Saturday, February 12, 2011

8 Unmistakable pleasures of Japan, No. 5. The Tips

Concurrent with my list of complaints about Japan, I present 8 things I loved about Japan.

    So, this may be a point of some debate, but I really do prefer the Japanese tipping system. In Japan, it is expected that waiters and waitresses, bellhops and valet exist on their work and the salary accorded them by their employers, not by the generosity of the customers. I believe this helps both the customers and the employees, as it allows the customers to pay in a quick manner, and to budget their stop easily. It allows the employees to ask for a raise without protests of "but how much do you bring in in tips?" with little understand that tips are hugely variable, and it's hard for a single mother to plan her monthly budget on so variable a source of income.
    Besides that, really, think about tipping - are you rewarding service, or are you just automatically rewarding someone for having to see your face, and that arbitrarily? I've known cooks, and the work in the kitchen is as badly paid, and probably twice as thankless as a waiter's job. If a waiter is tired, and a family of twelve comes in, they can ask if another waiter can take the table, and will probably be taken up on the offer by some other more fresh face, hoping for a big tip (this fresh face will doubtless not have been a waiter long - large families rarely tip well). But when that twelve item order, with adjustments for the daughter's allergies, the son's distaste for pickles, the mother's unhealthy fad diet and the father's attempts to eat as "unhealthily" as possible while avoiding his wife's disparagement, when that steaming load hits the kitchen, the cooks on each station do not get to beg off, if the order comes in, the order comes in, and they have to fill it.
    Now, you might well say, "but waitressing (or waitering, or whatever you'd call the male variant) is an often thankless, tiring and hard job." And I would readily and vociferously agree with your incalculably correct argument - but I would reply, isn't that all the more reason to pay them well? Isn't that all the more reason not to make their wages, not to make their sustenance, dependent upon the whims, and indeed, the relation of the wealth of their customers to the tastes of the customers? Shouldn't their hard work bear its due reward, not dependent upon the generosity of the hundreds of masses who are also, admittedly, just trying to get by.


  1. While you were not raised in a family of 12, I can't help but wonder if the family described had some basis in your own experience, particularly the part about the father's dining choices.

    -- Dad

  2. What was it Tolstoy said?

    "All happy families are the same. Each tragic family is different."