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"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." - John Philpot Curran


Is Tipping an Entitlement?

Recently, a local talk show host brought up a seemingly mundane topic: tipping at restaurants. He wanted to know why some restaurant servers think they are entitled to tips. After all, isn't a tip, or gratuity, something that is given to show appreciation for one's exceptional service? I had always assumed that a tip is something to be earned, not expected. It seems I was wrong.

The Web site FairTip.org is dedicated to helping restaurant servers get that to which they think they are entitled. The site's author lays out the case for what can only be described as forced tipping:
    Occasionally, every restaurant or bar server has a night, when after they tip-out following a ten-hour shift they take home a lot less than minimum wage. It happens. Sometimes a table of 8 feel [a] couple bucks apiece is enough on a $250 tab. Another table, upset with the kitchen stiffs the waiter altogether, as if the server cooks the food.

    The fact is: most customers don't know servers are paid just a little over $2 an hour! At a minimum, a 20% tip is only fair! Some customers, if given the facts, would be more generous with tipping. Others, would not. For all customers, a little information, and, a real incentive would lead to fair tips.
All errors in grammar and punctuation aside, the case presented is absurd on its face. We're supposed to believe that "servers are paid just a little over $2 an hour"? Please. If that were true, waiting tables would quickly become one of those "jobs Americans won't do" we keep hearing about in the immigration debate. The fact is that while most restaurant servers earn a set minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, they are actually paid much more than that.

Zagat Survey, "the world's leading provider of consumer survey-based dining, travel and leisure information," reported in its 2005 America's Top Restaurant Guide that the average tip had increased the previous year from 18.4 percent to 18.6 percent. Currently, servers in Atlanta and Philadelphia enjoy an average tip of 19.2 percent. What's more, if an employee's direct wage plus tips do not equal the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, then the employer is required to make up the difference. So, at the very least, restaurant servers are actually making $3 per hour more than the folks at FairTip.org would have us believe.

But since when have those with an entitlement mentality ever been truthful? Consider what FairTip.org proposes as a solution:
    We will contact the N.R.A. (National Restaurant Association) to have an automatic gratuity of 20% added to every check [and] encourage restaurants to increase their prices in order to pay the servers a higher hourly wage or 20% of their sales as tips. By implementing either of those ideas, we eliminate the risk of customers not tipping fairly for service.

    Why would this be a great idea? It is a given fact that the restaurants have high turnover rates. By setting a standard for service, and by guaranteeing fair compensation for servers, restaurants will be able to attract high quality, professional staff that in turn will provide [a] level of service that is desired by both the customers and owners alike.
Again, without going into the author's poor writing skills, this proposal makes no sense. A guaranteed increase in pay with no guaranteed corresponding increase in the quality of service (i.e., something for nothing) goes against all logic one would expect of people living and working in a free-market economy. If anything, such a policy would have a negative effect, driving customers away from restaurants and bars - and then the whiny waiters who feel they are entitled to other people's money will be just as bad off financially as they think they are now.

FairTip.org is merely another example of Americans' entitlement mentality. We tend to take things for granted and get upset when we don't get what we think we deserve. People all across the world have to suffer through famines, wars, and natural disasters that wipe out entire villages, but nothing compares to the misery of an under-tipped waiter!

Look. Enough complaining about what's fair or unfair. If you don't think your meager tip earnings reflect the quality of your service, chances are they probably do. Don't like it? You can always quit and look for another job.

But before you go, could I get another refill on this iced tea? Thanks!



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