Magician Marcel Oudejans linked to this article about a restaurant that has abolished the traditional gratuity and included it on the bill instead, to be split fairly among front of house and kitchen staff.
It got me thinking about my far too many years working as a waitress in the various eatery hell-holes around Cape Town (and the fucking Waterfront – I still can’t bring myself to go there unless I absolutely have to – too many negative associations) and how I saw and experienced the food service industry, as people acted out their master/slave fantasies, got to kick the dog, got to be in power for a little bit.
Waitering made me a very, very negative person, made me suspect motives, and taught me that people have two public faces – one for people, and one for “staff.” It also gave me plenty of stuff to write about when it came to human interaction, so if all my characters are horrible and selfish you know why. 😛
But, going back to the article, some key points where I found myself nodding vigorously:
Consider also the power imbalance between tippers, who are typically male, and servers, 70 percent of whom are female…
Oh…this. THIS THIS THIS. In the one place (where I worked the longest), the owner would only hire female staff and there was a certain expectation that came from that. Making tips wasn’t so much about how well you did your job, but about how cute you were, how appealing you could be. Bat your eyelashes, be small and blonde, and even if you were the thickest fucking thing since unsliced bread, you would make money.
You were rewarded for being pretty, for being coquettishly subservient, for fulfilling your end of the master/slave contract.
People who know me IRL will know I am not small, or blonde, or cute, or flirtatiously appealing. I can do my job, but don’t ask me to simper while I do it. (Sadly, I actually became fairly good at playing the role, to the point where I was able to play helpless damsel in certain situations to get help I needed – and I still hate myself for doing it.)
The crux of the pro-tipper’s issue becomes apparent here:
These people were angry even though they had spent less than they otherwise would have, because they had been robbed of their perceived power over their server.
They want to be able to reward or punish people on a whim. And you say “but, if the service is terrible, why should I tip them?” Well, what do you normally do if a shop assistant, frex, gives bad service – you go to their boss/manager and you explain the issue. Chances are they will make it up to you in some way, or you’ll never go there again. Why is it so hard to do that in the food-industry?
What it actually boils down to is that these people are having their moment of power stripped from them.
And they don’t want that power taken away.
That’s what tipping is about to them.
So as a previously-indentured-server (:P) and as a feminist, i really really like the idea where the power of the tip is taken away from the arseholes, and instead the gratuity is included in the bill, and fairly split between all the staff.