Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: The tipping point
You know, the more I think about it, the more I like Owl Meat's suggestion for a new tipping system. Take it away, Mr. OMG:
Tipping in America is an epic fail.
It foments tension where there should be digestion. It's demeaning to workers. It has whiffs of blackmail and bribery. It's a chance for cheapskates to stiff someone. Good and bad service are often rewarded similarly because of social pressure or mandatory service charges.
Americans tip about 42 billion dollars a year in the food industry. Tipping is supposed to improve service, but research shows otherwise:
"this common wisdom might be wrong. Empirical evidence suggests that tips are hardly affected by service quality."
Here at the Owl Meat Drink, er, Think Tank we propose a new system: free market tipping. The concept is simple ...
Bartenders and servers set their own minimum tip rates. No government interference or "living wage" nonsense. Customers choose their server from a menu of photos and backgrounds. Goodbye to the indignity of monetizing human behavior after a night out.
Do I want suave, mustachioed Antonio, with twenty years of fine dining experience (25%), or twitchy Mindy, a student with one month's experience (13%)? The miserly and wanton might choose turbo-hottie Mindy. The discerning gourmand and pretentious tool might select Antonio.
This system has many advantages. It encourages employees to maximize sales, which is good for them and owners. Employees never get stiffed. Patrons don't have to guilt-tip. Foreigners can't plead ignorance. Customers and employees both have a sense of control. Tipping above the minimum is allowed, so there is an incentive to excel. Antonio has a nasty gambling habit, so you might negotiate him down on a slow night.
This adds complexity and might not work everywhere, such as a small bar. You could set one rate per bar or restaurant and let them compete with each other on the price of service.
Service is a commodity and should be subject to free market competition. We already do the math, we just don't translate it properly into money. I go to certain bars on certain nights, because I like the bartender. I don't mind paying more for good service, but I also want to pay less for poor service. One often hears that a restaurant's food is good, but the service is poor. Let's pay commensurately for that service.
The tango of the tip is complex. That won't change, but this would make it more rational and less stressful. Let's destroy the old system and set up a free market for all parties. Welcome to America where everything is for sale, now let's agree on a price.(Photo by Getty Images)