Like Mr Pink:
Readers continue the thread:
I hope Dishheads aren’t overlooking the fact that institutionalized tipping constitutes a progressive – yes, progressive! – anti-jackass tax of sorts. Conspicuous consumption compels many of those who can best afford to subside service industry jobs to do so. Those who can’t, won’t, and let’s be honest: everyone goes into restaurants knowing what’s expected. Anyone who says they’re being lied to about bottom line prices is simply too proud to admit they’re being cheap.
Academics can argue until they’re blue in the face about the theoretical benefits of eliminating tipping, and perhaps higher-class restaurants where published academics like to dine wouldn’t be impacted as those staffs tend to be well-trained, experienced, and highly professional. But would you really eat at greasy spoons and dive bars where everyone was stuck working for the same wage regardless of performance? I sure as hell wouldn’t, and no one should underestimate the good vibes that come with knowing you’ve given a big tip to someone who truly deserved one, doubly so when you’re pinching your own pennies.
Another focuses on the issue of fudging income:
As one reader mentioned, many tipped workers under-report their tips, allowing them tax-free income. (I’ve always mildly resented how easy it is for the waiters I know to do this, but since none of them are getting rich waiting tables I don’t get too agitated about it.) However, there’s a real downside for the under-reporters that many of them (especially young people) rarely appreciate:
When they apply for a loan it is hard for them to prove adequate income, and when it comes time to collect Social Security retirement income they will show lower lifetime earnings and receive a smaller check as a result. In the big scheme of things I suspect most tip earners would be better off getting paid a regular minimum wage, perhaps with modest tips allowed as per the European approach.
Another refines an earlier point:
Your labor lawyer reader wrote, “The employer has to cover the difference to whatever the local minimum wage is, so any raises to minimum wage are also raises for tipped workers (e.g. once Seattle’s minimum wage reaches $15 per hour, employers will have to make sure their tipped employees leave with $15/per hour).” Point of fact: the state of Washington’s state minimum wage – higher than the national – does not include a tip credit. So a server makes regular minimum wage, plus tips.
Another has more on state laws:
There are a few states, including California, where tipped employees are subject to the same minimum wage laws as everyone else. When you go out to eat in these states, the social expectations in terms of tipping are exactly the same as everywhere else. I’m sure most people aren’t even aware that the law is different. So in this instance, yes, the restaurant is paying its servers more, but it does nothing to relieve customers of the additional 15- to 20-percent cost. (In fact, it may be more expensive to tip here in California because, as you pointed out, higher labor costs may lead to higher-priced menu items and we calculate tips as a percentage of those more expensive items.)
Another channels Mr White:
I will leave it to others to hash out the micro- and macro-economic pros and cons of tipping. I just want to give a little recognition to the waitresses – and it is almost always waitresses – slinging coffee, eggs, and pancakes on the breakfast shift in every town in the U.S. Working the breakfast shift is a hard, physically grueling job. But, because breakfast is cheap, breakfast servers are unlikely to make much in tips – even if people are tipping 15 percent. A good breakfast waitress can get the whole day started right. So, tip generously.