America’s obsession with tipping of course has racist roots

Originally published at: America's obsession with tipping of course has racist roots | Boing Boing


Another weird and cruel aspect of American Culture. :nauseated_face:


Some people in 1916 were pretty woke.


It was only about two years ago the tip/notip minimum wage differential was eliminated in Alberta, Canada. Minimum wage here is now 15$/hr (C$ of course). The railway Porter situation was the same here I think. Around 1970 when I was a kid we took a cross country train trip; my Dad worked for a railway so he had an understanding of what was going on and explained it to me. My Dad’s advice was that it’s a bad practice but making a stand against it by refusing to pay would just penalize the workers. His approach was to tip everyone at the start of the journey to ameliorate the servile aspect to some degree …and let elected representatives know how you feel. I mention this because as someone who works in a restaurant (I don’t receive tips but waitstaff and bartenders do) I know there are “crusaders” out there who take the “I won’t support this tyranny!” attitude but limit their activism to the courtesy plate :slight_smile:


It should be clear 150+ years after the Emancipation Proclamation that a lot of the crappy “customs” of American capitalism were brought to us by racism. And yet a significant number of poor and working-class white people in the U.S. still don’t understand that the special burdens placed on PoC by the ownership class inevitably come for them, too.


Watching shows and movies from earlier decades, it’s interesting how often workers trying to subtly request a tip are portrayed as being objects of derision for being greedy. Damned from both sides: not worth being paid for their work, and pathetic for asking for a “handout”.


More accurate.

Or maybe even more accurate to say that many DO understand that and they really don’t care.


In these Covid times, many times you have to tip ahead of time, when you are ordering the takeout. I still keep it at around 20%, but damn, I sure hate putting the tip on the credit card. I have a feeling that the boss doesn’t need to be involved in that transaction, which is supposed to be between me and the server (or wait staff), and two, I hate having the credit card company get their pinch of the deal. I cash when I can.

Not surprised that this, along with lots of other American customs, has its roots in slavery and racism. Not surprised at all.


Watching shows and movies from earlier decades, it’s interesting how often workers trying to subtly request a tip are portrayed as being objects of derision for being greedy. Damned from both sides: not worth being paid for their work, and pathetic for asking for a “handout”.

Great point. And the whole dynamic also has the insidious effect of allowing customers to pat themselves on the back for being “generous” when they tip well.

Not to mention how occasional stories of a celebrity leaving a huge tip perpetuate the nasty notion that the way for rich people to give back nobly to the social order that made them rich is through philanthropy (rather than equitable taxation).


“Resignation” might be the better term, except for the fact that millions of working-class white Americans still accept the conservative bamboozle that garbage practises like tipping are a “natural” part of free-market capitalism and continue to vote for GOP politicians who work to preserve them.

But yes, I don’t think anyone except employers likes the custom of tipping.


I think this is more accurate, actually. Let’s not forget that none too few of the working class (whatever their race) are working for tips.


Again, I agree about the general point, but it’s not middle-class and white-collar Americans who are voting against their own immediate economic self-interests when they vote for a Republican who opposes a minimum living wage and the abolition of tipping. At worst they’re voting to inconvenience themselves a bit in the short term (in the long term, they’re setting themselves up to be subjected to a variant on the same crappy regime – see how the “gig economy” is playing out, e.g.).

For people whose jobs require them to actually depend on tipping to pay the bills, though, it’s disconcerting to see how many of them keep voting for politicians who tell them this custom is “natural” and who portray opponents proposing a reasonable alternative as “un-American” or “anti-capitalist”.


In reality, the tip is just a regressive tax that the industry foists on clientele with the government’s explicit endorsement. I don’t feel bad about tipping and tipping well on expense accounts. I’m not saying this to chastise, but hopefully reframe the situation; you taking that debt on yourself is, in a way exacerbating the wage disparity issue in tipping. It is a debt incurred for a business expense and should be fully borne by the business, imo. It’s a business’s job to budget and regulate expense accounts, not the employee’s. (ETA: of course, it’s the employee’s job to work within the guidance set forth by the employer and make reasonable efforts to abide by the budget, but the ultimate guidance is the employee’s alone.)

Of course, like any situation there is nuance. Perhaps a company caps all tips at 10% or doesn’t allow tips in certain situations like livery. Or maybe it is self-owned or the worker has a specific interest in coming in under budget. Most of the time, though it’s still foisting the burden of economic viability for tip-wage employees onto the working class, who just has that much less volition.

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Yes, it actually is. The middle and upper class voted for Trump in greater numbers than did the working classes, the majority in fact…

And let’s not forget that the make up of the capitol insurrectionists were not a bunch of working class people, it was people who had the means to travel to participate in that.


For the most part, maybe. On the other hand, nightclub bartenders and strippers rake in enough tips that they would probably be irked with $15/hr instead of tips.

Don’t you think they’d be happy with tips and a reasonable base wage? They’re not mutually exclusive and I personally know a number of restaurants that operate in just this way.


I think “American _______ of course has racist roots” is a template that can be accurately applied to just about anything.


Defenders of tipping almost inevitably trot out a bizarre and tired libertarian argument about how it ensures quality service. That’s cruel nonsense of course. People have even retconned a terrible acronym to justify this argument- “To Insure Promptness”, which isn’t even grammatically correct even if it were true. If it were, we’d be calling it tepping.

Nobody who has worked a service job ever makes such an argument of course, because they understand it’s a hard job and most people in most jobs do their best regardless.


My point is that most of those voters and insurrectionists aren’t the ones subsisting on tips. Working-class voters did not make up the majority of voters for Biff (or for the GOP in general), but there are still more than enough of them to help the Republicans make their thin margins of victory.

Take away white working-class people who continually and reliably vote against their own economic self-interests and the GOP is done at all levels of government.

The good news is that we’re seeing some traction on acceptance of a national minimum wage and that there’s additional supports for single-payer universal healthcare. But it’s a continual fight against GOP elected officials who, sadly, aren’t only voted for by multi-millionaires (in reality the only people who benefit economically from electing Republicans).

There are always exceptions. Waitstaff at high-end steak houses are another example. But a “star system” economy that benefits a relatively small number of workers, usually biased toward certain immutable characteristics (e.g. race, gender, physical appearance), that is further grounded in the expectation that wealthy customers will pay the big tips, is not a model for a healthy and sustainable working class.


More working class people don’t vote, many can’t vote. And more of them supported Biden and the democrats. :woman_shrugging: