Borrowing For Roads, Comedian Paula Poundstone, The End Of Tipping?

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With some restaurants refusing to take tips, and major cities adopting higher minimum wages, is it time we gave up tipping? A food critic joins us to talk about the latest trends that could end tipping in the service industry. We’re also joined by comedian Paula Poundstone before she appears in Green Bay, and look at proposed borrowing for roads in Wisconsin.

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  • Is It Time To End Tipping?

    A large New York City restaurant group announced last week that it will be eliminating tipping in all 13 of its restaurants to help even the pay among servers and back-of-house staff.

    Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer said he’s watched waiters’ incomes in fine-dining restaurants rise 200 percent during the past 30 years as tipping percentages have increased. Meanwhile, wages for kitchen staff have stayed mostly stagnate.

    To equalize the pay among all restaurant employees, diners at no-tipping establishments will be see higher menu prices.

    “So, by incorporating everything in the menu prices and therefore having it be the restaurant’s responsibility to pay everybody a fair wage, we think we have the opportunity to make a great place to work for everybody — not just servers, but also for our cooks,” Meyer said on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

    New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells said many of the restaurant owners he has spoken to will be watching the experiment closely, but fear that increased prices will scare away customers.

    “I heard from restaurateurs who are adamant that they won’t do this, that they can’t do it because the psychological effect of seeing higher menu prices is more powerful than the intellectual calculation that you make that says, “Well, I’m going to be tipping on top of that menu price anyway, so it kind of works out to more or less the same,’” Wells said.

    Wells added that it’s not quite the same because unlike menu prices, there is no tax on tips.

    Critics of ending tipping have argued that by eliminating gratuity, waiters will be less motivated to provide service, a point that Wells said he has not found to be true in his dining experiences.

    Supporters, however, point to studies that show disparities in compensation that are otherwise protected against in labor laws. For example, said Wells, on average, young women receive larger tips than older, and whites take in larger tips than African-Americans.

  • Walker Administration Looking For $200 Million In Borrowing For Roads

    With delays coming for some of the biggest highway construction projects in the state, Governor Scott Walker’s administration is looking for $200 million in new borrowing to keep these projects on schedule…though some state lawmakers aren’t so sure about the proposal. A reporter breaks down the latest transportation funding news.

  • NPR's Paula Poundstone Comes To Wisconsin

    Paula Poundstone, comedian and NPR panelist on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” is coming to Madison. We’ll talk with her about comedy and life on a hit NPR show.

  • The Tipping Point

    Tipping for services has become an entrenched custom in the United States. But recently a large New York City restaurant group has announced it will be eliminating tipping in all 13 of its restaurants to help even the pay among servers and back of house restaurant staff.

    We talk to a New York Times restaurant critic about the feasibility and potential effects this new model might have on patrons, and the restaurant industry.

  • Paula Poundstone Talks Improvised Comedy And The Power Of Laughter

    NPR’s suspender-wearing, in-house comedian Paula Poundstone has a message to anyone who plans to catch her stand-up act Saturday at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay.

    “I’m looking forward to coming to Wisconsin,” she said. “And I want to tell people, so you don’t rush out to get me a gift, I already have a cheese cloth.”

    Poundstone’s quick-witted style of comedy is probably most recognized from her regular appearances as a panelist on NPR’s weekend game show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” Those who plan to attend Poundstone’s set Saturday can expect a non-scripted routine that deviates from many traditional comics who memorize a sequence of jokes verbatim.

    Poundstone said she likes to improvise by riffing off the crowd and building punchlines off the quick biographies from audience members. She added that her poor short-term memory leaves her no other choice.

    “I’ve been doing this job for 36 years, and many, many years ago it dawned on me that oftentimes the really fun part of the night was the part when I forgot what I was going to say. So I sort of started allowing myself to do that,” Poundstone said.

    Over the years, Poundstone has broken down a lot of walls for women in comedy. She’s written for Glamour, The Los Angeles Times and Mother Jones, among other publications. In 1989, she won the American Comedy Award for “Best Female Stand-Up Comic,” and added more accolades the next year when she became the first female to win the CableACE award for best standup comedy special.

    But Poundstone said that stand-up comedian is a genderless job — funny is funny. She added that not only is it fun to go out and laugh for an hour, it’s good for your health.

    “It’s this really cool thing that nature, for whatever reason, has given us,” she said. “It’s healing, it reduces pain, and that thing of not being at home watching stuff on YouTube or television, but being out with a group and being caught up with that wave of laughter, is like no other experience.”

    Unlike her appearances on NPR, Poundstone said those who come to her standup show shouldn’t expect for her to answer questions about the latest news of the week. She joked that although she loves the “Morning Edition” voices of Renée Montagne and Steve Inskeep, she’s looking forward to a week off of vigilant listening.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Pete Wells Guest
  • Patrick Marley Guest
  • Paula Poundstone Guest

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