Let's get something straight: I'm not a cheapskate. I don't mind paying for stuff and paying for it appropriately. But having been in the US for several days now, I have developed a real distaste for the whole culture of tipping.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Why, you may ask? Because it doesn't produce better service. The quality of service isn't any better or any worse in the US than it is in countries where tipping isn't the norm. I've eaten in restaurants from Seattle to Seoul, and there is no correlation between the extent to which tipping is used as a supplement to the wages of waiting staff and the quality of service from those staff. Why doesn't it produce better service? Because it is expected: a gratuity that must be given.
What's worse, not only doesn't it work, but it undermines the whole point of being helpful and friendly. In a US restaurant, I'm not sure whether the waitress smiles because she is genuinely happy to provide her service, whether she's after a bigger tip or whether she's making a pass at me (okay, she's probably not making a pass at me, but you know what I mean). Being nice is cheapened, because a doubt about the motive is created. And that doubt lingers even after you've stepped from the restaurant. Tipping prostitutes something that should be given of freely. We should be helpful and courteous because it makes us feel good, and it makes others feel good. We should take pride in what we do regardless of how lofty our employment is, and respect the genuine effort of others without cheapening it by making it all contingent on money being exchanged.
I'm not a tree-hugging hippy advocating free love, but we're all human beings, and we deserve to treat ourselves and those around us with respect and dignity. If someone should be getting paid twenty dollars an hour, then pay them that. Don't cheapen the whole experience by forcing them to smile their way to a decent income. It doesn't improve the quality of service, it doesn't make anyone feel good. It doesn't work.