Are You A Generous Tipper?

Yesterday, a CNBC article went around social media with advice on how to save money when eating out. The advice came down to: tip less at restaurants. As you can probably imagine, the reason the article was going around social media wasn’t because it was a good article. It was being passed around because people were making fun of the article, and condemning anyone who doesn’t tip at restaurants.

My take: This may be an unpopular opinion, but I wishing tipping would go away. I wish it weren’t a thing at all.

To be clear. I’m a frequent tipper. I tip at restaurants. I tip my hairstylist and my nail lady. I tip for deliveries (like pizza or furniture). I tip housekeepers when I stay at hotels. True I don’t use their services very often, but when I do, I tip the valet and the bellhop. I also tip my Uber drivers. I try to make a habit of tipping generously.

But I would much, much, much prefer if the prices for all those services went up and translated to higher wages for workers, and then tipping went away altogether.

It’s hard for me to imagine a culture less fair then tipping. And the fact that certain wages are set lower (like a restaurant server’s), because there’s an assumption tips will be made, just drives me bonkers. Why should someone’s wages be determined by a customer’s mood?

There’s data that tipping is unfair across the board. At restaurants, servers who are people of color receive lower tips, and we know the history of tipping has roots in racism. At hotels, many people don’t know that tipping housekeeping is even a thing. And if they do know, there doesn’t seem to be any regular expectations around it. Do you tip your housekeeper every day? Or just at the end of the stay? Do you tip a flat amount per night? Or do you tip as a percentage of the night’s stay?

I remember when Uber introduced tips, I was totally bummed and vocally against it. I LOVED that there were no tips. It was one of the things that improved the experience for me over using taxis. Obviously, I’ve gotten on board, and I regularly tip my Uber drivers, but if I could choose to be charged a higher rate and not have the option to tip, I would take that option every time.

I want to imagine most people would like to be generous tippers. But it’s a dumb system. I detest having to choose a tip amount — either calculating the tip, or choosing a suggested amount from an app. Even when I tip a standard amount — like a minimum 20% at a restaurant — there’s this moment of feeling pressure to judge the services of my server that I find a really awful part of the whole experience. And then, once the tip is done, there’s this moment where I’m feeling judged as well. Did I tip enough? Should I be embarrassed by the amount I tipped?

There are practical issues too. In the case of a bellhop or valet, what if someone doesn’t have cash? And why is tipping expected in some industries but not in others? Who decides, and what’s the history there, and is our culture of tipping spreading? And what if you’re on a tight budget? Should people who can barely get by on what they earn be judged for tipping less?

Other thoughts that make me want to reject our tipping culture: When we lived in France, we discovered tips aren’t really a thing there. Like if your taxi ride was 5.85 Euros you would give 6 Euros and not ask for change, but there was no expectation of a tip. And of course, there is this depressing article you might have seen: Instacart, DoorDash, and Amazon Flex have been using tips to cover promised pay.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we should eliminate the tipping culture in the U.S.. We know it’s deeply uneven and unfair. We know it’s racist. And we know it’s used as an excuse by businesses to not pay a fair wage. Instead, charge consumers the price you would need to charge in order to pay a fair wage for your workers. If consumers won’t pay it, then perhaps your product/service isn’t as valuable as you think it is.

What’s your take? Are you a fan of tipping? Do you see value in the practice that I don’t? Do you feel like the tipping culture in the U.S. will ever go away? Are there restaurant chains that forbid tipping? Chains that make sure the public knows their servers are being paid higher wages in order to stop unfair tipping at their establishments? What would need to happen for tipping to disappear? And in the meantime, how can we solve electronic tipping for situations when cash isn’t on hand?

Lastly, what are your best and worst tipping stories. And have you ever lived in a place without a tipping culture? I’d love to hear.

Photo credit: The Study of the Hungry Human.

96 thoughts on “Are You A Generous Tipper?”

  1. Totally agree that tipping is a headache- and has generally gotten out of hand. That being said, I’m an American expat and nowhere that I have lived has service anywhere near American levels- so that is one benefit for sure. I currently live in Britain and it is generally not a tipping culture, other than sit-down restaurants at 10%ish. Some people talk about tipping being degrading or something but I personally never felt that when I worked as a waitress in the past. There is an issue of economic stability/predictability when living off tips. When I was waitressing, I had nights where I made literally $20 and others where I made $380 (about 12 years ago). It is worth reading about what Danny Meyers has been doing in his restaurants and his reflections for more nuance on the subject, especially re: kitchen staff.

    1. Agree, my Husband is from England and whenever we’ve eaten out there, I come away with more appreciation of our dining customer service in the U.S. Majority of time the english wait staff don’t enjoy their job and it shows, and with no tips there is no incentive to hide it.

      1. Tipping in Ecuador isn’t a thing and I loved it when we lived there for 3 months. I don’t like tipping. I agree with what you are saying. I would love to see it no longer exist.

        1. Bar Agricole, in the city, eliminated tips but then brought them back because they couldn’t retain waitstaff. I admire restaurants that try to eliminate tipping to ensure fair wages for all workers, but it seems like the whole culture would have to change (as you suggest), to really make it work.
          Here’s an interesting article about it.

  2. ugh. Former waitress here. On the one hand, it can be gratifying to get a good tip—as if being acknowledged for a job well done. BUT, I could always predict what type of tip I was going to get based on the table. Large group of women? Abysmal tip because they always insist on trying to split everything, and the tip is an afterthought. Large group of men? Always great tip (and this didn’t just apply to female servers)—they tended to round up. Alcohol involved? Larger tip overall. Luncheon coffee drinkers? Barely 10-15%. I could go on—it was totally dependent on mood, not necessarily my service abilities. The restaurant I worked at pooled our tips though (so that busboys and hostesses got a cut). It could hurt if you got back a lot less than you brought to the pile. I tip generously when service is good, and tend to call over the manager when service is bad (versus leaving a bad tip). I still do service—as a designer—but charge an hourly rate worthy of my time. If it is a service, why aren’t my clients tipping me when I go above and beyond—where does it stop? Where service workers negotiate their own rates (like independent hairstylists and house cleaners), why are we still tipping? I’d LOVE to see tips go away for the entire service industry. I find it so freeing to travel in Europe where I don’t have to worry about a tip.

    1. Amen on so much of what you commented!

      I can say there have been times when I have been out with friends and everyone is trying to figure out what their fair share of the bill is, and then Marcy wants to tip 20% because she thinks that’s fair, but Bridget’s toast was burnt, so she’s against that! (Because the wait staff somehow made the toast?) I have gotten to the point where if I dine with my women friends I just pick up the whole dang check because I can’t stand all the “here’s 3 more cents…” -really? It just drives me over the edge. I have also been known to “forget” something at the table so I can add to what was left as a tip when someone else has insisted on paying the tip, because ya, sometimes even the 20% isn’t enough for the work involved or the time wasted at someone’s station.

      1. PC, I wonder if my grandma ever wondered why I was so forgetful and had to go back to the table to get something (aka add to the tip!!).

    2. One thing I don’t like about tipping is that it creates a power structure between customers and waitstaff. The New York Times ran a piece last year about how tipping culture often means women have to put up with sexual harassment in order to make a good wage.

      “The balancing act plays out every day in restaurants across America: Servers who rely on tips decide where to draw the line when a customer goes too far. They ignore comments about their bodies, laugh off proposals for dates and deflect behavior that makes them uncomfortable or angry — all in pursuit of the $2 or $20 tip that will help buy groceries or pay the rent.”

      No one should have to deal with that at work.

      1. Totally. When I mentioned this to my husband, he sadly said he had been witness to this many times at lunch with co-workers without realizing it. Not overt harassment, but unwanted flirtation that was tolerated with a smile and a clenched jaw.

  3. I’ve heard the anti-tipping philosophy from Europeans and others before – usually as they shafted their waitress on the grounds that it’s an unjust system they didn’t want to support.

    I’ve never waited tables but close family members have, and they’d all be strongly against eliminating tipping. It’s what makes waiting tables – at least potentially, for a skilled server at a good restaurant – a well-paid job rather than yet another minimum wage gig that has to be combined with several other jobs to get by. I’d have to hear real live waitstaff’s own opinions against it rather than just middle-class people sounding off theoretically, before I’d take the view seriously.

    But for what it’s worth, I think tipping is a nice (and increasing rare in modern life) opportunity for a direct person-to-person business relationship. I try to tip generously (20%+) in general. If a server a great job (i.e., is prompt, polite, is kind to my kid), I’ll give more. Oh, and when my child was younger, I left more if they made a mess. I’ve only ever gone below 15% when the waiter/waitress did a terrible, horrible job and was a jerk, and it was 100% their own fault, i.e., not because of the kitchen or understaffing.

    1. I love this:

       I’d have to hear real live waitstaff’s own opinions against it rather than just middle-class people sounding off theoretically, before I’d take the view seriously.

      1. I hated when parents would let their children make a mess at the table. A generous tip is nice for great service but not an excuse to let a child trash the place or run around the restaurant. It’s not ok to trash a store just because you’ll pay full price vs sale items. I never understood this from parents.

  4. A local cafe that we frequent went to a no-tip policy. They raised their prices and their wages and it’s AMAZING! Everyone who works there seems to really enjoy it and I love going their to support them. I wish more places would do this.

  5. I only tip 20% if the service is exceptional otherwise 10% is good enough. I tip generously when I travel to third world countries as I know workers are treated unfairly. In many cases some of the workers are not on company payroll as the company expect us the travellers to pay for their services. Since the laws in these countries are ridiculous I try my best to sympathize with them.

    Countries like America and Canada can eliminate tips but refused.

    1. You do realize that the restaurant workers in the u.s are generally making far lower than minimum wage and your 10% tip is taxed? I listened to a podcast this year where the speaker was sharing that they have chosen to tip generously this year. I am trying to do the same. and honestly it feels great. Rather than giving to various charities, to give to an actual person that I interacted with is a nice change. I am honestly not judging you. I do not mean to throw shade, just sharing a fresh perspective. And for the record when I get shitty service I do lower my tip, or in very rare situations no tip at all.

      1. Waitstaff in the US makes less than the minimum wage of 7.00 an hour usually closer to 3-5 dollars an hour. A tip of 10% is not”good enough”, it’s just cheap.

    2. I’m wondering if Pinky is American. Regardless, 10% is nothing. Literally. I made $2.50 an hour, so my checks were $0 (everything went to taxes). Then I had to tip out to busboys and hostesses, so….literally, at 10%, I’m basically paying to wait on you.

      Just be aware, if you’re a regular anywhere, your food is definitely being tampered with.

      1. Bethany Johnson

        Summer– same! I worked as a server while in school (which I received no help paying for since no one could help) and my wages for the first four years were $2.19 an hour. I lived fifteen miles from Times Square. I lived in a friend’s basement room to make ends meet over the summers. And the year I made the “mistake” of getting the cheapest/worst healthcare coverage the company offered I OWED THEM MONEY EVERY PAYCHECK. I worked 40 hours a week. So I think tipping 10% is offensive in our current system, and would prefer people that feel that way just pick up sandwiches or eat out in countries where servers are paid anything close to a living wage. Now, having said that, I know some states like California pay minimum wage or close to it and people still tip. That is very different than what I experienced. And yeah– the tip out! Those folks get fewer tips because WE pay them, and if we can’t because people are stiffing us, they logically help us less, making our jobs even harder. It is a pecking order set up to reward the restaurant owners or if a chain, the corporate structure and punish everyone doing the manual labor.

    3. Wow, yeah, 10% is cheap. That should be the amount you leave if you’re protesting service that was not great (but not “speak to the manager” abysmal). 15% is the absolute minimum you should be leaving and really, 20% is what you *should* do. Truly exceptional service deserves more than that. I tip 10% when I pick up carryout orders, FFS. If you are a regular anywhere, your servers do not like you. (This is all assuming you are American and dining in the US. If you are visiting here, then you’re being a jerk, but at least you’re not here for long.)

  6. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!! Everything you say is 100% TRUTH. I moved to Europe about 8 years ago. Will add this: I grew up in Palo Alto when it was “affordable” and now when I go to visit I can barely afford to do anything. I hate that visiting my parents requires me to spend, easily, 4 times as much in a week than I would spend where I live now. I have to save up all year long to visit my family and it’s incredibly stressful. Tipping is a HUGE, huge part of why this is so hard for me. A four dollar cup of coffee at a mediocre cafe with no ambiance? An overpriced sandwich in SF that I have to wait in line to acquire and eat standing at a little booth? And if I don’t tip it’s somehow ME who is unreasonable? Eugh. Sorry for the rant but I HATE THIS.

  7. I hate tipping too. I always feel like I’m judging the service, or the employee, or the restaurant as a whole. Can’t I simply pay for the meal and be done? I also always feel guilty if I get a peak at what someone else tipped. I have friends who are former waiters and will tip 30% or more. That makes me feel bad when I just wanted to eat and not feel more or less superior to anyone. Like many people today I often don’t have cash so can’t tip doorman or the like on a whim. What I hate is when tips are for coffee shop workers, or take out restaurants, like you literally did nothing extra than you would for anyone else. I take no special service or higher priority than anyone, but yet I finding myself paying a dollar or 2 extra for my meal.

    1. I had a friend who did carry outs at restaurants and she said they can actually be a lot of work, so tipping 10% or even a couple dollars when you get take out is probably a good idea since it is going to the person who set it up. Especially if you have large orders.

      At my local coffee store they now add the option for tips when you use your credit card (they raised prices when they allowed for cards). My issue are the options are 20%, 25% 30% and then custom. If I have cash I usually give change or a buck or two if its for a fancier drink that takes time not just regular coffee and if I use my card I usually add a dollar, but I don’t like that the options at the coffee shop are not 10%, 15%, 20% or custom. But that’s just me.

      I always say if you can’t tip 20% then you shouldn’t be at that restaurant. I have a family member who only tips 10% for breakfast because it is “just breakfast.” I talked with them about it and how it was rude, but they still continue the practice. So whenever my husband and I go out with them (his side of the family) we always overtip because they are so cheap. Ugh, thinking about it ticks me off.

  8. I hate tipping for the reasons that you outlined and also for the math anxiety! Plus, there are those situations, like when you pick up food from a restaurant, that are grey areas. Do you tip then? (I don’t, but maybe that’s gauche.)

    As a kid I had no idea tipping for hotel maid service was a thing. I discovered that as an adult, but now I tip those folks too. We also never tipped food delivery people when I was a kid, but when I went to college I discovered people did that too.

    I completely agree that I’d rather pay more for a service and have no expectation of tipping. That would be wonderful.

    The funniest tipping story I have is when I saw a tip jar at a LensCrafters. Ha!

    1. What about those restaurants that are more fast casual but a tip comes up on the checkout screen? If it’s my first time at the place, I have zero idea of the level of care they’re providing. Are they bussing my table? Are they offering me anything more than a McDonald’s worker would? And it’s always awkward because they’re standing right there as you decided what to do.

  9. Tipping is the worst. My fiance and I had a particularly bad dinner experience a few months ago (waited almost 2 hours for a 10-inch pizza and lasagna). The server felt terrible and it wasn’t her fault, so we left her a 25% tip. My feeling is that if you have bad restaurant service, you should speak with the manager, leave a review online, or tell your friends not to waste their time at the place. Tipping a server less than 20% is not going to change a thing other than frustrating the server. Most of the time bad service is not their fault. It’s the management style or the lack of training by management or a slow kitchen.

    You could always follow Dwight Schrute’s philosophy on tipping: only tip people who perform services you can’t do yourself, like a doctor performing a prostate exam :)

  10. My family just returned from two weeks in Japan and I have to say, the no-tipping culture there is so nice. You just feel freed from that obligation to somehow judge the service, do the quick math and leave a tip. You can just eat a meal, pay and leave (after bowing your thanks, which also feels so civilized). The locals we talked to where mystified why we don’t just pay people a living wage and eliminate tips altogether.

  11. I’m from New Zealand and the tipping culture is not huge here at all. 20 years ago when I was a waitressing teenager sometimes people would pay the odd tip but businesses weren’t set up to take it and it used to just get put in a kitty. Now, though, i see that there is some American culture trying to push in here and there has become options to tip when you pay by card and you have to do that awkward “no” selection on the machine. We have good minimum wage here and I refuse to tip every single time I come across it, which is not too often. I agree that prices should go up if it’s not enough to pay wages, but in our country, as I said, workers are well supported by minimum wage. We would always say “keep the change” in a taxi, but that’s as far as it goes for me and I hope the fledgling practice of it dies down. I want to travel to America one day, the thought of all the tipping practices puts me off a little, and I hope by the time my family has saved enough money to travel there, that workers are all paid a fair wage and we can just choose to do what we can and can’t afford without having to then factor tipping in. Workers in all industries should be rewarded by fair pay, and being paid fairly by their employer motivates workers to feel valued and give good service to the consumer, who in turn keep spending their dollars where they are happy with the service.

    1. I feel like the “square” payment option here for smaller businesses (i.e. swipe your card on their iPad, they turn it to you to decide on a tip or not) has made me feel like I need to tip even MORE often than I ever would have in the past. I come into a bakery to pick up some cookies to take to work, or a cake I ordered. Do I leave a tip? It wouldn’t even occur to me were it not an option I had to click past on the iPad. And I feel like its a rotten thing to do to customers! Introduces guilt where there would not have been any otherwise. Your job at a bakery is running the bakery. There aren’t servers…so why am I being forced to say NO to a tip?

      That being said, I am a very generous tipper typically, and more often than not, on one of those machines, I go ahead and add the tip. I’ve just been feeling lately that its TOO MUCH. Your baked goods are already really expensive! YOU set the price for my haircut (independent stylist)…set it so I dont need to stress over my tip! I’m just getting takeout I ordered online! etc. etc. etc.

      1. I agree about tipping at smaller businesses. I’ll go to my local coffee shop every week or two to get a latte and pick up a bag of coffee beans. I don’t mind tipping 20% on the latte, because it took a fair amount of work to make, even though that makes it a $6 or $7 drink. That’s expensive, but it’s really tasty and I knew what I was getting into when I walked in. But I don’t feel like I should have to tip 20% on the cost of a $20 pound of roasted coffee beans. Isn’t that more like a grocery item? But because they get rung up together, I feel weird putting in a custom tip (which takes longer, and that makes me feel extra shameful, like I’m willing to go to extra effort to give them less money), so sometimes I end up just tipping 20% on the entire cost. (20% is the lowest of the “suggested” tip amounts.) In the end, I guess the best thing is for me to suck it up, try to feel generous rather than resentful, and go less frequently if cost is really an issue.

  12. I always tip, and I have been on the receiving end–when I was a dog groomer–and I hate the whole thing. I would much rather pay a fair price to a place that was paying a living wage and be done with it.
    I see it as yet another area where employers are trying to increase profits at labor’s expense; akin to keeping people just under full time so they don’t have to pay benefits.

    1. I agree with you. I’ve been a waitress and I tip because we are part of a tipping culture and I tip 20% (or sometimes higher if the bill is really small to begin with) because NOT tipping would imply I thought the service was poor and also because I know their wages aren’t high.

      I would be happy to see the tipping culture disappear and just pay a higher price. Why should I feel obligated to make up for the employer making a higher profit rather than paying the employees well?

      Also, when I was younger the instruction was that you need not tip the business owner. But now it is expected.

      And the tip jar for EVERY LITTLE THING irritates me – especially because I have no idea who actually gets that money.

  13. I ran in to get a few bagels this afternoon and the tip jar in the counter was an annoyance. I don’t think ringing up an order and bagging my bagels deserves a tip. Grocery store checkers don’t get tips. However it makes me feel bad/ cheap to ignore the tip jar. I threw in my 50 cent change but maybe that’s worse than not tipping at all!?
    I would be in favor of higher prices to support higher wages and get rid of tipping!

  14. I tip 20% for most services, and 25% if the service was exceptional. I also like to leave good reviews with the person’s name, in case there is a chance they get a bonus.

    For hotels, I generally ask the front desk how they do it, or I just have cash in an envelope that says FOR HOUSEKEEPING taped on the door (yes, I travel with a little roll of Scotch tape…never know when I’ll need to “hem” something!).

    I do wish tipping would go away, but I don’t know how that would happen from industry to industry. Even if tipping went away at restaurants, I would still feel compelled to tip my hair dresser, the dog groomer, the movers, and housekeeping.

  15. Basic for us is 20%, unless the service has been honestly horrendous, and even then we still tip. We also tip for housekeeping when traveling, and I have found several ‘thank you!’ notes from staff, and more than a few treats left on the desk from grateful housekeepers. Bellhop- yes, valet- yes, salons- yes, I could go on, but yes yes yes we tip…. because we need a LIVABLE minimum wage in this first world country and until we have on, people count on those tips- even the crappy servers, etc.

    I loathe the communal tip jar, because we have had servers who have definitely gone far above what is considered great service. We had a guy in a SLC restaurant give us fab info on where, what, and how, names + numbers, I mean the guy was loaded with amazing insider info that my friend USED to find and purchase a home in a city she had never visited before. She gave him a very generous tip for his time and help and it went to everyone -which is fine to a point, but he worked for that extra. Anywho.

    And for the people who say “if they increase wages to eliminate tips the prices of everything would go up!”- my point to you is YOU ARE ALREADY PAYING THE HIGHER WAGE FOR THE OWNER OF THE RESTAURANT! *You* are paying it, not the owner of the restaurant. Let that sink in. If that owner raised his employees wages 20% and raised the price of your meal 20% you essentially are paying the same thing you are now. The only difference is that worker has a guaranteed wage, no guessing what they will bring home this week. We need to stop being so concerned that someone *might* get in the financial line in front of us, and start worrying that there are so many people in that same line behind us.

    God gave us two hands, One to feed ourselves, and one to feed others.

  16. I would also be fine with eliminating tips. It’s awkward, and like others have said, where do you draw the line? I would rather support businesses who pay their workers a fair wage proportional to the work completed. That being said, I have family/friends who are servers, and they make more money with a low wage plus tips than if they were paid a typical wage for our area. In our local, rural counties, the median household income is right around $44,000. (and that’s often with two people working, some with college degrees) I have an aunt who is a waitress who makes more money than I do at my professional job. Many jobs in our area pay less than $10/hour, so servers make more with tips than if they were paid a basic wage. Maybe it depends on the area where someone lives?

  17. My funniest tipping story: my sister was on a date and noticed her date didn’t leave a tip, so she put some cash on the table. Her date picked it up and said, “I need this more than he does,” and pocketed the tip.

    They did not have a second date 😂😂😂.

  18. I hate tipping. I do it and I hope that I am generous but it infuriates me that businesses can get away with paying horrible wages because of tipping. Just put it in the price of what I’m paying for! And then on the flip side, why do some people get paid extra for simply doing their job and others do not? I am already paying a hairstylist to cut my hair. Why do I need to tip on top of that. (I do! Stop judging!) What is the tip for? I’ve had horrible haircuts and I still tipped because I felt obligated to do it. Tipping in no way ensures quality. Also, it’s a totally arbitrary endeavor. Everyone has their own equation as to who gets tipped and how much. My general rule is anyone who feeds me, touches me, cleans up after me, or takes care of my stuff gets a tip. But it’s not hard and fast. I tip the guy who cleans my car but not the guy who changes the oil. How about the gardeners, the mail carrier, the police who patrol the streets? Should I tip the gal at Sephora because she went into the back and found the lip mask I love? A line has to be drawn somewhere. It’s a tricky business.

  19. I am Australian and tipping here is not a thing (except for loose change jars on counters, certainly never an expectation that you will leave coins though). However, I am a frequent UberEats customer and they have just introduced tipping. So when you rate the driver and meal now it asks if you want to tip the driver. It is so annoying because I feel like I should do the nice thing and tip them even if the service was totally not noteworthy.. but that means a separate $1/2/3 charge comes out of my account. It is so annoying to feel like I have to tip or feel like a nasty cheapskate! I can’t imagine having to tip for other services like in the U.S – sounds like a nightmare!

  20. I am a regular (or perhaps generous, depending on your definition) tipper now and don’t think much about the details now that I have gotten into the habit of preparing for valet and other tips by having cash on-hand, but I remember it stressing me out when I was in college for all the reasons you mentioned—will people judge me? Is 15% enough if I’m on a budget? Do I tip the shuttle driver?

    I would prefer a no-tip culture for simplicity if nothing else, but I think the point about it being discriminatory is a very good argument against tipping and something I never would have considered!

  21. I would love it to disappear. Till then 20% is my standard at restaurants with a little less for someone who offers indifferent service, and more for someone who does the extra work dining with children inevitably requires or makes my life easier. I tipped like a rock star when the server at Disney World made me feel like a kick ass mom, and I also made a formal complement. Being totally forgotten about by the server (not the hostess or kitchen issues) is the one thing that gets a low tip from me.

    1. Like many above, I also hate tips, mostly because I never know who or how much is appropriate! I want to be generous but also reasonable. It seems like there are so many rules and I’ve yet to encounter the handbook!

  22. Ok so in regards to tipping people other than servers at a restaurant….our grocery store here in florida ( Publix) loads the groceries into the car for you and all the employees have name tags that say “no tipping, serving you is my pleasure” and it’s true!! Places that pay their workers a good wage =happy employees who enjoy their jobs ( for the most part) so I love that these people are being cheerful and helpful bc they want to be, not bc they are trying to “work me” for a good tip.

  23. On tipping hairdressers, my hairdresser (who owns her own shop) just told me I could venmo her my tip—but please be sure I put in “for drinks” or something and not “for tip” or “haircut” in the memo line. It really bothered me (and yet yes of course I did it). I feel like if you own your own salon, I shouldn’t have to tip, and if I do tip it shouldn’t be made to look like I just paid you back for drinks so you can avoid paying taxes on it.

    I’ve never thought about the racial inequalities of tipping—Gabby thank you for bringing up that point. Makes me even more want to do away with tipping here. Just charge a fair price so that people make a fair consistent and equitable wage!

    1. I do not think there should be any obligation to tip when the person doing the service for you owns their business.

  24. I do not like tipping. I moved from Australia where tipping was not expected. It was a shock that restaurants in the USA do not pay their workers better wages so they do not have to depend on tips to make a decent living.

    1. I have been on both sides.

      On one end I went to Olive Garden once and received good service from my server, but she charged me a gratuity wait for it… a party of 1.

      This pissed me off to no end because I intended to tip her anyhow, but it’s ludicrous to add gratuity to one person, especially if the cost of the order wasn’t even $20 bucks.

      On the other side, I have been a server and currently do ubereats walker delivery on the side.

      Yes, that’s right, I walk to a restaurant (labor)

      Pick up your food
      And walk to your address and deliver your order. (More labor)

      I’ll note that Uber doesn’t let customers know if their delivery person is on bike, coming by car or on foot.

      Not doing so I feel affects tips because the customer thinks you are driving to them and expects the food at a certain time when you infact may be on foot.


      You should tip for the convenience.
      And tip respectably because I’m only seeing 3 to 4 dollars earned on average.

      Like here in NYC we often have folks in apartments who live up 4 or 5 flights of stairs with no elevator.

      In my experience half the time they undertip if they tip.

      There is nothing more annoying than picking up your latte from Starbucks or a bagel shop, having to go up 5 flights of steps and you are too cheap to leave a couple of dollars in those situations.

      I’ve gotten “50¢ and “70¢ tips respectively. (I’d rather you not tip at all as that’s disgraceful)

      We can argue that a fair wage should be paid and that’s one thing, but in the states I don’t ever see that happening, and until does don’t be cheap.

  25. Whitney Ingram

    I tip extra during the holidays. Just like the rest of us, they are trying to make a magical Christmas and make ends meet at the same time.

  26. Tipping is stressful – especially when you’re travelling. What is the ‘expected’ tip for a doorman, porter and waiter in the US? We’re leaving for the States on a trip tonight and I never know so always feel worried I’m under tipping…and exchange rates are hectic for South African rands so I also don’t have extra cash to throw around. I want to be fair. We will be travelling to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Do tipping rates change in different cities?

    1. I’d say always 20% or more at restaurants (for those struggling with the math, it’s just moving the decimal to the left and multiplying by two. So, $20.00 > $2.00 x 2 + $4.00 tip). I don’t think that’ll change by city, but the prices in general might, which affects the tip amount.

      Doorman, valet, porter… I’d say it kind of varies by place? A couple of dollars, $5 (maybe more if they did an outstanding job or if you really had a ton of stuff to haul around).

      I hope that helps and enjoy your trip! I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa!

    2. Fellow South African here.

      This all sounds crazy. We do tip for meals in restaurants but our average is 10%. When you pay through the Zapper app, I think it defaults to 12.5% but I feel no obligation to move it down to 10%.

      If I had to tip everywhere and 20% or more in restaurants, I’d probably never go.

      Such an interesting discussion which I will take to Instagram :)

  27. I am in the UK and find tipping in the US perplexing!

    This was on BBC radio a couple of days ago about tipping. Not sure it will be accessible for everyone.

    Here in the UK I tip waiters and waitresses but always check how the tipping’works’ in a restaurant. Generally it is about 10%. I never tip anyone else and don’t know anyone else who does!

    I will be travelling to New York next month and have realised that tipping and how I am ‘supposed’ to deal with it is an issue i haven’t faced up to….any pointers?

  28. Such a good post! As a part time waitress, I 100% agree that your pay shouldn’t be determined by a customers mood! Our restaurant also has a 3% charge for every shift (read about it it’s a controversial topic) where 3% of the total amount spent by customers on the tables you served gets taken from your tips and if you didn’t make enough tips that day to cover it, it comes out of your own money to give to the company! I enjoy waitressing but I completely agree that the pay should just be higher and tipping should be eliminated!

  29. I just got home from a trip to Italy. All, and I mean all of the dining bills from all different areas of the country had the service charge removed and they servers were expecting a tip. We were informed by different people-a manager and a fellow patron at a different restaurant that a tip of 10% was expected. This was a complete change from when we traveled there 4 years ago and your bill would have a service charge and if you like the service you would leave a Euro or two. Was this just for Americans because the servers would receive more than the service charge?

    1. I am from Italy and this sounds really new to me. I live in the Northern part of the country, I often eat out and tipping is not expected. I wonder who told you this and whether they were just trying to take advantage of foreign tourists…anyway, not nice.

  30. I have always been a pretty generous tipper but i think it has gotten out of hand. Like when you pay at a counter with a credit card and there are all the tip options on the screen. It’s so awkward!!

  31. I’m Australian and while visiting the US, tipping felt so weird! I always felt like I was judging the person with my money. I totally agree with increasing minimum wages so everyone can feel valued for their work and not by the tips they may or may not receive.

  32. I work as a tour guide and my compensation is comprised of tips. It’s weird because many people do not know to tip me but the company I work for pays me a low wage because gratuities should make up the difference. I have found I get less tip money from large groups because everyone assumes that everyone else is giving more so they can give less which mean big tours equals less pay than small tours. It’s frustrating for sure. I love my job and put my best self into every tour but the tipping part kinda sucks.

  33. I don’t love tipping but I found studying in England (where they don’t tip like we do) even more uncomfortable. I was so used to tipping, and my friends and I just couldn’t get accustomed to leaving a restaurant without a tip. It felt so rude!!

    The only time I don’t tip at home is at a restaurant near my college where I know the servers make a full wage, and the restaurant owners take all the tips for themselves. No thanks!

  34. Gabi–

    Since CA does pay waitstaff a real wage, not prorated to some impossibly small hourly rate to account for tips, do you find people in CA tip less than other parts of the US?

    My rule for tipping tends to be: If I don’t want to do it myself, I’ll tip. E.g. I’m going out to eat because I don’t feel like cooking/serving/cleaning up after dinner, so yes, I tip. We definitely add an extra “child tip” when our child has created extra work or gotten a lot of extra attention from the wait staff.

    It is so much easier in countries where tipping is not common, and I do wish the US would follow suit, what is so wrong with wanting everyone to have a dependable income, that they can count on.

    We just had a big referendum in DC to pay all tipped workers the same minimum wage as untipped workers. It passed, but then was overturned by the city council under pressure from restaurant owners. I have since selected who I vote for based principally on whether or not they voted to overrule the democratic process.

  35. I’m nodding along to this post and the comments. I’m also very much in favor of a culture makeover to do away with tips. The thing that perplexes me (and maybe I’m not thinking about it correctly) is that what a server “earns” can swing so significantly based on what I order, even when the work the server does is roughly the same. Lets look at the difference between ordering a $60 bottle of wine versus a $160 bottle of wine. The work to uncork the bottle, bring it to the table and pour it is the same. If the “standard” 20% tip is provided, we’re looking at a $12 tip vs. a $32 tip.

    When I was a server, the tables that made me hustle the most were the thirsty ones that had ordered pop (yes, “pop.” Midwesterner here!) and wanted refill after refill. The pop didn’t cost that much, but the work I did to keep the glasses full was certainly more than the table sipping a glass of wine. So, unfair wage aside, what else am I missing here when it comes to our current restaurant-economics tipping math?

  36. I agree with so much of what other former waitstaff have said on here: It sucks when you have a bad night and it is completely based on people’s moods, but it is amazing when you have a good night. It definitely keeps up the service levels we’re accustomed to, but does seem to have gotten out of hand.

    My biggest annoyance now is that there are tip jars everywhere (including the little kiosks when you pay by credit card). Like, I bought a bagel and you get paid at least minimum wage, so….no. I think it cheapens the work waitstaff do.

    I’m going to just say this: Waiting table reaaaaally brought out a prejudice that I’m not proud of. Europeans and Indians, I would add auto-grat to the bill (and I would present the bill and tell them I did so – I wasn’t being sneaky about it!) just so that I wouldn’t be ripped off.

    1. Do you think minimum wage is a living wage? A small tip really makes a huge difference in someone’s life who is making minimum wage.

    2. I agree that when waitressing prejudice comes out after seeing repeated behavior from certain groups of people that made me uncomfortable and questions my morals vs my paycheck. That being said I have found to be pleasantly surprised when younger generations would circle back and make sure the tip was taken care of, which shows that it’s more of a cultural norm of not tipping than choosing not to tip or a reflection of service. I have also been on the receiving end of a waiter adding the auto gratuity and feeling like it was because it was a group of Latinos. In that case I choose not to tip extra and the waiter loses since I am a generous tipper. When the gratuity is chosen to be left open I make sure to tip generously so that the waiter has a positive experience and the prejudice is lessened. There were times when I was a server and I chose my morals and didn’t add the auto gratuity in hopes of being proven wrong and there were times I added it because I couldn’t afford to find out. There were times when I lost and others when I won. I will also say to teach your teenagers to tip. Worst tables were affluent white teenagers for prom, sports teams, etc. If parents give them money to eat out explain that they should tip. For all these reasons I think tipping stinks and is so complicated.

    3. Anne, your post was so informative! I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as auto-grat (except for extraordinarily large parties). I guess I should be flattered that I have never had a gratuity automatically added to my bills. :D

      And it’s interesting what you bring up about prejudice–I always over-tip because I am worried that Asians have a bad reputation for under-tipping and I (Korean American) want to overcompensate for that. I suppose it’s silly, but having grown up in a homogeneous part of America (i.e., being the only Asian family in a 50-mile radius), I’m used to having whatever I do be interpreted as something _all_ Asians do.

  37. My full-time job is working as a mental health counselor, but it didn’t pay enough to make ends meet on my mortgage, so I worked as a server at a restaurant in addition to being a counselor last summer. It blew my mind how differently I was treated working Saturday at the restaurant to working Monday at the clinic… I’m the same person in both roles, but I was treated with FAR more respect as a counselor. I wish tipping could be altogether removed — the power dynamic that it leads to between server and customer feels slightly unethical. It would be different if servers made a living wage, but they usually don’t in the United States.

  38. Thank you for highlighting the history of racism in the tipping culture in the US. It’s something I feel often goes unnoticed, and I appreciate you using your platform to speak about it.

    There is also a lot of discrepancy between who gets tips, with a lot of it going to the front-of-house staff and often not a lot going to those who work primarily in the kitchen. Fat Rice in Chicago is working hard to provide living wages and health care for all of their employees and earlier this year introduced a Fair Wage line item in their bills along with a full explanation of why they are doing it. I appreciate their transparency and look forward to a day where everyone makes a living wage and I no longer have to do math in my head.

  39. I’m British, but I lived in the US for a while and found tipping etiquette deeply confusing and stressful. But more than that, to me it feels a way for business owners to avoid paying their employees fairly – so the low-paid hospitality staff lose out hugely, and the customer could theoretically end up paying over the odds to make up that shortfall.

    To me it’s simple: if you work somewhere, you should earn a living wage, with benefits. And honestly I don’t think British poor customer service is a reflection of our tipping culture! We’re just genuinely not as good at the service industry as the US or Canada yet – and a lot of that is to do with management – but we are improving, I would say. Tipping isn’t really a thing in Denmark, for example – but the service we had there was mostly impeccable.

  40. Like others I really dislike our US tipping culture. In general I tip restaurant servers who bring food to my table 10%; sometimes up to 20% if the service is better than average. I live in Oregon which has a $10.75 minimum wage (still too low) AND a state law requiring all employers to pay this wage to all employees – even tipped employees. I also tip hotel staff who clean my room. I rarely use valets or doorman, but will give a small tip when I do. I will also tip a delivery person. But that’s it. I don’t tip for food counter service (coffee), my hair stylist or any spa treatments (rare for me). I certainly do not tip at places like Lens Crafters – ha!

    When I travel outside of west coast states, I do tip higher because as already stated, many states have appalling low minimum wages for tipped workers.

    This map from the Department of Labor is eye-opening. We should all be advocating for living wages paid by employers.

    I’ll just add my sister makes her living as a server.

  41. I do wish that wait staff were paid high wages, so that they didn’t have to depend on tips to survive. That said, I also like the chance to give a generous tip to someone who has gone above and beyond or put up with my picky children, etc.

    One thing to remember, though, is that tips are often pooled amongst wait staff and often shared with the kitchen staff too. Not sure whether that is here or there, but it does mean that just because you really liked your server and gave a good tip that that individual will get to keep it all.

    When it comes to hotels, I try to leave a tip for the cleaning staff every day, because the there is no guarantee that the same person will be on duty multiple days.

    Again, I do wish that people in these jobs were paid a living wage to begin with, and that a tip can be an extra gesture of appreciation, rather than a means of enforced subservience in order to earn a living wage.

  42. I hate tipping, it’s the worst! Because honestly, it’s not clear how much to tip!

    Going out to eat at restaurants, I understand the customary standard is 15-20% but here in SF, servers are paid min wage. So should they still be getting 15-20% in addition to the 3% health insurance charge I see on the final receipt?

    When I get food delivered, there’s a delivery charge. I paid for that. Now I need to tip on top of the delivery charge. How much?

    I just self served myself a box of salad at a to go place. I see a screen to add tip. Really, I should be giving 20% to this person who basically did nothing beyond swipe my card for the transaction?

    It seems like today, every sales interaction is a baffling moment of should I tip? What should I tip? This person did nothing but take my card, I still need to tip?

  43. I also live in Palo Alto and am conscious that the people serving face the same high cost of living. My husband and I decided when we were first married that we would be generous tippers, give generously to the class holiday gifts and always tip the housekeepers; at the end of the year, it might be a couple of thousand dollars out of our pockets, but it could make a real difference in people’s incomes if everyone did that. We would much rather have fair pay scales, though!

  44. There is a local craft ramen shop nearby that builds 15% into the bill. It’s so nice because neither the waitstaff nor the customer has to worry about it. The atmosphere is so much more relaxed and cheerful and the service level is off the charts. I think it’s win-win for everyone.

    On a side topic, it seems that the US is one of the few places where the listed price does not include tax. Apparently for most countries, the amount is precalculated so you know exactly what you’re going to pay. If it says $5.00, your order/item rings up for $5.00. Why can’t we do that??

  45. “If consumers won’t pay it, then perhaps your product/service isn’t as valuable as you think it is.”

    This is so key. I would add, value your employees. They’re not just money-making machines for you (the business-owner or CEO or what have you). Making them depend on the kindness (and whims and biases) of strangers is essentially forcing society to subsidize your profits.

    I’ve read a few articles about restaurants in NYC and possibly other places that have done away with tipping and actually pay their employees fairly. I feel like mostly they’ve struggled in the beginning but the clientele and the employees both benefited significantly and profits stayed about the same.

  46. I hate tipping, and have greatly enjoyed my times in countries that didn’t have it (France, Norway). Yes, the numbers on the menu are significantly higher. But the wages are fair and the sum total often doesn’t come up to more.

    Despite hating the practice, I try to tip generously here in the bay area. Lord knows working class people need the money just to make rent here. I prefer to tip in cash when I can — when I use a food delivery app like Doordash, I tip 0% on the app and ~20% cash when the food arrives. Anything to make it so that bosses and tech companies can’t steal people’s wages so easily. >:/

    1. I have a friend who does this, even in restaurants. Pays on her credit card and hands the waiter a cash tip :)

  47. This morning I asked my mechanic about tipping. His clientele is a certain ethnic group, I’m included only because my ex wife introduced me to him 16 yr ago. I don’t tip him per se but I don’t try to talk him down in price nor do i fail to show appreciation for his good work. He’s a sole employee shop so I bring him coffee and or treats, pay him in cash which he can declare or not, and always round up his labour charge. Also i pay him in small bills as He’s far from a bank & I know he needs to make change for other customers who come in with a wallet of 20s or 50s from the atm. I also look him in the eye when I say thank you and when I’m looking for a new used car I always ask his advice as after all he will be the one to be working on it. Same with tires, rims, etc, I ask for his recommendation & take his advice. Yes my snowtires are noisey but the traction is the best that I’ve ever had.

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