Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Public Shaming and Tipping

Tipping is one of those issues that brings up more controversy than almost any other, even while it seems relatively minor. Children starving in Africa, women traded as slaves, insane dictators getting nukes--there's not much room for debate there. (At least, I have yet to see the pro-starvation pro-slavery pro-armageddon contingent on Internet message boards--but then, I haven't checked Home and Garden Online lately) Tipping, though, really brings out the emotions.

In one corner we have the "serving is a grueling job and servers are underpaid below even minimum wage usually and they deserve the tips". And in the other corner we have the "tipping is voluntary so I'm only going to tip if you do something special" contingent. And when the two groups cross, we get a mess like this one.

A bartender in Seattle allegedly was stiffed on her tip by some pompous patron who left a "tip" of another sort at the bottom of the receipt, suggesting the bartendress "lose a few pounds". She retaliated by posting the receipt online, finding the patron on Facebook, and (with the help of her friends) publicly shaming him to the point that the mess got picked up on other websites. Justice served, right? Except then of course it turns out they found the wrong guy, and a different "Andrew Meyer" (wasn't that also the name of the "don't tase me, bro!" guy? Why yes it was!) was subjected to this public humiliation. The barlady admitted to "having bad eyesight" and getting the wrong guy, and also when interviewed she claimed that she'd witnessed the offending patron actually emptying out the tip jar into his pockets which now makes me question her entire story because if a patron was caught committing theft then why not call over the manager and have the jerk arrested?

But even if some rude non-tipper did exist, the publicizing of their signed receipt is just the sort of idiotic overkill that crosses the line from "serves the jerk right" to "invasion of privacy that can easily get the bar sued and the barmaid fired as a result". If someone doesn't tip--and you think it's unjustified, I'm looking at you who take smoke breaks while your customers are anxiously waiting a half hour for their bill--then you don't serve that person again, or subject them to the cold shoulder if you encounter them in the future. Making a bad situation worse for you and your employer isn't the key to successmanship.

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