Tipping: To ban or not?

Tipping: To ban or not? July 1, 2013

What do you think about tipping? What’s a better practice?

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So I was thrilled to hear that New York City’s Sushi Yasuda recently decided to eliminate tipping altogether. Including gratuity for parties of six or more has already become relatively commonplace; in a few restaurants, like Thomas Keller’s Per Se and The French Laundry, it’s automatically added onto all checks. But Yasuda has gone one step further, dispensing with service as a separate line item — and implicitly, an “extra” — and folding it into their prices as a cost of doing business, along with the rent, and electricity, and ingredients.

If I had my way, we’d take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it….

6. Smart people have been trying to end the tipping practice for a century

Backlashes against the tipping practice are not new. There was an anti-tipping movement at the beginning of the 20th century amongst Americans who saw it as an aristocratic holdover contrary to the country’s democratic ideals. Between 1909 and 1915 six states passed anti-tipping laws, all of which were repealed by the mid-1920’s as unenforceable or potentially unconstitutional. Samuel Gompers, who founded the AFL, was one political figure notably outspoken against tipping as promoting detrimental class distinctions.

But despite all this, the country as a whole has been loath to abandon the tipping convention. If knowing all of the above, you still balk at the idea of a service charge being rolled into the cost of your meal, maybe you should ask yourself why this is. Are you unwilling to participate in what a restaurant judges to be the fair, market-rate compensation for its employees? Do you think that you are a pawn in a nefarious plot by management to grossly over-reward servers, those men and women who are on their feet for eight hours, ferrying your drinks and foods to and fro? Do you believe that you are in a better position than the restaurant manager to motivate and evaluate his or her staff and make the complicated decisions about compensation and employment?

If yes, can I march into your office and adjust your pay depending on how well you do in our meeting? Or — more accurately — depending on your skin color, your breast size, or your age? Well, of course not, is the answer to that one. Because that would be barbaric.


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