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Myrhaf

A World Without Tipping?

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-- and not the waitresses who perform transportation cervices.

Granting that there is much more skill in being a chef than a waiter, can we stop denigrating jobs here? Every line of work has its own unique set of tasks, skills and challenges; the only thing I care about is whether one does their job well, or not.

Is this some ol' boys club where you smoke cigars and sip congac, and inflate your ego by ripping jokes on the porter?

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I think we really only have three categories to consider, realistically. Restaurants, cabs, and food-delivery.

Restaurants, yes, food delivery, yes but much less. I've never taken a cab anywhere so I've not had the occasion to tip a cabbie, nor do I think that I would.

Edited by RationalBiker

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I could justify tipping a cab driver for doing a good job getting you to your destination safely. I once had to take a two hour cab ride from Newark to Philly when my plane was canceled and I was lucky to survive the ordeal. The cab driver cut off a semi-truck at one point and we nearly wrecked. In this case it was nice to have the option of not tipping the cab driver to show my dissatisfaction. I could also see tipping a cab driver for getting you somewhere quickly when you are in a hurry as reasonable.

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I could justify tipping a cab driver for doing a good job getting you to your destination safely.

The argument would be, wouldn't you think it's his job to get you to some place safely regardless of a tip? Doesn't the initial fee cover safe transport or is the cab "allowed" to risk your life if you only pay the regular fee?

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The argument would be, wouldn't you think it's his job to get you to some place safely regardless of a tip? Doesn't the initial fee cover safe transport or is the cab "allowed" to risk your life if you only pay the regular fee?

If you don't tip a New York cabby, you take your life in your hands. I would tread very, very carefully in New York if you take cabs here. Even worse, many of the cabbies are Muslim and they just hate Americans, especially those "son of the Great Satan" non-tipping Americans!

In seriousness, tipping a cabby is customary in New York (and in every other American city, in my experience). All of the same arguments for/against tipping apply equally to cabbies as they apply to waiters.

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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.

Actually I think Inspector is flailing between the Intrinsic and the Subjective here. It has to be a set price that is written in stone (paper hopefully, I don't know what restaurant would have their menu on stone) or it is dueces wild anything goes and who knows what to do. Actually all it requires is an objective assessment, and a pretty easy one at that. Part of it is set, the menu item price. The restaurant leaves the rest to your judgement, and your choice. You can actually decide not to pay for part of the services you were rendered, or you can depending on a host of personal and professional criterea that is up to you. Wow, the damn bastards!

Frankly, I like having the choice, and, as a regular at a certain establishment, I like to be able to set a standard for the service I want.

PS. As a bartender, I'll want photos of all those here against tipping in case you ever come to my bar. I have a heirarchy of preferred customers. I believe you know your place on that heirarchy!

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In seriousness, tipping a cabby is customary in New York (and in every other American city, in my experience). All of the same arguments for/against tipping apply equally to cabbies as they apply to waiters.

I can't see myself tipping a cab, but I'm not likely to ever utilize one either. However, I have great reservations about anyone accepting that it's okay for a cabbie to hold a person's personal safety as ransom for a tip.

I have no reservations of using the recourse of law in the case of a cabbie who unnecessarily delays or lengthens my route to rack up money on his meter because I don't tip. This is fraud and a violation of rights.

All of the arguments that I have against it being morally obligatory also apply to cabbies so I maintain my position on that. Anyone who cares to follow customs for whatever reason they want are fine with me. Just don't oblige me to follow suit in kind without my own reasoning involved.

Edited by RationalBiker

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I think it would be nice if I got tipped at my job. When I arrest people, I endeavor to make that experience as pleasant as possible, and I can see how tips might give me even more incentive. That way I really wouldn't have to rely on simply being professional and doing a good job for my own personal satisifaction. I'll let someone else's generosity determine my level of professionalism and service... that's a great idea!

Edited by RationalBiker

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Actually I think Inspector is flailing between the Intrinsic and the Subjective here. It has to be a set price that is written in stone (paper hopefully, I don't know what restaurant would have their menu on stone) or it is dueces wild anything goes and who knows what to do.

Hey, you're not being very nice!

At least when Myrhaf did it, I knew he was joking. You mean it, I think.

Listen, I'm not like that. Not even remotely. I guess I'm just not getting my meaning across.

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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? (Otherwise, why would I eat out?)

Um, for the food?

Am I alone in having a positive, looking-for-enjoyment attitude when I go to restaurants and interact with waiters?

If you like paying people to be friendly to you, I guess you might really enjoy it. I don't really like it, though.

As I said, I am not against tipping. If you're looking for over-the-top service, then by all means you should be able to pay for it and get it. As I said, in certain circumstances, I am Diamond Jim. So tipping is good. Tipping is great!

But a "standard" tip makes the whole thing into nonsense.

I'll have to explain that some more; what exactly I mean by that.

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.

Yet it is what you have repeatedly warned about. And no of course you don't worry about it. You always over-tip. But think for a second what it is like to be in that "gray area" of the "average tip." What if they decide that they did an above-average job and I only tipped them average? Then what; am I on a blacklist now? Do I get spit in my food the next time? What if they sucked up a lot and wrote a little smiley face? Is that supposed to earn them an above-average tip? What if I don't want to be sucked up to; what if I just want speedy service? Do I have to sit through a guilt trip, too? I don't want to have to be in that position. It's stressful.

If tipping were only for special circumstances like Diamond Jim, then it wouldn't be so bad. I could opt out when I'm not in "big spender" mode.

But to have it as standard removes a lot from the equation. For instance, prices are no longer subject to competition. Nobody can offer to undercut the next place over. It's a complete reversal of every other business transaction. Anywhere else, you look for the best bargain you can find. The best value for the money. You can buy in bulk, clip coupons, shop around, make businesses compete for your dollar and generally be a money-grubbing capitalist and it's expected. You don't have to worry about the other guy's paycheck and whether he makes a buck or whether he loses his shirt, because that's his problem. It's nothing personal, it's business.

But tipping, when it's automatic, makes it personal. I don't want it to be personal. I want business to be business.

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But tipping, when it's automatic, makes it personal. I don't want it to be personal. I want business to be business.

It follows from the nature of personal service that the evaluation implicates certain attributes of the individual. This cannot be avoided. We may not want it to be that way, but it's a fact of the nature of the service being provided. An especially warm and friendly attitude, for example, is part of good personal service that we can (and should) desire, appreciate, and factor into our tipping decisions. I agree that tipping applies to those portions of service not otherwise paid for, i.e. not that the food was served, but the manner in which it was served. Of course nothing justifies retaliation over a disagreement as to performance, spitting in food, etc. It may justify a brief inquiry into why service was deemed below par (which all should embrace as it benefits everyone).

To use a golf analogy, it seems reasonable to tip based on whether the service is deemed below par (below customary tip), up to par (customary tip), or above par (above customary tip). I suppose the value of having a customary tip is that it enables a certain amount of discrimination in either direction. The premise is that there is such a thing as service that, though existent, is poor and undesirable. I think a position consistent with Objectivism would be that the values of good personal service consist of attributes that are knowable and susceptible of principled application, though not necessarily with exacting precision, and as such subpar service must be clearly evident to warrant a subpar tip (just as superb service must be clearly evident to warrant a superb tip), otherwise the customary tip is both sufficient and proper. For example, I think that we ought not tip less than is customary without a specific grievance in mind - not just a feeling, but a reason, e.g. the food was significantly later than food usually is, the waiter significantly less friendly than waiters generally are, and so forth. The value of having a customary tip for on-par service is that it gives meaning to those occasions in which specific grievances arise with respect to the manner of service. This function would be lost if the below-par (insufficient and unsatisfactory) and on-par (sufficient and satisfactory though not particularly outstanding) cases were treated the same way.

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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.

I suggest you check out your local fast food restaurant. You don't tip in fast food restaurants, and empirically speaking the service is across the board -- pretty much the same as in restaurants. Although as a side note, I do find that I get better service in fast food joints that's located in affluent suburbs who employ teenagers than I do in fast food restaurants in poorer neighborhoods that employ middle agers stuck in dead end jobs.

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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 agree. People will always be more motivated to do a better job, work harder, be more productive when their performance is directly tied to financial reward.

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You don't tip in fast food restaurants, and empirically speaking the service is across the board -- pretty much the same as in restaurants.

One includes sitting down and having the food delivered and served to you right at your table in a pleasant atmosphere, the other involves standing in an unpleasant queue. I take this to be an essential feature which distinguishes tipping from non-tipping contexts, i.e. fast food from traditional restaurants, which is rationally justified by the fact that when standing in an unpleasant queue, very little is gained or lost by the manner of service.

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As a bartender, I'll want photos of all those here against tipping in case you ever come to my bar. I have a heirarchy of preferred customers. I believe you know your place on that heirarchy!
True, but then I also have a hierarchy of bars that I would patronise, and I believe you know your place on that heirarchy.

Still, this discussion has gotten me thinking about the whole question of how much effort a person should put into their job obligations, whether they should do more than the minimum required and if so, under what circumstances, and I'm now very seriously thinking of putting up a tip jar in class with a cute slogan like "Tipping is not a city in China", so that students who want better service can pay for that service (I'll need to keep track of who pays up and who's expecting the unpaid-for -- haha, will they have a surprise when I reward them with bare minimum service!). I think they will all be amazed to see how much more motivated I am at my job when they have an opportunity to directly reward me financially. Then if I really am performing below standard, they could rightfully withhold their tips, and I could use that as a motivating factor to bring my service up to the accepted minimum.

Hmm... and then, there's the analog of the establishment-mandated tip (the 15% gratuity for parties of 6). I wonder if I could get the management to add on a mandatory gratuity for classes with more than, what, 6, or maybe 10? The logic would fit perfectly, and we just have to figure out the size.

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The value of having a customary tip for on-par service is that it gives meaning to those occasions in which specific grievances arise with respect to the manner of service. This function would be lost if the below-par (insufficient and unsatisfactory) and on-par (sufficient and satisfactory though not particularly outstanding) cases were treated the same way.

But it in no way requires that. If things are way below par, you complain. Businesses want your business and are way happy to redress complaints. Standard tipping is in no way necessary for this. In fact, your position of wanting to only modify the tip from standard when things are way bad or way good would work even better if tipping were not standard. You'd have all the benefits needed for dealing with the situation in the way you do (which I think is a good way to handle it), without all of the problems associated with standard tipping.

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One includes sitting down and having the food delivered and served to you right at your table in a pleasant atmosphere, the other involves standing in an unpleasant queue. I take this to be an essential feature which distinguishes tipping from non-tipping contexts, i.e. fast food from traditional restaurants, which is rationally justified by the fact that when standing in an unpleasant queue, very little is gained or lost by the manner of service.

But the "unpleasantness" of the experience is entirely subjective. For me standing in queue isn't unpleasant so long as the line is moving promptly. In any popular restaurant you also have to stand in a queue in order to get seated. Yet you don't duct your tips from the waiter because you had to wait in a line (at least I don't).

The subjectiveness of what a "good" service constitutes is also a problem with the tipping system. For instance, I personally only require the waiter to bring my food promptly, and to fill my water when it's out. I always know exactly what food I want, and what wine I want. I don't need a big smile on their face, small talks, advice on what to get, and a smiley face on my check (in fact I dislike it, especially when the waiter comes by every two minutes asking me if everything was alright). Basically I don't expect anything from the waiter other than the bare minimum of what they're already supposed to do. Any "extroardinary service" doesn't really have anything to do with what I'm willing to pay for. Yet since tipping isn't until after the meal, the waiters really have no idea what I need from them, and somehow I'm expected to reward them for something that I never asked for in the first place?

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But it in no way requires that. If things are way below par, you complain. Businesses want your business and are way happy to redress complaints. Standard tipping is in no way necessary for this. In fact, your position of wanting to only modify the tip from standard when things are way bad or way good would work even better if tipping were not standard. You'd have all the benefits needed for dealing with the situation in the way you do (which I think is a good way to handle it), without all of the problems associated with standard tipping.

And by analogy, if things are above par, you praise. Tipping isn't necessary for that, either. So we shall have to examine the direct nature of the personal service/tipping relationship to see whether it is justified at all. Why should it be customary for there to be a direct link between personal service and compensation, rather than an indirect calculus in which the business serves as intermediary? One reason to remove the middleman in such instances is that it more exactly calibrates the feedback when each individual transaction is a separate opportunity for compensation. Rather than just having the employee's salary varied by an evaluation of the aggregate of customer complaints/praise in an annual salary review cycle (let's say), the result is immediate and direct, and applies each and every time. It also enables the customer to attach a specific dollar amount to their complaint or praise, which is a more objective means of airing their opinion than relying on their verbal skills when they complain to the manager. It is also, I might add, necessarily polite and civil, as an indiscreet rant in front of everyone might not be. This is not an exclusive catalogue, but sufficient grounds to conclude that the personal service/tipping relationship has advantages over just complaining when things go wrong, or praising when things go right.

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But the "unpleasantness" of the experience is entirely subjective. For me standing in queue isn't unpleasant so long as the line is moving promptly. In any popular restaurant you also have to stand in a queue in order to get seated. Yet you don't duct your tips from the waiter because you had to wait in a line (at least I don't).

The subjectiveness of what a "good" service constitutes is also a problem with the tipping system. For instance, I personally only require the waiter to bring my food promptly, and to fill my water when it's out. I always know exactly what food I want, and what wine I want. I don't need a big smile on their face, small talks, advice on what to get, and a smiley face on my check (in fact I dislike it, especially when the waiter comes by every two minutes asking me if everything was alright). Basically I don't expect anything from the waiter other than the bare minimum of what they're already supposed to do. Any "extroardinary service" doesn't really have anything to do with what I'm willing to pay for. Yet since tipping isn't until after the meal, the waiters really have no idea what I need from them, and somehow I'm expected to reward them for something that I never asked for in the first place?

Since what you want is not customary, the burden is on you to explain your special requirements ahead of time. Having done so, tipping enables you to express your judgment of how closely your server's performance matched your wishes. Though your requirements may differ from the norm, it does not follow that for you there is no such thing as service that, though existent, is poor and undesirable. Your service may not be prompt enough to satisfy your desire for promptness. You expressly stated the kind of service you wanted, and the purpose of tipping (to express your opinion of whether the service was sub-par, on-par, or above-par) still applies.

Edited by Seeker

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And by analogy, if things are above par, you praise.

No analogies necessary. You can tip away if things are extraordinarily good. It's the idea of always tipping that creates the problems.

Yet since tipping isn't until after the meal, the waiters really have no idea what I need from them, and somehow I'm expected to reward them for something that I never asked for in the first place?

That, I think, is one major issue I have with the system. I don't really want to be fawned over and chatted with and so forth. But they just give it up front and then expect you to pay for it. Like the homeless man who "washes your window" with a newspaper and dirty water. Not in the sense that they're filthy awful parasites (most of them anyway!), but only in the sense that they are providing a service that I don't want and then expecting payment for it.

So why eat out at all? Because the food is cold by the time I get home. If restaurants provided an option to order it "to go," and then let you sit down at one of their tables and eat without being served at all, I would take that option. I honestly don't want service, and I certainly don't want it force-fed to me with a side order of begging smiley faces and guilt trips. And this whole spitting in your food thing? That's because of the tipping system and it is just wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to start.

If tipping were only for "Diamond Jim" situations, instead of the standard, then you could opt into that stuff if you wanted to by flashing cash and tipping a little bit at the beginning, you know, To Insure Performance. As I said, I do this sometimes (never in restaurants) and so I have no problem at all with it.

It is automatic tipping with which I have the beef.

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No analogies necessary. You can tip away if things are extraordinarily good. It's the idea of always tipping that creates the problems.

If you don't want service at all, then you are free to not frequent sit-down restaurants that insist on serving you. They are what they are and would not be what they are if most people didn't like them that way. Even so, for those willing to accomodate your non-customary needs you could always make a request for non-service. If they decline, then your problem is not with the tipping custom per se but with restaurant dining generally. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of it either. That's why I don't go to restaurants often.

Spitting in food is indefensible, but the proximate cause of that is your server's lousy, irrational attitude in response to your negative evaluation of their performance. Presumably this could occur regardless of the means by which you expressed your dissatisfaction, and for any number of reasons, not just a lack of a tip (I'll not delve into the horror stories of what goes on in fast food kitchens). So I think it's not fair to blame the tipping custom for that breach of good manners.

I should point out that tipping isn't really automatic. It still depends on your rational evaluation of the manner of service, and your judgment that it was unsatisfactory (lower or no tip), satisfactory (standard tip), or outstanding (bigger tip). While we agree that tipping for exceptional service is justified, there is still the unresolved matter of service that, though existent, is poor and undesirable, and how the tipping custom is advantageous to just complaining to the management in that context.

Edited by Seeker

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Since what you want is not customary, the burden is on you to explain your special requirements ahead of time.

Yes, but customs are not metaphysically given. You could also work to change the custom, especially if it causes other problems (which I believe it does).

Still, I would be interested to hear what kind of results one can get by doing that.

"Hi, how are you? Let me put this right up front for you: I don't want you to be my pretend-friend. I don't want you to be my personal butler. I don't want you to blow sunshine up my *ss. Just get the food out here in a reasonable amount of time, fill my drinks up, and don't make me wait for the check. You do that, you'll get your 10%. Why 10%? Because I'm not asking you to do any of that other baloney. So, is it a deal?"

Somehow I don't think that would work, but if it would then sign me up. It would take a lot of the sting out of the situation, knowing that there was a maximum they would expect from me; that they won't try to wheedle or guilt more out of me.

Now, even so, the waiter is just an unnecessary middleman for me. I'd rather not even pay 10% and just go pick up my own food.

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If they decline, then your problem is not with the tipping custom per se but with restaurant dining generally.

Yeah, a lot of it is. Not all of it, though.

So I think it's not fair to blame the tipping custom for [spitting].

Yes, but the trouble is that the tipping custom puts them in a direct position to extort you for extra money (be it through that or other means). Whereas a standard business deal does not.

there is still the unresolved matter of ... how the tipping custom is advantageous to just complaining to the management in that context.

Yes. Personally, I don't see the advantage.

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Since what you want is not customary, the burden is on you to explain your special requirements ahead of time. Having done so, tipping enables you to express your judgment of how closely your server's performance matched your wishes. Though your requirements may differ from the norm, it does not follow that for you there is no such thing as service that, though existent, is poor and undesirable. Your service may not be prompt enough to satisfy your desire for promptness. You expressly stated the kind of service you wanted, and the purpose of tipping (to express your opinion of whether the service was sub-par, on-par, or above-par) still applies.

Can you prove that what I require is not customary? Everything I ask is the most basic job requirements for the server -- take my orders, bring my food to me, and fill my waters. Are you seriously telling me that it's customary for people to expect their waiters to small talk them and give a fake show of intimacy?

Even if my expectations are not customary, does it really matter? Why should I have to make a list and spell out exactly what I want from a waiter every time I go to a restaurant? Everybody expects differently from their servers, and it's not my responsibility to tell someone how to do their job, when I'm basically asking for the bare minimum. If they want to chatter on or smile when they bring me food, that's their business, not mine. Bottom line is I go to a restaurant because of the food, not because their waiters smile a lot.

And yeah, it does not follow that there is no such thing as poor service. Obviously if you bring me my food 45 minutes after I ordered and it's cold, that's poor service. That's irrelevant to my point however, since what I'm saying is all I ask is the most basic service. I don't ask for nor expect extroardinary service, so why should I pay for something that I never wanted?

"Hi, how are you? Let me put this right up front for you: I don't want you to be my pretend-friend. I don't want you to be my personal butler. I don't want you to blow sunshine up my *ss. Just get the food out here in a reasonable amount of time, fill my drinks up, and don't make me wait for the check. You do that, you'll get your 10%. Why 10%? Because I'm not asking you to do any of that other baloney. So, is it a deal?"

Somehow I don't think that would work, but if it would then sign me up. It would take a lot of the sting out of the situation, knowing that there was a maximum they would expect from me; that they won't try to wheedle or guilt more out of me.

Werd.

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