Why do we tip?

Why do we tip?

Last week I went on an amazing family vacation. We flew to Miami and boarded a cruise ship to the Caribbean and enjoyed some great food, hot weather and beautiful beaches. Typical of all vacations and almost all services we get in society, tipping was something we had to think about.

On cruise ships they automatically charge you $12.50 per person per night for tips.  They say this is pooled and divided among all staff. Including those “behind the scenes” that help make your stay enjoyable like cooks and laundry personnel.  I’ve had this discussion with many people and read many discussions online with a lot of people supporting this concept saying “of course the people behind the scenes deserve to get tipped”. Shouldn’t that be the responsibility of the employer though (the cruise line)? If we are supposed to feel responsible for the poor cook in the kitchen (whom we have no contact with and have no idea if they are working well, below average or going above and beyond), shouldn’t we also feel responsible for the poor labourer who cultivated the vegetables in Mexico for the dinner we are eating? Or the factory worker in Asia who made the bed sheets we are sleeping on. Certainly they are all underpaid and definitely deserve better…

This concept is a little silly in Canada as well.  I tip just like everyone else at restaurants even though the concept is ridiculous.  People will always point out that “you need to tip” because the poor waiters and waitresses make less than minimum wage and they normally split it with cooks and cleaners… Again, I did not hire these people.  I’m coming into the restaurant to purchase a meal for a specified price.  I don’t want to be thinking about supporting an underpaid employee. Worst of all, there have been studies that show that tippers generally discriminate in their tipping (tipping more to males or females they find more attractive).  Here is a link
to one study. So the argument that tipping is only fair because these people don’t get paid much is not a great argument considering it can be very subjective and compensates people based on superficial values.

People still make the argument today that we tip for “good service” however, if its standard that everyone tip a minimum of 15% then it’s just a standard fee.  If we really wanted to use it to reward or welcome good service, should we not give a tip as soon as we are seated at the table?

Also why is tipping always based on percentages?  Should the waitress at the high end restaurant (with bills in the hundreds of dollars) make multiple times more tips than the waitress at the truck stop diner (with bills ranging from $20-40)?

This is a good article which discusses the study linked above and other studies done by a Cornell professor. My favourite quote in this article is one that I think really sums up why society tips: “When we tip, we are essentially buying the right to avoid disapproval and guilt — a uniquely first-world problem.”

I think when we tip it’s more about making ourselves feel better than to reward someone for better service.  People either don’t want to feel to feel guilty for not tipping or they want to feel generous towards the other person and appear so in front  of their guests.

On our recent trip we booked a shuttle to take us to the cruise port and when booking, the agency gave us a price breakdown which included gratuities. So in this case it was part of the fee and we thought we would be assured that everyone is paid adequately.  The driver gave us great service but at the end of the trip, I still felt bad not giving him a tip.  He sort of gave us the impression that he was expecting one anyway…

I like to consider myself a frugal BUT NOT A CHEAP person. I spend when I have to, when I owe someone and when people deserve it.  On the other hand, I hate spending when the reason is “society expects it”.  When purchasing any products or services I am more than willing to pay what it is worth.  I just don’t want to be guilted into providing a discretionary extra amount depending on how I feel or how much I like someone.  This just doesn’t seem fair for everyone involved.

Fortunately for me and my frugal family, we don’t go to restaurants much but I do enjoy going out sometimes.  But the part I hate most is when it comes time to pay.  Not because I’m going to be spending my hard earned money. But it’s the awkward chatter and niceties from the waiter or waitress when they are handing you the payment machine. Because this is the moment that you decide if you will tip them $10, $20 or $30. I think many people love this interaction and like the control they possess in this moment.  But I hate it.  I’d rather have 30% automatically added to my bill before I walk into the door in order to avoid making this decision.  I just don’t think I’m qualified to decide how much this person should make in a day (nor do I want to).

So long story short, tipping is ridiculous.  It’s a also a great reason to try to always cook for yourself and try to learn as many skills as you can to avoid purchasing services.

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7 thoughts on “Why do we tip?”

  1. I consider 20% to be the minimum tip for me, actually it was 15% but my millennial kids told me that I was being cheap so for the last few years it has been 20%. Also my wife and I split entrees often. When I do that I tip 20% of what the bill would have been if we had both had an entree. I think it is just as much work to serve us so I hate to penalize the wait person because we are small eaters.

    1. Yeah it’s funny how it is slowly creeping up. It used to be 15% but now 15% is considered the baseline (as if no tip is actually given) and 20% is expected. I assume soon, it will be 25%. This is because a tip is supposed to be a surplus and when it becomes an expected occurrence, then we must find a way to tip more than the regulars.

  2. Tipping may be silly, but it probably doesn’t affect how much things cost and how much people spend that much.

    For instance, a ten dollar meal with a 20% tip costs twelve dollars. If there was no tip, it would probably just be a twelve dollar meal. The only difference in the “no tip” areas of the world is that the tip is just included in the price.

    1. Completely agree! I would much rather see prices reflect what things should actually be and waiters and and waitresses paid adequately.

  3. I agree. Ideally, the business owners should pay their employees well enough, and charge the customers (us) whatever it takes to run the business. It shouldn’t be me making those decisions.

    However, I still tip. Because I realize that I can afford to. And things aren’t ideal. They aren’t getting paid enough. Everyone should rise against this.

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