Arguing with Americans online about tipping culture rarely ends well but I suppose I’m just a glutton for punishment in that respect.

I was thinking about why I have such an issue with near-mandatory tipping. Usually the arguments mentioned hinge on how little the serving staff are earning and the like. Personally I don’t see how this is my business or my problem.

If I go to a restaurant as part of the pricing I expect to get food and reasonable service. Not exceptional service, just sufficiently good to get the job done. I don’t want to have to remember my waiter/waitress’ name and in most cases I don’t care about having one particular staff member assigned to me. They’re serving staff, not geishas – it’s their job to interface between me and the kitchen not entertain me as if I was a guest in their parlour.

When I’m with a group (say eight or more people) I can see how we’re asking more than their basic service and so understand the addition of a service charge to the bill. Dealing with a group is trickier, that’s fine. Do a good job and make the evening run smoothly and I’d actively encourage a tip. There’s a lot more service involved after all.

On the other hand if it’s just me (or just a few of us) then I do not want to deal with that. I am incredibly uncomfortable having someone at my mercy like that. Trying their utmost to impress me so that I throw a crust in their direction? Lovely. That puts me in such a comfortable and happy mood – can we eat here next week too?

I do not want such a big say in how their wages work. Leave that to accounts and HR. I don’t know what their outgoings look like or how much income they need, I also don’t see why I should want to know. I don’t want to know who is covering Becky’s shift next Friday either. I’m the customer, part of that deal is not having to see how the sausage is made.

If I had a batman, a personal valet, could I bring him along and have him deal with the kitchen instead? I don’t have one, of course, but if I did I would already have dealt with paying him and the terms of his employment. He’d be there to ensure my dining experience went smoothly and I would already have dealt with his payment.

It’s somewhat facetious, I know, but the idea that I am supposed to decide what a server’s basic work time is worth upsets me. If I crunch the numbers – such as the number of patrons in the restaurant over the course of the day, the amount of time spent, and the amount they’d have to earn per hour to make a suitable wage – it doesn’t work out as all that much that I need to provide. But that’s not what’s being asked for – a percentage on top of the gross is. Ew.

Servewell, more brandy, if you’d be so good.

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