So, I totally buy the argument that there is a lack of knowledge in proper tipping etiquette. There was a time when I was unaware that people didn’t tip. It never occurred to me to not tip and it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t do it. And then in 1992, when I was twenty years old, I watched Tarantino’s, Reservoir Dogs.
You know the scene I am talking about. The tipping scene. Steve Buscemi, as Mr. Pink has this exchange with the others at the table:
NICE GUY EDDIE
Alright, everybody cough up some green for
the little lady.
[Everybody whips out a buck, and throws it on the table.
Everybody, that is, except Mr. Pink.]
NICE GUY EDDIE
C’mon, throw in a buck.
Uh-uh. I don’t tip.
NICE GUY EDDIE
You don’t tip?
No. I don’t believe in it.
NICE GUY EDDIE
You don’t believe in tipping?
Do you know what these chicks make? They make shit.
Don’t give me that. She don’t
make enough money, she can quit.
NICE GUY EDDIE
I don’t even know a fuckin’ Jew who’d have
the balls to say that. So let’s
get this straight. You don’t ever
I don’t tip because society says I
have to. Alright, I mean I’ll tip if somebody really
deserves a tip. If they
really puts forth the effort, I’ll give them
But this tipping automatically,
it’s… for the birds. As far
as I’m concerned, they’re just
doin their job.
It goes on from there but you get the point. Society doesn’t get to tell me who is tip worthy and who is not! My eyes were opened! From this point on I would never tip! Ever!
Unless she, “really put forth the effort.”
I think that lasted a week. Maybe a month. Holy hell were the guys in Reservoir Dogs overly nice to Mr. Pink because I tried that not tipping thing one time in front of a group of people. I was pretty sure none of them had seen Reservoir Dogs and I pulled my own Mr. Pink. They were maaaaaad at me! A couple of them ended up throwing in extra money on top of what they were already tipping because I was such an asshole for not leaving anything. One of them stopped talking to me forever. I literally never heard from her again. That was twenty five years ago and that was first and the last time I decided not to tip. It was made pretty clear to me that if you did not tip the service staff -- you were pariah douche bag number one!
But that was when I was twenty years old and most twenty year old men are still pretty stupid. I mean, to be honest, I didn’t really believe Mr. Pink’s arguments. I didn’t really want to not tip that waitress. But the scene in Dogs played out funny. I mean, really, really funny.
And if it played out like that in real life then everyone would laugh when I said it and we’d have a super funny conversation. Starring me! And then everyone would like me more! Because that’s how twenty year olds think -- dear God I just want everyone to like me!
Imagine my shock when it had the exact opposite effect.
I would never try and pull anything that stupid now. Now I tend to believe that if you tip less than fifteen percent you’re kind of a prick.
A story from two years ago:
A long time acquaintance of mine, Anna, is working a bartending shift at The Saloon, downtown Minneapolis. I am standing at the bar talking to her. Two men stand next to me and order drinks. She makes their drinks, tells them the cost. Each one pays for their own drink. The exact amount in cash. No tip.
She doesn’t say anything. She just comes back to me and rolls her eyes. We chat for another ten minutes. The two men have finished their drink and signal her for another round. She makes them both another round and drops them off to the two men. Again, each pulls out a roll of cash and pays for their own drink. The exact amount in cash. No tip. She takes their money and puts it in the register. They put their cash away.
Ten minutes later, this happens a third time. She takes their money. Exact cash for the cost of the drinks. She hands them their drinks. They both put their cash rolls away. No tip.
But this time --- as they reach for their drinks, Anna snatches the drinks away from their hands and puts them down in the sink behind the counter -- way out of their reach. She snaps at them, “If you can’t afford to tip your bartender then stay at home and drink!”
Both men, angrily protest (because men are really, really good at becoming angry -- especially when they drink) and demand their money back. Which I thought was fair but Anna doesn’t back down and they end up calling her “bitch”, “cunt” and “whore” as they are escorted out.
Then she gives both of their drinks to me!
You can apply her sentence to any form of food service employee. If you can’t afford to tip your waitress / bartender / delivery driver / cab driver / barista / bellman / valet than you can’t afford to go to their establishment and / or use their service!
Stay at home!
I don’t want to stay at home! And what’s with all that racist stuff about black folks not tipping?
I’ve read several studies and articles. And they all kind of say the same thing -- there is some validity to specific groups of people not tipping well. And it’s not because they are cheap. First let’s discuss who gets tipped, who does not and how much. From www.waitbutwhy.com -- they conducted an informal interview process with hundreds of tipped professions in NYC and compiled data from several hundred people that responded to their online survey. Their chart:
There doesn’t seems to be anything too out of the ordinary here. I appreciate the additional notes -- all of which seem to be valid points. I’ve still never understood why I should have to tip a bartender for opening a bottle of beer and handing it to me -- something which took all of five seconds. That’s worth a one dollar tip?
Maybe. Maybe not. I still do it, though. Bottle of beer - one dollar tip. As for the apartment doorman, that’s NYC thing. Well, maybe it’s a very large metropolis thing. But tipping at Christmas definitely happens.
Anyway, everything else I’ve read on tipping seems to support the general finding on the waitbutwhy site. But who are the non tippers? Who are the under tippers?
Sadly, there seems to be some validity to the stereotypes of specific groups, including ethnicities, tip less than would be "expected." A polling survey of 1000+ servers across the country concluded the tipping scales look like this:
That looks to be par for the course with the other articles I've read. Teenagers tip the worst (they don't have a lot of money), all male dining parties the best (men are insecure and want to show off to everyone). Some surprising details, such as -- Christians and smokers? Who knew smokers were above average tippers?
But of all the maligned tippers, blacks seem to have the worst reputation. I always found that to be a bit racist. And so I thought, I'll write an article about tipping and debunk that racist shit! But then -- I couldn't really find much information to back up that theory. I read Ebony's great article: Are Black People Really Bad Tippers? He offered some anecdotal evidence and sources some surveys and articles but his general conclusion, as a black man, was -- well, yes, we kind of are bad tippers. But his general breakdown of why is what's important. Basically:
1) Insufficient education about tipping.
2) People seek to confirm beliefs they already hold.
3) Bad tipping = an opportunity to stick it to, "the man."
4) Black folks get less than good service because of their tipping rep.
There are fair points. I just recently found out that it would be nice if one tipped housekeepers at hotels. This never occurred to me before. Which is an ignorance about tipping, a lack of education. So I totally buy number 1. I know the same is true with a lot of foreigners. I once had a meal with a few Greek ladies, a Chinese man, a Japanese woman, two people from India and a few Americans. After the meal, almost all the non Americans went out to smoke. I noticed that each and everyone of them left a single dollar bill on their plate. I went out and told them that they all under tipped by a few dollars each. They were pretty shocked and embarrassed about it. One of them, the Japanese woman, mentioned she had been told by her mother to tip everyone one dollar because -- that's what you do in America.
The Washington Post did their own research and found similar results about insufficient education:
From the WP article, "...indicates that black people tip less because they believe servers expect lower tips, and they underestimate the tip amounts that others leave. Whereas roughly 70 percent of whites identify the customary or expected restaurant tip to fall within 15-20 percent of the bill, only about 35 percent of blacks do. In addition, black respondents, on average, believe that the typical restaurant customer tips about 13.4 percent of the bill, while whites believe that the typical restaurant customer tips about 14.5 percent. Together, these differences in perceptions of “what is expected and typical” explain about half of the black-white difference in tipping."
Mr. Young, from his Ebony article, explains his second point: "It's very possible that the perception is driving the stereotype, instead of it being the other way around. Basically, if I'm aware Black people are thought to be bad tippers, I'm going to be more sensitive to any example of Black people tipping badly—evidence that would confirm thoughts I already had. It's really no different than the person who swears all Black men are dating White women, and takes the three interracial couples they see at the mall as proof—ignoring the 25 Black-on-Black couples they also walked past."
His third point -- ummm -- seems unlikely. And Mr. Young agrees calling it the "least likely (point) to be true" but adds, "it would be disingenuous to ignore the possible racial politics that could be at play here.
His final point, I feel, pulls his punch a bit. I think it should read, "Black folks get less than good service because of their tipping rep and also because some folks are racist pricks." Though, to be fair, he elaborates in the article: "It's no secret that Black people are thought to be bad tippers. You know what's even less of a secret for the last, I don't know, 400 years or so? That Black people have been on the receiving end of some pretty bad treatment ... we still often get treated differently than our White counterparts."
Yes. One hundred percent true. And that really made me think that each group of "under tippers" probably has equally valid reasons beyond the stereotypical, "they're cheap" for not tipping as well as society would expect. The same goes for folks that over tip,which is a trait I find to be a general sign of insecurity. There are mitigating factors in each and every case of tipping and I only singled out black folks because I was 100% positive I would be able to debunk the "bad tipping" stereotypes as outdated and biased. Instead what I found was that -- what a shock -- lots of people are shitty tippers for lots of different reasons.
While it's true that I was able to find some dissenting opinion to the black folk not tipping well stereotype but, to be honest, most of it read like bad fiction. Take, D. Watkins's piece, "Yes, black people do tip - even when we shouldn't have to" on Salon. It makes fine points. But if you read the article it hits every single trope you could possible imagine. Too good to be true (in other words). Remember, the easiest way to lose an argument is to grotesquely over state your opinion. The Watkins story was probably based in some truth and in writing was exaggerated for effect but as it hits every single perfect racist note and response, it stretches the imagination a bit.
But that's just one dissenting opinion. I'm sure there are thousands of valid bits of evidence both anecdotal and researched. I read several studies and published papers (the ones I didn't have to pay for anyway. Seriously, academia, like I'm going to pay $39.95 to read your twenty pages of research?) and they seriously all pretty much said the same thing. Don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself.
But, speaking anecdotally, I have two close friends who have been in food service for 20+ years. The first, Brad: a tall, built black man in his forties. The second, Robin: a short, firecracker white woman almost fifty years old. As I've known them a long time I've heard dozens of stories about shitty customers. Asking each of them flat out, "Over your twenty years of food service employment, which group of people, or ethnicity -- tips the worst?"
Brad, the black man, responds, "Oh, man! I'm embarrassed to tell you. But it's sisters. I can not count the times where I've had a group of sisters stay in my section for hours and spend hundreds and hundreds only to tip me, like, five dollars total."
Robin, the white woman, responds, "Moms on "kids eat free" night. Sorry. It's true. Moms bring their kids and all their kid's friends. It's a shit show. The moms drink like fish (then drive all the kids home). And don't tip at all. Half of my mom customers on "kid's eat free" night tip zero."
For what that's worth.
Hey, you never really tackled the point of, "I shouldn't have to tip because society tells me I must do so. Mr. Pink is right - if servers don't like their jobs they can quit!"
Mr. Pink is wrong. To see how wrong, check out, "15 of the worst "tippers" that will make your head spin." It's nothing but hypocrisy, ignorance, assholery and completely feigned "slights" against the tippers, "honor." In other words, bullshit.
There are some restaurants that are experimenting with paying higher wages and cutting out the need for tips. It's a totally fine plan that may or may not work. But for the most part, restaurants pay a wage much lower than their state minimum because employees are expected to make more money through tips. It doesn't matter if you like that fact or not -- that's the way the overwhelming majority of American restaurants work. If you hate it then do something to get more "high wage, no tip" restaurants into your neighborhood and frequent them. But enough with the childish "I don't believe in tipping" attitude. Seriously, when you say something that idiotic, you should like an ass-hat. Just stop.
"First and foremost, if you are a person that doesn't tip or -- whatever this is supposed to mean -- doesn't "believe" in tipping (as though it were a figure in Greek mythology), you are not allowed to go to restaurants. You cannot afford to eat out, either financially or ethically, or both. Spare the restaurant staff your presence."