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You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin? The Awkward Etiquette of iPad Tipping (wsj.com)
230 points by uptown 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 487 comments



Hacker News threads about tipping are always rough. US tipping is not complicated. You are being asked to share with a service worker's employer some of the burden of compensating them. The notion that you're rewarding exceptional service is a polite fiction. Depending on where you are, the tip is either expected or it isn't. Unfortunately for the mindset of a typical software developer, there won't be much clarity on this point; you'll have to rely on context clues to determine whether and how much of a tip is expected. You can reasonably withhold a tip from someone who is actively hostile or incompetent, but really all you're doing is making yourself feel better. If payment and the tip is expected up-front, you can either buy into the cost-sharing dynamic of tipping, or you can not.

Very few people in the US are going to admire a principled stance you take against tipping. The moral of the opening breakfast scene in Reservoir Dogs was not that Steve Buscemi was a smart and principled dude. Harvey Keitel was the one you were expected to admire in that scene.

A very easy, relatively pleasant way to get through life in the US if you're well-off enough that you routinely buy coffee in expensive coffee shops: just always tip. Anywhere there's a tip line. You never have to figure anything out, and sometimes people really appreciate it.


> You are being asked to share with a service worker's employer some of the burden of compensating them.

The entire burden of compensating them is on me either way, isn't it? The employer doesn't pay the employee out of his own money. He pays it out of the money that comes from customers.

The question is simply the route. Either I pay $4 for a muffin, and all of it goes to the employer before any reaches the employee, or I pay $3 for the muffin to the employer, some of which gets passed on to the employee, and $1 directly to the employee.

Tipping complicates things. That's why I don't like it. Not only does it reintroduce math, but it also introduces complexity in my relationships with every server of every kind. Did I tip enough? Did I tip enough in his opinion? Did I need to tip that guy that did that little thing? Do they hate me now? Will they do something to my food? Will they slack off next time, out of resentment? These are not things I need to be thinking about after every transaction.

Down with all tipping! And daylight savings time! I don't know why, but in my heart they are connected. And maybe I'm finally ready to adopt the metric system.


If tipping were truly a gift, which is what it should be then I'd be fine with it. But it's become an obligation using the excuse, "But the employer doesn't pay that much." Or "Those people get treated pretty rough."

And then people that should be tipped, aren't. I'm thinking about a helpful secretary at work that moves calendar entries around to get you a meeting with a high level manager, or a nurse working a double shift in the emergency room easing the pain of your kid's broken arm.


The public accepts prices more readily if they're broken up into smaller bits.

Sell a $4 muffin without tips, and you might lose business for being seen as "too expensive". Even if everyone always spent $4 anyway when you consider tips.

My favorite brand of fish fillets no longer come with packets of tartar sauce, because $8 for a box of breaded fish was seen as too expensive and they didn't sell well. So now the box is $6.25 and they have a display of little tartar sauce bottles for $1.75 next to the freezer. Sales more than tripled, or so claims my grocer.

I agree with you overall, and I don't think the psychological trick of dividing up the cost is a good reason to keep tipping going. Just mentioning it as a reason that seems to exist.


In addition to this, in some places the tips are shared. You don’t even know who gets the tip!


You're right about "rewarding exceptional service" being a lie, but I don't think it's correct to frame tipping as "burden sharing". If the muffin just cost 20% more and the untipped barista got paid a higer wage the burdens would still be split the same. In practice, it seems like tipping serves two main functions, neither of which are great for society at large.

First, it allows businesses to advertise lower prices than consumers will need to bear. It's similar to the American habit of adding sales tax at the point of sale instead of including it in the posted price that way. And because, as a species, we're prone to anchoring effects that causes us to systematically underestimate what the final total will be. That's pretty good for proprietors of service sector businesses, but probably slightly bad for the economy as a whole.

Second, it allows those proprietors to price discriminate a little bit (because price sensitive customers will sometimes buy the service but not tip) while pushing the downside risk off onto their employees.

And that's not even touching the way tips allow customers to de facto discriminate against staff (conventionally attractive people get more tips), or staff against customers ("black people don't tip"), in ways that would be anywhere from suspicious to downright scandalous if they were implemented more formally.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't tip well. You absolutely should, as service workers depend on tips to be fairly compensated for their labor. But tips are a bad idea and there's plenty of reasons beyond social awkwardness to wish they would go away.


> If the muffin just cost 20% more and the untipped barista got paid a higer wage the burdens would still be split the same.

That sounds true in principle, but your ignoring the commision aspect of the service. In the tipping model, a very efficient server could, say, serve 100 miffins/hr and be tipped 20% each accordingly. A fast, but rude server could serve 100 muffins, but perhaps get 0-10% tip each sale. A slow, but polite server may only serve 50 muffins, but garner 20% tip each.

If you simply jack the muffin price up and distribute equally among all servers, as you suggest, then there is no incentive to perform above average - no lesson learned for lackluster performance.

Personally, I tip anywhere between 15 - 30%, understanding that this is part of the servers anticipated income. If service is bad enough for me to want to tip 0%, then I either leave before I place an order, or I tip 15% then don't go back then write a negative Yelp review to warn others.


I am ignoring the commission aspect of the service, because in practice there often isn't any. Tips are frequently pooled, meaning all three servers in your hypothetical would end up with the same cut of the day's take regardless of their personal performance. Besides, if muffin vendors want to incentivize their staff with a commission scheme, why not just incentivize their staff with a commission scheme? Why force the general public to do it (badly) for them?

And the idea that eliminating tips would be "jacking up" prices is exactly the line of faulty reasoning that tips are designed to exploit. The muffin already costs 20% more than the number on the little plaque in front of it claims. Without tips the same amount of money would leave the customer's pocket and the employer and employee would still ultimately split the proceeds from that sale the same way. No prices actually change, but the numbers become a lot more honest and simpler for all parties to reason about.

The truth is vendors don't want prices to be simple to reason about because when they're difficult to reason about the other actors in the system will, on average, tend to make mistakes of reasoning in the vendor's favor.


> In the tipping model, a very efficient server could, say, serve 100 miffins/hr and be tipped 20% each accordingly. A fast, but rude server could serve 100 muffins, but perhaps get 0-10% tip each sale. A slow, but polite server may only serve 50 muffins, but garner 20% tip each.

Well, sure, in some world where tipping actually reflects service and politeness alone, rather than being significantly determined by gender, race, and attractiveness.

> If you simply jack the muffin price up and distribute equally among all servers, as you suggest, then there is no incentive to perform above average - no lesson learned for lackluster performance.

Sure there is, employers can monitor performance and use pay incentives (and punitive disincentives, including termination.)

Employers of workers in customer service jobs in industries that aren't typically tipped do this (and even in tipped industries, they do some monitoring and at least the negative incentives.)


All I'm saying is that, while it may not be a perfect system, I like having the the power to judge the quality of service provided to me on a case by case basis.


> a very efficient server could, say, serve 100 miffins/hr and be tipped 20% each accordingly. A fast, but rude server could serve 100 muffins, but perhaps get 0-10% tip each sale. A slow, but polite server may only serve 50 muffins, but garner 20% tip each.

This seems like a weird argument. Do the customers get no say in whether or not they want muffins?

You seem to be implying that a person behind a counter selling muffins is able to alter dramatically the demand for muffins by being efficient.

Most cafes or stores that I see are basically waiting for customers or have only a couple of customers, nowhere near reaching the limits of how fast a worker can throw muffins at them.

I realize you're only using muffins as an example but it's the same with most food places I see.


"(without tipping) then there is no incentive to perform above average - no lesson learned for lackluster performance."

How is it then that non-tipped employees have incentive to perform above average, or learn lessons from lackluster performance?


Every single industry has already figured out how to motivate and reward employee performance. Tips are completely inconsequential in this aspect.


As someone who has worked in the service industry, and now frequently dine out, I vehemently dissagree that the prospect of a larger tip does not motivate service industry staff.

No matter - do away with tips. I will continue to tip voluntarily and I garuntee I will recieve superior service from appreciative staff.


They don't know how much you're tipping in the beginning so you're almost never going to get "superior" service on the first go. Also highly dependent on context. Moving some food around doesn't have a big spectrum of quality.

Tipping voluntarily as you say is just building up a relationship with money. Neither unique nor special, but it's not exactly what's being discussed here.


>A very easy, relatively pleasant way to get through life in the US if you're well-off enough that you routinely buy coffee in expensive coffee shops: just always tip. Anywhere there's a tip line. You never have to figure anything out, and sometimes people really appreciate it.

This echoes the sentiment that 'if you can't afford to pay a X% tip, you can't afford to buy the product'. Problem is that it seems to keep going up. It use to be 10, then 15, now it is closing in on 20 and in some areas 22 seems to be the expected. How far does this logic extend? If you can't afford to tip 50% then you can't afford it?

My preferred reaction has been to begin avoiding places where tipping is an option.


Tips shouldn't be expected if you're on regular minimum wage rather than the tipped wage.


In my province in Canada, we have one minimum wage, $15 per hour, and at least 15% tip is still very much expected.


Maybe service workers should wear badges showing their hourly wage, then customers would know how much they should tip. /s


Even in the U.S. if your tips + tipped worker minimum wage fail to reach untipped worker minimum wage, your employer pays the difference (1).

1. https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/002.htm


I encourage you to talk to service workers to see how often this happens


It's illegal. They can sue the restaurant.

As far as I can tell most servers like tips because it lets them earn much more money than minimum wage.

Also, nowadays it's quite easy to get a message out to a huge audience. I'd certainly boycott any place that were so horribly mistreating its employees.


Seriously, go over to reddit and read /r/legaladvice for a while.

The almost daily litany of posts of "my employer is doing (list of highly illegal things involving wages), what should I do" will be a pretty big wakeup call for you. And if you think "well they can just sue" is an easy answer, remember employees who are identifiable as the source of wage complaints are at risk of being fired. That's illegal, too, but do you really think an employer who's already breaking labor laws will be scrupulous about not retaliating?

Also, these folks will really open your eyes (click through to the full report linked at the bottom):

https://www.epi.org/publication/wage-theft-bigger-problem-fo...

Their data (2012) showed that the amount recovered from wage claims against US employers was three times the dollar value of all robberies in the US combined. Just the amount recovered; the amount actually owed but not paid is likely to be larger.


> Also, nowadays it's quite easy to get a message out to a huge audience. I'd certainly boycott any place that were so horribly mistreating its employees.

Then get ready to boycott 80% of restaurants in North America. It's a hugely abusive industry


Yeah I remember when 15% was a good tip and 10% was socially acceptable. Today, even 15% can subject you to social criticsm.

Expected tip is definitely going up.


I find that no one really bothers with the math anymore. If the bill is $11 most people will just put $1.50 or $2.00 rather than work out a fixed percent.


Personally, I feel like if I calculate an exact 15% to the penny, I'm being petty. So I'll typically calculate the exact tip, then round up.


Higher tipping expectations are generally matched by higher discounts on the pre-tip price. So there is no limit, and that's not itself an issue.


This NEVER happens from a economic incentive standpoint.

Restaurant owners NEVER say "Oh look, expectation for tipping in the general public is up 5% this year, let's cut down our menu prices to balance this out."

I don't know what logic is behind your statement - could you please elaborate?


Not 'this year', but 'this decade'.

> Restaurant owners NEVER say "Oh look, expectation for tipping in the general public is up 5% this year, let's cut down our menu prices to balance this out."

What they do is take advantage of their ability to cut server pay instead of increasing menu prices, when that is possible. And higher tips make more of that possible.

Are you saying that restaurant owners are charging the same amount that they would if tips were 10% lower? Because I'm pretty sure margins are low enough to make that impossible.


Waiters take home ~$20/hr. If tipping culture changed such that waiters made $25/hr the restaurant can't reduce prices to compensate because the are already being paid the minimum wage of 2.15. They can't legally cut server pay. Likewise if tipping culture changes such that waiters made 15/hr they wouldn't get a $5/hr raise, because servers are already overpaid relative to equivalent untipped jobs.


> Waiters take home ~$20/hr.

The BLS stats have it at $10/hour or $20k per year:

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/mobile/....

There are some people who are well paid but they’re generally in expensive areas and there aren’t very many of them. It’s like looking at Waymo engineers and making a general statement about software developer income country-wide.

The other problem is that where you say “can’t” is often “shouldn’t but do anyway”. It’s not hard to find people complaining about owners illegally taking some portion tip income, shifting expenses to workers, or otherwise lowering the effective income for what is already not an easy job.


I've known plenty of waiters, and none of them made $10/hr. The cities were Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Galveston. They all reported making 15-20/hr.

I usually trust the BLS numbers, but in this instance I think they might be off. They collects numbers from corporations, who can usually just report salary. But with heavily tipped positions they don't know how much the waiters earn except how much they declare for tax purposes as the end of their shift. And all my waiter friends who were making 15-20/hr were reporting $10/hr.(Almost all credit card tips).

This is similar to being a delivery driver, everyone was making $20/hr but the ledgers all said we were making 10.


Restaurant owners definitely track how much their customers are paying for meals and correlate it to how much business they're doing, both in terms of number of customers and in terms of revenue per customer.

They know that their customers judge the night based on total cost, which includes tips and taxes. That's why restaurant owners tend to be so militant about local meals taxes.

Restaurant owners do not ignore tips when setting prices, or when setting wages. It's kind of nuts to think that they would.


They don't lower the prices; they just fail to raise them. I.e., the costs of paying their employees would have gone up, and thereby forced them to raise (visible) prices; but since what went up instead is the societally-expected tip, their employees have already had their compensation adjusted to match inflation, and so the employees are not costing the employer any more than previously, and so the employer doesn't need to raise the base price of the good.


And if an owner has to raise the prices because of an increase of the rent, or because of a spike in the cost of coffee, why are the waiters going to get a cut out of that?


> US tipping is not complicated.

I'd actually say it wasn't complicated, until technology like this made the experience awful. Before this tech existed, I don't ever recall being verbally asked for a tip, and if I had I would have thought it to be the height of rudeness. I certainly don't ever recall being asked for a tip while the machine then broadcasts your tipped amount to everyone else in line behind you.

I get your overall point that tipping is a way to make extremely low-wage jobs slightly more bearable, but I'm fine with people pointing out how this technology is ridiculous and not a good thing.

Don't even get me started on the fact that the purpose of tipping is to reward service after you have received it.


> Before this tech existed, I don't ever recall being verbally asked for a tip

What about haircuts, yard work, and any other often-tipped service profession? "How much would you like me to charge your card?" is, and always was in my experience, super common in those areas--and that's the same thing as asking for a tip.

Hell, if you pay cash at a restaurant, "do you want change for that?" is similar.

I think it has always been more or less that way, and that's fine. A button on a screen or a coded question aren't much different if you're paying attention, and not having to do the annoying indirect-etiquette game probably makes life easier/less awkward for people receiving tips.


> Hell, if you pay cash at a restaurant, "do you want change for that?" is similar.

I've paid cash at plenty of sit down restaurants and never had that question. Almost invariably, when the cash presented exceeds the bill when the server picks it up (instead of leaving a tip separately after paying the bill), the server will say something like “I’ll be right back with your change” in exactly the same way they’ll say “I'll be right back with your drinks” when you've ordered them. Now, this certainly provides an opportunity to decline (or to make specific requests for how the change should be provided, as may be necessary to leave the exact tip you want), but it's not asking that.


I agree with the tenor of your post but there has been tipping creep. A line must be drawn! It wasn't too long ago that coffee shops did not have tips. I'm old enough that it's been ingrained into me that I don't need to tip if I'm placing the order and waiting for it to be fulfilled. I don't tip in fast food places and I certainly never tip in coffee shops.


I believe the tip jar at the coffee shop started when coffee shops, like Starbucks, started making more and fancier drinks. When I get a simple cup of plain black coffee I don't tip but when my wife and I are together, I get my black coffee and she usually gets a latte or whatever they call some of their more complicated drinks. I'll tip then because they actually put some effort into making it and I want them to remember us and make nice drinks for my wife the next time we're there.


You might be older than I am (I'm in my early 40s) but there has never been a time when I went to coffee shops where tipping was unusual. Is it possible you just didn't notice? The cue was "a glass jar full of cash" by the checkout". There might be tip creep (I doubt it), but coffee shops aren't, I don't think, part of it.


I’m not a US resident but that’s been an interesting read.

About the expectations, the good thing is they change fast. France had the same path, where tipping was strongly expected in cafes. In particular, as it was smallish amounts, people usually paid cash (or the cafe would just refuse credit cards below some fair amount) and it was easier to leave something on the table.

In a few years contactless became widely available, laws on obligation to take payments also became pervasive, and people paying a 2E coffee by card is not unusual anymore.

Numbers of tips have crashed [0] and the cafe owners are coming to terms with it. Anecdotaly amost places I saw baked the tip into final ticket as a “service fee”.

I think the same kind of mechanics will come at play most places. Why ask the customer for some random amount on a screen when everyone will be less awkward to just have it as a fixed line item in the receipt ?

[0] https://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/article/2017/08/30/et-le-pourb...


Your response is condescending. Especially the “the cue was a....” part.


I sincerely didn't intend for it to be, and really thought you might have been someone who missed the tip jar.


Your posts are often condescending, and I take it on faith that you do it unintentionally because friends tell me you're very nice in person.


I've been struggling with this for a while and you put it really well.

However it frustrates me to no end, that customers are expected to do compensation sharing with the employer. The nefarious thing about this is that the employer has put the negotiating for fair wages between the customer and employees instead of between the employees and the employer.

End of the day its manageable as you say, just price in the tip - however I prefer places that have it priced in (same goes for tax).


Another way to look at it is that tipping lubricates the market pricing interface between customers and vendors. If they didn't allow tipping, restaurants would charge more to make up the difference (margins in service work are almost always very low). In a tipping system, when things are going well, everyone tips; if things aren't going so well, not so much. There's some wiggle room between the list price and the actual price, which might offset price stickiness.

Either way, tipping is not an elaborate conspiracy. It might have been long ago, but today, it's just the way service work in the US is organized. If you want to crusade against the injustice of it, that's fine! But make sure your crusade is orthogonal to whether or not you actually tip. :)


> If they didn't allow tipping, restaurants would charge more to make up the difference (margins in service work are almost always very low).

Neither good nor bad.

> In a tipping system, when things are going well, everyone tips; if things aren't going so well, not so much. There's some wiggle room between the list price and the actual price, which might offset price stickiness.

That's terrible! Instead of the burden being spread around, the restaurant still makes money and the employee doesn't!


The restaurant doesn't still make money—the under-tipped employees quit to seek better employment, and at the going wage the employer is offering, there is no further demand for that job to replace the employees who have quit. So fewer employees have to take on the slack of "doing more", and thus each one ends up making roughly as much in tips as before (at equilibrium, if they manage to take up that slack); or they don't manage to take up the slack, demand isn't matched to supply, and the business's total revenue decreases.

The market is efficient... eventually.


>The restaurant doesn't still make money—the under-tipped employees quit to seek better employment, and at the going wage the employer is offering, there is no further demand for that job to replace the employees who have quit.

Is this not true with every company in every industry? Pay is a major reason why people leave a job for another. If an employer is struggling to find labor at a low ball price, they will raise their offer.


> at the going wage the employer is offering, there is no further demand for that job to replace the employees who have quit

That assertion comes out of nowhere...


>>However it frustrates me to no end, that customers are expected to do compensation sharing with the employer

A debate, perhaps worth having. Meanwhile your server makes less than minimum wage because tips are expected to fill in the gap. A while back it was $2.13 an hour. Not giving him a tip is only going to ruin his day, not start a revolution. As of right now, the chicken dish cost $16 plus an unofficial but expected 15-20% tip. Do you have the roughly $20? if not, grab a few slices of pizza.

Edit: I don't tip 20% when I grab a coffee at Dunkin. Oh no. Maybe leave them the loose change.


> I don't tip 20% when I grab a coffee at Dunkin.

Why not? Not a critique, just curious about your rationale when you note that "tips are expected to fill in the gap".


they make probably $10+ an hour and are not considered "tipped" employees, that's way more than a waiter's minimum (used to be $2.13 or so)


Employers pay the difference between tipped and untipped employee wages if the tips + wage don't beat minimum wage.

However in regards to Dunkin Donuts, I'm not sure the employees can even accept or keep any tips themselves. Maybe a Dunkin Donuts regular can comment whether they can accept tips; many franchise restaurants have a no tipping policy.


Employers are supposed to pay the difference, but often don't.

At least at some Dunkins, employees split tips among everyone working, but it stays with the employees.


FYI, While their base is below minimum wage, if their hourly pay with tip does not meet minimum wage, then the employer has to fill in the gap by law. This is also why a lot of restaurants in Seattle force a 20% gratuity now that minimum wage is $15 an hour to reduce the chance that customers skimp on the tip and thus the employer would have to pay out the remaining $15 an hour.


Washington is one of the few states that doesn’t allow employers to pay below minimum wage even to tipped employees. Maybe Seattle is different since its city minimum wage is above the state minimum, but those Seattle waiters aren’t making $3 or whatever pre-tip.

https://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Wages/Minimum/


It's division of labor. The owner pays for the employee to show up and make the store look open. You pay for the service actually rendered.


Thanks, then I'll bring my own waiter.


At a lot of restaurants, you do bring your own waiter. These also tend to be restaurants with no tipping. Think: McDonalds or Subway.


Isn't this exactly what the article is about?

McDonalds and certainly Subway are more effort to the staff than passing over a pre-packed muffin in a coffee shop.


In the US "tip" is a misnomer. Minimum wages for jobs where you can be tipped drop from $8 or so otherwise to something like $2.

It's not a "tip". It's an expected (and the expectation is in law, as evidenced by the lower minimum wage) part of the employee's salary.

This is a really bad system, (as David MItchell would say, it's a tax on conscience), but it's the system the US has. It's very different from almost all of the rest of the world where a tip really is a tip intended to reward good service.


It’s not actually a lower minimum wage, employees must make minimum wage including tips or employers are legally required to make up the difference.

In practice this is unlikely, but it’s still the legal requirement.


The parent commenter meant that the tips are being "stolen" by the employer by an equal subtraction from their wage up to a given amount (the point where the wage + tips surpasses minimum wage.) Sort of like how an advance works in publishing: your revenue is "stolen" by an equal subtraction from your royalties up to the total amount of the advance.

A tip, in the classical sense, is expected to be something that the person you're tipping gets to keep in addition to their wage.

A minimum wage isn't supposed to guarantee a minimum level of welfare (that's what direct-transfer welfare programs are for); it's supposed to guarantee a minimum proportion between labor-in and compensation-out.

In fact, think of the alternative case: it would piss most people off to realize that giving $20 to a person on welfare, means that—if the recipient is honest—the government will subtract that same amount from their welfare check for that month.

That's the way that system is supposed to work, and people still find it unjust. So why don't they find it unjust when it's a system (minimum wage) that's not supposed to keep people "at level", but rather to increase their compensation as they provide more labor?


I agree. Tips should be unknown to the employer. This can readily be done even with card transactions; staff usually swipe a card or enter a PIN anyway to use the POS system.

One of my biggest hesitations with tipping in places where it is unexpected, like a muffin shop in the OP, is whether the tip goes straight to the employee whose performance I tipped for, split among all staff indiscriminately, or more sinister straight to the employer.


That's true in restaurants but not as much in the context of the article.


>(and the expectation is in law, as evidenced by the lower minimum wage)

By that logic, tipping is not an expectation since the law says that if the tips do not equal enough to bring the worker's earning up to the minimum wage limit, then the employer has to pay them the actual minimum wage and not the tipping minimum wage.

Many employers will not follow the law, but the solution to that is to punish the employers and empower and incentive the employees to seek out enforcement of the law.


> You can reasonably withhold a tip from someone who is actively hostile or incompetent, but really all you're doing is making yourself feel better.

Well, one could argue that this is effectively NOT making you feel better, quite the opposite. Empathy is what makes people feel better. So to counter-argue your point, tipping someone despite the fact you may have negative feelings about their service or judge incompetent, is empathy.

As a native French/European person, I've always thought of tipping as counter-intuitive, i.e. "why is the tip not included?". But after a few years in the U.S., I realized that this is actually a small gesture of appreciation that -- even if insignificant because so normalized -- will make the person serving you feel a little better about their job and themselves.

For that reason, I am now on the "always tip" camp.


If that's the case for tipping then why aren't all service jobs "tipping jobs"? I mean you wouldn't tip at mcdonalds, right?


And why don't people tip bus drivers, airline check in clerks, the counter staff at Hertz, etc.? Some check out operators in supermarkets are more efficient than others, should they be tipped?

What is it that makes restaurant and bar staff special?


If it's not optional for rewarding exceptional service, then it should be part of the price. If everyone pays the same expected tip, there's no real benefit to having a separate line item on the bill.

But practically, certain customers end up paying a larger share of the service worker's take home pay. Dynamic pricing based on customer's willingness/ability to pay is an interesting pricing model, but in this case the risk is entirely on the service worker who hopes enough people pay sufficient tips.


It's not optional for rewarding exceptional service, and it's not part of the price. Those are both straightforward accurate positive (not normative) claims.


> A very easy, relatively pleasant way to get through life in the US if you're well-off enough that you routinely buy coffee in expensive coffee shops: just always tip. Anywhere there's a tip line. You never have to figure anything out, and sometimes people really appreciate it.

Well, unless you are the next person in line who hadn't planned on leaving a tip and now feels guilty/obligated because the person in front of them put down a large tip right in front of the cashier.


Life is tough.


I blindly tip 20% at restaurants irrespective if I sit down, buy take out, or have something delivered with one exception: if I buy take out, but I am just buying drinks that I took out from the fridge, then I don't tip at all.

My hope is that there will be sufficient political and societal will to expect employers to pay their employees a comfortable wage, and for everyone irrespective of whether or not they are an employer, employee, or self-employed to pay 100% of the taxes they owe without resorting to de jure or de facto loopholes or having an unreasonably high tax burden.


If you follow this advice soon clothing stores and everything will have tip lines as well and you just increased your cost of living by 20%...


Just a "meta" consideration.

350 comments and heated discussions, embarrassing anecdotes about tipping (or not tipping) in the US, claims of tips creep from 10% to 20% and from full seated meals to coffee on the go, complaints of moral blackmail and peer pressure. Aren't all these already strong enough indications that the tipping system is bad and doesn't work? Isn't the fact that it doesn't exist almost anywhere else a proof that it's completely unnecessary?


> US tipping is not complicated. [...] just always tip. Anywhere there's a tip line.

Well, it's been too complicated for me because the comments in this thread show I've been doing it wrong.

For example, I sometimes picked up "to go" orders from Chili's restaurant[1]. In my mind, if I sat down to eat, I tipped the server. On the other hand, if I phoned in an order and picked it up, I didn't tip. Yes, I noticed that for pickup orders, the credit-card slip had an extra line to write in a "tip" but I just ignored it because my programming brain just assumed that tipping line is printed by the point-of-sale software regardless of sit down or take out service. (The POS programmer didn't bother to code the conditional IF(ORDER_TYPE==DINE_IN) PRINT "tip: ___")

A few decades ago when I worked in a restaurant and manned the cash register for take out orders, I did not expect tips when handing a customer a bag of food. That is the experience and decision tree I used when I myself became a customer for pick up orders. Therefore, the logical tip amount for takeout orders was $0.00.

However, this thread says I've been "stiffing" workers. I think times have changed!

EDIT ADD: The replies that further refined this specific restaurant example and I appreciate that but that's not really what I was trying to discuss. Let me try state my conundrum another way: I was exploring the generalized philosophical point about where the genesis of a particular tipping expectation comes from. The question is... do _new_ valid tipping scenarios legitimately come from software programmers modifying point-of-sale software to add a line that says "TIP:____"?

To make up an example, today when we go to get eyeglasses, the optician (or salesperson) will help pick out different frames, adjust and bend the frame for fit, clean it with a cloth, etc. Basically a bunch of "service" type of actions for the customer. Today, we do not tip this worker. However, if the POS software at Pearle Vision or Eyemasters starts printing out "TIP:___" on the credit-card receipts, does this, in itself, begin a new social more that compels us tip opticians? Would we then be debating in 5 years that we're "stiffing" opticians if we don't tip them even if some of us grew up without ever tipping opticians? Those are genuine questions and I don't know the answer.

I didn't tip the takeout cashier because I thought life experience with proper tipping etiquette was the proper guide and therefore, it's not dictated by the "TIP:___" text on a credit-card receipt. Many in this thread say that's wrong so I to re-evaluate this.

[1] https://www.chilis.com/


You want to feel real great? Here's a question: do you always tip your hotel housekeeping? It's gotten harder over the last 10 years since we're carrying so much less cash, and there's no tip line on the hotel bill. But you are hella expected to tip housekeeping: that is a rough job, and a very poorly treated workforce.


I'm terrible at tipping and this is the one thing I do know. But –

It's next to impossible to get enough small bills to cover all the tipping you need to do on a vacation, between hotels and taxis, and other incidentals. ATMs typically spit out the local equivalent of USD$20s if you're lucky; US$100s if you're not. Who's going to make change for that?

At home this is less of a problem because (a) I don't have as many things to tip for, and (b) I have had time to save up small bills for tipping. But when first thrust into a foreign country you need to be PREPARED.


For your benefit, tipping is not as big a thing in other countries as it is in the US. For example, in Brazil it is regulated by consumer protection laws and you can either tip 10% or nothing, and this tip can only be added in places with table service (so not on fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, etc).


I know! It's a giant pain in the ass.


"Today I learned", except it was about a year ago when this discussion was last on HN.

I've spent about six months in the USA, mostly on family holidays and business travel, and never knew it was expected to tip housekeeping.

Pay the staff a decent wage, or at least a fair wage, then charge me accordingly.

How do I put a tip on my work expenses?


My employer's expense policy allows tipping 'in line with local customs', but I imagine the accounting department would roll over laughing before they'd consider reimbursing a cash tip with no receipt.


I don't understand how "_hella_ expected to tip" translates to "you ought to tip". Further, I don't understand why I should take seriously the ethical claim that "one should tip service workers". Why? Why shouldn't we expect the business owner to properly price goods and services such that what I pay reflects the true cost of the labor performed? From where does my ethical commitment to an individual based solely on their occupational sector arise? Why service workers over customer support staff at a call center in India? These ethical claims seem to arise from arbitrary cultural norms.


Because you know before you partake of the service what the expectations and the normed obligations are, and if you defect by availing yourself of the service and not tipping, you're just harming the worker.


"Industrywide, about a third of hotel guests leave tips for housekeepers."

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/business/hotel-housekeepe...


Yes, and that sucks.


Yes, it most certainly does suck for an assertion claiming it's a norm and "hella [sic] expected".


This brings up a somewhat related question in my mind... how is my %20 iPad tip at the coffee shop treated differently than the amount I paid? Conventionally a tip was something you could physically separate from the amount you paid for the product/service... but now you're trusting the establishment to make sure it gets to the employee? This obviously sucks for the employee bc taxes, but I have a hard time imagining that Dunkin' (!Donuts) employees are getting the full post tax amount of my tip. I could be wrong.

EDIT: I was wrong


Pretty much any modern point of sale system (e.g., anything on a tablet) is going to be separating out the tips correctly for accounting purposes. If anything, you should be _more_ sure that the employees are getting their full tip amounts when there's a stronger paper trail for it. It's the cash tips at some mom and pop joint with handwritten receipts that have some chance of getting intercepted.


There are both federal and state laws governing disbursement of tips to employees.


> do you always tip your hotel housekeeping?

Being UKian I didn't even know that this was a concept.

The hotel advertises a per-night fee, I pay it on departure.


Being a USian, I didn't even know this was a concept. And I remember googling how much to tip when I started travelling as an adult. I'm pretty sure all the advice was to consider leaving a tip for housekeeping if you make an unusual mess or get great service. Not that it was hella expected or the norm.


I recently stayed in a hotel where I realized I didn't have any cash on me. I just hung the DND sign on the door and handled my own housekeeping.

Still felt bad when I checked out and still didn't have anything to leave.


Since when is tipping the housekeeping staff expected. I have never heard of that before. They are employees of the hotel (or third party contractor) to do work in a hotel. They are paid money for that.


> They are employees of the hotel (or third party contractor) to do work in a hotel. They are paid money for that.

That’s not any different than pizza delivery drivers, waiters, or car wash employees.

In any case, yeah, tipping your housekeeper is a common thing. Maybe not as common as I thought.


While I don't mind tipping a waiter for great service I don't see delivery drivers and car wash employees are included. A tip is just that, "great job, here is a little something extra for yourself" it should not be expected. I give a gratuity to my door man at Christmas because he goes the extra mile and is awesome. I don't necessarily give the same to the others. Tips/gratuities are for going above and beyond, not just providing the service they are paid to do.


Tips for housekeeping are often most of my physical-cash outlay when I travel, because I pay for practically everything else by card. The percentage is even greater considering how often I make a small purchase using cash precisely so I can use the bills I get back for tips. If hotels provided a way to use my card for tips I might use it, though that would deny me the enjoyment I get from the exchange of notes that often occurs over the course of a week's stay.


Even worse - do you tip every day? Since you can't be sure it's the same housekeeper every morning, how do you distribute the cash fairly?


Yeah. $2-5 a day.


I dunno, I never tip on take-out. If I’m not sitting down and taking up a turn at a table, but still paying the price on the menu for the food, the tip is already there just in another form.


> the tip is already there just in another form.

That is making a lot of mistaken assumptions about how restaurant service works. I can only speak for myself and former colleagues, but very often increases in takeout orders correlated with fewer in-house patrons. Whether that was because Foodler was running a promotion, people who came in to sit down got discouraged by the sight of all the takeout business or what, I don't know.

Even if that correlation is invalid, it's not like restaurant workers are able to go and get tips from a thronging mass of people when you pick up takeout--we might be sitting on our hands earning nothing while we wait for tables to turn up. We're definitely not making the money "back" in some other way when you order takeout.


Even if take out orders are canibalizing dine-in orders, how does that have any bearing on my tipping strategy?

The front of the house should be staffed appropriately based on the dine-in load, and the back of house should be staffed appropriately for the full cooking load. I don’t tip the front of house to hand me a bag. The hostess probably isn’t sharing the tips at most places anyway!

If your manager is running a take-out only promo that bombs the dine-in business, they should be running dine-in only promos to balance it out. I think your gripe is with the manager not the customers!


I was not commenting on or proposing changes to anyone’s strategy. I was pointing out the inaccuracy of the idea that tips are compensated in other ways when people order takeout. No restaurant is run well enough that there is not occasional idle or overworked time for staff.


I also used to not tip on takeout orders for the same reason until someone who used to work at a restaurant told me I should.

The explanation made sense to me though: The same waiter that waits tables has to package your food for you. Obviously it doesn't take as much of their time as people who sit down to eat so you tip less, but you're still using their time that would otherwise have been spent on people sitting at the restaurant.

Of course I wish we could just get rid of tipping by increasing the costs of the goods and paying them higher.


Let's complicate things more. Sometimes the tips are split between the front and back of the house, so not tipping on takeout is still impacting service worker's income.


> US tipping is not complicated

Ehmm, yeah it is. Other than the very well established rules for dinning in a restaurant, where one is expected to leave a tip of around 20%, all other situations are fuzzy.

Look at the replies in this thread. Everybody has their own rules about when, where and how much to tip.

I get your point, and agree, that it not really about rewarding exceptional service, but this doesn't make it less complicated.


> Other than the very well established rules for dinning in a restaurant, where one is expected to leave a tip of around 20%,

And not many years ago that was 15%, and very recently it had settled around 18%, but, yeah, people are starting to throw around 20% as the baseline now. So, to call the rules even there “well-established” is...less than accurate.


Yeah, completely agree. When I was a kid I remember 15% being so standard that there was even a little mnemonic on how to calculate it (10% is easy to calculate, then add half that).

Now it seems like 15% is what you give for truly bad service.


> US tipping is not complicated.

I think this thread (and similar threads every time the topic comes up) kid of puts that claim to sleep.


I agree waiters and waitresses have set expectations because you're indeed sharing the cost of employing them. However it's not clear to me if the manager at <random coffee shop> is paying the guy running a cash register $2-$3/hr and expecting tips to make up the balance or not. Running a register and handing people their order from behind a counter are not traditionally roles that expect or receive tips.


Right. But how much? I'm not from the US, but I know that the expectation is to tip. And I do. However, every time I leave some place I have this vague feeling of unease and guilt - technically I could have afforded to tip more. Was it enough? Did I offend them by accidentally calculating 15% instead of 20% ? Is the norm actually 30% in that place?

It'd just be so much easier if it was already included in the price.


> Very few people in the US are going to admire a principled stance you take against tipping.

It depends what your principles are. Only in very rare cases do I tip less than 20% in traditional tip settings (restaurants and bars). But this iPad tipping is young enough that 1) you're not a jerk for not doing it and 2) we as a society have a very reasonable chance of winning this war.


To elaborate on this, there are currently only seven US states that require employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips: Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, and Washington. For seventeen states, the state minimum cash wage payment is the same as that required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ($2.13/hour).

This is not to justify abstaining from tipping in the seven "full-minimum-wage" states. This is merely to provide some quantitative clarification of "being asked to share with a service worker's employer some of the burden of compensating them".

Source: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm


I agree with the "Always tip" mentality. But maybe the problem is deeper than tipping. I'm interested in Nathan Robinson's thoughts grappling with the service industry as a whole, e.g. in his essay "Service With A Smile."[0] He writes: "There is something about the nature of the relationship between server and served that just doesn’t sit well with me." Why can't we just make our own food and brew our own coffee? Isn't it orders of magnitude less expensive?

[0] https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/12/service-with-a-smile


Just like internet discourse would improve if people refrained from typing what they wouldn't say to someone's face, these tipping issues would be practically nonexistent if the owners tried to force workers to verbally request a tip after handing over a muffin.

To me, these tip requests deserve as much respect as the old inner city window washer routines[1]. They are insulting and show a complete lack of respect for the customer who chose your shop to spend their time and money.

[1] Edit: or any aggressive panhandling.


If a poor person asked me for money, why wouldn't I give them a dollar if I could afford it? If I couldn't afford it, why wouldn't I just tell them the truth like "I have student loans" or something?


I don't think this is a good comparison.


I'm not sure that's a relevant point to make in the context of this article, because there's widespread disagreement (leaning toward "no") on whether tipping for that muffin is required in the sense that a tip for dining-with-table-service is. A guaranteed 20% for a coffee shop muffin at the counter is definitely not expected.

Or were you just intending a pre-emptive general critique of the three people who might use this story to advocate tipping 0% for table service? I think that might merit waiting for the one thread it happens in.


You can be the person who doesn't tip the counter-service worker if you like. The iPad didn't create that tipping expectation; before there were iPads, there were glass jars full of cash. People probably won't judge you for not tipping at a coffee shop. Like I said, I find it's easier to go through life just tipping wherever it's asked, and not worrying whether I'm being an asshole to service workers. I'm not saying you would be; I'm saying, that's one conundrum I like never having on my mind.

(20% on a muffin is like 80 cents, by the way).


The glass jar was clearly optional, from an etiquette perspective; nobody will judge you for walking away without dropping anything in it (except perhaps loose change). iPads are different in two ways.

First, they make the experience more closely resemble tipping at a restaurant. Since etiquette fundamentally relies on on implications and expectations, that’s a lot more significant than it would be in other contexts. It creates a real suggestion that you should consider 15-20% mandatory, just as in restaurants.

Second, they force you to make an explicit choice: if you don’t want to tip, you have to actively press a “No Tip” button. This makes it feel more like an active disservice to the worker, rather than just doing the normal thing – to you, and to anyone watching you. Consider if, hypothetically, the worker themselves asked you if you wanted to tip: it’d be very hard to say no to their face! Having a screen prompt you (while the worker may or may not look away) is much less extreme, but it’s still a shift in that direction, compared to an inert tip jar.

Personally, it just feels awkward to me. I don’t mind tipping in restaurants because there’s a clear protocol. I just have to imagine the prices are 20% higher than what’s printed on the menu. But asking for a tip in situations where no tip was previously expected seems almost… passive-aggressive, I guess? If you want to bump prices by 20%, go ahead, I won’t mind, probably won’t even notice. But don’t do what amounts to an optional 20% price increase, creating unnecessary decision and emotional fatigue for me when I’m just trying to make a simple purchase. That is: If I choose not to tip, I’ll feel guilty. If I choose to tip, I’ll feel worried that I overpaid. Both feelings will fade quickly, because the amount is small enough that it’s not really a big deal; but they still damage what should be a simple pleasant experience.


I guess I see the point. But why not just tip? The coffee shop tip is like, a buck. The regulars at the coffee shop were already tipping, like, a buck every time they got coffee.

The countervailing force the iPad is addressing is the fact that customers aren't carrying cash anymore. Without the prompt, counter workers aren't going to get tipped at all.


>I guess I see the point. But why not just tip? The coffee shop tip is like, a buck.

For the reason I already gave: you can't seriously expect everyone to accede to every demand for paying 20% more. That's not an actual, practical decision theory.

"I can afford 80 cents" isn't responsive.


First they came for the 20% at Per Se, and I did not speak out, for I wasn't the person paying the tab.

Then they came for the 20% at Ruth's Chris, and I did not speak out, for I had gotten tipsy on cabernet.

Then they came for the 20% at Olive Garden, and I did not speak out, for I thought the server was attractive.

Then they came for the 20% at Intelligentsia, and I did not speak out, for the creeping norm of paying 20% had been established.

They they came for 20% of my internal organs --- and there was nobody left to speak for me.


If this is trying to be clever, it could use some work, and if there's a substantive point, I'm not seeing it.

The point is that your purported, self-glorifying norm asks one to pay the default PoS tip of everyone who demands or might demand it in the future, to say "yes" to all of them. Counter purchases, grocery stores, fast food, whatever.

Could you maybe consider that there might be better and more practical heuristics?


Ok, but I draw the line at movie ticket box office purchases. That far, and no further.


So, no substantive contributions to make?


> not worrying whether I'm being an asshole to service workers

I feel like tipping is perpetuating the asshole behavior of owners underpaying employees. I actually feel like I'm making the world a slightly worse place when I tip out of guilt or fear of judgment from those around me. But I clearly know I'm in the small minority with this view.

(Purely in the circumstances discussed here. For traditional full service settings, I'd call myself a generous tipper.)


> I actually feel like I'm making the world a slightly worse place when I tip out of guilt or fear of judgment from those around me.

I would argue you're making the world a slightly better place! Your decision to tip (or not) is vaaaaaastly more impactful to the employee on the receiving end than to tipping laws and culture in general.

Yes, the tipped minimum wage enables massive wage theft, etc, but your aggregate decisions about whether or not to tip have approximately zero effect on that.


It does at least alter the expectations. A jar encourages you to toss your change in, and every little bit can be appreciated. Seeing 15%, 18% and 20% as the available options on an already overpriced coffee can make you even feel like more of a scrooge if you hold up the line manually entering 23 cents.


80 cents on a muffin? Which works out to - what - $40/hour at a busy coffee shop checkout line? 1 ring per minute is probably an extremely low estimate in any case, although some of those orders have baristas working on them too. But we’re talking about tipping on prepackaged food here, right?

My sister in law works at Starbucks. She’s a manager so she gets zero share of the tips, but for a busy Starbucks in an affluent area, tips work out to about $100 per week for someone working 35 hours.

Holidays are much higher. Some people will tip for the whole year effectively, putting $20 in the jar.

A lot of rough guesses in the math but $100/week looks like it would work out to 5% at most. Their store is definitely above average for daily revenue.

Most people are definitely not tipping 15% on that muffin.


But Starbucks doesn't really solicit tip.


Exactly! So it seems like the perfect counterpoint to Square’s tip begging UI.

Starbucks did add tipping to app orders, but it’s a bit more subtle. It’s not right there on the checkout screen before you even receive your items, for example.


If you're ever wondering what a good use for the term "virtue signaling" is, this comment would be it: advocacy of something impractical for the typical person but which makes you look good.

"Just give money in every transaction that labels it a tip at PoS. What's the problem? Why do you have to think about whether the demand is merited? I can afford it, and I find it worthwhile to know I didn't break any rules."


That was a very rude way to make the point that you think some people can't afford to tip for their coffee shop muffin.


And that was a rude way to strawman my point that your "rule" is not about 80 cents, but about conceding to every such demand, and is therefore impractical as actionable advice for everyday life. (Making you look generous, and me unable to afford the tip on one coffee shop muffin, on the other hand...)

Edit: I would say it is indeed unreasonable to expect people to increase payment on any good by 20% merely on the chance that they might be expected to -- few people can afford 20% slack on every purchase. Also, I only brought up VS because I'd seen you question the utility of the concept and this seemed illustrative.


But what if the cost of the muffin itself went up 20%? Would people stop buying it? The shops around here don't even list prices for muffins. It could be $3 or it could be $5. Customers seem to think they can afford it either way.


I was referring to the case where all expenses go up 20% and claiming that most people's budgets couldn't handle it (cf. stories about not handling a $500 unexpected bill). This is the relevant case to compare to if you take tptacek's advice seriously and operate your life on it -- you can't just say "Hey, it's 80 cents, obviously people don't turn away from that". You have to ask, "what if I responded to all requests for a tip at electronic PoS this way?"

Goods do fluctuate in price day-to-day, but in an uncorrelated fashion; that kind of fluctuation doesn't have the same effect since some are up and others down.


Just say No.

We can recycle that old campaign and put it to good use.


Very few people are going to give a shit if you tip. Principled or not. Nobody is looking over your shoulder on the iPad screen. Nobody except the business cares.


What you describe applies to restaurants with full service waiters and possibly people parking your car. Nowhere else. Certainly it doesn't apply to places where there is no extra services that have recently installed these devices. I can't really think of any other situations where tipping is common in the US.

Edit: Also delivery although that is questionable with businesses that charge delivery fees whether or not they go to the driver.


Thank you.

I'd add that if you make 6x or more than the average barista that you need to stop complaining about tips. I'll listen to anyone making barista-level wages complain about tipping other people, but I don't want to hear about it from other software developers with 6 figure incomes.


Thank you


I dislike the tip-at-purchase-time paradigm. I haven't even seen my order yet, how am I supposed to evaluate how much of a tip it warranted? But that gets to the heart of it really: tipping is more about subsidizing payroll than rewarding good service.


DoorDash does this as well, and I don't understand why. Why should I commit to a tip before my order is delivered? At one occasion the delivery guy completely forgot about my delivery until I called 1 hour later saying I still see the food waiting at the restaurant. I still had to pay the tip.


This is the heart of it for me. If I tip cash, even if the tip jar is next to the register I always make a point of going back to tip at the end of my drink / food if the experience was good. A digital version should be some kind of contactless payment point at the door where you can easily set a tip amount and tap your phone / card.


Or just adjust your payment after the fact, like Uber and Lyft. It would be pretty easy for Square to implement this.


Since we're talking about coffee shops: the Starbucks app allows to add a tip for a certain period of time after a a mobile order (something like an hour)


Do you use Square every day? The last time I went somewhere with specifically a Square reader was probably two weeks ago. Even if I went back tomorrow, am I going to remember my last experience enough to judge a tip?

Even if I go to the same coffee shop and use the same Square every morning, unless I'm holding a grudge it's de facto back to front end tipping rather than upon services rendered.


> I dislike the tip-at-purchase-time paradigm.

The tip at purchase time paradigm is in many cases an artifact of integrating credit card workflows with cash businesses with established pay up front and tip after workflows (fast casual dining, etc.) If you are against it and not against tipping, just bring cash for tipping and tip on the back end.


Tipping on a digital device (iPad register) also doesn't make sense because the tip money is going straight to the bank account the owner connected to the point of sale software.


It goes to the workers though. Are you claiming that the owners are not distributing them back?


Not the parent but: I would imply exactly such a thing. Just like how, in some/most states you are supposed to pay a tipped employee minimum wage if they don't make the equivalent in tips. As far as I can tell from having worked in food service: that payout never happens.


I owned two Domino's pizzas for 15 years. I paid every cent in credit card tips to the employee, and never passed along the transaction fees. There were routinely thousands in tips weekly and I never even thought of keeping any of it. I started at the store answering the phones and did years of delivering. I understand tip money is the difference between eating and going hungry.


What you've described is a state crime, a federal crime, and a violation of several different state and federal labor laws. Easily a dime worth of prison time, plus criminal fines, plus civil penalties, plus having to pay out the stolen tips to your employees with treble damages for the intentional tort you've comitted.

Not really worth it. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but the calculus is so bad that it's extremely rare to happen at scale. Especially if there's a digital trail run by a third party...


It happens all the time. Connie Schultz won a Pulitzer for writing about this, among other things: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/connie-schultz

I can understand why you might think it never happens if you are completely ignorant of the facts on the ground but nevertheless familiar with the criminal and civil sanctions involved. It's about lack of enforcement.


I see a short article about a few dinner parties this author attended wherein the owners were keeping the tip. Am I missing the real data here? Is the real story somewhere else? That's a far cry from "this happens _all_ the time."


Weird how the proof that owners are pocketing credit card tips is a story about someone stealing cash from the tip jar.


It has been years since I read her series of articles on the topic of tipping, although I remember it being influential at the time. It's possible I linked to the wrong thing, but in my defense I didn't realize that my post would be required to rise to the level of mathematical proof. Ahem.


data not being the plural of anecodte and all and Not the exact issue but: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/restaurant-chains-hit-w...

https://www.phillyemploymentlawyer.com/wage-theft-epidemic-r...

https://www.epi.org/publication/employers-steal-billions-fro...

https://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/legal/la-restaurant-p...

https://www.eater.com/2018/9/25/17886990/how-restaurants-ste...

Obviously, none of these are scientific studies but I don't know if there are any done in the industry.

What I'm trying to point out is: Wage theft of all types happens all the time and I've known people too poor to risk losing their job who suffered under this issue. I'm sure it doesn't happen often -at scale-, in chain restaurants with big corporate backing but in an industry where most close after their first year and the workers are frequently undocumented or transient. It happens.


When the employers multiply these consequences by the (extremely low) probability of a legal claim, they may just decide that it's worth it to pocket the tips...


This is my personal experience from having worked in a restaurant when I was 17: the owner would "pool" the total tips for the night and then distribute them to the workers before we went home. The owner said pooling would keep the tips distribution "fair" because some workers wouldn't get a chance to wait tables if they had to handle takeouts behind the register for most of a shift.

However, pretty quickly us workers discovered the math wasn't adding up. We would pool $300 of tips for the night and only have $200 equally distributed to us. When we asked the owner, he would say something like "you must have added wrong" or "the receipts only show $200", which was bullshit. After that happened, us workers made it a point to always make up an excuse to the customers why we couldn't handle electronic tips, and then immediately pocket the cash tips and split them ourselves.

Fortunately, most of us left before the owner caught on to the point of becoming confrontational (it was a short job before university). Moral of the story is some guy in his mid-40s, who made enough money to drive a BMW, felt that he could deceive some young kids because he had the chance. In hindsight, now I know more about things like labor laws and enforcement hotlines, but at the time most of us were also being paid under the table (which we didn't even understand because this was our first real job) and were scared of having to face the IRS and lose the money we made.


I was a waiter for years. I personally never made under min, but I knew people who did. They got paid. I also got paid every cent of every cc tip. What are you basing this on?


worked BOH for years, had friends in FOH of many small restaurants and bars for years. Saw all sorts of shady stuff.


Sure, and murder is still a thing even though we have laws against it. All laws are broken by some people, but the matter at hand isn't "does this ever happen?", it's "does this happen so often as to constitute a massive and consistent pattern of wage theft?"



Are they? Why do you expect they do?


All the servers I know seem to expect credit card tips to eventually appear on their paycheck.


>Why do you expect they do?

Because they almost always do and it's illegal for the owners to keep it?


That was the first thing I asked the barista once I became a regular and tipped Them: do you actually get these tips? She reassured me they did.

What bothers me is the ACH networks still get their cut of the tip (assuming they get a percentage of sale and not a flat rate). No visa, you don't need 5% of the waitress hard work.


You could choose to ditch the credit cards and just go cash only. Of course, you'd have to deal with your customers spending significantly less money. Plus you'd have to deal with the extra security costs of collecting, storing, and moving that money to the bank.

The reason that vendors accept credit cards is because it's usually worth the additional costs. If you don't think your credit card processor is worth the cost, try dropping them and seeing how it affects your sales. In some instances, vendors have dropped processors entirely (like Amex and Discover) without noticeably impacting their bottom line.


If it makes you feel better, you paid Visa not the waitress. You just subtracted that amount from what you left the waitress.


I love it. No awkwardness of a zero tip after being served. Anyway there are very few places I've seen with that where there isn't also a tip jar. If you indeed felt the service was tip-worthy you can drop a tip in the jar on the way out.

I don't understand why people (buyers) are so thin-skinned about this. Leave a tip or don't. Whatever.


Even if the tip were scheduled differently, how often do you find yourself adjusting tip in an attempt to adjust service?

If you get good service, will good tip ensure a good experience the next time around? If someone gave you bad service, do you make it known? I think most would prefer not to say anything.


Yeah, admittedly, I almost never adjust my tip amount based on perceived service quality. I don't think tipping generally affect service quality. The only way I really react to bad service is by not going to the establishment.


I don't feel guilt when they swivel that ipad around, more like annoyance. When I'm asked to tip for someone handing me a cup of coffee, I say no tip. We should really be pushing to get away from this relic of slavery, and don't tip unless it's absolutely clear we need to; i.e. at a sit down restaurant.


Ouch, having worked in cafes and restaurants as an undergrad I pretty much always tip 20%. Is it absurd? Of course, but given how badly most waitstaff are paid, the idea that you will somehow eliminate the practice by stiffing a few barristas seems both sadistic and highly unlikely to change the world. Until robots hand me muffins, I accept it as a tax on eating out.


stiffing a few barristas

I'm old enough to remember a time that giving extra money to someone for handing you a cup of coffee would be thought absurd. Sit down eatery? No problem, there's prior art before I was born, disagree though I might. But this recent bullshit of "tip, because my employer doesn't pay me enough", whether its Starbucks, McDonalds, or your fave local coffee shop: yeah, fuck that. McDonalds doesn't need my subsidy.


> McDonalds doesn't need my subsidy.

No, but the person to makes and hands over your coffee does.

> I'm old enough to remember a time that giving extra money to someone for handing you a cup of coffee would be thought absurd.

Then you're probably also old enough to remember when wage increases tracked with productivity increases, or when minimum wage kept up with inflation and the cost of living.


I'm old enough to remember not needing to tip at starbucks or Panera, but not old enough to remember minimum wage keeping up with inflation.

The place where I first noticed the "tip your cashier" thing happening was the Panera at my university. Why in the hell would I tip someone who's job is literally to take my order, and maybe hand me a pastry? These people aren't making minimum wage either, I had some friends there and the job paid significantly more.


I'm not disagreeing with you, but what is the line of which workers to tip? Gas station employees do a similar job, and I have never seen anyone tip them. I have very rarely seen anyone tip a Subway sandwich worker even though they typically do more customization and work than a Starbucks employee.


If they are a tipped employee: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/wagestips


I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. My first job was as a golf caddie. I've dried cars at car washes and operated a rickshaw. In all of those cases, there is an understanding that a tip is part of the purchase. More importantly, there is some actual work being done or service rendered for the tip (less so for bartenders, which do get paid above minimum wage).

Buying a muffin at a coffee shop and not paying a premium on top of the asking price is not sadistic. It's a normal commercial transaction. Based on your logic, why don't we tip fast-food workers, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc...


> More importantly, there is some actual work being done or service rendered for the tip.

No, that isn’t for the tip, that is literally the job they are paid to do by their employer. Choosing to tip should only be if they have gone above and beyond what you would expect. I’m from the UK and find the US tipping culture bizzare and stressful - I had truly terrible service in a restaurant in New York once and they literally chased me to the door when they realised I hadn’t tipped and threatened to call the police if I didn’t tip him at least 10%.


I'm saddened that this is part of what you remember when you think about visiting the US. You absolutely should not tip if the potential recipient of the tip treated you poorly.

They were bullying you by threatening to call the police. The cops would have been annoyed to show up for that, and nothing about what you did is illegal.


Forgetting to tip is a fairly common tourist memory, though fortunately I've never had any threat. Not knowing when or how much to tip is also a problem.

- I was 12 the first time we visited the US. My dad was at first confused, since the hotel porter was hanging around, then he was embarrassed, as he didn't have any small cash.

- In New Orleans on a business trip, I kept forgetting to tip the barmaid. Other people at the bar were throwing her dollar bills on my behalf.

- Most recently, chip cards were fairly new — although I've had one for 14 years. I don't want to tip by card, it complicates my expenses, but navigating the dark-pattern UI on the payment machines was often confusing. Several waiters assumed I was stuck with the "new" chip card.


It's only "stiffing" if we start with the assumption they are supposed to be tipped.

I'm not well-versed in the history of coffee shops, but it seems to me that it is not a well-established norm -- as compared to bars and restaurants, for example. But I'm happy to be corrected if I'm mistaken about this.


A lot of states are paid less if it's a job with tips:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipped_wage


Also on that page:

>If wages and tips do not equal the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour during any week, the employer is required to increase cash wages to compensate


Do you think in a real workplace people are going to constantly bring this up with their managers?


I think what happens in a real restaurant that doesn't share tips is that if you don't make enough you'll just be let go.


I think the IRS would spot this from a mile a way.


But is a barista etc one of those jobs?


Yes. Any front-of-house restaurant staff that gets a share of tips are subject to those laws, and it's ridiculous. Worse, some restaurants even force the tips to be split between dishwashers, who actually are making minimum wage in many cases, so waitstaff get crushed even harder.


It's illegal to force waiters to split tips with non-tipped workers unless the restaurant gives up the "tip credit" (referring to the portion of the minimum wage that they get to treat as paid out of tips) for the split tips.


On the contrary, it was very much the norm, though starbucks killed it.


Coffee shops are a unique one, though traditionally you tip the barista in particular, not the cashier. It's been somewhat on its way out culturally over the past few decades in the US however.


Baristas were non-existent 30 years ago.


Espresso been around since 1903?


Kevin is right, at least in terms of terminology: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=barista&year_s...


Very cool tool!


The countries that have been consuming espresso for decades before it became common in the US don't treat making an espresso-based beverage as a skilled trade. I recall ordering a perfectly serviceable latte at a gas station in Israel.


That's fine, but my problem with that line of thinking is that the norms we live with now have evolved to reward the workers who are serving the most affluent guests, not necessarily those working the hardest or who are paid the least.

For example, do you make a point of tipping the cashier at McDonalds? I'd bet that if you tried to and a manager saw you they would refuse it because the company doesn't want others to feel compelled to tip because they want to retain their image of a low-cost restaurant. Coffee shops selling $5 cups of coffee don't have that concern because people who frequent those places probably are a lot less price sensitive than those who eat at fast food restaurants.

15% used to be the norm across the board and adjusted from there based on the level of service. Now 20% is expected regardless of the level of service. In restaurants where a 20% gratuity is included in the bill I've noticed a significant drop-off in the level of service, even to the point where I would tip less than 20% if given the option, and I say that as someone who worked as a waiter at one point.


> I accept it as a tax on eating out.

I'm highlighting this part because it's one of the main contributing factors to dining out less and less, for me, and that includes coffee shops. I always tip well when going out; ergo, I don't go out as often.

Going off of the "I'm not very unique" rule of thumb, businesses are losing some amount of money because of tipping culture.


>businesses are losing some amount of money because of tipping culture

Only in the most trivial sense that people know that, between sales tax and tipping, they're going to be paying a price that's 25-30% more than what's printed on the menu. And most people have some degree of price elasticity.

But I honestly can't imagine it matters much whether those adders are folded into the price up-front or you just know that you're going to be paying more than the printed price when you get the bill.


I don't think it's all that trivial.

In the first place, I tip well partly because of information asymmetry: I don't know how well the staff are paid from one place to the next. This means that one place may pay their staff pretty well, and I'm still adding 20% to the cost of my ticket, and another place may pay their staff pretty poorly. This is placing the two businesses on an uneven competitive footing, and encouraging more businesses to pay their staff as poorly as they can get away with. This may be business-as-usual in the current American business culture, but the end result is that I'm subsidizing bad business practices.

I'm also subsidizing poor tippers. I know there are people out there who, for whatever reason they justify to themselves, don't tip, and I know that there are some businesses that don't pay a living wage (probably most, today), so I try to cover an extra portion of that cost.

It's also removing much of the incentive for food service businesses to seek out untapped efficiencies. I'm pretty sure labor costs are the largest expense category for any food service business, yet they continue to pile on more staff because people like me are helping them get away with it. I can order a Starbucks from an app on my phone, right? So why is there someone at a cash register who punches my order in to a machine when they've already got the software that would let me do it myself?

If tipping were banished and these businesses had to pay all of their staff a fair wage, it's likely that my total bill would go down.


Apparently it does make a difference or restaurants would have just raised their prices and incorporated the tips.


Path dependence. The problem is that, if just one restaurant does it, a lot of people see the higher prices and don't realize a service charge and sales tax is included at that one particular restaurant. It's not unheard of to do but it's very uncommon and mostly doesn't work out well. (Plus both waiters and customers are mostly just used to the current system.)


This is starting to happen, albeit slowly. It's tied in to a push to equalize income between the back and front of the house. In the currently-prevailing model, back of the house is totally screwed money-wise relative to the front.


>I don't go out as often.

At what point do we begin to consider that choice stiffing the waiters you would've tipped if you did go out?

P.S. I also avoid going to coffee shops where tipping is expected.


In my neck of the woods, servers make $12/hour. Before tips, because LA no longer lets restaurants rely on tips for wages. (And that's increasing to $15/hour by 2020). So unless service is really good, I default to 10%.

And quite frankly, it's disgusting that the person who spends may 30 seconds providing service gets X% of the bill when 99% of the work is done in the kitchen by guys who don't get paid anything extra.


> it's disgusting that the person who spends may 30 seconds providing service gets X% of the bill

Yikes,wait till you find out how much the ACH and CC networks get for providing a fully automated service.


ACH and CC networks shoulder the burden of maintaining the system, fraud checks, chargebacks, etc. They provide a convenience function that lets me avoid having to carry cash around everyone, and lets the vendor minimize their cash-related costs. It's all worth the 2-5% they charge (and if you're paying more than that you've got bad negotiating skills). Cash isn't cheap--after security-related expenses, it costs just as much if not more than accepting credit cards, but the expenses aren't as easily traced back to individual transactions.

A guy bringing me a plate someone else cooked has not earned 20% of the bill.


The merchant doesn't need "the system or fraud checks" to sell lattes. Furthermore they get hit with chargebacks, which are a feature offered by the CC, not the coffee shop. You're justying why business A shoulders business B's expense. That's like saying Visa should wipe down the espresso machine.


As somebody from a state with a high minimum cash wage I am astounded that servers still expect 15-20% tip because of the cultural influence from states that have a cash wage set at federal minimum. I am curious how you feel about tipping 20% to a server you know is making $9-15/hr.


I didn't even know tipping at cafes was a thing. Don't they earn above minimum wage? I know waitresses get 2$/h, but baristas, they must get above 8$/h.

Do you also tip at McDonalds?


I don't eat at McD's, but you general see that cafes have a tip jar at the register (not Starbucks, but your local coffee shop, that is), while chains of all sorts don't. Oddly this isn't because they pay their staff a fortune... (though as was pointed out earlier, perversely many states have laws which allow for paying below minimum wage for jobs with tips, so ultimately no one in food service can really win).


Do you tip the workers at fast food chains?


Their employers are the ones who are screwing them if they dont pay them, why would I feel guilty for actions of another person?


How is tipping at a sit down restaurant not a relic of slavery? The idea that restaurant personnel earn so little that they need to live on tips is barbarous.


Yet strangely, the loudest voices AGAINST doing away with tipping in favor of a wage are often wait staff themselves.


That's because it would make it harder for them to continue committing tax fraud.


Part of it is the waitstaff avoiding tax on tips, the other part is that it allows the business to avoid payroll tax on the majority of waitstaff's earnings. In order to get a waiter to an effective $10/hr after-tax income you'd have to pay $15-16/hr versus $2+$8 in tips.


That doesn't make any sense. Who's paying 37% taxes as a waiter/waitress? Even before Trump's tax cut, wait staff would still likely be in the 10-15% bracket, and you'd add on 12.5% FICA taxes. And this is after deductions, so effective tax rate will be much lower. Unless your state has 20+% income tax, there's no way a waitress is paying 35%.

Corporate taxes don't factor in either because they are only on profit over and above all expenses. Increasing wages of an employee and shifting payment from tips to w2 income merely ensures the employee pays the taxes they should've be paying in the first place and will not increase corporate taxes.

If wait staff shifted to higher wages, the employer would increase prices and could note on the menu that tipping is not necessary, but appreciated. If that was the case, I would still tip, but only for above average service.


The vast majority of tips these days are paid via cc, so no, not it at all.


And it would dismantle the sexist construct that allows attractive women to claim disproportionately higher wages than men.


It's not really a sexist construct since an attractive man easily makes more in tips than an unattractive woman... It's more the societal construct that attractive = good, which is pernicious but quite deeply ingrained in human society.


There's a bit of survivorship bias; those who don't do well on tips don't last in tipped industries, both because tips are a big part of income and because tips are used as performance metrics.


Have you ever worked at a restaurant or in a tipped position?

It constitutes a HUGE part of your take home pay for two reasons:

- If you are a waiter, tips will be multiples of your hourly pay.

- Tips will be under the table, saving you another ~25% easily.

So if you make a tipped hourly wage in Ohio:

- $4.15/hr * 7 hour shift (5pm open to 12pm close): 29.05

- Wait 6 tables, each with 3 seated parties, that tip you each $10: $60 * 3 = $120

Tips represent 4x of your salary. If your job gave you an untaxed 400% bonus at the end of every day, would you vote against it?


Thank you for showing that. Most people don't understand these things.

My son was a waiter and did very well for himself while in school. Far better than working in my fast food restaurant when he was younger and I paid more than minimum wage.

Given the choice, I had several staff quit on me because they got a waitressing job and getting tips to make more money was the reason. I had several waitresses tell me that was the reason they would not work for me.

My son always tips 20% or more, no matter the service, because he was a waiter once. I tell him he's foolish as I tip 15% for good service and adjust up/down accordingly.


> If your job gave you an untaxed 400% bonus at the end of every day, would you vote against it?

I'd be rather more worried about getting caught by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.


If you're getting audited when you're working at or near the poverty line, the world's fucking broken. There are billionaires out there running around paying next to no taxes because they just don't feel like it and the IRS hardly ever shows up at their doors. They only like to stick it to the millionaires - especially celebrities and other "rags to riches" stories - since that "sends a message" to us work-a-day salaried folk not to get too shifty with the IRS.

If the IRS went on a crusade against underreported tips, there would be an absolute bloodbath in the poorer parts of this country, as tips easily represent more of their income than wages. Fortunately untaxed tips have dropped dramatically now that fewer and fewer people are using cash for transactions, so the IRS has had to take no such corrective actions.


> - $4.15/hr * 7 hour shift (5pm open to 12pm close): 29.05

Shouldn't you compare to the minimum wage at least? Or you could compare to a standard wage similar to what would be paid in other countries.


Shouldn't you compare to the minimum wage at least?

Not in the state of Ohio, apparently. In many states, waitstaff can be paid below minimum wage, because tips!


This seems like such a non-issue, I'm not sure why articles are written about tipping.

Wait staff love tips because it gets them paid significantly more than if they worked a retail job.

After visiting Europe, tips are necessary for good service. The rudeness and lack of service was culture shock.


While my experience in Europe has been just fine, in Italy, Germany, and the UK. Though in the UK I was confused about the lack of service, until I realized that I needed to order at the bar.

There is a stereotype that blacks are worse tippers than whites. As https://www.ebony.com/news-views/are-black-people-really-bad... comments, it might be because blacks have "Insufficient education about tipping", or "a loop of circular behavior where Blacks have been traditionally discriminated against, Blacks expect to be treated poorly and treat servers with disdain, servers treat Black patrons with less care because they “know” Blacks tip poorly, and Blacks continue to tip poorly because they continue to get substandard service." (there are a couple of other proposed reasons).

See for example http://www.tippingresearch.com/uploads/JFSBR_race_revision_a... which includes the quote “I will not take Black tables unless I have no other option; call me racist, but I also walk out with more money than the people who end up with them.”

Yes, if you are a black American, you might get rudeness and lack of service in service in your own country - because wait staff think you won't tip well.


Visit Japan next time and you'd conclude that tips are not necessary for good service after all.


Appropriate behaviour of the waiter differs significantly in America compared to most of Europe.

Over here, more than a single interruption ("is everything OK?") is intrusive. Fake smiles and fake enthusiasm aren't desirable either.


Then go to Japan on your next trip, and you will realize that no, tips are not necessary at allow for excellent service. Not only that, but you will also realize that service in the United States is nothing to boast about.


>After visiting Europe ...

All Europe was like this?


Visit Australia. Tips are not expected and the service is excellent.


That’s a very U.S. thing though.

In most of the EU you tip for good service. IE; only if your food came in a timely fashion, was not mis-prepared or incorrect and if the wait-staff are generally being polite, kind, courteous.

The idea is that you’re rewarding good service, not that your bound by social convention to give a percentage extra on top of what was agreed upon when you read the menu.

While we’re on the subject, the idea of excluding tax on good until you reach checkout is absolutely insane to me.


I'm a manager in a US restaurant. I've run the numbers and, given the maximum price increases our market could bear, the upper 3/4ths of our wait staff would make ~$1-2 less an hour than they do now.

I was also a waiter in the restaurant. I hated the stress, but could find no jobs with comparable schedule flexibility/required qualifications that paid as well.


>We should really be pushing

But when pushing, it's worth it to be mindful of where you exert your force. The causal flow (from not tipping to wages being raised to the point where tipping is not necessary) is indirect enough that it is uncertain to effect the desired change. Might there be other paths to achieving this goal?


What the heck does tipping have to do with slavery?


It originated from the emancipation of slaves, where restaurant owners didn't want to suddenly pay slaves, and so the onus went onto the customers.

There are articles on the internet. Just type in "tipping slavery" in google. The Time magazine's article should come up on the first page.


Don't confuse slavery with the end of slavery.

These are different.


> relic of slavery

... what?

Tipping was something that the patricians/bourgie upper class did to help uplift the waiters/service staff in Europe. It caught on in the USA in the late 1800s and fell out of favor from that upper class in Europe by then.

Largely, USA coopted a "noble gesture" from wealthy Europeans and it has persisted ever since for like a century.

Anyways, I hate tipping as well.


I think the parent is referring to this [1] and other articles like it that have surfaced in recent years. I only recently read about it although I can't remember where at the moment. The linked article below is very similar though. It talks about a lot more than tipping in the US having roots tied to slavery but it's mentioned. This is just a snip out of the article, it's a long read but an interesting take on tipping in the US.

That's another wrinkle that many people don’t know about, right? Tipping in the United States actually dates back to slavery.

The origin of tipping is really the feudal system, it’s this idea of noblesse oblige. But when tipping came to the United States, it had a real racial tinge to it, because, originally, the workers who earned tips were almost exclusively black workers—they were newly freed slaves.

There was this massive anti-tipping movement to protest the practice, a resounding populist movement that actually got anti-tipping bills passed in six states across the country, including Washington state and many southern states. What’s interesting is that that movement, the anti-tipping populist one, ending up spreading to Europe and succeeding, because the labor movement picked it up and said ‘we are professionals, and we shouldn’t have to live on tips, because we should be paid by our employers.’ That’s why you see so little tipping in Europe. What we started here spread there and actually killed it at the origin in Europe.

We, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction in the states. The restaurant industry, which was hiring newly freed slaves as tipped workers, really wanted the right to hire these workers but pay them next to nothing. So they put forth this idea that they were valueless and really shouldn’t have to be paid by their employers. They essentially made the argument that newly freed slaves should get a zero dollar wage.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/18/i-dar...

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