Tipping Stuff

I’m taking a break from my break today. I was surfing new blogs and I ran into an issue that I didn’t realize existed to the extent I read about today. Here’s a link so that you can check for yourself  http://www.iserveidiots.com/2007/01/04/the-numbers-dont-lie-people/#comment-980.

 I was reading a variety of “server” blogs and read articles and reader comments about AfricanAmericans and tipping. Almost all of the servers who took the time to write noted that Black people were generally rude to servers and usually didn’t tip.  As I read, I got a bit heated since I’m a great tipper, but in thinking back on dinners with friends I recall a few who would either try to find a reason not to tip, or who would leave the table before the tip was due.

I had a good girlfriend in New York who is well educated and an excellent friend. I refuse to go out to eat with her since she NEVER tips the waitstaff, and I could no longer afford to make up her tips all the time. We would go to restaurants where the average entree ran about $18 to $30 bucks, so with appetizer and drinks, dinner usually ran over $100 for the two of us. The tip had to be at least $20 and depending on the level of service I’d want to go higher, but since I was paying the tip alone going out to eat with “J” was breaking my bank.

I also remember treating a guy who was like a brother to me to dinner and leaving a good tip on the table. I busted this guy actually going back to take the tip. He defended himself by saying the waiter didn’t earn the tip, and that he was going to return it to me. I was horrified and I made sure to put the cash into the waiters hand. I never went out to eat with him again.

I mention these two stories and wonder how many other good people out there are like this when it comes to tipping.

Isn’t 20% the standard tip with a higher percentage left for a greater degree of service? If I go to lunch alone (I love to do this) and the meal is $10 – 15, I never tip less than $5. I’ve had servers that actually seemed shocked to get a decent tip from me and I wonder if this is based on the single Black woman reputation as a poor tipper.

My daughter in Florida is a server and she hates to serve some Black people since generally she gets stiffed. I don’t understand this at all. Some of the servers commented that perhaps it’s a cultural thing – since I’m an AA chick, I don’t believe that since my parents both tipped well.

I’d like to hear true stories from you guys please as well as reasons for how you approach tipping. I can’t remember ever not tipping a server and I can’t imagine why someone would go out of there way to skip a tip.

I know that this isn’t a big deal in the general scheme of things, but I don’t like knowing that many of “my people” don’t treat servers well and I’d like this to change.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Tipping Stuff

  1. Well, I’m white and I can say that skipping the tip isn’t JUST a black thing. I have many, MANY friends who find reasons to stiff the waitstaff. It’s like a game to them to run the waitor/waitress ragged and then walk out without leaving a dime. I find it quite embarrassing and try to avoid “social” outtings with these folks.

    And as for being on the lighter side of middle class, I try NOT to go out to eat at a nicer place unless I know, without doubt, I have the extra to leave at the very least 20%. It limits my indulgences, but I would feel way worse knowing that I got adequate, if not exceptional, service and couldn’t cover the cost.

    People need to be reminded that most waitstaff don’t earn a high hourly wage and that their income is more off of tips than anything else. If the service is really bad then have the balls to address the issue by giving a less than stellar tip and a word of advice like “I’d have given more, but you never filled my glass.” This is constructive criticism and could increase their earnings for the remainder of the night. However, there is NEVER an excuse to tip NOTHING! You didn’t have to get your own plate or pick it up when you were finished… that counts for something!

  2. My experience has been much like yours. My wife and I make it a point to tip well, but there are a lot of people we have decidedly avoided to dine with. Most of our friends, suffice it to say, are cheap as hell. They want to go to the nice spots but they don’t want to tip. Heck, sometimes they forget that there is tax on the bill. They nickel and dime the bill like they are paying the tax man or something. I can’t tell you the times we ended up paying maybe an extra $20 – $50 on the bill just to make sure we didn’t give the image that black folks were bad patrons.

    We rarely go out with groups now. We either go alone, with our kids, or we go with the intent of treating whoever we invite to avoid being embarrassed.

  3. I think the standard is 15%, but I will easily go beyond it for good service…I don’t really calculate so I tend to be around 20-25%.

    CityPaper here had an article talking to waiters and they said young black people are some of the worst tippers. The said they don’t understand that waitstaff usually gets less hourly and depends on tips. They also said old jewish ladies were worse, cause they all try to underspend each other.

  4. dhf

    I’ve been a lurker here for a while now – time to delurk and tell you how much I enjoy your blog.

    Also, I happen to be a server in the evenings, and I hear a lot of the same about African Americans being bad tippers. I don’t think it’s true at all, not based on race anyway. I’ve found, however, that I can generally judge how much I’m going to be paid for my services as soon as I greet the table, and most of my pre-judgment (prejudice) has to do with social class and age. I think some servers tend to remember being run around and then stiffed (or undertipped) by African American guests and forget about the little old ladies, the college kids, the bubbas, etc. who do the same (and with more consistency).

    Standard is really 18-20% (that’s the amount added for auto gratuity on large parties at most places, for instance). And yeah, the restaurant gets away with paying us $2.13/hr (in VA) and that includes the time we’re not serving tables and earning tips (when we’re finishing up closing sidework, resetting out tables, etc.).

    Back to the original issue though, if I did notice any group of AA guests who are difficult to serve and don’t fairly compensate me (in my opinion) for the amount of work I do for them, it would be groups of young AA women. More often than not, sadly, I get run back and forth from the kitchen with a new request every time I pass the table, they never smile, are not exactly polite, and then leave a few dollars on the table. I couldn’t make any blanket statement about African Americans or young black women based on my experiences, but more than half the time, that’s the case. Of course, it’s also the case with groups of little old white ladies, so what does it really say?

  5. I went back and read the blog and comments…damn.

    I’ll throw in some interesting things:

    The most notorious Bill skippers I’ve ever known worked in a restaurant…they actually had Redman come in to eat once and skip out on them…They figured they couldn’t complain cause they do it.

    I also think part of it is self-fulfilling prophecy. I actually like to tip in a show offy way. If you joke with my table and we laugh…your tip just increased…if someone tells a bad joke and you take it in stride…same thing. I have however had some crappy service that forced me to not tip…(i.e. order a guiness on tap and get half a glass of foam)

    One place where I have tipped less and less over the years is bars. I have had 1 bartender do me right because I tipped. In turn I would end up getting free drinks and paying anyway (the price became his tip). In alot of places where I was a regular I would tip and my service would remain the same as everyone else, if they tipped or not.

    I don’t tip cause you’re cute…I tip because of service. If the service sucks and you’re still cute…enjoy cuteness and not getting tipped.

  6. Amadeo was on point. My buddy is a server, and said that the standard is 18%, though he rarely sees 15%. He says that there are bad tippers accoss the board, race-wise, but his coworkers mostly complain about college-age kids. I generally leave at least 20%; it’s just easier to figure 2 bucks for every 10 of the cost. I agree with you, J….if you can’t afford to tip at the nicer places, don’t eat there.

  7. First of all, HI! I’ve been away for awhile and I saw your comment on my blog, so I thought I’d stop in. I like the new look!

    Second, I was at one time a server, and I don’t recall African Americans being poor tippers, but then again, the town I lived in was not very diverse. Mostly the poor tippers were college students or senior citizens, regardless of race. My theory is, if you can’t afford to tip 20%, don’t go out to eat! 🙂

  8. I found that (and I wore the apron for many years) you couldn’t generalize based on color. Stiffs come in all shapes and sizes. And there’s plenty of oldsters out there who maintain that 10% is appropriate. The servers have the wrong attitude anyway, they are only hurting themselves by dwelling on the money aspect. That makes the job miserable.

  9. As I read, I got a bit heated since I’m a great tipper, but in thinking back on dinners with friends I recall a few who would either try to find a reason not to tip, or who would leave the table before the tip was due.

    My wife and I are great tippers, but for substandard service, I still give the 15%. I pull out my cellphone and due the calculations on there and voila… there’s the tip.

    I’ve been involved with 2 sets of “AA women” meaning 3 of us, (me and 2 AA women in 2 different circumstances) and I can definitely tell you that both times, the meal was fine, our waitresses were as friendly as can be and both times, 1 woman out of the pair tried to find something wrong so as NOT to tip.

    I was shocked. Case #1: One woman, and I remember this like it was yesterday, took a thing of ketchup and turned it upside down so that when the waitress came back, or whoever would lift that ketchup jar would end up spilling the ketchup out. I was so embarrassed that I let them go outside once our meal was over and I returned the bottle of ketchup right side up so that it was the way it was supposed to be.

    I gave a very generous tip. Case #2, the sister ordered a drink that she was trying out for the first time. She sipped it and decided that she didn’t like it. Do you know what this chick did? She pulled a strand of hair from her own scalp, put it into the glass and acted like the drink had been given to her with that strand of hair in it. The other girl thought it was funny and I was like, “no way you are going to do that!”

    When the waitress came back, she was so apologetic and offered to get my friend another drink of that kind. The sister says no, I’d like a totally different drink (one she was more familiar with) and she was rude about it too.

    Well, when her second drink came back, this time it REALLY HAD a strand of hair in it. You know what? I told the girl, that’s what you get. She was mad at me, but I thought since she had started it, she had NO reason to beef. No, it wasn’t right for the waitress to do what she did, but I couldn’t blame her.

    By the way… both waitresses were white. I paid the tip on that meal too and never went out to dinner with those 2 again… there’s no excuse to be classless. Regardless of the race…

  10. This is such a touchy issue in so many ways. Who doesn’t tip well? Black women, white men in baseball caps, Jewish old people, white college kids, the married white guy out with his wife, high school prom dates, anyone out on Valentine’s Day, my step father, my sister, my aunt, your best friend, and so on and so on. We all know people who are crappy tippers. We also all know people who behave horribly in a restaurant and also don’t tip. I find these people tiresome, repugnant, and generally not as nice as I once thought they were in other interactions. In other words, not nice people are everywhere. So are lousy tippers. And as someone else said, I can usually tell within the first moment who will tip appropriately and who won’t. It’s all about an attitude. I don’t believe bad tippers are restricted to a certain race, age, or ethnic background. I do believe such people are pains in the ass, however, and would be better of staying at home and cooking for themselves!

  11. I think people are using race because it’s the first thing they notice, but the reason behind the stinginess is probably race-related only insofar as the diners’ economic backgrounds are.

    You’re right to start at 20%. The standard used to be 15%. I used to start at 15%, but when I’m alone and in a hurry, 20% is easier math. I had a friend with whom I always split the bill. We’d figure a 15% tip, then round up to an even number, so our shares would be equal. If we were especially pleased and didn’t have small bills, we’d round up even higher. I’ve gotten rid of change by including it in the tip.

    Before I thought about the work involved, I didn’t understand tipping servers or delivery drivers. They appear to do nothing but bring the food. My mom tipped $2 for delivery, so that’s my standard.

    I always tip. Even if the service is bad, the work is hard and I can’t expect the server to be exceptional all the time. Maybe (s)he’s having a bad day, or has been stiffed or otherwise suffered assholes.

  12. I would never stiff a waitperson. They make less than minimum wage and the tips are supposed to bring them up to that shockingly low level.

    I have waited table and dealt with many people who went to restaurants to push someone around with impunity. They were always the worse tippers, or didn’t tip at all.

    I share your embarrassment over eating out with cheap-ass friends who think that because the food already costs so much, they’ll be damned if they will tip the server, too.

    I always give at least 20%, but usually more.

  13. First, THANK U: Jali – for this post! I think this IS a big deal & speaks volumes about a person’s character. I’ve stopped dating men who don’t tip.

    Second – THANX Tina for pointing out that it’s not just a Black thang…too many people now are so self-centered & just have NO CLASS!

    I was raised by parents who worked in industries that make much of their living from tipping. So, my dad would look at the menu & if he couldn’t afford the TIP we didn’t go to that restaurant! Sadly, one of my siblings is STILL stingy azz HaYL & we don’t go to real restaurants together anymore (can we say FOOD court?;-).

    If I don’t like the service at a restaurant I still tip at least 15% then I write on the tab that the service was unfortunately not as great as expected (learned this from a friend who was a waitress who told me at the end of the night the management/owner goes over each tab slip;-).

    Great Post!

  14. Lex

    So many stories to tell, but in short I’ll say this. The bottom line is that there are plenty of people who are assholes and don’t tip appropriately on purpose. Fuck them. Then, I am learning as I work with a cast of characters from –lets say– very diverse backgrounds, that some people just don’t know.

    What don’t they know, you ask. Many of the things the commentators before me have already said. They don’t understand that:

    * Waiters work for peanuts as a base pay.
    * You tip for the luxury of not hunting, gathering, preparing, serving and cleaning up your own meal.
    * There are social norms the guide the masses in many situations, including service industries.
    * The details of said norms.
    * Tipping guidelines aren’t a bonus, they are a baseline
    * They have not earned the right to have someone wait on them hand and foot; they must pay for it.

    I could go on and on. Some people don’t get it. I travel tons for work and I am always embarrassed that servers are amazed that I tip appropriately. I picked up a $200 bar tap last night and tipped $40. I’m in Lexington, Kentucky and the waitress was soooooooo appreciative. I gave her $20 more.

    The bottom line is this. I am determined to work against the stereotype. I’ll even tip taxi drivers in the South who say, “I remember there was a time when the Blacks knew their place,” and those in NYC who say, “I’d rather have that other group in my car because you people don’t tip.”

    I know neither MY PLACE nor who YOU PEOPLE are, but I know that I tip people in the service industry…even when the cable company says I can’t. You get the service (and anything else) you pay for.

    Stop being assholes people.

    Amen.

  15. Hmmm, I think you’re onto something. I love my people, but I think I’ve seen a pattern of bad tippers among us. Whenever I dine out w/my parents – and it’s been this way for years – I cringe at how little they try to get away with leaving for the wait staff. And the funny thing is they’ll break out the check book on a moment’s notice and donate to a charity, give to their church, go fix my grandmother’s rickety porch on their dime. But take them to a restaurant, and they – especially my mom – are squeezing the pennies so hard at tip time that I know Lincoln gets a headache. My older sister’s the same way.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing.

  16. I’ll admit, up until a few years ago, I used to be a horrible tipper. Now I’m a bit too generous. I have heard the myth that “we” don’t like to tip and for the most part, I’d have to say that it still holds true for most people. I am not going to sit here and start to preach in this comment, but I will say that I know “we” can do better.

  17. Tipping isn’t a standard thing in Aus.

    Our wait staff are actually paid properly.

  18. My thing is, that I don’t care if you are purple w/ yellow poka-dots. with that being said, I have to say that there seems to be a population of “un-cooth” people. I have to teach 12 year olds to SIT in their chair to EAT…WHY?? Because at home they STAND while rocking back and forth in front of the TV whilst channel surfing.

    This also being said…When a server doesn’t instantly comply with the customers desire…creates an unreasonable expectation. How can a server possibly get a 20% tip. Bottom line, if you are polite, anticipate a possible need…provide it, even if I say no.

  19. I, like many of you have friends that don’t tip regularly. While their excuses for NOT tipping vary, the underlying constant remains the same, “most people think they are inherently “better” than the waitstaff and treat them accordingly”. I over tip when I eat out. Not only are these workers severely overworked, they are grossly underpaid. They have to put up with FAR too much for that measly $2.15 an hour. Since I’ve been a black man my entire life I can’t speak for anyone other than my people, and I know that we as a people have a bad habit of mistreating EVERYONE around us and then playing the victim role when we are mistreated. We talk to the waiters and waitresses like they are children, we threaten not to pay for our meals much less the tip if everything isn’t absolutely FLAWLESS. If the waiter comes to the table too much, we get mad because “they won’t leave us alone”. Yet if they don’t come to the table enough, we get mad because “they aren’t doing their job”. I’ve never waited tables, but truth be told if a large group of “niggas” walked into my establishment, and I had to wait their tables, I would be mad too. Not only am I going to have to work the HARDEST I am going to have to work ALL day, I KNOW I ‘m NOT getting a tip.

  20. My father is a miserable tipper. He’s British and just refuses to get that American wait-staff rely on these tips to give them a living wage. Throughout my life I’ve always tried to make up for knowing that somewhere at home he’s tipping lousily. Funny thing is when I’ve been least likely to be able to afford it is when I’ve been more likely to tip really well. I don’t know what that impulse is all about but the same goes for bars. When i was younger and poorer I’d drop my last tenner for a round of drinks at the bar for people that had just been introduced to me. It would be beans for a week afterwards, mind, but it still seemed more important to stand a decent round.

    In Britain we don’t tip bar-staff at all, or hair stylists either, but tipping restaurant or hotel staff is expected.

  21. Hey. Just thought I’d throw my two cents in since I’m the article you used as an example for your post.

    I think it’s safe to say that black people have been going to restaurants for far less time than members of some other minority groups, and certainly less than white people have.

    That said, I think black people have limited knowledge when it comes to societal tipping rules.

    Look around at the restaurants blacks went to before integration and still frequent even today. They are short-order restaurants, barbecue stands, sandwich shops, etc… In other words, they are restaurants that do not require service that demands a tip. Therefore, black people are not exposed to nearly nearly enough situations that society DEMANDS of you to tip in.

    I don’t think it’s fair to hold black people up to the tipping standard that I may hold white people to. I also don’t think it’s fair to explain myself reasonably, give black people the benefit of the doubt and then be hated on (not by any of you…readers of my OWN site, ironically).

    Also, in my article, I noted that black people NEVER ask for a refill. Is this something that’s universal or just local to my area?

  22. just found your blog and love it…that being said, as a server, i’ve found it more socio-economic than racial. And businessmen, no matter of what stripe, generally tip terribly. And old people, but i think that’s ’cause they don’t know 5% isn’t extravagant…

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