Why don't we start this morning with a WWYD, but have you readers help me this time?
There is another minimum wage battle being fought, and it's among service workers who are earning a tipped-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour hoping that customers will make up the difference with the gratuity they leave on the table. They'd like the sub-wage to be eliminated.
Zadie Smith has a charming little essay in the New Yorker -- is that the most insufferable phrase I've ever typed? -- about ordering delivery in London vs. New York. Of course, the focus is on tipping, a topic that just may never get old. As far as I am concerned Zadie Smith can write charming little essays about whatever she wants and I will read them.
In the Times, Pete Wells (who you may recall for his viral review on Guy Fieri's restaurant) adds to the tipping debate in a column about why he believes tipping is no longer effective. Wells talks to several chefs and restaurant owners in his column, but it would have been much better to get a wider range of perspectives from actual servers as well as the workers who bus tables and wash dishes.
Quartz looked at tens of millions of food transactions using data by Square, a mobile payments company, to see the tipping habits of diners of each state in the U.S. Of course, not every dining establishment accepts Square, but the coffee shop and food truck data is particularly interesting:
Have you heard? The Polar Vortex may be coming back. I spent most of the previous Polar Vortex holed up with tea and wrapped up in a fleece blanket. Gauging the number of times the buzzer rang in my building, it seems as if my neighbors coped by ordering tons of takeout. Did they give the delivery people who ventured out into the freezing weather nice tips? The data says yes, according to The New Yorker.
Our pal Willy Staley has a really lovely story in the New York Times Magazine giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at Balthazar, a popular French brasserie in New York. Three hundred reservations in one night is considered "mellow!" One of the butchers preps 150 steaks in 30 minutes! The thing that's unclear to me in the above is whether the tip money is what each of the workers earn, and not what will be divided among them (with 300 dinner reservations, it must be what they each earn).
This week, The New Republic's Alice Robb reports that research into tipping culture has shown that customers have a tendency to give bigger tips not because of good service but because of things like: the waitress is a woman who drew a smiley face on your check, or the even more biased: the waitress had blond hair.
Zagat put together a holiday tipping survey, and some of the responses are very interesting. At our fancy bar this weekend, a friend asked us how much to tip the coat check person, and we felt $2 would do it.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the IRS is reclassifying automatic service charges—i.e. that 18 percent service charge you sometimes see when dining out in groups of six or more—so that they're treated as regular wages and subject to payroll taxes, rather than tips, which are up to employees to report to the IRS come tax time. Restaurants like those from Darden, which includes the Olive Garden and Red Lobster, are considering getting rid of the automatic gratuity charges for large groups and testing out suggested tipping to see if they can work around the new tax rules.