the bellhop, er bellman, er bellperson?

    Well, I think Sinatra used to give them 50 bucks. Does that help?

  57. Jeff A. Taylor hits the nail on the head on this one. As a former waiter and high end bartender, I will tell you that I have never known any waiter or bartender who considered themselves to be working for the establishment. They work for the patron, almost exclusively. Most people I’ve known in the industry see the paltry two or three bucks an hour from the restaurant as a way to CYA when April 15th comes around. And I really don’t understand the folks who consider 10 or 15 percent a standard tip. It’s 2005, yahoos, 20% is the standard in a nice establishment. If you get bad service, reduce that or don’t tip at all. And don’t be offended if your server asks politely what they could have done better. It doesn’t always mean that you are a crappy tipper. And one other thing- If you don’t tip, or can’t tip, or won’t tip a fair amount, McDonald’s is always right down the street.

  58. Wine,
    The general rule is at least $1 per bag but if you only have 1 bag the least you should give is 2 bucks. Be more generous to the guy that brings your bag from the car to up to your room or the from the curb to the check in counter than the guy who brings bag from the car to the check in desk or your car to curbside checkin.

  59. I always tip exceedingly well. Of course, I always steal the silverware, so I guess it sort of balances out.

  60. Doug, thanks, smirk.

    Scott, thanks, that’s helpful, I guess I’ve been pretty much in the ballpark. Whew.

    Dave, percentage is percentage and I’ve never understood why a tip percentage should go up because it is the new century. Inflation is fully accounted for with percentage.

    I’m old enough to remember when the tip percentage was bumped from 10% to 15% (using that same rationale) and now you’re suggesting 20% as a minimum?

    Well, I’m a good tipper when the service is good so that isn’t a problem, but I still fail to understand the rationale behind an increase in percentage that is actually a disguised raise. 🙂

    Or maybe I do understand. It really is just a way of getting a raise and it’s just being sold as a way to compensate for increased cost of living (which ain’t accurate).

  61. I’ve never understood why a tip percentage should go up because it is the new century

    I was just going to ask the same thing; also, how nice is “nice”? Reservations taken? Cloth napkins? White tablecloths? Main courses over $20?

  62. “…are we supposed to think people who run restaurants are too obtuse to appreciate as much?”
    Believe it or not, Julian, when a restaurant owner looks over his balance sheet and sees that the waiters are getting $2.13 an hour, making labor the smallest item in his budget, he gets a nice warm feeling inside. They may be making another $18 an hour in tips, but he never sees that, so he doesn’t trouble his head over it.
    If he had to pay them $20 an hour and raise prices accordingly, the owner would be apoplectic with rage at those lazy good-for-nothing waiters who are now eating up 10 times as much of the restaurant’s revenue.
    That’s because the business owner believes in his heart of hearts that every penny of revenue his business makes is HIS, goddammit!, and will resent having to give up any of it.
    Irrational? Yes. It is one of our age’s great myths that economics is entirely rational and scientific.

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