It is an almost reflexive position of Australian left-wingers that tipping in restaurants, American-style, is a bad thing. For one thing, it’s American. For another, it’s a quick and efficient market mechanism that tends to link individual effort with reward, cutting centralised wage fixers out of the equation.
And oh yeah, did I mention it’s American?
Which is why I’m having a hard time coming at complaints by officials at something called United Voice — it’s the new name of the old Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, apparently — that management is pocketing credit card tips intended for wait staff. Especially when their solution is for diners to leave cash.
Look, waiters and waitress often work damn hard. And if I give a tip in a restaurant (which I generally do, and do generously when the occasion’s right) I expect it to go to the floor staff. But on a Saturday night, this same staff is also getting paid upwards of $35 an hour, stretching already tight margins, pushing up the price of menu items while discouraging staff from going that extra mile. Add in tips at a reasonable joint and you’re talking about well north of $50 an hour.
Staffers’ unions and their mates need to make up their mind: if they don’t like management pocketing tips, they should call for a ban on gratuities. Otherwise, their members would be better served by letting restaurants set wages while letting diners reward performance.