When you go out to dinner, you leave a tip. Usually 15%, but more if the waiter was really good. Maybe a couple of pennies if she was downright awful. But it’s totally up to you if you leave a tip and how much. Now pretend you don’t speak English. What if you had no choice about the tip? What if it was automatically added on to your bill, just because you don't speak English?
That’s exactly what’s happening at Keoni by Keo’s in Hawaii. At best the practice is racial profiling, at worst ... it’s flat out racism. Right?
Well, yes ... and no.
It is racist in the sense that certain groups of people are being singled out for not speaking the native language. If we’re going to be the big melting pot that we claim to be, we have to know that people are not always going to speak our language. Hawaii is an even bigger melting pot, thanks to the booming tourist industry.
It’s racist, but it also makes sense.
Last year 17 percent of all tourists to Hawaii were Japanese. Guess what the Japanese don’t do back home?
It’s just not a part of Japanese culture to tip at restaurants, so when they come here, they may not realize that it’s customary to tip your waiter. There’s nothing wrong with the customs being different, but here our waiters live and die by the tips they make, and when they don’t make enough tips, they don’t make rent.
We already charge an automatic gratuity for large groups of people. That ensures that everyone involved in caring for the table gets a tip -- waiters, busboys, water boys, everyone.
In a world where waiters live off their tips and sometimes have to pay taxes on money they haven’t even made thanks to weird IRS rules, it does make a strange sort of sense to automatically charge a gratuity for groups of people you know aren’t likely to leave a tip. This way everybody gets paid, there are no disgruntled employees, and no one’s going home broke.
Is this new rule just plain racist or does it make sense?
Image via Joe Schlabotnik/Flickr