Posted by: bkivey | 5 June 2013

Tip O’ The Day

Over on the MSN news site (Motto: ‘Our demographic is 18 – 34 year old women’) there’s an article headlined ‘5 Reasons We Should Ban Tipping’. Having spent many years in service industries, I was interested to see what the article was about.

Author Dr. William Michael Lynn’s Cornell page informs us that he worked his way through school as a server and bartender, so he does have real-world experience, and a perusal of his vitae shows that his entire 30 year academic and professional career has been focused on, some might say obsessed with, tipping.

Prof. Lynn’s five reasons tipping should be banned include:

  • It’s discriminatory. The contention is that attractive white women are tipped better than any other demographic, thus tipping is unfair.  Well boo effing hoo. Tipping is supposed to be discriminatory. It’s a tool customers have to discriminate between good service and poor service. The article states that tipping hurts workers not in the attractive white woman category, and thus is a minefield of potential lawsuits. This is laughable. Aside from having to establish that customers purposefully tipped according to demographic, and not based on service, who are the defendants? The customers? Society, for creating such an oppressive custom? Would the putative plaintiffs even have standing to bring a lawsuit? After all, they willingly and knowingly engaged in the practice.
  • It may lead to corruption. Dr. Magnus Torfason authored a paper on the positive correlation between the societal presence of tipping and bribery. Only the abstract is available, so I can’t speak to this. The US is the only society in which I have extensive experience, and Americans tend to tip service providers, while enjoying a relatively low level of corruption.
  • It’s really uncomfortable. Really? The article suggests that the world is full of people agonizing over working out the tip. Please. My brother is the only person I’ve known to have a real problem with figuring out a tip. He’d calculate the amount to the penny. I finally got tired of this and told him to just throw a couple three dollars on the table and be done with it.  Like most people who’ve worked service jobs, I tend to over tip.  20% is my default setting, and I’ll adjust from there according to the service. Really exceptional service might net the provider as much as 25%, but I’ll almost never tip less than 10%. The article insists that asking a server to make change for a tip is somehow embarrassing. I do this all the time. Most servers are happy to make the change, because they know they’re getting a tip.
  • It subsidizes businesses. Apparently the thinking here is that tipping shifts the cost of business from the organization to the customer in the form of subsidized wages. This line of thought ignores the whole rationale behind tipping. While it’s true that in the restaurant industry many places pay servers $2.13/hr. plus tips, some states require that service employees be paid minimum wage plus tips. The fact is that service employees like tipping. I cannot say how many times I’ve seen a good server walk out from a busy night with $150+. Tipping allows a lot of people to make a living working 3 -4 days a week. I suspect that a restaurant offering servers a straight wage would have a very hard time finding good staff.
  • It shifts work away from employees. The examples given in the article involve people carrying their own luggage and parking their own cars rather than pay porters and valets. Properties that have these types of employees tend to charge several hundred dollars a night. If someone can afford $200 for a hotel room, they shouldn’t have a problem throwing $5 to someone to carry their bags or park their car. I routinely tip skycaps to take care of my checked baggage so I don’t have to deal with it. For an example of work being shifted away from employees, take a look at self-checkout registers or ATM’s.

One big reason to abolish tipping not covered in the article would be to convert some of the underground economy. It’s common knowledge that service workers report 100% of their income. This omission seems to be a tacit admission that tipping is one of the main attractions of the service economy. Very few people are going to bust their ass waiting tables or tending bar for $12/hr.

Prof. Lynn may have worked in the service industry, but he’s either forgotten how important tips were to him, or he wasn’t very good. It may be that he’s toiled so long in the fields of academe that he’s lost sight of the concept.

Today in History

1661 – Isaac Newton admitted as a student to Trinity College, Cambridge

New worlds opened: same year

1783 – Joseph & Jacques Montgolfier make 1st public balloon flight

First UFO sighting: same day

1848 – Statue of prince Willem the Silent unveiled

There wasn’t much to say

1884 – William Sherman refuses Republican presidential nomination saying “I will not accept if nominated & will not serve if elected”

If only the current President had the same wisdom

1937 – Henry Ford initiates 32 hour work week

He’d have to go to a 29 hour week today to avoid Affordable Care Act regulations

1944 – Fieldmarshal Rommel goes on vacation

1944 – General Eisenhower decides invasion set for June 6


1959 – Bob Dylan graduates Hibbing HS in Minn

“A complete unknown”

1977 – 1st personal computer, Apple II, goes on sale

First sighting of hipster in a coffee shop: same day.





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