There’s Something Rotten in (all) the State(s) of the USA: Tipping
Enforced tipping means the USA is less the “Land of the Free” and more the “Land of the Fleeced”
Frank and full disclosure before you read on— I have and never will be a fan of having other people “do things” for me.
OK, sure, society is actually structured on everyone doing everything for everyone else — like me writing this piece for you to read.
What I mean is, I don’t like being served unless absolutely necessary. It makes me uncomfortable.
If anything I am anti-being served and try to always be courteous, if not friendly, to anyone who has no choice but to do things for me.
I’ll chat to my barista in the early AM with genuine interest — hell they’re making my coffee after all and I want it filled with “good morning” vibes not “yet another asshole I have to serve” ones.
If I’m staying at a hotel, I nod to the desk clerk as I pass or flash a smile to the staff making up room — can you imagine doing that job, some of the stuff you’d have to clean up or sort out? Ick.
And when I’m eating out (not that often — the life of the poor writer), I never get all demandy of my wait staff, instead trying to be as respectful and understanding as possible of the pressure they’re under, squeezed between the maelstrom of the kitchen and demands of the #hangry
Also you need to know I’m no newbie to the USA — I’ve lived there while completing part of my undergrad, held a green card for awhile and travelled to a variety of cities and states many, many times.
So, I’m also well aware of tipping etiquette and how it subsidises some seriously low wages. That some workers are actually pretty much ONLY making a wage from their tips.
HOWEVER…on a recent trip, the first in about about five years, I was blown away by how much more institutionalised tipping has become and along with it the expectations of what a reasonable tip is.
One restaurant, which I won’t name, was doing what many are — calculating on the check what the tip should be, with a minimum tip of 17.5% up to 25%.
Let that sink in.
Imagine a check that comes to even just $100 — the expectation for good service is that you will then pay another $25 if you receeive exceptional service.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Now, I know that often these tips are shared between the floor, the front of house and back of house staff, so it’s not like some lucky wait-staff is walking home with their pocket bulging with wads of cash at the end of their shift.
But C’MON AMERICA: tipping has become a sad joke that doesn’t actually allow any of us to reward someone who has gone above and beyond to help or offer great service.
FACT: The minimum US wage in 2019 is US$7.25 an hour, with the tipping minimum wage even lower at around US$2.13 (YES YOU READ RIGHT)…compared to Australia at AUD$19.25 (or around USD$13.25 at the time of writing)
And it’s not like it HAS to be this way.
The solution is simple — raise the minimum wage.
Do it now.
Even as I write this, Democrats passed a bill through the House to raise the minium federal wage to $15, although the Republicans aren’t deemed unlikely to take the bill up and that man who hosted The Apprentice is threatening to veto it.
(Duh, of course he would — how else could he afford to mass his bigly fortune unless there were low paid workers to do this on?)
What the Dems just did (well, most of them — six voted against it — oh and three Republicans supported it, woohoo!) shows there is a growing awareness that the low minimum wage is NOT the American way.
It’s not fair, free or any other “f-word” except FUCKED.
Pardon the French.
And for those free marketeers who cry foul and say raising the minimum wage will come at a huge impost on the American people…well, no.
Do the math.
Simple Economics 101 will tell you that if people are paying between 15–25% nearly every time they take out their credit card, how is this different to them paying this UP FRONT as part of the purchase price?
Oh, and to those 190 or so Republicans (and six Dems) against it, did you stop to consider that more income tax will flow to the government too?
That it will kill off some of the black economy and make wages and income more transparent?
I already hear howls of “Oh, service will go downhill so quickly, why would anyone try anymore if they don’t need to?”
The current state of play means people are effectively being bullied into tipping and bullied into offering good service, which is complete and utter BS.
Everyone is being shafted by a rotten system.
There are no winners from this.
Has anyone against increasing the minimum wage though that maybe, just maybe, currently low-paid workers surviving on tips might actually come to work happier KNOWING they are being paid per hour more than what it currently costs to buy your morning venti Frap at Starbucks…
And therefore any tips that come their way are not gratuitous and given because…huge concept here…
THE SERVICE OFFERED WAS ACTUALLY GOOD.
If you want some real food for thought, read this WashPo piece on the history of tipping…it’s an eye-opener and a pretty sad indictment on the good ole USA TBH.
It also has some super interesting insights into restaurant culture and how it could change if everyone got onboard.
Thing is, not everyone will get onboard, will they?
There will never be a situation where the Dems hold sway in both houses or can command the number to #MakeAmericaFairAgain although was it ever fair in the first place?
Sadly, probably not…
There will always be someone who wants to make a buck from the sweat, blood and tips of someone else, right?
And there will always be those fooled into the fable of supposed freedom of choice around tipping that “The Land of the Free” allegedly promises.