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Feb. 1, 2020

You Want $1 for Handing Me a Muffin? (EP.201)

You Want $1 for Handing Me a Muffin? (EP.201)


We have all had to deal with it. iPad tipping consoles where the clear expectation is that we pay a full percentage tip for much less than full service. And unlike full service restaurants where the server is not looking us in the eye while we select their reward, we are eyeball-to-eyeball with the counter worker, who immediately sees the amount we have selected while we are still there. Aren’t we intentionally being guilt-tripped into overtipping? Is there a connection here with other dramatically increased expectations, like, for example, free college?

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode. 


Here’s an easy first question, given that we are being asked for a tip amount before any service has been provided, is this a tip or simply an additional charge from the restaurant, entirely independent of the level of service; a way of increasing the worker’s wages with us as the direct payer? It really cannot be a tip, because a tip should be dependent upon the level of service, a service which in these cases has not yet been provided. 

For a lot of the people I know, a 20% tip is pretty automatic for good service at a full service restaurant; order from the table, the food and beverages are brought to you, pay your server at the end, and leave. And you select your tip amount after all the service has been provided, and without the server looking at you, observing your decision. At the iPad food and beverage locations, you present your credit card, and in full view of the counter worker you select the tip amount in advance. Typically, the only one of the 3 full-service locations’ benefits are provided; no table ordering, likely yes to table delivery, and no table clean-up. Bus your own table. And have a nice day. And for table delivery the lowest “suggested” tip is often 15%. The lowest. Kinda like the employees are entitled to a 15% tip for only table delivery, and regardless of the level of service or friendliness. 

There is a lot of understandable criticism of people who act as if they are entitled to money, goods or services, simply because, well, they are entitled to it. Yes, this is circular reasoning, but then entitled thinking is entirely circular. I am entitled because I am entitled. Is this new “tipping” another form of entitlement?

There is a lot of conversation about how younger folks, e.g., millennials and teenagers, are lazy, entitled and well, not all that ambitious. Maybe, but I have not seen much evidence one way or the other. What I have seen, is a push, a demand, for everyone to have more. And this “having more” is now being decoupled from study, hard work and achievement. Famously, Rene Descartes said, “Cogito Ergo Sum”, I think therefore I am, in his work “Meditations on First Philosophy”, in which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated in a philosophical treatise first published in Latin in 1641. The French translation was published in 1647. Among other things, Descartes breaks down the Aristotelian notion that all knowledge comes via the senses and that mental states must in some way resemble what they are about. In the 10th of the 10 meditations, Descartes turns Aristotle on his head by proving his existence purely by the act of his own thinking. “I think therefore I am.”

There is a new “therefore” that is creeping, no, roaring into our culture: “I am, therefore I am entitled.” 

Does anyone remember when contest rules changed (a while ago) so that no purchase was necessary? Prior to that change in the law, some so-called contests were little more than a way to get people to make a purchase. So, the “No purchase necessary” contest was created. Are we starting to create a “No effort necessary” world? Wait, sadly that is not a ridiculous question, would that it was. In a world where leading presidential candidates are espousing healthcare as a human right. And housing. And food. And college. All human rights. In that world, in that fantastic and completely unsustainable world, all you need to be entitled to the necessities of life is a heartbeat. Outside of the womb, of course. 

Let’s wrench this back to the iPad tipping topic. In my memory, tipping was always a choice, made by the customer after the service was provided. If the customer, the guest in a restaurant, perhaps, was happy, the customary amount was 15%. Gradually that amount became 20%. In higher-end restaurants, specialized tipping, e.g., the sommelier, has different rules, but those rules were also dependent upon performance. iPad tipping is done, required, demanded(?) prior to a service being rendered. Is iPad tipping simply a wage and tax scam run by the business? The staff gets the tip amount for little or no service, and the business can pay its staff less–dollar for dollar less. And don’t tell me that these tips are all reported to the IRS. Are the business owners winking and nodding, saying to their employees, “And this cash is mostly tax-free?” 

Or is iPad tipping another step toward the “no effort necessary” entitlement world?

A final thought for those who remember when gas stations would all pump gas for you. And check your oil. All of them. Then, for a while, most stations offered two levels of service, full- and self-serve, at a noticeable difference in price between the two. When all gas stations went to complete self-service, they kept the lower price. They did not charge full service prices for self service. 

Hey, Will, is this an important topic? Maybe, But it is fun, And there are some lessons here.


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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.