Boxing Day Ethics Warm-Up, 2020: A Tip, An Obituary, A Prank, A Tell, And A Slug

Gifts

Now this is a dedicated grandmother: my sister, who has been risk-averse her whole life, and who is my model of a Wuhan virus phobic, bought a used Winnebago, loaded up her old Havanese, and drove from Virginia to Los Angeles to spend Christmas and another three weeks with her son, his wife, and their seven month-old daughter. On the way cross country she parked her vehicle outside the homes of a series of strangers she was connected to by friends and friends of friends. Amazing.

1. There seem to be a few of these Christmas Ethics Heroes every year. In Bartonsville, Illinois, an occasional restaurant customer on Christmas Eve morning left a 2,000 dollar tip—in cash—for the 19-person staff of the Bartonsville diner. The man didn’t even leave his full name, just “Tony,” though he is apparently the son of a regular who joined him for breakfast. “He just said, ‘Merry Christmas,'” the owner told reporters. “How generous of somebody to do that, especially somebody who doesn’t come in that often. Nobody was expecting it, that’s for sure.”

2. How do you write an obnoxious obituary? Here’s how you write an obnoxious obituary. The Lagacy.com. entry for Grace McDonough, who died on December 21, concludes with this gratuitous and graceless—no pun intended—text:

The actions and inactions of the United States government regarding the Covid-19 virus has caused Grace McDonough and thousands of other nursing home residents to lose their lives to the Covid -19 virus. These same residents had successfully fought and won great battles against other diseases and conditions and yet were placed in harm’s way during the pandemic. These frail, elderly, sick and vulnerable innocents were not protected by the government they supported, fought for, contributed to and now depended on. Shame on the United States government! We, as their loved ones, have the right to be profoundly sad and profoundly angry at the same time. May our loved ones now rest in peace. It is the least they deserve.

Grace was 95 years old. She lived in a nursing home, where residents are in close confinement and where pandemic infections were and are especially deadly. Attributing the death of a 95-year-old on the undefined “actions and inactions” of the government demonstrates a) a dangerous gullibility to Democratic propaganda b) denial of reality and c) the continuation of  what is probably a pattern of looking for someone to blame for every misfortune. Fark, the humorous news aggregator website infected itself with predictable leftist bias, termed the obituary “fierce.” I would call it signature significance indicating a family teeming with jerks.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Scary Tales Of The George Floyd Freakout: The Mission On The Bay Fiasco”

Arthur in Maine accepted the challenge of answering my query that began the Mission on the Bay story: “What is it about restaurants that generate so many ethics messes?” I had never considered the reasons he cites, but they are sound. I was thinking about all the various restaurant ethics blow-ups I have posted on in the past, as well as the many I have left undiscussed. I was especially thinking about this one from seven years ago, about an Applebees waitress who posted online a receipt from an obnoxious customer, a pastor to shame her. That controversy prompted two additional posts, here and here. Yet as unethical as the waitress in that episode was, the eavesdropping bartender in Swampscott was worse.

Arthur argues persuasively that the culture of the restaurant business makes it a breeding ground for unethical conduct. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Scary Tales Of The George Floyd Freakout: The Mission On The Bay Fiasco”:

Jack, your header asks why so many ethics problems arise in restaurants. Having spent some time in the field, I offer the following in answer.

  • High end restaurants tend not to have this type of issue. They usually hire highly competent kitchen and front-of-house staff, and management is usually diligent in training and supervision.

The ethical problems are more common in mid-level houses and chains.

  •  In such houses, staffing is a never-ending challenge, for the simple reason that restaurant work is essentially one of the few fields that actually rewards vagrancy. Servers and kitchen personnel might work a given house for a year or two and move on to something else – either a gig where they think they can make more money, or a different place altogether. Serving and cooking skills are easily transferable; if you leave one location for whatever reason (family, problems with the law, just a desire to see another part of the country, you name it) – it’s pretty easy to find another gig doing exactly the same thing.

In mid-level houses, actual loyalty to the organization tends to be the exception, rather than the rule.

  • The nature of restaurant staff. Senior-level positions – chef or sous chef (or kitchen manager) and the front-of-house manager generally require a fair amount of training and experience. These tend to be genuinely skilled positions. But servers and line cooks… candidly, these are mostly semi-skilled positions. The work is fairly physically demanding but really isn’t particularly mentally taxing most of the time. And with regard to service personnel: very few people in the United States actually work as restaurant servers because that’s their chosen field. Yes, you find true professionals in the high-end places. But for pretty much everyone else, it’s a way to pay the bills while waiting for your screenplay to be picked up, or finishing school, or whatever.

And in fairness, there are servers who really don’t have other options available to them based upon their skills and where they live. But for many, the number of hours required to make a decent amount of money are comparatively short. Continue reading

Won’t You Try Saturday Afternoon Ethics, 1/25/20? The Segue Post…

The Winter of Hate would seem like a good time to remember the Summer of Love, don’t you think?

1.Well, that’s nice! A man gets along with his brothers! Rich Juzwiak is Slate’s sex advisor. A recent male enquirer asked him, “I live in a large house along with six brothers, all adults and close to each other in age, two of whom I am having sex with….The problem is that I don’t know what to call this arrangement…”

Oh, is that the problem?

What’s an interesting though experiment is trying to define exactly what this big, happy family arrangement is unethical, or even if it is. What harm does it do to society or non-consenting people? It doesn’t risk unhealthy babies, or ruin the family heirarchy like male-female incest

It the fair and honest answer to the reader’s question, “What do you call it?” “I call it so icky I want to barf, not that there’s anything wrong with that”? Is this the best example of the Ick Factor ever?

How about, “I don’t know what to call it, but if you don’t sell it as a reality show, you’re all idiots” ?

An aside: This reminded me of my favorite Ann Landers question of all time. Ann’s readers said she was having an affair with the husband of a professional lady wrestler, who walked in on her and the cheating husband as they were getting disrobed. He babbled that she was his masseuse, and, incredibly, the credulous wrestler bought it. She asked the terrified mistress if she would give her a massage too, and, trapped, Ann’s inquirer agreed. The wrestler was pleased—so pleased that the woman is giving her weekly massages while continuing to have sex with the wrestler’s husband. What do you think was her question to Ann?

“Can I get in trouble for giving massages without a license?”

This convinced me that Ann Landers answered more fake questions than I previously assumed. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2008: Post-Newark Hangover Edition

Good morning!

Trying to get back to normal here. I hope it isn’t age, but I suspect it is: for quite a while now I have found myself foggy and exhausted up to three days after a period of stressful travel combined with one or more three-hour seminars. One reason is that I never can sleep in hotels;  another is all the walking around airports lugging two heavy bags, since 1) I cannot risk checking luggage 2) My presentation materials alone weigh more than ten pounds and 3) I object to bringing rollerboards on airplanes as inconsiderate and unfair to other passengers. The side effects right now include a sprained wrist and a swollen knee.

Speaking of side-effects, one of the unfortunate ones of the craven abandonment of the field of battle by the blogs’ “resistance” participants is that traffic collapses quickly without new posts. Over at Popehat, Ken sometimes goes weeks without posting anything. Then again, maybe he’s smart enough not to pay any attention to daily, weekly and monthly fluctuation in traffic, unlike me. Once, if travel and schedule snafus stopped me from posting, I could count on Chris, deery or Charles to have a long-exchange of contentious opinions with other commenters as they maintained that there was no media bias, that Trump should be impeached because he violated “norms,” and the FBI was as professional and uncorruptable as Elliot Ness, or at least Elliot Ness as portrayed by Robert Stack. Now they have retreated into the comforting warmth on the left-wing echo chamber.

1.  Tipping ethics. I was going to include this in yesterday’s salvage operation, but literally had to end the post so I could take a nap. The following tipping dilemmas occurred during my trip, not for the first time: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/24/18: Ethics Musings While Not Marching [UPDATED]

A Good Saturday Morning To All!

[If you had a speech impediment and lisped your “s’s”, would you choose this song as your only solo among the repertoire of your singing group? Why didn’t Karen tell her bother? This has mystified me for decades…]

1  It’s irrational and pointless fury day in D.C. Today hundreds of thousands of intellectually dishonest, ignorant or purely emotional citizens will be doing the equivalent of screaming at the sky to call for “something” to be done about gun violence., because “think of the children.” Yes, I think that’s a fair characterization.

Given the chance to suggest actual measures that would stop the equivalent of the Parkland shooting, one of my usually rational but currently virtue-signalling-to beat-the-band friends really made this pathetic argument in response to a Facebook post that was a shorter, gentler version of what I just posted on Ethics Alarms: ‘Where is your empathy? Would you feel this way if your son had been killed in the Parkland shooting?”

Can you believe that? “How would you feel if you were so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that you couldn’t think straight?” Why, I believe that I would be so emotionally ruined, angry and despairing that I couldn’t think straight—and thus useless to any serious and objective public policy discussion. As I told my friend, when “Why can’t you be irrationally and emotionally biased like the rest of us?” is your reflex rebuttal, you’ve got nothin.

2. Related: YouTube is banning gun instructional videos. This a part of a growing trend in the online platform world to attempt to constrict information and discourse according to ideology and partisan preferences. There is no more justification for banning how-to videos about guns than there is for banning how-to videos for chain-saws. The social media companies are going to have to be regulated as common carriers, or the right of free speech and access to information will be slowly strangled by these left-wing, high-tech, useful idiots.

3. From the ” Tragic Misunderstandings of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale” files. Lindsay Lohan is the new spokesperson for Lawyer.com. What, O.J. wasn’t available? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan”

We have a rare Ethics Alarms Quote of the Day hand-off. Responding to the ethics quiz about the ethics of tip-sharing,  veteran commenter JutGory wrote,

“My understanding is that, in some places, servers collect the tips and “tip-out” to the others (kitchen staff, etc.) at certain rates. If that is the culture (I have never been a server; not my skill set), why is a server trusted more than the employer to be fairer than the employer in tipping out?”

I have written about tipping ethics issues for years, and never encountered the concept of “tipping out,” perhaps because the minimum wage jobs I had in my youth never involved tips of any kind. Still Spartan picked up JutGory’s baton and dashed for the finish line. Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan: 

I used to work at a fancy restaurant and that was the system. The percentage of tip out was based on total food sales, so you couldn’t cheat. And, if I received really generous tips, I was incentivized to tip more because I wanted the hostess to seat good customers at my table, my drinks up first, my tables bussed quickly, etc. I would never work at a place that pooled tips because I was quite frankly better than most servers. I was quick, friendly, and rarely made a mistake. I could up-sell my customers on liquor and food which meant more money for me at the end of the night. And you people think I am anti-capitalist! Chefs aren’t tipped and they make a lot more than $3/hr., and although it is a hard job, at least their revenue is consistent. Many managers are well-paid too and often double as hosts or bartenders. I would be pissed if they had the ability to collect my tips.

The real solution to this problem is to pay servers a living wage and just have it incorporated into the price of food.

Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan

Last year the Trump administration announced a proposal to amend a 2011 regulation prohibiting employers from collecting server tips and distributing them to anyone other than servers. If the new proposal is adopted, employers could theoretically use workers’ tips for  any purpose, as long as the workers who received the tips were directly paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The restaurant industry opposed the Obama regulation, and argues that more freedom would allow employers to share the tips of waiters and waitresses with other workers like busboys, greeters, cooks and dishwashers.

Labor advocacy groups and former Obama administration officials counter that the regulation would legalize employers stealing income from workers, since they could theoretically pocket the tips.

Your Ethics Alarms Economics/Labor/Human Nature Quiz of the Day…..

Is the proposed regulation fair, responsible and ethical, or not?

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: London Terror Attack Witness Richard Angell

Richard Angell, the director of a British Labour Party think tank called Progress,  was dining with friends at the Arabica Bar and Kitchen at London’s  Borough Market when he witnessed Saturday’s terrorist attack on London Bridge, like everyone else, he was focused on the unfolding scene, which he described in detail to Buzzfeed.

Unlike everyone else, Angell returned to the establishment, now closed indefinitely,  on Sunday morning so he could pay his tab and tip the staff.

“I’ve got to pay my bill. Also, we haven’t given the staff a tip and they looked out for us when they should have been helping themselves. It was lovely food and I want the rest of my main course,” he said.

He was displaying exemplary ethics. Yes, perhaps he was grandstanding a bit too: I’m not sure how this came to be publicized. I’m hoping that the restaurant owners reported what was meant to be an example of someone quietly doing the right thing when nobody was insisting on it. In fact, that’s what I’m going to believe what happened. Whatever his motives, Angell did the right thing. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I need an Ethics Hero.

The Complimentary Room Service Tip Dilemma

I don’t know why these ethics conundrums always attack when I’m on the road, but they do.

Today I am briefly in Atlantic City on business, and last night, just prior to a terrible night’s sleep, I put out one of those door-hangers with a breakfast order on it, to be delivered at 7:30 AM. The room’s pen didn’t work until I wrote over my room number a few times: I thought the 7 in “702” looked a little funky, but it was definitely a seven. Or so I thought: 7:30, then 7:45 rolled around the next morning, and no breakfast.  When I called Room Service, they explained that they thought I had written 4o2, hence no room service.

What? First of all, it didn’t look like a 4. Second, my name was still on the thing: if there was any question about the room, why wouldn’t they check using my name?

After giving Room Service some well-deserved grief, I was told that my order would be up “in a minute.” A minute turned out to be 20 minutes, but a nice young woman eventually arrived with my coffee and pancakes, and told me that management was paying for breakfast.

Hmmm…did this mean she lost her tip? It seemed churlish to ask her, so I said, “Well, they won’t be paying your tip (though for all I know they would), so here…” and I dug into my wallet for a few dollars. But I didn’t have a few dollars. I had a one, a ten, and a bunch of twenties. Giving her a one would look cheap (though it well might have been a tip on top of the one she would get from my order anyway), and a ten was excessive. I gave her the ten.

Now I’m wondering: can I get reimbursed for that? My client is paying for the room, and the comped breakfast actually was a gift to him, not me. The ten dollar tip, though, was entirely discretionary on my part, and I usually don’t ask for travel reimbursements for expenses like that.  So the comped breakfast is going to benefit my server, unjustly enrich my client, and cost me an extra ten bucks.

It doesn’t seem fair, somehow. Well, my server’s smile when I gave her the ten dollar bill was almost worth it.

Almost.

 

Just In Time For Christmas, Here Are All The Bad Arguments And Rationalizations Against Tipping So You Can Feel Self-Righteous About Being A Scrooge

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

Vox has published an entertaining screed against tipping, massing all the contradictory, facile rationalizations and faulty arguments against demonstrating one’s gratitude when someone serves you well. This is Vox, remember—Ezra Klein’s uber-progressive website with an agenda. Think about what the alternative to tipping is, and where the critics of tipping are going with these claims. Hint 1: It has nothing to do with democracy or individualism. Hint 2: The piece argues that tipping is classist, racist, sexist, “lookist”…the works.

The full illogical, ethically confused character of this junk has to be read to be fully appreciated, but here is a quick overview:

1. Hoary old quotes. There are these, for example:

English author Lynne Truss on visiting New York: “In this great financial capital … tips are not niceties: give a ‘thank you’ that isn’t green and foldable and you are actively starving someone’s children.” No, Lynne, you’re being cheap, that’s all.

The Village Voice’s Foster Kamer: “It reinforces an economically and socially dangerous status quo, while buttressing a functional aristocracy.”   Ah. You see, if lower paid service professions are treated like robots and underpaid, they will rise up and overturn this monstrosity called capitalism.

 Michael Lewis: “I feel we are creeping slowly toward a kind of baksheesh economy in which everyone expects to be showered with coins simply for doing what they’ve already been paid to do.” Who is being “showered with coins?”

2. “Tipping lets employers off the hook.” Translation: It gets in the way of the progressive “living wage” campaign. Mandatory salary levels drive businesses out of business and reduce jobs. Want to see all restaurants go to the iPad, self-ordering, system running rampant at airport restaurants—and no, I don’t tip a runner who just carried my food to the table—by all means, force restaurants to pay “a living wage.”

3.  “Tipping is undemocratic.” This is the George Orwell, “Peace is War” argument. The government should stop me from giving my money to whoever I want in the name of democracy. Continue reading