Tipping is not a team sport requiring cattle. It’s actually a cultural phenomenon in North America that baffles many from Europe, Australia and East Asia. Why do customers tip servants in the west? Who’s in charge of this stuff, anyway?
This is Tipping
A tip is a small amount of money given to a service worker such as a waiter, bartender or porter as a token of appreciation for a job well done. Ostensibly, tipping is optional, but in North America, it’s often expected and is sometimes considered mandatory by custom.
In some cases, such as when someone carries things or loads a vehicle for you, you’re expected to tip a set amount, sort of like a fee. In other cases, it’s calculated as a percentage of the transaction. American waiters and service industry employees make less than minimum wage. This makes tipping vitally important to their income. The theory is that they are motivated to better performance by better reward for their work.
Tipping the Medieval Way
George Farquhar first used the word “tip” in writing to mean a gift of some kind in his 1707 play “The Beaux’ Stratagem.” Historians and linguistic scholars generally attribute the origin of the slang used in this sense back to Tudor England under Henry VIII. By 1700, tipping by customers in taverns, inns and coffee houses was common.
The Danish, French, Polish and German words for gratuity all translate to “drinking money,” actually more like the proverbial “Have a drink on me.”
Why People Give Tips
Cornell University professor Michael Lynn, author of over 70 publications on tipping offers five main reasons why he believes people give tips.
- They want to avoid disrespect from the waiter.
- It’s a gesture of charity to aid the workers with their low income.
- They feel it’s their duty.
- They want to impress their friends watching.
- Hopefully, they’ll secure better service later on.
So How Much Do You Pay?
Americans generally tip service employees as a percentage of the bill. There are some exceptions. Here are some common rules:
- A meal with a waiter is usually 15 to 20 percent.
- Grooming and hair services or massage is usually 15 to 20 percent.
- Room service and taxi drivers usually get 15 percent.
- Valet parking and home delivery customarily receive five dollars per occasion.
- Hotel maids should get five dollars per night.
Takeout, fast food counter services, coffee shops and the like don’t usually receive tips and are often forbidden by employers from accepting them when offered. There’s usually a “tip jar” or can nearby if they’re allowed to accept tips.
In the event you’re unsure what the amount should be, just follow this quick rule of thumb: It’s common in North America to pay 10 percent if you weren’t happy with the service, 15 percent if it was average and 20 percent for an outstanding performance.