Monday, March 1, 2010

Of tips and tip jars

Posted By on Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 6:15 PM

One of the most-read stories at nytimes.com this weekend was "Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect?," David Sax's essay/screed about the practice of tipping. It's a subject on which everyone seems to have a strong opinion -- and judging from the number of comments (1,074 on tipping vs., say, 345 on the Chilean earthquake), there's a pretty broad scattering of opinion on Mr. David Sax as well.

Consider this from the essay:

“Do you need change?”

Funny you should ask, because I just gave you a $10 bill, and my latte and raspberry scone came to $5.75. As much as I think you’re pleasing to look at, and you do magical things with frothy milk, I just don’t see your services commanding a 70-plus percent premium over the market rate for my breakfast.

Frankly, Sax sounds like a royal pain in the ass to wait on ... but, no, I don't like it either when a server asks "Do you need change?" (It rarely happens, in my experience, but it does happen sometimes.) And the example he cites is truly outrageous. But what's with the attitude, Sax?

And then, suddenly I'm really not with Mr. Snotty Latte-and-a-Scone. At all:

Yes, I know you’re all underpaid. But guess what? So am I. When I get $500 for an article that I think is worth $1,000, you won’t see me e-mail the editor, saying, “Just so you know, service isn’t included.” Do I ask you to come into my workplace and supplement my meager income? No, I don’t.

I don't know the law in New York, but Louisiana servers are subject to the federal tip minimum law, which means they rake in $2.13/hour and must depend on tips to cover any real income. (And they have to pay taxes on tips, whether they get the tips or not.) That's a bit more "underpaid" than what Sax is bellyaching about. If he'd taken on the subject of tip jars where they don't belong (say, at the gas station), I might be with him, but given his tone and his attitude, I agree with the very first commenter on the story:

Good gracious, what a bitter rant.

The reaction around the Web has been interesting, too: here are two contrasting viewpoints.

So many people in New Orleans make a good part of their salaries through tips. What do you think of tips and tip jars?

click to enlarge tip

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