Inside the War on Tipping and What Kimpton Hotel Discounts Mean

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News and notes from around the interweb:

  • 25% off suites and premium rooms at Kimpton hotels. We keep seeing Kimpton discounting and other promotions, at a time when the hotel industry overall is seeing record occupancy and rates. I don’t think IHG’s acquisition here is working out super well.

  • Inside Danny Meyer’s war on tipping I won’t stiff people who depends on tips, but I sure hate the practice. I also hate add-on service charges. What’s worse is tipping included when credit card machines still spit out a tip line. The price should be the price, and the cost of selling the product to you — and paying the people who do so — ought to be included.

  • An experience with the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card‘s cell phone protection,

    First time I’ve used the cell phone protection coverage (daughter broke her iphone screen). Filed claim online. Received payment by check within two weeks (not too bad), but they only paid the “cost of repair” less deductible ($100). They would not pay for the sales tax that Apple made us pay on top of the $129 repair ($11.93 tax).

  • Southwest Airlines is still waiting for ETOPS certification which they need to fly to Hawaii. ETOPS means Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards — or alternatively “Engines Turn or Passengers Swim.”

  • American Airlines lets you pre-select ‘special meals’ in addition to the usual choices for a flight. But there may not be as many choices as you think. I’m told the Asian Vegeterian, Hindu, and Muslim meals are all the same items. (Diabetic also goes by ‘bland’ and ‘low fat’ at times and if you see both gluten intolerant and low sodium those should also be the same.)

  • Matthew likes United’s breakfast tacos but then he’s not from Austin. Though I suppose breakfast tacos are better than not breakfast tacos.

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No argument on the tipping issue. I much prefer to see all costs, including tax and employee benefits, built into one price. In Spain, the staff are well paid and receive proper benefits; tipping is limited to leaving the change or a Euro or so (few use credit cards). Never found service lagging in the Galicia region, as workers take pride in their profession.

    However, in the U.S., I have noticed that with meals included in the steep sleeping car fare on Amtrak’s long distance trains, passengers cop the attitude of no tipping, or, leaving little that matches the actual menu cost. Same in the lounge car, where passengers leave generally the change from ordering items. In essence, Amtrak has failed to support its front line staff in diners and lounges by educating the traveling public how to tip; what’s involved for an employee to be on a moving train trip 6 days from home, working early morning breakfast to late evening dinner. Just one more failure of Amtrak operating without competition as a SOE (state-owned enterprise).

  2. The new Priority Pass restaurants excluding gratuity from the credit is asinine. Tipping is completely ridiculous and and I have no problem on people who cheap out on tips and feel no shame in doing it myself. If we want to phase out tipping, we need to start deflating tips rather than inflating them and encouraging the practice. Tips aren’t not how anyone should earn a living and the faster we change our culture the faster a fix will come. Tips are like cancer and the treatment is definitely painful but if the government won’t take action on raising the minimum wage for all works, what are we supposed to do?

  3. If you are a middle-class or wealthier person, tips are awesome. It is a direct opportunity to help one of the folks on the wrong end of economic inequality. Until servers are earning at least a $20 minimum wage, they will need those tips.

  4. @Budtender: I don’t know. I live in LA. An average neighborhood restaurant here costs ~$100 for two people. If we assume, conservatively, that waiters can handle three tables an hour and that each table has only two people, they’re still making ~$60 an hour in tips PLUS the guaranteed $12 p/hr minimum wage– and even if they have to tip out 40% of their tips to bus staff, kitchen staff, etc., that still leaves them making ~$48 p/hr, or ~$100k p/yr.

    I’d guess that the majority of people going to those restaurants make well under $100k, in which case, the “standard tip” serves redistribute income from the less-wealthy to the more-wealthy. It sucks. There’s got to be a better way.

  5. The tipping story is behind a WSJ paywall, I don’t think enough of the quality of the WSJ to pay for the occasional interesting article.I think paywalls suck, if you can’t make it with the side ads you shouldn’t be publishing.

  6. @Rose: You are mistaken. Servers are generally not subject to minimum wage laws and, thus, do not earn $12 per hour. They earn more like $3.

    Still, the distinction isn’t extremely important. They are still getting the $60 in tips you mentioned, often tax-free.

    Without tipping, a server working at $12 an hour would take home about $20k per year after tax. With $300 in tips per day, even if they had to share with other staff, they could get about $50k per year. And likely more. After tax. That’s the real reason why servers prefer the tip system to getting paid full minimum wage.

  7. @Rail Provocateur — I did a little research on Amtrak tipping a couple years ago before taking a long distance sleeper car train. The reason that many knowledgeable people don’t leave “regular” tips in the dining car is because the unionized Amtrak staff is already well compensated. The train dining caris NOTHING like a regular restaurant where an employer is allowed to pay its waitstaff a sub-minimum wage on the assumption that most of their income will be in tips. Now you can reasonably decide that you still want to tip 15% (heck, those jobs seem pretty hard, so maybe they deserve even more than well-compensated restaurant staff), but it’s also more than reasonable for folks to tip significantly less than that.

    As far as regular restaurant tipping goes, it’s obviously irrational that people think 15% tips are “too cheap” for waitstaff. As restaurateur Meyer notes in the WSJ article, he has a hard time promoting waitstaff to management positions because tipped employees earn so much more. Most waitstaff keep quiet about this, but the math isn’t hard to figure out: being a waiter in a high-end restaurant can be EXTREMELY lucrative low-skilled work. I’ve always believed that the reason most restaurants have allowed this practice to continue — the article also notes that waitstaff are often paid 3x what the kitchen staff is paid — is because tipping allows the restaurant to “outsource” much of its labor expense. So they allow their customers to be stupid. It’s not the only thing that’s economically irrational in America.

  8. @Ray — Most countries that “tip” waitstaff (many countries don’t have this practice at all) do it at 10%. That would obviously better calibrate the work to what it’s “worth” — except perhaps at very inexpensive diners and such where tabs can be quite modest. But I don’t expect this to ever happen in America. What MIGHT happen is the emergence of “English pub” like service where you order at a counter (or a bar, like in England) and an un-tipped employee brings the food to your table when it’s ready. Modern kiosks and tablets could perform the same function. You grab your own water and condiments from a serving station. For all but “fine dining,” this is probably the right restaurant format. But because restaurateurs currently don’t have to pay their waitstaff much (the customers pay directly), there’s not much incentive for this to happen. Unless, of course, people start voting with their feet and don’t patronize “regular” restaurants as often. Frankly, I’m skeptical this will happen anytime soon.

  9. @J.C.: Not sure where you live, but in California state law mandates payment of no less than $11/hour, and small businesses in the City of Los Angeles must pay $12/hour. MANY states do not have a special poverty-wage for restaurant servers.

    I’m not complaining about minimum wages for service personnel; it’s about time there was a minimum wage that meant something. I WILL complain about the states that haven’t yet adopted a living wage as the minimum. Beats me why anyone would consider getting off the couch for the miserable $2.13/hour that states like Tennessee mandate. It is unfortunate that most patrons don’t know how much or how little their server makes.

    Until this disparity is remedied, we will never solve the tipping dilemma.

  10. @SST: Actually, California is the outlier here. The overwhelmingly vast majority of states allow paying servers $5 or less.

    Nice to know they make minimum in CA. Means I can start tipping less in CA.

  11. Trying the AA Kosher meal next week for the hell of it. The options were a cheese enchilada or orzo salad with shrimp. Thats a hard pass on both. Wife went for the fruit & cheese plate. Between the 2 of us we hope to put together something edible.

  12. @Parts Unknown
    are you sure the orzo salad with shrimp is on the kosher choice?
    even AA would probably not be that stupid to offer shrimp as kosher

  13. During a recent visit to NYC we dined at a French restaurant on 9th Avenue which included a generous gratuity in the check. When our credit card came back with the final bill there was provision for a further gratuity to be added at that stage – amounting to an impost of 44% on the original check

  14. I ordered the AA vegetarian Asian meal on recent breakfast flight out of Austin. Was really a tasty curry meal, except that my vegetarian meal was full of chicken. Oh well.

  15. There are 7 states (mostly western) that require restaurants to pay full minimum wage. … New York is in the process of doing the same. New York restaurant industry is saying dining out will collapse (never mind that it works just fine in CA).

    But, yeah, there is no move to make the tip rate 10% in CA.

  16. @JC Calf is NOT the outliner here. Many states adjust the min wage. RI reduces the $10.10 by $2.89 (or $7,21) for those who receive tips. Massachusetts is $7.25 an hour. New York has different rates depending on location and type of work. So Know your facts BEFORE you make FAKE NEWS.


  17. Ah. JC the evil slag is here. Still mistreating your mama I see. She cried again last night. See you slagface.

  18. Btw JC, your comment on the Mcain post betrays the true hatred you feel. Don’t skip your mental health meds Ms Just a C*^%

  19. @747never: Welcome back, Jethro! Obvious your chemical castration meds are working and your parole officer decided to allow you online again. Congratulations!

  20. By the way, Jethro, does your hatred of women have anything to do with the fact that both your wife and your mom are shagging your stepdad at the same time? All that jealousy is going to overheat your extra chromosome again.

  21. I love women. I just hate hateful bile spewing people irrespective of sex. And it’s obvious part of your frustration is you’re not getting any!

  22. Awww. You’re again transferring your incestous behaviour into others JC. Please seek help. Don’t get off your meds.
    And please please don’t mistreat your poor Mum. She’s had to deal with so much shit you’ve given her already.

  23. @747never: Jethro, we get that you love women. But as your parole officer has told you time and time again, please stop focusing on the ones under 7 years old.

  24. Awww. Youre a paedophile as well? Disgusting! But then, everytime we think you cant go any lower, you always surprise us. BTW, your mums damned upset that you paid Donald Trump to grab you by your nether regions.
    Why do you stress your family out so much?. Take your meds.

  25. BTW, JC why do you contradict yourself so much? Are you bipolar or schizoid? On the one had you say I hate women, and the other you say I love them. Youre quite confused.

  26. @JC what is the problem here? Do you work for Fox News. appears like Dillon York corrected you and you will not go away. Ask most Wait staff and they will tell you they make good Money $$$ and do not report most of to the IRS thus it is NOT taxed and thus they cheat paying taxes.

  27. It is pretty standard across the industry to “group” special meals.

    For example, Lufthansa has the same meal for Asian, Hindu., Vegan.

    There a multiple combinations which are not presented to the passenger. While it might be the same dish prepared, they meet the requirements of the passenger.

    Other airlines work the same way, same dish, but when presented in flight has the appropriate labeling applied.

    This doesn’t apply to all special meals, i.e, Muslim, Kosher, Diabetic. However, if you look at each airlines list of SPMLs you can see similarities between several which makes sense.

  28. @Dillon York: Are you retarded? California is the outlier (not “outliner”, moron) because they are one of only a handful of states that does not reduce the minimum wage for tip earners.

    You certainly are one stupid CERTIFIED “PULBIC” ACCOUNTANT. Have you been borrowing 747always’ extra chromosome? You two must be third grade buddies.

  29. @Tomri: Learn to read. Dillon York is retarded. You must be his twin sister.

    Let me guess … you are 747always wife and are upset because he prefers kiddies to a skank like you.

  30. @Greg & 747always: You two make such a cute couple. Do your parole officers know you hang out with each other?

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