I read an article today about Kanpai Japanese Steak and Seafood House in Winston-Salem, NC banning a woman from the restaurant for not tipping well. There's been a lot of division in the food community around here about whether this is acceptable behavior or not. The establishment claims that since none of the staff was willing to serve her, they were forced to refuse service to her. The woman, who is black, claims discrimination.
I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, restaurants pay their servers below the minimum wage and expect them to make up the difference in their tips. Which means that if this woman truly didn't tip, or tipped below the socially accepted 20-25% all the time, the staff has a right to be upset about it. In that sense, the management team was looking out for their staff's well being and congratulations to them for it.
However, there are two problems I see with this philosophy. Firstly, the business the establishment drove away by banning a patron over tips is likely to affect their bottom line. I would certainly think twice before dining somewhere if I thought my tip was subject to inspection and approval. The article doesn't state whether the woman habitually didn't leave a tip or if she just grossly under tips, but the point is irrelevant. Tipping is NOT required. I understand all of the arguments servers want to make for condoning her banishment from the restaurant, but at the crux of the argument, she was banned for not performing what is still technically a voluntary action.
Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with the entire argument. Tipping is voluntary, yet servers depend on tips for their livelihood because of the way the system is set up. They are under-paid because the system expects customers to make up the difference by tipping the server. Most patrons feel a sense of entitlement though. As if good service deserves a good tip, while what they perceive as poor service deserves a poor tip. Which means that, basically, you are left with a system in which payment rendered is based solely upon the customer's perception of how well the job was performed. Why do we accept this as a valid system?
Think on it some and tell me what you think? Keep the tipping system, ban the patron, or fix the system?