The Brilliance of the Yogi-Yo Button

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Of all the technological marvels we’ve seen in ultra-modern South Korea, only one has completely wedged its way into our hearts: the Yogi-Yo button. Found on tables in many of Busan’s restaurants, it is utter, blissful genius. Press it, and your waiter appears like magic. Leave it unpressed, and you’re left alone.

There are plenty of advancements in Korea which the USA could sorely use. Bullet trains. Affordable, first-class health care. Efficient public transportation. A low crime rate. These are all important, to be sure, but if I could bring just one thing with me back home, it would be the Yogi-Yo button. My lord, do we need this.

“Yogi-Yo” approximately means “Hey, over here”! It’s what you would shout in a Korean restaurant to get your waiter’s attention. But with the Yogi-Yo button, you don’t even have to shout. If you want another bottle of soju, you don’t wait patiently for your server to come by. You just press this magical button and she’ll come running.

Our first few times eating out, we were too shy to actually use the Yogi-Yo button. It felt too pushy, and I’ve been conditioned by my American upbringing to treat waiters with meek politeness, rather than as the servants they are (heh, that little quip ought to win me some spite!) But now, in our third month in Korea, we press the Yogi-Yo button without hesitation. Sometimes, I’ll gobble up all the kimchi, not because I’m extra-hungry, but because I want to hit the button again and watch the waitress come scurrying.

Yes, the Yogi-Yo button must enter the American dining scene as soon as possible. And while we’re at it, we should also import Korea’s tipping policy. That is: no tips ever, not even pocket change. America’s waiters have gotten a little too entitled in the past decade. 20% now standard?! Yeah, I don’t think so. “Yogi-Yo, buddy. Get me another beer and, no, I’m not going to pay you extra for doing it”. That’s the way it should be.

All joking aside… after over ten years living outside the US, I find our tipping culture to be horrifying. Twenty percent is absolutely ridiculous, and found nowhere else in the world. It’s out of all proportion — the staff is simply performing the service they’re being paid to perform. Customers should expect to receive good service regardless of the “tip”. Am I right? And sure, waiters earn a pittance, depending on tips for their real wage — but how is that my fault? Restaurants ought to pay their employees correctly. After so much time living in other countries, the idea of paying somebody extra just because they carried food to my table seems completely insane.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. armyphoto

    i actually like the yogi yo button, the restaurant service is one of the few things i will miss when i leave here and the huge open air markets. I do think that servers in the states are often expecting too much of a tip and get mad when they don’t get it. 

  2. castro

    How about the super high-speed internet? Today it was reported that Korea has 106%(higher than 100%) broad-band high-speed broadband penetration, which is the best in the world by far. I am using 12 MB as a high-speed in the US, but in Korea many of households are using 100MB. House door-lock system in Korea is also impressive. They use finger-print identification, eye iris recognition or voice recognition system at the door-lock.

  3. Blackbird

    It’s interesting to read the complaints about tipping in America on the same page as a Paypal “tip jar”. Servers in America don’t deserve tips for working hard but y’all deserve them for being well-off enough to spend your lives traveling? Interesting.

    1. Mike Powell

      Heh, you caught us! But of course, the “tip jar” is a ton different than tipping at a restaurant. We don’t expect anyone to donate anything. It’s just an option for those who’ve benefited from the hard work we’ve put in, and would like to contribute — we didn’t even have one, before a few readers requested a way they could help us out.

      And, although I hate to damage our apparent reputation as jet-setting playboys, the idea that we’re well-off is so hilariously off-base, the record must be set straight. We have normal jobs, and work 10-12 hour days, me as a computer programmer and Jürgen as a freelance photographer and blogger. Travelling is just how we live. If I were to share what kind of budget we actually live on, or what was in our bank accounts, you would take back that “well-off” designation, and probably even consider hitting that tip jar after all. But hey, we’re not expecting it 😉

      And anyway — a 20% tip at a restaurant is still crazy by any rational standard.

  4. Christopher

    Was at a Korean restaurant last Thursday, and they had a Yogi-Yo button. I did not need to use it… my server staff was definitely on top of things throughout the meal. The next time I go, I’m going to try that sucker out!

  5. jjdaddyo

    In order to eliminate tips in the US, restaurants would have to pay servers a living wage, which they do not have to by their exception to wage laws they have carved out for themselves.If it helps, consider the tip amount as part of what you pay for your food, not in addition to it. Consider a restaurant where all items on the menu were 15% more than an identical restaurant down the street, but allowed no tipping of servers. I think most people would go to the restaurant with the lower prices, whether or not they actually tip the servers enough to make up the difference. I think people in the US have been conditioned to think that unless they have the power to withhold the tip, they will not get the level of service they should. This is something cultural (in addition to the economic reason cited at the top) that would be very, very, hard to change quickly, if ever.

  6. jan

    Hey you guys know how to rattle the cage!  In Australia we do not have a tipping policy.  Most people just leave change from the bill, some nothing at all.  When we travel overseas we are a bit hit and miss with it, not knowing what we should do.The only place in USA that we have been is New York.  As the meal was cheaper than what we would normally pay in Australia, we did not mind paying the tip.  I must say we were very impressed with the level of service from the waitress.  When we were there I do not think it was 20% though.  That is a bit over the top.  I think the restaurant owners should pay them 10% more and reduce the tip to 10%.  I don’t think you could phase it out quickly.  Of course the restaurants would put their prices up 10% so you would not be any better off.

  7. Ha

    Many Korean restaurants in the U.S. have the yogi-yo button as well! 

  8. abby

    Yes this!! I was a waitress/bartender for a year in the US and am vehemently opposed to tipping. Living in Korea, I love NOT tipping and still getting amazing, un-rushed service. I’ve never felt like I was being herded out the door for the next couple to take our place like so many places in the US. Also, my boyfriend and I were just discussing the magic of the yogi-yo button earlier today. Milk tea lattes, Korean healthcare, and yogi-yo are the three things I would choose to take home with me. 

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