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The Etiquette of Tipping

Jun 23, 2011 05:18PM ● By Anonymous
I read an article from NPR this morning asking the question, "Why do we tip?"

Well, the first answer to the question is: Because servers don't make very much money without tips.

The current minimum wage for tipped in employees in Maryland is $3.63. It's more than the $2.84 I made when I was a waitress at various establishments in college in Arizona and Pennsylvania (Mostly at Denny's, but I also worked at a college-town bar and a small-town independent diner for a bit), but clearly tips are necessary to make a living wage. 

However, the real reason people say they tip is to provide, in essence, a reward for good service. However, according to the NPR article, people don't tend to very their tipping strategy based on the service they receive. Other factors include the weather and their mood, not how quickly that waitress brings a refill of coffee. Some people just give the same amount every time, no matter what. 

In my experience, this is very true. When I worked at Denny's, there would be groups of people who came in every week for various reasons, whether it was a Bible-study group (on Wednesdays) or for Kids Eat Free night (Tuesdays), and they would leave the same tip every single week, no matter how well they were served or which server was waiting on them that night. The Bible-study group always left a great tip, the Kids Eat Free group left $2. Every. Single. Week.

But when I think about how how I tip, I do the same thing every time. I basically always give 20 percent, but I just take the first 2 numbers of the check, put a decimal point between them and double it. Does that make sense? So if our check is $32.50, I would give $6.40 as a tip. I do this just because it means I don't have to think, I just double.

Tipping's a funny thing. It can make people upset -- I know I get irritated if I'm out to dinner and we have a horrible server, but whoever is paying the check still gives a full 20 percent. Some people think diners shouldn't give tips at all, but the restaurant owners should pay their servers more money. Can you imagine what that would do to the price of dinner? The owners have to make up for that expense somehow. 

In other parts of the world, tipping isn't customary. It's interesting when reading through that list, it is only in America where tipping is a widespread social practice that is now considered required for dining out. 

I find this fascinating. Why do you think this is?