Saturday, March 26, 2005


I'm going to go off on a tangent here and make a non-political post.

I just had a discusison last night with my roommate's girlfriend about tipping. We were out at a restaurant, and my roommate's mother (who is from Holland, and thus not familiar with American tipping customs) asked him how much she should tip. The girlfriend stepped in and said that she usually tips about 10%, and I was pretty much aghast at that, especially as a former waiter.

I made the point to her that waiters make considerably less hourly than minimum wage, and that their tips are what they live from. She was well aware of that, but considers tips to be for exemplary service, above and beyond the norm. Moreover, she said, she doesn't like that they don't make minimum wage, but it's not her job to pay their salary.

But I'd argue the opposite. The way that tippable positions stand in the United States today, it is our job to pay their salary. Legislation has lowered their wages to below the minimum not because we deem their jobs to be the lowest of the low; rather, it's because we've deemed that they can reasonably rely on tips to make up the rest of that money. But when somebody decides that they don't like that and so aren't going to abide by it, then it undermines the whole idea.

What's more, it gets really awkward and terrible for the other people at the table, who don't want to be part of a party that shortchanges on a tip. So the people who've already tipped more end up tipping even more because they feel bad and want to make up for the cheapskate. This has happened to me more times than I can count.

Bottom line, in the US, when you're planning to go out for dinner, it should be implicit that a base level tip should be included in what you're projecting to be the price of your meal.

What do you think?