Thursday, February 21, 2013
Tipping: A Modest Proposal for San Francisco (and beyond)
My issue, and it's not new, is with tipping. Inherently, I believe it's evil in that it's basically mandatory. The "tip" is not so much a reward for excellent service; instead, it's a subsidy for the restaurant owner so s/he doesn't have to pay the staff an appropriate wage perpetuated by social pressure. My two cents. Take it or leave it.
Recently, I was reflecting on something incredibly boring and probably something most of you never think about: insurance broker fees. Now, you're probably thinking, "How is he connecting insurance broker fees to tipping?" "And why in the hell is he thinking about insurance broker fees?! Zzzzzz. . . ." Allow me to explain.
If you have an arrangement with a broker where they get a percentage fee based on the overall cost of your benefits, as costs go up, so do their fees. However, the amount of work hasn't changed. It's not like negotiating health insurance rates radically changes from one year to the next, but we all know that the costs have increased by double digits for some people over the past several years. Why, I ask, should we pay the brokers more? No, a flat fee make more sense.
I am proposing a flat-fee for the time I am served. Despite my issues with subsidizing an employer's workforce, I will concede that I am willing to pay for good service. That service, however, should not be tied to the amount of my bill because the service has no impact on what I order. Instead, I am asking for a level of service for the time I am sitting in the establishment. Let's say, depending on the kind of restaurant, I'm willing to pay for $5-10/hour to be served. When added together with the other patrons, I think this comes out to a fairly decent hourly rate of pay. If a server in SF has six tables, s/he is earning $10.55/hr in salary and, potentially, an additional $60/hr. in tips. If you'll allow me to extrapolate and compare this to a regular 40 hour per week job, we're talking about a salary of $146,744. Not bad, huh?
Yes, I know the servers won't always work 40 hours per week and may not always have six occupied tables every hour. However, based on what I see (and I eat out a lot--A LOT), this is not a crazy assessment. Besides, the limited schedule, if one works fewer than 40 hours per week, may also be seen as a benefit in and of itself, too. We all know people who work in the restaurant industry just for this kind of flexibility in their schedule.
In short, I suggest you think about this the next time you're dining out. Why was that entree worth more in terms of service than the appetizer you ordered? Why, in your life, are you paid for your time and not necessarily the product with which you're associated? Is it fair? I don't think so.
It's time to change tipping. Down with 20%! Embrace the flat fee.
Viva la tipping revolucion!