Tipping is the difference between a service employee making a viable living or teetering on the brink of poverty. So why do so many Americans refuse to take part in this important social practice?
The origins of tipping <a href="date back to 18th century England. Back then, pub owners would leave out a jar that read “To Insure Promptitude”; a deposit in the jar would ensure that customers would get better service than their less generous peers.
Fast-forward to today in America. Tipping is no longer an added value request. Customers who refuse to tip are often summarily shamed. Celebrities and public figures who tip excessively are revered for their generosity.
People who rally against pseudo-mandatory tipping have offered the same refrains as they have since the custom migrated to America in the late 1800s.
Author William Scott wrote in his 1916 book The Itching Palm:
“Every tip given in the United States is a blow at our experiment in democracy. The custom announces to the world…that we do not believe practically that ‘all men are created equal.’
Unfortunately, tipping is a necessity. Only six states disallow a “tip credit” on the minimum wage requirements, meaning that if everyone doesn’t chip in on tips, restaurant employees stand to make less — or possibly much less — than the basic cost of living for every other American.
Some restaurant owners across the country have opted to abolish tipping, too. San Diego restaurant The Linkery’s owner Jay Porter penned an op-ed for Slate on his decision to move his staff to a salaried position at the cost of a mandatory 18 percent service charge.
Porter says, “When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted. In turn, business improved, and within a couple of months, our server team was making more money than it had under the tipped system. The quality of our service also improved. In my observation, however, that wasn’t mainly because the servers were making more money (although that helped, too). Instead, our service improved principally because eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service.”
NYC sushi stalwart — and Anthony Bourdain favorite — Sushi Yasuda did the same earlier this year, raising the cost of menu items 15 percent in order to accommodate a salary for their staff.
Unless other restaurant owners want to take a similar risky plunge into the waters of service charges or percentage points added to menu items, tipping is here to stay.
Given all of the above, you deciding not to tip barring some extreme circumstances — I’m talking a waitress calling you a racial epithet, a cook coming out of the kitchen to masturbate in your food, or other notable unpleasantries deserving some modicum of retribution — means you’re just a huge asshole who cares about no one but yourself. It’s not cute that you don’t tip. A nominal amount for you means the difference between living and dying for these people.
So to save you further embarrassment, here are the guidelines I’m giving everyone for tipping. If you don’t use them, you’re barred from any of society’s perks such as free garbage pickup or unlimited breadsticks at Olive Garden:
-Barbers and hair-dressers get 15 percent on their work. If it’s a good place, I’m comfortable with you going up to 25 percent here if you’re a man and 20 percent if you’re a woman. This is your hair, a big part on how the rest of the world sees you. Don’t piss off your hair person.
-Restaurant workers get 20 percent, minimum. Don’t even think about it, just move the decimal point, double it, and then you’ve got your tip. If they’re good, feel free to sprinkle some percentage points on there because, remember, they’re splitting this with chefs, hostesses, etc.
-Movers deserve more than the 15 percent I’m going to authorize here given that they’re basically moving your life. But when you factor in that a move can cost in the neighborhood of $1,000, I’m just not comfortable demanding you working Joes add too much to that expense.
-Food delivery people should get 20 percent, maxing out at about five bucks for most normal orders (i.e. not ten pizzas). Just not the same level of effort as wait staff. Sorry, delivery fellas.
-Cable guy deserves a twenty spot if he’s remotely competent and on-time. It’s a salaried job, for sure, but the guy’s bringing you all the episodes of House Hunters directly into your home. Don’t fuck around with that.
-Maid services deserve about 15 percent. That’s the price you pay for kicking your feet up while someone undoes the months of noneffort you put in to maintain the place you live, you slob. Hotel cleaning people should get about $20 per night you stay, more if you live like you’re Keith Richards and they didn’t rat you out.
-Bartenders need to get at least two bucks per drink order. It’s also not the worst idea to go heavy in the beginning with a $10 or $20 tip to set the tone. That’ll keep you from being just another face in the crowd of people not being served promptly.
-Valets get $2 for taking your car and $2 more for giving it back. Making that $5 per action if you have a fancy car makes sense to me.
-People serving you food at a counter deserve whatever change you get from your order plus a dollar or two if they went the extra mile in some way.
-I don’t tip my mail man because I never get any mail I actually care about and don’t even know how to get him a tip since I’ve never seen him. I’m willing to lose some street cred by admitting that.
Other people you should tip include bus boys, people doing your nails, and annual tips for your doormen and maintenance people if you live in some sort of high-rise building. If I omitted someone and they’re providing you a service,
Even if you forget to tip someone every now and then — sorry, my FreshDirect delivery guy…I don’t always have cash — the important thing is that you try. Tipping is what separates us from the animals. Do you want to be like Mowgli in The Jungle Book? I certainly don’t.