Who really benefits when you tip?

Regarding "How much will you hand them?" (Oct. 23): Most of us agree that all workers, tipped or not, should receive a decent income. However, to achieve that goal by tipping is counterproductive. As your article noted, tipping benefits only the employer. Instead of paying a decent wage, the employer relies on the tipper to make up the difference. Most Americans believe tipping originated as a reward for good service, and they think that tipping still serves that function. Yet to the IRS and to most recipients of tips, the tip is a service charge expected or demanded regardless of the quality of service.

The way to ensure a decent wage to those who depend on tips is not to tip. Force the employers to pay a decent wage. Some cruise lines, for example, have eliminated tipping. In most of Europe, Asia, and Australia tips are uncommon. When you go to a restaurant in England or France, all service charges and taxes are included in the menu price.

Eliminate tipping and you will have solved all the inequities that go along with it. Require everyone to be paid at least the minimum wage and let market forces take over.

Arthur Belefant Melbourne Beach, Fla.

Knowing where to look for high art

Articles in your Oct. 26 edition covered the very high and the very low of culture in America.Unlike its title "Fashion as the high art of fantasy," the opinion piece on the Armani exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum leaves me wondering if we have exhausted the supply of fine art in this country.As its authors point out, there were no outstanding artists present, and there certainly appears to have been no reason for any to be there.

In contrast, your five-page coverage of poetry in the Books section lets us know that culture is very much alive in America.The interview with poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, "Let a thousand voices bloom," should be sent to every poetry teacher in the country. How we dress does not make a lot of difference in the long run, but how we relate to others makes all the difference.

Rich Hart Watsonville, Calif.

Gore's option for 'failing' schools

In your Oct. 23 editorial "Schools that keep promises," you discuss Gov. George W. Bush's voucher proposal for failing schools.

Then, instead of indicating how Vice President Al Gore would deal with the problem of failing schools, you stated that he has strong political ties to public-school teachers unions, treads softly on penalties, and is adamantly against vouchers.

It may have been more helpful to indicate what Mr. Gore actually has proposed. Gore proposes shutting down failing schools and reopening them as charter schools or reconstituted schools with rigorous peer evaluation of teachers. He supplements this with after-school and summer-school programs.

Gore takes the view that simply identifying a school as "failing" - and siphoning resources away - makes little sense. His strategy recognizes that students in failing schools often live in areas where there simply are not enough alternatives.

Tom Jerdee Fairview, N.C.

The slump in baseball viewership

Among the reasons that you cite for Americans' lack of interest in the World Series, ("America's pastime may be past its time," Oct. 27), I did not find what I consider the main one: Who wants to watch a bunch of millionaires play ball?

The sports and entertainment worlds are literally "turning us off" with their unreasonable salaries.

Betty Bradley Franklin, N.C.

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