Should Restaurants Ban Tips?

download (4)Tipping is unspokenly mandatory. So much so that waiters have been known to chase after diners who leave less than the expected 15% of their tab. And this is with good reason. Federal law basically allows waiters to be paid below minimum wage – with tips meant to make up for the difference. This is why waiters are paid as low as $2.13 per hour in some areas. Even in New York, the starting pay is only $5.00 an hour in restaurants.

However, more and more restaurants are starting to ban tips. It has become common for some restaurants to include the tip for groups of six or more. Others are now including it for all tables and in their menus. Admittedly, this makes a restaurant seem more expensive than one that has lower prices on the menu but fully expects a proper tip left behind. People just generally don’t think of the tip as a real amount to factor into a meal’s price.

Why ban tips?

There are several reasons for eliminating tips. First of all, the amount of tips left by people varies widely, and is largely affected by things as arbitrary and discriminatory as a server’s physical appearance, gender, race, and age. Other factors include things that are beyond the waiter’s control such as the quality of the food. Diners often think that the amount they leave is up to their personal judgment. In reality though, leaving a lousy tip is tantamount to stealing from the waiter’s wages.

It remains fundamentally flawed that a few select professions have salaries left to the whims of the clients. If a lawyer charges $60 an hour, he gets paid $60 an hour no matter how his finished work turns out. If a company charges $60 for mowing your lawn, you pay them $60 no matter what. If having your teeth cleaned costs $60, you pay $60 without first judging how much whiter your teeth have become.

In the restaurant business, the “backs” such as cooks and janitors, get paid a set amount for a set number of hours worked. If so, why shouldn’t the “front” of the place – waiters, bartenders, even valet – get the same deal? Just like any other role in a restaurant (or any other job for that matter), the waiter puts in the expected amount and quality of labor, and so should be paid a constant and reliable amount in exchange.

In the first place, the percentage basis is also fundamentally flawed. Does it take less effort to bring you a $2 plate of fries than it does a $20 sandwich? And just how many of us can mentally compute 15% of anything, anyway?