Mandatory gratuity?

We have all come to terms with the fact that a $3 pint of beer is actually $4, or that a $10 meal at a restaurant is actually $12. The idea of tipping for services has become a given in our society and many others outside of our general vicinity. So how did this happen?

We have all come to terms with the fact that a $3 pint of beer is actually $4, or that a $10 meal at a restaurant is actually $12. The idea of tipping for services has become a given in our society and many others outside of our general vicinity. So how did this happen? How did 20 percent become the standard tipping amount in bars and restaurants?

Tipping originated as bribes to expedite services for those who had the money to pay. Soon enough, those who were not tipping received sub-par service as a result, and thus tipping became necessary to receive good service.

This eventually became so engrained in patrons’ ideas of etiquette that tipping became a customary practice.

Tipping is somewhat akin to a legal and open bribe, a mutual understanding between two parties that money will get you what you want faster or better. The practice than began to filter into other professions, especially here in the United States, where we so highly value our free market economy. Now we have people tipping to have a door professionally opened for them and tip jars at just about every place that serves food or beverages.

What is even more disturbing is the level at which state policies and taxes facilitate the tip industry. The majority of bars automatically tax their bartenders on a 20 percent tip for any bill they ring up. This means that if you tip less than 20 percent, the bartender receives an even smaller percentage of the tip you thought you were leaving since they are always taxed on the assumption that they will receive a tip of 20 percent or more.

So now a 20 percent tip is not merely a suggestion—it is required (if you don’t want to be responsible for someone not making enough to pay rent). Leaving no tip will actually result in money being taken away from the server since they get a 20 percent tax of that bill taken out of their paycheck regardless.

Some places even go so far as to include a tip with the bill, commonly an 18 percent mandatory gratuity. That sounds like an oxymoron to me. At this point it ceases to be a tip and is just part of the bill, only it goes to the server and not the restaurant. A patron is no longer allowed to rate the value of the service with which they have been provided, which, some would argue, is one of the only reasons for tipping at all.

Who decided what kinds of services deserve a tip, anyway? If I order a beer at a bar and the bartender merely cracks it open and hands it to me, I do not think he deserves a tip, but social custom dictates that he does and, should I not tip him, I will be seen as a jerk. It is simply unfair that I have to pay someone to open a beer on top of the $2 I am already paying for a beer that realistically costs less than a dollar.

At some point people realized that they could further guilt people into tipping by setting down a tip jar on the counter by the register. Now whenever someone gets change back they are almost obligated to drop it into the glaringly obvious tip jar that usually has some sort of clever slogan about tipping written on it.

Another reason tipping has become so engrained within the serving industry is that when tipping started to catch on, employers decided to give lower wages to workers that receive tips. Now tipping becomes an argument in relation to decent wages.

Tipping becomes mandatory only because everyone decided that it was and adjusted accordingly. In fact, one of the reasons that tipping is less customary in European countries is because servers have a higher per capita income than American workers in the same job.

It is also a common misconception that tipping is unnecessary overseas. Tipping is customary in many countries like Italy, Ireland and Holland. Interestingly enough, tipping as a custom has only started to become more prevalent in recent years.

I would argue that this is mostly due to American tourism and the general Americanization and globalization of culture. Since many people overseas are aware of our penchant for tipping, they now expect it from us even on their own turf, and it is not a stretch to assume that Americans will tip, whether it is due to misinformation or habit.

Ultimately, I view tipping as a pat on the back for a job well done or a payment toward future good service upon my return. A tip for average service is simply paying someone to do their job when they are already getting paid to do that job.

Employers need to pay their employees higher wages and stop passing the deficit onto the customer who is already paying for the privilege of eating or drinking in their establishment. Either that or we need to start tipping construction workers, teachers, farmers and grocery-store checkers.

Much like Mr. Pink in the film Reservoir Dogs, when it comes to tipping I just don’t believe in it. There are many folks out there making minimum wage at a job that society does not deem tip-worthy. It is only made worse by the fact that our society and government has formed a bubble around the tipping industry to make it mandatory.