Should the Anti-Tipping Society of America Be Resurrected?

I find the practice of tipping to be endlessly fascinating from a purely psychological perspective. We Americans tip, or refuse to tip, for a vast array of reasons.

We tip:

  • To reward great service
  • Out of fear that if we don’t we will receive poor service on future visits
  • Simply because we are expected to do so, because the culture expects us to, regardless of service
  • Because we believe those serving us wouldn’t be able to earn a livable wage without the tips
  • To alleviate the guilt we feel from being served

And sometimes we don’t leave a tip because:

  • We felt like the service was exceptionally poor (though more often I would bet we still tip, we just tip less than 15-20%)
  • We are informed by the management that a service charge is built into the bill and tipping is not accepted at the establishment (though even then we might still leave a little extra money)
  • We are visiting a country where tipping is not practiced

Perhaps a country such as Japan where, according to several members of the Fodor’s community, tipping isn’t just frowned upon, it is taboo:

No tips. We are there now. The bellman at the Hyatt actually refused. People here believe in service and are very polite BTW. Really enjoying the hospitality! ~jacketwatch

No tips! It would completely embarrass the recipient, invoking Japan’s tradition of EXCHANGING gifts. ~kja

Over on the City-Data forums, k374 throws a new wrinkle into the tipping mix though when he describes how a small cruise vessel handles tipping, as well as his thoughts on the matter:

So.. I just completed a 4 day cruise in the Galapagos islands … Now at the very end of the cruise came the question of tips. Each person was given two envelopes, one for the Naturalist/Guide and the other for the ship crew (it was a 16 passenger yacht so pretty small).

 

There were a few Americans, myself included and several Europeans. We did get together to discuss how much to tip. Myself and the Americans stated that 10% of the cost of the cruise (around $60) divided between the two envelopes ($30 in each) was good to which the Europeans started arguing like crazy. Some didn’t want to tip at all saying all this tipping stuff was BS, others wanted to put $5 in each envelope (c’mon now!!)

 

Then they started saying that we Americans can go ahead and they will refuse to give more than $5 in each envelope.

 

Why are Europeans so against tipping? The crew of this boat and the guide worked VERY hard during the cruise and I feel really deserved the tips but where shortchanged by these people which is quite pathetic!

As you might imagine, this provokes an impassioned discussion on the subject.

Why do people always stereotype whatever they don’t know or don’t understand (and always in a harsh, critical way)?! ~Miaiam

Different cultures have different norms. No one is right or wrong, just different. ~mels

I’m American and I’ve always hated the concept of tipping unless the service was exceptional. I mean, you’ve already paid for it – why should you be expected to pay extra on top unless you really want to thank the exceptional service? In which case, they should be grateful for whatever you give them and not think “Less than 10%?! How stingy!” It’s the expectation which gets to me ~PA2UK

Interestingly, according to Kerry Segrave in “Tipping: An American Social History of Gratuities“, the practice of tipping likely originated in Europe and eventually made its way over to the U.S. And shortly after it did an Anti-Tipping Society of America was formed in an attempt to stamp out the practice.

So while Europeans presumably aren’t stingy by nature, they might very well be something worse – namely to blame for the entire psychological mess caused by the practice.

Both the Fodor’s and City-Data threads are worthy of a click through, but the City-Data discussion, with over 250 posts at the time of this writing is where the action is at. Read both threads in their entirety: Tipping in Japan and Are Europeans just stingy??

Image: “No Tipping” by Natalia Balcerska. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Comments

  1. I think it would be better not to tip. I mean. Give the works a salary that is enough for them to survive (is there a minimum wage in US?). If you get an outstanding service, than you tip as much as you want.
    This thing of adding tip and having to add $$ at the moment you are paying the bill kinda kills a great experience for me. But I think it’s because I’m not used to tipping.

  2. In some countries, particularly in Europe, service personnel make a “living wage” and so tipping is not expected. On our recent trip to Italy the credit card receipts we were given to sign did not even have a place to add a gratuity. In America the minimum wage for tipped service personnel is $2-$3 per hour lower than regular minimum wage (depending on the state). For cruises, those personnel make very little and rely on tips for their livelihood. However, on every cruise I have been on there is always a statement of recommended tip in the literature. On cruise lines that serve Americans, that can even be built in an pre-paid.

  3. I agree. I hope it gets resurrected. The fact that most restaurant workers are paid below minimum wage because owners think tipping is part of compensation is just absurd.

  4. Because we keep on tipping, that’s why the restaurants and such can justify paying less then minimum wage.
    if we stop they will have to raise employees pay to at least minimum. if they want to make more, they will do a better job of satisfying the customers or go back to school…

  5. In the UK, the minimum wage applies as much to restaurant workers as everyone else – it’s a minimum wage not a minimum wage for a selected few.

    As a consequence of tipping, these people earn far more than equivalents in other jobs, especially as many don’t bother to report it to the taxman.

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