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Dear Various Ex-Students of Mine: You Were Totally Right About Tipping

In Rants on May 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Back in Japan, I often tried to explain the idea of tipping to my students. They didn’t seem to get it. They thought it was weird to pay for a product/service twice, essentially, and wondered why the process wasn’t streamlined into a single payment. Tipping, they said, seemed stupid.

I’ve come to agree with them.

I initially defended the practice, trying to find justifications for it, but after comparing three months here versus over two years in Japan, I’ve come to realize that the Japanese (and several Europeans) are right: tipping is stupid. Everything should just be at a set rate and servers should be provided a living wage for what they do. Abolishing tipping might drive up the prices of goods and services, but if we’re all paying the same relative amount to a given sector as we are already, it really shouldn’t matter. It’ll just make things easier. I can’t really formulate a defensible argument for tips anymore. After living with such comparative efficiency, they seem clunky and archaic.

My Japanese students were right all along, and the U.S. should really abandon tipping. And, while we’re reformatting the culture in general, we really ought to implement the metric system as well. Also, I want a pony.

Addendum: This is not to say that I myself will not tip. I will. Service personnel are exempted from minimum wage laws, and when they are taxed tips are included as income. For that reason, I will continue to do so. I would rather, though, that prices were a bit higher, and service people were paid sufficiently.

  1. Call me a cynic (and it would probably be true…) but I have a feeling that even if tipping were banned, service staff would still be paid the low wages they have been. I can’t help but believe that most owners would raise their prices and pocket the difference.

    As a side note, I don’t believe that Oregon exempts service staff from minimum wage laws. Oregon primarily allows exemptions for management/executive types, and certain trained computer professionals.

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