Over the past few weeks, another controversy over automatic tipping has burst back onto the scene, following recent controversial articles in the New York Post and Eater.com.
The Post article, by author Steve Cuozzo, argues that tips should always be built into the cost of a restaurant meal, and that doing so would unleash a Utopian paradise where waiters and customers would forever treat each other with professionalism, respect and dignity. At Eater, however, we hear the contra-case in a a post where a diner complains after a party of four adults and two infants got charged an automatic 20% gratuity in a NYC restaurant because, technically, they were a "party of six."
Should we adopt the European model here in the USA, and build tips into the cost of the meal? There's at least some logic behind the idea. For example, in cities frequented by European tourists, waitstaff can get badly hurt when foreign customers don't know the tipping conventions here in the USA. If the customer leaves little or nothing as a tip as they do back home, the waiter bears all the risk of not getting paid. Many restaurants in cities frequented by tourists tack on automatic gratuities for this very reason.
On some level I can see the value adopting the European model: just build the cost of paying the waiter into the prices of the food and be done with it. Of course, doing so would conflict with the standard practice of every other restaurant in every other city across the entire USA. It's funny how Manhattan-based journalists often get very confused and forget that outside their tiny little island is a whole country of 300 million people and 3.8m square miles--with its own firmly established dining conventions.
And of course, there are glaring gaps in the logic behind mandatory tipping. For example, one argument in favor of mandatory tipping is this: if you just put a 20% fixed charge on the dinner check, then waiters won't have to upsell diners on pricier entrees, appetizers and wines to boost their check.
Except that the 20% charge is based on the value of the dinner check, so there is still the exact same incentive to upsell the customer. A bigger check means a bigger tip, mandatory or not.
Another perfectly justifiable question: if the waiter knows she's automatically going to get 20%--no more and no less--for waiting on a table, is there an incentive to try?
Fortunately, here at CK I not only have lots of restaurant-goers among my readers, I also have quite a lot of restaurant owners, managers and waitstaff reading here too. So here's your chance to share your views: what is your take on automatic tip fees?
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