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May 15, 2014 10:37 PM

Why so many threads on tipping?

I don't live in the US so tipping to me is a bit of a novelty (we have service charges). But as a visitor I thought I got it and it was quite straightforward - albeit slightly illogical.

And when I question about the logic I get shouted down. I am told its established; everyone accepts it; its deeply ingrained in the culture; it drives great service; without it service would be dire etc etc.

But there are six threads in the first 25 on this page today asking about tipping. Why...?

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  1. England has weird pronunciations of names of places and people as a way to let educated people know who are their cultural peers and who are the riff-raff beneath them.

    Tipping is one way that Americans establish social status to each other. People don't want to look ignorant of social rules, but they also don't want to spend more than necessary.

    3 Replies
    1. re: FoodPopulist

      Thanks - as they say were i come from (Yorkshire) - "there's nowt as queer as folk" and there is good logic in your explanation.

      Regarding the weird pronunciation in England (or the whole UK) maybe regional accents/expression developed to stop the posh people understanding the locals. I know thats true for cockney rhyming slang.

      1. re: PhilD

        I still recall being in a pub in London in 1980 and asking where the loo was and being told "Back by the apples and pears."

        I must of looked pretty damn confused before the guy just said "'stairs" and I figured it out.

      2. re: FoodPopulist

        Also, Americans are the most self-absorbed people on earth. Everyone thinks their tipping question is unique and has never occurred before.

      3. I think half come from servers who feel they should be paid better. To this I say," go get a better paying job" . You are not an indentured servant

        The other half are from people who want to express their feeling of helping the common folks. " I pay 35%" "well I never tip less than 40%" . It serves no purpose other than to make them feel important.

        Serving food at a restaurant is a career for 1%, the other 99% should be looking forward to something that will pay them what they desire. Wishing to live and raise a family on the good intentions and welfare of strangers is just wrong.

        2 Replies
        1. re: genoO

          Have you ever done the job of serving food? Maybe try walking a mile in their moccasins and then come back here and let the board know if your take on this issue has changed at all.

          1. re: Servorg

            No, I always worked very physical jobs that make serving look easy. try working all day outdoors at -20 or all day at 95, carrying and lifting objects half your body weight .
            I got tired of that so I LOOKED for another job. And found one that pays well. And I don't have to depend on the good will of customers to help pay my bills.

        2. Daily living appears to be very confusing to some folks.

          They can't figure out how to tip, if food left alone for a few hours is safe to eat, and they don't know how to invite others to parties so they don't have to pick up everyone's bar tab.

          I am just thankful they can type and get answers to these life dilemmas! ;)

          1 Reply
          1. re: sedimental

            And let's not forget about being grown-up enough to spend a holiday meal together with food and company that don't meet expectations.

          2. I think there's a few factors at play.

            One is that while tipping itself is well-established, how much and who to tip isn't 100% clear and changes over time. And the consequences of getting it wrong are perceived as somewhat dire -- like you could be viewed as cheap or a bad person. So people get confused and seek guidance to avoid the social stigma.

            Related to that is the fact that participating in those discussions is an opportunity to pass judgement on the manners and morals of other people, which is just something that many people can't resist. And people disagree on what different tipping practices actually mean. That means the threads get long and heated, which means they stay on the front page longer than many non-tipping related threads.

            There's also simply the fact that Chowhound shows up pretty high when you google for information on tipping etiquette, so people come here looking for that information, and either add to existing threads (bringing them back to the top) or start their own questions.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jacquilynne

              You make a good point that culture changes over time.

              When my brother in law started to drive a taxi here in the UK, 10 years back, tips were a regular occurance. Not every trip but frequently during a shift. Nowadays, he reckons that he might now only get a couple of tips per shift and that they might well be less than the 10% of fare that was common.

            2. I'll try to answer your question, Phil - from the perspective of another non-American.

              I'd start from the premise that tipping is deeply ingrained in American culture. It says something about the society - about how people who are buying goods and, particularly, services regard the the people who are providing them. It's why the country has laws that say, yes, there is a minimum wage for workers in this state - except for workers in "tipping industries". It's why many Americans tip workers in various industries where it simply wouldnt occur for people in other countries to tip those workers. It's about a master/servant relationship.

              But then, as you note, there are always tipping threads on Chowhound. Usually very much raising the same sort of issue that was raised last week and the week before. Like you, I don't think I fully understand why those questions are posted - not least as they are usually after the event and folk are really asking for the approval of their actions from strangers on an internet discussion board. I can make something of a decent guess as to why it happens. I reckon it's because they want to feel they have done "the right thing". And, of course, they can't ask real friends and family just in case they havnt done the right thing. I am convinced that the "doing the right thing" and not wanting to have given offence in these circumstances is also deeply ingrained in American culture.

              I find it rather quaint. Not something you'd see in Europe, nor would I want to see it. You only have to look at European led discussion boards and you'll see that tipping threads are a rarity - even though there is no common method of tipping (or not tipping ) across our various countries, and custom ranges from the no tip situation in France, through the "a few coins" in Spain, to the old-fashioned cash-tip or service charge in the UK. But on the boards, you won't see a post from a Spaniard asking what are the arrangements in France or a Briton asking about Italy. It's really a subject for which we don't give a flying one about.