To Tip or Not to Tip


Are you a good tipper? Are you an automatic tipper, or do you tip depending on the quality of the service provided? We first need to point out that tipping is not a universal custom. In most European countries, restaurant patrons are not expected to tip at the end of a meal. But we need to be quick to add that servers there are paid a living wage, as opposed to the US, where most states have loopholes that allow employers to pay FAR below the minimum wage.

It is generally assumed in the United States that good service will bring good tips, but that rule doesn't necessarily always hold up.

How did the custom of tipping get started in the first place? Most historians agree the tip first came about in the European coffee houses of the 16th century. Some even say it was a sort of bribe, paid up front, in hopes of receiving faster service.

Something that might lend credibility to that theory is the word for "tip" in many other languages, mostly Germanic -- literally, it means "drink money" -- implying that the server didn't necessarily depend on tip money to pay rent or buy food, but that it was a little extra pocket money for a drink or two after work.

These days, for millions of workers, the tip is much more than a little extra something. In the US, because servers, porters and others in the service industry are paid a pitiful hourly wage (my son is paid $2.13 per hour without tips), you can and should assume that your server is underpaid. In the US, where the customer is king, the tip is the server's incentive to provide great service. If it's counter service and your server is attentive, don't ignore the tip jar. If it's table service, assume that good service deserves at least a 20% tip. If the service is poor, a lesser tip should send a message that there is room for improvement.

Does this mean that in countries where the service is included the service will be less than good? Not necessarily.

What has been your experience? Do you work in the service industry? As a customer, do you put some thought into how much you tip?