, Buttons, this topic has been hashed and rehashed on so many cruising boards so many times. Perhaps this is your first time through a thread like this. It is about my 20th! So here we go again ...
You see, that is the principal point, and the principal advantage, of the tipping system. A restaurant server, more than almost any other employee, is DIRECTLY responsible to the customer and has a MAJOR impact on the entire dining experience. Now the restaurant owner could simply increase server's wages across the board, and the good and bad servers would get the money, and the customers would likely get less service and pay a higher price. ECONOMICS 101 -- if the owner's cost goes up, the price he charges HAS to go up.
Instead, the long tradition in the restaurant business, which works very well, is that WE, the customers, get to "rate" our service by the tips we give. We know that the price shown on the menu is "PLUS TIP" and figure that into our thinking. Then we decide what the server should receive based on the actual service we receive.
Most of the time I will tip the server the standard 15-20% provided they get the order right, serve the right plates to the right person, keep my ice tea refilled, check back to make sure everything is right, and promptly clear the table and bring the check. That is minimum good service. They have earned their "salary" from me.
If the server goes beyond that, brings me extra dressing and lemon for my tea, brightens my meal with a friendly attitude, get stuff where it belongs when it belongs there every time, is efficient and accurate, then their tip goes up to 25% or more. That server should then feel rewarded, make a good income, and stay in the business to serve me again.
If the server can't come up to the minimum, forgets who gets which plate, doesn't fill my beverage, wanders around and can't be found, is surly, or otherwise does not enhance my dining experience, their tip goes down. When it has fallen to 5% or so, I also write a note on the tab detailing why they are not getting a good tip.
On occasion I have been known to pointedly leave a quarter next to my plate to be sure the server gets the message. Hopefully they will complain about lousy tippers and get a job at Home Depot or something where they won't bother my enjoyment of the meal.
I love this system. It puts ME in control and demands that servers work hard to earn their tips.
The worst service I have ever had on a cruise ship was on the Matson Monterrey, years ago, where the servers were union members. They positively did not care.
With this "automatic" tipping now on so many cruise ships, it has been my observation that service is slipping. The ships where I have continued to get outstanding service have been those where I noticed that the headwaiters were doing their job and training and supervising constantly. Those where the headwaiters just stood around, or schmoozed the customers, were the ones with the worst service. Remove the incentive of tipping, and you have to replace it with supervision. I prefer the tipping, myself.
PS -- sometimes Capital Letters are for EMPHASIS and not for YELLING!