Tipping is stupid

Nice article on the matter in Slate today.  The gist:

Studies have shown that tipping is not an effective incentive for performance in servers. It also creates an environment in which people of color, young people, old people, women, and foreigners tend to get worse service than white males. In a tip-based system, nonwhite servers make less than their white peers for equal work. Consider also the power imbalance between tippers, who are typically male, and servers, 70 percent of whom are female, and consider that the restaurant industry generates five times the average number of sexual harassment claims per worker. And that in many instances employers haveallegedly misusedtip credits, which let owners pay servers less than minimum wage if tipping makes up the difference.

I tip when workers depend upon it for the income, e.g., wait staff, taxis, etc., but I really hate the practice.  I also think it is ridiculous that somebody who drinks beer or wine while I drink Diet Coke should be expected to pay our same server significantly more money (I’m the one who wanted four free refills).  Not long ago the Freakonomics podcast had a nice episode on the issue.   Throughout the world, there’s actually a decently strong correlation between tipping and corruption:

In fact, the US is an outlier in being high on tipping and low on corruption.  It’s time for tipping to go.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Tipping is stupid

  1. Mark says:

    I totally agree, and I’m glad you posted about this. Tipping is a nonsensical practice. Why should I, and not the employer, pay for a waiter to do his job?

    One thing I think you mischaracterize is the practice of tipping for drinks. When I order a drink with dinner, I don’t tip any more than if I order soda. That’s reserved for a bartender, who is paid similarly to a waiter and needs those tips for income. The reason the custom is $1 for each drink is because they don’t get as much from tips as a server waiting on people who eat a meal. To me, the $1 per drink applies if you order only drinks. Most people don’t go to a restaurant or bar and just order soda, but many (including myself) do so with alcohol.

    • Steve Greene says:

      I wasn’t talking about tipping for drinks– which, by the way $1 drink seems crazy much, though I recognize it’s standard (think about the number of drinks a bartender can make in an hour)– but simply if a meal companion and I both get the same meal and I get 4 diet Cokes and he get’s 2 beers, his tip is way more.

      • Mark says:

        Oh, I understand. I guess that makes sense. But that has less to do with tipping per se than with the fact that soda is ridiculously cheap, whereas alcohol is not. I’ve read in places that a flat tip might help alleviate this, but I’ve never known anyone to do that. In that case, you’d have to figure out what is fair across the board, which seems like a tough call. Then there’s the additional issue of whether/how much to tip at a counter service restaurant, which is also confusing.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Also, I would have seen the article eventually, but I did come across it in your FB feed.

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on tipping | Happy Sushi Belly

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