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Myrhaf

A World Without Tipping?

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By Myrhaf from Myrhaf,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Imagine this rich fat guy. Let’s call him Diamond Jim.

Diamond Jim knows you only live once and he wants to live in style. He is very particular in his demands and he only wants the best. When he goes to his favorite restaurant, he expects the valet to park his Cadillac in a special spot and to keep an eye on it. He expects the maitre d’ to seat him at his favorite table by the window. He makes special demands on the waiters.

The grubby socialist who sits at the dark corner table glowers at Diamond Jim in resentment. Why can’t he accept the normal service everyone gets? What makes him special?

After dinner Diamond Jim likes a waiter to serve him a cigar on the patio and even to light his cigar. Furthermore, Diamond Jim expects the waiter to stay with him to engage in conversation, and he demands that the waiter be a Christian-socialist-environmentalist because he likes to argue with fools as he smokes.

Do the valet, maitre d’ and waiters hate Diamond Jim? Quite the contrary, they love him; they even arrange their schedules to be working when Diamond Jim shows up. They do this because Diamond Jim tips like Frank Sinatra on New Year’s Eve. You see, Diamond Jim lives by the Spanish proverb: take what you want and pay for it. He pays for it.

Now, imagine the Senate has passed the Inspector-Van Horn Act, which outlaws tipping. Inspector and Van Horn, the Senate’s two most notorious communists, resent tipping because they think everyone should be paid the same for the same work. Tipping forces individuals to think about how much they should tip, which causes “fears.”

So what do the restaurant workers think of Diamond Jim now? They loathe him because he expects more work from them than the other customers, but they do not get any more money for it. Diamond Jim’s quality of life disappears because he cannot tip. The grubby socialist at the dark corner table cackles with glee because Diamond Jim has been brought down to level of everyone else.

****

This story, like all satire, exaggerates to make a point. Inspector and Gus Van Horn, I am fairly certain, would not advocate a law against tipping. However, they want restaurants to voluntarily do away with the practice.

An individualist, capitalist society is a horn of plenty, offering each individual many choices in every aspect of life. Each individual has the option of choosing his own values, no matter how different or fancy, as long as he can pay for it.

If 90% of the people like blue towels, the other 10% is not forced to buy blue towels just because it is the collective norm. Red towels or yellow towels or checkered towels might cost more, but if someone is willing to pay for them, chances are they will be produced.

Tipping is a force for individualism. Doing away with tips, like all egalitarian actions, penalizes those who want more than the average guy. It forces people with higher standards to accept the service that the statistical average are content with.

Those who have average standards would not be affected by being unable to tip. Collectivists would be delighted because everyone is treated the same.

Only the passionate valuers -- people who think about what they want and then go after it in every aspect of life -- only those people would suffer. Of course, egalitarians don’t care about those people.

Life without the ability to pay for individualized service would be a bit grayer than it is today. It would be one more step in the value-deprivation that is suffocating modern culture.

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Diamond Jim should watch out or Inspector might bring him up on bribery charges. :thumbsup:

I think this reflects a more realistic position than the extremes we were arguing for in the pizza thread, but I hope this doesn't start another 300 posts on tipping...

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I think this reflects a more realistic position than the extremes we were arguing for in the pizza thread, but I hope this doesn't start another 300 posts on tipping...

Oh, no! I can guarantee you they won't be as few as a mere three hundred :thumbsup:

In my experience, restaurants that include a tipping charge (usually between 15% and 20%) don't always make sure the staff delivers a service conmeasurate to the charge. If they did, I'd be fine with included tips. Otherwise, I preffer to judge the service by myself and tip accordingly.

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Oh, no! I can guarantee you they won't be as few as a mere three hundred :dough:

In my experience, restaurants that include a tipping charge (usually between 15% and 20%) don't always make sure the staff delivers a service conmeasurate to the charge. If they did, I'd be fine with included tips. Otherwise, I preffer to judge the service by myself and tip accordingly.

Interesting point. That is why I prefer to tip as a matter of course and hold the threat of non-tipping as a motivator. Our custom of tipping most of the time gives the diner greater control over the quality of service than a system where tips are usually included in the price. What recourse do you have to motivate good service or "punish" bad service if the waiter gets his tip anyway, regardless of how well he serves you?

Our system puts the diner in charge. From a selfish perspective, I am glad I have the opportunity to tip.

(As an aside, I remember the service I got as a child at a restaurant in East Berlin of all places. There was no tipping there. Needless to say, the level of service reflected the level of tipping. :( )

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Interesting point. That is why I prefer to tip as a matter of course and hold the threat of non-tipping as a motivator. Our custom of tipping most of the time gives the diner greater control over the quality of service than a system where tips are usually included in the price. What recourse do you have to motivate good service or "punish" bad service if the waiter gets his tip anyway, regardless of how well he serves you?

I do acept an exception for large aprties, say 10 people or more. Why? Well, service will be mediocre at best. It's bound to be when so many orders need be delivered at around the same time, not to mention any special requests the diners might have. And in any large group some epolpe are bound not to tip regardless of service, to forget to tip, or simply to lack the money to tip. It would be unfair for the staff not to get a tip. Particularly since the waiter, or waiters, assigned to the group won't be serving at other tables.

Other than that, I preffer places where the tip is at the customer's discretion.

Just today at lunch we got a lousy waiter. He dind't offer coffeee or dessert, he forgot to bring the doggie bag, he ddin't come by our table for about 10 minutes, and we had to ask for the check three times. Each incident by itslef isn't a big deal, certainly not to make me consider a lower tip. But all of them together are.

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There's this movie i love called "Palm Beach Story," from 1942. One of the characters, despite being a millionaire (self-made, IIRC), carries around a little ledger and carefully keeps track of every penny he spends. One of his repeated lines is "Tipping is un-American."

I thought that was strange at first, but on some reflection, unlike most trades, with tipping there is no agreement in advance about price. At the end, one party has provided a value, but the other party is free to pay anything they feel like for it--even nothing at all. It occurs to me that the reason someone in 1942 might have said tipping is un-American is that then, at least for some old-fashioned people, the issue would have been less about `us versus the communists,' but of `us versus the aristocracy.' Working without a guarantee of payment puts people in a position they might not like if they associate it with being servants (read: slaves) to an aristocracy.

On the other hand, i have a friend who used to serve sushi at a place in Colorado and make okay money. But now he's making mad gobs of cash doing the exact same job--but he's doing it in a place where movie stars and billionaires go to eat. And lets face it, nobody's putting a gun to his head making him work there.

Personally i like to tip decently if i can. And really well if she's cute.

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(As an aside, I remember the service I got as a child at a restaurant in East Berlin of all places. There was no tipping there. Needless to say, the level of service reflected the level of tipping. :) )
And presumably had not a thing to do with the fact that it was a bloody communist dictatorship.

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Our system puts the diner in charge. From a selfish perspective, I am glad I have the opportunity to tip.

So am I. And, as always, what's good for me is also good for other rational people: The practice of tipping benefits not only the diners but also the restaurant owners and the waiters. As I explained on the thread "Do Objectivists Tip?" :

  • The patrons have a choice between 1, paying a fixed price of, say, $12 regardless of the quality of the service; and 2, paying $10 for the food and whatever they deem appropriate for the service. With #1, their dollars reward the restaurant as a whole, with the owner, the cook, and the entire waiting staff included in one non-negotiable package. With #2, they can reward the specific waiter or waitress who serves them. #2 allows them to exercise a more individualized form of justice--which, far from being irrational, is always preferable to jointly rewarding or withholding rewards from a "collective."
  • The owners have a choice between a system with a built-in, automatic link between pay and performance--and a system without it. All rational businesses strive to link pay to performance; depending on the nature of their employees' jobs, they may find it easy or difficult to find an objective way to measure the latter. Restaurants find themselves in a uniquely fortunate position regarding their waiters: If their performance is to be measured in terms of customer satisfaction (which a rational restaurant with mostly rational customers will want to do), then all they have to do is let the guests tip them!
  • The waiters face a choice between being primarily wage-earning employees on the one hand, and being more like "independent service providers" on the other. A true individualist will prefer the latter; he will welcome the opportunity to earn more through better performace; and he will enjoy working among people with similar incentives.

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Oh, no! I can guarantee you they won't be as few as a mere three hundred :)

In my experience, restaurants that include a tipping charge (usually between 15% and 20%) don't always make sure the staff delivers a service conmeasurate to the charge. If they did, I'd be fine with included tips. Otherwise, I preffer to judge the service by myself and tip accordingly.

I have been a waitress for about 3 years now and I love the work I do because i feel that my earnings are directly related to my skills. When you eat out at a restaurant you are paying for the food you purchase which is a set price on the menu and a customary 15-20% fee for the order and delivery service aka waiter service. Someone is paid a minimal fee to wait on you and provide delivery of your meal and make your eating experience to your likening. If they do a great job ie; put just the requested amount of ice in your drink, make all the substitutions you requested perfectly done, pace your food delivery etc. they are doing more for you then the average customer and should be "tipped" or compensated for that extra work.

I always give the best service possible, period. This is a personal value. You must remember that most of the customers are not objectivists. If they were, I would be rich since they would equate tip = service.

I don't expect to get a good tip if I give lousy service.

I wouldn't work at a restaurant that automatically includes a percentage on checks for waiters since it would reduce the advantage I have being a highly skilled worker. The challenge is to "earn" your tip.

Thats what makes it fun for me, to put my skills to the test.

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See folks, this is what I mean by a rational waitress!

I have been a waitress for about 3 years now and I love the work I do because i feel that my earnings are directly related to my skills.

I'm looking forward to visiting your restaurant when I go to NY! :)

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I thought that was strange at first, but on some reflection, unlike most trades, with tipping there is no agreement in advance about price. At the end, one party has provided a value, but the other party is free to pay anything they feel like for it--even nothing at all. It occurs to me that the reason someone in 1942 might have said tipping is un-American is that then, at least for some old-fashioned people, the issue would have been less about `us versus the communists,' but of `us versus the aristocracy.' Working without a guarantee of payment puts people in a position they might not like if they associate it with being servants (read: slaves) to an aristocracy.

Wow, did you ever nail it on the head. "Servants" of the aristocratic variety, looking to suck up to me for my money, make me very uncomfortable. As do beggars. Automatic tipping can turn service workers into a little bit of both. Yuck. If tipping were non-automatic, the Diamond Jims of the world could flash their cash and buy their crazy, opulent demands, and leave the rest of us out of it: in a world of objective contracts. The Diamond Jims would like it, too, because it makes them more special. Plus, by declaring themselves as tippers up front, they can get their opulent service on the first visit and not have to build up a "reputation" for tipping, first.

Really, everybody wins.

So am I. And, as always, what's good for me is also good for other rational people: The practice of tipping benefits not only the diners but also the restaurant owners and the waiters. As I explained on the thread "Do Objectivists Tip?" :

If it's so great, then why not do it for every business transaction?

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If it's so great, then why not do it for every business transaction?

Successful companies do tend to "tip" their employees for good work--i.e., give them bonuses. Whenever a company asks you to rate the service you've received from them, chances are it's going to affect the bonus paid to whoever dealt with you. (And the reason the company can afford the bonus is because it chooses to remain competitive by providing a good service rather than cutting prices--so the bonus is, in the end, paid by you, when you choose that company over a lower-priced competitor with less enthusiastic employees.) Restaurants basically just streamline this process by letting you give the bonus directly to the waiters.

When you sign up to work for a company that pays bonuses, you don't know the exact amount of bonus you're going to get. All you know is that if you do well and your boss is objective enough about you, you're likelier to get more than less. I don't associate this with slavery at all; to the extent slave-owners used consistent rewards for good performance, it was a deviation from the principle of slavery--an admission that it's a good idea to pay people for their work rather than make them work by force. So, far from being un-American, tipping and bonuses are something quintessentially American!

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Restaurants basically just streamline this process by letting you give the bonus directly to the waiters.
So there isn't any objective reason to not extend the same process to grocery store clerks, burger-store clerks, popcorn-salesmen, movie-ticket-sellers, bus drivers, copy shop attendants, and so on, right? And like the pizza boys, we could help businesses cut what they have to charge to us by eliminating bonuses paid to employees in non-tipping professions, which we end up paying for anyhow.

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But you get what you pay for.(collectively in the case of tips)

In the case of a person not tipping, they are benefitting from the overall tips provided by everyone else. For example: you go to a restaurant and the waiter gives you the best service they can because they want to garner the best tip possible. Four people before you tipped that waiter $4, $8, $4, and $2 respectively. The waiters average tip is then is $4.50 for each of those people before you. This is what the waiter is expecting from you, and his level of service will reflect that. If the average for that restaurant is lower, he will probably be less motivated; higher, more motivated. You of course are not obligated to even contribute to the average if you don't want, so your tip of $0 makes his average$3.60 over five people. For the most part, since the waiter is waiting on you for the first time usually, they are servicing you based on an average they expect from all of their customers' tipping. When you contribute nothing, you are lowering the average and benefitting from the tips of others. When you tip higher than the average you are helping increase the average and possibly the waiter's motivation for the night. (notice that most tip earner count their tips based on a night and not the individual tippers)

One can gain a reputation for being a big tipper and can reap the benfits of that of course.

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But you get what you pay for.(collectively in the case of tips)
And correspondingly, you should only pay for what you (collectively) get. In the case of a person who doesn't provide extraordinary service, they are benefitting from the "blowback" from others in the industry who do provide extraordinary service, in receiving an unearned automatic tip.

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I cannot state the case for tipping better than CapitalismForever did in his quoted passage in Post#10. I agree completely with those statements. I would add several other observations. Tipping is highly individualistic because the waiter service and tip are individual transactions for mutual benefit. The patron directly rewards the waiter for his service. How often is that possible when dealing with employees?

Second, to stress a point I have made before, the reason tipping at restaurants exists is because of the highly personal nature of the service.

There was another comment which I can't find which distinguishes why tipping exists in a personal service industry like restaurants versus the situation Moebius describes. The point was that the nature of the personal service provided by a waiter is such that the customer is in the best position to evaluate a significant part of the waiter's work. That is why the customer effectively pays part of the waiter's wages. This is not true in the situation Moebius describes where the service provided is clear-cut. When I buy a product from a store, the service is clear-cut and I pay a fixed price. When I get a haircut or a restaurant meal, the service provided is highly personal to me and there are clearly many subtle, almost intangible factors that I alone am in the best position to appreciate. It seems almost silly to mention some examples, because I think this point should be clear, but I will mention a few anyway. For example, the barber trims your sideburns just right, the waitress cheerfully brings that extra water you asked for quickly, or that pizza arrived piping hot despite the snowstorm outside.

I would contend that from an economic point of view, it is the degree of personalization of service that answers why the custom of tipping emerged and why it applies to one endeavor and not others. There is nothing irrational in this. It is a custom that emerged for sound economic reasons. That does not mean that all tipping customs are rational. Those that aren't will die out or never truly take hold across the population. (Is pizza delivery one of those activities? Hell, I don't know. I will let a pizza economist write a doctoral dissertation on that one! :lol: I just know I don't have a problem with this custom.)

To further validate my economic hypothesis as to the origin of tipping, consider what it would be like if tipping did not happen. Let us assume that a restaurant manager declares that he is paying his waiters more to compensate for the lack of tips; tipping is forbidden at his restaurant. What would motivate the waiter to provide that extra measure of good service that you, alone, as the diner are in the best position to evaluate? In this situation, the waiter only has to show the boss he is providing good service. The boss does not observe all of the waiter-customer interactions going on. He simply sees his waiters efficiently bringing food back and forth from the kitchen to the tables. He doesn't hear the customer ask for water that is not being provided quickly. He doesn't hear the waiter listlessly recite the day's specials. He doesn't experience the joyless waiter who is a downer to the diners who are trying to enjoy their meal. Who is in the best position to evaluate these subtle aspects of waiter service? You, the diner! That is why you tip.

Alessa36, a waitress, directly confirmed my last point above when she says:

I wouldn't work at a restaurant that automatically includes a percentage on checks for waiters since it would reduce the advantage I have being a highly skilled worker. The challenge is to "earn" your tip.

Thats what makes it fun for me, to put my skills to the test.

How great to be served by waitresses who are motivated in this manner!

I simply do not understand some of the objections I have heard to tipping. Here is a quote from the "Pizza Delivery" thread:

I also do not like the idea that expectations are unknown and everyone is guessing. I do not like an incoherent system. How would you like it if instead of prices on the menu, the restaurant wrote: "whatever you feel like paying." And then if you didn't overpay just to be sure you were paying enough to please your new masters, then they would serve the food undercooked and make snide comments at you. I want a price I can see on the menu for a standard meal and service so I know what I am getting and I know what I am paying for. I want a contract that I can bind and hold them to.

This description is so far removed from what I expect and almost always enjoy when I go to restaurants that I really have to wonder why Inspector would ever eat out at all. Am I alone in finding most of my restaurant experiences enjoyable? (Otherwise, why would I eat out?) Am I alone in having a positive, looking-for-enjoyment attitude when I go to restaurants and interact with waiters? Do I worry about pleasing my "new masters" when I eat out, or suffering snide comments or experiencing undercooked food? This description is one of a hostile, confrontational experience. It is beyond my understanding.

I go to restaurants to relax and enjoy myself and eat a good meal. When I tip, it is an acknowledgement of that enjoyment, as much as it is a rational motivator and compensation that I provide for good service, as has been explained, repeatedly, on this and the "Pizza Delivery" thread.

In all seriousness, I would highly recommend that everyone who has a problem with the custom of tipping should seek out and eat at places that don't allow it. Certainly, you are likely to experience a lot less stress at your meals. If you can't find enough of such places, start a club or a venture capital firm and finance a chain of restaurants where tipping is forbidden.

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In all seriousness, I would highly recommend that everyone who has a problem with the custom of tipping

Just so that my position is clear, I was not one of the people who have "a problem with tipping" and I said as much in the other thread. My problem was more specifically stated as I have a problem with tipping being considered morally obligatory and I offered my reasoning for that. I personally do tip because in most situations I think it is in my rational self-interests to do so.

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I personally do tip because in most situations I think it is in my rational self-interests to do so.
I think we really only have three categories to consider, realistically. Restaurants, cabs, and food-delivery. Well, there is the bellboy at fancy hotels, but that's only by rumor, and I've never verified the existence of such a custom or people. Do you actually tip in all three categories -- the order I offer is significant. Why do you think it is in your rational self interest to tip a cabby? Or a food-delivery guy? The cab case sorta challenges rational analysis since cabs are considered to be public goods, so I don't exactly know how "rational self interest" is applicable, as opposed to something else (hint: deregulating cab companies).

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I think this issue has been hashed and re-hashed to the point of exhaustion (at least for me). I do have one original suggestion to offer. Along the lines of what I said about starting up a chain of no-tipping restaurants, a simpler and immediately practical idea is to form a "no tippers" or "extraordinary service-only tippers" eating club. Many people have eating clubs. For all you no or reluctant or guilty or angry tippers out there, get a group of like-minded people together, and collectively non-tip with your own eating club. You can even (as you should) discuss it with a restaurant manager first.

If you do it, I would welcome your empirical observations of your dining experience. Since you notify the manager first and if he agrees to it, he would indeed have to make sure that an appropriate level of service is provided. You might even start a new trend.

Happy eating! :)

P.S. - The same could apply for tipping in any other endeavor. Form a no-tipping society for your barber, with a taxicab company, you name it. You could even do it with pizza delivery, to borrow from another tired thread. Have a no-tips-pizza night.

As for myself, I happily and cheerfully decline membership in your club. :lol:

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Along similar lines, my novel suggestion is streamlining the tipping process by starting a line of "Tipping mandatory" restaurants where automatically you know that your bill will be inflated by 20%, in order to gurarantee excellent service. At the end of the experience, we could compare notes and see who has had the better dining experiences and who has more money left in ther pocket to spend on their own lives. That way you guilty tippers can live a guilt-free life, knowing that you no longer have to decide whether you have received extraordinary service or merely minimally competent service -- it's clearly excellent!! :lol: After all, the tip is in the bill. :lol:

BTW, when I go to a restaurant, it's usually because of the food -- the skill of the chef -- and not the waitresses who perform transportation cervices. :P:lol::):) Have a nice life.

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This description is so far removed from what I expect and almost always enjoy when I go to restaurants that I really have to wonder why Inspector would ever eat out at all. Am I alone in finding most of my restaurant experiences enjoyable?

Inspector has always scared the hell out of me. His country would be like living in robot-land with Christian-like sex rules, except they'd be called Objectivist, but Jerry Falwell wouldn't care what you called them as long as you followed them.

It is not some guessing game like you don't know whether to leave $2 or $13 on a $20 check. There are even websites so you can hone your tipping acumen to the penny! His is a strawman argument.

QUOTE(Inspector @ Mar 30 2007, 10:20 PM)

I also do not like the idea that expectations are unknown and everyone is guessing. I do not like an incoherent system. How would you like it if instead of prices on the menu, the restaurant wrote: "whatever you feel like paying." And then if you didn't overpay just to be sure you were paying enough to please your new masters, then they would serve the food undercooked and make snide comments at you. I want a price I can see on the menu for a standard meal and service so I know what I am getting and I know what I am paying for. I want a contract that I can bind and hold them to.

Your example is entirely bogus. You are the only one that is guessing. It is a very coherent system, it is just one that is not a rationalistic construct that follows arbitrary rules. No, it is not entirely scripted for you, you may have to do some low level evaluations. Just because you don't want to think, but instead follow some dry regimen, doesn't mean the rest of us who enjoy the dining experience as is are guessing or paying people off not to poison them. BTW, your gentry-like evaluation of the people in the industry is insultingly low. Do you think you are paying extortion to a bunch of low-lifes? I think this really is your opinion, this is the 2nd thread you have made such insinuations on.

And Inspector wants a contract he can bind them to?! Boy, this would be a fun table to sit at! Let the party begin! I don't know what kind of contractual bind he is referring to. Apparently he does not believe that value is a good incentive (another thing that would fill me with terror if Inspector was in control) maybe he can be able to flog them with a strap if he is not satisfied with their service?

The people in the industry already have some of the best motivation there is for good job performance, i.e. tips. Inspector wants to remove it, and get better results. How is this supposed to work? Is there some re-education center where they can be taught a more 18th century servant outlook? Maybe we could brainwash them into thinking they be black folk and there ain't no such thing as a emancipation proclamation.

I am not saying you are bound to tip at all. But it is simply pie in the sky thinking to think that your service would remain the same, and worse yet to think that it would improve with the removal of the present "system".

And what is this "standard meal"? Is this going to be the new meal that is going to be served in every restaurant as the sole item with the one sole price as issued by The State Center for Pleasant Dining? What is this standard service? Is this the service you expect to see in every place you visit across the country each serving the same standard meal in 9.2 minutes with the same smile with eyebrows arched at 45 degrees and the girls clipping their heals once as they walk away (in skirts that appropriately go down to the ankles, of course).

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Re: DavidOdden post #23:

Actually, a "mandatory tipping" or "no-tipping" club would really be the same thing. The no-tipping club would have to compensate the waiters more for the lack of tips, and the cost would either have to be included as a prepaid tip (your suggestion) or with proportionately higher menu prices.

I think we're on the same page here. Please advise after you have completed your experiment.

Edited by Galileo Blogs

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