The Case For Tipping: A Rebuttal

May 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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  Because, you see–Tipping is not a city in China.
          BACKGROUND
  I have worked in food service since 1986–24 years.  About half of that time has been in management, and the other half has been as a delivery driver.  Therefore, I have seen this world from all sides, including from the point of view of a customer.
  Now, pizza delivery is a little different from being a waiter, but there is a relation.  As far as the customer is concerned, there is no difference.  All the differences are "inside" and fairly transparent to them:  They both bring you your food.  The rest is details.
  My brethren in pizza delivery will say that driving is just as hard as being a waiter.  However, I have done both, and being a waiter is harder–for a few reasons.
  Waiting (serving) is physically more demanding.  More running back and forth, more time on your feet, and generally more time spent cleaning and prepping.  Also, you have more face time with the customer.  Any time you can minimize that, it is a good thing.  With pizza delivery, if you have to talk to the customer for more than twenty seconds, something is wrong.
  That doesn’t mean driving doesn’t have its own difficulties.  While you do get to ride around in your car and listen to your stereo, driving is treacherous.  Delivering pizza is lumped in with other driving jobs such as truck driving and taxi driving, but it is one of the most dangerous jobs.
  Waiters seldom get robbed at gunpoint at the table they are serving.
  A waiter will not die in a car accident on the way to a table.
  A waiter won’t have to walk a quarter mile in the dark in the snow to bring your food to you.
  A waiter typically knows where you are, and doesn’t have to try to find you.
  I have been robbed.  I have been beaten.  I have had a gun in my chest.  I have also seen everything you can imagine–and things you can’t possibly.  I have drudged through snow and ice and mud. I’ve been attacked by dogs.  Fallen on ice?  You bet.  Soaked to the bone in the rain?  All the time.  I’ve delivered during tornadoes.
  I’ve also been tipped with things other than money.  Further I shall not say on this topic.
  Drivers still have some prep and cleaning to do, but typically servers work in restaurants that are not fast food, so there is more prep, prep of practically everything.  So, while serving is more physically demanding, there are other aspects to delivery that make it difficult.  
  Delivery, like serving, is not for everyone.  To drive, you don’t have to be a genius, but idiots don’t last long.  You have to be able to get around, find your way, improvise, and think on your feet.
  I worked at Domino’s Pizza.  When we had the thirty minute guarantee, you had to do all of that fast.
        BUSINESS
  There are two different ways drivers are paid.  In the big places, like Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, the drivers are paid by the hour–generally minimum–plus a per-delivery stipend to cover gas usage (it was fifty cents, but with gas prices it’s around a dollar now), and then they are tipped.
  The other method, popular among smaller chains and mom-and-pop operations, is to pay the driver a cash bank at the beginning of the night, usually fifteen to twenty dollars, which they get to keep.  Then they get a higher per-delivery fee (2 or 3 bucks), and also tips.  Essentially these are non-employed, sub-contracted individuals.  
  The second group is more dependent on tips–similar to servers making 2.13 per hour and then making the rest up in tips.  But the first group still needs them; that small fee for gas doesn’t always quite cover the actual gas used, not to mention wear and tear on the vehicle.  Plus–does anyone want to make JUST minimum wage?  So for all of these tipped positions, tips are important.
  For instance, right now, I drive two nights per week, averaging eight hours per shift.  Sometimes it’s busy, and sometimes it’s slow.  On a slow night, I made 30 bucks in cash, including my mileage.  That’s 3.75 per hour; with my hourly it’s 9.25.  Not great, but not bad considering the job.  My worst night recently I made 14 dollars.  Divide that by the five hours I worked, it’s 2.80, or 8.30 with my hourly.  On my best night so far, I made 90 bucks in cash.  That’s 11.25 per hour, with my hourly, 16.75.  Not bad.  More than the job is worth?  What’s it worth to you to not have to put clothes on, start your car, clean it off, warm it up, drive through the ice and snow in the dark…to get a pizza?  What is avoiding a DUI worth by not having to go out when you’re drunk?  What is the convenience worth?
  (And I just had a flash of insight; my own ADD moment:  Whenever I order concert tickets, my 40 dollar tickets always end up costing me 52.75.  Why is that?  Convenience charge?  Doesn’t seem terribly convenient to me.  It’s like they are not giving me a choice and forcing me to tip them.  That’s fascist.)
  But that’s the high end.  Let’s go with the average.  I average 50 bucks in cash.  That’s 6.25, with my hourly, 11.75.  That makes it a decent job in fast food.  Plus, that’s mostly cash, so the equivalent is probably a job making 15 bucks per hour.  Not too shabby.  But this is all dependent on tips.
  Some people have intimated that (because they don’t understand how this part of the economy works–and hey, there’s no shame in that unless you spout off a bunch of ridiculous ideas about it) maybe…. maybe employers should just PAY their employees more, and eliminate tipping.  And then charge more for the food.
  But you are wrong about this, for several reasons, which I will explain in excruciating detail, and I might even include charts and graphs.
  Eliminating tipping is anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and stupid. And socialists.  "Let’s eliminate all competition and pay everyone the same, no matter what."  I think that’s a quote from Stalin.
            MATH
  Let’s examine what would happen if we raise wages.  Let’s take a. . .Let’s take a Steak n Shake, because I worked there also.  This Steak n Shake does 40,000 in sales per week.  It has about 60 hourly employees.  Twenty of them are back kitchen, making roughly 8 bucks an hour.  The other 40 are servers, making 2.13 per hour.  To make things equitable, they are ALL going to make 8 bucks an hour.  How much do you have to raise the prices?
  This where my experience as a manager comes in:  Food and labor are the big numbers.  You want food to be around 25% of costs, and labor to be around 20%.  So 20% of 40k is. . .8 thousand dollars.  That’s with 2/3 of your staff at tipping wage.  So let’s bump that up.  My complicated formula for that is:

(Well, 2/3 of the staff is making 1/4 of what 1/3 of the staff makes, and this is your hourly people)

    40*2*x + 20*8*x=8000
    80x+160x=8000
    240x= 8000
    x= 33 hours average each works.  This lets me calculate the new formula.

So now it’s (40*8*33)+(20*8*33) which equals 15840

That makes more sense than my original calculation.  Originally my number tripled the labor dollars.  That was silly.  This only doubles it.  So–In order to keep the labor percentage the same, what do we have to do in sales?

15840/20%=79200.  That’s almost double.  So–
 
  You know, Steak n Shake is already really expensive.  It’s three dollars for a tiny cheeseburger; four dollars for a double.  Six bucks for a platter, two bucks for a drink.  I can’t afford to eat there much.  But if I did, my fiancé and I would get two platters and two drinks.  6, 12, plus 4–16 bucks?  I seem to recall it being closer to 20.  We’ll go with 16.  I’m going to throw down a twenty-dollar bill, because I’m a good tipper–most people who have worked in food are, while doctors and lawyers and professional people tend to be bad tippers.  There is research and anecdotal evidence to back that up.  But that’s a 25% tip.
  But in the new world where no one tips, prices had to go up to compensate.  This 16- dollar meal now costs 32 bucks.  But I feel better, because I didn’t have to tip, everyone is treated equally, and no one’s feelings are hurt.
  The reality is, if everyone is making more money, then fewer of those "everyone" will have a job.  As owner or manager, if I can cut my staff, I will.  Service will suffer.  You won’t get a refill as often as you like–If ever.  But that’s the reality of business.
  Maybe some of you can pay 32 bucks for a dinner for two at a glorified fast food restaurant masquerading as a crappy diner . . . but the rest of us can’t.  And what will then happen to that business?
          ECONOMY
  So the economy will suffer a bit–Quite a lot, actually.  It will hurt people on the lower end.  These are the people typically working these jobs.  It’s not all high school and college students.  It’s mothers and fathers trying to make ends meet.  People who have fallen on hard times because their job was shipped over seas or downsized.  So they did what they had to do–adjusted.  Moved to the service industry.  Instead of good benefits and decent hours, they are working all hours of the day and night, and weekends.  Missing their kids’ games and homework to put food on the table and keep the lights on.
  Oh, sorry…I got all emotional.  I figured it would appeal to you, since you want to essentially socialize the hospitality industry.  And we know how much liberals are long on "feelings," and short on substance.
  Yes, of course, no one “has” to work there.  But the tips make the job a draw; without them, it just might be another job Americans won’t do.  Not everyone can have a union job.  And if everyone did, America would burn to the ground from the inflation.  For those of us who actually live in the real world, our choices are limited.  Go back to school, get re-educated?  Sounds a little like Nazi re-education camps to me.  Not only that, but listen—really:  Not everyone is smart enough.  Hell, not everyone is even smart, period.   Situations and circumstances are different for everyone.  Your sweet, cute waitress may also be dumb as a box of rocks, or just have an LD.  She’s not going back to school.  This is the job where her strengths—being cute and friendly—work for her.  She doesn’t have to know math beyond counting cash.  She’s saving up her money to leave an abusive boyfriend—and you want to take that away from her?
  There we go with the emotions again.  I’m not stupid, either.  I have a ridiculously high IQ, and wasted my education in my youth with a drug problem.  I’m clean now, but my life is a product of my mistakes.  But—never mind.  My point is this:  for everyone to have some level of success (and success is defined differently by everyone) tipping is a real, tangible measure of that success.
  There are groups who want to unionize the pizza delivery industry.  Without even knowing the details, I’m sure you can guess that it’s a bad idea.
  And one thing they want to do is what you suggest—raise prices and eliminate tipping.  This is because it’s hard to get union dues from cash.  And it’s always for everyone’s own good, isn’t it?   
  (Another of my own ADD moments:  This won’t work for all industries.  Just how do you expect a stripper to get paid if there is no more tipping?  Those tattoos and piercings and waxings aren’t free, brotha!  Do you know what high heels go for these days?  Not to mention crotchless—anything . . .)
          TAXES
  At least one good thing will come out of it:  Currently, employees who make tips declare them as income.  Of course, they declare as little as possible, hitting the threshold of barely acceptable.  The employers appreciate this, because they have to match Social Security and some other things, like unemployment tax.  So a server making 2.13 declares enough in tips to make it 5.50 or 6, when in fact he’s probably making 9 or 10 bucks an hour . . . or more.
  Why, that is cheating the government out of valuable tax dollars that they need to give to Africa to piss away.  So, businesses will probably both raise their prices AND cut people, to avoid paying as much in taxes.  Plus, having more sales dollars affects the taxes they pay as well.  It’s a win for everyone–because the government wins and gets more tax revenue.  This will go to government programs to help those who lost their jobs when employers cut their labor.
  This is a rough estimate, but a server who makes 10 bucks an hour in tips makes more versus someone who makes 10 bucks an hour on a check.  Obviously, they aren’t paying taxes on all of that money, or FICA, or SUTA, or SS.  Maybe that’s wrong, and they should—
  Or maybe people being paid some of their wages in cash is a way for them to stick it to The Man.  Don’t worry; they still pay taxes on a portion of it.
  On a personal note, back in 1992 the company I worked for got audited.  The owner rolled over on the drivers as part of his plea, so we got audited.  I felt that you should be as honest with the government as they are with you, so I declared nothing in tips for that year.  Including late fees and penalties, I had to pay back 2600 dollars, which became over four grand before I was through because the fees and penalties don’t stop accruing.  
  They had a formula for figuring out what my tips were, basically amounting to one dollar per hour.  It looked like a substantial amount. My wife at the time said, "There’s no way you made that much–"
  I said, "Remember how during most of your pregnancy you weren’t working?  We always had money, we always had food, and we paid our bills.  Just from what I made from tips.  You have no idea how much I made.  None.  My tips kept us afloat."
          CULTURE
  Lastly, this is about our culture.  May I remind you that the commie pinko socialists in Canada don’t tip either?  Yeah, they don’t tip in a lot of other communist, totalitarian countries also.
  Tipping is a pillar of our culture and economy.  It is a trademark of capitalism.  Of course there are good and bad parts to this; no system is perfect.  Tipping the guy who hails me a cab because that’s the rule?  Not bloody likely.  Tipping the cute waitress who was cheerful and kept my drink full?  Absolutely.  There is also survival of the fittest involved here.
  Good, quality people who work hard, have a good attitude, know how to hustle and take care of the customer–they are going to be rewarded with cash, and better opportunities for jobs where the tips are even better.  The surly, slothful, and lazy will still get tipped…but not as much.  The good jobs will weed them out, and they will get sifted to the bottom and end up working at crappy ghetto diners.
  Sure, sometimes you tip when you don’t feel it’s necessary.  Sometimes you can see the larceny in their hearts.  Capitalism isn’t a perfect system.  I personally don’t like what WalMart has done to the economy; while conservatives continue to sing its praises and worship at the altar of their cash register, I search for signs of the Number of the Beast there.
  But I still shop there.
          CONCLUSION
  Like I said, tipping isn’t a perfect system.  Neither is capitalism.  But it’s still the BEST system–and by that I mean both capitalism, and the tiny artery of capitalism called tipping.  It allows people on the lower rungs to compete among themselves and get a leg up.  If you, on the other end as a customer, see disparity, try living on my end.  Do your job for tips, and see how it works out.  
  For the longest time now, I’ve been in management, and there’s been some disconnect between me and the customer.  But recently I had to return to delivery, part time.  Who says the economy is tanking?  I have three jobs!
  But since I work for tips now, my attitude is better.  I used to be bitter, jaded, and resentful.  But now I pour it on thick.  I flirt with everyone, even the men.  It’s professional flirting.  I’m nice, I joke, I compliment, and I’m prompt and friendly.  It’s purely pragmatic, but it’s made me a better person because friendly equals cash, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Tipping isn’t required.  It’s customary, that’s all.  However, I do recommend that you tip the Pizza Guy.  He knows where you live.

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1 Comment »

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  1. I agree.Tipping is important. Tip generously. Tip often.


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