Recently, an old “high school friend” turned “Facebook-friend-I-forgot-I-had” posted a photo of a receipt, and it popped up in my newsfeed. This receipt wasn’t hers -- it was for an unknown diner at a restaurant-that-shall-remain-nameless where Facebook friend works. She captioned this photo: “Not even a 10% tip?! #cheated.”
I spent the next couple of hours feeling irrationally irritated after I saw that photo, but not at the customer who failed to give what this waitress felt she deserved in a tip. I was annoyed at her for feeling entitled to complain about it.
The art of tipping is, for most people, really freaking annoying. How much is too much? How much is too little? Is this the only reason I had to learn how to calculate percentages in 5th grade? Am I really supposed to tip this floral delivery guy when I didn’t even know he was coming to deliver me flowers that I didn’t even buy? Also, I don’t carry cash anymore, so, crap.
And I could write a whole separate article on “Automatic Tips.” There is no such thing as an “automatic” tip. If it’s “automatically” included, it is “automatically” just part of the regular price. The very definition of tipping suggests it should be extra. It’s a reward, not a right.
But the bread and butter of my tip annoyance is the mandatory tip of your server in a restaurant. Why do I owe someone extra money just for doing their job? I work retail, and get paid crap for it. I’m expected to be courteous and helpful and provide “excellent customer service” with absolutely no possibility of a tip or commission. Why should it be any different for someone working in a restaurant? The way I see it, the restaurant is paying the employee, not me.
Disclaimer time: I live and eat 98+% of my meals in Washington State, one of 7 states that doesn’t have a different minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped employees. The waiter or waitress in whatever restaurant I am in makes at least minimum wage which, coincidentally, is what I make in my retail job. And sooner or later, that minimum wage is going to jump to a staggering $15/hour. But we are still expected to tip people on top of that wage, just as we would in states where waitstaff are making less than $3 per hour. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
Let it be known, I personally do not believe that a tipped minimum wage should be allowed. That just lets the employer off easy while asking the customer to pick up the slack on what should be an employer’s expense. It isn’t fair to the worker or the customer, and I would advocate for the tipped minimum wage to be abolished.
I do not want anybody living in poverty, but I don’t think that the wage of someone should depend on the whim of a customer, either. Servers and bartenders deserve a solid minimum wage just like the rest of us.
And yet, we live in a society that customarily mandates tips, and businesses go out of their way to make customers feel uncomfortable if they don’t tip. From tip jars that practically smack you in the face when you’re ordering a coffee to the new tablet payment trend that “suggests” you add a $1-2 tip to your transaction, even if you all bought was a $2.50 cup of tea, you sometimes have to go out of your way NOT to tip.
Never mind that these “opportunities” to tip often come before you have received much service at all. The quality of service isn’t even what matters anymore -- it’s just expected.
Thanks to Instagram and Twitter, we now live in an era of “tip shaming.” I’ve seen pictures of receipts that shame celebrities or other wealthy people for not providing some grotesque tip. As though Mark Zuckerberg is obliged to tip you more than I am even if we receive the same service: the amount of a tip doesn’t depend on the percent of our income. We don’t owe you anything but decency, respect, and the listed prices we’ve agreed to pay.
Food is a good like any other. I don’t ask customers to throw in 10% for buying clothes from me, and I resent the implication that a food service worker is working harder than I am, and therefore deserves a tip. The truth is that tips are an outdated tradition doing absolutely nothing to improve the livelihoods of people in the food-service industry.
For all these reasons and more, I’ve finally gotten over the guilt that goes with not tipping. I don’t eat out often- maybe three times a month, including ice cream and coffee runs -- but when I do, I rarely tip. The last time I tipped my waiter it was because he offered me a free refill on my cocktail when I clumsily spilled it on the table, adding to the mess he already had to clean up. And yes, I felt he deserved it. But the person scooping my ice cream cone? Mixing my hot chocolate? Or the person delivering my steaming bowl of pho?
No, to me, the 60 seconds you spent serving me doesn’t merit an extra dollar. I simply don’t believe in it. And I’m not apologizing for it.
Editorial note: The original image has been removed from this post.