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When the Northern Waters Smokehouse restaurant opened in the Mount Royal Plaza in Duluth recently, a policy was instituted that has caused some chatter among the locals. A “No Tipping” atmosphere exists, whereby the waitstaff is paid a full “living wage” instead of a stipend lower than the minimum wage, with the difference expected to be made up by tips.
On the face of it, this seems to be a more equitable form of compensation, but is it really? Sure, it benefits the slack-attitude, hungover, lousy waitperson we have all dealt with at one time or another, but at the expense of the truly diligent, extra-mile, tip-hustler who thrives in an atmosphere of competition, the one who enjoys his/her job, delights in heightening the experience of dining out, which is normally a luxury for people. There is nothing I enjoy more than leaving a larger than expected tip for someone when they have provided me and my party of guests with an exemplary evening of attentiveness and satisfaction. What is to become of them? If this European custom catches on in America, or worse, if (shudder) it becomes mandated by law, i.e. a tipping BAN, which has been suggested, is that the end of restauranting as we know it?
Is this yet another brick in the wall of the mediocritization of our society by the “Medal for Participation” crowd? If it is, where will this lead? Are all commission-based jobs going to disappear? Real estate agents, automobile salesmen, mortgage brokers, the list goes on and on, of the jobs and professions that are compensated by commission. Are these institutions on the way out?
The more these free-wheeling jobs are eliminated, the more our society becomes rigid, soviet and opportunity-barren. I have heard the complaints of those in the food-service industry, that it is unfair that they should have to labor for uncertain wages, wages based mostly on their performance, and the generosity of patrons to tip them. To those I would say, get out of serving. Become a cook, dishwasher, manager, any other job in any other industry that pays a consistent wage. Not everybody is cut out to be a waiter or waitress. Don’t ruin the opportunity for the truly talented waitstaff to profit exponentially because you are a mediocre worker.
In Europe, where tipping is discouraged, if not outright banned, the waiter or waitress views their job quite differently than the average American. The European sees serving as a discipline, a worthy career, a calling. If you travel to Europe and visit a nice restaurant, the service is generally a cut above the American experience. Patience, diligent attentiveness, charming demeanor, are but a few of the qualities that define the average European server. There is no denying that. Raising the wage paid to servers and eliminating tipping will never bring this mentality to America. It goes against human nature. People will not up their game because they are paid slightly more. Moreover, the good waitpeople will likely move on to different jobs where their winning attitude will profit them. Winners tend toward winning, losers tend toward mediocrity.
A funny thing happened this week in Switzerland. A national referendum was held to award every citizen with a “Basic Income” of $2500.00 a month, for doing nothing. You could still hold a job if you wanted, or just take the free money and retire to your haunches. The measure was defeated soundly, 78% to 22%. Could it be that the Swiss are wisening up as we dumb down over here?
Hopefully, this no-tipping trend will wither and die on the vine, and the pendulum will swing back the other direction, that of self-determination, reward for meritorious behavior and opportunity created by working a little harder than the next person. These are the qualities that made America famous!