You know what I love about Uber? It isn’t just the little cars moving around the map on my iPhone, showing me when Carl in the Corolla will pull up. It isn’t just knowing what I’m going to pay before I even get in the car, or getting where I’m going without worrying about parking.
What I love is that you never tip an Uber driver. There’s no fretting about 10 percent vs. 20 percent, no worrying about whether I’ve got change or whether the driver is going to expect another buck because traffic was heavy.
Now, maybe I can dream about the end of tipping all together: No more of the foot-tapping neediness implied by the coffee counter tip jar. No more bell hops clearing their throats when they dump my luggage in my room. I could get used to a world like that.
New York’s Danny Meyer, the owner of a group of influential restaurants that set the standards for food and restaurant service, has blown open the topic of tipping. Last week, he sent out an open letter to the food world announcing he will end tipping at his restaurants, starting at The Modern next month and moving on to places like Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke.
Meyer’s idea is to make restaurant salaries more fair. Servers are usually paid a very low salary, with the expectation that they’ll make up for it in tips. Most do make up for it, pulling in a majority of their income from tips. But that leads to problems in restaurants, where the kitchen staff usually doesn’t share in the tips.
These days, when many would-be chefs go through expensive culinary schools, that leads to craziness. A server at a fine-dining restaurant might make $30,000 or $40,000 a year, while a line cook paying off student loans from the Culinary Institute of America or Johnson & Wales University might make $11,000 or $12,000 for making the food that earned the wait staff that fat tip.
Meyer’s plan is to increase prices at his restaurants by 21 to 25 percent, and use the extra revenue to set pay scales that are fair to all areas of the restaurant. While diners may squawk about the increase, customers would really only be paying about 5 percent more. At the end of the night, you’ll pay the price on the menu, instead of fumbling around in your head to do the math and worrying about whether you should throw in extra because your server snagged you the last order of the wild mushroom special.
On my blog last week, I asked what people thought of the idea. The reaction was about half for and half against. Several people who identified themselves as servers and former servers agreed that the current system isn’t fair.
Others worried that they’d never be able to get good service if the server doesn’t have an incentive. But is that really something to worry about? Most of us don’t get tipped, and we do a good job. If we don’t, our employers set us straight.
I haven’t had a rude Uber driver yet. People who know what they’re going to make from the start usually focus on pleasing their employers, just like the rest of us.