The trades union Unite is delighted that the government has decided to ban restaurant owners from keeping back a share of tips that customers give to staff. According to its website, Unite has been exposing rip-off tipping practices in the hospitality industry since 2008.
In response to the announcement, a Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said: ‘This step in tackling tipping abuses has been a long time coming and is in no small part down to the determined campaigning of Unite and its members.’
It all sounds good yet I can’t help feeling that the wrong problem is being addressed.
Tips should be banned. They are a way of allowing businesses to underpay their staff in the belief that customers will make up the difference between a basic wage and a fair wage. They hark back to a time when low pay or zero pay contracts were allowed, where workers literally had to grovel to their customers in order to earn a living. They are also unfair in that they rely entirely on the front facing staff who are only a small part of any restaurant.
Tips perpetuate a system where the customer can lord it over others, the server becomes subservient. They allow customers to choose by their own values whether the workers can earn or not. Anyone who goes to work in fear is little more than a slave.
Ah but, I hear you say, tips are a way of expressing your gratitude for good service, but you already have this power by choosing to come back to the business or not.
Most employees are motivated by working in a good environment that delivers high quality service. If waiting staff are not delivering this then they are in the wrong job. That is a management issue.
We must also question why tips are not more widespread in other service industries. I have been in the sector for all my working life but have never been tipped. This is not due to my bad service, I hope, but rather that tipping is an anachronism, based upon historic bad practices.
Tips should be banned. Restaurants should pay proper wages. Customers should show their appreciation by telling everyone how good it was and by going back.