September 21, 2021
Melissa and I are going out to eat tonight and this will raise the issue of how much to tip. Prior to the pandemic I tried to tip at least 15% of the tab. I have noticed in fancier restaurants that for larger parties a tip of 15% may be included in the actual bill. This happens because often much smaller tips are given to the wait staff. I often notice that a $1 tip will be put on the table in small restaurants and cafes regardless of what the tab might be. For me, if I cannot afford to pay for my food, and my service, I should not be eating in a restaurant.
Most people we tip in America are in the Service Industry and represent people who are often not valued for their work, and who are not being paid compared to the services they provide. The American Hotel and Lodging Association recommends certain amounts to tip based on what the employee does. The housekeeping staff are tipped $1 to $5 a night, and the same for the valet, while an extra $2 is recommended for extra items brought to your room (blankets). Room service, bartenders, and wait staff the tip is 15-20% of your bill, and the same holds for servers in restaurants.
Professor Michael Lynn of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration paid his way through school by waiting tables and bartending. Since that time, he has published more than 50 papers on the topic. These papers examine everything from racial bias in how we tip to whether giving after-dinner candy increases a server’s tips (it does). Lynn describes five basic motives for the tip. Some people tip to show off. Some people tip to help the server by supplementing their income and make them happy. Some people tip to get future service. Other people tip to avoid disapproval from the wait staff or other diners. And some people tip out of a sense of duty. The amount of the tip may be seen as a reward to the servers for their service. If the server does a great job, I want to express my gratitude, but Lynn found less than four percent of the differences in tips left by different dining parties can be explained by their ratings of service quality.
Thoughts: In the movie, My Blue Heaven, Steve Martin plays a Mob informant who tips everyone. As he says when asked why he tips, his response is. “I don’t just tip, I practice grossly over tipping.” This was done to both win the favor of others and as a recognition they were being undervalued in the first place. During the pandemic people working in the Service Industry were hard hit as restaurants and hotels were forced to close. Even after they began to reopen it was often at reduced capacity. While owners made decisions of closure or paying less, staff decided if they were willing to work in the new conditions or stay safe at home. Melissa and I now tip 18-20%, and more depending on service. To me, the workers who bring my food are essential. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.