Tipping, who gets it right?

£4 tip?

My second post for the Single Black Males just went up and its one of those subjects some tell you can cause all out flame wars.

I wrote…

A Cornell professor has written a lot of papers about tipping, with some interesting results for the urban male.

Now I know living in the United Kingdom we don’t tip, anywhere as much as Americans. Not only that, the percentage we tip is far below the scale of the U.S. But I’ve spent a lot of time in the states and understand how much waiters, waitresses, attendants, etc get paid and how they really rely on tips.

However, it’s worth remembering the definition of tipping… Paying a optional gratuity for services rendered

What is interesting from the papers and many surveys is that two things stick out for SBM readers…

Black customers tend to payless when tipping especially to a black server.

White servers on average are more likely to get a decent tip than a black server.

Tipping is optional in the UK but most people find it customary to pay roughly 10% as a tip unless you really enjoy or hate the service. You also generally only tip at restaurants and bars. Most would be offended if you handed over extra money for a tip when holding a door or doing there job.

I then later in the post talk about my experience working in Equinox Discotheque with women from all over Europe, fighting for tips to stay alive, well I would have been if it was America.

I worked in a discotheque in Leicester Square (equivalent to Times square in New York) between jobs while studying at university. It was hard going and work ran from 8pm – 4am on the weekend. I was the only male and also the only black in a all European line up. We worked on the bar serving drinks till 3am.

Because of its location, we use to get a lot of Americans through the door and they would tip well. On an average night, the woman around me would get £140 ($210) in tips and I once witnessed a woman get £170 ($270) in a night. I, on the other hand, was over the moon one night when I made £20 ($30). As you can imagine, I said screw it by the 3rd week. It simply wasn’t worth it and got a nice cinema job where I didn’t have to work for tips.

Luckily the minimum payment rules meant I didn’t go home with the equivalent of £2.50 per hour. I went home with £3.70 per hour and a extra £20 for my hard work. I didn’t want to launch into an attack about the minimum payment system in the states, because I could imagine the burning comments and forever flames. But you have to wonder…

Digging through the data (there is a lot of it too) I really started to wonder if it wasn’t just because I was the only male? Could it be my race too? Could it be a double wammy? Am I doomed as a bar tender forever more? *smile* The data doesn’t lie, and although I like to think it might be wrong, there’s simply too much to just ignore it. Well I’m glad I decided to drop my bar job and join the Odeon!

Is Tipping Discriminatory? (original title of the post by the way…) and I’m not the only one asking questions, as I recently found out… but although these guys take it to the next level, you got to agree with some of the arguments against tipping.

Gratuities, by definition, are voluntary, and can not, and should not, ever be automatically included into a bill for any reason. Period. Patrons should reserve the right to report such venues to authorities and they should be fined appropriately. And most of all, be educated on your rights as a consumer.  One should never be socially pressured to leave a tip!

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.