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Posted October 8, 2007
Commentary: Here's a tip: Wisconsin should be first 'no-tipping' state
By Bill Bollom
I think Wisconsin should pass a law making it the only non-tipping state in the US.
This past March, my wife and I were visiting Singapore, where we lived 25 years earlier. Our taxi driver was having a devil of a time getting to our hotel because of road construction. He turned off his meter. When we finally arrived, I tipped him a couple of dollars. He told me, "No, tipping is illegal in Singapore." He pointed to the sign on the dash, "PLEASE, NO TIPPING."
He asked me, "What do you do in your country?"
"I'm retired. I'm a CPA and a retired university professor."
"Did your clients and students tip you? Do you tip your doctor? The meter tells you what the trip was worth. I always do my best work. No tip is necessary to encourage me to do a better job. I'm a professional. I'm as proud of what I do as you are, sir."
My wife and I really liked the no-tipping law in Singapore. And the taxi driver was right. Tipping assumes that the receiver wouldn't do his best unless he is paid extra; it smacks of a superior-subordinate relationship, and it passes on to the customer the obligation of the employer.
Also, the practice is demeaning. On some of our U.S. travel tours, guides, historians and bus drivers stand at the bottom of the bus steps, hands outstretched like a common beggar.
Finally, I'll bet everyone reading this has at one time or another been in a conundrum about tipping, like when the bellhop wrestles your bag from you, wheels it 10 feet to the front desk and wants a tip. I know it upsets my evening.
We are in a system where the employer pays a low wage and assumes tips will bring employee income up to a reasonable level.
But wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone was paid what they were worth and there was no tipping? Prices may rise, but tightwads – referred to as "free riders" in economic literature – would finally pay a fair share, no longer getting off the hook.
I find it difficult to understand how the custom of tipping keeps growing. Now, even coffee shops feature a tip jar. It wouldn't surprise me to see one by the gas station cash register, but it would rile me.
Years ago, when my wife and I traveled in India, tipping was a nightmare. At every turn, someone had his hand out for a tip. Just when you thought someone was simply lending a helping hand, like offering up an empty airport trolly cart, his hand immediately went out for a tip. Our airline check-in agent demanded a tip before he'd give us our boarding passes. There was much shouting. My wife would not leave the check-in counter. The temperature was 100 degrees with about equal humidity. There was a line of about 350 people behind us. She wouldn't budge. She'd had enough of India and wasn't tipping to get her boarding pass. It was eventually given to us without a tip; my wife simply hollered the guy into submission. Events like this can ruin a guy's day.
We lived in Budapest in 1992. There, people had to give doctors 'tips' so they would suture them up with fine thread instead of thin rope.
My point is tipping can get ugly. Argentines outlaw it. Aussies find it foolish. Our own airlines prohibit it. If the latter survives without it, can't we eliminate it entirely?
Let's make Wisconsin the only no-tipping state in the USA.
I think it would be a great state promotion: "ESCAPE TO WISCONSIN -- WHERE TIPPING IS ILLEGAL BUT SERVICE ISN'T."
Northwestern Community Columnist Bill Bollom is a retired faculty member at UW Oshkosh and author.