Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tips aren't entitlements [Updated]

This story is doing the rounds on social media. The story is allegedly about a boorish and embarrassing Christian family who gratuitously insulted a waitress for her mannish appearance (see below for more on appearance) at the outset of a meal and then refused to tip her, instead writing her a note saying that they did not approve of her (presumptively lesbian) lifestyle and that this was why they were not tipping.

I have a somewhat different perspective, so hear me out. First of all, let me say at the outset that it's entirely possible that these people really were as rude and as much of an embarrassment to Christians as they are alleged to be. Perhaps, for example, their comments to the waitress were wholly gratuitous. Perhaps their comment was quite pointless, perhaps she did very little to put her "orientation" in their faces, and perhaps she gave them excellent service. Moreover, even if their side of the story turned out to be different than hers, even if there was more excuse for their behavior than the mainstream story tells us, and even if the story isn't faked (let's not forget that there are such things as faked "hateful incidents"), what they did was still foolish, because they should have known that it would do no good and would do harm to the reputation of Christians.

So I'm not condoning what they did from either angle.


Point 1: We have only her side of the story. According to her, she was a saint, and they were jerks from the get-go. Should we automatically assume that this was true? Is it possible, for example, that she made some reference to her "lifestyle" in order to test them, perhaps because she saw them look startled at her haircut, etc.? Her Facebook posts about what she wanted to do (spit in their food, for example) certainly don't show a saintly disposition, and one of her allegedly laudable supporters says (on a homosexual Facebook page) that the family and all their ilk should be wiped off the face of the earth. So...this is obviously an activist type of person with an in-your-face gay activist attitude, and I'm not entirely sure she is an unbiased reporter of what happened.

Point 2: Appearance. What the heck are those tattoos all over her hands? Are employers not permitted to take bizarre tattoos into account when hiring waitresses if they suspect the tats have something to do with being homosexual and if they are therefore afraid of getting in trouble for "discrimination"? Or are tattoos all over your hands out of bounds for employers to consider no matter who you are? The girl says, "The short hair and clothes just gave it away in her eyes." Well, it looks like "it" was in fact true, so maybe some combination of hair, clothes (What clothes? Do these waitresses not have to wear any sort of uniform? How weird were the clothes?) and the tats really did "give it away." Did it ever occur to this waitress or to anybody commenting on this that it's legitimate for customers not to want their waitresses to look bizarre and that having a deliberately bizarre appearance might be a legitimate cause for downgrading a tip, because that is rude, too? Yes, get a clue: Putting your "lifestyle" in people's faces by deliberately looking bizarre is rude. Rudeness on the part of a waitress or waiter is a legitimate reason for a customer's not tipping. But no, evidently not. Look at this preachy blog post, for example:

[The Bible] doesn’t say to leave them a note about what a miserable sinner they are; how disgusted you are by their obvious homosexuality, Goth appearance, tattoos, the enormous holes in their earlobes, or the bone in their nose;
Um, so lady, you're implying that it's perfectly okay for a waitress to have a Goth appearance or even a bone in her nose but that if I don't leave a Goth or be-boned waitress a full fifteen percent tip, I'm the baddie? I don't buy that. At all.

There used to be this sort of old-fashioned understanding that waitresses were expected both to behave and to appear pleasant. Presumably they don't want to be thought of as mere robots who bring you your food and are rated only by the speed with which they do so. Well, then, they have to be prepared to be docked if they wear unpleasant piercings or tattoos or in some other way deliberately, by their appearance, interrupt the pleasant nature of the customer's lunch. Which brings me to

Point 3: Contrary to the implication of said preachy blog post, a tip is not an entitlement. A tip has to be earned. Every single Bible verse quoted in our faces there (and aside--don't you love how progressive Christians are all against proof-texting except when they can try to shoehorn tipping flamingly lesbian waitresses into an Old Testament passage on paying your field hands or a New Testament passage on feeding and clothing our brethren in Christ?) implies that the customer at a restaurant is the direct employer of the waitress or waiter. Is this really accurate? Is the relationship "customer-waitress" really the same as the relationship "employer-employee"? If so, it's an extremely odd employer-employee relationship, especially since no wage has actually been agreed upon in advance, as it usually would be. That's why tipping is voluntary and falls on a sliding scale. Don't misunderstand me: I think one should normally tip 15 percent, and that's what I teach my kids. It should be the default setting, the prima facie case, that you'll tip at a restaurant where tips are left. (Some, like fast food restaurants, don't assign a particular waitress to your table, and tips are not the norm there.) But a default setting or a prima facie case is defeasible, and it's defeasible by a lot of different types of things. There isn't some moral rule, given by God, that if the food gets to your table in good time, if the waitress doesn't forget anything, if everything pertaining narrowly to the food and the food alone is okay, you owe the waitress a 15% tip. There are other ways in which the waitress could fail to earn that tip. By sitting down at the table, you don't tacitly agree to pay that tip. The entitlement mindset here is overwhelming, and it needs to stop. Sure, a customer could fail to leave a tip for unreasonable reasons, a customer can be a real boor, but we shouldn't start by assuming that a tip is an entitlement.

Point 4: The owner of the restaurant, eager to prove his progressive creds, is threatening not to let that family eat at the restaurant again. Really? That's interesting, is it not? Let's put this starkly: A lesbian couple could almost certainly waltz into that restaurant with their arms around each other and sit smooching from time to time at the table, and we can be good and certain that the restaurant owner would get the pants sued off him if he asked them to stop or even more shockingly told them they couldn't come there anymore. But a (putatively) Christian family that allegedly behaves rudely by leaving a snippy note instead of a tip can be told they aren't welcome? Well, presumably "non-tippers" are not a specially protected class under either New Jersey or federal law, so probably so, but to my mind there's something very strange about this set of priorities. What if they had tipped her but had also left a Bible tract explaining, in loving terms, the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle and offering contact information for groups that can help her leave that lifestyle? Would the restaurant manager then be threatening not to let them eat there anymore? To do so would skate pretty close to religious discrimination, which actually is allegedly illegal in public accommodations like restaurants. But I wonder if the restaurant manager would see the difference between that situation and the one that allegedly happened.

Let's not fool ourselves: Christians who hold traditional moral views are the last group that can be "discriminated" against. The same people who would usually imply that by golly a restaurant has a duty to serve anybody who walks through the door evidently think it's high and noble for this family to be blocked. Don't get me wrong: I'd just as soon go back to a world in which restaurants could refuse to serve anyone they wanted to refuse to serve. But that includes present liberal mascot groups as well, and you can be sure the liberals wouldn't like that compromise, either. No, they like things right where they are: Be open about your non-PC beliefs, get slammed. Put your sexual perversions in everybody's face, get fawned over.

So, while I think what the customers did was foolish at best and unnecessarily rude at worst, I'm rather inclined to say, "Cry me a river" for the mannish waitress who is arousing so much outrage and sympathy. I imagine by this time, assuming her story to be true, she has more than made up the lost tip in lavish outpourings from others. I'm pretty sure she hasn't learned anything from the experience, which is yet another reason why the customers shouldn't have done it.

But Christians, don't just jump on this self-hate bandwagon. It's not worth it, and it's a little more complicated than you might at first think.

Update: Aaaaaaand it looks like this was another hoax. Really glad I at least put that in the original post as a possibility and pointed out that we have only her side of the story! The inductive case that these things are hoaxes more often than not is adding up, so caveat lector next time you see a story of this kind. Please remember this before writing a "This is why they hate us" blog post or status update.

Also, Christians: If somebody guesses you are a Christian at a restaurant, they may fake a hate incident against you. Might be a wise idea always to tip via credit card from now on so as to be able to refute such lies. That was what this family appears to have done.

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