Tippin Ain’t Easy

In the news recently there have been restaurants in the U.S. that have started moving away from tipping, along with the sad stories of waitresses getting no tip at all for not doing their job to the customer’s liking. In all honesty I think it is surprising in many ways that the U.S. has kept gratuity the way it is for this long. As minimum wage has become one of the focuses of the country’s political attention it seems that the U.S. may be ready to experiment with the system used by most other countries in the world, or at the very least start thinking about tipping better.

In a perfect world tipping in the U.S. works where something like 10-15% of the meal’s prices work out to, along with the meager dollar or two they are guaranteed, a livable wage. This then allows for anything above that to work as an incentive for the waiter or waitress to provide exceptional service so as to make more money. On the whole it sounds like a great deal, waiters make more money by being better at their job and get instant feedback on how they are doing.

Somehow things haven’t worked out like this though… We all have a friend or relative or two that might think that a dollar a head or something like 10% gratuity is more than adequate for exceptional service, and they won’t be told otherwise. The problem is that while not all waiters and waitresses work in 50’s themed diners, their guaranteed wages are pretty much stuck there. When people hear about the 2 dollars and thirty cents or a similar figure that waiters make before tips they are usually pretty thrown and can’t understand how its really legal, but then somebody mentions tipping and the math gets complicated but it seems fine enough. The thing is waiters are often at the whim of the supply of customers provided to them without any way to really affect that, aside from slowly building a cult following of customers that will only come in while they’re working.

The number that most people are familiar with as being a customary tip is 15%. As the cost of living and inflation increase however minimum wage hasn’t quite kept up. The minimum wage for tipped workers has done even less to stay competitive and so things like 18% standard gratuity on certain checks or the number of 20% for quality service have popped up.

When these same sorts of figures are told to travelers, or vice versa when Americans are told they don’t have to tip when abroad there is definitely some disbelief. So from this phenomenon it seems that American’s lack of progress away from tipping is probably just cultural sticker shock from the prices that we would see on a menu if restaurants were forced to pay their employees all a standard wage. We have yet to adopt the inclusion of tax into our advertised prices and so adding a service charge to many would seem to be met with similar disapproval.

So far the main focus of the article has been on waiters and waitresses, those who get very little pay and so depend on tips in order to not live off of things like ramen and canned tuna. However, most people in the service industry in America accept tips. The people cutting your hair, moving your furniture and making your coffee all work hard in hopes of earning a little bit extra at the end of their interaction with you.

In the end I’ve lived in countries where tipping is nearly mandatory, in countries where a dollar’s tip is more than generous and in places where tipping isn’t even really thought about. In all honesty I think that tipping helps customers more than it does workers and those that rely on tips have probably been getting taken advantage of for a long time now in many respects. Tipping should definitely be an option but I hope that things like a dollar or two for good service become the trend in America and that I can pay for my food without thinking that my server wouldn’t be able to buy lunch at the restaurant they work at without me tipping generously. What are your experiences with tipping in America and Abroad? Do you think it’s time for the custom to stop or does it need an overhaul?

Australian Politics From an American Perspective

As an American I often come across the stereotype that as an American I am ignorant about things that happen outside of the states. Most of the time this isn’t seen as a terrible thing because it isn’t my fault that U.S. news is saturated with domestic issues, in fact most countries are proportionally over-saturated with U.S. news. in order to fight this stereotype I have done what any American would do and learned about how the government I am living under operates in comparison with the United States. After making just the right amount of “kangaroo court” jokes to myself while learning about it turns out that put simply the Australian government is actually very similar to the American political system.

With the amount of press Tony Abbott gets it wouldn’t surprise me if Americans that don’t have any real interest in Australia might still want to figure out how this guy seems to be allowed to be in charge of a country. You may also hear about the country’s honestly pretty bad history of not caring about climate change, although Americans are only now getting on the climate change bandwagon, and think how is a desert nation so backwards?

Tony AbbottIf you meet an Australian you can both blame them for Tony Abbott and at the same time commiserate with them because unlike the United States voting is mandatory in Australia, but the prime minister is not actually directly elected. Aside from some of the kind of outdated ceremonial Monarchy business those are probably two of the three big differences between the United States’ political system and Australia’s. In order to get that big looming Queen business out of the way for any Americans we’ll take a quick look at what powers the Queen has in Australia. Australia is technically a constitutional monarchy, meaning if she wanted lizzie could come down disband parliament and appoint her own prime minister. Because the queen is technically the “head of state” of a number of countries she obviously doesn’t have time to deal with all of them herself and so appoints a Governor-General who is chosen at the request of the prime minister. The Governor- General is a pretty ceremonial role and essentially does anything the PM advises them to do, but on behalf of the crown as well as the PM.

A photo posted by Ryan (@macmorrisless) on

Aside from the ceremonial business having to do with the Queen, which we Americans gave up on a few hundred years ago, the political system in Australia is all business and not just thongs and roos. The system is based on the Westminster system meaning they have a bicameral legislative system headed by a prime minister, consisting of a senate and house of parliament. These work pretty much in the same way as the American system aside from the fact that voting for Australian citizens is mandatory. The other real differences are that there are more than just two viable political parties and that the number of seats in the senate and parliament change more often. 

Earlier I mentioned that while everyone needs to vote in Australia they didn’t necessarily vote for Tony Abbot. Instead voting is tied to which political party you choose and then whichever party gains a majority or is able to form a coalition with another party is then able to appoint the head of their party as the prime minister who in turn picks out his cabinet. From there the executive body performs all the duties it does in America aside from vetoing power. Because the Australian system is based on the idea of political parties party lines are even more divided than in America and voting with the party line is not only expected but nearly mandatory.

So if Australian political parties seem to be so important lets take a look at what they are. There are of course two main parties that could essentially be likened to the Republican party and Democratic party as well as a few other parties that still garner some support. The current party in power is the Liberal party, of which Tony Abbott is the leader, if you have been paying attention that should make perfect sense to you. The Liberal party however isn’t liberal in the sense that we Americans know the word and is actually a lot closer to our Republican party in their views. The Liberal party is based on many Christian values, greater economic freedom, lower taxes, etc. The Labor party on the other hand is the major opposition party at the moment and is much closer to the Democrats of America, more socially progressive, greater economic regulation, big government, environmentalism, etc. Then of course there are the other smaller parties like the Greens (pretty much identical to our own Green Party but with more delegates), and the National party which caters to rural Australians and farmers.

That about sums things up on how to understand the Australian political system if you are fairly familiar with the American system. Things are pretty similar and I am sure if you talked to a traveling Aussie about the current Lib/Nat coalition government and how long they reckon it’ll last they will be astounded that you know about it and will quickly spill their similar ignorance about the American system. Feel free to ask any questions about the government or its policies below and I will pass them right along to Tony Abbott as soon as I next see him.