Yesterday, a CNBC article went around social media with advice on how to save money when eating out. The advice came down to: tip less at restaurants. As you can probably imagine, the reason the article was going around social media wasn’t because it was a good article. It was being passed around because people were making fun of the article, and condemning anyone who doesn’t tip at restaurants.
My take: This may be an unpopular opinion, but I wishing tipping would go away. I wish it weren’t a thing at all.
To be clear. I’m a frequent tipper. I tip at restaurants. I tip my hairstylist and my nail lady. I tip for deliveries (like pizza or furniture). I tip housekeepers when I stay at hotels. True I don’t use their services very often, but when I do, I tip the valet and the bellhop. I also tip my Uber drivers. I try to make a habit of tipping generously.
But I would much, much, much prefer if the prices for all those services went up and translated to higher wages for workers, and then tipping went away altogether.
It’s hard for me to imagine a culture less fair then tipping. And the fact that certain wages are set lower (like a restaurant server’s), because there’s an assumption tips will be made, just drives me bonkers. Why should someone’s wages be determined by a customer’s mood?
There’s data that tipping is unfair across the board. At restaurants, servers who are people of color receive lower tips, and we know the history of tipping has roots in racism. At hotels, many people don’t know that tipping housekeeping is even a thing. And if they do know, there doesn’t seem to be any regular expectations around it. Do you tip your housekeeper every day? Or just at the end of the stay? Do you tip a flat amount per night? Or do you tip as a percentage of the night’s stay?
I remember when Uber introduced tips, I was totally bummed and vocally against it. I LOVED that there were no tips. It was one of the things that improved the experience for me over using taxis. Obviously, I’ve gotten on board, and I regularly tip my Uber drivers, but if I could choose to be charged a higher rate and not have the option to tip, I would take that option every time.
I want to imagine most people would like to be generous tippers. But it’s a dumb system. I detest having to choose a tip amount — either calculating the tip, or choosing a suggested amount from an app. Even when I tip a standard amount — like a minimum 20% at a restaurant — there’s this moment of feeling pressure to judge the services of my server that I find a really awful part of the whole experience. And then, once the tip is done, there’s this moment where I’m feeling judged as well. Did I tip enough? Should I be embarrassed by the amount I tipped?
There are practical issues too. In the case of a bellhop or valet, what if someone doesn’t have cash? And why is tipping expected in some industries but not in others? Who decides, and what’s the history there, and is our culture of tipping spreading? And what if you’re on a tight budget? Should people who can barely get by on what they earn be judged for tipping less?
Other thoughts that make me want to reject our tipping culture: When we lived in France, we discovered tips aren’t really a thing there. Like if your taxi ride was 5.85 Euros you would give 6 Euros and not ask for change, but there was no expectation of a tip. And of course, there is this depressing article you might have seen: Instacart, DoorDash, and Amazon Flex have been using tips to cover promised pay.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we should eliminate the tipping culture in the U.S.. We know it’s deeply uneven and unfair. We know it’s racist. And we know it’s used as an excuse by businesses to not pay a fair wage. Instead, charge consumers the price you would need to charge in order to pay a fair wage for your workers. If consumers won’t pay it, then perhaps your product/service isn’t as valuable as you think it is.
What’s your take? Are you a fan of tipping? Do you see value in the practice that I don’t? Do you feel like the tipping culture in the U.S. will ever go away? Are there restaurant chains that forbid tipping? Chains that make sure the public knows their servers are being paid higher wages in order to stop unfair tipping at their establishments? What would need to happen for tipping to disappear? And in the meantime, how can we solve electronic tipping for situations when cash isn’t on hand?
Lastly, what are your best and worst tipping stories. And have you ever lived in a place without a tipping culture? I’d love to hear.
Photo credit: The Study of the Hungry Human.