Bad Tippers Are Bad People

The Miami New Times food blog Short Order has a list of the top 10 bad celebrity tippers. From the article:

We would like to think of these wealthy stars as feeling at least a little gracious toward the public that has helped catapult them to the top. This is especially true when that member of the public is literally serving the celebrity, as when a waiter brings them their meal and drinks. I’m not saying every fabulously wealthy person has to be as generous as Johnny Depp, who while filming Public Enemies reportedly enjoyed a $2,600 meal with friends and left a $1,500 tip. And in 2009, Depp is said to have handed a lucky waiter a $4,000 tip.

Actually, maybe I am saying that every fabulously wealthy person has to be like Johnny Depp. But they’re not. And numerous websites apparently keep track of these things. We took a look at a slew of such sites and put together a composite list of the worst tippers among them.

(I found the link on the excellent blog Kotke).

Look, when you dine out or go out for drinks, you have to tip. I’ve occasionally met alleged progressives who don’t tip on principle — they say they don’t want to support an inherently exploitative service industry economy, or some such. A good-sounding rationalization that’s either a sign of epic disconnection between ideology and reality or, more likely, a sleazy cover for being a cheapskate asshole.

I always look forward to seeing how such (inevitably well-paid) heroes of the working class defend themselves against charges they’re selfish misers. Fortunately such creatures are rare, but they’re always memorable.

The bottom line: Buying a meal, or appy appetizer, snack, treat or drink? Tip. Coffee? tip. Latte? Tip more. Get a haircut? Tip. Can’t afford to tip? Then you can’t afford what you’re buying.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

35 thoughts on “Bad Tippers Are Bad People”

  1. The fact that I’m using a pseudonym indicates my caution in addressing this topic, but I can’t resist.

    Let me state up front I’m a generous tipper. I worked in the service industry for years as a waiter and bartender and I take care of my people. Minimum 15%, and usually more.

    However, I resent that the percentage of what is considered an appropriate tip climbs ever upwards. Back in the day when I waited on tables, 10% of the tip was considered the norm. Then that became 15%. Now in many places, 20% is considered the norm and I’ve been in some restaurants that have pre-programmed their credit card devices to offer a 22% tip option. Where is the ceiling? Is there a ceiling?

    The price of restaurant meals has risen along with inflation so the percentage you tip shouldn’t have to keep going up too.

    It’s unfair that the person who works as hard to provide you with a $15 meal at K Family Kitchen makes way less in tips than the person who serves you the $100 meal at Golf’s. Percentage based tipping is deeply flawed.

    I also resent the idea that one should tip even when the service has been awful. And there is awful service out there. If the service is excellent, tip well. If if it’s adequate, tip. If the service is awful, don’t tip.

  2. You tip at McDonalds (assuming you go to fast food)? No, because tipping shouldn’t be necessary.
    Until I was a teen living on my own, I had no perception of tipping at all. I then tipped at about 10% for about a decade, a bit rounded up if I thought the service was special. Recently I’ve been trying to tip at 15% instead to help discourage me from eating out due to the extreme stress it places on the pocketbook.

  3. Lion, I hear your roar. I am glad you point out the problem with percentage tipping. I too am a generous tipper and will give sizable tips in “good eats” restaurants when the service and food is good. I have even had some of the servers try to give me money back. But they’ve earned it, and financially I am in a position to say thank you and share the wealth.

    When I order a latte and hold up the line because I am the idiot who ordered a steamed drink in the morning while all those waiting behind me want their morning caffeine fix FAST, you bet I will give a good tip. It’s the poor sods who are working behind the counter, not me, that take the flak. (Note: I don’t like coffee but I like latte. Sorry, I won’t change my behaviour.) Then I notice all these suits earning more than twice as much as me maybe – maybe! – throwing a quarter into the tip jar. Cheap tofu-heads!

    Finally – I agree Carle. “Appy” sound too much like “nappy”. No one orders a British diaper before a meal.

  4. “and I’ve been in some restaurants that have pre-programmed their credit card devices to offer a 22% tip option. Where is the ceiling? Is there a ceiling?”

    I was slightly appalled that the Goat is charging a mandatory tip on their bill, and made the accounting error of charging tax on top of it. EEK. I pointed it out, and got my bill corrected. The others in the group contributed more to the government than they needed to. I can see adding a tip to the bill of a large group, so no one walks away thinking the other will take care of the wait staff.

    The percentage based tip is silly. I almost never order pop or coffee (because coffee is gross, but that’s another topic), so why should my waitress make less carrying water than unhealthy drinks? Why should I pay $2 for lunch, and $3 for supper waiting? Equal pay for equal work.

  5. I don’t get tipping at coffee shops. Sorry, I won’t do it. I’ve worked at both Arby’s and at a coffeeshop/deli, and Arby’s was far worse. Similar jobs, worse environment in fast food.

  6. Totally with Cowardly Lion on this one. I’ve watched tipping creep go on over the years. I’ll give you 15 per cent but that’s where I tap out.

  7. McDonald’s: there should be tip jars on the counters. Same with mall food. Same with ice cream stands. Same with Tim Ho’s. Damn straight same with Arby’s. The lack of a tip jar creates peer pressure to NOT tip, because no one wants to be creepy with tipping. The suppression of tip jars in the context of the North American service industry is eeevil. I rarely eat at places where I can’t tip or where it feels weird to tip. (I have maybe three McDonald’s breakfasts a year so I mostly duck the problem.)

    Coffee: if you’re ordering lattes you should absolutely tip. If you’re just ordering a regular cup of coffee, you can probably get away with not tipping. But you should still tip. Bad examples like McDonald’s should not define our behaviour.

  8. Dale: I also tip 15 per cent–I’m suspicious of tip creep too. I go up to 20 or a little higher for great service and down to 10 for mediocre service. Terrible or actively hostile service is very rare, but I am willing to leave no tip in a disaster.

    Also if in theory I got really drunk on gin (which I can’t handle) and almost puked in a cab–this is a purely hypothetical situation–the heroic driver gets a pretty damn amazing tip.

  9. Ok, but then what about the grocery store cashier? 7-11? Mr. Lube? My real estate agent? The guy from Access that fixed my internet? My dog groomer? The salesperson at Old Navy? The girl that let me in the change room at Sport Chek? The person that fitted my glasses for me? My dental hygienist?

    Where does it end?

  10. “Look, when you dine out or go out for drinks, you have to tip.”

    Nope, calling total shit of the bull on this point.

    Tipping *SHOULD* be a reward for better than adequate service – not just showing up and phoning it in or sucking.

  11. If you are dining in the company of a toddler, you gotta tip well. There may even be a case for requiring you to tip the other diners.

  12. HEY, what about snotty, shitty servers? Do you still empty your pockets for them and then just never go back? I’ve stopped eating out a lot not because I’m tipping-averse, but because we have so few servers in this town who deserve it.

    What I would GIVE for an old-fashioned career waitress named Stella, who’d bend over backwards and make you feel like a hundred dollars. 30-35% would be in order. Most of the “working my way thru school” servers in this town barely merit 7-8% half the time. Hell, I even tip my massage therapist, even though that’s weird, because SHE DOES AN EXCELLENT JOB AND SHE’S A PROFESSIONAL. Not a snotty, snide little too-good-for-the-world wanna-be beau monde insider.

  13. This post should be renamed, “Bad Tippers are Bad People, but so are Bad Servers.”

  14. I tip for coffee! That’s where I tip mostly. Its usually the first interaction I have with a person every morning on my way to work. The barista knows me from being a regular, knows how I like my coffee and is usually getting it ready before have to say anything. In cases like this I am getting great service, above and beyond. She deserves a tip, she’s earned it!

  15. I think nothing screams “classless” as much as bad tippers.

    Waiters might be making 10 to 11 an hour, so ALL the real money that they are getting comes from tips, and, depending on the establishment, the waiters are expected to split what they get with the rest of the waitstaff (bussers, greeters, sometimes kitchen staff).

    I did food service from age 18 ’til i was in my late twenties, and unless a waiter does me real fucking wrong i am leaving at least a 20% tip, and so is everyone else at my table.

    Like Stephen says, if you can’t afford it, eat at home.

  16. On second thought, as much as I’d love a career waitress named Stella, I’d rather have a totally silent, faceless person fetching my food for me for a solid 12-15%. It already feels wrong and overly-privileged to have someone fetching me food and drinks; to lower yourself, though, to grovel and apologize for the classist inequality you’re perpetuating is just groan-worthy.

    Service should be swift and accurate; banter should be enlightened but brief. For that you earn 18-21%. Average service garners 15-18%, depending on how charmed I am; scowling indifference earns 12% (if accurate) or less (if not); the type of servers who obviously just size you up with a not-so-subtle smirk on their face get 10%, just cuz, that’s what society says. My server at Bushwakkers’ recently earned a 10%.

  17. I’m impressed by the number of comments on the topic of tipping, so I’ve added a response on my blog too. Gotta grab the commenters while I can.

    Drive-Thru tipping? Let’s get serious. Europeans don’t tip, are they as bad as you make them out to be?

  18. Another problem with tipping in its current state is it’s discriminatory. It favours those who work in the more expensive restaurants, and while there are exceptions, a large percentage of expensive restaurants have wait staff that are young and way up there on the attractiveness scale. Tipping is not equal pay for equal work, it’s a form of social darwinism.

    In countries like France, Germany and Italy there are many more career waiters than we find in North America. Tipping there is not the anxiety causing event that it is in North America. The Europeans tip but not as much as North Americans; they also pay their waiters a living wage.

    And finally (probably) I’ll make the observation that anyone who wants to work in the restaurant industry in Canada should be required to work for a month in a NYC restaurant, where they’ll really learn what proper service is. Doesn’t matter the scale of the restaurant (diner, cafe), the restaurants in NYC run like clockwork and the service is outstanding.

  19. So The Goat wants a mandatory tip for mediocre food? Another reason not to go there.

    Want great food and great service for a reasonable price? Try (would you believe…) Lindy’s Diner at the north end of Winnipeg Street. Great Thai food and good homemade good-eats food. And the server is great. She’s always asking me about my dad, who I took there a few times. Now that is personal service!

    And they carry the PD too.

  20. I’ve worked plenty of shitty jobs where I was paid min wage and never got tipped. Grocery store clerks, groundskeeping, cashier at a drugstore… not one tip. I’m not sure what sort of two tiered system this is where we only feel the need to tip people who touch our food or hair or whatnot. Is it because we have to look them in the eye whereas you can pretend you’re texting while you cruise through the checkout? The work a server does (or a barista, puhleeze) is SO much harder that they deserve that extra kick of cash? This is hypocrisy and classism.

    If you feel so high and mighty as to tell others that they are ‘bad people’ for being ‘bad tippers’ then I’d hope to hell you tip every grocery store clerk, janitor, convenience store cashier, gas jockey, or Sarcan worker as you would the people who provide you with your meals. They are all working for low ass wages doing a shitty job.

  21. To the server at Joey’s Only (East End)last weekend. If you received a tip of 3 cents, that was a mistake. You did a good job serving and the food was, well it was Joey’s Only so I got what I expected. I panicked when I had trouble figuring out how the “tip machine” debit card reader thing worked, and I’m pretty sure I entered 3 cents instead of 3 bucks.

    That would explain the awkward moment where you looked confused and asked if the meal was ok and I said it was fine.


  22. So, we are talkin tip % for the food price,or the food and tax price on the tab?
    Not every restaurant has a tip pool.
    most of Regina restaurants do not respect the Provincial law reguarding paying for a cab to all employees who have to work after public transit has shut down.
    You make noise, you get fired.

  23. I tip when I can afford it.
    Especially hair stylists.
    Didn’t gouge my head or take an ear off, here’s a 5er.

  24. I propose we call the act of stiffing a server because many badly-paid workers don’t get tips a “Mike”.

    “Dude! You totally miked our waitress!”

    “Yeah, well when she tips the Sarcan guy THEN maybe I’ll give her a tip.”

  25. “Stephen Whitworth – Aug. 18 – 7:07 am

    I propose we call the act of stiffing a server because many badly-paid workers don’t get tips a “Mike”.”

    Better a shitty legacy than no legacy at all. I’m waiting for my retroactive tips.

  26. I worked catering where we weren’t allowed to receive tips. Fortunately it was a union job, so we did get a living wage. I now tip 20% routinely, and 15% if the service is just o-k. (I tipped 10% or less while in university since I was on a fixed income.)

    I won’t tip where the service is egregiously bad and it’s obviously the server. I avoid fast food because I’m not interested in subsidizing that sort of thing. You have, however, shamed me into tipping at our coffee shop, though.

    As for other shitty jobs, there’s no real way to tip someone without insulting them, at least not yet. (“Hey bud, thanks for scanning my groceries, here’s $5, you look like you need it?”)

    I did get a “tip” option while paying for my last oil change, which surprised me. People are tipping for this now? I guess if they get you a coffee and a newspaper, but I’m paying $60 for something I could do at home if I had a garage and/or a driveway, so. I guess I’m still somewhat curmudgeonly.

  27. Full disclosure: I also worked fast food. I lump it into the same category as Walmart, in that we’d all be better off without it but people can’t let go of the myth of low prices.

  28. I also tip because servers tend to be well-groomed, which gives them the appearance of being good, cool people and I desperately want them to like me so that I too can be a good, cool person.

  29. “The work a server does (or a barista, puhleeze) is SO much harder that they deserve that extra kick of cash?”

    The answer is yes.

    Try running around for 8 hours straight while dealing with a rotating door of people, lots of times intoxicated. Grabbing new tables, taking out drinks, taking out food, taking payments (“We need to split those nachos 6 ways. And I am only paying for a quarter of that pitcher of beer”), bussing and cleaning your section. Not to mention all while tables of gross guys continue to hit on you and ask me why you’re not smiling. I’m not smiling because of you, douchebag.

    But then, thanks to people who DO tip, I walk out with a handful of cash at the end of the night. Bittersweet.

  30. Sorry, but I don’t agree that tips are automatic. What if I am treated like a bother and the food is shitty? What if I don’t get what I ordered? What if, after being burned last time, I come back again to give a new chance, and then am treated like shit because I didn’t tip last time? Sorry. The price on the damn menu is supposed to be the price I pay. You have to EARN a tip. If I give a tip, it is because I feel that someone gave a little extra, beyond the bare minimum, to make my experience a good one.

  31. Oh and another thing: how about those who work the shittiest service industry job of all: over-the-phone call center customer service. You get paid like shit, treated like shit, get shit on for having low “production minutes” because you took too many bathroom breaks or drinks of water or quick breathers in between trying to be nice to pissed off customers who vent their frustrations on you…. seriously, worst job ever. And chances are you ended up with the job because you’re not good-looking enough to get a job as a server. Tips? NEVER. Expectation to make customers feel like you will bend over backwards for them so that they don’t cancel their service or never order something again? EXTREMELY high. At best you might get a little “kudos” piece of paper to hang up at your desk. And don’t give me the “so get a better job” argument….. that is the same argument the Cons make about ALL poorly-paid people. Are a lot of servers and busboys and dishwashers underpaid? Yes. Is it MY FAULT that the price on the menu isn’t enough to pay them better? No. Still, if I am treated really well, I do tip. Not because I feel like it’s my moral obligation, but because I actually WANT to.

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