Over the past few days, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz has spoken harshly of the restaurant industrys’ apparent practice of deducting a portion of the credit card transaction processing fee for customer bills from a server’s tips.  When I read the first article a few nights ago, it struck me as being a bit heavy handed and I felt like saying something.  But as with many such things, the feeling and the urge both passed.  Tonight, however, there was a follow up article on the same subject and I simply couldn’t resist. 

So, here it is, my first letter ever to a newspaper editor.

Dear Connie,

I always read your column. You are the closest thing to Maureen Dowd in the midwest that we get. I always like multiple points of view, and for that I am grateful.

I am also a regular customer at YT in Hudson and I disagree with your point of view in your past two Plain Dealer editorials.

The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive in the world. The economy is also in the doldrums. Management at YT could decide to eat the processing cost or pass it along to customers as an alternative. However, it is a mistake to suggest it is skimming off the top. It is real cost that someone must bear. If they pass along the costs, the consumer will look elsewhere, including staying at home. Ultimately, this means a loss of potential jobs which helps no one trying to take care of a family or even part of a family. Management could also eat the cost, but then who suffers or gets cut back? It might even be the Shibley’s favorite food shelter!

I actually had breakfast with Art Laffer in YT Hudson about one year ago. I would argue that if you want to talk about skimming, then perhaps we could consider the commission (TAXES) that the government takes off of every server’s paycheck each and every week.

Ohio has the third or fourth highest tax burden in the nation. With our state losing jobs to sunnier places like Florida, we are quite simply, just not competitive. You may also note that just as the rest of the world is becoming more capitalist, they are also reducing taxes. Russia, in particular, comes to mind. We can complain, but the march moves on. As the world becomes more competitive, assets will flow to the lowest cost provider that provides the best value. It is ironic that as the rest of the world adopts our capitalism, we are starting to adopt policies that approach their former socialism. We as a nation and as a state become less competitive and are left to wallow and fight over pieces of a shrinking pie rather than figuring out ways to grow it.

I believe all of us should help our neighbor. But I also don’t believe we can effectively and efficiently do so through compulsion or a heavy hand. Christ speaks to me as a servant whose heart is motivated out of joy not compulsion. Joy is an emotion that runs counter to earthly circumstances, be they good or bad at the moment. (ie the economy in this case) The heavy handed approach always ends badly, be it through a nationalized church that only ends up apostate or the ugliness of a dictatorship.

I will certainly pay my YT bills with cash, partly because of what you pointed out. But I would also be careful about painting the YT management team in an ugly light. They do provide paychecks, after all. They serve a very fine meal at a decent price, accompanied by great servers.

There is nothing like a Killet’ Skillet or YT Sunrise to cement a nice friendship over the years. And in the end, that’s what the whole YT experience is all about.

Kindest Regards,

Doug MacKay

Broadleaf Partners, LLC