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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Moral Issue of Tipping

This morning while brushing my hair out, I noticed it was time I set up an appointment with my favorite local hairdresser.  Like many women I like to keep up on the cosmetic aspect of my hair, adding highlights and low-lights throughout the year.  Occasionally I will do a whole new look, dying my hair some adverse color or chopping it all off. 
Parting my hair in the mirror, I noticed how much my natural hair color had grown out.  As I looked down at my face I could see the stress start to form.  My eyebrows moved closer together and wrinkles begin to appear between them.  There was obvious stress in my face about scheduling an appointment.  Even though I love my hairdresser, all I could think about was the cost of getting another trim and touch up of my low-lights.  The initial cost, although I consider it high, isn’t what was bothering me the most. It was the expected tip at the end of service.  The amount you give to your hairdresser to say; Thanks, great job!  Like the seventy dollars you just handed over for the cut and color wasn't enough?
 Now I don’t mean to offend any Hairdresser’s, nor do I have anything against them.  I feel the same when I go out to my favorite local restaurant.  The waiters and waitresses may be great at filling up my drinks and meeting all my consumer needs.  Although after paying the tab (which is very rarely ever what I would consider a reasonable amount), I am again expected to reach into my pockets and pull out more money.  Have We the People discovered a way to conjure up money out of thin air, just for tipping?  Do I just not know this secret?  Last I checked we were in a recession. 
Now I understand that in some cases, like that of waiters and waitresses, most are not even paid minimum wage.   The act of tipping has given businesses an excuse and/or reason not to pay their employees even the bare minimum wage allowance, because their employees can claim tips.  There are many articles found online for employers to figure out if they have to pay minimum wage or if they are able to pay less.  In one of these articles it states: “If your employees earn tips from customers, you may be able to pay them less than the minimum wage, as long as what you pay them plus the tips they actually earn add up to at least the minimum wage per hour worked” (Steingold).  Is this fair?  Is any of this fair?  Is it fair for the employer, employee, and customer?  I don’t think so.  Now for me this is a morality issue, right vs. wrong.    
I recently watched a TED talk; The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives, by Psychologist Jonathan Haidt.  Now I am not talking about Liberals vs. Conservatives here, but in this particular talk Haidt discusses the findings of a question he posed, “What is morality and where does it come from?” (Haidt).  Now morality is what I’m talking about.  Haidt and a colleague of his, through research found five basic foundations of morality; Harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity.  He describes these as “…the sorts of things that people talk about across disciplines…that you find across cultures and even across species” (Haidt).  These five foundations according to Haidt are what we use to make all right vs. wrong decisions in our lives. 
I believe two of these five foundations apply here: the first is fairness.  Now fairness is described in the Merriam Webster on-line dictionary as “treating people in a way that does not favor some over others” (“fairness” def2).  An example would be if I gave five dollars to a neighborhood boy for raking up leaves one week, and then gave 5 dollars to another neighborhood boy the next week, for doing the same chore. They received the same amount of cash for the same act, making their pay fair.  The second foundation is tradition.  Tradition is defined in the Merriam Webster as “a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time” (“tradition” def1).  An example of this would be how on Thanksgiving Day, we Americans, have turkey every year and have done so for generations; making eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day a tradition.  
I believe that in this case of tipping, the moral foundation of fairness trumps the moral foundation of tradition.  Tipping in businesses was once a tradition built on supporting and caring for those whose service work was not compensated by their employer.  It created a fair society in our labor force.  In today's society however there is no need for it, as laws demand all employees to be compensated fairly.  Thus, I am suggesting, the tradition to give tips in businesses should be done away with. 
A simple Google search on tipping shows there is a common confusion with when, where, who, and what amount is appropriate to tip.  An article in Business Insider states that there is “significant disagreement about how much to tip for even common services” (Roth).  This article goes on to say:
you know you should tip your waitress. But how much should you leave? Some people claim that 10% is adequate. Others claim that 20% is standard. But I suspect that most of us learned to tip 15%, and to give more for exceptional service. (The wikipedia entry on tipping currently contains the bizarre claim that “18% is generally accepted as a standard tip for good service”.) Which amount is correct? (Roth). 
What is the most surprising after my research, is that we as a society still feel the need to tip some, while not the need to tip others that make the same or less an hour.  According to an article in the Huston Chronicle, the average U.S. hairdresser makes “$12.72 per hour” (Locsin).  According to another article from the same chronicle a CNA makes “an average wage of $12.22 per hour” (Banach).  So am I to conclude that as a society we have a greater appreciation for those who pamper our beauty, than for those who care for us?  Even when we are unable to care for ourselves?  These men and women literally wipe our butts when we are not capable of doing so.  Yet no website I looked up on tipping suggested we give them an extra penny for this service.  Though it was suggested we give the local Hairdresser a 10-20% tip. 
Is it fair to anyone to carry on a tradition, something that our society expects of us, when this tradition/expectation doesn't make sense?  This is an unfair tradition.    Are the people who care for you not as important as the ones who feed you, or make you feel beautiful?  Why should a simple hair treatment take more out of my pocket then someone who bathed me and cared for my health? 
Now one solution I see to create fairness in this, would be to tip everyone; waiters/waitresses, CNA’s, Hairdressers, editors, bus drivers, cashiers, sightseeing dogs… you get my point.  Tipping everyone would be counterproductive.  In short, my pockets are not in favor of it.  Instead let us quit tipping those who already have a wage.  If we quit tipping, employers would be forced to pay at least minimum wage, prices would be fairer and our society would make a tad bit more sense.  Less stress would come from the workers and consumers.  Everyone would know where they stand, how much they are bringing in and how much they are handing out. 
Through writing this, I hope I have been able to convince a few.  Until everyone is in agreement with me though, I guess I better print out the suggested tips on Business Insiders; “This Is How Much You Should Tip for Every Service” (Roth).  And I had better make that call to my hairdresser, these roots of mine can’t wait.

Works Cited
Banach, Amanda. "How Much Does a CNA Make an Hour?" Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.
"Jonathan Haidt: The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives." TED: Ideas worth Spreading. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.
Locsin, Aurelio. "How Much Does the Average Hair Stylist Make?" Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2014.
Roth, J.D. "This Is How Much You Should Tip For Every Service." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.
Steingold, Fred. "When Must Employers Pay the Minimum Wage?" Nolo.com. NOLO, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.