Here’s a Tip: Get Rid of Tipping

    At this point, everyone in Philadelphia, hell many people around the world, have heard about the LeSean McCoy 20 cent tip debacle at PYT. But, for those of you who have just awoken from a coma, here’s what went down on Monday, September 8th:

    Eagles quarterback LeSean “Shady” McCoy and three friends went to PYT, a prominent burger spot in Northern Liberties, last Monday and grabbed lunch. At the end of the meal, McCoy signed his check and left a whopping tip of $0.20 to a server by the name of Rob. PYT’s owner, Tommy Up, then photographed the receipt and posted it on Facebook for all to see. Up’s reasoning was that he and McCoy’s server were distraught that Shady left such an insulting tip, especially considering he’s slated to pull in a cool $7.6 million this year. Tommy Up described McCoy’s party as difficult, and he backed his server, describing Rob as an excited Eagles fan who was crushed by the tip.

    Well, reactions were mixed on Facebook, and posting the picture of the receipt may or may not have backfired on PYT, depending on how you look at things. A great number of people came to Shady’s defense, remarking how terrible PYT’s service often is, and how it was disrespectful and an attention grab for Up to post the receipt online. McCoy did not back down from his minuscule tip and said the service was bad, the employees were disrespectful and he left the tip on purpose to make a statement about his experience.

    Others were quick to defend PYT’s actions, noting that you should always leave a decent tip, despite how bad the service is because everyone has bad days. Many believed it a was shortsighted move on McCoy’s part, considering he’s clearly a public figure and a multimillionaire at that. This whole fiasco even culminated with Charlie Sheen of all people pledging $1000 to Rob the server to help clear up the situation. You’ve got to give credit to McCoy who threw in a nice jab at Sheen saying, “I’m happy he’s finally doing something positive.” Hilarious!!!

    In the end, I don’t think anyone comes out of this looking good. McCoy should have certainly realized that he’s a celebrity in this town and must always worry about his image. But is Up also wrong as a business owner that should understand that well-known figures in Philly will probably avoid his restaurant from this point on because their privacy is clearly not his concern? That, my friends, is the great debate over the “all press is good press” application in this scenario.

    Up should definitely get some credit for his stunt. You can love or hate his actions, but it really doesn’t matter because he succeeded in getting his restaurant a ton of international publicity. Let’s not forget that he landed PYT on Saturday Night Live about a year ago when he conceived a bacon taco shell.

    In addition, I believe everyone needed a break from the horrible domestic abuse story that has enveloped Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL this week. The 20 cent tip story is lighthearted enough that we can all kind of laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but it’s controversial enough that everyone seems compelled to weigh in with their own opinion. So congratulations to Tommy Up for getting his restaurant massive amounts of attention. For every prospective customer he may have alienated, I’m sure there’s someone else out there interested in checking out the restaurant that “stands up for its employees.”

    In my opinion, this whole mess could have easily been avoided if we could shake the antiquated tipping system that runs rampant throughout the restaurant service industry. Seriously think about what other jobs in this country need tips to make a living: pretty much none. And yes, most people in this country tip more or less the same amount despite how good or bad the service was, but that’s also really strange when you think about it. It’s so ingrained in our collective psyche that tipping is a normal behavior. No one stops to think why serving is the only job reliant on tips (okay, other than stripping). I’m pretty sure a carpenter doesn’t show up to his job and make more or less cash depending on how much wood he stains and sands that day. Sure, there’s commissioned jobs like car sales, but that at least has some logic in that it relates the salesman’s pay to the product he is pushing.

    So maybe it’s time to rethink how we pay our servers in this country. I seriously doubt I’m going to get awful service if we pay servers a real hourly rate or a salary. Every other job in the world seems to function without this odd payment system, so why wouldn’t serving work too?

    Happily, I can say one restaurant opening in Philadelphia is going to pay their employees a living wage with paid sick days, health benefits and profit sharing. Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie is opening this fall, and will pay their employees in this manner. Unsurprisingly, it has evoked a lot of excitement and debate from the community. I am excited to see just how their plan will work in action, and hopeful that it will ignite a movement to change the way servers get paid in the U.S.

    I’m sure we can all agree that no one was totally right or wrong in this situation, but it’s clear that LeSean McCoy and Tommy Up would have never gotten into this mess if it weren’t for tipping.

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