What the heck: Tipping
I tip, of course I tip, it is willfully misunderstanding me to say I don't. I understand how it works. I would never take advantage of the system by not tipping because I know servers depend on it. I'm not cheap. (I'm not even spending my own money most of the time.) If I've ever under-tipped, it's probably because my arithmetic skills failed me. (Why would servers like a system that depended on the arithmetic skills of people like me who've just finished a couple of bottles of wine?)
I realize that changing the system would be like suddenly having everyone drive on the left side of the road. It won't change. (Service compris didn't last long at Pigall's) Therefore I will continue to tip--I'm not trying to start a movement or anything and I'm not going to call you names for having a different view. But my opinion has nothing to do with being cheap.
The tone of some people who have commented here proves its dangers: that we go out to eat and are waited on by people who judge us and think we owe them, and going by the kind of comments on server's websites, often despise us. I would rather be waited on by someone who is doing their job and being paid and evaluated by their employer, who should be motivated to make sure everyone in their establishment gets good service. Service in general would be better if it depended on a restaurants' attention to it than on the skills of individual servers.
I see the advantage of giving a direct motivation to servers. But I don't tip the nice lady at the Gap who helps me find my size. I don't tip the cheerful, accurate cashier at the grocery store. No one ever sends me a tip in the mail for a well-written story. (and when I cooked in a restaurant, I made far less than the servers made.) I think restaurant owners should pay servers a wage that makes sense, and then train them in service. It's a valuable job, and therefore servers should be paid the wage that it deserves. I don't see why servers like a system that puts them at the mercy of customers' whims.
Why should the people who can afford to tip lavishly be the ones being treated nicely? Why shouldn't the person I once was (and many of my readers are), someone who loved to eat out but could only afford it on special occasions, not be treated just as well as some fancy rich person who throws money around? Eponanymous's comment describing why tipping is good demonstrates to me the opposite: a system where you're sitting getting free drinks and i'm being given the once-over by the server who thinks my hesitancy or my clothes or my gender mark me as a potential bad tipper. It creates people who call me names and tell me they're going to spit in my food. Nice. The whole thing is like a caste system and seems very un-American to me.
Obviously, the price of dinner would go up. (My goodness, people must think I'm stupid!) But personally, I'd prefer prices to be upfront: the price of the evening's special, the price of the fancy cocktail, the price of the bottled water. You tell me what it costs, I'll pay it.