Jay Porter owned a San Diego restaurant called The Linkery where tipping was not allowed; instead, a flat 18 percent service-charge is added to each bill, and that charge is divided among the servers, bus-people, and kitchen-staff. In a six-part series, Porter sets out the case for his experiment and reports on the result, covering the bad gender dynamics, motivation and microeconomics, and a comparison with a tip-friendly restaurant he also owns. It's a compelling tale about economic fairness versus locked-in dysfunctional conventions. He summarized his findings in an easily digested article for Slate.
Probably the most common reaction to our service-charge-no-tips policy, from people outside the service industry, was along the lines of, if there’s no tipping, then how will the servers be motivated to do a good job?
When you step back and think about this for a second, it’s actually kind of hilarious. The person asking this question would have a full-time job as a software developer, or lawyer, or journalist, or doctor, always working to a pay rate that was negotiated ahead of time. We would never suggest that a code jockey or surgeon would be motivated to do better work by the thought that their clients, if pleased with the service, might toss in a few extra dollars.
And yet, we restaurant-goers (and I include myself in this, in the days before I worked in restaurants) are not hesitant to suggest that, unlike all other working Americans, restaurant servers are a class of simpletons who require a drip of money every few minutes to keep them on task. By perpetuating the idea that servers, and servers alone, won’t perform without the threat of pay withheld, we dehumanize our neighbors and peers who work taking care of us. I think this helps us not feel bad when we sometimes treat them badly. It’s the Stanford Prison Experiment meets Yelp.
Meanwhile, restaurant workers know what’s up. People who worked in the restaurant industry wouldn’t ask us this question — what will motivate servers to do a good job? Because, inside the restaurant, we know that while the customers think their tips allow them to control the server, in fact the control is illusory. The story of the server being motivated by the customer’s power to tip, is instead a fiction created to make the customer feel important.
This was one of the first things I learned as a restauranteur.
Observations From A Tipless Restaurant: Part 1, , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6
What Happens When You Abolish Tipping [Jay Porter/Slate]
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I’ve marvelled at his polymath abilities — running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary’s ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT’s storied Media Lab — and I’ve watched with excitement as he’s distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
In Does The Online Card Payment Landscape Unwittingly Facilitate Fraud?, a new paper in IEEE Security & Privacy, researchers from the University of Newcastle demonstrate a technique for guessing secruity details for credit-card numbers in six seconds — attackers spread their guesses out across many websites at once, so no website gets enough bad guesses […]
Michael Geist writes, “The global music industry has spent two decades lobbying for restrictive DMCA-style restrictions on digital locks. These so-called “anti-circumvention rules” have been actively opposed by many groups, but the copyright lobby claims that they are needed to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties. Now the head of the RIAA […]
Holiday shopping is in full swing, and the Striiv Touch is one of the best gift ideas I’ve landed on. Its simple design works for females and males, and its wide range of features makes it suitable for even the non-fitness enthusiasts in your life.Unlike traditional fitness trackers, the Striiv Touch also acts as a smartwatch. It […]
The Pocket Tripod PRO had massive Kickstarter success in 2013, raising almost $85,000 in a single month. But this isn’t just another case of pre-release product hype. This ingenious little device folds out from a credit-card-shaped plastic slab into a sturdy stand with a surprisingly wide range of motion. In portrait orientation, your phone slides […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]