I went to a restaurant today with my friends (none other than the usual suspects). At the end of the lunch came the usual question. How much should we tip? Honestly, I have never really been a big fan of tipping because as I grew up, I very rarely went to restaurants where tipping was a norm. After coming to US, I did see that a tip of 10-15% is common and in a sense, mandatory (unless ofcourse the service was terrible).
My cultural and social background is one thing. But, rationally, I started thinking about why someone should tip a waiter/waitress. One of the common story that I have heard over and over is that, the waiters are paid minimum wage or in some cases, less than minimum wage and that, tips are their only main source of income. Does that mean one should tip? Does that qualify tipping as a charitable act? Do we tip people in other professions who get minimum wage the same way? By paying generous tips, arent we encouraging the restaurant owners to recruit people with even lesser wages? When a person accepts a job, isnt it implicit that thats what he qualifies for? Do people who wait assume a minimum payout through tips? Assuming each waiter/waitress serve atleast 5-6 tables during peak time, and looking at the average eatout cost, are they really worth it for the tips they get? Interestingly, restaurants which serve cheap food dont get tips (McDonalds or Burger King). So, are we paying for those who work in expensive restaurants? If so, that doesnt make any sense to me.
The other part of me thought about the service that they provide and tried to reason out if there is a relationship between the amount of work done versus the tips paid. Unfortunately, it still didnt make any sense to me. Does opening up a $100 wine bottle different from opening up a $20 wine bottle? But, when we pay tips, we look at the total amount (including sales tax) and pay the tips as a percentage. If all we care about is good service, shouldnt we have a norm? A person serving 100 burgers to 100 people at McDonalds (assume 99c burger) is going to get nothing when compared to a waiter at an expensive restaurant who opens up a $100 wine. Does that make sense?
Well, I am certainly up for encouraging good work, and possibly, give some bonus as a token of my appreciation. I think it should come from my heart based on the service. But, I certainly dont think that there should be a set limit on what one should tip. I remember this incident from when I was a kid. If we had a cake which was equally split between all of us in the family, I always tried to take the smallest share. You know why. I usually got the sympathy from everyone else which resulted in everyone giving a piece of their cake to me. Guess who got the lion’s share at the end… I am not saying that waiters are getting their lion’s share, but I sure think there is a big inequality that we dont think of and a big irrationality that is considered the norm. Well, that’s just me….