Faceoff: Take a tip from me

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Danny Meyer, owner of local New York restaurant Union Square Café, eliminated tipping in his restaurant and instead will increase his menu prices to make up the difference. Some believe tipping is unnecessary and should be taken away altogether, while others think employees deserve tips along with their wages. Referring to tipping as an awkward American practice, Meyer hopes that removing tipping will promote outstanding customer service.

 

Tipping should be removed from restaurants because being nice is a requirement of the employees and, therefore, should not be rewarded, right? Wrong.

Good, genuine customer service is hard to find, and those who make an effort to fully serve their customers deserve to be tipped. I know, I know, the next argument will be “But what if employers increase the pay?”  The real question is, why are we giving people raises or demanding tips for people who do not deserve them? Tipping your server should always be an option, just as higher pay should always be earned.

I used to work in retail, and I can tell you firsthand that my coworkers were not the nicest people. People have bad days and bring their frustrations into work, and suddenly they forget that the customer deserves respect and grace. I know that working a job that has long hours, low pay and requires you to be on your feet all day probably does not fill you with joy. However, that’s no excuse for bad customer service. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out to eat, and my server took 20 minutes to come to my table and greet me and then took 10 more minutes to bring my drinks, would not come to my table when I needed assistance, acted like I was bothering him when he did and then expected a tip. I know it’s hard to be happy and courteous at a job you might not be too fond of or on a day that’s not going your way. So those who still drown out the negatives, put their name tag on and recite “How may I help you” with a smile deserve some appreciation.

I just do not see a benefit in raising wages and/or menu prices and simultaneously removing tipping. Can anyone explain to me the difference between tipping your server and paying more for your meal? Either way, your server is receiving additional pay. If employers wish to make every employee equal, then they need to increase their hourly pay, not remove tipping. Servers will never receive equal tip amounts because at the end of the day, tipping is a result of the customer’s appreciation for your service.

Furthermore, employers should want to mold a good employee and an even better person, not reward them for rude behavior. A job, no matter what it is, teaches you and influences your outside behavior. Customer service is more than just being polite at work. Having good customer service teaches you to be that way in your everyday life. By rewarding those who do not go above and beyond, we are basically saying it is okay to do the bare minimum. We oblige mediocre performance, and they deserve a higher pay just as much as someone who actually worked for it. Eating is not just about the food, it’s about the experience. I do not care how good the food was, if I had a bad waiter, I will not be going back to that restaurant, and I will tell all of my friends not to either.

If we raise wages and remove tipping, it’s even more of a reason for employees to not have good customer service because, at the end of the day, they know they are still getting paid well, so why even try to go the extra mile? For those who make most of their weekly money from tipping, tipping serves as an incentive to want to improve their customer service. It’s bad to say, but let’s be honest, money encourages us all in one way or another. We need to set the bar in our work place and then push our employees to work above that.

Do not think I’m against increasing wages in restaurants, because I’m not. Many of the people who work these jobs are being paid minimum wage and cannot afford to make it through the week. I am all for increasing pay, but increasing pay should not mean removing tipping. One might try to argue that if people working low wage jobs need tipping so badly, then they should just leave these jobs and find one that pays more. However, do you think if someone could get a better job, they wouldn’t? Most of the people who work low wage jobs are working students or are unable to get a better job for reasons like transportation, lack of experience, limited opportunity, low education, or sometimes it’s just bad luck. Let’s not assume that people in low waged jobs are lazy or do not have the intention of climbing up the cooperate ladder. Sometimes these restaurant positions are just one stop along the route to their future goals. Life gets in the way; we all fall victim and can attest to that. Yet we neglect the impact of socio-economic standing on the ability to get a better job. Let’s not sugar coat; many people who are from poorer areas or just did not have the support of a strong social environment ultimately do not have the experience or education they need to obtain a better job.

I get that many countries ban tipping, or in some cultures, it can be seen as an insulting because it symbolizes dominance. However, tipping is more of an act of appreciation. Put aside the fact that many people do not get paid enough hourly, and let’s pretend that everyone gets paid well in the restaurant business. I would still tip my server. It’s not about how much you get paid hourly but more of the fact that you acknowledge the importance of the customer.

Customer service is a job requirement that many of the employed people in our restaurants too often forget. When it comes to those who make the effort, they stand out amongst the rest, and for that reason deserve to be rewarded. The misconception is that you should tip to make up for the lack of zeros on your waiters pay check, and I can see where one would get that impression, but that is not the purpose of the gesture. You are not obligated to tip someone, you do it because you feel they deserve it. Since when did Santa give children on the naughty list presents?

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