---- — Think your boss is a jerk? It could be worse. You could work for John Metz or one of the other “job creators” who’ve decided to punish their employees because their guy lost the election.
Metz, a Florida businessman who owns a string of restaurants, announced that he’d be adding a surcharge to guest checks to cover the cost of Obamacare and cutting back his employees’ hours to avoid actually complying with the law.
“If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare,” Metz said, according to The Huffington Post.
Actually, customers have another choice: They can stop patronizing Metz’s restaurants. I’ve never been to a Hurricane Grill & Wings, the chain of eateries that Metz franchises, but I can say with some conviction that I never will.
That’s not because I love Obama or Obamacare so much, but because before I joined the journalistic fraternity I made my living tending bar and waiting tables. It was hard, dirty, sometimes degrading, work that paid sub-minimum wage. The only real upsides were the food, the lessons I learned about life, and, of course, the tips.
In the mind of most people, tips are a reward for good service. Customers understand they should leave something for the server, but what that is depends largely on their sense of social obligation and level of satisfaction.
Almost everyone knows that they’re expected to leave 15 to 20 percent of the bill on the table. I know, grandpa, it used to be 10 percent, but times have changed. And considering what your typical waitress or waiter takes home in hourly pay, they needed to.
When I hung up my black bowtie almost 20 years ago, I made a little less than $2 an hour. The minimum wage today for tipped employees is a little less than $3 an hour.
But patrons aren’t obligated to tip. If you order a meal and eat it, even if you didn’t like it, you can be prosecuted if you don’t pay. If you don’t feel like leaving a tip, you don’t have to.
Eating out costs a lot of money, so when a guy like Metz tells his patrons that their bill is being inflated by Obamacare -- which according to polls most people don't like -- there's a pretty good chance they're not going to be happy about it.
The only avenue for unhappy patrons to express their displeasure is through the tip. That doesn’t hurt the restaurant owner or Obama or the Democrats. It hurts the server.
I know, I know, bosses have it hard, too. The restaurant business depends on people being willing to pay for something they can get at home at a fraction of the cost and operates on a very small profit margin.
Despite that, there’s tons of competition and all it takes is a few unhappy customers, who are almost always wrong, to destroy everything you’ve worked for.
Bosses have to make hard decisions for a lot of reasons. Actually for one reason: money. That’s the nature of capitalism.
Government regulations, taxes and market forces all put pressures on a business, sometimes, no doubt, enough to make them fold. But that’s on the bosses. If they’ve got a product or a service people want, they can get away with raising their prices to cover their costs.
Obamacare is going to hit every sector of the business world. If Metz’s costs go up as a result, everyone else’s will, too. If his burgers and wings are any good, people will keep coming back, even if it costs them a little bit more.
Before the election, the Internet was awash in stories of bosses who urged their employees to vote for Romney and warned of the dire consequences if Obama was re-elected. They called it “educating” and “informing,” but it’s really threatening and bullying. And like voter ID laws, it backfired.
Obama won and now the job creators who couldn’t resist the urge to browbeat the people who depend on them for paychecks are either taking their contempt for their employees up a notch like Metz is or running away from it to avoid boycotts of their businesses and products.
There should be a special circle in Hell for bosses like Metz, guys who imagine that because they “built that” they have some special sauce that gives them the right to tell their employees what’s best for them and take their frustrations out on them when they don’t get their way.
Nick Hildebrand is The Herald’s news editor/weekend. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org