Having earned my stripes in the restaurant industry throughout my late teens/early twenties, I could write an entire book regarding things that I’ve learned through the process of catering to others – insight into human nature, work ethic, patience, and fortitude.
Having been a server, a bartender, a hostess, and a manager, there are a few things I know for certain regarding the industry: it can be as equally fun as it is draining, it’s completely under-appreciated, it’s a great place to find drugs, and everyone should have to serve tables for at least a week in their lifetime. Like, it should be a mandatory prerequisite for college. Period.
All that being said, the point of this article has nothing to do with my personal feeling regarding being a server or bartender. I’m simply using the service industry as an example of why capitalism works and socialism doesn’t.
Now, I will make the important disclaimer that I haven’t waited tables or tended bar in years, so I’m aware inflated pricing in real estate and schooling – combined with a climbing incidence of people being self-entitled, cheapos that refuse to tip – may have lead to a different outlook on the whole “tipping” thing, (Please refer back to my comment on why EVERYONE should have to try their hand at waiting, at least once.)
Back when I was a server, I have to admit, I LOVED working for tips. Of course, there were times you would get screwed over, but there were days you would get some awesome customers that really liked you, and when you gave them impeccable service, they would tip you above and beyond that standard protocol. Waitressing really was the purest example of capitalism I can think of.
If you provide impeccable service and people are enjoying the service you provided, they will pay you based on that service. If you sucked at your job, you probably wouldn’t be coming home with decent money. When I was in the industry, The company you worked for had almost no part or intervention in the exchange of money and services between customer and waiter, (Okay, maybe a little, but not much).
Save for a few outliers, how well you performed your job almost ALWAYS reflected on the amount of money you walked away with. If you sucked, that patron probably wouldn’t tip well, wouldn’t come back to your establishment, or at least the very least request a different server. That’s the natural ebb-and-flow of a free market.
Conversely, there are some companies that choose to pool their tips, then distribute the total evenly among everyone. Sometimes, this works for big events like weddings or conventions where there aren’t necessarily clear lines of who is doing what and everyone deserves some financial reward.
BUT – and this a big but – this only works if everyone pushes their own weight. If you are lucky enough to work with a solid crew of co-workers that you can depend on to work as hard as you and provide the services necessary to incite good tips – that’s great! But I have worked in my fair share of bars, restaurants, country clubs, and catering companies and I have virally never found this to be a commonly shared virtue.
I bust my butt LIKE A BOSS. I have the work ethic of Steve Jobs, the charm and humor of Tina Fey, and the speed of Usain Bolt. Ok, obviously I’m totally exaggerating, but my point is that I’m someone you probably would gladly share your tips with. But there are PLENTY of people out there who are lazy, incompetent and rely on the strong work performance of their coworkers, knowing full well they’ll be taken care of. Not only does this provide absolutely NO motive for trying harder, but it actually dissuades the hard-working parties to stop putting in so much effort.
And this, friends, is why socialism sounds great in theory, but generally doesn’t work in practice. People have to be incentivized to provide stellar, unique, and in-demand services if the market is ever going to function properly, and that simply can’t happen if the government (or in this case, a restaurant), insists you have to give a percentage of your hard-earned profits to Joe – the busboy that shows up late for work and contributes nothing for the progress of a business, a city, a state, or the country.
Only time will tell if this shift in tipping (i.e., raising the minimum wage so servers make decent wages) will have a positive or negative impact on the industry as a whole. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s fair to work a five-hour shift, not have any tips, and walk away with a $2.15 hourly base pay. On the other hand, it’ll be interesting to see if the overall service provided by those in the industry will be more lackadaisical than it was prior to the shift.