How much would YOU pay not to be obligated to tip?

I’ve had it with tipping.  The more traveling I do—for business or pleasure—the more I despise the uncertainty, the uncomfortableness, the need to have petty cash on hand.  When will someone—an influential someone—say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?!

Tip too little, and you risk imperiling the quality of service you receive in the future from that person… plus you may look like an idiot or a miser in front of friends and business acquaintances.

Tip too much, and you look like a chump… and your wallet is made thinner (sometimes much thinner).  And you feel like a moron for being taken advantage of.  Heck, in some countries, you risk really offending someone!

This is one of the many reasons why I love Europe: you typically round up to the nearest euro when you eat out, and that’s that.  Adding to the coolness… for takeout food and pretty much else, what you see on the billboard or pricetag is what you pay.  15EUR?  You pay 15EUR; taxes, fees, etc., all included.

Now, back to the insanity that we endure in the States… Here’s just a sampling of recommended tips from a recent AAA (Automobile Association of America) article:

$2-$3 to your shuttle driver, $2 per suitcase to the skycap, 15-20% for the taxi driver, $2-$3 for a shoeshine, up to $5/night to your hotel maid, $5/day to a pool attendant (?!), up to $3 per round to the bartender and $20 (!) to your sommelier.

Sick yet?  I am.  After all, where’s the $5 we should be giving to our professor after a fine lecture, the $3 to the garbage man when he picks up our smelly refuse, $5 to the guy who trims our garden, $4 to the busboy in your work cafeteria, and $10 for your colleague after he helps you draft a memo.

But that’s ridiculous, you note.  Isn’t the colleague already getting a salary?  Why should you be responsible for bribing him to do a job that he’s already supposed to be doing?

And you may further argue, hey, but the waiter is getting a crap salary… if it weren’t for our tips, he’d practically starve.  But, I’d retort, why the hell is it OUR (awkward) responsibility to make up for employers’ cheapness?  And who the hell picks 1) who gets tips and 2) how much a “proper” tip is by profession and location?

Don’t get me wrong:  I think that everyone deserves a living, decent wage.  And I’d be quite pleased to have 15% or whatever automatically tacked on to my restaurant bill… so that the cost of my meal actually covered an appropriate salary for all involved with the occasion.  What about crappy service?  I’d do what I do when I encounter crappy service or products anywhere else:
– Firmly yet politely complain to the right people.
– If the matter remained unresolved, simply refuse to patronize the establishment again and warn my friends.

…and, of course, the opposite for good service (yes, I *do* write “thank you for the outstanding service” letters, sometimes by hand… and I wish more people did this).

Frankly, I doubt most folks are primarily motivated by money in their jobs anyway.  Does giving the waitress an extra $1 cancel out the urgent and occasionally rude demands we sometimes inflict upon her?  Not to her, I’d bet.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she’d rather we stuffed the dollar back in our wallet and treated her with respect and patience.

By extension, one could even see tips as demeaning… suggesting that “those kind” of people are only apt to do a good job if they’re thrown fish (dollars) like trained seals.  You don’t see people giving tips to lawyers and doctors, and no, it’s not purely a pay thing.  Frankly, I’m betting my bartender friends make quite a bit more per hour than most of my lawyer friends… honestly.

Of course, with all this said, I’m not only angry, but also rather resigned and un-optimistic about the crappy tip-required culture of ours ever being reformed.  I mean, what would it take?  If Our Goddess Angelina stopped tipping tomorrow, she’d just be vilified in the Enquirer and nothing would change.  If Bush didn’t tip next week, people would just (probably correctly) assume that he was unable to compute the tip even using a calculator.  No, I think it’d take an act of God, or maybe a good-looking denizen from outer space.  Until then, I guess I better just remember to keep a lot of ones in my wallet and just grit my teeth when I say “thank you.”

29 comments

  1. Amen!

    You do not know how complicated this whole thing is for a European. Why do I have to keep a boatload of $1 and $5 bills in my pocket just to hand out to everyone who I’m already paying to do their work?

    Sigh.

  2. Wait until you take a cruise.  Everything goes along great until your last night, then you get a bunch of envelopes slid under your door, along with the bill.  The envelopes are for you to tip anyone that you’ve had any interaction with on the ship, and some people that you haven’t…

  3. Americans are corrupting the Europeans, too. I’ve seen more than a few restaurants in Europe starting to add tip lines to credit card receipts. In one place in Dublin they bring out the wireless credit card machine for you to enter the tip directly into the system.

    Apparently enough Americans feel that if there is a tip line (or tip jar) they should leave a tip. This social guilt can be lucrative.

    My colleagues in the Dublin office routinely remind me not to tip because they don’t want us to ruin it for them too.

  4. JohnMu – hey, at least Europe is big enough that you can travel a lot and not have to deal with this insanity.

    Lea – I’d be terrified about coming to America for other reasons.  Avoid Cheese Whiz and shopping malls, though, and you’re a lot safer already.

    Simon – I’ve actually yet to take a cruise.  Ack, aren’t there any all-inclusive ones?  I thought some of the pricier ones (of course) were no-tips-allowed?

    Ali – but you’re in Boston… you’re just a quick swim away 😉

    Rocky – I’ll do my best and avoid tipping whenever I’m in the fair city of Dublin (or anywhere in Europe, actually!)

  5. Matt, I think you and I agree, but you just don’t realize it.

    I hate tips.  I hate tipping.  But I am usually quite a generous tipper (unless the serviceperson is a jerk) BECAUSE I know how tough it is, how often underpaid it is (‘cept for my few bartender friends just rakin’ it in :-P)

    My point is… why shouldn’t people like your Mom and Dad get paid a damn-good or at least decent wage *by their employer*?!  Why should the rest of us have to carry spare change (for the bellboy, the skycap, etc. etc. etc.)?  It’s a crazy thought, but why can’t these restaurants, hotels, etc., just charge the extra amount needed to take decent care of the people who take care of us?

    Folks working service jobs deserve respect, they deserve decent pay.  But it shouldn’t have to be an “extra”—it should be a given!

  6. I would pay an extra 15% not to have to tip. I would also expect waiters to be paid more. I would also still leave a few bucks as a gesture, and not feel like I need to break out a calculator to see what is fair and what everyone has in change on them, etc.

  7. “I would pay an extra 15% not to have to tip” Mandy i propably will do the same way like You. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your articles. It?s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else?s point of view? makes you think more. Greetings

  8. OK I get what everyone is saying… but our job is to serve you.. we live off of our tips and to sit here and say that u dont want to tip anymore.. than dont go out to eat and cook ur dinner urself.. we work hard and are on our feet for hours making sure your food comes on right and on time.. we also try hard to make ur dinner enjoyable… its not easy to be a waitress and deal with bitchy whinny ppl and to also have to put a fake smile on our faces every day

  9. Wow alot of you ppl need to get a job as server for just a week… I think everyone should… Majority of the time you have to deal with cooks that cant speak english.. so you have to either learn stuff in spanish or try to explain it to them… why are ppl so cheap? seriously its not that hard to figure out how much to tip… double the damn tax ppl (thats 15%)

  10. i think an extra 10% is okay for not especially tipping. but i know that many have to live with the tip because of their loan is really small.

  11. Type your comment here.Thanks for very interesting article. I really enjoyed reading all of your articles. Keep up the good work. See You

  12. Just thought that you might be interested in Waiter Rant. He wrote one book that was a tip-based rant disguised as something else. He’s writing another book about tipping. He agrees with you for the most part, Adam. He’s just … um … more like Lewis Black when getting his point across.

    Check out his blog @ http://waiterrant.net/?p=135

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