I’m a Big Tipper (And I Want My Tips to Go to the Servers, Not the Owners)

2017-12-11 – I’m a fairly big tipper. No, I’m not the guy who gives a $1,000 tip on a $45.00 check. I’ll tip $9 or $10. I tip 20% and round up.

When I first learned about tipping, probably as a teenager, I tipped 10%. That was the standard back in the Sixties. The rate crept up to 15%, and finally to 20%. My boys have worked in restaurants and bars and I was even inclined to bump it up further, but my boys said no. They said 20% gave the “front-of-the-house” workers a good living.

Their base wage certainly does not.

Which is why I tip well. And this is why the rate has gone up over time: the base wage has lagged way behind inflation. The growing gap was made up by tips.

From time to time, you see articles explaining where the custom of tips arose, whether you should withhold tips if service is bad, how tipping is rare in foreign countries, whether the custom should be abandoned in this country, etc., etc.

I know nothing about any of that. I do know that I don’t have any option about withholding part of the purchase price when I buy a shirt and service is bad or if I bring my car in for servicing and don’t get it back for two weeks. I know that if a server is slow because of something the manager did, the manager’s pay is not docked. And I know that my own pay is the same day after day, regardless of whether I have a bad day or a great day. So I almost never withhold a tip. (It’s probably never, but I’ll say “almost never.” I used to, but I don’t think I’ve withheld tips for a very long time.)

Tipping has become such an important part of a server’s income that, when you tip, you are probably paying the server more than the restaurant owner for the short time they are with you! I’ve thought that I ought to be able to send them down the street for a better dessert when I don’t like what’s being served at the restaurant I’m in. If I’m paying more than the restaurateur, I ought to be able to call the shots!

But that’s not how it works.

Restaurant owners love to be able to advertise a meal for $83, knowing full well that you’re going to pay $100 if you give a 20% tip. It’s a kind of open deception that we’ve grown up tolerating. I can tolerate this wink-wink fraud because I know that my server is going to get paid when I leave a tip.

But the Department of Labor has now proposed a regulation that would allow employers to get their hands on employee tips. It would operate when employees are required to pool tips. Employers would only be required to return the pooled tips to employees to the extent their regular pay falls short of the minimum wage. Any tips above that could be kept by the employer.

When I pay a restaurant check, I am paying the employer. When I pay a tip, I am paying the server (and possibly other support people).  I don’t want my tip money going to the employer.

So I have submitted a formal comment in opposition to the proposed rule, as follows:

As a regular restaurant patron, I am writing to oppose the proposed rescission of portions of the Department’s tip regulations published in the Federal Register on December 5, 2017. When I pay a restaurant check, I am paying the employer. When I pay a tip, I am paying the server and other employees. I don’t want my tips to reduce the employer’s minimum wage obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act and I want 100% of my tips to go to the employees who served me or supported that service.  If an employee takes part of what I pay on my restaurant check, it’s called embezzlement. I think the same word should apply if an employer takes part of what I leave as a tip.

You can leave your own comments on the Department’s proposed rule by clicking here.

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