No, I've never been a waiter. I've never carried someone else's luggage, cut hair, driven a taxi, or parked someone else's car. But I have worked in customer service. Most jobs are, in fact, customer service-related, even if they don't involve some kind of money transaction on the side. But the most famous job in which tipping is expected is being a waiter.
Let's read that again. "Job in which tipping is expected." It's baffling, really, that a job exists in which one gets paid a sum of money, then is "expected" to get more money from the customer. Unless, of course, you're in England, or you're in America serving British tourists. If you've ever been to the British Isles, you know that tipping is not customary over there, and the service (compared to North America) reflects that. They don't know that in the States, you must tip 15-20 percent on the average food bill, less than that if you're in a buffet-style restaurant, more if you're in a party of at least six, 10 percent on whatever bottle of wine you order, a dollar to the bartender for every drink, and — in some fancy restaurants — 5 percent for the waiter captain.
God, the British are lucky. Their only worries are (a) the strengthening Euro, and (b) Welshmen.
The concept is quite understandable. Performance-based salary is a noble concept, and there’s really no other silver-bullet method beyond what the customers think, and their impressions on the wait service comes in the form of extra dollars. I don’t fault that part of the system. Everyone loves money. But in a world where everyone in the government, media, and various Wal-Marts appear to be beyond correction … how come 99 percent¹ of restaurant bills come with bonus money? If 99 percent of job tasks in the world were done successfully, we’d have already engineered a form of bacon that would cure leukemia and built a trash-powered car.
¹ How did I come up with 99 percent? Absolute guesstimation. It seems right. A tip-receiver have to completely screw up a patron's experience to warrant no bonus after tax. This happened to me twice. Once, a waiter, in serving me my food, clipped my glass and spilled Pepsi all over me, and didn't really apologize as he went to take a rag to the table and throw me a pile of napkins. The second time was when I found a ladybug in my salad. After an initial reaction of surprise, the waitress regaled our entire table with a story of an insect she found at home in her frozen spinach. Because that's exactly what you say to an incident like that.
Tips, again, are clearly a good idea. However, is it such an ironclad system when it's almost as if you have to feel up the parents' teenage kid not to get bonus money? (Kidding, of course! Merely attempting to feel them up also counts.)
"Well, my glass was empty for quite a while, and I'm eating spicy food … but look at her, she's busy. I'll give her 20 percent anyway."
"She spilled the coffee a little when she poured, I didn't have silverware right away, she came back to ask if I wanted white or wheat bread, I didn't get fresh pepper on my salad like they normally do, and she didn't restock the salt packets. Just 10 percent."
"Ah, what a reasonably priced, delicious dinner. And what a nice lad that took care of us. Let's see. What should I tip? Oh, right. I'm British. Right then. I'm ready when you are, Eleanor."