Server Tipping - © vintage

Resto Server: ‘Tipping Culture Out Of Control’

If you thought the tip demands of delivery apps and point-of-sale screens were getting out of control, you’re not alone. A career restaurant server writes, he believes in tipping. But he contends the concept of ‘tipping’ has been perverted…

Cash Tip - © Angus Ried Institute


A strong word. And mine, not the writer’s. But I feel it fairly and accurately describes food writer Darron Cardosa‘s position on the recent escalation in tipping ‘demands’ from retailers and service providers of all stripes. And I have to ask: When did business owners become middle men in the tipping game?

It was a bad enough when, a couple of years ago, desperate underpaid servers started pushing customers for higher tips. They did so, for the most part, by ‘suggesting’ increased tipping percentages.

Cardosa, AKA ‘The Bitchy Waiter’, expresses the same sentiment in a kinder, more genteel manner: “I enjoy giving tips to servers who take care of me when I go out to eat. But lately, I’ve become a teeny bit exhausted by tipping.”

Don’t push me!

I just naturally recoil at any suggestion that I should tip more than I deem appropriate. And I tip based on my appreciation of the service I’ve received. I have never paid much attention to tip ‘suggestions’. And I am completely and utterly opposed to the current fashion for pressing customers to tip outrageous percentages. This is being perpetrated by confronting us with tip ‘screens’ during the payment process. Both on our phones, in ordering apps, and at point-of-sale.

It’s bad enough that the screens offer ‘suggestions’ – options – ranging up to 30 percent. But they start at 15 percent. I may be old. And you may say I’m out of touch with the times. But I remember when 10 percent was considered a ‘good’ tip.

When dinner for two at an average sit-down restaurant costs a hundred dollars, a 10 percent tip = $10. And that’s still a significant amount, considering a server might wait on 10 or 15 tables per shift. It works out to $750 for a 5-night week. An extra $3,000 a month. Nothing so sneeze at. Or sneer at, all you servers who think you’re worth more!

Cardosa remembers, as I do, what tipping was originally all about: “Tips [were] to make up for the fact that servers [were] earning a reduced hourly wage, rather than a standard minimum wage. […] I just need a little bit more effort or involvement from someone to feel like a tip is warranted.”

Don’t shame me!

I bristle at the effrontery of a system – aided and abetted by the restaurant – that tries to shame me into tipping a ridiculous amount, regardless of the service I’ve received.

The very concept of an ‘expected’ tip amount reeks of millennial entitlement expectations. There is a between-the-lines message that we should consider tipping mandatory, now. Not only the decision to tip or not, but the amount to tip. And we, as customers, should be ashamed, on some level, not to generously supplement poor, underpaid servers’ incomes.

Nonsense. It just means that restaurant wages have failed to keep up with their employees’ rising costs of living.

In the other hand, it’s only fair to point out that restos have been struggling, even harder than before, to make a profit since food prices started to soar. And some jurisdictions have brought in minimum wage increases that have seen server pay pushed to $20 an hour or more.

Where no tip has gone before…

Another huge annoyance – an outright affront to me – is the appearance of tip jars, or even tip screens where tips were never customary before.

“What I am tired of are the ubiquitous tip jars on every countertop of every place I go into,” Cardosa politely observes.”I get it. Everyone wants to make a little bit of extra money. But a tip jar in some situations seems, well, not okay.”

Who will Cardosa tip? “The hair stylist who spends 90 minutes cutting and coloring the mop on my head? Absolutely. The bellhop who lugs my overstuffed luggage to my hotel room. Of course. The cashier at the deli who talked on their cell phone while I handed them two dollars for a Chapstick? No, I will not be dropping my spare coins into the Styrofoam cup that’s taped to the countertop.”

The height of tipping ‘abuse’?

Some UBER Eats drivers are now banding together to keep online lists of customers who tip poorly or not at all. They blackmail these poor folks by threatening to let their orders sit on the counter getting cold and disgusting unless a tip is proffered.

Cardosa’s last word: “For me, there seems to be a tipping point for tipping and it seems to be when food is involved. I’m inclined to tip someone who hands me a cappuccino and a toasted bagel. But not so much to someone who hands me [my] dry cleaning. I know tip jars will never go away. And for every one that gets removed, two or three appear somewhere else. They’re like grey hairs …”

“A screen that suggests a 30 percent tip will always have an option for no tip as well,” Cardosa notes. “And that’s when I will toss the appropriate change [on the table]. […] But if even I am tired of tipping, then others must be completely drained by it.”

My take

I agree wholeheartedly with Cardosa. The harder servers push for fatter tips, the harder I’ll push back. And I have no respect at all for restaurants that push me to tip more via the anonymous phone app or POS screen – just so they can get away with paying their servers less.

And don’t get me started on the so-called ‘trend’ among some resto operators to add ‘mandatory’ tips to customer bills – as high as 18 percent. That’s just highway robbery!

~ Maggie J.