|"The restaurant is the great unacknowledged, breeding ground of cultural enmity."|
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The restaurant is the great unacknowledged, breeding ground of cultural enmity. And conflicts about tipping are the sparks that fire many of the serving class's geographical grudges. Some international tourists who visit the U.S. aren't accustomed to our tipping customs, though some are. And when a server feels she has been unjustly denied her due enough times, cultural differences fade into the background, while ugly stereotypes begin to form. It's money- the fear of not getting it, and the resentment at being dependent on someone else for it- which is the catalyst that turns a healthy curiosity of the unfamiliar into a deep-rooted disdain of the foreign. And a hostility, however petty, harbored by a population as large as the one that runs the nation's restaurants and bars, is bound to cast its pall on wider opinion.
Harvard Square, where I work, is a whirlwind of international tourists. And when you first begin to wait tables they’re simply people with intriguing dining customs you are eager admire. Water without ice? Beer mixed with sprite? These are remarkable eccentricities, a rich mixture of gastronomy and history! Even strangeness of manners- the paucity of expected American niceties- can be appreciated by a disinterested mind. A lack of please and thank you, the occasional snapping of fingers are easy to digest. But when it comes to dollars and cents- intellectual curiosity recoils and resentment springs up fullblown.
So, I think it's time to take dollars and cents out of the equation. A modest 18 percent added to a diner’s bill, would be more than paid back in international good will. It would give the American serving class the chance to look up and meet their guests with less rapacious, more innocent, eyes. A chance to close our demanding outstretched hands and reopen our minds.
It shouldnt be up to the customer to pay the employees, they work for the business, and the business should pay them. In the interest of fulldisclosure, I put myself through college as a waiter and certainly appreciated the tips, but now realize that tipping is a way for the *owner* to avoid paying employees, and for the employees to avoid paying taxes. Restaurant owners should be forced to pay real competitive wages and withhold appropriate taxes as would any other business. If a restaurant wants good people, it will need to pay good wages for both front *and* back of house. That way the customer just pays the bill like any other business, the waiter gets whats due him/her as a reliable wage and isn’t subject to the mood of the customer, and the IRS gets its due.
You couldnt be further OFF the mark. I love all the cool and groovy waitrons out there, male and female, who are young artists or whatever, but you are ALL being deceived if you feel customers should tip heavier. Simply put, the business owner is putting off paying higher salaries to their employees by making them rely on tips. Customers pay for food with business overhead as part of the price. That should include reasonable salaries for waiters. In europe a few dollars or up to about 10 is considered a very nice gesture for service but it is not expected nor necessary. A true message is therefore conveyed from customer to waiter and the establishment. I resent feeling like a heel because I didnt exhorbatantly tip a waiter. I love great young people and hard workers but I resent having business owners who are really making the profit after all pass the buck, and put the pressure, on the hapless consumer !