Thankfully for bank balances everywhere, this doesn't last and you settle into the routine 20-25% that marks you out as a normal member of society. I have no beef with tipping people who rely on this for their income. It's just the way it is. However, it doesn't STOP it being the greatest trick capitalism ever played, getting the customer to buy not JUST goods and services, but also to pay for the salary of those providing it. It's kind of genius how this practice has slinked its way into everyday life. We don't really even question it any more. Well played there, capitalism.
It's always refreshing, then, to go to restaurants in the US where tipping is explicitly prohibited, presumably because the employer is stepping up and taking care of its staff (and not because the staff are living on the streets and living off leftovers). Where I live in New Orleans, there's a locally famous traditional restaurant called Mothers. You are not expected to tip here, and there are signs indicating as much. It's tricky since the staff are so entertaining and their baked ham, with its sticky, caramelized edges, puts you in a generous mood.
Non-tipping restaurants, though, are obviously still newsworthy, as this report illustrates. A restaurant that pays its own hard-working employees a living wage. While in Europe this would be so quotidian and mundane it would pass unnoticed even within the walls of the very restaurant, in the States, the resistance to capitalism's most enduring victory is treated with wide-eyed curiosity. Like I say, as long as people are getting paid, I'm good with how it happens. It's hard to imagine the tipping culture here being overthrown, but interesting to note the footholds, however small. If 'upscale New York restaurants' can do it, there's hope for everyone.
(And see THIS feature by Esquire on taking it a step further and outlawing tipping altogether...)