America’s obsession with tipping of course has racist roots

That’s a good point. Given the GOP’s big push for voter suppression, I have no doubt they know it.

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Sorry, I misunderstood the context of the discussion. I was reading it as “tipping should be eliminated due to its racist roots and be replaced with a better wage instead”. You’re right, tipping and a decent wage would be preferable.


Racism towards workers, racism towards customers, the American way. Story from this morning about a NOLA restaurant that added a 20% tip to the bill of a Black couple because the server thought they looked like they would stiff them:


Yeah, getting your hands on cash is hard. The one time we were in a place eating out (absolutely unavoidable, empty hotel) we had to scrape around for all the cash we had. Even including the sacred two euro coin that we need for the supermarket trolley.

I disagree with tipping as wage but I of course always tip. And I won’t go to a restaurant if I hear it has unethical tipping policies. Like stealing it. Good places will share with the KPs.


No. No they don’t. Good places pay their KPs a respectable, livable wage, instead of making their servers pay even more of their business costs. Heck, I’d say the entire point of this article is that a good place wouldn’t even allow for tipping, instead paying everyone involved a living wage.

A lot of the places make the server pay a percentage of sales to the KP (so the management doesn’t have to), which means it is entirely possible for the server to end up having to pay out of pocket to work a shift if they get stiffed on a tip on a big order. It also means that the pay is dependent on sales, which is even more removed from their control than it is the wait staff’s. So pay is variant based on shift, which can be used to creatively punish people.

Tipping sucks, causes a lot of problems, and should be abolished; but until it is, tip your server well.

(Edited to add: don’t even get me started on places like delivery services who deduct tips from pay for their employees… that should be 100% illegal.)


J Billington Bulworth was on to this (and a lot more about our political system). Please forgive the outdated terminology.

Not much has changed since that movie came out, IMO.
I think white and black people do have more in common with each other than they do with “rich people” in this context.
Continual distraction and division makes us forget that economic discrimination affects all races, genders, and belief systems.


That movie has its faults, but it’s also a good jab in the eye of self-aggrandizing white liberalism.


The drive to turn tables isn’t generally rooted in tipping, though there is a connection there (more tables in a given amount of time is more tips). It’s generally a management level dictate, intended to maximize revenue for the restaurant. The difference in service style there is largely cultural, and you don’t neccisarily find the leisurely approach in all non-tipping cultures. Or even all styles of restaurant in a given place. There are plenty of places in the US where that service style is a thing, the default move when you are not busy is to upsell. If you do not have another check on deck, make the check bigger.

On top of that numerous studies have shown that tipping as a general practice and tipping levels have little to no connection to service quality. Where the impact exists, it’s negative.

The way tipping underlines and empowers societal biases sees minorities and those judged as lower economic status receiving worse service. As well as the reverse. Diners judging service from minorities, women etc as worse, and consequently tipping less.

Despite the American claims to the counter. People reliably rate service in non-tipped countries as better than in the US. Including Americans.

Tipping is partly responsible for the grindy approach in most American restaurants. But it’s in the way that tipping has hidden, and suppressed the price of a restaurant meal.

Restaurants in other countries typically operate with higher margins, more funds on hand, more long term stability. As a result in many places a restaurant does not need to absolutely maximize throughput just to keep the doors open the way most do in the US.

Gastropod just did a pretty good overview of the history of tipping. Where they interviewed the own of one of the first major, non-fine dining restaurants to go non-tipped.

They get into exactly how price pressure is what drove that restaurant to go back to tipping. Unfortunately they didn’t get into the way that the same pressures, a long with a bunch of shitty lawsuits forced the big fine dining groups that spear headed the move to go back to tipping as well.

The employer pays for that as part of their general merchant fee. And it’s part and parcel of processing the card for the payment. It has zero impact on the employees.

A lot of people are circumspect about tipping on cards for a variety of reasons. While cash is nice, the thing about a credit tip is it’s significantly hard for a sketchy boss to steal that tip since there are confirmable 3rd party records of it.

The worst impact from this is generally that the income will be properly taxed.

You may not see that in media as often these days (though you certainly do).

But people do frequently treat you that way. On a day to day basis. Sometimes they say it to your face.

The presentation of tipped workers as money grubbing. Receiving something they have not worked for; or receiving something they do not deserve or need. Is core to arguments for maintaining the tipped wage. And it is something you will have thrown in your face daily.

The vast majority of tipped workers in the US are female. A smaller majority are non-White.

Most live below the poverty line.

Core GOP demographics for sure.

Until very recently in the US this was illegal. It’s a common method of wage garnishment.

A lot of times what happens is a portion of tips are not passed back to the kitchen. But taken by ownership, used to pay the kitchen’s existing wage. And the difference pocketed.

Mario Batalli’s restaurant group got sued for this. The time period where it was taking place a friend of mine was one of his core kitchen staff at Del Posto in NYC. He was paid $11.50/h with no benefits.

Trump recently changed the law around that.


Coercing the customer to subsidise the cost of production seems very un-American (from an outsider view) - If the business cannot pay the market rate for labour without voluntary bailouts from the diner, it doesn’t deserve to be in business.


When I was working for tips I was always frustrated at the conflict between the idea of a “gratuity” being an act of appreciation for someone doing something for me that I could do for myself but wasn’t vs. the reality that many people, especially business owners, see it as an opportunity to whittle down all but the most basic and legally-mandated worker protections. Both of the places I worked that were generous and treated people humanely had amazing employee retention and great service.


The fact that tips are taxable really settles the argument from the government’s point of view. Tipping on expense accounts? Both times I’ve had an expense account, both national well know companies, the tip had been on me :slight_smile: ( unless entertaining business associates ) .


For the most part businesses are just as coerced into it as workers.

The whole regulatory and cost structure of restaurants in the US prioritizes it, in many cases even bringing large tax savings for the business.

On top of that the public will not generally pay the genuine cost of a restaurant meal. Viewing the small price increase necissary for fair wages, benefits, and a safer margin for the business (around the 20% we think of as an appropriate tip) as gouging or a bad value compared to surrounding businesses that stick with tipping.

Most businesses that have attempted to go tip free have gone back to it after a pretty short timeline. Smaller operations about a year on average, once the sales increase from the good PR wears off. Larger restaurant groups in expensive market segments and major markets have kept it going longer. Though often also end up switching back. Especially after many prominent proponents were effectively forced to do so by law suits filed by customers (which is what happened with Danny Meyer).

As a result the only places that can really pull it off sustainably are those where the major source of revenue is something else entirely. Chiefly hotels and resorts.

Check out the Gastropod podcast I mentioned. They go into decent detail about how it went down with an independent casual market restaurant. Unfortunately didn’t follow through into the broader topic of non-tipped restaurants.

It just doesn’t work in the current environment. And it’s not going away without regulation level change. The tipping system has just entirely warped the restaurant market in this country in a way that only benefits very large corporate operations. The TGI-Mc Hiltons.

The very same interests that fought so hard for the tipped exception to begin with.


So many lengthy comments, so focused on everything about this topic except the racism.

So typical.


Living in Australia, it’s hard to overstate how bizarre the American concept of tipping is. Here tipping is never asked for as a mandatory part of the payment process, and would never survive if it was. Tipping is something done either to reward exceptional service, or get rid of loose change. It is never allowed to become part of someone’s essential income.


There’s a place for those people…

firefly sheperd GIF


American style tipping is great! Because American tourists come over to Europe and think they have to tip, and sometimes get confused by the different notes, and that’s how I got tipped £20 for pouring one round of drinks :slight_smile:
Of course, I was getting paid (slightly more than) minimum wage at the time.


There is some truth to it, just not a very good truth.

Tourists often complain about the service in certain European countries which they see as slow or rude. Most locals experience the service as fine and reasonable. The difference is in the expectations, of how a person defines “good service.”

A tipping system guarantees a servile demeanor and self-deprecating attitude that you will indeed never get from a Parisian waiter even if you bought him a palace in Monaco. Because they have some pride. (See: The waiter in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life…)

If on the other hand you expect nothing more than adequate service, and see things like politeness and pleasantness as a reciprocal process between equal human beings then the service here is fine. If I order a coffee and get a reasonable coffee for the price I pay the business part of that interaction is concluded satisfactory.

There is of course an industry where you pay people to be nice to you, we call that prostitution. :slight_smile:


Elmer, I wouldn’t say that it relates to racism per se but certainly to slavery. Because, you see, the US is a slave society. Less blunt than, say, China, but a slave society just the same. When it could have been an egalitarian society America chose to create a lower class, and who better to fit that bill than newly emancipated slaves. Over time it evolved to encompass all those at the lower end of the economic spectrum ie those in servile occupations. What it comes down to is, if you will not pay people a decent living wage (hourly rate) they are obliged to grovel. It’s called institutionalized poverty. It screws everybody - the truly rich can afford such frippery. For everybody else it is just an impost - because you are forced to pay extra for someone to actually perform their job properly - when that ought to be the price of keeping your job.

Though wage theft has been outrageous in recent years. Not just in the establishments of our celebrity TV chefs but in corner shop chains and major supermarkets.

Love it. For the humour.