Economy

Meme Reveals Why Tipping Is So Terrible

December 12th 2016

By:
Mike Rothschild

An anonymous Facebook post related to tipping went viral, and it's a perfect example of why tipping is a terrible system that should be replaced sooner rather than later.

The meme is a picture of five $1 bills, and purports to be a story about a guy taking "the wife" out for dinner, and doing something they've "always wanted to try" — laying out the bills as a tip and taking one away every time the server makes a mistake. This will guarantee "the best service of your life" because the server will be terrified of losing out on their tip.

Snopes ran down the origin of the picture, and couldn't find the identity of who posted it, only of someone else who found it in a restaurant's private Facebook page. It should also be noted that a similar stunt was pulled in a Third Rock From the Sun episode in 1999. And, in 2012, a restaurant server in Boston claims to have confronted a patron to tried to play a similar "little game" with their tip.

restaurant server

No matter the truth behind this particular bad tipping story, tipping itself is an outdated and unfair system that eschews a fair wage in exchange for depending on customers' whims.

In fact, when tipping first came to the US, inspired by American travels to Europe after the Civil War, it was considered undemocratic and class-driven. Anti-tipping laws were even passed by states around the country, but all had been repealed by the late 20s, and tipping soon became the American standard.

The vast majority of countries include service charges in their bill, and leaving a small gratuity is anything from optional to frowned upon as demeaning.

restaurant bill

Of major nations, only the US forces wait staffs to depend on gratuities as the bulk of their wages. This has resulted in workers making almost a third less than other restaurant employees. The tipped minimum wage hasn't been increased since 1991, and is only $2.13 an hour. And while federal law requires that wait staff make minimum wage when tips and hourly rate are combined (with the restaurant making up the difference), these laws are routinely violated by restaurants around the country, costing wait staff millions in lost wages.

Many major players in the restaurant industry have realized that this system is inherently unfair, and a backlash against tipping culture is in full swing, with a number of them abolishing tipping in favor of explicit service charges.

A number of high end restaurants in New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and elsewhere have done away with tipping, and have reported positive reactions from staff, with reduced turnover and better compensation for employees.

Even so, there's a long fight ahead of anti-tipping advocates. Some restaurants that ended tipping wound up going back to the standard model after losing business, and some economists believe that America going to a no-tip model will hurt both servers and service because it will necessitate higher prices.

But eliminating tipping would do one thing for certain — put an end to sadistic tipping games.