Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Once again, I've decided to put in my two cents at someone else's blog. In the interest of laziness efficiency, I'll post it here as well.

The post was at Cassy Fiano's blog. I read it fairly often anyway, because Cassy is very insightful, intelligent, and well-spoken. I got to this particular entry by way of Conservative Grapevine, a roundup of interesting conservative links that's well worth at least skimming daily. Just to bring the lineage full circle, I first found out about Conservative Grapevine from one of my favourite pages, Right Wing News - where Cassy Fiano is a frequent guest writer.

Anyway, she wrote a good post about how to behave in restaurants. I posted the following comment; you can read the original article, with all the comments, by clicking here.

I like most of what you've written here, because most of it boils down to two principles: remember that your server is a human being, worthy of respect, and treat them accordingly; and remember that your server does not have total control over all aspects of the restaurant.

However, I have to take issue with one of your points - the one about tipping. Quoting excerpts: "When you pay your bill, don't forget to tip well. Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an need to tip an absolute minimum of 15%....Servers have bills to pay just like everyone else. We have to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for electric and water bills... just like everyone else in the world. And perhaps most people don't know this, but your tips are our main source of income."

That's not the customer's fault. If a server can't make a living on the hourly wage that they're paid, then they should be looking for another line of work, not expecting customers to make up the difference. Cashiers in the retail sector aren't paid well either, but I've never heard a department store cashier arguing that they should get tips on that basis, and I'd laugh at them if I ever did.

I used to work in a restaurant, back in the kitchen. I got the same (minimum) hourly wage as the servers, but no tips. I know some restaurants operate differently, and backline staff get a share in tips, but not all of them. None of us back in the kitchen thought we were entitled to tips, or owed them in any sense. Our bills were our own problem. If they outweighed what we were making, then it was time to move on, and I for one did.

I'm feeling some cognitive dissonance here, because despite what you might have expected from reading the above, I do tip whenever I eat in a restaurant, and reasonably well (minimum 10%, usually considerably higher). Now that I think about it, by tipping we are - I am - distorting the free market. We're subsidizing the wages of servers, so restaurant owners can afford to offer submarket wages ("The hourly wage is low, but you'll make more than that in tips").

Paying a high enough salary to attract and retain employees should always be the employer's problem, not the customer's. If servers are forced to rely on tips to pay their bills, then they should refuse to work for the offered wages and move on. Restaurant owners would quickly realize that they need to raise wages (and perhaps prices - but if customers are effectively forced by social pressure to tip, then there's really no difference to them whether the 10% is added to the menu price or paid out after the meal as a tip).

Being a server is a fine job for someone who needs a position with flexible hours and no specific skill requirements - say, students. There comes a point, though, where people should be setting their vocational sights a little higher, or moving on to do something else with their life. Waiting tables should be seen as a job for now, not a career for later.


I'm going to continue to tip, but now the cognitive dissonance is going to make my head hurt every time.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a forearm.

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