The Stigma Around Tipping

Illustration by Summer Mcclure

Whenever you eat in a full-service restaurant, it’s expected to add a tip to the staff for their service. Since the 1960’s, it has become so much of an expectation that when a customer leaves a less-than-satisfactory tip — or doesn’t leave one at all — they are often subject to ridicule and backlash by the restaurant staff and others in the community. In some instances such an action, or lack thereof, can make it to the news. This current stigma surrounding tipping makes the practice unfair to both the customer and their server.  

When people think of tipping, the thought that usually comes to mind is extra cash left for the server if you’ve received excellent service. When did it become so ingrained in America that customers need to tip their servers no matter how the service was? “Mandatory” tipping runs deep in American culture, but really emerged when Congress passed The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 allowing restaurants to pay their servers only $2.13 an hour if they typically received more than $30 a month in tips.

Knowing servers are paid less makes people feel obligated to tip, and can lead to a server feeling entitled to one. KTRE News in Texas reported how a waitress shamed her customers “by posting their receipts, name and all, online.” She did this if they didn’t leave a tip and she thought she gave them excellent service. Humphrey told KTRE News she does it so people can realize how much she relies on her tips because of how little she gets paid.

While it is a shame she has to go through this, these actions will not encourage customers to tip more.

The entitlement to tips that so many servers have also leads to a decrease in customer service. Servers don’t feel the need to work as hard for their tips because tipping culture makes customers feel obligated to tip regardless of service quality. In a sense, it “robs” the customer of that extra cash the server may not have deserved.

Illustration by Summer Mcclure

There is no denying the fact that servers need to be paid more than $2 if they want to survive, and they shouldn’t have to live off tips. Some restaurants, such as Sushi Yasuda in New York, pay their servers well above minimum wage by adding an extra service charge to bills. But that extra charge scares customers away from restaurants because they think it’s an extra charge they can avoid. According to a Huffington Post article, the added charge “would be roughly equal to what you would have paid in tips anyway.”

Because of the additional charge, their servers aren’t allowed to receive tips from customers. This type of policy can also be unfair to employees in the long run. Why shouldn’t a waiter or waitress who gives outstanding service be rewarded by the customer? That extra bit of money can help with any expensive bills or emergencies.

These servers aren’t allowed to take tips they probably deserve because the practice of tipping in our country has become a supplement of payment. That’s not what tipping should be. It shouldn’t be the backbone of a server’s survival.

Tipping should be a little bit extra given as a reward no one should expect to receive for their service, and customers shouldn’t be chastised for not leaving one. Tipping should be a voluntary practice for each customer for their server — a nice gesture, but not a guarantee.

Marlon McKay

Contributing Writer

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