A Living Wage? What a concept!

I heard about this on Boing Boing and then a month later on Marketplace: a sushi restaurant in New York that has eliminated tipping. Sushi Yasuda decided that instead of making people sit there at the end of the meal and agonize over how much to give the wait staff, they’ll just pay them the right amount and not charge the patrons tip. This means that they had to raise prices accordingly, approximately 18%, but I’m quite supportive of that. If there’s one thing I’ve come to hate, especially as money has become more tight since the baby was born, it’s that the true price of eating out is hidden from me. I don’t want to have to take out my calculator and do a bunch of math (sum everyone’s entree and add 18%) to know the true cost of the meal. I want to have a reasonable idea as I order how much money I’m going to spend. This also gets around the issue that comes up everywhere from Reservoir Dogs to any time tipping is brought up on the Internet: how much is the right amount to tip and is it ever ok not to tip? Everyone has crazy different rationals on this and I think just including the tip in the price and paying a living wage gets around that. Really, the only people who benefit from the current system are the credit card companies and restaurants who see us ordering more than we can actually afford because the prices aren’t higher. If a federal living wage law were passed, everyone’s prices would go up at once and restaurants wouldn’t have to worry about being at a competitive disadvantage for raising prices.  Then again, maybe it’s not a bad thing to be a first mover while people still think of tipping as customary:

How have customers reacted? After a bit of initial surprise among regular guests, “they don’t think twice about it,” says Rosenberg, who’s seen no change in customer volumes since the changeoverOne gentleman, per Rosenberg, quipped that he’d now order 20% more sushi now that tipping is no longer required. –The Price Hike

So some people see it as free money in their pockets because of the way human psychology works. I’d love to see a lot m0re restaurants adopt this practice. It protects the workers from a-holes and it means diners know up front how much they’re going to be paying.

2 responses to “A Living Wage? What a concept!”

  1. I’ve only seen this happen at high end restaurants, where all the servers are very high caliber. And I’m torn.

    I like it because then your waitstaff doesn’t accidentally get punished for things outside their control (aka problems with the food). But at the same time, if I know that service is included in my price, I will automatically expect all the servers to be at a certain level – and one bad experience will probably prevent me from wanting to return.

    And of course, you really have no idea what restaurants are doing still. SF had a whole restaurant scandal because establishments were charging the Healthy SF tax and then just pocketing the money instead of giving the employees better benefits/money.

    • Sorry it took me so long to reply. You bring up two great points. On the first, I guess it’s up to the restaurant to ensure people are up to caliber and for employees at such a high end restaurant to ask to be put behind the scenes if they’re not feeling up to the challenge that day.

      As for the cheating, that goes with anything in life. I have no idea if The Red Cross actually does anything that I think it will. I just have to trust.