Another legacy of slavery: tipping (or so says HuffPo)

January 18, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Readers here know that, of all media, my bête noire is HuffPost, the wokest and most repugnant of Left-wing and widely-read “news” sites. It’s getting woker, too, and that may be because it was bought by BuzzFeed last November, which of course is in the same ballpark.

I’m not a big one for Schadenfreude, but I would have a big grin on my face if HuffPost went under. Indeed, given the proliferation of ads (often masquerading as “news”) on its site, that may be in the offing.

To keep my equanimity, I no longer check the site very often, but I did today, and my eye was caught by the article below (click on screenshot). “What?” I thought. “I’d never heard of tipping being a legacy of slavery.” So I had to investigate the charges.

The verdict: not guilty. In fact there are only two sentences in the article that could be said to have anything to do with slavery:

Here’s one:

Around 1850, there was a massive strike of waiters who were mostly men, and restaurants replaced them with women. It happened around the time of emancipation, so the feminization of this industry was combined with the entrance of Black people into the labor market … and that combination resulted in a mutation of tipping from being an extra or bonus to becoming the wage itself.

Here’s the other:

The idea that this whole industry gets away with saying, “Customers should pay our workers’ wages for us,” is an anathema and in direct contradiction to what we as a nation decided 150 years ago with the abolition of slavery, when we decided as a nation that employers should be paying for the value of labor.

The first statement makes no direct connection between tipping and slavery, but simply says that black people entered the labor market around the time that the restaurant industry became “feminized”. (Note: 1850 was well before slavery was ended, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, which of course did not flood the labor market with freed slaves!). There is no mention of slavery here.  But there is a valid point to be made, which is that the increasing number of women as waitpeople might be correlated with the desire to pay lower wages. That’s for a restaurant historian to determine, but if true it has to do with sexism, not slavery.

Other data show that the proportion of whites, blacks, and Hispanics among waitstaff is pretty close to their proportion in the population as a whole, casting doubt on the article’s statement about racial disproportionality: “Today, 70% of these workers are women and they are disproportionately women of color. . . . “. And surely this indicts poverty, not slavery, as Hispanics were not slaves in America.

The second statement analogizes being a waiter/waitress (let’s say “waitperson”) with being a slave. The analogy fails on two counts: first, as far as I know, the abolition of slavery was not directly connected with any decision that “employers should be paying for the value of labor.” The second is that, as I noted above, there’s not a scintilla of evidence that tipping is a legacy of slavery. One might consider it slavery, but I think any number of people might object to that. Although I haven’t seen people yet go after the word “slavery”, when it means “working for little or no recompense” (e.g., the way HuffPost used to treat its writers), an analogy is not a legacy.

Let me add here that I do object to the whole scheme of tipping, which most of the world seems to have rejected. In some places it’s illegal in restaurants, while in others, like France, service is included in the price of the food. You can leave a couple of Euros if you wish, but it’s not required.  I would much prefer to have the food prices raised and the waitstaff paid a living wage. (As the article makes clear, in many states the hourly wage for waitstaff is abysmal: just a few dollars.)

There are other arguments against tipping as well, and you know them. The waitstaff can get penalized for mistakes of the cooks or other people in the “back of the house”, sometimes women get advised, as the article notes, to wear revealing clothes to jack up their take, which is ridiculous, and one never knows how much to tip, especially if the service is bad. My standard tip is now 20%, almost never lower, and can be higher if service is exceptionally good. But I’d prefer not to have to ponder the issue at all, and for other people (not me!) it’s led to ugly scenes when the waitstaff chase down a customer who’s been especially uncharitable.

This whole article could have been written about the shabby treatment of waitstaff in restaurants, and I would have been on board. But the claim that tipping is a “legacy of slavery” and should be “abolished” seems to be an attempt to fold restaurants and waitstaff into the 1619 Project.  And that’s why I despise HuffPost.

74 thoughts on “Another legacy of slavery: tipping (or so says HuffPo)

  1. Tipping is annoying. Biden wants to eliminate the minimum wage for waitstaff, and move it in line with the normal minimum wage. Apparently, though, this would actually be a hardship for waitstaff, since a large portion of their pay would be withheld, and, therefore, it’s actually opposed by those it’s meant to help. Go figure.

    1. Which means that they are not paying tax on part of their earnings whereas other people do. Unfair. Pay them what they should earn, which might be more than minimum wage. Increase the food prices to compensate. Put up a sign saying that tipping is not expected. Things can be changed.

      In some places it is actually considered extremely impolite to tip.

    2. If it’s the case that [regular pay + tax] is not worth as much as [low pay + tax free tips], then very likely we will see good staff demand more (or look for other jobs).

      Moving it in line with all other wages doesn’t prevent restaurants from offering them more, if the market value of their labor ends up being more than the replacement take-home pay would be.

      ***

      Personally I liked the old-school German method, where your tip is just rounding the bill up. Also very much appreciated their practice of assuming separate bills for everyone at the table, without the customer having to demand that. Much more civilized, IMO.

  2. Tipping as a percentage of your total bill has always seemed a bit off to me. The outstanding waitstaff at the local diner deserve to be rewarded just a much as their counterparts at the hoity – toity places. Another consideration, many waitstaff prefer cash for tax reasons.

    1. Another issue is that wine is prices disproportionately highly compared to food, and half the price of your meal could be wine. But the sommelier doesn’t do nearly as much work as the waitperson.

    2. Also tipping a set percentage say for a 30 $ meal versus 100 $ meal … seems off to me. Some restaurants seem to enforce a gratuity for a large group … which also seems strange.

      1. I remember going to a restaurant on Thanksgiving with my extended family (ie, a large group). I routinely scan bills since mistakes are common. Also, I have a sense for how much it should cost. In this case, the total seemed out of whack so I repeated the addition. It was added up wrong. The restaurant had added the “large group fee” but failed to even show it as an item on the bill! Always check the bill.

      2. In my experience of going to restaurants in groups of all sizes, large groups are much harder for the wait staff to deal with than small groups.

        Even writing the order down accurately can be difficult, especially if there are people who have changed their minds by the time you have finished the order. I’ve even seen people forget what they ordered and take a dish that is not theirs.

        Then you have to try to organise all the food to come out at more or less the same time and people complain if it doesn’t and inevitably, because it takes so long to get all the food out, some of it is cold.

        Then you have to cope with the abstruse maths employed by the diners in trying to divide the bill up fairly.

        Large groups pose much harder logistical challenges for the restaurant than small groups. I’d say they deserve the compulsory gratuity (if that’s not an oxymoron).

        1. I don’t believe that. The cost of dealing with a patron vs the tip you receive from that patron must be analyzed on a per-person basis. You’ve left out all efficiencies of scale that come from dealing with a large group (in no particular order):

          – Taking orders from, say, 10 people at one table has to be more efficient than taking order from the same number of people distributed across several tables.

          – Delivering one bill has to be more efficient than delivering several bills.

          – Requests from the table are often combined. The waiter can refill 10 glasses at one table faster than if they were spread across several tables. The people will tend to be synchronized in their needs.

          – Large groups tend to order more food per-person. I don’t have any statistics but that’s been my experience.

          I’m sure there are some costs that are higher for large groups but I don’t buy it in general. I think it is a scam perpetrated by some smart restauranteur in the deep past and taken up by many others.

          1. The cost of dealing with a patron vs the tip you receive from that patron must be analyzed on a per-person basis

            No, why? You’re ignoring the problem of scaling a process up.

            Let’s say there are 10 people in the restaurant. They are all independent and seated at separate tables. The waiter goes up to each person and takes their order. Let’s say it takes 30 seconds per order. All nice and smooth. Each person has a separate order and the chance of a mix up of the orders is minimal since they are all seated at individually identifiable tables.

            Now let’s say there are 10 people arranged as 5 couples. Still not a big deal. The waiter goes to each table and takes two orders. On each table he takes person A’s order (30 seconds) and then person B’s order (30 seconds). There is a small but finite probability that person A might change their mind while person B is ordering. No problem, the waiter crosses out person A’s order and replaces it with their new order. It adds a small amount of time to the 60 seconds. The only potential mix up is that the two orders are swapped and it’s easy enough to remedy that.

            Now let’s say the people are a single party of 10. There’s a much higher chance that people will change their minds about the order because there is more of them and more time while the orders are being taken to think about it. It’s also harder for the waiter to change the order because they’ve got a list with 10 or 20 items on it to search through. Then when they bring the food to the table, it takes longer to establish who it is for and if a mistake is made, it is often not discovered for some time.

            Now think about the kitchen. Let’s say your pizza oven can take five pizzas and takes ten minutes to cook them. If ten individuals all order pizza, it’s not a big deal. The last five people have to wait a bit longer for their pizza. If ten people in a party all order pizza, they have an expectation that their food will all arrive more or less at the same time. What do you do? Either you deliver the food when it’s ready leading to some people having to watch others eating their food (or watching their own food get cold if they are polite) or you have to store some of the food in the kitchen until it’s all ready which means it won’t be in optimal condition when you serve it.

            Then there’s the question of the space taken up A party of 10 takes up 10 place settings for the entire time the whole party is in the restaurant and it’s likely to be a longer time than average. Five parties of two also take up 10 settings, but as each party finishes, their places are released for new customers and more revenue and more tips.

            1. How do you justify 30 seconds per order regardless of table size? What about the fact that the server can explain the menu (recount today’s specials, etc.) to an entire table all at once? And the fact that when one patron asks a question, all the others hear it and the server’s answer. And the fact that people often order based on their neighbor’s order? (“That sounds really good. Same for me.”)

              1. It’s just a number for illustration. It could be 30 seconds, it could be 10. The point is that the restaurant experience doesn’t scale in the way you might think.

              2. Paul T – have you ever been a server? Nearly every wait person I know much prefers smaller parties, and the ones who like the large parties say that it is because the tip is larger and that they get more help from other servers.

              3. No, I’ve never been a server but I have been served many times! 😉 You sort of counter your own point here. Some servers like big groups and some don’t.

                I was looking only at whether a “compulsory gratuity” was justified. I don’t believe it is.

              4. Totally agree about the compulsory tip for a big group. I don’t think that I countered my point, which was that nearly all servers prefer the small groups. Our computer-jockey son who is wealthy enough to do whatever he wants decided to be a server at Islands for a while. He says the best table to have is the one next to the refill station because that is almost always the biggest demand on time 🙂

              5. Yes, I can see where servers might not like large groups. Just making oneself heard when people aren’t really listening at the other end of the table would be a big source of frustration. Dealing with the general confusion. Often someone at the table realizes this and tries to herd the group into making the server’s job easier. It also requires skills that some servers just don’t have.

              6. I’m almost certain that the group surcharge is a holdover from before POS systems could separate diners out on the bill. It was a very common experience in group dining for the collected money to not even cover the tax on the bill, let alone a tip for the server. People would forget about the tax when they calculated a tip, then round down to the nearest dollar they had. It was nuts.

                Now you get a bill that separates out each diner, with a total, including tax, for each person in the party. They have no excuse anymore.

                But this is also where the surcharge can be justified. It takes extra time for the server to enter the orders this way, and track each person or couple in the group.

              7. Having to tip is bad enough. In some countries, sales tax is always included in the price. Makes life easier.

                Although I dislike the custom, I do tip if it is expected because, like it or not, the people need the money. When travelling, read up on local tipping customs. It’s not just restaurants and bellboys. In some places, barbers and taxi drivers expect a tip.

                Where it gets dangerous is when nurses and physicians expect a tip. That is dangerously close to, if not already over, the bribery line.

  3. I wonder why “waitstaff” and “waitperson” have emerged. The verb is “to wait” and a waiter is someone who waits at table with no inherent sex connotation. We feel no need to refer to a “runperson”.

    1. Because there is waitress, but no runness.
      It might be simpler to abolish waitress and call the female waitperson waiter too, but the difference between runner and waiter is here nevertheless.

      1. It’s “waitrons”. I first heard it in the 1980s in Cambridge, Mass. Earliest citation in OED is

        Washington Post 30 Mar., 1980. In ‘Washingtron’, a song written and performed by a local New Wave band called True Fax and the Insaniacs the contempt is explained in the chorus: ‘I used to work as a waitron in the lounge of the Hilton Now I work for my senatron and I live in Arlingtron I’m just a Washingtron.’

        GCM

        1. I heard “waitron” back in the late Seventies. I thought it was a word made up by somebody from the restaurant where I was tending bar.

    2. I always smile at this … waiter and waitress? Similarly actor and actress.
      Executor vs executrix … not a big deal in most cases. But I insist on accurate suffixes when it comes to domination.

      But to the point …. I come from an age and place where managers and manageresses where not uncommon.

  4. Maybe of interest:
    Azar, Ofer H. 2020. “The Economics of Tipping.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 34 (2): 215-36
    https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.34.2.215

    From the abstract:
    This article discusses some aspects of tipping, with an emphasis on economic issues: the history of tipping, the main reasons for tipping, why tipping could be a welfare-increasing and sustainable social norm, the relationship between tipping and service quality, how tipping represents a struggle over [economic] rents*, and issues of discrimination and sexual harassment related to tipping.

    *In economics, rents are receipts in access of the income from the next best alternative (that is, the next best job).

    All articles in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a journal of the American Economics Association (the national association of US economists), are open-access. This journal aims to publish articles that are fairly non-technical.

  5. More things that need to be abolished (and must therefore be called a “legacy of slavery”):
    ¤ homeopathy;
    ¤ telephone robot labyrinths;
    ¤ elevator music;
    ¤ clerks who say “have a nice one” (a nice what?);
    ¤ Fed Ex, UPS, and Amazon delivery trucks which stop in the middle of the road.

    1. Agree on all counts. I will add leaf blowers. Every fall in my neighborhood we engage in a ritual where everyone noisily blows their leaves into the street, which then get randomly redistributed back to the yards with the next big windstorm.

    2. I love your description of IVR systems as “telephone robot labyrinths”. I do hope I remember that at the appropriate time!

  6. I would like to defer to the wishes of the waitpeople, but likely different ones will have different views on the matter. In some instances, ones’ income through tips can be quite good although unpredictable. And its tax free income. My youngest son works on delivering food all over town from a popular restaurant right now, and quite frankly he winds up getting paid rather generously on tips alone.
    Others in this line of work barely get by if they hold down two or more jobs. So I don’t think there is a simple answer.

    1. Tip income is indeed taxable income. Your son is playing with fire. If your son is caught by the IRS, he will be subject to extreme penalties. The IRS has prepared a booklet for employees who receive tip income. Go to IRS.gov and download publication 3148, “Tips on Tips.” This sentence sums up the tax requirement: “The tip income you receive as an employee from the services whether cash or included in a charge — is taxable income. As taxable income, these tips are subject to federal income tax, social security and Medicare taxes, and may be subject to state income tax as well.” He may wish to file amended tax returns or consult with a reputable tax preparer.

      1. And, I believe that over the years, the IRS has become a bit more savvy in tracking tip income. In the 60’s, a friend and I worked as bellmen at a resort in Lancaster, PA. We got paid diddly in hourly, but made out quite well on tips from the east coast city types who wanted to golf and gawk at the Amish. All of us, except one fellow, compared our tips to decide how much we were going put on our reports. Mr. Clean insisted on reporting all of his tips, so there was some discrepancy – we were never asked, but our response was that he was a gigolo as well as a bell man.

  7. In fact, tips are TAXABLE income, I should know, I was audited many years back because they thought I didn’t claim all the tips I should have. Of course, if the tips go unreported, they seem to be non-taxable.

    But, on the topic, I think we should do two things – pay better wages for wait persons, AND, tip them. The beauty of tips is that it keeps the workers on their toes, because they know that the better they are, the more tips they will get. Throughout Latin America, tips are uncommon, and waiters are for the most part, terrible in comparison. I worked at restaurants in Seattle, Tulsa, Sun Valley, and elsewhere, and all the best service came from wait persons wanting to earn tips. If the wage was better, we could change the rules of tips themselves. Say, 5% as sort of a minimum, to 10% for very good service, and more than that if you can and feel like it. If that were on top of a $20 hour minimum wage, it would still be a bonus and so generate quality in wait persons, but it would not be a huge amount for the person at the restaurant.

    Another but, BUT, the wages MUST increase while the wages at the top DECREASE, otherwise, the top will just increase prices to cover the increased wages.

    1. the wages MUST increase while the wages at the top DECREASE, otherwise, the top will just increase prices to cover the increased wages.

      It sounds entirely reasonable to me that an increase in costs would lead to an increase in price.

      Except, of course it wouldn’t, it would just lead to restaurants be more honest about the price of dining at their establishment. If I go to a restaurant in the USA now, I might pay $20 for a meal and another $5 for service. If the restaurant was forced to pay the wait staff a living wage, the meal might cost $25 but I wouldn’t have to leave a tip. In the end it’s cost me the same, but the price list is a more honest reflection of what I will eventually pay.

  8. According to historians, period newspapers and period literature, tipping was an old custom in England, at least, if not the rest of Europe. Common practice was that a “servant” was given room and board (and perhaps an annual bonus of clothing) by his/her Master, and got actual money through tips for service by whoever s/he performed a task for.

  9. Tipping as a wage seems to me, as it’s executed these days, especially in the US where tipping is more prominent than some other western countries, to be related to class more than anything else. Maybe I’m just a Marxist.

  10. I grew up in Canada, where the tipping culture is similar to that of the US (although the expected percentage seems to have risen over the years, from 10% to 15%, now 18-20%). Having moved to Australia four years ago, I’m now completely used to not tipping. And the service is as good here as it is in North America, if not better. I now find it annoying when I go back to North America and have to fret about how much tip to leave.

    1. That’s a problem with tipping: people want to think of themselves as generous rather than mean, so tip a little bit above the going rate. So, over time, the going rate increases.

      1. And this inflation is encouraged by the establishments. It really bugs me when I see credit card machines offering a choice of tips by percentage, all of which are over 15%. If you want to give 15%, you must choose “Custom Tip” and enter it. I routinely give no tip when they do that. I don’t know if they get the message but they don’t get my money which is just as important.

        1. The last time I was in New York a couple of years ago, coffee shops had started asking for tips – again, 18-20% was the suggestion. It popped up on the screen with the server standing right in front of me, with people in line behind me able to see. It guilted me into paying an extra 20% on a(n already overpriced) cup of tea!

    2. No knock on my Canuck friends, but they’re not known in the American service industry for tipping like Diamond JIm Brady.

        1. True enough, and I think Canada has by far the better system. Still, that doesn’t do much to assuage the servers in Broward County, Fla., who wait on Canadian snowbirds. 🙂

          1. In Canada we tip on less things. I always find that I’m confused when traveling to the US about when I should tip because we mostly do it in restaurants and a few other places but not anywhere else. It’s possible I’m also socially inept so maybe other Canadians are tipping more and I don’t notice.

  11. Back in the mid-1980s, I worked at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants in the Silicon Valley regions – San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino & Mountain View, initially as a cook and then as an assistant manager for about two years. Among the wait staff, tips varied considerably based on how busy the restaurant was on any given shift as well as location. The one I worked at in San Jose on Winchester Boulevard was right between the Winchester Mystery House (a major tourist attraction) and a cinema complex, with a big shopping mall across the street and another one just a half mile down the street (and I just happened to live about a half mile away so I could easily walk to work). That restaurant was extremely busy most times of the day, but even more so on Friday & Saturday nights with people coming from the movies, the malls or the WMH, and the best waiters usually got excellent tips. After 7 months there, I was transferred to the Cupertino location, which was not in an area that was relatively remote from other attractions — a community college was about a mile down the street and a church was directly across the street. That place was typically busiest in the mornings, but not particularly busy most nights and too often, just about 10 to 15 minutes before our usual closing time, a bunch of people, often 15 to 20 or more, from the church stopped by and they were such very lousy tippers that the wait staff dreaded and detested them. The church people also tended to be very fussy. i wouldn’t know by how much, but I’m know the wait staff at the Winchester store earned considerably more in tips than the staff at the Cupertino store, but, of course, at the Winchester store we all were kept far more busy than in the Cupertino one (and on Fridays & Saturdays, the Winchester store stayed open until 1 a.m., closing at 12 p.m. other nights; the Cupertino store closed at 10 p.m. every night). The other stores I worked at were in the middle range between those two.
    Just based on that experience, I’m sure waiters’ opinions would vary widely depending on how much they typically earn in tips — most, I think, would cheer getting increased hourly wages and doing away with tips, while others would be aghast as they likely earn quite a bit more in tips than they would from regular wages. Me, I’d be glad if the custom of tipping went away.

    1. … and too often, just about 10 to 15 minutes before our usual closing time, a bunch of people, often 15 to 20 or more, from the church stopped by and they were such very lousy tippers that the wait staff dreaded and detested them. The church people also tended to be very fussy.

      I’ll bet anything they asked for separate checks, too.

      Groups like this are why some houses add an automatic gratuity for parties of six or more.

      1. Yep. One time, my brother and his family and several friends from out of the area, for a total of about 15 people, came to the restaurant. After they left, the waiter, James, who was an excellent waiter, told me that my brother hadn’t left a tip! I gave James a tip myself and discussing it with my brother later, turns out he had simply forgotten. As he made no complaint about the service, I’m inclined to think he was being honest and I certainly understand how people can make stupid mistakes like that. But, of course, if he’d had to pay a specific amount as shown on his bill, he wouldn’t have been able to conveniently forget to pay that.
        At any rate, I quit working in restaurants back in 1988 and have no desire to ever work in one again.

  12. Tipping is a strange custom, and resistant to change. At least in the US. Here in Seattle many restaurants have tried to go tipless by raising prices and promising higher wages. But soon the tips came back. The higher prices stuck around, however.

    1. Yeah it’s a whole cultural change that I don’t think you can do at one restaurant and expect it to catch on. There would have to be some big change that caused it to be adopted universally and sustained.

      1. The entire restaurant industry is unusual. Where else would a business let you consume an non-returnable product costing up to several hundred dollars without getting a credit card approval first?

  13. Tipping is an odd practice.
    However, this article provides more evidence that intersectionality is a creeping menace. It seems to be the result of teaching people false history, as well as giving them no real grasp on scientific method.
    At best, they produce an argument that sort of makes sense, as long as you don’t follow up on the sources, or explore the logic in detail.
    The author herself seems to have a complicated history with her own food service employees, including not providing them with promised wages and benefits, and demanding they support her at protests and in fundraising on their own time.

    1. To save others a bit of time – from the Wiki – In 2007, a group of former employees brought a lawsuit against Jayaraman and the Restaurant Opportunities Center.[14] Following the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, Jayaraman set out to open an employee-owned restaurant for the former workers from Windows on the World that was destroyed in the attacks. However, the feel-good project quickly soured when Jayaraman’s promise to the employees of total ownership in exchange for working long hours of “sweat equity” without pay did not come to fruition.[15] Instead, the workers were told that they would receive just 20% ownership and that they would not be entitled to that until 5 years after Colors’ opened. In the lawsuit, Jayaraman is also accused of expelling workers for voicing their objections.[15] The legal trouble for Jayaraman continued in 2012 when the Restaurant Opportunities Center had an oversight investigation opened on it by the United States House of Representatives calling into question the groups federal funding.[16] In 2017, Jayaraman and ROC quietly closed Colors restaurant in New York City as former employees described the restaurant as having no clear leadership and strapped for cash.[17] In early 2020 Colors re-opened in NYC, but suddenly shuttered operations after less than a month. Employees were informed of the closure via text message.[18] Head chef, Sicily Sewell-Johnson claims that ROC failed to set up basic business requirements such as workers compensations, payroll, and health insurance.[19] When Sewell-Johnson injured her finger on the job, she had to pay for care herself because she was never provided the health insurance that she had been promised.[19]

  14. On average, I’d say service is better where tipping is customary, but I’ve experienced indifferent service with or without tipping. I’d still prefer to do away with it.

    I’ve read a lot on the subject, and I’ve seen so many good reasons to do away with the practice, and very few reasons to keep it. Studies have shown little correlation between size of tip and the level of service, and higher correlations with the perceived attractiveness of the waiter/waitress.

    The practice works really well for some waitstaff, and poorly for others. You’ll have less trouble getting the latter group on board with a no tip policy, but the former group will either flee to restaurants that retain tipping, or abandon food service. I think this is why many restaurants that try it give up.

  15. A guy named Jay Porter ran a tipless restaurant on the West Coast called The Linkery, 2005 – 2013 according to Wikipedia. He had a lot to say about how tipping does and doesn’t work. It sadly appears that most of that writing is off line now.

    He observed that good servers figure out where the incentives are for earning tips. To the dismay of people who like tipping, the incentive is for more tips, not bigger ones. Servers will earn more by serving more tables than by providing better service. 10 twenty dollar tips is better than 5 thirty dollar tips, even though taking on 10 tables inevitably means poorer service. They also make snap judgements of which customers are worth trying to please. The server’s incentives are not aligned with the restaurant, either; the server benefits from quick turn around and more tips, while the restaurant benefits from bigger tabs at each table. The restaurant wants to sell you dessert, the server wants you out of there so they can get another table and another tip.

    1. I’ve read his articles on the subject before. Thanks for the reminder of who it was.

      Another thing he mentioned: servers will make arrangements (aka bribes) with hosts/hostesses to seat the perceived big tippers in their section, leaving other servers with the poor tippers.

  16. I came to the realization reasonably early in life that I was never gonna get to sleep with Ava Gardner, much less get to sing with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra or Count Basie’s band. But I could tip like Sinatra. So I have. (Within reason, I mean; I’ve never yet “duked” a parking valet a pair of C-notes the way Frank did — particularly not as adjusted for inflation.)

  17. OK Prof – you’ve got to stop hate reading the idiotic HufPo – it is doing your cortisol level no good at all.

    They wanted to publish my work once (for free, for the “honor” of appearing there and I told them to jump in the lake – even though I do write for other places – like Counterpunch and Democracy Chronicles.org for free.)

    Tipping is obscene and typical of how everything is a grift in America: outsourcing labor costs to the diners like that.
    I’ll note that in Japan it is RUDE to tip – it is taken as attempted bribery and offensive: “I’m not good enough at my job so you have to bribe me?”
    Their waitstaff are paid a living wage by their employer.

    So that’s that, then.
    D.A.
    NYC
    https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/06/10/photos-of-readers-93/

  18. Back when I worked for tips, I realized that it wasn’t about the service I provided or the quality of the meal, it was about the person getting the service. The more affluent the person, the worse the tips & the more demands they made on me (for those tips). Blue-collar people, working class people, they were the BEST tippers & I would always want to provide service for those people. Anyone I have talked to in the bar/restaurant business has always agreed.

  19. North American food service does seem to be unusually reliant on tipping: in the UK 10% is considered a perfectly respectable tip, maybe 12% if service was especially good — yet in Canada, where I live now, 15% seems to be considered the absolute floor with an expectation that it will probably be higher. There also seems to be an expectation of a tip in just making someone a coffee as they wait at the counter, which would not be considered tippable work in the UK. I like the Japanese approach better: absolutely no one gives, or expects to receive, a tip for anything. They just get paid properly.

  20. Seems to me that associating tipping with slavery (tarring tipping) is part of the anti-truth movement. It aligns with “there is no truth”–other than subjective truth. It aligns with power makes its own truth, and the notion that those in power construct reality to preserve their power. I first remember this when, twenty+ years ago, a museum promoted India to a continent–not a subcontinent, mind you. WTF? Why? Because the promoters of the show can. They construct reality, so there. One sees this promotion, shamelessly done, more and more; the young are now in positions of power, and it’s their way, a way learned via Critical Theory.

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