Ethics Quiz: A Minimum Wage Lecture Instead Of A Tip?

Diners and bar patrons in Seattle are apparently registering their displeasure over the city’s whopping minimum wage hike (to $15 an hour) by leaving this card instead of a tip:

why-i-dont-tip-in-seattle

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Is this an ethical protest?

My view?  There are minimum wage employees in bars and restaurants, but waiters and bartenders often aren’t among them. In the case of the bartender who publicized this patron’s printed rant, we learn, he is not a beneficiary of the minimum wage increase, and his livelihood depends on tips.

A tip, as Ethics Alarms has stated before, should be based on quality of service. To withhold a tip from a server or bartender—which should be message about service—to register an objection regarding the city’s wage statutes is neither logical nor just. Among the card’s three options, the first is completely reasonable, the second is a necessary consequence of living in a democracy, and the third is just behaving like a jerk. I bet the guy that left this card kicks his dog after a bad day too.

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Pointer: Fred

Fair vs Fair: Ethics and the “No-Tip” Restaurant

You know, this looks like a place that would believe that dishwashers deserve as much pay as waiters...or as bankers, for that matter.

You know, this looks like a place that would believe that dishwashers deserve as much pay as waiters…or as bankers, for that matter.

William Street Common is a new restaurant in Philadelphia, and is getting publicity for, we are told, experimenting with a different and (maybe?) fairer compensation model. Owner Avram Hornik  pays all of its employees, from the servers to the dishwashers, at least $15 an hour plus paid sick leave and health insurance benefits. There is a 20 percent service charge for drinks, and that goes into a common fund that makes that  $15 an hour wage affordable. Money left over at the end of a pay period is divided up among employees based on a point system related to various factors.

Hornik came up with this structure, he says, to deal with the well-debated problems of tipping. “Some people just tip the same amount, but some people base it on how quickly the food was there, whether we were out of something, whether the server was there when they wanted them to be,” he says. “So much of that is out of the control of the individual server… So why would it be fair for the service employee to be responsible for the poor decisions of management?”

Hornik argues that his model “essentially creates a guaranteed floor. But we’re also capping the ceiling,” he points out, because the tipping gets shared equally with all employees. “We didn’t think it was fair [that] in some places you have dishwashers earning 10 dollars an hour and the bartender earning 30 dollars an hour.” He also is convinced that the customers will benefit.  “That atmosphere among the employees, a sense of community and empowerment and happiness with the job, is going to translate into a better environment for customers,” he said. “By having happy staff customers are going to be happier too.”

Is this system really fairer than the current one? Progressives are cheering it, because it represents a “living wage,” or at least something close to it. OK, but it would be nice not to feel hyped: ThinkProgress, for example, had headlines that the William Street Common “got rid of tipping” and writes “tips aren’t mandatory.”

Inept reporting or lies, take your pick. A 20% “service charge” is a mandatory tip, so tips ARE mandatory. The reports don’t explain how voluntary tipping has been eliminated, or whether a server would be prohibited from keeping a ten-dollar bill that a diner hands him, saying, “You know, the food was lousy, but you were so gracious and accommodating that you single-handedly made the evening bearable. Thank you. If I ever come back, it will be because of you.” If so, is that fair?  I don’t think so. In fact, it’s exactly as unfair as a diner not rewarding excellent service, and tipping a dime. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce (Hyper-Partisan Hate Division): Merritt Tierce

Blood-money

I don’t think “blood money” means what she thinks it does…

Having just criticized Rush Limbaugh for one of his irresponsible uses of his influence, I think it’s an appropriate time to shine some harsh light on one of his unethical critics.

Merritt Tierce is a feminist author whose first novel Love Me Back chronicles her time at a high-end Dallas steakhouse. In a recent interview, she recounts how she twice served Rush and a guest.  Both times the radio host left her a $1,000 in tip on bills that would normally call for a fraction of that even if she had given the best service in the history of her trade. Was she grateful? Oh, no, she says. The cash felt like “blood money” to her, she explained. Since Tierce served as the executive director of the Texas Equal Abortion  Fund during her waitressing period, a non-profit group that provides financial assistance to low-income women seeking abortions, she donated the tips to her charity. “It felt like laundering the money in a good way,” she said. “He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person. It was really bizarre to me that he gave me $2,000, and he’s evil incarnate in some ways.”

“You’re welcome, Merritt!” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Indianapolis Big Tipper, “Miss Jo”

Big Tip

It has been a rotten week in every way. My good friend and mentor, legal ethics expert/ attorney/ professor/performer David Austern died, leaving me with memories of how much he meant to my life, and how inadequately I thanked him. My son has been off on his first extended road trip without us, giving his mother and I a preview of how much we will miss him as he prepares to leave the nest. And, of course, I simultaneously watched our government fulfill my most pessimistic predictions as it appeared to fairly shamelessly embrace lies and abuse of power as legitimate tools of governance, and lost  respect for many, many people I had once thought better of for not only excusing the inexcusable, but embracing a looming threat to democracy.

Depressing, discouraging, frightening, and rotten through and through.

I need a break.

I need hope.

Thank you, Miss Jo, whoever you are. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Single Mother Tip-Stiffer

According to a poster on Reddit, a woman allegedly left the message above on her receipt after eating a pricey meal at a restaurant. “Single mom, sorry,” she wrote, in the space left for a tip. “Thank you—it was great!” The furious waiter’s colleague scanned and posted  the receipt, with appropriate invective that has been matched and exceeded by others on the site.

As usual, there are denials that the story is genuine, and claims that some single mother-hating trouble-maker created this miserable ethics smoking gun. “I think this bill is a fraud because I’ve met very few single mothers who expected to get special treatment for their status. They’re just hoping no one holds their situation against them,” wrote one skeptic. This is the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in Technicolor. The fact, if it is a fact, that few single mothers expect special treatment doesn’t prove that this one didn’t or doesn’t. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Parasole Resteraunts in Minneapolis

Back to the good old days!

Ah, nostalgia! It’s nice to see that some corporations have the respect for history and tradition to emulate, even in these difficult times, the robber baron mentality of America’s past.

The  Minneapolis company Parasole Restaurants, which operates a chain of popular eateries with names like Chino Latino, Good Earth, Il Gatto, Manny’s Steakhouse, Uptown Cafeteria and Sky Bar, accessed its inner capitalist pig and decided that the best way to offset an increase in the cost of doing business was….to steal a portion of its waiters’ tips.

Servers at Parasole restaurants received word last week that they’ll have to give up 2% of their credit card tips to their employer. The Parasol suits explained the move as being necessary due to the combination of rising credit card use by customers and higher fees from banks. Continue reading