Sunday, December 3, 2006

x % Tips = Nonsense

Last Friday I had dinner with my friends at Dai Kei Sushi & Shabu in San Gabriel. The food was okay, not very fresh. Sauce was so-so. The service of the waitress who gave us the food and drink was nothing special either. Actually, there is something special: she never smiled to us once. When the bill came, it costed us around $15 per person.

Shabu Shabu is a rip-off

To me, this was pretty much a rip-off because I don't see any big investment to do a Japanese shabu-shabu hot pot place. One huge difference between a hot pot place and regular restaurant is that for a hot pot place you don't really need a chef and all the assistant chefs. What they need to make sure are the freshness of the food and the tastiness of the sauce. Yeah they need some guy to slice the meat but that shouldn't cost much. And it costed $15 a person. If I go to a Hong Kong cafe with my girlfriend, $15 can bring us drinks, soup and two dishes of food and the food is so much that we can take it home and have the left-over for another meal.

10% tips = standard

Anyways, this isn't what I want to talk about today. Hmmm oh yeah, we ended up paying six bucks as tips for that hot pot dinner since the bill amount was around $60, so 10% for tips. I didn't really feel that they deserved six dollars of tips but paying tips of at least 10% of the bill amount is like the de facto rule so we paid anyways.

Then we headed to a drink place called "Little Cat Feed Fish" literally. (Sorry, can't find its presence of the web) I like that place pretty much since it is quiet and not as crowded as Tea Station during the weekends. It is really a turn-off if you're with a bunch of friends at Saturday night and you need a place to hang out but then you find that you need to wait 45 minutes to get a table for 8 people. Besides, the service of "Little Cat" is pretty good, at least the waiter/waitress there will smile at us. As expensive as the drinks could be, the bill was like $15 and we ended up paying $2 for tips, which was more than 10% already.

People from "Little Cat Feed Fish" had to serve us almost the whole night and only got $2 for tips while that non-smiling waitress at the shabu-shabu place got $6.

Something is wrong here, isn't it? People who provides better service get less tips than those people who don't respect their job.

Alright, let's think about why we pay tips in the first place. We pay tips to the server because we think that they are doing a great job in providing the service and deserve some extra rewards. If you agree with that definition, any tips or gratuity that is mandatory is ultimate bullshit.

Mandatory tips are bullshit

Let me sidetrack a little bit...

To any servicing industry: don't insult your customer's intelligence. If you want to charge your customer a few bucks more, call it extra charge and let me know in advance, don't beautify it as mandatory gratuity or the likes. Besides, charging mandatory tips only makes your business less competitive. Why? If your waiters and waitresses get 18% tips for party of eight anyways, there's no incentive for them to do a better job and you lose your customer and close down your business. Good for you!

x% tips is nonsense

How is service quality related to some x % of the bill amount? Absolutely nothing. The bill amount is decided by how expensive the product/service is, not the service quality. No matter how excellent or horrible the service is, you still have to pay that $5.95 plus tax for that dish of your favorite fried rice you order. "How did this x % tips rule become the standard then?" I really don't know. This rule just doesn't make sense and if you know which idiot came up with this please let me know.

"So how should we pay tips then?" As I said two paragraphs above, we pay tips if the servers do a good job on providing the service. Well, let's be more specific for the restaurant industry. I think that we should pay tips according to two things:

1. Service quality
2. Number of dish/drink ordered

In general, the more food/drink you order, the more work the server has to do: give you the drinks, hand you extra pieces of lemon of your ice tea, grab the A1 sauce for your steak, etc. If a person doesn't order anything, the waiter doesn't really need to serve him. And, if waiter John gives the same service quality as waiter Peter does but waiter John is serving a huge party, of course John deserves more for tips.

But how do you translate those two factors into actual tips amount? Hmmm I think a simple way is just to rate the overall service quality as "Excellent", "Satisfactory" or "Bad", and think to yourself how much you will pay if you visit the restaurant alone and order one dish/drink, then multiply that number by the number of dish/drink your whole party order.

Is that simple enough? I don't know, but if you've better idea on how to pay tips, you're more than welcome to leave me a comment! :)


  1. can not be more agree with u. nothing should be mandatory, even our income tax is not, Tips, u gotta be joking.

    but i do believe in tipping, since i work as a waiter in college day, of course subjecting to the quality of service i get from the waitperson.

    there r customers whose tip r larger than his service bill, the largest amount i got is 50 bucks on a 42 or so check. it was the 90s , in sydney, not the us

  2. pok kit: Thanks for your comment! I'm glad to hear that someone actually agrees with my idea.

    Yeah I worked as a drink person (the one who makes drinks) in some cafe before and I do understands tips are a great source of income for waiters/waitresses. It's just that the current x% tips standard doesn't encourage waiters/waitresses to provide better service or the customer to pay tips more fairly.

    It's hard to implement my idea though as this x% tips standard has such a long history worldwide. If I ever have a chance to start a restaurant, I'll follow try out my idea though :P


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