The Tipping System is an Asshole Subsidy

I am a good tipper. I generally tip around 25% regardless of the quality of service. Only on rare occasions of exceptionally bad service have I tipped less, and even then it’s usually 15%. Never have I not tipped. This is all to say one thing: I am a sucker. I am doing my part to perpetuate a system that, in essence, exploits nice people like me. I am helping to ensure that all the douches, the self-righteous pricks and the cheapskates of America continue to have their meals partially paid for by the more generous. Well I for one have had enough. I say it’s high time we end tipping by demanding restaurants pay servers what their service is actually worth and letting them adjust their menu prices accordingly.

The main problem with the tipping system is this: it effectively lets generous people subsidize the meals of assholes. How does it do this you ask? Well, at restaurants the meals are priced based on how much it costs to prepare the meal plus a little chunk of profit. Costs to prepare include everything from the cost of food to indirect expenses like rent. A large part of these costs include money paid to servers for their services—or at least it would be if servers’ full wages were paid for directly by the restaurant. The thing is in most American restaurants, where tipping is the norm, servers generally get a small, below-minimum wage salary because it is anticipated that customers will pay them tips for their service which will bring their pay up to something reasonable. The end result of this is that because restaurants don’t have to pay their servers as much, they also don’t need to charge as much for the meals as they would if they paid the entirety of a server’s salary. Simply put, tipping is factored into the price of a meal. So when you don’t pay a tip, you’re effectively not paying for a part of the meal. Of course restaurants themselves don’t care much about this because it all evens out in the end. They just care about the average. However, since I am the rube bringing the average up, I care about this very much because I am effectively subsidizing the low tipper’s meal.

I know, I know. What about when the server deserved a bad tip because they gave bad service? My answer is: so what? The service was rendered. The money should be paid. You don’t pay the slow cashier less than a fast cashier. A secretary’s take home pay for the day doesn’t depend on how thorough her meeting minutes were. It’s not like service quality is just going to fall apart if people can’t tip. If that were true this whole country would fall apart because most people don’t work on tips. Employers can still discipline underperforming employees, as is the case in the vast majority of occupations. If a server doesn’t do the job to their employer’s standard, they should be fired. Simple as that. It is not the customer’s place to be judging the quality of service. It’s an inherent conflict of interest when the person judging performance also stands to benefit financially if they give a negative review. How would you feel if your boss, in negatively assessing your performance, were allowed to dock your pay and then pocket that docked pay for himself? Does that sound like a fair system?

In any case, most people don’t tip based on the quality of the service. They tip based on the type of person they are. My cheapskate friends will usually still tip like shit when they get good service and then use bad service as an excuse to tip poorly. Servers know this and know in most cases that going the extra mile isn’t going to get them anything extra. Sure, there are times when I’ve seen friends leave an uncharacteristically good or bad tip because the service was exceptional or terrible—I’ve done this myself—but those are rare cases, few and far between and not frequent enough to shape server behavior or be worth the cost of subsidizing dicks.

I realize tipping is a cultural thing and unlikely to end any time soon given the large quantity of assholes benefitting from it, particularly not from one post on a poorly read blog. But still, screw tipping. I’ll keep on doing it until restaurants start paying their servers a flat rate because I don’t think the servers should be punished for a crappy system (and seriously, if you’re one of those pricks who leaves a card about how you’re against tipping as a tip, you’re pretty much what’s wrong with humanity), but I’m not going to be happy about it.


One comment

  1. Thank you for taking care of us. Most of us try really, really hard to make your dining experience not only pleasant, but extraordinary. I realize this can vary from place-to-place, but still…thank you. Some people show up and are going to be unhappy with what you provide, no matter what. Such is life.


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