In the meantime, I want to talk about one very specific part of living in New Zealand that we enjoy: no tipping. That means not in restaurants, pubs, taxis, spas, nail salons etc. You name it --> no tipping. In fact, the first time we took a cab, we tipped and thoroughly confused the driver!
Just recently, there was a post on Gizmodo.com regarding tipping software in NY Taxis and how one software brand was rounding up. (Wait...there is more than one kind of taxi tipping software?) I commented on the post that I am happy to live in a country where tipping is not customary. Of course this drew a question of "why". And while I have voiced some of the reasons before, I realised my main objection is that tipping is a power play. Here are the rest of my issues with tipping:
- The employer is shifting their duty to pay workers fairly on to customers. What other job would allow this? Why are minimum wages allowed to be so low for waitresses/waiters in the US?
- Tipping is arbitrary, so that the person receiving cannot actually ever know what they will make in a given week. How can a person properly manage his/her finances when wages are so variable - AND - so low?
- Those who work in industries where tipping makes up a huge part of their wages simply cannot have an "off" day. We all have those days - whether it be due to illness, grief, lack of sleep - but a waitress always has to be "on" in order to pay the bills.
- Federal US labor laws require employers to ensure wait staff make minimum wage when tips are included, and to make up the difference if that doesn't happen. This rule is not often followed. Conversely, many cash tips are not reported, leading to income that is not taxed.
- Tipping makes going out with a group a hassle when trying to split the bill.
- The interaction with a server or other employee who relies on tips is fake and awkward. The person is generally being nice so that they can earn more money. There is often no sense of a genuine conversation in these instances.
- And finally, the power play. Tipping is a weird construct to make the person tipping feel powerful over the server. Ages ago, I travelled with a coworker who would 'warn' the waitress at the beginning of the meal that her tip would start at 100%, and for every mistake he would drop her tip by 20%. He updated her throughout the meal. What the fuck is that shit?
- Sometimes the percentage tipped is used as a bragging point. I've read many a discussion thread where people brag that they don't tip less than 25% *ever*. What is the point of this conversation? So that they can look like a fantastic human? The only person who cares how much you tip is your waitress.
Coincidentally, College Humor posted this video just today. It addresses a couple of the reasons I listed above, but most surprisingly, it points out that tipping was "un-American" before Prohibition:
Note: the minimum wage in New Zealand is $14.25/hour [USD $11.15]. Some companies, such as La Boca Loca, go above and beyond and pay a 'living wage' of $18.80/hour [USD$14.75].