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. Waitress here! Would love to see wages raised so that we don’t have to rely on customers to make good money. The whole culture of disrespect given to service industry workers is pretty discouraging-people are preparing food for us, cleaning up after us, driving us places, walking our pets, etc,etc…pretty personal stuff really!

  2. Tips used to be 10%. And then 15%. And now 20%. Tipping is a PERCENTAGE of the price of the meal, which goes up every year. Not sure why the percentage we’re supposed to tip keeps moving up as well. We eat at home. P.S. I also hate the tip jars that have popped up at everywhere from counter service to the dry cleaner.

  3. Back when I got out of the military and went to university my first civilian job was as a waitress at Applebee’s. My wage was $2.13 an hour and I had to share my tips with the bar staff (who supposedly didn’t get as much in tips but that wasn’t true.) It sucked big time and was a thankless job. I hated it. Eventually a family member got sick and when I called in to say a loved one had had a heart attack and I had to go home they were like yeah sorry about your luck but you still have to come to work….uh hard no. I never went back. Now I try to always tip as well as I can.

  4. I tip at restaurants, A salon …and valets. I guess I wish I knew how to find rules on tipping! I had no idea I was supposed to tip the housekeeper at a hotel! I guess I don’t like tipping because it hurts the wages of service professionals if people haven’t been taught “correctly” or when people are being jerks. Interesting thought. I also never have cash, which I hate.

  5. As a small business owner of her own spa I just removed the option on my Square app that asks for tips. I raised my prices instead. My clients are shocked when there is no tipping option but when I explain why all of their reactions have been so positive! I’ve never understood why my industry takes tips and I’ve always felt uncomfortable accepting them….sometimes a client gives $5 for a $100 service and sometimes another gives $5 for a $15 service. It never made sense. Honestly I’d rather they buy product or rebook or refer a friend to support me. Thanks for the article!

  6. My daughter tends bar in Nashville. Her base pay is essentially the same base pay I made when I was a server in college in 1983. This is why the percentage for the amount to tip has gone up.

    Also, businesses that follow tax law generally withhold income tax from server pay based on the assumption that they are receiving 15% of the cost of the food they delivered on their shift. Usually her pay check is $0. Often she OWES money to cover her health insurance.

    Servers in this country are treated more like a small business owner than like an employee. The system needs to be changed.

    I tip generously and often well above 25%. I don’t drink alcohol and that brings my total check down. A percentage tip means my life choices may impact the wait staffs ability to pay rent. In what system is this fair?

    I would love to see fair wage scales replace the tipping system.

  7. I was having dinner with an American friend while in Japan. I explained to her that tipping was not expected there. She did not believe me, so she hid money under her plate. After we left, we heard someone running frantically to catch up with us to return the money she had “forgotten”. The waiter was none too pleased to have to run after us, she was none too pleased that her tip had been rejected, and I was none too pleased that she had not believed me.

    As to the above comments that service is not as good in other countries without tipping, I heartily disagree. You will never think customer service is good in the USA after you have spent any amount of time in Japan. Service there is mind-boggling good.

    In the USA I am an over tipper. In Japan I am a non-tipper. In Europe I am a “rounder-upper”. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

  8. Thank you for a very stimulating topic. Here is what I think after having lived in the US for 23 years:
    Unless I notice that the server, has somehow found some magical boot-straps, I will continue to tip them so I may, in some minimal level, supplement their income.

    I will also continue to help elect officials and support causes for universal basic income, universal health-care as well as parental and wellness leave.

  9. This post resonated with me so much. I hate tipping and I was a former server in several restaurants over the years prior to having kids. I never ever knew what kind of money day I would have and that was always really stressful. It could be big or I could end up with 10 bucks. We recently got back from a trip to Australia with our whole family. It was a magical trip and one thing that made it even less stressful was the lack of tipping. We didn’t need to worry about it. As a result we ended up not scrimping on the food we ordered because we knew that we wouldn’t have to add on 20% more for a tip. The food obviously costs more there, and is WAY WAY higher quality, but the lack of tipping is sure great. And also the fact that there was no tipping seemed to motivate lots of different servers to help you if you needed it, because they were getting paid regardless. If that makes sense? Whenever anyone would walk by and you needed something they would just help you, rather than grabbing your original server. It was so helpful!!

  10. Ok I’m going to break it down for all of you.
    Tip jars=no tipping like coffee sandwich donuts etc
    Take out=no tipping you wait you carry
    Chain restaurants =10% if server idiot. 15% if server actually knows something.
    Neighborhood joints between 15% and 20% alternate
    High end restaurants 20%to25% here actually servers are lifers not seasonal patsies.
    Back of the house or hostess should not get anything.
    House pay is what it is never had a problem with that and guess what never made less than 6 figures a year besides after 10y I was paid signing bonuses just to come work at a new restaurant.
    Obviously I’m from NY lol so y can make a great living being a waiter,captain or maitre’ d in the 10 places which are real restaurants.
    Of course is somehow segregated but not in a mean way it’s because of the dynamic of the interaction between you and the costumer who drops $300 a person.
    If you have a following you are home free unfortunately a lot of people think this is a gig thing or temporary I can tell them now you’ll be miserable.

  11. Ok, assume points are missing from this whole thread. I paid my way through college waiting tables and kicking ass for my tips, which were hefty. I knew where the fish came from, tagged the specials, have recommendations when’s asked, knew the wine/ beer liss – tthat’s what service is! Therefore, I made easily 50% to 100% more than most of the other servers, who had no interest in explaining the menu to their tables.
    First, I split my tips right down the middle with the “back if the house,” the hardworking and underpaid kitchen, bus, and dishwashing staff who were critical to my good tips. This led to resentment and even sabotage from other servers, who river shared only 10% of their tips;. Tipping creates a caste system between the front of the house and the back of the house it’s reminiscent of so many systems we pitched to the curb a long time ago. Second, really good service has become, largely, a thing of the past. We tend to frequent restaurants and sit in specific stations to get good service, but the expectation that I’m supposed to tip 20% to someone who doesn’t bother to know the menu, forgets multiple times to bring something to our table, etc. Is a common place occurrence. You didn’t used to be able to get away with that, you wouldn’t last at a restaurant. It’s not my job to discipline poor service via tips. Get rid of tips, increase the prices on the menu, and let’s just level the playing field for everyone.
    Finally, there’s nothing like giving someone a gift certificate that they have to PAY to use. I know many who can’t afford to go to restaurants. Giving them a gift certificate is giving a gift that requires then to pay a tip, which is ridiculous. I’ve tried paying for the tip when I purchased the certificate, but since that tip likely didn’t go directly to their server, there’s the expectation of yet another tip.
    And of course the vestigial relationship to slavery is a real one. Let’s be done with tips!

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