Monday, March 01, 2010

Baksheesh (aka The Tip)

I have never been able to understand why you compulsorily need to tip waiters in a restaurant in America. Tipping is somewhat like 'baksheesh'. It is what you leave behind as a mark of appreciating good service. So if the service isn't good, then it makes complete sense to not tip the waiter.

This New Yorker article on tipping is explains that the waiters are paid much less than minimum wages for their job. Hence they have to make up for their time through tips. This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard and a really stupid system! There are obviously all sorts of diners and some of them will definitely NOT tip well. And the waiter cannot get a guarantee from the customer upfront that he/she is going to get a generous tip. So why should the waiter take good care of the customer? The New Yorker puts it succinctly.

People tip even though they don’t have to. Since they tip after they’ve been served, they’re not buying good treatment in advance. Nor are they just buttering up their regular waitresses—studies show that people tip about as well at out-of-town restaurants as they do at their local Bennigan’s. Americans are paying money that they do not have to pay, then, while receiving no obvious benefit as a result.
And being disgruntled, he can take it out on the other customers and lose out on some tips. This will bring a bad name to the restaurant even if it serves good food!

Another recent article in the New York Times has created a lot of angst among the readers (see the comments section). This author asks the right question regarding what happens if tipping proliferates into other professions.
Imagine if everyone did that. As you file out of the airplane, there’s the pilot, standing with his palm outstretched like a doorman who just let you into the hotel: “Hope you enjoyed your flight. Ahem, bit of a rough landing there, ahem. Not too easy to pull off, you know. Oh, why thank you, sir. You shouldn’t have.”
The system 'recommends' a 15% tip for plain service and 20% if it is excellent! Are they kidding?!? In fact, some restaurants help 'Math-challenged' customers by calculating and suggesting the 15% and 20%, not to mention the compulsory 18-20% service fee if you are group of over 6! Now is it my fault that the restaurant owner does not care to pay the waiters the minimum wage, or the government taxes the waiters based on some set income rather than their actual income (which supposedly forces them to ask for tips)?

Suddenly we have waiters writing blogs and books on 'tipping etiquette', giving interviews on television, radio and in newspapers and magazines as to what is an acceptable tip and what is blasphemous (some of them do not accept the concept of a 0% tip for bad service!). Also, the proliferation of 'tipping jars' at coffee shops, buffet places, food pick-up counters is ridiculous! Tipping for an excellent service received is understandable, but just because the system has brainwashed us into doing so is just plain stupid.