"" What's She Eating Now?: October 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tip Tip, Hooray!

With Danny Meyer's bold pronouncement this week that he will end tipping in all of his restaurants, the subject of gratuities has become particularly topical. So let's talk about tipping in counter-service establishments. You walk up to get your coffee and the cashier makes a suggestive downward glance at a mason jar with change and some dollar bills in it as he processes your transaction. Out of guilt you dump whatever change he gives you back in the jar and might even pull an additional dollar out of your wallet and somehow this makes you feel better. But do you tip the guy at the deli when you pay for your soda and New York Post? Even if he makes you a breakfast sandwich? How about the poor salesman who had to scour the stock room for the shoes you want in your size? If you think that is absurd why is it not absurd to be solicited for tips when you belly up at the Starbucks counter? Are all these question marks too Carrie Bradshaw...?

But seriously, let's break this down. Some people argue that when you tip at a coffee house, for example, you're giving a little extra because your co
ffee order is complicated and someone had to put a lot of work into making it. OK, when was the last time, then, that you asked your server in a restaurant, "Which way to the kitchen?" so you could run back and slip the cooks some cash? Making a fancy beverage or assembling a sandwich is sort of akin to what cooks do, yet they are never tipped. You're tipping when someone asks you for it right in front of you. Think about it.

I hesitated for a while to write this post because as an industry person I was worried what my hospitality brethren may think about my suggesting this tip is unnecessary and uncalled for. It may amount to some sort of treason or at least lack of solidarity. After all, when we go out to restaurants we are the biggest tippers in the room, particularly on an an income to tip ratio. 
So I asked some peers what they thought of this counter service tipping phenomenon to test the waters. Most took a quick look around and then said they actually don't agree with it but they pony up. One said in his charming British accent, "Aw, it's absurd," hard "r" added by me. But do you do it? "Of course, I do, they are right there, staring at you." Then he leaned forward in his chair, "The worst is at Sweetgreens, I walk up to pay for my $11 salad and the cashier spins around an ipad for me to sign with boxes for different tip levels. All of a sudden I am in for $14. How can you not when you know they see it when they turn the screen around."

I myself was in a cab last night that audibly called out your tip amount as you entered it on the screen, starting with loudly shouting out measly percentages until you type in enough numbers to make it to a customary double digit rate. I can only imagine the pressure this would instill if counter-service establishment ipads also had this sound feature. People would probably prefer it yell out their weights than their tip amounts.

Some places put a funny message on the tip jar to simultaneously cut the tension and also encourage you. It is surprising how may of them suggest that every time you tip, someone punches Justin Bieber in the face. Those places probably have pretty flush employees. Another common one is a PSA encouraging you to tip the employees instead of cows (I am sure urban cows are grateful for the reprieve). Then there is the contest format where there are two tip jars that pit rivals against each other to tempt you to support your favorite: Tupac v Biggie, Mets v Yankees, Betty v Veronica, Tastes Great v Less Filling - you get the idea. I guess I at least appreciate the smile, and occasional laugh, to brighten the day but, as Danny Meyer is now emphasizing, shouldn't hospitality be included?