Readers Take Sides on Whether Tipping Is Outmoded or Common Courtesy

“If you want to charge $80 for a plate of fettuccine, then let’s dispense with the sham and call it $80 fettuccine.”

Should you take it personally if we call you a tightwad? Of course not, because the second person is a grammatical device used to heighten the stakes of a rhetorical argument, and we aren’t actually talking to you. (Although you do have something in your teeth.) Nevertheless, many readers took personally Dr. Know’s rebuke last week of a tipping skeptic who protested that $15 an hour is plenty for service workers. The column set off a roaring debate among our readers. Here’s what they had to say:

April Metz, via Facebook: “Fifteen dollars is minimum wage, not livable wage. That’s why we tip.”

Wild_Spaghetti, via Reddit: “The thing about tipping (and tip bloat) is that the argument for it doesn’t stand still.

“It’s a moving goalpost, mostly because the majority of servers don’t want to change the system that some of them benefit from. And a lot of non-servers are suckered into the idea that tipping is a noble act/not tipping makes them an asshole…

“OK, so you tip for service. But only some services. Like the hairdresser and baristas. Not the grocery store clerk or receptionist. Because…well, because. Sorry, guess you picked the wrong minimum wage job.”

Kady Dawn, via Facebook: “So they can afford to live? Unlike so many other jobs that have suddenly added a tip option on the cash register, a restaurant server doesn’t just hand you some food. They take care of you, it’s part of the experience of dining out, and then you get up and leave and don’t have to bus your own table. You want to ensure you get horrific service in restaurants and bars? Pay all those people minimum wage without tips.”

Dale Peekle, via “Let me say first that I am only slightly older than dirt. So, I started out my working life at minimum wage. I worked many years at minimum wage before I completed some trade education. I never got a tip for anything I did. I agreed to work for the offered wage, and the employer agreed to pay me that much for my services. That’s a contract. Just a note about the gas station worker: They get minimum wage and come to my vehicle in the heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter. I actually tip the attendant at every fill-up.”

Happydivorcecard, via Reddit: “I think restaurants should charge more and pay a living wage to their workers or go under. I still tip because it’s part of the existing system, but it pisses me off that I need to.”

BetsyToll, via “You can always get grab-and-go at the grocery store. That way you won’t be confronted with someone working for half the poverty-level wage (yes, that’s what our fancy ‘minimum’ wage comes to for part-time food-service employment, which is how employers dodge paying benefits). Cook your own food and do your own dishes, and give that some thought.”

Sharon Williams, via Twitter: “Honestly, can you live in Portland on $15 an hour?”

Dubious, via “I don’t have a problem tipping, usually generously, when I receive actual service. What I do object to is being expected to tip someone who simply works the cash register and points to where I can pick up my food, gather my silverware, and bus my dishes.

“Don’t get me started on the places that give themselves a hefty ‘tip’ before any service has been provided. And then they expect a tip on top of that. If you want to charge $80 for a plate of fettuccine, then let’s dispense with the sham and call it $80 fettuccine.”

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