Is A Service Charge Better Than Tipping Culture? One Restaurant Critic Thinks So | KERA News

Is A Service Charge Better Than Tipping Culture? One Restaurant Critic Thinks So

Sep 2, 2015

After a cab driver refused gratuity in Singapore, where tipping any service or food worker is not encouraged, New York magazine’s Adam Platt decided he’d try to stop tipping when he returned to the U.S. and see what happened. 

He returned to leaving his standard 20 percent but supports a shift some restaurants are making to a blanket service charge. Today on Think, he told Krys Boyd why he thinks America is stuck on tipping.

Reason #1: Tipping sets the stage for an ego show.

With most servers making about $2 an hour, tipping is more a manner of basic courtesy and less a choice.

“One thing about tipping is it’s viewed as voluntary, even though it’s really not,” Platt says.

This makes it so the well-off can take pleasure in leaving big tips. The way America’s fused itself to tipping as an act of benevolence seems to say something about our attitude, Platt says.

“A lot of these high-end restaurants, they instituted their service charge and people insisted on leaving tips on top of that.”

Reason #2:  A service charge seems imposing, just because it isn’t presented as a choice.

“When you slap the service charge on there, that looks to many Americans like a tax. They’ll pay it once, but they won’t come back and pay it again,” Platt says.

Reason #3: We thrive on anxiety, obviously.

Platt speaks to “the unwritten anxiety of tipping,” which is a passive rule system that keeps us constantly wondering about who to tip and what amount.

“It’s confusing, and I think we would be much better off if the world was simplified,” he says.

Read more of Adam Platt's thoughts on tipping at grubstreet.com. And then listen to the podcast of today's conversation.