Saturday, March 16, 2013

Serving Justice



As someone who writes earnestly about the geography of food and the preparation of food, I have enjoyed this satire of over-wrought locavores. The piece is a good send-up of my own approach to coffee, for instance, since I am only completely comfortable drinking a cup if I have been to the farm.

Writing for Salon, Matt Frassica suggests that diners concerned about justice might do well to think of some questions much closer to home. In Restaurant Horror Show, he explains how restaurant companies that are trying "to compensate low-wage back-of-house employees without actually paying them enough to live on ... often reach into the pockets of the underpaid waitstaff to do it."

Just as Walmart makes its profits by having the taxpayer subsidize workers, some restaurants have the workers subsidize each other. The article reminds me that I should follow my father's example more often. Even when paying a restaurant bill by credit card, he always pays the tip in cash.

The article also examines tip refusal:
The reasons put forth for withholding tips for service are varied but fall into a few general categories. There are the ideological objections, often with a  libertarian slant. There’s the  misanthropic cheapskate defense. There are studies showing the influence of subliminal factors like  music choice, the customer’s genes, the weather, the proximity of the server or size of her breasts.
It is not fair that the printed menu prices include food, rent, utilities, marketing, and profit, but only a small fraction of labor costs. Until the restaurant business is reformed, however, conscientious diners should plan to take up some of the slack. As I have written previously, the situation in hotels is not any better. It seems that even as $100 became the new minimum for a decent (or even less-than-decent) hotel room, the cost of labor is no longer included.

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