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Friday, September 6, 2013

The New York Times Hates Tipping

Posted by on Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 4:03 PM

We talked about this on Slog recently, and now Pete Wells at the New York Times takes up the cause:

[Tipping] is irrational, outdated, ineffective, confusing, prone to abuse and sometimes discriminatory. The people who take care of us in restaurants deserve a better system, and so do we.

He also sees encouraging signs that the tipping times may be a-changin', and yay for that!

Oh, and look—here's more on tipping from the Wall Street Journal, about the automatic gratuity that some restaurants add to the bill for large parties:

Starting in January, the Internal Revenue Service will begin classifying those automatic gratuities as service charges—which it treats as regular wages, subject to payroll tax withholding—instead of tips, which restaurants leave up to the employees to report as income.

The change would mean more paperwork and added costs for the restaurants—and a potential financial hit for waiters and waitresses who live on their tips but don't always report them fully.

Thanks, Greg!


Comments (29) RSS

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Most tips, especially at restaurants, are now paid along with the meal with a credit card transaction. So, the days of pocketing cash tips and not reporting the income are long gone.

Some restaurants divide those tips between waiters and kitchen staff, but the IRS sees tip income as belonging to the waiters. So, it's taxed against the waiter's paycheck. Thus, cities like New York will prosecute your boss for collecting tips or service charges that are taxed against the waiter's paychecks even when they are paid to the kitchen staff or hoarded by the owners.

Psst, hey, owners... Pay the damn waiters a fair, competitive wage, and stop collecting tips.

And, for those restaurant owners who complain about having to pay fair, living wages, I have a word of advice - share the profits or share the ownership. It may be your business (I mean, the bank's business), but it's your worker's and customer's life and labor generating those profits. So, learn to share, damnit!

Mine! Mine! Mine! What the fuck is wrong with you people?
Posted by What goes around, comes around on September 6, 2013 at 4:50 PM · Report this
Tipping should really go away. A waitress at a Denny's who gives excellent service receives a pittance compared to an average waiter at Daniels Broiler. The size of the bill should not scale to tip.
Posted by Get rid of it on September 6, 2013 at 6:18 PM · Report this
Sean Kinney 3
I love tipping!!! Ante up you cheap-ass yuppie fuckers!
Posted by Sean Kinney http:// on September 6, 2013 at 7:18 PM · Report this
theYode 4
Jesus. Let's just get rid of sub-minimum wage, jack up the minimum wage to $15, and be done with this hand-wringing.
Posted by theYode on September 6, 2013 at 8:02 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 5
Any business that claims it would go out of business if it had to pay its workers decent wages and insurance coverage deserves to go out of business.

Other businesses manage to do it and turn a profit... if you can't, the market is telling you you're not fit to compete.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on September 6, 2013 at 8:30 PM · Report this
Bullshit on you for trying to take credit for this "cause"
Posted by NancyBalls on September 6, 2013 at 8:37 PM · Report this
And tip the lovely Vietnamese folk at Ballet, you cheap hypocritical fucks. Tipping pennies on the dollar isn't a cause, it's borderline racist.
Posted by NancyBalls on September 6, 2013 at 8:40 PM · Report this
raku 8
Tipping should very obviously be banned. Add service charges. Tipping is a cornucopia of discrimination. Classist, racist, ageist, anti-fat, etc. Young, thin, white, expensively-dressed restaurant workers get big tips, everyone else gets smaller tips.

Just do this, Seattle. An easy win for social justice. Kshama Sawant? Richard Conlin? Anyone?

Info on why tipping is pretty much every kind of -ist out there:…
Posted by raku on September 6, 2013 at 8:55 PM · Report this
Cool, I see Raku is still a living parody
Posted by Reader01 on September 6, 2013 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Let's at least get our definitions straight. A gratuity is a gift freely given. If it's added to the bill to be paid, it ain't a gift, and it ain't a gratuity. Call it what it is, what the IRS calls it -- a service charge.

My family of 7 dined at a middle-brow restaurant last weekend, and the bill came to $140+. Nothing on the menu said anything about a service charge being added for large parties, and the waiter said nothing when he handed me the bill. But I quickly noted that an 18% "gratuity" was added into the total -- and the credit card slips included the usual blank spot for added tips. Perhaps he was hoping I'd add another 20% or so on top of the service charge (misnamed gratuity)? If so, he was disappointed.

Yes, there's gotta be a better way.

Posted by Citizen R on September 6, 2013 at 9:42 PM · Report this
I think the NYC tipping issue is different than in Seattle. Servers in Seattle get $9.25/hr - but apparently in NYC they get less than $2.50/hr. if I eat out in NYC and don't tip 20% I am a complete and utter jerk no matter the level of service.

But in Seattle I won't tip 20% if the service or food is bad and won't feel immoral about it.

Seems to me that to make the system work better for diners and workers is to pay everyone in the house the same decent wage and share tips among all the workers evenly
Posted by Fluffy on September 7, 2013 at 12:04 AM · Report this
12 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
FYI, the first half of the program comes to the conclusion that tipping benefits blonde, slender, big breasted women in their 30s disproportionately... with academic studies behind that conclusion.…

TORFASON: The more tipping you see in a given country, the more corruption you generally see in that country as well.

DUBNER: Justin Swartz is a lawyer at Outten & Golden in New York City. He represents employees in class-action discrimination cases. He’s sued some of the biggest restaurants in New York for shorting employees on the tips they deserved. If his firm were to take on a discrimination case, like Michael Lynn has proposed, Swartz pursue two lines of argument.
SWARTZ: The first would be disparate impact analysis. The purpose of disparate impact analysis is to eliminate what the Supreme Court calls headwinds, policies that make it harder for racial minorities or other people in other protected classes to succeed.
DUBNER: With disparate impact, you don’t have to prove that discrimination is intentional; it’s a proxy for discrimination.
SWARTZ: The idea is that if there’s a disproportionate impact on a particular group here it would be African American or non-white servers, then the plaintiffs have made the first showing that they need to make in their case.
Posted by ChefJoe on September 7, 2013 at 3:32 AM · Report this
disintegrator 14
I don't understand how you 'ban tipping'. Legally require that customers don't leave a gratuity? Penalize companies for putting a tip line on their receipts? It doesn't make sense.

Y'all are proposing to drastically and artificially alter a system that has developed organically, and which is based upon culture, not law. Want to open your own restaurant, pay your servers $25/hour, and have them sign agreements that they will not accept any gratuity? Go for it. See how well that works for you.
Posted by disintegrator on September 7, 2013 at 7:11 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 15
the fact that the expected percentage has escalated from 15% on pre-tax back in the day to 20% on post tax for delivery, too, you cheapskate, indicates that yes, we do have a problem.

like de rigeur standing ovations at classical concerts, what was once special has become normalized.
Posted by Max Solomon on September 7, 2013 at 7:32 AM · Report this
@5 Jesus. Spoken like somebody who has never ran a small business in America. Ah. The fairness of the mighty free market, huh?

I run a small business. I pay my people fair competitive wages ( including our interns) and minimum insurance.

And you know what? We get shit stomped in the so-called market place by competitors that don't. They can undetcut us at every turn. The market place REWARDS people who don't pay fair. You idiot. The MARKET is the problem.

So yeah. I don't blame small businesses who don't pay insurance. Your choked out of the market place by a race to the bottom when you do. We've been lucky. But we've had to make terrible choices to keep going because we have ethics.

That's THE reason for universal healthcare. So small businesses CAN then compete fairly. The pressure is off and they can offer better compensation if they don't have to worry about paying their own or thier employees healthcare.

We had one employee have a heart attack. Our company of eight employees then had our insurance rates go up 400%. So you know what? To survive we had to either cut our rather rare and generous inurance benefits -or- lay off three people. OR go out of business and put all ten of us on food stamps. That's people with families, you moron.

THAT'S what happens when the market is your only solution. It's called unemployment.

Don't fucking tell me about the reality or fairness or what people deserve in the might free market. You dont know what your talking about. When businesses go under actual human beings lose thier livelihoods. You fucktard asshole.

As for tipping. You realize there is no way for pay scales in many restaurants to fully compensate for tips AND have the business pay for healthcare in our current insane system, right? No small restaurant is going to survive paying a huge increase in wages and insurance. Not without becoming prohibitively expensive. European restaurants pay living wages becuase they have universal healthcare and they charge proportionally more. We're not talking McDonslds and Applebee's. We're talking Republik of Kaffee where margins will always be razor thin.

Of course living wages are better than releying on tips. But do you want to pay for that? Becuase judging by the sheer overwhelming success of cheap-ass shitty corporate chain restaurants America has repeatedly said "no we want everything cheap as shit." Becuase if you want to ban tips with out also making the marketplace humane for small businesses then your latte and your sandwich are going to be more expensive.

This thread is a veritable smorgasbord of clueless idiocy. Some people honestly think small restaurants are all getting rich off of ripping off thier servers. Jesus. Run a restaurant sometime. Most WANT to pay more. Most restauranteurs were servers and cooks.

Pass universal healthcare. Then you can start talking about fair wage issues in small businesses.
Posted by tkc on September 7, 2013 at 8:52 AM · Report this
Gotta agree with the poster @16 - the nonprofit I work for has a budget of under $700K and about 25 employees, of whom nearly 20 are part time (and this is a matter of business necessity, not an attempt to avoid paying benefits). While we'd love to be able to cover folks there's no way in hell we could afford the additional $7500/month. The existing (and Obamacare) Health Care Tax Credit doesn't even begin to cover this cost.

Single payer, baby!
Posted by Mr. X on September 7, 2013 at 8:58 AM · Report this
If you don't like tipping, you are more than free to either make and bring your own lunch or seek out places that don't accept tips. I hear McDonald's would be right up your ally.
Posted by treehugger on September 7, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
I would happily tip 25% if the servers' corporate paymasters would let them shut up and serve me instead of:

-trying to upsell me in every single interaction
-filling the glass full when I don't want the interruption
--fucking interrupting our conversation whenever they feel like it about six times an hour in a normal meal
--asking me 4 or 5 times if everything is okay, interrupting again, and
--"announcing" trivial things like "and heeeeere's the ketchup you wanted" recently they announced a baked potato and a new fork after they dropped one.

the upshot is they take up about 20% of the time and the talk and I don't want to fucking talk to the server. they are trained in this degrading set of interactions by their employer's consultant, or most sheeple just love this attention. it's over serving and it's disserving and I stopped going out because of it. Worst are the "servers" who put their HAND on your shoulder or touch you or draw up a chair and flip it around to talk to you like one of the guys, while I thinking "hey asshole...who invited you to my meal?" they routinely do stuff which if my friend did it I'd drop him as a friend, esp. the constant total interruptions. used to be they knew how to hover and approach only when eye contact made. that was "service" this shit is disservice, akin to forcing you to watch 20 minutes of ads before every movie. fuck it, I stay home or picnic in the park to get rid of this mistreatment. if the servers weren't required to do all this bullshit nonwork they'd have more time for actual better service or would serve more tables perhour and could make more that way.
Posted by over service isthe problem on September 7, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 20
Wow... call off your attack dogs there, chief.

For what it's worth, I agree with everything you wrote. Well, except for the "fucktard asshole" stuff.

But I guess it's easier for you to just lash out in blind rage than to simply ask "what'd you mean by that?"
Posted by Urgutha Forka on September 7, 2013 at 11:36 AM · Report this
@16 (tkc): Nice to hear from a small businessperson who "gets it" on single-payer. Egregiously overpriced employer-based health insurance, inadequate national labor standards, and trade treaties with cosmetic labor provisions are definitely pushing a lot of employers into a race to the bottom on wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions, no matter how compassionate, fair-minded, and competent those employers may be.
Posted by PCM on September 7, 2013 at 12:20 PM · Report this
@10 (Urgutha Forka): Yeah, being familiar with some of your previous posts I had a pretty good idea what you meant and I thought that tkc's attack on you was unwarranted. In fact, I started writing something to that effect in my previous comment, but it came out too bitchy so I gave up. Sorry.
Posted by PCM on September 7, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Tips are for the waiters and staff who serve you in the dining room.

The price of the meal pays for the food, the drink, your use of the space (room, table, napkins, silverware place settings, etc.), the kitchen staff and the management.

The price of your meal doesn't pay for your "servant" who does everything for you.

To gain an appreciation of the value of your server, invite 8-12 people to your home for a multiple course meal that they create from a menu of choices (not family style, not buffet, not a prepared set menu).

Clean & prepare the space, greet & seat everyone, figure out the mood and politics of the table, take everyone's unique requests for their meal (including what's not on the menu & peculiar directives that will challenge your and the cook's ability to please them), communicate (and translate) everyone's demands to the kitchen, deal with the chef and staff's reactions, help plate and prepare the food all while returning to the table constantly to assure everyone that their food is in fact being made while they tell you about changes they want to make to their order and make thinly veiled (if even) complaints about their custom orders taking soooo long (it's been less than 10 minutes since they ordered), bring the food all at the same time (no food orphans allowed) along with everything and remember who had what (or suffer their wrath), get more last minute changes and additions along with more of those thinly veiled complaints, take requests (sans nasty attitudes) to the kitchen, figure out how to make these changes and additions without the chef flying into a rage, return frequently enough but not too frequently to keep everyone happy (let's hope you read the mood and dynamics of this group right.), listen to more of those not so thinly veiled complaints and words of advice, help everyone exit, clean up the mess.

Got all that? Good. Now, add money and the politics of money to that whole experience. Then, add the management and owners to the equation. Okay, so far? Now, change your relationship from hosting this group in your own home to being an unpaid or barely paid servant in someone else's house. Finally, add the expectation of your discretion about all you've seen and heard.

And, just for shits and giggles add some drunks, sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, and condescending class bigotry. Include at least one or more assholes taking out their shitty moment, day or existence on you.

Now, repeat the whole scenario a few dozen times per day.

Do you still want to argue about paying for service?

Do you still want to confuse paying for your "servant" with registering a complaint with the chef or management?
Posted by A night in the life on September 7, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 24
@23: The wait staff are employees of the restaurant. When I pay for my meal, I expect the charge to reflect the full cost of that meal, including the cost of a living wage for the employee whose job it is to take my order and bring me the food.

Not my "servant". A salaried employee of the business I am frequenting, same as the cashier at the supermarket or the sales clerk at the store.

I am happy to tip, knowing that this particular type of employee is, more often than not, not actually paid a living wage by her or his employer. But I would be a lot happier just paying my bill if I could be confident that all employees of the restaurant were being paid appropriately.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on September 7, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
basmatic 25

I am middle-aged, somewhat overweight, and buy my work clothes at H &M. My tips average 20% after tax. Maybe you tip depending on the youth, style, race, etc. of your server, but don't generalize.

Posted by basmatic on September 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
Here is Australia we pay service staff a living wage and tips are genuinely a gratuity. A friend who has been resident in the US for a long time has a theory that tipping is a remnant of a slavery culture - paying the people who serve you is discretionary; you don't owe them anything, but you might magnanimously gift them something. Not sure about that, but the more time I spend in the US, the truer it seems.

I overtip like crazy when I'm in the US, and I will be from Friday; I deeply worry about low-paid workers in a country without publicly funded health care.
Posted by Fishface on September 9, 2013 at 6:33 AM · Report this
The fact of the matter is that the system has been in place for a long time and needs an overhaul. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, it's just a bad system that everyone has been living with. The question is, what do you do and how do you do it? And the answer that I know I'm going to hear is that restaurants should start doing X differently. Now I know it makes sense on a lot of levels to expect the people that are the problem to fix the problem. But, are they really the problem? Or are they just doing the best they can with hand they were dealt? Anyone thats been a small business owner will understand what I'm talking about. Myself personally don't feel that it's fair to expect a business or a few businesses to change a culture that has been around for decades. Thoughts?
Posted by Restaurant guy on September 11, 2013 at 8:22 AM · Report this
I just published a quick look at tipping versus Yelping on Slideshare. Please have a look, I think it's a nice follow up to this article.…
Posted by dakota581 on October 17, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
I just published a quick look at tipping versus Yelping on Slideshare. Please have a look, I think it's a nice follow up to this article.…
Posted by dakota581 on October 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Report this

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