Social Question

rojo's avatar

What would be the consequences if a movement took place in the US that refused to tip?

Asked by rojo (24159points) January 25th, 2016

How big would it have to be?
How long would it take to have an impact?
Would that impact be more positive than negative?

Would businesses that rely on tips to provide income for their employees have to bring hourly pay rates up into line to provide for their employees?

Would employees who rely on tips to survive quit and go on unemployment or apply for supplemental assistance such as welfare and food stamps?

Would employees who rely on tips rather have a set wage where they knew what they would be making or would they rather have the tip system?

Would the price of, let’s say, a meal be comparable to that of a meal with tip? Greater? Smaller?

Would the governments need to step in? Would they try to ban such a movement or try to get employers to revamp their system of employee compensation?

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50 Answers

janbb's avatar

A few restarurants in NYC have gone tipless recently and yes, the prices are higher so that staff can be paid a decent wage. It may become a growing trend.

Seek's avatar

If it’s anything less than a 20% increase over the current prices, we consumers would be getting a deal.

janbb's avatar

True – and it’s fairer.

zenvelo's avatar

Any movement participant would have to be prepared to not go to a restaurant or bar more than once. And if they don’t tip the barber/hairdresser, expect to look funny for a month to six weeks.

Seek's avatar

I still can’t fathom why barbers can’t just charge what they feel they are worth, instead of holding people’s satisfaction hostage.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@janbb And probably leads to more accurate/reliable income tax.

Such a movement could not effectively work from the customer side. It would have to be from the restaurant owners (who would increase prices appropriately) or the employees (demanding a fair wage and no tips). But I look forward to this happening in North America. It would be better for everyone, and is long overdue.

zenvelo's avatar

@Seek I was taught to tip hair stylists that rent a chair and don’t own the salon, but not to tip the owner. The salon owner has some say over the charges to keep them in line with each other, while taking a cut of the stylist’s business.

If the hair business differs from my understanding, please let me know.

jca's avatar

What happens now if the customer doesn’t tip? The employer doesn’t make it up, the employee suffers. Unless the establishment notified customers that it was on board and increasing the salary of the employee, ultimately, unless the employees band together to advocate for themselves, the employee suffers. Who are the employees going to advocate to? They may try advocating to the owner of the establishment, but unless that owner wants to increase prices and increase their salary, the employee is going to be out.

Seek's avatar

The person leasing the space has every right to negotiate their salary, cut, whatever, before signing on. Expecting customers to tip 2–4 people for a service they’re already paying for is extortion.

jca's avatar

I was referring to waitresses in restaurants.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I may be behind the times, but I believe that those with iron fast rules about never tipping should be compelled to work for tips as a lesson on empathy.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Japan is tip-less; employees that would in USA get a tip, don’t get a tip but have a increase hourly rate from US.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Just stopping tipping – cold turkey – will do nothing but hurt employees.

Whatever is done has to take into account a lot of things:

- labor laws that deal with service employees
– tax laws that deal with employers and the tax treatment of tips and employers
– human behavior: people like me going to a restaurant
– human behavior: how will the servers feel if their salaries do down by 80%?

A mass popular movement without any of the other things – tax and labor laws – will be hurtful and ineffective.

The problem is that the VAST majority of restaurant owners have no incentive to change, and every incentive to keep treating employees poorly by not paying a living wage. Their lobbying will be very powerful.

Will this happen in the US in my lifetime? Not a chance.

marinelife's avatar

If it was tied to a movement to raise wages, I would go along.

Cruiser's avatar

I read one restaurant got rid of tipping because wait staff who waited on 30 people tables would be left a $5.00 tip. And it seems that only a small percent of patrons actually tip 20% as 75% of patrons tip less than the 20% and 11% of patrons don’t leave anything. And the restaurants that do eliminate tips say they raise prices of their menu 12–15% and now that patrons don’t have to tip patrons who tipped 20% will come out ahead. The ones who will most certainly loose out are the waiters that rake in great tips. I know waiters that consider $200—$300 in tips is a bad night. Even at $15.00/hr that is only $120.00 per 8 hour shift.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Cruiser Exactly, it’s a win for everyone except the cheapskate who doesn’t believe in tipping.

Though, I would add, in most restaurants I’ve been to in a large group, they add the “gratuity” to the bill, so that it can’t be skimped on.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m pretty sure it’s already the law that waitpeople must earn “regular” minimum wage. If tips don’t bring them up to that the restaurant needs to pay them the difference.

Some parts of the US add the tip automatically on the bill, places like South Beach, but I don’t know if the tip goes to the server, or if it’s just revenue for the restaurant and the waiters are just paid a higher flat wage.

rojo's avatar

Just to be clear here, I am not advocating a non-tipping movement to hurt those whose livelihoods depend on them nor am I trying to say that tipping for exceptional service would not be appropriate.
I agree with @elbanditoroso that ” restaurant owners have no incentive to change, and every incentive to keep treating employees poorly by not paying a living wage” This would be be such an incentive. Tying the wages of those who depend on tips in with the living wage movement would also be another avenue.
Having to be dependent upon the kindness of others for your income despite putting in a full days work can sometimes be very harsh and allowing a certain class of business owner to get out of paying the additional costs associated with having employees is also unfair to the rest of us.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@JLeslie In my state (North Carolina) minimum for wait staff is $2.13. The ASSUMPTION is they will make $5.13 per hour in tips. That is the “regular wage” per the Dept. of Labor.

jerv's avatar

It depends on the wages that they make.

In pretty much every other first-world country, tipping is actually seen as somewhere between weird and offensive. Then again, those places pay their waitstaff the same as other workers instead of forcing them to rely on tips for income.

@JLeslie Last I checked, no. However, if you don’t make enough tips to make minimum wage, that is grounds for dismissal anyways (not that any is needed in “work at will” states) making it a moot point. As for “auto tipping”, I’ve only ever seen that for parties of 6+ or 8+, depending on the establishment… aside from those places that already pay well.

@Cruiser Around here, those that raise their prices that much to accommodate the $15 minimum wage tend to lose enough business that their costs really do start to outgrow their decreased revenue then try to claim martyrdom by whining about how the wage hike killed their business. Meanwhile those that only increase prices enough to cover the actual increase in expenses tend to have price hikes closer to 2–5%. It’s funny how things work out better when you refrain from turning them into political rhetoric.

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv I would honestly think raising food prices to accommodate the increased cost would be a wash. I wish I knew more about how many tables a wait person can juggle to see how the price/cost structure pushes and pulls the numbers based on these percentages I have read.

But to keep it simple a $10.00 entree would then be $11.50 in a tipless setting. For my family of 4 I am paying $6.00 more for my dinner check. 4 $10.00 meals with drinks etc in a tip allowed restaurant should run about $60.00 15% tip added $69.00 out the door or 20% tip my final cost is $72.00.

Now in a tipless restaurant I now pay $66.00 for the 4 meals and drinks, no tip is $66.00 out the door and a $3.00 advantage. Had I tipped 20% in the first scenario I would would really be ahead by saving $6.00 on the raised menu price no tip scenario.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv This link suggests yes.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Yes, but many politicize it and turn that $10 entree into a $15–18 entree. You’d be at $60 right off the bat without even getting probably overpriced drinks. And odds are that someplace who does that sort of stunt won’t pass that increased revenue along in the form of wages if they can find a way to pay them what they did before the wage hike. Both you and @JLeslie seem to be making the mistake of confusing things like theory and legality with what actually happens.

Now, in those places where reality follows theory (basically, every reputable restaurant) you’re entirely correct; the “high wages, no tipping” does save the diner money. The thing is, it doesn’t allow for exploitation for the sake of profit the way the current ”$2.13/hr + tips” system does unless you price yourself out of the market. Not that that would be a bad thing, mind you.

As usual, it’s the greedy ones fucking everything up.

jca's avatar

New Yorkers love tipping and are hesitant to give it up:

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv I would then argue that you rely too much on theory and legality to where what actually takes place that I depend on and is AKA reality. It is well known and rarely enforced where restaurant owners dodge their responsibility to make the difference between $2.13 and hour and min wage. And since a vast majority don’t tip well to make the difference meaningful, I see this trend to eliminate tips as a sensible endeavor and the people who do not think paying a little higher price for their food checks are free to make the choice to stay home and have leftovers. For once, let’s please please please let the free market have a role in how this all actually plays out.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I’m with Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs on this one:

Mr. White: Waitressing is the number one occupation for female non-college graduates in this country. It’s the one job basically any woman can get, and make a living on. The reason is because of their tips.

@OP: Look, if you’re too goddamned cheap not to tip, stay the fuck out of situations where you should. Don’t go to restaurants and don’t get delivery. Just stay home. It’s the custom in the US. Observe the fucking custom or leave.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs. Is the point of the quote that at least all women should be happy to be able to fall back on being thrown money for having breasts?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@dappled_leaves The point of the quote is that these are the last few jobs in America that unskilled people can live on who would otherwise be on welfare. That includes single mothers. It includes the new immigrant. It includes students going on to bigger and better things. Why fix something that’s not broken? There are plenty of things that are broken to fix. I don’t consider this one of them. I consider this whining by cheap creeps who simply do not want to reach into their pockets because the charge isn’t on the check.

jca's avatar

I think that if restaurants raise the cost of food to accommodate a built in tip, there will be diners who may still feel obligated to tip anyway. The end result will they will then be paying more for food and then compelled to add on a tip. They may avoid those restaurants in the long run due to that. As the article I linked above states, some places, people actually like the tip system.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Call me crazy, but that sounds like an argument for service jobs being remunerated with a living wage, not an argument for the tipping culture.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser I do too. It’s just the dichotomy I’ve seen over the years between what some claim is a “free market” despite decades of proving it stifles competition and innovation and what an actual free market is that get me.

Take Walmart for instance. Sure, they offer attractively low prices to the consumer and make the Waltons rich, so at face value, it’s free market; people choose to shop at Walmart for their low prices. Look on the back end though and it’s a bit different. Things that any reputable business owner would grumblingly pay as the normal operating costs of doing business (it takes money to make money) are instead passed off to taxpayers who must subsidize Walmart workers who can’t afford to feed themselves on their small paychecks. When a lot of workers who can’t afford to shop anywhere else, it’s kind of a captive market.

We won’t even get into the ripple effect that has (like the fact that they tend to cause local retailers issues that sometimes lead to a business folding and job loss) except to say that there is a rather long chain of reasoning as to why I consider our economy as more of an oursboros-like self-serving machine than an actual free market.

I see it as sensible. But history proves that there are always people who would think nothing of a little sabotage and “gaming the system” for their own benefit. Hell, I think just about anyone who has ever filed their taxes is guilty of that! I hope that what makes sense and does the greatest good will prevail over the current “tax + tips” setup, but it’s a guarded optimism.

@jca Tipping is almost instinctive for many American diners. When I dine someplace that has a “No tipping” policy, I still calculate 20% of the bill in my head as a reflex action. And while economic policies can be changed overnight, social customs are far slower to change. Those who have spent a lot of time abroad may adapt quickly, but those who are not used to tip-free dining will take a while to get themselves acclimated.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@dappled_leaves It is what it is. I don’t see anyone making headway in raising the mandatory minimum wage to a livable wage in this country. Do that, and I’ll agree with not tipping anymore. But we are talking about $15 – $20 per hour for people who may well make a lot more than that in tips—without having to loan 30% of it to the government until after April the following year. Good luck with that in America. A breakfast waitress easily makes more than that at Denny’s. I think she would call you crazy, for sure.

Cruiser's avatar

@jerv And why the free market has so quickly forced Walmart to close 120 stores this year alone. People despised Walmart for destroying their bucolic free market and now curse their leaving so soon. I think much of this falls in the laps of people who should support and defend their communities. I buy everything I can in my neighborhoods know that these stores hire and support mom’s, teens, dad’s et all who really need a paycheck even if it means paying 10% more. More jobs in my community are paramount to preserving what little we have left. The last choice I want for my purchasing decision is Amazon or Ebay no matter how good the deal. I try to spend every dollar I can with the people who make my community what it is.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I’m just stating the law. If it’s actually done in practice is another story. I’d guess most waiters easily make minimum wage. I don’t know if the federal law is supposed to only cover the federal minimum, or if it demands the employee make the minimum in the state or city where they work.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Yes, the tide is turning. But like I told @jca about the social aspect of tipping, it’s a change that will take a while.

Also remember that you have the option to pay a little more while many don’t, and you can see the high cost of low prices that many can’t. If there were more people like you running around, we may never have gotten into this mess.

Anyways, enough of that; back to tipping.

@JLeslie I know. I’m just letting you know how cynical I am about the issue and why.

rojo's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Feeling rather pissy this evening are we? Customs change; time moves on. I really expected more from you than that old, tired, worn “America! Love it or Leave it” bull. Lets just write it off to a bad day.

somewomenarenicemaybe's avatar

I think there may already be an anti-tip movement. I eat at McDonalds etc. so I don’t have to tip or pay a fortune for a meal.
The employees are paid and I get my food. I don’t need someone to carry it to my table for a big tip. I go home happy with my stomach full and some money still in my pocket and McDonalds seems to be doing fine.

efnuttin's avatar

I dabbled in the restaurant business for a little while before I sold them. Wait staff hasn’t been necessary for decades with or without tips. I got rid of my wait staff by having one of my restaurants built with silent rotating conveyor belts and touchscreen kiosks around every seat/table. This way, instead of the waiter taking orders from the customers, the customer places orders through the touchscreen kiosk by their seat/table. The kitchen staff receives the order and instead of the waiter bringing the order to the customer, the customer receives it through the rotating conveyer belt that circulates around their seat/table. Instead of the waiter clearing the dirty plates, the customer places the dirty plates into a slot by their table which slides the plates directly to the washing machine. After washing, the clean plates are placed back on the conveyer belt for new orders.

I would have replaced the kitchen staff too, but the automatic machines weren’t quite as efficient back then as they’re now. The person I sold the restaurants to does plan to get rid of the kitchen staff within a year or two by replacing them with the new high-tech automatic machines that produce the food more efficiently and more cost effectively.

Aside from the obvious money you save, the beauty of this is that you can raise prices on the food and blame it on politics even though you don’t have a kitchen or wait staff.

jca's avatar

I am not sure I would want to eat food that had been circulating on a conveyor belt, at the risk that someone else may have touched it or tampered with it.

efnuttin's avatar

The plates have built in RFID tags which are put into a sealed cover plate rotating on the belt. This prevents tampering. You also have remote IP surveillance cameras to monitor and control operations.

jca's avatar

I find that whole thing hard to believe.

efnuttin's avatar

? You really need to get out more. This model has been around for a long time. It is a japanese model. It started with sushi and worked its way to everything.

Today’s models have multi-tiered conveyor belts going out directly to the customer, bypassing other tables. The plates are color coded and numbered reflecting your seat/table.

Here is a brief history of the business model and various methods from several businesses. link

Seek's avatar

I went to a sushi bar that had a little artificial river at table level which ushered along little sushi-laden barges from the chefs (in the middle of the room) to each table. If you saw something you liked, you took a plate. The color of the plate denoted the price.

It was wonderfully novel, and I, for one, enjoyed not having to explain what I wanted while only half-knowing what I wanted. And it encouraged trying new things. Octopus tentacle? Don’t mind if I do!

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Genki Sushi has a transport system click on the Genki Spot.

janbb's avatar

Anyone here remember Horn and Hardart’s Automats? I loved them.

jerv's avatar

@somewomenarenicemaybe Tips are usually used to reward good service. Anyplace where you bring your own food to the table and bus your own table after you’re done doesn’t provide any more service than a cook, and we typically don’t tip the cook. We may tip the Maitre D’ to get us a table sooner than our place in line would warrant (though that’s more of a bribe), or a waitperson who is present enough to keep your beverages flowing without being intrusive, but it’s rare to get a tip for just putting food on the counter the way restaurant cooks or fast food cashiers do. .

@jca I think part of that is because we Americans are uncouth enough to have quite a large number of people who would tamper with food for whatever sick reason. That breeds a sort of low-level paranoia that you just won’t find in cultures where mutual respect is strong enough to lead to inherent trust.

Leave your purse at a table in Japan and someone will run after you to hand it back. Try that in the US and the best you can hope for is to see it without any cash in it. Try it in Israel and, given that they have good reason to be paranoid, they’ll call out the bomb squad. It’s amazing how trust levels vary so much between cultures and the effect that has on society.

@efnuttin Personally I’ve only seen that at sushi restaurants in the US, though I haven’t been abroad in ~20 years and only spent ~6 hours in Japan. It’s entirely possible that the reason it’s not more common here is that a lot of people balk at spending money to make money by investing in equipment even when they know it’s in their best interest; a couple decades in manufacturing taught me that. And since some of the machines I worked on cost many millions of dollars and even relatively minor repairs could cost more than an entire year’s worth of a worker’s salary, like $60k for a new spindle (just the part; installation was a few grand extra) when the bearings wore out, it’s easy to see why even if restaurants are cheaper than CNC Machine shops.

Then again, many places have a stronger social safety net so unemployment isn’t as bad a problem as it is here where those staff you replaced will have a much harder go of life. Again, it’s amazing how the little cultural differences can have such a big impact on how society operates.

efnuttin's avatar


I had flat futuristic trains built on top of magnetized conveyer belts which made it completely silent and allowed me to curve the belt any shape I wanted. Sealed containers were built on top of the train which kitchen staff placed the plated foods in there for containment. The person I sold it to expanded on the model by putting in multi-tier lines that go directly to the customers table and splits up the various orders by the tiers.


My other restaurant had a similar model. The restaurant is composed of huge walls with glass containment slots of ready to eat fresh food that are placed by kitchen staff members who are operating behind the walls. The walls are the menu with a description of the food. You use the touchscreen kiosk to pay and get what you want. This is a model similar to netherland’s restaurant called Febo. No wait staff. The owner I sold it to plans to get rid of the kitchen staff there too by implementing the high-tech automatic machines.

What has been popular for a while now were the mobile app orders. Similar model to uber, but with food. An intermediary company like grubhub creates a service/mobile app that connects you with all your local restaurants, allowing you to purchase everything in one click and delivered to your door.

Italy has vending machines that bake you fresh pizza. Company is called Lets Pizza.


Sushi was how it started out but I expanded it to other cuisines. I prioritized on American cuisine since not every American is a fan of sushi. I’m an American. I just adopted their model to make things more efficient and cost effective. The less you have to deal with staff, the better.

jerv's avatar

@efnuttin Just so long as those people who would be staff but aren’t still have enough disposable income to eat out. Otherwise, you aren’t solving anything, just passing it along and hoping it never comes back to bite you in the ass.

efnuttin's avatar

True, but I never really saw a decline in sales. A small drop in 2008/09, but nothing significant.

Opening up a restaurant is already risky business so the risk of getting bitten in the ass is worth it for the potential rewards. Since I earned my initial investment back within three years, I couldn’t possibly be bitten from there on out. Breaking even at worst, but mainly profiting. I owned the restaurants for 12 years before someone offered to buy me out for way more than the asking prices.

JLeslie's avatar

About the conveyor belt, I’ve seen them in Canada, and somewhere else, but I’m not sure where? I don’t know if it was food that was ordered, I don’t think so. I think it was just various meals you could pick up, and then you paid for them.

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