Monday, February 22

The Last I'll Say On Tipping

The tipping system is broken.

It used to be that tipping meant gratuity, which meant a small payment to show your gratitude for exceptional service. It no longer means this.

Somewhere along the way companies got the idea that if a waiter (or waitress) had a reasonable expectation of tips that they should be able to pay that waiter less than minimum wage as long as his tips and wages added up to minimum wage. These companies took the idea to our legislature and convinced them to make it legal.

People continued to take these jobs, these less than minimum wage jobs, because their customers were indeed grateful for the service and they tipped. There was a time when people actually did what was socially expected of them; It was expected that if you got good service from a waiter, you tipped 15%.

Cue the pizza companies. They noticed that customers were also grateful for having their food delivered to their house. They figured that if restaurants could get away with paying their waiters less because of the expectation of a tip that they could get away with paying delivery drivers less. This is where the similarities between waiting tables and delivering pizza end. I hate when people insist on comparing the two. I love my waiters and waitresses. I often tip way more than 15%. They deserve it, they do more than just take my order and bring me food. I appreciate all of those things that they do to make my experience good, especially those things that I don't see. You should tip them more too.

So far:
Tipping is no longer gratuity.
Pizza delivery is not waiting tables and the comparison is unfair to both parties.

I would love to go to a system where I didn't rely on tips, but knowing that your pizza delivery driver does rely on tips, you have an obligation to pay tips. Think of it this way, my employer pays me $4.95 while I'm out on the road, I think of that as payment for representing the company and as them covering their ass to make sure I make minimum wage. My employer does not actually pay me for delivering to you (yes they require me to deliver to you, but they don't pay me for it). You pay me for delivering to you with a tip. In most cased $3. Any additional amount over that $3 is gratuity.

It has been suggested that if I have such a problem with the low tips I get that it must be my fault. I contend that most people know how much they are going to tip before they even order, making the problem of low tips an education problem rather than a service problem. It has been suggested that if I'm receiving low tips because I'm sometimes forced to deliver cold pizza, that I should complain to my manager. I ask again, if when I get back to the store the delivery that is next in line is not piping hot (and bound to get colder even sitting in a hot bag on my way to the house) am I to refuse to deliver it? Make my manager remake it? Would you tip me the same because even though your pizza is now late it is hot? Less because it is now late (the most likely situation)? Or more because I put my job on the line to make sure that your pizza was hot? You would be naive to think that I would be able to keep my job if I was constantly doing such things. You may say that upon complaining to my manager that I'm taking pizzas that are cold and it is effecting my tips, that he will have a way to fix that. The only solution is to hire more drivers, likely an excess of drivers. This is a problem for me. More drivers means fewer deliveries per driver, fewer hours (as the bulk of those drivers will only be needed in the short 1.5 hour to 2 hour dinner rush), and consequently lower aggregate tips and lower aggregate wages. It's a catch-22.

Additionally, it has been suggested that I provide my best service no matter what, that small tippers can grow to be big tippers because they will be more grateful for my service. I would like to see you provide your best service after coming off of 5 deliveries where you made $4 in tips. When I deliver to a regular bad tipper I always hope that this time will be the time that they'll tip, that last time the pizza wasn't hot enough for them or they were short on money or just didn't know they were supposed to, and they never do. Enough of that and you'd stop providing them your best service too.

It has been suggested that if I don't like the tipping system that I should find another job. First, I like my job. My blog is a place to vent. It is cathartic. I try to mention the happy things that happen. I love prepping bell peppers. I like low water crossings, cows, water towers, and traffic circles. I like making a perfect veggie pizza because done right there are precisely two tomatoes per slice and it is beautiful. Second, let's say that I quit, it doesn't mean that all of the sudden all of the pizza delivery people are ok with the tipping system or ok with $1 and $2 tips. It just means that they don't care to speak out about it. Yes, a way to fix the system would be for all of the pizza delivery people to find other employment and for the companies to be unable to fill those jobs without offering better compensation. I suppose we could also unionize (it has been unsuccessfully tried). But, realistically, neither of those things will happen for exactly the same reason that there aren't a chorus of people delivery people on the internet railing against the system, most of them just don't know or care how much they're getting screwed over.

A quick note on the delivery fee. It does not go to the drivers. It is there because the companies can get away with it. My employer would be obligated to pay me a per mile or per delivery amount with or without the delivery fee. Not tipping does not send a message that you find the delivery fee to be unacceptable.

What I want you to get out of this is that clinging to a fantasy about the tipping system only hurts me. You do not send a message to the store that the system is unacceptable when you tip low. You do not send a message to the delivery driver that you are grateful for their service when you tip low. All you do is hurt the driver, make it harder for them to pay their bills and service their car.

Wrap up:

Tipping is no longer gratuity.
Pizza delivery is not waiting tables and the comparison is unfair to both parties.
Tipping is paying me for delivering to you. Anything above that is gratuity.
Quitting my job won't make this problem go away, it will just mean one less voice talking about it (and pretending a problem doesn't exist because no one is speaking up will not make it go away).

I know that most of you enjoy reading my blog and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this but I'm not interested in arguing anymore, so I'm turning off comments. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to blog my shifts this week. If I do, I will be turning off comments on there as well.