Tipping is a scam

I don’t understand the concept of tipping. It doesn’t make any sense in today’s Western society. If you apply logical, critical thinking to it, it collapses into a heap of irrational psycho-babble. Let me show you what I mean.

In today’s society everything has a price. We use the internet to check prices against hundreds of outlets so that when we buy a product we know we have got the best price and how much we will have to pay. Simple. But with dining out, this simple model goes to pot.

The pretence of a price is there; we can look at the menu and see prices against the food items but this is not the real price. It is expected that you will pay more than the asking price. Now why would anyone in their right mind do that? Where else does this happen in commerce? You don’t go to the cinema and pay five pounds for the ticket and then have the guy on the counter give you a disgusted look if you don’t voluntarily cough up another fifty pence, do you? So why do certain industries have this extortion racket?

If we had a market system based on haggling then a vagueness in price would be expected. I would argue the toss with the restaurant owner about how much the meal was worth, strike the bargain then order. But our society is based on fixed monetary values. Imagine walking into M&S and offering the shop assistant a percentage of the ticket price. What sort of reaction would that get?

“No sir the price is forty pounds.” I could pull a disgusted face and try and make the shop assistant uncomfortable by chuntering on about my offer being a fair price and having several kids to feed back home but ultimately the assistant would say “Look, it’s forty pounds. Now either pay the price or sod off. Sir.”

And how did certain industries acquired this privilege? Why aren’t nurses tipped? And where do you draw the line in the tipping charade? Who exactly merits a tip? Does anyone get tipped in a McDonald’s restaurant, if not, why not?

We need to turn the tables – metaphorically of course – on the waiters. As they stand there with a pathetic hangdog look on their face and that little pewter plate in their hands that has your change on it – why do they need a special begging plate to give you change? – we need to run a conversation like this.

“Now, before I leave you your tip, what do you think your efforts merit?”

He or she replies with a hopeful “ten pounds?”

“Ten pounds, fine. But just so I am satisfied that you have earned the tip, just remind me what you did to earn this extra pay for services that were above and beyond your normal job description. (Listens) Ah, okay, you took my order, correctly conveyed the information to the kitchen, then you managed to bring the food after correctly identifying it as the food I had ordered, to my table. And no, you didn’t spill any of it down my jacket and as far as we can tell you washed your hands after that bout of diarrhoea that you suffered.

Hmm, but wait a minute, isn’t that just what your job requires you to do? Where does the extra ten pounds come in – you do get paid don’t you for doing your job? Ah but only poorly you say. So what you are saying then is that the tip is in fact a charitable donation to subsidise the catering industry. Forgive me, but why can’t this restaurant business stand on its own two feet like any other commercial venture? It sounds like you should tip me for keeping you in a job!”

Here we have the biggest scam in the Western world. Imagine if other industries took up the same business model. Take the fire service.

“Look lads, as employers we don’t want to pay you a living wage so you’ll have to make the rest up with tips. Hey, come on, think of the tips you’ll get if you saved someone’s house from burning down!”

The argument that waiters are poorly paid is a myth anyway. We have a minimum wage in this country now; with the addition of the tips they make, some waiters are earning fifty thousand pounds a year.

My favourite trick though is where you get the bill and at the bottom it says ‘service not included.’

Oh dear, that’s a bit of an oversight isn’t it; not including the cost of one of your raw materials. Or was it understood that I would go to the kitchen, request my own food and fetch it when it was ready – I can do that if that is what is required. And why is it service that is not included, why not food, or the furniture?

Imagine going into M&S again, buying a pair of trousers then being presented with a bill that said ‘transportation costs not included’. And you then had to guess at its likely component cost and the only indication you had of its accuracy was the expression on the shop assistants face. If you are hopelessly out you are made to feel uncomfortable for your ignorance by the disgusted look of outrage on their face. What sort of way is that to run a business?

I can understand the origin of tipping and in this context it makes sense; say count Dracula goes into a restaurant and looks over the menu. He says to the waiter, “I fancy some liver and bacon tonight but this pig’s liver is not to my liking, I don’t suppose you could find a human one could you?’ And the waiter replies, “We don’t really do human liver sir..company policy and all that, but there is a teaching hospital next door. Let me see what I can do!”

The waiter has done you a special favour so great, pay him for his trouble. But to tip for no good reason?

And isn’t it strange that it doesn’t work both ways? Say the service is crap; the barely edible food was slow in coming and served by surly apes – what then? Imagine the reaction if, after receiving the bill, you said, “Well normally I would leave a fifteen percent tip. But as the service has been so atrocious I will deduct twenty percent from this bill.”

If someone does try it, let me know the outcome.

6 Responses to “Tipping is a scam”

  1. I live in the UK too. I’ve heard people insist on a tip in the US, but never in the UK.

    I’ve blogged this:
    http://tr.im/gVyM

  2. plop says:

    One point that nobody makes is the following.

    If tipping is so necessary in the xxx industry (substitute with your idiotic definition), why is it that in Japan enterprises do just fine without the concept of tip?

    AND, I hasten to say, at the same time providing a quality of service that the best UK and US waiters can only dream of?

    I pity you people still living in places where this barbaric custom is still rife.

  3. Angelo says:

    In the US it just gets worse and worse. You joke about tipping in other industries, but it becomes reality here.

  4. Martin Dean says:

    Top blog – I hate the tipping nonsense which was taken to new excess by a certain Leeds Restaurant – With my credit card in the machine I concentrate on inputting my pin but no first I must answer
    1) Do I want to tip – I am sober enough to work out which is the No key
    2) It then asks do I want to tip again – more concentration No again
    3) Do I want to give £2.50 to a charity of their choice – more concentration before finally saying No
    Only then could I pay the Bill
    Name and Shame ? OK Zizzi in the Light. I will not rush back.

    Next beef – compulsory 10% surcharge on groups of x size. You are bringing a whole load of custom – and they think that justifies adding more cost to the bill – the buggers – It should be a DISCOUNT.

    For fun ask restaurants to remove the voluntary surcharge on the bill – and watch them cry …. what did we do wrong …. nothing I just want to pay the advertised price. If you want 10% more raise your prices by 10% SIMPLES

    (My personal view only)

  5. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Thanks for naming and shaming, Martin.

    The 10% surcharge you mention for larger groups came as a complete shock to me. How have they managed to turn a fundamental capitalist principle upside down? I suppose if they can get away with the tipping scam then they might as well try others…

  6. Paul rayment says:

    Good points well made. Also very reminiscent of the opening scene of Resevoir Dogs.

    With regards to the minimum wage, you might need to check some facts as plenty of places [loch Fine] don’t pay minimum wage but get away with paying a tiny wage and claiming tips bring it up to the legal level. Madness.

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