Thursday, April 3, 2014

Will Miss #41 - no tipping (reflection)

I read several blogs devoted to food and cooking and little is more contentious than the custom of tipping in the U.S. One side claims it is a system designed to allow restaurants to justify grossly underpaying their employees. The other side says it allows the customer to be empowered in a fashion the promotes good service. My reply is, "can't it be both?" I am also only too aware that there are wait staff in some restaurants who make a good deal more in wages due to tipping than they would if they were paid minimum wage or even above it. It is a complex situation which has room for both abuse of and benefits to employees. There is nothing out there which does not have a good and a bad side, as this blog has endeavored to show for the years it has been in existence.

All arguments aside, the bottom line is that tipping is a pain. While the math doesn't trouble me, the need to calculate a tip after paying the bill adds this layer of hassle at the end of a meal which detracts from the overall experience of dining. It causes you to reflect not on the experience, but on the quality of service and how much you will want to "reward" the server for a job done well or poorly. It's simply not the way to finish a special evening in which you're not cooking and cleaning. I miss the fact that there is no tipping in Japan.


  1. Unless the experience really sucks, I avoid considering server wages or service quality and always add 15 percent (doubling the tax makes it simple), rounding up to make it easy. It's hard enough to wait tables; most servers need the money. But I too miss the no tipping culture of Japan.

  2. I live in Australia, where tipping exists, but it's not at all expected, certainly not to the level that it is in America. My take on things is that if I go away from a meal feeling "well, I've just had a meal" then the waiter has merely done what they're earning their wage for, and doesn't deserve a tip. When I visited America, it was very rarely that I came away from a meal with a better impression than that, yet they all expected tips.

    By contrast (though this might be due to rose-tinted tourism glasses) I regularly finished meals in Japan with a much higher level of satisfaction, yet they weren't expecting tips at all.

    Go figure...

    1. It used to be the same in the U.S. as it is in Australia, but then things changed and people were being paid nearly nothing (some people make about $2 an hour as wait staff) and employers could get away with it because of tips. I agree with you that a meal in the U.S. rarely results in a better impression at the end, but we all know that they make their rent from tipping pretty much so we have to pony up the money unless they were truly dreadful.

      I can't say I finished every meal with a higher level of satisfaction in Japan, though generally people were professional and did their job adequately. I did find that a lot of things were petty and ridiculous - water glasses sometimes went unfilled, dishes were served in scattershot fashion (according to when it was convenient for the kitchen/server), and flagging down a server in places at which you ordered piecemeal (like yakitori-ya) could sometimes be an obscene difficult chore. I think some of the issues I had in Japan don't exist here because of tipping and the fear of not being tipped if the wait staff is inattentive. However, when people were on their toes in Japan, the experience was generally better.

  3. I was surprised by the intensity of tipping when I went to NY. In Brazil it also exists, but not so intense. I belive the reason of the japanese for no tipping is that the customer deserves the best treatment, and it would be unrespectful to ask him a tip for a good service.

  4. I don't mind tipping... and I have friends in the serving industry so I know that their tips is how the bills get paid. I also hear the horror stories of folks they have to serve. But it is quite cumbersome to sit after a meal and assess a server (even the food) for an adequate tip. I do it but I would much rather roll my fat fed body out the door and on to digestion with a nice evening stroll.

  5. I agree that tipping of servers is an unfortunate 'necessity' here in the USA. In some European countries like Switzerland restaurant employees are paid reasonably well ($15-20 per hour) AND they all get health insurance, paid vacations, etc. NO tipping is required. Of course, the prices in the restaurants reflect the higher wages.

    BUT my wife and I are more than willing to pay that in order to ensure that these people truly make a living wage, rather than a minimum wage which leaves the vast majority of them to struggle in poverty much of the time. Of course, we pay for our servers here via their having to make visits to the ER in hospitals, for example, rather than getting ongoing medical care.

  6. Being in the restaurant industry myself, I've never been bothered by tipping, if only because I'd rather build a friendly rapport with the waitstaff than be remembered as a bad tipper. It's never been much of a hassle for me either - just double the tax (around 9% here in New York) and throw in a dollar or two extra if the service was above average.

    By my dad, my gosh, if I'm out dining with him, he whips out the calculator, agonizes over every decimal, makes a giant fuss for the last ten minutes of the meal and then ends up tipping the exact amount that I've already calculated. I think some Americans just need to chill out about tipping. It would be amazing if I lived in a system in which it was not necessary (Switzerland sounds wonderful!), but until then, the servers need to be paid.


Comments are moderated and will not show up immediately. If you want to make sure that your comment survives moderation, be respectful. Pretend you're giving feedback to your boss and would like a raise when you're speaking. Comments that reflect anger or a bad attitude on the part of the poster will not be posted. I strongly recommend reading the posts "What This Blog Is and Is Not" and "Why There Were No Comments" (in the sidebar under "FYI") before commenting.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.