On Tipping.

via walletpop; CC 2.0.

On Twitter, PB’s Blackink called out this essay on why black people don’t tip G.D. and I argued over how much of the piece is tongue-in-cheek (maybe I’m just hoping most of it is it is), but here’s some poorly written armchair psychology as to why:

And that’s the problem. Like it or not, as a race, we’re still a people with low self-esteem.

Whites think themselves Gods on earth and respond to service on their behalf with a sense of regal entitlement.

This almost compels them to demonstrate their grandiosity by lavishing a few lowly dollars on the poor soul that waits on them hand and foot.

Black people, on the other hand, seem to believe that if anybody’s working to serve them, there’s something wrong with the person doing the service.

This arouses our contempt.

I’ll leave that ridiculous line of reasoning for others to discuss, but blackink also mentioned an element of poor-shaming in a rather lively debate.

I’mma have to respectfully (completely) and utterly disagree.

(This is the part where I add that I waited tables in college and after, and still have a lot of friends in the restaurant biz.)

There is a special place in hell* for people who do not tip in a restaurant (or a bar).  It’s not a new custom.  The price of a meal covers the chef, the line cooks (poorly paid and often without any benefits, I might add), the food, the linens,  the restaurant’s overhead and the labor in the kitchen. Know what it didn’t include?  Me.  Taking orders, giving recommendations, answering  questions, filling  glasses with water, getting that extra knife, bringing  napkins, clearing  plates, triple-checking food allergies, suggesting a beer, or any of the other myriad  things servers do to make sure a meal and your restaurant experience is enjoyable. Yes, that was my job, and I expect to be paid for it.  By not tipping, diners are essentially saying that they expect servers to work for free.

Restaurants pay below minimum wage for tipped employees because they are tipped.  When I was waiting, I believe the wage was $2.77/ hour.  Sometimes my paychecks were so minuscule it almost wasn’t even worth it to cash them.  You can argue whether that’s right or wrong, but that’s the way the system is currently set up, and quite frankly, not tipping is not a protest.  It’s just being cheap, and provided that the server did their job well, it’s rude.  It’s like going to the store, buying shoes, and then telling the cashier you don’t have enough for tax.  That means you can’t afford the shoes. I don’t believe that it’s poor shaming or bashing in any way to say if you can’t afford to tip, stay home.

I am by no means arguing that you should tip if you have bad service — it is a gratuity, as such, should reflect your happiness with your experience.  In this particular instance (tipping in a restaurant), it ceased to be optional a long time ago.  Not tipping?  If I didn’t set you on fire, hit on your date, spit in your food, or otherwise behave egregiously? It’s completely unacceptable.

As for the article’s original argument that black people don’t tip — I’m going to be extremely careful here, and say that in my personal experience, black people were dramatically more likely to not tip at all, and more likely (though not so dramatically) to be poor tippers.  And by “poor tipping,” I mean literally leaving me the coins that were left over when I made change on their $100+ tab.  I can make generalizations based on almost any group, though: women tipped me better at tables, men tipped me better at the bar.  People on dates tended to under or over tip, depending on how well the date went.  On big holidays (NYE, Valentine’s Day) and during restaurant week, the number of people that didn’t tip or tipped poorly skyrocketed. (We always called those nights “amateur night”).  All generalizations, and aside from making me hate Restaurant Week and be extra nice to waitstaff on NYE, I don’t put much stock in any of them.

And for the record, all of us at Postbourgie, especially blackink12, are excellent tippers.

(side eye)

At least, y’all better be.

* There are subsections in that special place in hell for people who do not tip their bartenders on $1/$3/absurdly-underpriced-drink night and people who do not tip on a bottle of wine.  It was probably more work for me to properly serve that bottle of wine than it was for me to get your meal, asshole.


Fur coating and shit.

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  • Aisha Moore

    Could it just be simply come from a place of ignorance? An Outback Steakhouse opened near me in a 99% black area that has only maybe one other sit down restaurant. They initially had problems with tipping. They had the local newspaper run a story about how servers are paid,the general rules of tippigng, and the high turnover rate the lack of tipping was creating. After the article the tipping got much better. I experienced the same thing in college with people not understanding how it all works. They were simply used to going to casual dining restaurants where tips would only work out to less than five dollars for a family of four. They just needed the proper information.

    • Nicole

      There are a lot of places, both chain/casual dining and more upscale that will print a suggested tip amount or “please remember to tip your server” right on the bill. The connection with the local newspaper though- I’ve never heard of that. Sounds like it worked well.

    • There’s truth to that. My family doesn’t go out anywhere “nice” and think that Ruby Tuesdays is doing too much. THey’re used to eating at around the way spots or diners. Usually, $5 is more than enough tip. When we go out places now, my aunt will ask me if I think the tip is okay and I usually add to it, having been a server and bartender myself.

      Then again, I don’t think everyone in that 99% Black area you speak of just doesn’t know better. People leave their neighborhoods to eat out. Many phones have a tip calculator and we know lower-income people have phones.

  • Alison

    Agreed with Aisha in that I think a lot of people who have never worked as a server (or any other restaurant position) or who don’t know any servers well have no concept of both the amount of work and effort those jobs require AND especially that servers are paid less than minimum wage.

    I’ve often heard people rail against tipping because they say “they’re getting paid already” – and when I tell them that many servers are paid an hourly wage that is below minimum wage, they don’t believe me. They think it’s not legal or whatever. I’ve never worked in the industry (besides working the crepes booth at the Renaissance Faire, aw yeah) but I did have a boyfriend for a few years who worked in various server positions, from places like Denny’s to more upscale spots, and he was the one who explained that to me, and who helped me see what a damn hard job it is. And then when I would see his paycheck, I was honestly shocked, and it made me – already someone who always tipped at least 15% unless the service was awful – into someone who basically always tips at least 20-25% (again, unless the service is reeeeally bad, and I don’t count “slow” as bad if I can see the person is running themselves ragged).

    People who leave change, or who leave $2 on a $50 tab (or more) are basically jerks. Maybe cut out the appetizer or the second round of drinks so you can afford a decent tip? Imagine that! :)

  • VC

    Agreed–Tip should be factored into the cost of eating out. I tip 20% pretty habitually, maybe because it’s easiest mathematically for me (10%x2). While tipping isn’t a new custom (in this country), is it just me or has acceptable percentage gone up over time? I remember as a child being told 10% was about right. In addition, when I ate out a few nights ago, I noticed the 20% suggested tip on the tab was taken from the bill before tax. Is this generally how it works? If so, I’ve probably been tipping closer to 25% this whole time, as I calculate tip from the total.

    Certain dining habits – not tipping, sending a message to the chef regarding the amount of lemon or garlic in whatever you ate, etc – I find pretty unacceptable. Others, like sending a plate back because there is a meat in it which was not delineated on the menu, I think are fine.

    • Shaun

      In the US (I’ve been a waiter in both NY and Texas) 15% is the floor for tipping, assuming you had a halfway decent experience, and it’s calculated off your total bill. 18% is generally considered to be the appropriate amount if you had GOOD service (being a waiter I tend to tip around 25% for good service). 20% pre-tax is a little odd, but depending on taxes this may work out to around the 15-18% area anyway.

      I can’t speak to the 70s or early 80s or whatever, but I know in the past 20 years 10% has NEVER been an acceptable tip unless you’re eating in a buffet. I remember being aware of 15% being standard on menus and the like when I was a child in the late 80s/early 90s, but tipped minimum wage has been $2.13/hr for around 20 years now.

  • Val

    Or maybe Black people just get (and have gotten) a lot of bad service and therefore never feel obliged to TIP?

    • R.A.B.

      Yeah, no.

    • R.A.B.

      Yeah, no.

    • April

      I actually think there is a grain of truth to this. Some servers have a bad attitude around black patrons because they expect they won’t tip well…and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  • R.A.B.

    Less than a few months ago, I was working at a very white restaurant in a very white, intensely upper-middle class neighborhood. The few black people I served in the course of my time at this restaurant, on average, tipped notably better than the average customer overall. Maybe this stuff depends on area demographics as well as group demographics?

    • Nicole

      Agreed. And there are so many variables that could go into why a certain subset of people tip a certain way at a certain place, that I feel like any generalizations are pretty useless.

      • R.A.B.

        But honestly, I think the biggest factor is education re: tipping. Like, the problem is that, unless you’ve actually worked on food or drink services, there’s a good chance that you really don’t understand what a tip is, or does, or goes toward, or how your server earns their paycheck, or why restaurants care about table turnover, or the work that goes into your server being able to describe food to you that they clearly can’t afford for themselves on a regular basis, etc. Tipping, to many, is a vague, optional social custom that we do on a whim and/or out of gratitude rather than as a cost of dining out.

        • I think you’re right on. This is education and economics, not race. People who have earned on tips or at least understand the dynamic tip better in general. I was a bartender for a while in a tips only situation and now I’m a pretty agressive overtipper. 20% of the bottom line is min. (and yea VC-easy mental math). Love to buy drinks for the back of the house and bartenders, especially at my regular spots. Aside from folks remembering you well and fondly, you get access to the really good stuff in return. I’ll do double tax if I’m displeased but I never stiff and rarely harass the staff with send backs etc. Really disliked food/service? Just don’t go back.

  • young_

    It’s hard for me to accept that refusing to tip or severely undertipping (i.e. leaving change on a hundred dollar check) is usually anything other than mean-spirited selfishness.

    However, when it comes to less egregious under-tipping, I agree with Aisha that there may be a class-based, cultural ignorance about some of the informal rules and customs about tipping. During my limited experience waiting tables for two summers in college, there were several instances where well-intentioned diners who even went out of their way to compliment me to my hostesses proudly handed me tips that were 10% or less of their more than $100 checks. Other waiters had similar anecdotes. Of course these experiences may just be unusual anomalies that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things…

  • shani

    Question: If you’re saying that a person should still tip if the service is poor (unless they set me on fire), what do think is the remedy? Complain to the manager about the waiter? I honestly think that black people who are aware of this stereotype will tip even if the service is horrible just because they think the waiter won’t learn the lesson, but rather say oh, they’re black.

    • Nicole

      What I am saying is that if you have bad service, leave a bad tip (and talk to the manager). Unless your server has done something inexcusable- insulting you, for instance, you should still leave a tip.

      • R.A.B.

        Another problem, I think, is that people will leave a bad tip/no tip if like, they don’t like what they ordered, or if it’s too hot in the outdoor seating area, or whatever non-server-related problem they are having. Again, these are all matter of understanding what a tip actually is.

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  • When I was in undergrad, I worked as a delivery person for a deli. This one time, I had to deliver this MASSIVE order to a wedding that was about a 45 minute drive away. I wasted a good half tank of gas and had to carry in/arrange a billion trays…AND THEY DIDN’T GIVE ME A TIP! Trust: I was wishing them a happy divorce my entire drive back.

    Also memorable: the girl who made me deliver an order in the middle of a downpour, who paid with nothing but coins and didn’t tip.

  • I’ve had experiences where I received bad service at a restaurant and wondered if it was based on the assumption that black people (outed myself) don’t tip. In those situations I would leave a tip anyway with the hopes that the tip would act as a subtle “don’t judge a book by its cover” reminder.

    Perhaps the unlikeliness of black people to tip (it may be only anecdotal, but as we know oral histories carry a lot of weight) is based on their relatively recent foray into the world of privilege. We see evidence of this in some hip hop music. It’s that New Money Negro Syndrome (being facetious) whose sufferers equate money with equality and as a result they egregiously celebrate this winning lottery ticket of sorts. This ticket that grants them entrance into a fantasy land once only dreamed of.

    • Forgot to mention that I cannot really knock the ‘egregious celebration’ as many of us vicariously live out our fantasies while dancing to these songs in night clubs with the hopes that one day we may just get to experience a fraction of that life style. Black folks are experiencing their fraction.

  • Scipio Africanus

    I *learned* that you have to tip delivery men when a delivery guy slammed the front door of my dorm building on his way out after I didn’t give him anything for a tip. I had no idea you had to tip delivery people. He’s probably somewhere talking about that young black kid who didn’t tip him back in 1999. I ain’t know.

  • Nicole

    I think tipping elicits such strong emotions because it is one of the few instances where your perception of how someone has done his or her job directly affects that person’s paycheck. You don’t get extra money from the bank teller if he’s rude to you. You can’t grab a $50 out of your doctor’s wallet if she’s condescending.

    I will freely admit to bias because I’ve been in the service industry. I think of it like any other job- some days might be better than others, but unless you are flat out not doing your job, you should still get paid.

    • Scipio Africanus

      I think the emotions come from the fact that in the US (this is a US thing) the issue of tipping is often used as a proxy statement of your moral virtue. People who get stiffed or undertipped seem to feel like those customers are/were unvirtuous, and people who are customers take these discussions as blanket accusations about their moral virtue. Basically, this tends to boil down to who is a good person or a bad person.

      There’s hardly anything else in day-to-day life that touches on a person’s moral virtue, where the “right” thing to do (tip 20+%) is the thing most people don’t really *want* to do. Other stuff (theft, muder, mnolestation, tripping old ladies) is stuff that only psychopaths and miscreants engage in. But this is a “regular person” thing.

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  • haiba

    I typically tip 15% (equal to tax, basically) on the low end, and 25% on the high. Americans tend to tip more generously than we do up North (I don’t know if this is a custom, or if our minimum wage in the service industry is higher, or if Canadians are just poorer tippers, or if I’m talking out of my ass here). But, I think tipping well is definitely a North American phenomenon. When I lived in England, and traveled in different parts of Western Europe, every single time I left a tip at a restaurant, it was either returned or I was questioned by the server about it. I’m not sure what the explanation for that is, though.

    • Most of Europe has a pretty cool and much less stressful tipping system. Gratuity is automatically added to the check and then the diner throws in an extra but nominal variable based on quality of service etc.

      • Ingenjören

        Which makes for intercontinental misunderstandings since we(many Europeans) assume people actually get paid to wait tables. Also it makes us do things like tip in the retail store when we figured out you should indeed tip(I received a mortified stare and I suspected she was 5 seconds from calling the cops on me). There should be a manual for this.

    • Shaun

      My Canadian friends insist 15% is sufficient for good service in Canada. I haven’t talked to any Canadian servers to verify this, but, I know in Ontario waiters make just under minimum wage (something like $9.00/hr, can’t remember specifically), whereas in the States we make as little as $2.13/hr (in New York, I made as much as $4.65/hr). We’re also required to tip up to 15% of our reported tips or 2.5% of our total sales to the restaurant, so even if you don’t tip me, I still have to pay for the honor of waiting on you.

      My restaurant is smack in the middle of a bunch of hotels so we get a LOT of international clientele. It honestly gets really frustrating sometimes because there are situations where I know the person doesn’t have a problem with my service, but then they either don’t tip or leave such a horrendously low tip it doesn’t even cover what I pay to the bar for serving them, and I can’t really say anything about it.

  • Didi

    In the UK all service staff are paid minimum wage therefore it is not essential to pay a tip for service in a restaurant – there was a recent scandal of pizza chains using credit card tips to top up salaries. It was extremely difficult for me as a Black woman living in the states to navigate the tip system (which I worked out to be tip everyone all the time – its easier that way) – and I try to tell everyone coming from the UK to be prepared to pay tips even if service sucks because its just how it is.

  • LJ

    I think this is more to do with black people always being scrutinized and if found lacking in anyway, they are automatically labeled as behaving badly or insufficiently. Plenty of white folks are bad tippers and plenty of black folks are good tippers, it’s just that when a few or even a decent number of black folks engage in any behavior it is dragged through the media as yet another meme of how bad us black folks is. I’m really tired of hearing all the things that make us black folks zoo animals to be dissected for all of “our” behaviors instead of as complex human individuals who exhibit a variety of behaviors based on our own personalities, upbringing, local customs, experience and chance. SMDH.

    • young_

      You’re definitely right that people may be biased to notice behavior that confirms stereotypes they already believe, but that point seems like a bit of a cop-out in the context of this discussion… I’m pretty sure that the black former servers who have weighed in so far (including myself) noticed when we received poor tips from white people too.

      • LJ

        Young how is it a cop out, when pointing out that it is black folks are being called on the carpet unfairly? And anyway, considering that white folks are the overwhelming majority of population, and on average whites have a higher socioeconomic status, so numerically and financially they would be the majority of folks who tip and if stiffing is such a problem they would be doing the bulk of it. To me black folks (less than 12% of the population) are not enough people to even justify a discussion of their tipping habits, and are most likely a drop in the bucket overall of who is doing the tipping. Again, it is picking on black folks. Your comment seems to be the one that is the cop out.

  • I’ve heard this about other people of color (e.g., Latinos). My brother* had his own perceptions about Asians at the chain restaurant where he used to be a server.

    As mentioned above, I think servers could come up with anecdotal evidence to make generalizations about lots of groups. Anyone else hate going out with friends when they were in the college because at least one person never pitched in more than their own entree/drink?

    I was also told that servers often split tips with hostesses, busboys and bartenders too (if drinks are ordered). Is this true?

    Also, where/how did you learn about tipping rules/standards?

    *My brother got fired because he stupidly said something about tipping to some early 20 kids who left him a few bucks on a $150ish check. They couldn’t leave a proper tip, but were quick to complain to the corporate office.

    • Nicole

      I tipped out my busboy and my bartender, and sometimes the other server, if she/he had picked up some of my slack. We didn’t tip the hostesses, but they also made $12/hour (about what the line cooks made).

      My fam has always tipped, so I guess I got it from there. I always thought 15% was base tip and 18% was amazing until I started waiting tables. Now, I always leave at least 20%.

    • Shaun

      Yes, the restaurant can take up to 15% of our tips/2.5% of our total sales. Usually it’s for the bar or busboys, although some restaurants just line their own pockets with it and there’s nothing we can do about it (I worked at one that took the 15% but paid the busboys a flat minimum wage and didn’t give them any of what they took from us).

      There’s also unofficial tipping. At one restaurant I worked in, there was a social custom of tipping the hostesses or they’d screw you on seating. Where I work now we tip the QA (Quality Assurance) because she gets our food together and sends it out when we’re out on the floor. Officially, we don’t tip her, but you can bet if we didn’t our food would be sitting there cold while we were getting the 45th refill.

  • Someone said to me once that the pervasiveness of tip jars is to blame for people not tipping as much as they ought to. EVERYWHERE you go there’s a tip jar. Tips at every counter. For the dry cleaner, the barista, the deli, the florist, etc. Most, if not all, of these employees get paid at least minimum wage if not more. Tips for them are extra cream on top, not the bulk of their pay. Having tip jars in your face all the time might make one feel pressure to tip or even that tipping isn’t a big deal because it’s such a common practice.
    I don’t know, something to consider, I guess.

  • isista

    Ignorance maybe. However, I’ve had the misfortune of dining with many different friends of mine (all black and I’m black) who dine out frequently and know good and damn well that 18% is the minimum for a tip. I know people who think it’s funny to start deducting whatever their stingy tip was going to be the minute a server does something they don’t like like “smiling funny” or accidentally brushing the lemon wedges with their bare hands or “because they didn’t like how their food tasted.” It’s embarrassing. I’ve always made a point to tip well (20% and up every time) and it’s so not cool to be dining with people who think not tipping well is OK. I can see the contempt argument a little bit; I think in the case of these friends (maybe I’m using the term too loosely considering how rude they are) it’s contempt and entitlement. Like if black people are getting pushed around all day by The Man, a restaurant or bar with “servers” is going to be the place where revenge is enacted. One girl I know would justify her rude behavior by saying “It’s their *job* to give me what I want and do whatever I say.” Lord I snapped on her during the meal and haven’t gone to a restaurant with her since.

    Legitimate ignorance for some, I’m sure. But other folks are simply acting out, in a weak show of power.

  • VC

    I also think the server/diner dynamic can get odd because one person is waiting on another. Food delivery is particularly interesting to me because I have never quite understood the tip dynamic there. Is 1 or 2 dollars OK? 5? Flat rate seems to make more sense than percent. Yet part of the reason I think people have issues tipping, especially for delivery, is because they see themselves as paying for something (in this case food), and they assume “customer” role which means they are always right, they should be treated a certain way, and most importantly they should get whatever they pay for exactly how they want it (their “money’s worth”). If people looked at it as an exchange – this server is giving you something and for that, you are giving them something – perhaps it’d be a more equal and amiable interaction.

  • rikyrah

    having done food service in college, it turned me into a very good tipper.

    If I get good service, I tip 20%.

    if I get ok service, it’s 15.

    if I get bad service, it’s 10.

    I would have to get the worst service in the world to leave no tip, but before I did that, I’d go to their manager and tell them about it.

    I like going to the same restaurants, mainly because if they know you, and you’re a regular, and they know you tip good, you do get better service, IMO. So, when trying out a new place, I try to go on the same days of the week, to try and get the same server.

  • I cosign everything rikyrah said.

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  • aisha

    So here’s a question. In my neighborhood the Chinese delivery guys do not get out the car and come to your door. They just call you from outside your house and expect you to come get it. I asked why he wouldn’t come to the door and he said it was too dangerous. FTW! So I tried another place and same thing.

    Should I tip the guy?

    • Shaun

      Tentatively, because I’ve never been a delivery driver, I would say no. His job is to DELIVER the food to you. If he’s not doing that then why the hell would you tip him? If you wanted to go out to pick up the food you would have gone and picked it up.

    • Many hotels don’t let the pizza delivery guys up and in some big cities they won’t come up because of the time it takes to navigate the elevators etc. I still tip a few bucks, more if I think I’m going to use them again.

  • mwing

    With you on the tipping…I work in a place that routinely (and legitimately) reimburses employees for travel and meals-related expenses. My boss keeps pushing the idea that we should not reimburse for tips that our employees have paid out to waiters, taxi drivers, etc., because “they don’t have to tip, it’s a choice.” He is perfectly well aware of the sub-minimum wages of waiters.
    I keep trying to think of an inoffensive way of telling him how wrong-headed this is.
    My boss also believes in the legitimacy of non-tipping as a protest, and thinks that it’s ok because if enough people engaged in it, restauranteurs would be forced to pay their wait staff more wages.

  • mwing

    …to add… I did briefly work in a divey country/western cover band bar/dancehall where the very cheap owners did, in fact, have to pay me an $8/hour base salary, because their customers tipped so extremely poorly. Their customers were almost 100% white, and were the poorest demographic in a pretty wealthy town – this bar was one of the only places they could afford to go.

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  • I’ve known bartenders in New York who only got a flat $ 50 bucks for a whole shift – the rest of their income was tips. And I’ve known folks who didn’t get a salary AT ALL – 100% of their income came from tips.

    Bottom line, Tip Your Server (and in NYC that means MINIMUM 20%!)

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