Why Tip?

I come up with a lesson I learned in the course of living every day, and then I share it on this blog. Here is what I thought about today…


I am a fairly generous tipper. I always drop 20% and round-up, even if service is less than par. I am especially generous when I am recognized as a regular customer or if service is truly exceptional.

Perhaps oddly, I am actually anti-tipping. I give in to the social pressure like most people, and I empathize with service workers, but I think the practice should be done away with altogether. I will even say I think it is despicable that we allow entire industries to rely on customers to subsidize employee wages. Why do I have to help you avoid paying your people fairly while trying to run my business?

Can you imagine if every business paid all employees $2 per hour and relied on employees to subsidize the salaries of every other business? What would our cell phone bills look like then?

What is even stranger is the nearly exclusively American practice of tipping at the end of a meal or service. When I visited the Middle East, I was impressed that it is common to tip your server upfront and the amount of the tip determines the level of extra attention you receive. As far as tipping goes, I think tipping upfront is better but I still think tipping should not be an acceptable use of one’s hard-earned money. You do not spend your life working, expecting to give 20% or more of your money away (and that’s before taxes, health care, bills, holidays, and everything else).

When I tip my barista at Starbucks (which, in my opinion is the most egregious form of tipping–they literally turn around and hand me something–is that really tip-worthy?), I can not help but wonder what the point is. Even as a return customer, my latte tastes the same every time. Starbucks and other big brands have built their business on consistency. In other words, tipping generally provides no bonus for me (the customer). I do not receive an extra side perk for tipping and that is especially true if I am a first-time or unrecognized customer. I am treated like anyone else. I am just the usual cattle walking in to graze and ushered out as quickly as possible so the next set of cows can sit.

I am not advocating for everyone to stop tipping, by the way. I think it would be laudable if employers turned the practice away in favor of better wages, but until that happens, I feel compelled to tip.

I am just asking if maybe the concept of tipping should be re-evaluated. Maybe there is a better way, such as the alternative used in the Middle East and elsewhere. Maybe not.

What do you think? Should tipping remain a staple of society–a voluntary but expected pre-determined way to subsidize salaries and acknowledge work well (or even meagerly) done? Should we move to Tipping 2.0, and what does that look like? Or, are you an irascible curmudgeon like me, who thinks tipping… is for cows?


(P.S. Tipping is not for cows.)