Stop Tipping

Cyrus Pringle Exits Stage Left
May 27, 2022

We need to talk about tipping. This ultra-generous community, through additions to credit card receipts and cash placed in the “tip jar”, donated $240,000 to various causes last year. We try to make it as clear as possible that the money added to cheques and the money that goes into the jar will be donated to charities of our staff’s choosing, that the people behind the counter are paid the same if you “tip” or not.  But most of you still tip/donate. It’s a hard habit to break. Good people tip. Generous people tip. No one wants to be considered ungenerous.

In our suggesting box, we often get suggestions that we give the “tips” to the café staff. This is understandable. People are kind and generous and they love our great staff. And we get it, we love them too! The people making your food and your drinks and waiting on everyone so patiently are AMAZING people, excellent at what they do, and they deserve everything and more.

Did you catch that phrase in that last sentence?  “Waiting on”? Merriam Webster defines “waiting on” as “to attend as a servant.” There are many words that surround the act of feeding people in exchange for money that are, historically, LOADED, and that get at the reason that we choose not to have our customers compensating employees of the bakery. We pay our employees a fair wage.  We offer a generous benefits package that includes both health insurance and free pastries.

We’re not going to get too far into the history of tipping but, in short, it started in Feudal Europe, with aristocrats tipping peasants, crossed the Atlantic with Europeans and became intertwined with chattel slavery, and then really took off after the Civil War as a way for business owners to shunt paying their employees onto the customer.  It is the product of a hierarchical social structure that implies an imbalance of power and status between the “tipper” and the “tipped”.  It has been used to skirt the minimum wage laws and disproportionately affects women and people of color. A straight line can be drawn between tipping and sexual harassment. If you think this is exaggerated or blown out of proportion, talk to someone you know who has waited tables or otherwise depended on tips for a living. I guarantee you they have some pretty yucky stories.  It is an unreliable and arguably unethical way to compensate someone for doing their job.

So, here’s what we can do about it:  As of February 14, 2023, we are raising our prices. That revenue from that price increase will directly fund a wage increase for our employees. In Europe, where tipping was invented and then largely discarded, you may find a “service charge” on your bill.  This price increase is just that: a built-in service charge. We will remind you all that tips are not accepted at Red Hen and encourage you to pay the total on your check and nothing more.  We are removing the “tip” line from our receipts. You can show your appreciation through your patience and understanding and a heartfelt “Thank You.”

You will still be able to donate to the causes that are near and dear to the hearts of our staff, but we make it more explicit that this is NOT A TIP and you are under NO obligation to leave any more than what we charge you.


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