A case for getting rid of tipping for good

Jasper Johnson

The foolish and misunderstood custom of tipping has reared its ugly head, an event underscored a Minnesota House bill that reduces minimum wage for some types of tipped workers. The cultural norm of tipping needlessly complicates the economics of pricing and wages, harming and confusing workers. With any luck, our culture will eventually phase out tipping, if not ban it outright.
 
Workers, including those who receive tips, should oppose tipping. When tips become part of a person’s wages, that person assumes more risk because they could receive varying tips for working a given period. We should pay workers normal living wages so they don’t have to rely on the seemingly obligatory “kindness” of customers to make ends meet.
 
While some people argue that tipping incentivizes much better customer service, I find this generally to be untrue. Many service jobs exist just fine without tipping. It would be considered absurd to buy artificially cheap foods in a grocery store and then pay the cashier extra money or to pay nurses extra money so patients don’t receive poor customer service.
 
When people feel obliged to tip, the motivational power of money diminishes. Take the example of Japan, where there is virtually no tipping. In fact, many Japanese people consider tipping to be rude. However, the country is considered to have some of the best hospitality in the world.
 
Unfortunately, a general consensus on tipping’s irrationality will not phase out the practice in the United States. Even if it would be better in the long run for both servers and customers, people are not about to leave tips of $0, as this would, regrettably, harm the individual employee’s livelihood. 
 
Instead, the shift away from tipping will start with businesses.
 
Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul is an excellent local case study. The owners decided that wages needed to be more equitable, considering that some employees made significantly more money based on the time of day or the month of the year when they worked. The coffee shop decided to refuse tips and instead raise employee wages and coffee prices. The change has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from customers and employees alike.
 
Removing the tip jar at Kopplin’s Coffee has created more positive interactions between customers and 
employees. 
 
Recounting a conversation with a customer who wished to tip her, Amanda Kopplin told MPR News that the customer said, “Well, how do I thank you then for the gesture? You just bringing that out to my table was so nice, and I just want to tell you it was a really nice experience.” Kopplin told the customer, “That’s how you say thank you — by saying thank you.” 
 
Eliminating tipping doesn’t just mean simplifying economics and paying the same amount of money in the end. It means fostering more meaningful interpersonal interactions. 
 
I hope that, with some luck, tipping culture is on its way out. It is irrational, arbitrary and harmful to both customers and employees.