Monday, March 15, 2010

Tip or Fee?

Took another long break from blogging...but I'm back again!

The topic of this blog, is controversial at best. In my latest class... Global Business, we discussed low and high context society. Unamiously it is agreed that the United States is considered a low-context society. In other words, our laws and social customs are for the most part clearly and explictly explained and expressed.
Before beginning my opinion, I would like to confess, that my viewpoint has been molded by my mother's strong work ethic which can be described as "you work hard for your money" and my personal philosophy of TANSTAAFL.

I argue, that the idea of tips (when served at a restaurant or other service area) has been lost to an implicit expectation, in a low context society. My tipping philosophy is as follows:

A better than usual service should be tipped the customary 15%. This is for BETTER than what is expected service after the employee's responsibility under their job description. Exceptional service deserve 20%-50%! These are those rare instances in which a server goes above and beyond their jobs.

What is your philosophy? Most people tip 15% regardless of the quality of service. But I argue
Why? Their base pay (often minimum wage) is to perform their jobs well. A bad server can not be argued as having done their job. Yet they are rewarded with a 15% pay out on top of the paycheck they recieved. Again, why should I pay more for bad service, when I already am paying for their service with the bill? I have seen many people guilted and pressured into paying at minimum 15% even for horrible service. Even worse, some restaurants add a Forced Gratuity on the bill! Is this because a few don't tip? Should we force an expectation on the majority for a few insensitive minority who don't tip even for good service?

Has tipping in America gone from an incentive to a disincentive?

Are our servers working the bare minimum because they know that tipping will happen regardless? Will they get frustrated when a person like me doesn't tip? Has tipping in their mind become an entitlement? Why does my bill say gratutity? Not fee? See these definitions from

•TIP: a gift or a sum of money tendered for a service performed or anticipated : gratuity

•GRATUITY: something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service; especially : tip

Notice, "beyond obligation", "voluntarily" "a gift" are key to this concept. Now, read the definition of Fee:

•FEE: a fixed charge, a sum paid or charged for a service. An inherited or heritable estate in land.

Note, these words, "a fixed charge", "inherited" and "heritable". Very close to the meaning of Entitlement. Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale once said, "Entitlement and privelege corrupt". Could this be the source of the "tipping disincentive"?

In this low-context society, have we allowed a high-context behavior root itself in our services? Has an explicit charge on our bills become an implicit expectation?

I have argued, that our current recession is forcing both employers and employees to evolve. I challenge our servers to do more. Wealth begins with a wealth minded individual... Rarely does it arrive to a selfish individual. If you see selfish wealthy individuals...I argue they pay the price. Observe theses "hidden taxes" as Stephen M. R. Covey describes may not be in material things.

I worked for tips, a long time ago, and yes I felt the sting of hard work and no pay. Do not be discouraged...patience is sometimes required for the fruits of labor. As for the customer...tipping in cash is always welcomed, if you can't afford much, be kind! Even a small gesture of kindness can have a long lasting effect on hard working servers. As for
Employers...encourage and grow a culture of effective service. Find it in your budget to tip them as well!

Your comments and viewpoints are welcomed!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone 3G S


  1. Tipping should be based on merit. If the server does a good job, is helpful and pleasant, than they get a tip. If the crew goes beyond the norm (keeping the water glass full and doing it with ninja-like stealth for example) then I tip them a bit more. If the server is inattentive, hard to find, and unpleasant, then the tips suffer accordingly.

    I know people have bad days and sometimes I feel bad about decreasing a tip because of a poor attitude, but at the same time, I want my experience in a restaurant to be pleasant. And as we learned from the famous MST3K short "A Date with Your Family", "pleasant and unemotional conversation helps digestion." I want to digest my food at a meal, so the server should be pleasant.

    But all kidding aside, the atmosphere of the restaurant is a key part of dining out. And for people who don't eat out often, it becomes a treat to go to restaurant. If the experience is tarnished by a bad server, than I don't feel the need to tip.

    One more story. I went to dinner with my parents once. The server was horrible. She was too busy flirting with the manager to pay attention to her tables. She took forever to get our drinks, to get our order, and to deliver the food. All the food was cold by the time we got it and our drinks were refilled by another waitress who we managed to stop on her way by.

    We didn't tip our server and left. The server went to the table, saw that we didn't tip and actually left the restaurant and followed us into the parking lot shouting about the tip. My dad turned around and shouted back, "Try working for it next time." I was amazed by the sense of entitlement the server had, and the guts to follow a customer into a parking lot. Her's a tip - you work in customer service - start servicing the customer.

  2. Thanks for the story Roman! I think that restaurants are the easiest target because we take food and the intimacy of dinner so seriously. Usually, this is where I experience most of the tipping frustration. I have encounter this also with valets and baggage handlers. At airports, I think that people get even more upset because that fees attached to baggage by the airlines. Once, when we were in Las Vegas (known for their hospitality in many hotels and their customer-oriented attitude), we exited our taxi and a hotel attendant took out our luggage. The luggage sat on the curb, and he extended his hand. While the three of us were trying to get to our wallets, the attendant walked away mumbling, frustrated that we were not ready to tip.