Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why Tipping Should Be Outlawed

It was the coat check tips that did it, back when I was working for a restaurant company and became friendly with a woman who staffed one of our hostess stations. It felt strange and demeaning to go from chatting about our weekend plans one minute to pressing a couple of sweaty bills into her hand in exchange for my coat the next. But to abstain would be even worse — it would mean neglecting my contribution to a pool of money that I knew comprised her income. I get the feeling she wasn't too keen on the power dynamics, either.

The friendships I've formed with restaurant employees over the years have made me think seriously about why hospitality workers are singled out among America's professionals to endure a pass-the-hat system of compensation. Why should a server's pay depend upon the generosity — not to mention dubious arithmetic skills — of people like me?

So I was thrilled to hear that New York City's Sushi Yasuda recently decided to eliminate tipping altogether. Including gratuity for parties of six or more has already become relatively commonplace; in a few restaurants, like Thomas Keller's Per Se and The French Laundry, it's automatically added onto all checks. But Yasuda has gone one step further, dispensing with service as a separate line item — and implicitly, an "extra" — and folding it into their prices as a cost of doing business, along with the rent, and electricity, and ingredients.

If I had my way, we'd take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it. Here’s why:

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