The Truth About Tipping – And Why it Needs to Go

Pasquale Jones

Tip Free Pasquale Jones

From EWZ Editorial:

Yes, I actually have nothing to write about.  Other than a great meal at Biang! with new Chowhound friends, it was sort of a meh week that included lunch at the hottest restaurant in NYC at the moment (High Street on Hudson).  I do have various post ideas at the moment, but not about individual restaurants.  And I will need another visit to Biang! to write about it.

Tipping in NYC can be not only confusing, but a highly debated subject even among locals.  This is gonna be short and painless, but I will start by offering a quick guide to tipping in NYC, which I mentioned before

1.  If the service has been exceptional – Tip 20% (on top of the tax, before tax, is up to you.  We tip on top)

2.  If the service has been a little less than stellar.  Decent, but room for improvement – Tip 20%

3.  If your water hasn’t been filled, your food hasn’t arrived on a timely basis, your burger temperature was not up to par, and no one asked you if you like your food – Tip 20%

4.  If your server made numerous errors with your order, hasn’t smiled the entire time, and looks rather stressed out  – Tip 20%

5.  If the server along with another server collaborate to follow you to the bathroom, blindfold and kidnap you via the back alley, lock you in an apartment for 15 days and let you watch nothing but Full House reruns before leaving you in the middle of a bear infested forest naked and afraid – Tip 15%.  Yes, this is where I draw the line

The truth about tipping is that over the years it has become way too automatic to maintain its usefulness.  Good service, bad service, decent service, there’s no such thing anymore.  There used to be a time when you dealt with only one staff member who wasnt extremely busy, and your enjoyment of the meal was essentially determined by what that waiter had for breakfast that morning.  In today’s world of Yelp, and meshugenah high rents, in order to survive, restaurants have evolved into a highly efficient well oiled machines.  By the end of your meal you either pretty much have met the entire staff, or your single waiter had a ton of help.  I once walked into Annabel, a pizza joint in Hell’s Kitchen, just when they opened.  The two owners sat in the front quietly playing on their phones, while a staff of about 10 had an intense meeting in the back led by a very intense manager.  When the meeting ended, I quickly became the center of attention.  Smiles, and friendliness galore even at a casual neighborhood bar/pizza.  The owners expect efficiency, and the employees expected to respond.  Otherwise, Yelp, Trip Advisor, high rents will make you pay dearly.  The incentive nowadays is to keep your job, not the tip.

Many of those factors over the years contributed to the tip becoming automatic, but none of them contribute as much as experience.  When you dine out often, you eventually get to understand restaurants – how they operate, and what should be expected where.  You eventually begin to understand that the waiter is not the one to blame for much of the things that go wrong, even when it clearly looks like his/her fault.  At the Spotted Pig, service was noticeably off one day, until I realized the waitress was working her ass off, covering for someone who was coming late.  In addition, after some time, you eventually begin to stop analyzing things, shrug it off, and file errors under “human nature”.  If you make a mistake at your line of work, does your salary get reduced?  And did I mention that tips are essentially the waiter’s salary?  Minimum wage for tipped workers in NYC will increase to $7.50 by next year.  Every tipping argument should start with this.

This automatic tipping culture, coupled with our tipping laws and regulations has also greatly tipped the balance between cooks and waiters.  Its not that waiters are making too much money.  Its that cooks are not making enough.  Now that its gotten much harder to find good cooks as a result, Danny Meyer and many more are finally waking up and getting rid of tipping altogether.  Not that the imbalance made any sense before the problems started kicking in.  Imagine an airline where the flight attendants make more than the pilots.

Coincidentally, Biang! where I just dined with new Chowhound friends, is the latest to go tip free.  If not for our tipping culture, after dining there, one could wonder why tips were needed there in the first place.  I doubt any will notice a difference in service at a place like this, with a line out the door in tourist free East Village.  I also had zero service issues at Bruno Pizza (20% admin charge), Nishi, and Pasquale Jones, all three opened with a no tipping policy in the past year.  At long timer Annisa, I cant fathom a different experience after they’ve gone tip free.  Danny Meyer, much loved and respected by his employees is moving all his establishments to this system.

So remember kids, tip 20% no matter what for the time being.  But The Times They are a Changin’, and its time to join the rest of the world, and eliminate tipping.

Categories: New York City | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Tipping – And Why it Needs to Go

  1. Hummus Whisperer

    Ziggy, can you recommend your favorite non-chain restaurant in NYC?

  2. Hi, This is such an interesting post. Living in Sydney Australia we have a very practical approach to tipping. If you get great service you tip – normally 10%, but it’s not a hard and fast rule that everyone follows. I know many people in Australia that don’t tip at all as they believe it’s the job of the wait staff to look after them and not something they need to pay extra for. Having said that the hourly pay rate in Australia is very high. But I don’t think it should be the responsibility of the patrons to make up someone’s wages. That is the job of the government to raise the minimum hourly rate or for the employer to address. I personally do always tip 10% unless there have been severe service issues but I find the whole tipping for EVERYTHING in the US very hard to deal with. It is unheard of here to tip your hairdresser for instance. Most would find it insulting. From the time my plane lands in New York to the time I check in and enter my hotel room I have spent upwards of $30 just in tips alone – I’m not sure there is a country in the world where this would be the case. Where will it all end? Will there come a time when you go to the doctor and need to tip them as well? I applaud Danny Meyer and I for one will appreciate going to restaurants with the no tip policy and not have to deal with the bullying and intimidating system of tipping no matter what the standard of service one receives.

  3. WEQueen

    I too love the Service Included Restaurants. Sadly there aren’t enough and a few that tried them have reverted to the “old way”. Am a big fan of Danny Meyer for starting the trend and service at his restaurants are always impeccable.

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