A few weeks ago, I read a lengthy and heated exchange among (annoying) commenters on the Chron food critic's blog about tipping. (I'd link directly to it, but the Chron insists on using the worst archives system ever.) The post answered a question from a reader about whether it was proper to tip the owner of a restaurant - a question stemming from the construct that salon owners wouldn't be tipped, but employees would. It was an innocent enough question. At least you'd think. But oh no - the curious inquirer was called every name in the book.
Enter this article about tipping policies generally. There are a bunch of anti-customer websites out there on which slighted wait staff can publicize cheap diners in the hope they'll be appropriately punished.
In some states, of course, wait staff are paid far below minimum wage with the expectation they'll get a living wage via tips. That's crap and from what I know doesn't apply in California.
Discussed in the article are efforts to impose an automatic service fee of 20% on bills.
At least then it would be a service fee and we could drop this whole "tip" nonsense. As far as I'm concerned, good waiters should get between 15 and 20%. But 15% is NOT a minimum regardless of service quality. If it's a tip, it's a tip - not a requirement.
The article is from the AP, so I can't fault it for not being more site specific. It does mention that tip rates among foreign visitors to American restaurants can be drastically lower - around 10% - which I'd sure hope waiters would account for before engaging in ridiculous, customer-rage behavior. One website mentioned seeks to punish customers who leave less than a 17% tip. Industry standard is still 15%, you meanies.
Lastly - though the article didn't commit this sin - several commenters to the food-blog post based their argument on the notion that because restaurant food prices have increased so dramaticaly over the past 10 years or whatever, the tip rate needs to catch up.
Somewhere, I hear the muffled cries of a thousand math teachers in anguish.
Sidenote: And here's a Phoblog Pet Peeve Rant - if you were ever a waiter, don't do that thing where you look over my shoulder or anyone's shoulder when the check comes to see that we're tipping appropriately because you've worked in the hard-knocks world of food service (as have I) and you just want to "make sure" the person with the unfortunate task of filling out the tip line sticks up for the sister/brotherhood. I hate that shit. Ugh. Who died and made you the service morality police. Barf. Rant over.