The Extortion of Gratuity
For most of my thirty years in the work force I have worked for tips and for the most part I made a great living doing it. Of course, there were always those times I received a tip that just left me shaking my head at the inconsiderate nature of people. I mean, a fifteen cent tip is more of an insult than not leaving a tip at all. It’s rude and offensive and the server will remember you in the future. Why piss off the person who handles your food?
However, as much as I have grumbled in the past about lousy tippers, the act of tipping is based upon the person actually doing it. It is a reward for great service. Since I have worked for tips before and know that feeling, I tend to tip more than I should, even if the service wasn’t exactly worth it. It has been an extreme case when I have left a poor tip or not tip at all and in those cases the server had completely pissed me off. At that point, however, they’re lucky I haven’t tried to have them fired.
Over the last few years, though, a new trend has started to emerge, one that I am not in agreement with. Now, they want to tell me what I did just tip my server. I don’t even get a say in it! Oh, I could tip more if I felt so generous, but I cannot tip less no matter how bad our server was. It started out with suggestions and usually they gave you three options–15%, 18%, or 20%. That’s not too bad and I can understand the necessity for the suggestions. There are people out there who have trouble with basic math and, therefore, find it difficult to figure out what to leave as a proper tip and, after all, it’s only a suggestion. It’s not mandatory. When you tell me what I just tipped you after my meal is complete, then that is all you will receive from me–period. I’m also not likely to return to your establishment and will tell everyone I know of the hidden charge. And before you say that it is not a hidden charge, allow me to call bullshit. You put it on my bill and made me pay it. You didn’t ask. You didn’t suggest. You didn’t give me the chance remove it and put something else on there. That’s not a tip; that’s a charge.
I understand that not everyone tips properly. Some may not even tip at all. Still, that’s the risk of the profession and, quite honestly, as one who has worked in that profession, I know that the great outweighs the good which then outweighs the bad. I know that while some customers may suck at leaving a gratuity, most are more than fair. If a restaurant forces customers to tip a certain amount whether they wish to or not, then that needs to be posted in large letters right up front, so that people are forewarned. It also needs to have its designation hanged from tip or gratuity to commission or extortion, because really we are being extorted to pay our server a commission of our meal for doing their job. It is no longer about me being grateful to them for excellent service. There also needs to be a guarantee that my server is going to be the best damn waiter or waitress in the world and not some forgetful twit that I have to keep reminding to fill my water glass.
I think they have forgotten that the word gratuity goes along with grateful. You cannot force someone to be grateful and appreciative. You also should not be allowed to determine how grateful I am. Putting the tip on my bill for me is like charging me for a meal I didn’t eat. At that point it is not a gratuity but theft. I didn’t agree to it and, to be honest, you just lost money I would have gladly surrendered.
Employers, if you don’t want to pay your staff a decent wage and thus force them to live on tips and the generosity of others, that’s up to you and that’s fine. However, do not force me to make up your deficiency and extort the generosity out of me. You’ll lose in the end.
For those who work for tips, give great service and I’ll leave a great tip. I can be grateful. However, I will not be extorted.
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