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To tip or not to tip, that is the question nowadays, with Danny Meyer’s recent outing expressing his decision to cut off tipping in all 13 restaurants in the Union Square Hospitality Group.
Is it fair to tip front line servers? Is it fair to take away tips from frontline servers? The opinions of analysts and food industry officials and restaurant owners are split. The idea of tipping post-meal has become a tradition in the U.S. and other parts of the globe as well. A social history of the habit explains that tipping was the hallmark of the aristocracy. Reserved to the upper class, it would represent a socially differentiating marker and their giving towards lesser social classes.
In the U.S., the relationship between customer-server-tipping has revolved around a love-hate binome. While the exact point of introduction of the tipping tradition in the American culture is unknown, it has been embraced for a long while. Afterwards, it was declared undemocratic and unfair, as well as a marker of social diminishing and exclusion, a promoter of stereotypes. It culminated with the establishing in Georgia, 1904 of the Anti-Tipping Society of America.
Since 1909, several states had adopted anti-tipping laws. All fell tumbling down by 1926 and tipping was back.
Now, the early 20th century grumblings are back in the limelight. In the employment arena, waiters are among the lowest paid jobs. It does depend on the state average pay and the establishment’s own policies. However, many front line servers depend on tips to make a decent living.
Where is the problem then? Firstly, according to Danny Meyer’s letter explaining the decision to cut off tipping:
“We believe hospitality is a team sport, and that it takes an entire team to provide you with the experiences you have come to expect from us. Unfortunately, many of our colleagues – our cooks, reservationists, and dishwashers to name a few – aren’t able to share in our guests’ generosity, even though their contributions are just as vital to the outcome of your experience at one of our restaurants.”
Tips aren’t fairly shared among all personnel on which the customer’s experience in one restaurant depends. Mr. Meyer plans to eliminate tips altogether. In return, he would increase the price of menu items. This would allow for a fair and higher payment for all workers in the restaurants. Including back-of-house staff referred to in the letter.
This decision has raised many eyebrows. At the same time, it has received a number of approving nods, particularly in the media. Many editorials have called the tipping tradition a disgrace to American culture, pinned by undemocratic, racist and sexist strata.
To tip or not to tip, that is the question still. In the myriad of implications and arguments for and against, many believe that tipping is crucial to the decent payment of a waiter. It also shows gratitude towards a pleasant experience and good services. However, there are many others who believe that it should be up to restaurant owners to decide upon the matter.
Photo Credits: Flickr