About a month ago, professional wrong person (ED NOTE: and amateur Thrillist senior writer!) Dave Infante wrote a story about how people should stop tipping their servers so that, eventually, the country will understand how ridiculous our tipping system is and how the system needs to be changed. Many people have asked me to respond to this nonsense, and the time has come for me to address it. No one is debating whether the system is perfect. It isn't; some customers don't feel that a server's income is their responsibility and that the restaurant should pay their staff a living wage, while some servers don't feel that they should bust their ass giving impeccable service only to have some d-bag leave them a 10% tip. In a perfect world, everyone would get paid a wonderful salary for doing what it is they love to do.
Tipping does not actually hurt the customer
No, tipping is not a legal requirement, but it is an expectation. No one who grew up in this country can pretend they don't understand that when going out to eat, they will be expected to leave a 15-20% tip. Tipping may slightly hurt the customer in one of three ways:
1. Financially: The additional 15-20% for the tip is going to cost them too much, pushing them over their weekly budget. This could mean that they won't have enough money to buy snacks at the 99-cent store or will no longer be able to afford to be generous with the "Take a Penny, Leave a Penny" jar at the grocery store. If you can't factor the tip into your budget, why are you going out to dinner in the first place?
2. Mentally: Math is hard y'all, and figuring out 20% of a total can be way too much for a brain that is only used to playing Candy Crush and watching episodes of Real Housewives: New Jersey. Download a (free!) app and get over it.
3. Socially: Once their friends learn about their crappy tipping habits, these cheap-asses may soon be ostracized from their own communities, eventually having to start a new civilization on Fantasy Island where bread baskets grow on trees and every cocktail has a little bit of extra liquor in it at no charge.
Not tipping hurts the server
Yes, not tipping really does hurt the server. Not only are they making the hourly pittance of $2.13 in some states, they aren't getting any tips from cheap a-holes trying to prove a philosophical point. The thing is, servers have to tip out other people at the end of the day and much of the time, that amount is determined by what is sold and not what they made in tips. In other words, servers have to tip a percentage of sales to other staff like busers and food runners even if they didn't make enough money to cover it. It is possible for a server to lose money by waiting on a table that stiffs them because whether or not they got a tip from that table, they might still have to tip 3% of what that bill was. It will come out of their own pocket and that can hurt.
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