Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Too Insure Promptness

Why tip? Why not tip?

I was fascinated to read that "In Iceland, tipping in a restaurant is considered an insult." Is the norm, "I give you sullen, indifferent service as a matter of choice. Do not try to bully me with offers of riches, American pig! I cannot be bought. Here is your cold dinner. I'll be back in half an hour with your silverware."

Well, in the union shop I used to work at, working AT ALL was considered an insult. You could get beaten up (I was threatened by two guys with shovels) for working at more than a snail's pace.

Presumably, the cost of labor is the same total, regardless of whether the hourly wage is lowered in anticipation of tips, or if there is no tipping and hourly wages are higher.

Of course, that's not true empirically. The recent decision of American, and other airlines, to charge $2 per bag is KILLING the skycaps out front of the terminal. Their wages have not increased, but tips have dried up almost completely.

So, a question for all you life-arrangers out there: should tipping be outlawed? Required? Or is the current system, where discretion of the customer at the end improves service throughout, the best?

Consider this.

Or, this. Craig Newmark says, "that uncertainty—that freedom to exercise discretion, to leave as little or as much as you wish—is why tipping has flourished as a social institution. (In the same spirit, Americans prefer giving charity privately rather than through their government.) Diners—eighty per cent of whom say that they prefer tipping to a set service charge—like the power that the ability to tip gives them. Waiters like tipping because it gives them the chance to distinguish themselves from the crowd and to score an occasional windfall. Tipping, curiously, has gone from being the antithesis of individualism to its apotheosis." Or is it, as a commenter on Craig's post notes, really just a tax issue?