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Should we do away with tipping at restaurants?

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

When you visit a restaurant in the U.S., it is customary to leave a tip for your server. But many other countries instead tack on an automatic service charge to compensate wait staff.

Let’s Eat host Providence Cicero says the debate is on as to whether tipping is a good or a bad thing. Some people, including Providence, argue that a business should incorporate enough in the cost of the product to adequately compensate their workers.

“I feel like you ought to be able to run a business and pay people enough that the customer does not need to support your staff in that way,” she says.

People on the other side argue it is an incentive to workers to perform well. If the server feels they will be compensated by the customer in a manner consistent with the level of service they provide, they might up their game a bit.

But Providence explains this argument can be thwarted by looking at the many workers who don’t get tips on the job and still try to perform at the level expected of them.

“A well-run establishment should train their staff, and have high expectations and if the staff isn’t performing, then you lose your job.”

Some customers might also object, Providence explains, because they like having the power to tip according to how they feel they were served. Taking that away could be another obstacle for restaurants.

“Customers say they want to have that control,” says Providence. “They want to be able to walk out and leave maybe 10 percent or not leave a tip if the service has been bad.”

The strongest opponents to abolishing tips might be servers. Providence says a gifted server who is giving their all might like that they can directly impact their earnings.

“Servers like the fact that if they do a bang-up job, they might walk home with an extra $100 bill in their pocket,” says Providence. “I think there’s a little bit of American hustle to all of this.”

Of course, servers could end up being compensated more with a service charge that would require typically low-tippers to pay the same as everyone else.

One more obstacle could change tipping behavior. Will people be able to walk out, leaving their server with nothing?

Let’s Eat co-host Terry Jaymes says even when he went to France, where they include an automatic service charge on meals, he still left behind a little something for the server.

“Maybe that was wrong,” says Terry, who admits he’s a big over-tipper, typically starting his tipping range on the low end at 20 percent. “It’s a karma thing for me. I feel like if I tip well, my family members [in the service industry] will be tipped well.”

Let’s Eat airs on KIRO Radio Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at noon. Listen anytime ON DEMAND at

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