Hi RIP friends,
I’m in US, visiting Hooliland this week. The weather is awesome even though it’s January. Spending free time biking among pelicans and squirrels is simply amazing.
Among the (many) things I don’t like about US, there’s this one that I really, really hate: tips.
In US, you tip everyone. Your waiter at the restaurant, your taxi driver, your barista, even the delivery guy!
You don’t tip because you like the product. You’re supposed to tip because that’s how most of their salary is made. The tip is not unexpected. There are acceptable ranges for tips in various situations. A good reference manual is this one from waitbutwhy, one of the best blog on the internet, that these days produces a post per year… Here’s the link to the original post on tipping.
Despite tipping being not mandatory, your bill might automatically include it, sometimes under the name “gratuity“, from “gratis“. It’s fun, isn’t it?
In the best case, your bill suggests you how much you should tip. I guess this is because foreigners who are not used to this procedure risk to forget it.
Here in Silicon Valley you can see recommended tips in the range 18% – 22%. I’ve seen suggestions up to 25%.
If you’re American you’re probably used to it and consider that normal.
It’s the way things work, isn’t it?
Well, for me it’s always a shocking experience. The temptation to give my feedback and act against the rules is high, but I never do.
“That’s because Hooli pays for your meals, am I right?”
Of course not! It’s a matter of principle!
Let me be clear: I don’t want to appear mean, cheap or “the worst” (according to waitbutwhy). I just don’t agree with the system and my only weapons are my actions. But in the end I never do anything revolutionary and simply play by the rules and tip my ~20%.
Here I am to use my other weapon, my tongue (well, actually my fingers but tongue sounds more cool)!
My thoughts on tipping
Before starting: I’m focusing on restaurants tips here. Most of the same arguments work for other jobs as well but I won’t go deep there.
1) I like meritocracy.
I like that workers who perform better and work harder get more money and recognitions. This could have been achieved by bonuses and promotions but I guess it’s hard for bosses to assess the quality of a waiter’s work. Customers feedback should be the final metric. As a customer, I’m happy to be able to provide a feedback for the service I receive. Tipping is a nice way to express my feedback. It encourages waiters to be efficient and kind. Hurrah!
“Then why do you complain! tips economy is meritocratic! And incentives high service quality”
The problem is that this system is not meritocratic at all, and here’s why.
1) The tipping range is very narrow
How can you maneuver within such a narrow range? Can there be a 4% difference between “asshole, eat this shitty sandwich and go the fuck away” and “Dr. RIP, we were waiting for you! I’ve reserved the best table for you in front of the sharks pool. Now please let me perform a belly dance show for you and then I’ll spend the entire time massaging your feet and telling Dave Chappelle quality jokes“?
How are waiters being incentived to increase their service quality by a 4% range?
2) They earn more if you spend more
Let’s be extreme: a shitty waiter that gets tipped 15% on a 100$ dinner earns more than a perfect waiter that gets tipped 25% on a 50$ dinner.
So, what’s their incentive? To make you spend more.
Why are they nice with you then? To get a higher tip percent? No, that’s inefficient. They’re nice to you to make you spend more.
“:D Can I bring you something else? 😀”
“uhm… no, we’re done”
“:D ok, cool cooooool here’s the bill 😀 have a nice evening… please pay quickly 😀 so that I can serve other customers and maximize revenues 😀”
3) 18-22% is a lot!
In Italy, Switzerland and in general in most of Europe tips are not expected and when we tip, we tip few Euros/Francs to round the bill. It’s ok, it’s a recognition of exceeding expectations, it doesn’t impact your plans and it’s not expected.
In US… Why the hell can’t they get a salary by their bosses? Why should I pay an extra fifth – plus sale tax, so ~30% extra – compared to the menu pice? What’s the point of having 9.99$ on the menu if the item will cost me 13$ more or less?
Which brings us to the next point…
4) I don’t know how much I’m going to pay for my meal
That’s extremely annoying.
And that’s a consequence (or the cause?) of lack of financial awareness in US. You don’t know how much you’re going to pay for your meal when ordering.
“Who cares, we’ll just swipe the credit card!”
When I was young, I used to have strict budget for dinner out. I still do, but I used to too (cit.).
It worked this way:
- I have 20 Euro in my wallet.
- I don’t have access to credit.
- I must spend below 20 Euro.
Very simple, and educative. You have a budget, you need some basic math skills like summing up few numbers and see if you’re within your budget.
Responsibility, awareness, scarcity.
Here in US you need a PhD in Financial Mathematics to predict your final bill. But who cares! Let’s pay with plastic, right? Budget? What is it??
And what disturbs me the most is that when I have a dinner with others they seem to not know what’s happening!
“I’ll take a shit-burger, for 9.99$ it’s very cheap!”
No, it’s not! It doesn’t cost 9.99$. It’s 13$. Let’s call it 13, not 9.99. Let’s call with its name.
5) I hate fake nicety
Being gentle and kind is appreciated. Acting is not.
It’s obvious that being a waiter is a hell of a job. Here in US they work impossible hours, weekends, under continuous pressure and yet they smile at you so fakely that’s disturbing. Their 3 seconds walk between tables shows the face of the death where you can see how they put off the fake mask for a heartbeat.
I’m not complaining with them though, let’s be clear. I empathise with them, I feel their pain. I just don’t get why they’ve to worsen the situation by adding this extra layer of fakety and pressure.
I don’t like being asked every 5 minutes “is everything ok? Cool, I’m happy you’re happy” and other such bullshits!
Ok, then what?
Please don’t tell me “that’s how waiters get their salary!”
Bullshit! Just ask for a salary, you’re fucking working there! You’re wearing a ridiculous costume that matches the shop’s color, not me.
Ah, don’t tell me they’re taxed based on “supposed tips” either.
Don’t play the guilty card with me. “if you don’t tip they pay taxes anyway…” it’s a bug in the system, fix the fucking system!
I want to tip freely if I like the service. I’m more willing to tip if I think what I ordered is worth more than its price. If I’m already paying “a lot” for something worth less, I won’t tip on top of that. And I’m pretty cheap when considering the monetary value of unnecessary things 🙂
And if you really need to have some structure, I demand tips bracket, like taxes. But decreasing in marginal percentage.
I want waiters who’re relaxed, well paid (salaried), genuine and definitely not sales agents.
What’s your thought on tipping?
Update (evening of January 25th)
Tonight I wanted to get a quick couple of slices of pizza from a local take away / pizza shop in San Francisco.
I went into this pizza shop, ordered 2 slices of pizza and a coke. The guy at the counter said “13.50, please”. I gave him my credit card, then he turned the display toward me and I saw these three big buttons for tips: 15%, 20%, 25%. I pressed 15%, slightly disgusted, and paid my 15.52$.
Then took my pizza and coke, sit down and had my quick dinner (pizza was amazing even for an Italian, though). When I finished, I cleaned up after myself. The guys behind the counter did nothing, NOTHING, except fulfill the order.
Why the hell are we supposed to tip in these circumstances?
I’m pretty sure there was a “no tip” option, but I didn’t see it. Just three big blue buttons saying 15%, 20%, 25%. Wtf, 25% srsly??.
Did my research afterward, and discovered the software they’re using is Square, which someone says “it’s guilting us into tipping basically everyone“. According to the images I’ve found on the net, there should have been the “no tip” option, but I didn’t see it.
Seriously though, You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin?