Letter to the Editor: There’s a downside to eliminating tipping


Columnist Richard Cohen notes that New York restaurateur Danny Meyer recently announced that he would eliminate the practice of tipping in his 13 restaurants, raise his prices, and, presumably, pass on the increased revenue to his servers. His decision was applauded by those who find tipping patronizing, racist, undemocratic (kitchen staff are not tipped), and sexist (according to Mr. Cohen, a recent New York Times article states that some 37 percent of all sexual harassment claims are filed by restaurant workers).

For the politically correct who, as always, insist not only on equality of opportunity, but on equality of results as well, the decision of Mr. Meyer represents yet another step in the direction of their field of dreams. If servers are paid a decent hourly wage, no one can claim discrimination and liability to the owner is reduced. Besides, tipping complicates life for the employer with respect to taxes.

The downside of eliminating tipping is that it crushes the incentive to do good work; it penalizes a customer like Mr. Cohen, who appreciates good service and views generous tipping as part of a satisfying dining experience; and, most importantly, the elimination of tipping concentrates power, in the form of money, in the hands of the man or woman at the top.

Likely to become a trend, the discouragement of tipping seeks to make equal things that can never be equal, like the quality of work of different individuals. Human servers will surely be replaced by robotic dumb waiters and, of course, by the buffet. When the transition is complete, restaurant customers will only be known as “consumers,” not “patrons,” for the wonderful old restaurant institution of human-to-human patronage will have ended.

John Clem, Edinburg