Outlook's Third Annual Spring Cleaning List

Let's get rid of tipping

I once saw a restaurant server return a paltry tip he received from a large party — his main source of income for the entire night — by following the diners out to their car and giving the money back. Actually, he tossed the change at the guests and exclaimed: "Looks like you probably need this more than me."

I can't blame him. I've taken my blows, too. It just goes to show how frustrating working for tips can be. As a food service industry professional, I believe we deserve a decent hourly wage, not the exogenous portion of the bill hung over our heads, as if dangled from a puppeteer's strings. Not only is "tipping" a misnomer, the practice doesn't achieve its intended goal: to ensure proper service.

Instead, tipping more commonly breeds brown-nosers and backslappers who act as free agents. Servers don't see themselves as part of a team and instead hustle for the maximum payout. This betrays the discipline it takes to run a restaurant or bar capable of delivering consistent and excellent service.

I prefer to call tipping in restaurants and bars what it really is: voluntary payment. It's kind of like those "leave a penny, take a penny" trays based entirely on goodwill only it's what we rely on for our livelihood.

Professionalism in the service industry requires employees who take pride in their work and, as a result, receive a consistent paycheck. In other words, the best of us work for pride and money. With tipping, we're too often robbed of both.

Derek M. Brown, who contributes to theAtlantic.com, is a mixologist and owner of the Columbia Room, a Washington bar.

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