Thursday, November 28, 2013

Will Miss #41 - no tipping (reflection)

We don't think too carefully about it, but many things in life are about power. Why do people prefer to be attractive to being unattractive? It's not because of vanity in most cases, but rather because beauty gives them power over others. Why do we want money? It's not because a pocket full of cash is intrinsically satisfying. It's about the power to get what you want.

The whole point of tipping is to give the customer power. If your server was not good to you, you are empowered to "punish" him or her by not leaving a tip. In a country like Japan, in which the customer is supposedly king, you'd think that they'd give customers that power. They don't. However, that's because there is an assumption the moment you walk in the door that you have the power already. You don't need to prove it with leaving spare change on the table for the server.

Given how many business leave a tip jar on the counter in America - even in cases in which service is defined as handing you a donut in a paper bag after snatching a sad-looking one from the display case - I miss the fact that there was no tipping in Japan even more. Tipping has become less about empowering the customer and more about shaking her down as time has gone by and I could really do without it.


  1. I did like the fact that I got quite good service in Japan without tipping. I have also heard that some Japanese restaurants in New York have adopted the no tip model.
    Perhaps if we paid people a better wage to be a server, and took away the job when they did it poorly, we would all be better off.
    These are just random thoughts in my head. I guess I just wonder if it could work,

  2. I had the same initial reaction as Jack: maybe if servers in restaurants were paid a better wage the need to tip them would be removed. I know that servers in Switzerland, for example, are paid much better with health care benefits, etc. No tips are provided there.

    I heard recently of some people here in the USA who did not pay a server a tip after their meal. Instead, they wrote the person the following: they enjoyed the food and the service but refused to give a tip because they did not want to endorse the server's homosexual lifestyle. Talk about POWER?!?

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments.

    I think that servers should be paid a decent wage and have benefits. I think everyone should, actually. That being said, many of them would not prefer that because they make more money per hour with tips. In fact, if you go into a busy restaurant and consider that the average tip is 15% and the average price per person is going to be $15 or more, you can see that the tips are going to add up pretty nicely in some places. I think that is why servers don't unionize for fair wages. Many of them (but by no means all, not by a long shot) are better off, even when they get snubbed entirely.

    The other issue is that I think tipping or not would make no difference in the U.S. in service. The bottom line is that, culturally speaking, there is no dedication to service in the U.S. at low or medium levels (only at higher ones). I think part of the egalitarian outlook in America is that the customer is no different than the server and not entitled to anything beyond "sufficient" service. There is also no concrete training to teach people how to manage customers in a specific way. I think other cultures have a better sense of how one should behave in a one-up/one-down situation (customer/service provider) than America does. Even with decent wages, I think people would not do a good job because they have no dedication to doing their work well - especially if it's a job which they don't especially enjoy or want to do.

  4. I heard a podcast a few months ago that explored the fairness of tipping, and having heard and considered it, I think tipping should be banned. (I live in the U.S., modulo a year in Japan.)


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