Tipping culture in the United States is known for being pretty intense. Tips are a much larger percentage of the bill than in most other countries and it is well known that a large percentage of servers’ wages comes from tipping. That being said, it is still not technically mandatory. A TikToker recently posted a video saying that she and her friends were denied service at a restaurant because one of her friends didn’t tip the last time that she was there. Her video has sparked a fierce debate on American tipping culture and what is and isn’t acceptable.
Tiktik Video Sparks Heated Debate On American Tipping Culture
TikTok user Bueli Njheri (@Buelistic on TikTok) posted a video on the platform about a recent experience she had at a restaurant. In the video, she claims that a restaurant denied her and her two friends service because one of her friends didn’t tip the last time she was there. Njheri explains that as a tattoo artist, she understands the desire to have clients tip. She also says that, as someone who makes money off of tips herself, she always tips no matter what. Still, she goes on to explain that tipping is not actually mandatory, citing that some people can’t afford it or they don’t necessarily want to tip if they don’t feel they received a certain level of service. What ensued in the comment section of her video was a profound debate not just on whether that restaurant was in the wrong or not, but on tipping culture in the United States itself.
“When we sat at the table, none of the servers showed up, and the managers came by and told us that they would not like to serve us anymore,” Njheri explained. “We asked them why and they told us tipping was a big reason.” Shen finished off the video asking “Do you feel like this is a good enough reason to deny service to somebody for the rest of their lives if it’s based on tips and the service isn’t always up to par?” (1)
Read: A delivery driver says he left a note for a customer who didn’t tip reminding them that he doesn’t work ‘for free’
@buelistic #stitch with @africanbarb 🏁 What makes you leave a nice tip? do you feel obligated?🏁 #ShowOffLandOFrost #MessFreeHero #GenshinImpact #AmazonVirtualTryon #altblackgirl ♬ original sound – Büeli
Quite quickly it was clear that there were two very staunch sides to this debate. One group says that tipping is not mandatory, while the other says that you should always tip, no questions. Some were more focused on the rights of the customers, others on the staff, and others just made general comments about how unfair the reason why American tipping culture exists in the first place is. Some comments were the following:
“My mom always says don’t go out to eat if you can’t afford to tip.”
“I tip based SOLELY on service. I don’t tip just because I’m ‘supposed to’ I don’t go the percentages suggested if I get amazing service. I overtip,”
“[It’s] not on us as the customers to get dogged out because their employers don’t pay them a proper wage,”
“Servers should not need to rely on tips, but the reality is establishments incorporate it into their pay…”
“Tipping is not what it use to be back when I was a kid. You would tip only if service was A+ then companies saw this as away for the public to pay 1/2.”
Read: Large Group Of Teens Tips Waiter Only $3.28. A Few Days Later This Note Is Handed To Him
Tipping Culture In America
Tipping culture in the United States is different from most other countries in the world. There is an expectation that you not only leave a tip but that you leave a good one, regardless of the quality of service. This is different from Europe, for example, where leaving a tip is almost considered insulting.
In reality, that’s how it used to be in the United States, too. So what changed? In the 1920s, some trade magazines began publishing articles that were decisively pro-tipping. Prohibition caused several changes to the way hotels and restaurants functioned. By the end of that era, only high-class establishments were free of tipping. In the rest of the bars and restaurants, which suffered losses due to prohibition, having customers tip was a way for managers and owners to cut down on salary costs. This is precisely why that has stuck around. (2)
Today, in the United States, restaurants and bars don’t have to follow the same minimum wage requirements that other kinds of industries do. They pay their employees lower steady wages with the idea that tipping will pick up the rest. Some say that this actually increases a server’s earning potential. While it may be the case that in some restaurants servers walk out nightly having done incredibly well for themselves, most servers don’t have that same experience.
Some restaurants have begun simply including gratuity into your bill, as is done in other countries. This is not the norm, however, and most American servers still rely heavily on tips to make a living wage. So yes, tipping is not mandatory, but the tip you give (or don’t give) does have a big impact on that person’s income. It’s something to think about the next time you go to a restaurant or meet up with friends for drinks.
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