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Jun 16, 2010 09:38 AM

Why do we tip?

Why do you think people leave tips at restaurants?

Not interested in discussing HOW MUCH you tip, just WHY.

Put another way, what compels a person to tip, no matter how much or little?

It certainly isn't the law, such that it would be illegal not to tip (generally speaking, of course).

Is it for the "service" of the server? But the server is already being paid a wage for being there (no matter how little, the server is being paid).

Is it something about social mores and perhaps even peer pressure? If it is, what about when you are dining alone at a place that you will never return to? If you left no tip, who would know? Yet, we still tip (at least I hope we do).

Is it something that makes us feel "good" or "better" about ourselves? In the same way when we donate food to a food bank or shelter?

Is it just a force of habit? Something that is just expected?

Is it just the "right" thing to do? If you say "yes" then it just begs the question. Why is it the "right" thing to do?

I mean, seriously, at what other time do we simply "give away" money to non-family members without there being some sort of religious undertone (tithing), moral principle (donations to the needy), or otherwise compelled by law or contract?

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  1. unfortunately it has become "expected" in our society. there are many countries that dont tip and they do fine. i dont mind tipping but expecting a certain percentage is ridiculous. i tip based on the actual service i recieve. sometimes you will get 25%...sometimes 10% and once in a while......5%. but normally i recieve the expected service, so i do the "customary" 15%.
    i hate tip jars.
    i hate automatic gratuity on the bill for parties of less than 8.

    30 Replies
    1. re: samtron608

      and....the main reason for tipping.....cause you HAVE to! otherwise servers these days will chase you out the door!
      its baked into our culture to tip. simple as that. i just hate the assumed percentage that "must" be tipped.

      1. re: samtron608

        In many other countries, there is not the same level of service that you receive in the US. A sterling example of how the gratuity pays for that.

        1. re: Jemon


          I'm not really sure that tips actually provide an incentive for better service.

          Let's consider this thought experiement.

          Alternative Reality 1. No one ever tips. In a world where there are no tips, the servers would essentially all provide the same (or comparable) service. If there are some servers who provide subpar service, they would be replaced by better servers. So in the long run we would reach an equilibrium where, generally speaking, most of the servers would be providing good, if not very good, service simply b virtue of the labor market.

          Alternate Realit 2. Tipping is not "expected" and some people tip and others don't. If the server in this world is not sure which table is going to tip, then there is every incentive to provide the best service possible. Only when the diner finishes and leaves no tip would the server -- even after providing really good service -- realize he got stiffed. But even then the good service would have already been provided. So even in a world where tips are not "expected" there is still the incentive to provide good service.

          In fact, I would argue that making tips quasi-mandatory (as it is now) actually provides a discinentive for good service.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            In alternate reality 1, servers wouldn't stay servers for long with poor "from the employer" pay since the job is VERY stressful. Wages would undoubtedly be much higher than what they make now if there were to be servers of quality. Given the situation where the wages are poor, good servers would be few and far between and it would be like dining in the "locals" places in a few countries I can think of, where it is difficult to receive good service. The money is often the only thing that keeps a server working as a server instead of doing something easy.

            Alternate reality 2 is actually THIS reality, sort of. Servers do "expect" a tip, however, servers know that bad service=bad tip, and sometimes no tip. In the past, I've worked as a server and seen many bad servers get stiffed.
            Also, there are many times when good servers provide good service and get stiffed. Not everyone tips a constant all the time and servers know that.
            In my great and varied experience, most servers have seen that most of the time, good service equals good tip, so any server worth their salt will actually provide the best possible service when they are able.
            For your last argument, "quasi-mandatory tips" basically means that servers are paid a constant, independent of their quality. This lies in the boundaries of your constant wages idea of alt reality 1, if I understood correctly.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Sorry, disagree, that "subpar" servers would be replaced. What constitutes subpar? The customer's reaction? Anyone who's worked in the business knows that some customers are just unreasonable, and most managers, while presenting a polite face to the customer, will take their waiter's side at the end of the night.

              And I know from experience that only the thought that I might get a decent tip kept me giving acceptable service to people who ordered a bottle of "Chab-Bliss" to go with their medium-well "Fill It Migg None". (I mean really - white wine with steak?!) So I think tipping is a very direct incentive to provide a high level of service, even though any decent game theorist would have doubts about its effectiveness.

              1. re: FrankD

                Try a good, heavy, American style Chardonnay with steak. :) But only if that steak is served without a sauce.

                1. re: Jemon

                  I can just see the customer I had in mind: "I'll have the Charred-donney".

                  "I'm sorry, which one, sir?"

                  "The Charred - doo - nay"

                  "I'm sorry, again, please?"

                  "A bottle of the Chabb-Bliss".

                  1. re: FrankD

                    Do you feel better about yourself now?

                    1. re: FrankD

                      To tie this back to the OP... When a server is condescending to me or my guests (regardless of whether they can correctly pronounce French words), I see no need to tip at all.

                      Once I had a server who assumed that a request for "Chablis" referred to cheap jug wine and put his haughty on when someone asked for it. Fortunately there was someone more knowledgeable in the house; that person received the gratuity for several nice bottles of wine.

                      Ignorance is excusable. Arrogance is not.

                  2. re: FrankD

                    [Quote] And I know from experience that only the thought that I might get a decent tip kept me giving acceptable service to people who ordered a bottle of "Chab-Bliss" to go with their medium-well "Fill It Migg None". (I mean really - white wine with steak?!) [/Quote]

                    I have worked in various establishments, from a Nevada buffet to a '50s diner to a top end steakhouse, and I never even blink when a customer makes a "strange" order. Why should I care if they want white wine (or even Tawny Port, I've seen it) with their steak. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, "let them eat cake, just so long as I get a tip". LOL

                  3. re: ipsedixit

                    Have you ever eaten in a restaurant in an ex-Soviet Bloc country, and had an older wait person. Old habits are hard to break, the idea of service does not exist. The communist mentality of" I get paid for showing up" still is evident in some of the Soviet era folks. They do not care for the "pay for performance" idea that we Capitalists consider a basic principle.

                  4. re: Jemon

                    "In many other countries, there is not the same level of service that you receive in the US."

                    That's a completely absurd statement. After 20 years in international business I've eaten in many, many countries in almost all parts of the world, and I can assure you that you can get good and bad service anywhere, completely independently of the local tipping customs.

                    The only exception I'd make is for state-owned restaurants in Soviet-bloc countries, pre-1991. There you could count on miserable service pretty much 100% of the time.

                    1. re: BobB

                      No, I agree with you. You can get good and bad service in all parts of the world, but at many small family restaurants in Europe, as far as I know, the service is much more lax than in the US. Not saying it's bad, it's just not the same consistently.

                      1. re: Jemon

                        The way tips are paid by the customer in the U.S. there is actually a DISincentive to provide good service.

                        Generally speaking, diners are expected to tip approx. 20%. Servers knows this going in and so do diners. In that kind of dynamic, there is little incentive to provide "better" service because even with exemplary service few diners will pony up more than 20%. Some will, but most will not.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Diners where I live do not. Most people have no idea how to tip and think leaving a dollar or two is "correct".

                          I tip because I know that servers do not make minimum wage and that their livelihood depends on tips. You do have to earn your tips however. If the service is terrible (not the food but the service), I will not tip the full 20%.

                        2. re: Jemon

                          This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America.

                          1. re: Harters

                            <This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America.>

                            "America" is a big place. Just recently we were down the Jersey shore and marveling at the work ethic of the folks -- mostly young kids -- and how refreshing it was after groaning over the slack texter type of we see so much of in NYC. And thinking of how much more the servers and bartenders make in the city because of the much higher prices. (Tho perhaps management is to blame?)

                            1. re: Up With Olives

                              Yes, but server and bartenders pay a much higher rent in NYC too.

                              1. re: Up With Olives

                                NYC is also a big place and the "Slack texter type" you encountered are usually in the next,hip,and ethnic places where this type of service is not only tolerated but encouraged in order to fit the theme and address of the establishment .
                                NYC is however the home of some of the best table service,wine service and food service in the world as I'm sure you know.

                                1. re: Duppie

                                  been a while since i sang my refrain - all food is ethnic.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Quite right and I am guilty of using it in the wrong context but most understand what I mean and that's a start.

                                2. re: Up With Olives

                                  ""America" is a big place"

                                  Indeed. As is Europe. I've travelled to several states in America and several countries in Europe and based my "generally speaking " comment on those visits to say there is a different style between the two . And different expectations as to what constitutes good service. I prefer one to the other.

                                    1. re: Duppie

                                      "This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America."

                                      Same quote you can read twice above. It would appear that Harters prefers the European style, unless I've misread three times.

                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                    It is a "dirty secret" but in many "noted" $$$$ venues, the waiters actually have to pay the front of the house manager, to get on the schedule. Obviously, this occurs in places where a good waiter can and does make $450-700 gross a shift.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde


                                        If you are asking for names of operations that do this, let me say it is a trade thing, and secondly why would I expose to you an obviously questionable transaction that has IRS implications for all involved? I will mention that I do know, first hand, it is quite common in NYC and Vegas.

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          I concur and it's not only in $$$$,$$$,$$ establishments but across the board. It's the cost of doing business in any large metropolitan city where the staff rely on their livelihood from tip outs and the communal tip jar.Haven't you read of the spate of law suits against Jon George,Batali,Flay all the way down to the local Thai take out joint?

                          2. re: samtron608

                            Auto gratuity isn't acceptable for seven people, but fine for eight?

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              you can use that argument for lots of things. so lets not go there! ahah
                              some places wont take an rsvp for anything less than 8 people. so its not acceptable to take an rsvp for 7 but okay for 8? and of course many more examples outside the restuarant world.
                              i was merely making a point due to the fact auto gratuity started with 8 people.. lately ive seen many places lower it to 6. next it will be 4...then it will be automatic no matter what.
                              either way, i tip...because we have to. if wages for servers were higher and tips werent needed or required i wouldnt pay it. why?? because the price of our food will be up about 15% (avg tip) to make up for the higher wages. and i tip based on service. bad service i still tip..but it wont be 15%. good service i tip anywhere from 20-25%.
                              that being said i think its a travesty the govt allows restuarants to pay servers below min wage.

                          3. The server is being paid by the restaurant to simply give you your food/drinks. The tip "pays" for the actual service. Essentially, you're paying for politeness and their attention and time.

                            Analogy, if you took your car to a mechanic to fix some engine problems, and they washed it for you afterward, they went above their normal service duty. You didn't pay for it directly but you would probably be compelled to give them a "gratuity" afterward showing that you were grateful for their extra work.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jemon

                              What? you tip your car mechanic? if they provided extra stuff like washing my car I might be inclined to go back but to tip them? never.

                              1. re: sparkareno

                                If my mechanic fixed my car, then washed it and checked other things outside of his/her duty, I think that would deserve a tip. I would be more inclined to thank them than someone who would just fix it and leave grubby grease spots all over the paint.

                            2. Most states allow employers to take a "tip credit" and pay their servers well below minimum wage with the expectation that with tips the employee will be making at or above minimum wage. I tip (and rather well most of the time) because I feel someone who works hard at a difficult job should be able to make a decent living. On one hand, this system allows the customer to reward good service and punish poor service. But in my younger years working in the food service industry I saw many times when waitstaff provided exceptional service and were rewarded with little or no tip. My favorite was when a table would leave a little pocket bible as a tip, as if the waiter could feed his kids with that. I would prefer that the whole tip credit system be phased out but I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. So I'll keep tipping well for good service.

                              35 Replies
                              1. re: Coogles

                                If there were no tips, at some point restaurants would have to pay their servers more.

                                Another thought experiment.

                                Let's say currently a hypothetical server makes 10 (6 min. wage and 4 tip).

                                If tips were abolished then the server only makes 6.

                                The current servers would most likely look for other employment in comparable blue-collar industries (store clerks, delivery persons, etc.) where the pay is comparable to their original 10 server salary.

                                If servers start leaving the restaurant industry there will be a shortage of servers, prompting restaurant owners to increase wages in order to hire servers, thereby increasing the base (or minimum) wage that a server makes.

                                In the long run equilibrium, then, it'd be expected that even without tips a server's salary will not be negatively effected.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  In principle, I agree with you, but that's not the world in which we live (or at least I live). Our current paradigm 'expects' that my server depends on my tips to be able to pay his or her bills, and, having been on the other side of the table, I'm not about to shortchange a server simply because I want to influence a paradigm shift.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    The problem with this scenario is that it removes the incentive to provide exceptional service. In the current system, flawed as it is, a waiter who provides consistent excellent service will take more home that a waiter who provides average or poor service. In the world you describe, the average servers salary may not be negatively effected but the good servers will either take a pay cut or leave the industry. Either way, we'll be left with poorer service and higher menu prices. I would also say that the really good servers might find it hard to find another blue collar job that pays the same. I know a guy that is a really good waiter at a high end steakhouse who claims he pulls in six figures a year, and with the average tab at this place I doubt that's an exaggeration. My ideal answer would be to phase out the tip credit over time but still encourage tipping to a lesser extent to reward above average service.

                                    1. re: Coogles

                                      I've dined in plenty of countries that do not have the same tipping expectations as in the US, and the service was just fine. In fact, it was often better because the servers are paid a decent wage and the job is seen as a respectable career, not just a way to make ends meet.

                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                        A server making 60K+(that's what the better ones earn at my restaurant) in the US isn't a "respectable career"?

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          Where I live, most servers are college students working part time or others who are looking for a "real" job, even in the moderate-nice restaurants. There are very few career servers, and generally only in the nicest, most expensive restaurants. A server earning $60K is not the norm in the US. The average salary for a server in the US is ~$20K, so no, I would not consider that a respectable or viable career.

                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                            Plenty of servers working that $20K for 20+ years feel it's a respectable career.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              How many people make a career of serving in a restaurant that isn't high end or owned/operated by a member of their family? Honestly, I just don't see it happening that much around here. I live a fairly average place when it comes to cost of living, and $20K is not a living wage, it is barely enough to cover housing and utilities. I'm sure there are regional differences, but by and large waiting tables is not seen as a long term career in the US. It is something people do in college, as a side job, or as temporary work.

                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                Call it working or career, there are many people who work for $20K or less, doesn't matter where you live.

                                                I live in the Los Angeles area.
                                                I've frequented restaurants where servers have been there 20+years and they're proud of what they do. Some of these places are coffee shops and delis.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      you make some assumptions that are problematic, i'd just like to point them out. many folks who work as servers work part time jobs. that is, p/t server plus raising kids, p/t server plus school, p/t server plus second or third server job, p/t server plus internship, p/t server plus full time job. assuming that all, a majority, or some folks currently working as servers could simply drop a serving job and go work a 40 hour blue collar job, which unlike the existing server jobs do not have flexible hours--is just crazy. you can't fill in for "the lunch shift" at the factory while the kids are at school, or work a four hour "cocktail" gig late night at the gas station, while studying for your master's degree, for obvious examples.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        How does the distinction between part-time versus full-time change the analysis?

                                        The labor market provides the same incentives (or disincentives) for part or full time workers.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          i'm saying that you can't walk into a gas station and ask to work a 1/2 (4 hour) shift three or four days a week. the gas station may let you work part time, 2 or 3 *eight* hour shifts a week, but then of course you can't make it fit with your school/kids/other job, the way you can if you work four hours here and there, or work very late at night for a short period of time (cocktail hour). regular part time jobs are 8 hour shifts. regular employers outside of the hospitality industry absolutely don't jack around with four hour blocks of time with their workers. you work your 8 hours. can't go to school, take care of the kids, or get to your other job? guess you can't take the job then, duh.

                                          a single parent with 2 kids in school can have a serving job during lunches while the kids are in school, and hire a babysitter for the 2 cocktail shifts s/he works in a week, and have a prayer at actually supporting the family. *tons* of people in this country do exactly this, or substitute putting oneself through college/trade school for the children. in the same situation, without a service job, it would= unaffordable childcare, unworkable shifts/hours, unemployment, incomplete education, lack of social and economic mobility for individuals and families, just lots and lots of problems that would disproportionately affect working class people, the economically disadvantaged, females, children. . .

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            "i'm saying that you can't walk into a gas station and ask to work a 1/2 (4 hour) shift three or four days a week ... "

                                            Of course you can, and I'm speaking from personal experience.

                                            But that's besides the point. There are many different part-time jobs that offer flexible schedules -- e.g. clerk at WalMart or department stores like Nordstroms.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              you're seriously wanting working people to give up serving jobs to work at wal mart, a la "nickel and dimed?" good luck with that. . .

                                              it's news to me that employers outside of hospitality will hire people for 4 hour blocks. i'm quite sure that doesn't fly in hospitals and factories, for example. are you sure that the retail employers you mention wouldn't show any preference for hiring folks able to work full 8 hour shifts when required? i also wasn't aware you could work as a clerk at nordstroms from 10 pm to 2 am, but i guess i learned something new today.

                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                              My college aged daughter works part time for Abercrombie and Fitch. ALL there part time shifts are 4 hours. They changed from 5 hours last year. 4 Hours means NO breaks, no lunch (the law in CT doesn't require it). You work 4 hours and get paid fro 4 hours work.
                                              No employees get full day shifts unless they are 40 hour full time employees.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                oh okay that makes sense with the no breaks thing. what does A&F pay/hr, if you know?

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  The lowest pay grade for a store clerk at a company like A/F would typically (stress "typically") start off at about $5 above federal minimum wage.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Where are you getting that info? Retail stores usually pay their employees the state minimum wage, which is nowhere near an extra $5 an hour.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      WRONG!!! <VBG> My daughter is a college senior, started with A&F when she was 16 and now has just gotten a raise to $8.95/hr. Starting employees get $7.40 here

                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        In SF ... the A&F employees typically make about $1 more than the state minimum wage (which, if I recall correctly, is some where between 9.50 and 10). Fed min. wage is (what?) 7.25?

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Which is still not even close to $12.25! That is a huge difference when multiplied over a work week/month/year for someone who isn't making a lot of money to begin with....

                                                          but these things don't really have anything to do with the original thread anyway, so....

                                                          if you want to relate them, its a FAR cry from the $20-$40 hour that the average server makes. Big range, but of course, you know that restaurants vary greatly.

                                                          BTW, state minimum wage is $8/hour, so that brings it to $9/hour.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Connecticut minimum is $8,25, so with 6 years on the job my daughter gets just 70 cents/hr above minumum

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              yeah i don't think "almost $9/hr" after 6 years is very good pay. i sure don't think it would be possible to support a single person, let alone a family, on that kind of a part time paycheck for any length of time at all if that were the only income. since it's less than $200/week, gross pay, pretax. . .

                                            3. re: ipsedixit

                                              "Let's say currently a hypothetical server makes 10 (6 min. wage and 4 tip)."

                                              Might be true at, say, Denny's, but I worked at a number of steak/seafood chains, and I normally made 3-4x in tips what I made in wages. In fact, I lived day to day off my tips, and generally used my paycheques just to pay my rent.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                Currently, the majority of servers receive a check for nothing, and actually owe money at the end of the year to taxes. When I was a waiter, I could only DREAM of getting pay checks big enough to pay my rent! They were always for zero dollars.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    Would either of you care to explain this? How does the establishment get away with paying you ZERO?

                                                    At the time I was working, liquor servers got less than minimum wage, but it was still about $2.50/hr. Working 30 hrs/week, I got a cheque for a little less than $300/month (after taxes and other deductions), which paid the rent for my room at my frat house.

                                                    How did your situations break down?

                                                    1. re: FrankD

                                                      Simple enough. The gross amount of the paycheck is based on **wages**; withholding is based on **income**, which includes the wage paid by the employer plus assumed tips of 8% of total sales. If the withholding amount exceeds gross wages, the net paycheck is zero.

                                                      For example, let's take a server who in an average week works 30 hours at $2.13 per hour and sells $5,000 in food and beverage. Assumed income is $463.90 ($63.90 in wages plus $400 in tips). FICA withholding will be $35.49, which leaves only $28.41 to satisfy federal, state, and local income taxes. Unless this server claims an inordinate number of W-4 exemptions, the net paycheck will be zero.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Wow. As intrusive as Revenue Canada can be, even they don't take money up front on "assumed" income.

                                                        1. re: FrankD

                                                          Revenue UK will sort of make an "assumption". It has a "rule of thumb" that servers are likely to make a certain amount through tips. Someone systematically declaring significantly less than this on their tax return is likely to attract their interest. It has similar "rules of thumb" for folk working in other cash industries (e.g. taxi, window cleaning, etc)

                                                          1. re: FrankD

                                                            Well, turnabout is fair play. The IRS assumes tips of 8%, and many servers declare that amount as income even though their actual tips far exceed that amount.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              why is it "fair play"? Are you suggesting it is unfair to have the tax taken out "as one goes" (the way it is for everyone else)? And somehow "fair" to pay less than you owe?

                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                Wow, is somebody a little cranky this morning, or what?

                                                                "Turnabout is fair play" is a common enough aphorism. If you're unfamiliar with its use in general, I recommend that you Google it.

                                                                As used in this context, I was responding to FrankD's concern that it is "intrusive" to withhold based on assumed tips of 8% of sales. In fact, that assumption probably underestimates a server's tip income. But the fact that an estimate is in place reduces a server's likelihood of determining and reporting actual tips received.

                                                                Thus the government's "intrusive" assumption, which is supposed to compel a server to report tip income, actually tends to cause some - perhaps even most - tips to go unreported. The tax collector is hoist by his own petard, so to speak. (Look that one up while you're at it.)

                                                                DISCLAIMER: The author is not challenging government withholding of taxes based on actual income earned. Neither is the author condoning the commission of tax fraud. The opinions expressed here are those of the poster, and not necessarily those of Chowhound or That will be all.

                                                            2. re: FrankD

                                                              In US, our IRS (internal revenue service) cannot wait for the money at the end of the year. It wants the tax money. Now. On every paycheck.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                yeah. damn them for needing to fix streets, supply schools, and pay the army. how dare they!

                                              2. This applies to the U.S. only:

                                                You dine at a restaurant. Food is offered by the menu. The prices you're paying are for kitchen labor, food cost, ambience (including linen laundry) and leasehold costs. The 20% you tip your server is for just that -- service. Diminish the tip if the service is poor; that's the way it works and has been working, culturally, for a long, long time. However, if the *food* is poor, don't take it out on your server. The recourse one takes when the food is poor is to take it up with the server and return the offending dish -- then the server becomes your "advocate." If the server performs this assistance for you quickly and seamlessly, their tip should remain intact. If you don't feel they've done a good job as your advocate; by all means reduce the tip.

                                                I receive tips when I bartend (I must give them to the tipped staff 'cause I'm management). It's always nice when I receive a little something extra for a job well done. On the other side of the coin, if I'm careless it's represented in my tip; it's a learning experience.

                                                When I go out I like to tip well. I'm often remembered and non-scientifically value the complimentary drinks, apps, desserts and other perks I receive as even compensation for the extra expense. Not to mention the outstanding service, which is guaranteed.

                                                Of course, if you want to split hairs, tipping is "optional." And I've encountered a few people in my life who don't tip at all... because, they say, tipping is "optional." One of these individuals is a former colleague who "took me out" to lunch -- it was a memorably ghastly experience. Apparently this bone-head wouldn't tip and yet returned to the same places over and over again. I wonder why they ever bothered serving him again. I never spoke to this guy after I saw this (relatively rich) man look me straight in the eye and give me that rationale with a straight face!

                                                1. All the discussion above is (almost) totally off the mark. The reason why we tip is that the food service system in the US has evolved to make it an expected (and from the point of view of common decency, required) part of the payment process. In most (if not all) states in the US of A, restaurants are allowed, BY LAW, to pay their servers far less than minimum wage, on the expectation that the balance will be made up by tips.

                                                  Should it be this way? No. Is it this way in other countries? No. The situation varies by country. In most places there is no special extra-low wage minimum for servers, and they either get paid decently to begin with or a standard "service charge" is part of the bill as a matter of course. In some places a tip of 5% or 10% is standard, in others you simply round up to the nearest whole unit of currency or leave a few coins, in yet other countries it is considered bad form and you would never tip at all. But in the US, THAT'S THE WAY IT IS. If you don't tip you are condemning your server to a sub-minimum wage. You can legally do that but it makes you an a-hole.

                                                  As I said - I'm not saying this is the way it should be, but this is the way it is, and if you want to change it, start lobbying for servers to get paid a living wage, don't start by stiffing them.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    In New York State a Waiter/Waitress is only paid $2. and change per hour. The rely on their tips to make a living.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      Exactly. Very well stated. I am not going to be a (what you said). Just because no one sees what I'm doing and I may never go back doesn't make it right. Thank you, BobB.

                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                        Thank you, thank you. You said it perfectly.

                                                        edited to add: and you are from Brookline! Even better!

                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                          "The reason why we tip is that the food service system in the US has evolved to make it an expected (and from the point of view of common decency, required) part of the payment process."


                                                          In response, I posted this upthread:

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            You presume that there is some sort of equilibrium that the system will return to. However, this is not a closed system, and more likely we would see more owners turn to more temporary, flexible, and part time labor. If it follows other sectors of the service, and especially food service economy, we'd likely see lower wages, worse service, and higher profits. THAT would be the new system. The owner's incentive would be to drive down wages to the lowest point before profits were negatively affected.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Yes, I saw that.

                                                              "If there were no tips, at some point restaurants would have to pay their servers more."

                                                              Maybe, maybe not, as Cachetes points out. But regardless, the idea that the way to change things is to start stiffing waiters in hopes that they'll quit and restaurant owners will have to start offering them more money in order to get them back strikes me as morally distasteful, to say the least.

                                                            2. re: BobB

                                                              Again, very well said. In a moderately pricey restaurant in California, a server makes $8/hour for wages and probably about $30-$40/hour in tips. Anyone can see how it is to their advantage to try and boost their tip average.

                                                              I think that the only way that servers could make decent money without the tip system would be for the food to be outrageously expensive so the restaurant could afford to pay them. So either way, the consumer is having to foot the bill. Many people just don't see it that way I guess.

                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                Thanks, BobB. This is not a philosophical issue, it's a business matter, and the restaurant business in the U.S. has succeeded in passing most of its labor costs onto the customer in the form of tips. That's a simple economic fact. This gibberish about "what if everyone refused to tip" is just that---gibberish. Of course, if tipping were eliminated and the labor cost were incorporated into the restaurant prices, who knows whether we'd pay more or less. But to blame this on servers' getting away with something they don't deserve is obscene. I do think that poor service deserves a poor tip but 1) make sure it's the service, not the kitchen or management and 2) I wouldn't totally stiff a server in any case.

                                                                1. re: Masonville

                                                                  But again, I say, the customer will end up paying it anyway in the increased cost of food to pay the server more money.