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12 December 2012

Tipping is a City in China (Okay, it's Taiping, and it's in Malaysia)

"Tipping is not a city in China". If you have not seen a container by a cash register or on a bar with that phrase, you are probably at least familiar with the phrase. It is a not-so-subtle way of saying, "Hey, cheapskate, the money goes here".

How about, "Cheers, passive-aggressive cowboy jug!"?

Why do we tip? There are many reasons. We want to reward the person providing a service for a job well-done, especially when it's really, really expensive. After all, when you pay $15 for a cheeseburger and fries, you expect crap service with crap food, unless you leave a five-spot on the table. We tip because the workers are not treated and paid fairly by their employer. Nothing says, "Pay decent wages" like, "I'll do it for you, until you decide to take over, in your own good time". In the U.S., not only do most employers refrain from generosity, taking their employees receiving decent tips as a given supplemental income, we've allowed laws to encourage this behaviour. Employees who are tipped have a separate federal minimum wage. Employers are only obligated to pay them a whopping $2.13 per hour (Seriously, call your representatives). That's TWO dollars and THIRTEEN CENTS. Not all states, however, including Washington's minimum of $9.19, allow for this shite. We tip because we want to reward the worker who goes over and beyond the base duty of their job and really makes us feel special. Okay, that one makes sense, but that's not how it works. The real reason we tip, at least in the States, is because we feel we have to. We don't want to be perceived as asses and we don't want the hair stylist to scalp us, or the waiter to spit in our food the next time they see us. So, why do we tip? Fear and peer pressure.

The first one is guaranteed loogie free!

What do we actually get out of tipping? A 2000 study of  2,547 experiences at 20 restaurants found that there really is a positive correlation, however small, between the amount shelled out in gratuity and the quality of service received. They looked at how pleased consumers were with their service and compared that to the amount of money they tipped. The relationship was so weak in this 16 billion dollar industry in and of itself that it was found to be insignificant. The effectiveness varies between studies, ranging from "insignificant" to "not". How much the quality of the food, not the service, comes into play is hard to say. Another study found that what most affects how much we fork over is primarily how hot or ugly they are, how nice they are, whether or not we've had a craptastic day and, finally, because we don't want to look like an ass - that "How much is Sally tipping?" moment. One study also found that candy is a rather effective bribe.

Worked his ass off. No tip.
Brought wrong order and spilled it on my head. $10!

How do we decide who to tip and when to tip them, anyway? When we sit down to eat, we almost always tip. The same goes for getting a drink at the bar. Baristas are frequently tipped, too. People even tip the person at the register when they pick up carry-out, as long as it's from an otherwise sit-down place to eat. So, when is the last time you left your wallet open for the person handing you your burger and McNuggets, who also took your order, prepared the food, and cleaned up your sloppy mess, all with a smile and about as shit pay as shit pay gets? Probably never.

What of services outside of the food industry? We tip our hairdressers - especially, when the person at the check counter loudly asks, "WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE A TIP?", followed by, "HOW MUCH?". We mentioned that hosts and restaurant cashiers receive gratuity. Yet, the person unloading and bagging all of your giant bags of pet food, groceries, and condoms that you know are just going to expire get a, "Thank you", at best, and more often a, "What's taking you so long?". The same goes for the underpaid Walmart greeters who also gather all the carts that we were too lazy to put away. This gets all the more confusing when travelling to other countries, where the rules of the game may be completely different.

Should we start tipping for every service that we're already paying for, to keep it even across the board? Maybe we should stop tipping altogether. Or maybe, just maybe, we should demand better laws to protect tipped workers being paid less than the rest of us, so we can go back to it being optional, rather than obligatory. Most of these jobs are rough, tiring, and socially, as well as financially, underappreciated. They shouldn't be paid "enough" only from the extra money provided as a tip. If that extra money was actually extra income, these could become more respected positions again. People shouldn't be oxymoroniccally expected to do more than expected to make the minimum. Most people do the job they're expected to do and expect to be paid for getting the job done. We should not be punishing people for doing their job; We should be rewarding them for doing more than they are required to do - for "going above and beyond". There is a big difference.

All images link to where they were found.


  1. In the meantime... tip that waitress...

  2. The thing is, at least where I live, you CAN'T tip the guy who brought out your groceries or loaded the heavy furniture into your car because the employers will fire them for taking the tip! Where I work and at my last job I was told if I accept anything from the customer I will be terminated..


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