Friday, August 28, 2015

365 True Things: 152/Tipping

We went out for a nice dinner this evening at one of our favorite local restaurants, Passionfish (their motto: food from the heart). Sea bass sashimi, melted gorgonzola curried green salad, grilled sea scallops, grilled sturgeon. Every dish a winner.

As they prepared to settle their check, the party-of-four next to us was discussing tips. I heard one half of the older couple (I think it was parents and daughter and daughter's fiancĂ©) mention how you shouldn't tip on wine. Well, I don't know if that's true anymore, but when I was young I definitely saw that advice in a Dear Abby column. And sometimes—like, when we've gotten an especially expensive (for us) bottle of wine—I act on it. I mean, how much more work is a costly bottle than a cheap one?

The next-door party also mentioned feeling obligated to tip well when the meal is inexpensive but not so much when you're paying through the nose. (The wine was brought up in that breath, since a cheap meal probably won't involve any kind of bottle of wine whatsoever.)

Me, I know that waiters rely on good tips for their income, because we live in a silly country where minimum wage couldn't even support a dog. (Our dog, at any rate.)

But I hate that we have this ridiculous tipping system—where it's up to the consumer to pay just a little bit more, rather than expect the employer to pay a decent wage.

That's one of the beauties, for me, of traveling overseas, where the price on the menu is the price you pay. No tax added on top; no tip expected (though a small one is always appreciated). The tax is included, and the workers are paid a decent wage. So when Americans complain about the price of a meal in Paris, for example, I'm pretty sure they're forgetting that here they'd be paying 25–30 percent more than the list price. And that adds up quick.

I remember leaving a pub in Madison, Wisconsin, and as we walked down the street, we heard running footsteps behind us and a young guy yelling, "Sir! Sir! You forgot your quarter!" Not us, but a professorly-looking type up ahead of us. Yeah, he could've left a better tip.  

And on the flipside, I had just arrived in Stockholm and was hungry after a long day of travel. I found a rather unlikely restaurant—I remember TexMex Buffalo, or something—and had a nice meal (it wasn't fast food). The check came and I thought, "Oh, that's quite reasonable." The service had been good. I left a 20 percent tip. Only when I got back to the hotel did it occur to me that you don't leave tips in Sweden. 

I don't like tipping my hairdresser—and she charges a decent enough price that I don't, but perhaps she's disappointed? I don't like tipping hotel bellboys, so I carry my own bags. I don't like tipping taxi drivers, because $20 from my house to the airport a mile away is already highway robbery (but there, I have no idea who actually gets those twenty bucks).

I don't like tipping, period.

It's not that I'm not generous. I can be. It's that the practice seems a relic of premodern times. In this day and age, we should all know what we're paying for, there should be set prices, and everyone should be able to survive. I know that my attitude (not to mention what's reasonable) doesn't help all the people who rely on tips, and so I do try . . . Honest I do.

And now: don't get me started on airfares . . .

1 comment:

  1. the tipping thing is ridiculous! - it makes no sense that the server will get a larger tip if I order a 30$ entree vs a 8$ appy.. Its maddening.....and its maddening that sometimes there tip is based on stuff that may not even be in there control..
    I agree, set prices, fair wages and a tip if the person did /was truly remarkable - above and beyon...
    oh, well ...for now - that system is a dream