Tuesday, January 31, 2006

To Insure...Progress?

Mark Evanier writes Groo The Wanderer.

That alone should earn him your undying respect and gratitude. Oh, you should include Sergio Aragones too, since he's the one who draws him.

But Mark also has his blog, and recently he posed a question on tipping. Any longtime Churn Readers [besides me and...me] will remember that back in 2005 I voiced my own concerns on the subject. The reason it's on Linds' blog is that it was a guest post during last years Blogathon.

Anyway, I thought that maybe Mark or his legions of fan could help me, so I sent him this, which is also posted on his blog, along with his response:

Even though this is only slightly related to your question, I hope either you or
your readers can help me out.

Are we as a society at the point where we can't question the act of tipping? [or have we been here all this time, and no one told me about it?]

Should I just stop asking why I have to subsidize the service economy?

If a plate with filet Mignon weighs about the same as a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, why do I have to tip more?

At the very least, I'd like to know where the boundary line between what the employer's paying for, and what my tip is paying for. In the example you gave, isn't the bellhop supposed to handle your baggage for you? Unless I'm mistaken, he was
likely hired by the hotel to do just that, among other things. If we're talking about asking someone in the next room to carry your bags, that's a different story.

Is the tip a plea so your bags won't get thrown down the stairs, or rifled through by the staff? Or is it a bribe so they'll do it to someone else's? And what if they did it anyway? "Wow, that meal was great. And, because I said no pickles and there were no pickles, I'll throw in another 8%"

I will admit, so far in my life I've yet to work in a field where tipping was a
part of my livelihood, so my perspective might be skewed.

Look, Ticketmaster sticks you for a 'service charge', why can't other places do it
too? At least you won't have to wonder what formula to use, or you could choose
to avoid places that have them.

After reading his reply, I'm not sure if I'm totally convinced. What bothers me is that his pragmatic answer boils down to "its the way it's always been done", and the philosophical one really isn't a nicety, when you think about it. If the business world and the government assume you're going to tip anyway, than the level of service is no longer part of the equation. Somehow we've managed to put the 'guilt' of not tipping on ourselves.

I have nothing against the service industry. I just think we should be honest with each other. If I tip x percent, what service will I get? If I choose not to tip the maid service at my hotel, will they only give me one handtowel and a smashed mint on the floor? When I go out to eat, how much money will make sure my iced tea never gets empty?

How about we just call them bribes? Or, in this age of Abramhoff, strategic lobbying?

Mike G.

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