25% Tipping in Restaurants — Should It Be Mandatory?
A recent news story shed some light on San Francisco restaurants and a plot to make 25% tipping mandatory.
That’s a standard tip rate, as in, something that is automatically added to your bill whether or not the service was actually worth it.
So the big question is: Should restaurants impose a mandatory tipping percentage to take care of their staff, or should tipping still be left up to the customers that they serve?
Tipping is all about rewarding good service. If the waiter or waitress can send your order correctly to the kitchen, refill your drink when the glass is low, bring you your food, and check and make sure that everything is okay, then that worker deserves a tip. If the worker is friendly and extra helpful, then that tip should be increased an appropriate amount as determined by that customer. As a whole, most customers know this unwritten policy about tipping, and most of them can follow it well.
Every once in a while you’ll hear about how customers stiff the workers, or how some big shots are incredible cheapskates when it comes to tipping. When that happens there’s usually talk about how bars and restaurants should have a mandatory tip, especially when a worker or even a restaurant has to bend over backwards to see to the customer’s smallest of special requests.
But should restaurants go that far to protect their workers?
I get it that some people are cheapskates. Others are big shots that will continue to step on the “little” people as they feed their massive egos. But when it comes to the average customers, the core of the food industry, why should they be forced with a mandatory tip?
The problem here is that imposing a percentage as high as twenty-five percent basically removes the power of tipping from the customer. Sure, people are welcome to go higher, but what’s the motivation when you’re already forced to pay something like an extra twenty-five percent, whether or not the service was actually worth it? What’s the motivation for the waiter or waitress to go that extra mile to ensure that all of the customers’ needs are met at the restaurant?
When you impose something like a mandatory twenty-five percent tip, you may as well eliminate tipping entirely and just pay the workers a higher hourly rate. Find some way to sort the good from the bad and find a way to pay the good workers, the waiters and waitresses who can sell the products and keep the customer returning, a better hourly wage.
The service industry is one that requires good customer service. Whether it’s cutting somebody’s hair, tending a bar, delivering pizza, or even driving a shuttle service to and from an airport, good customer service is a major factor for the business. The cost of the item or service is always a major factor, but having great customer service can close the deal AND have the customer return, or, even better, have the customer refer new customers in your direction.
Sometimes in today’s society, and in heavy union areas, tipping is more of a common courtesy rather than something earned for good service. Kind of like an I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine unwritten policy.
Case in point: My friend and I flew to Pittsburgh this past March and had to use a shuttle service to access the car which was parked a good ten minutes away in a long-term parking lot. We arrived on a beautiful (and icy cold) Saturday morning. An older couple also used the shuttle service from the airport, and the four of us rode in silence out to the car parking company. Upon arriving at the car lot, the driver, a large and grumpy guy with no personality, opened the back of the van and yanked out our suitcases, something I could have easily done as my friend and I each had a small suitcase. Without uttering any words, the older couple handed the driver a couple of bucks as a tip. It was automatic for them. They said nothing to the driver, and the driver didn’t respond. No thanks for the tip or anything. When the driver turned to me, I just shook my head and walked away. I told the driver , “Good morning,” when my friend and I boarded the van at the airport, and I thanked him after he grumpily pulled down my suitcase. Since he couldn’t even bother responding (I knew he could speak and understand English) to either of my friendly gestures, then he didn’t earn squat in terms of a tip. Case closed.
So when it comes to restaurants and the wait staff, making the customers pay a forced tip (twenty-five percent of all things) is not the way to go. A) Basing a tip on a percentage of the meal is a flawed way of doing so. And B) In no way does a forced tip even come close to guaranteeing anything close to good service. When the tip is automatic, the only motivation the worker has towards good service is doing so only to keep one’s job, not necessarily to please the customer. When the tipping is forced, as a whole, the level of customer service and quality will decrease.
If the restaurants in San Francisco are that committed to protecting their workers, then they need to find another way of doing so.
If they want to increase their prices to pay its workers living wages, then that’s fine.
If they want to do collective tip sharing amongst all of the wait staff, then that’s fine.
If they want to pay their wait staff a higher wage and just take all tips and re-invest them back into the restaurant, then that’s also fine.
But if I encounter a restaurant that enforces a forced tipping policy, especially one as high as twenty-five percent, then I’ll turn around and walk straight out the door. If a manager asks why, then I’ll let him or her know.