So much of what we encounter is life boarders on the absurd. There’s a very small margin that separates the three categories: so absurd its funny, not absurd enough to really care and, right in the middle, the kind of absurd that makes us angry.
Lately, it would seem that the middle variety is growing wider in scope. So many things seem crazy to us these days, that we’ll spout off about basically anything. The anonymity of social media has given us all license to bitch about everything; from bad customer service at Walmart to hundred-year-old government policies, not a single thing in this world is liked by all.
As I said, the kinds of things that bother us are expanding, and beginning to encompass items that wouldn’t have bothered previous generations. When I began working in the grocery industry sixteen years ago, places like Walmart and Target were notorious for their long lines and terrible service. People would say, if you want those prices, that’s just what you have to deal with.
Now, nothing is sacred, and people have become so demanding of quality service, that all you hear are complaints about the same things that were just part of the system, only a decade before.
Let’s look at an old-world concept, namely tipping, and how it has been forever altered by our demands for more and better.
According to historians, to give someone a “tip” is to actually present them with the acronym “to insure promptitude”. In the 17th century, the English elite would slip money to the person in charge of restaurant seating, in order to get at the head of the line. Rich American tourists brought this concept to the US, and over time the idea of tipping became giving thanks for the service you received, instead of for showing the people you cut in front of that you’re more wealthy than they are.
Fast forward to today, and tipping has become a way for people to silently punish unsatisfactory service. There are accepted standards for tipping in today’s society, generally 15-18%, and many people have begun seeing this as a glass ceiling, without fully understanding just how important this percentage is to the service person’s livelihood.
The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour.
The theory is that people will make more money than the minimum wage, if they count their tips. If they don’t make the extra money in tips, the employer only has to provide the difference, to make the waiter a federally accepted minimum wage employee. So, when you hear the expression “working for tips” this is what that means.
I’ve had meals with people who truly don’t understand this basic concept; either that, or they don’t feel the need to rise above the human desire to control situations by any means at their disposal. One person grumbles about a reduction in tip quantity because his soda isn’t promptly topped off, even while the restaurant is packed and the staff obviously short handed. Another suggests that the quality of the meal should determine the tip, even though all the waiter did was bring it out. If the waiter can’t make money in tips, all they can ever hope for is to bust their ass for $9 an hour, and that’s only in California.
If we all thought about this, just a little bit, how many would change their attitude? Personally, I have experienced bad food service, but I have a hard time punishing a person for the experience. Maybe I won’t return, but while I’m there, I have an obligation to function correctly within my society.
What if your job worked in the same way? Think about it. You had a bad day, or things were slow at the office, or you upset the boss or a client. Suddenly your wages for the week are drastically reduced. You’re not being paid by the hour, but rather by the whim of those around you. Your supervisor didn’t like the report you submitted, so she decided that you would only get minimum wage this pay period.
Is that fair? No matter what you job it, you are essentially a service, providing a function to another for money. If you’re tipping a waiter based on your feelings about their service quality, why shouldn’t the people you provide your service for do the same to you?
We’ve all got a job to do, so why go out of our way to make it hard for someone to do theirs. (This video, by the way, is a classic from a talented local man, Aaron Durr.)