There are a few dining etiquettes that we follow that seem to be global, like don’t chew with your mouth open or dessert after dinner. And many of these practices are instilled in us when we’re young, by our parents or by simply paying attention to our surrounding. But here’s a practice that seems to be more American than it is global: tipping.
We tip everybody, from Uber drivers to dog walkers to waiters.
If you go to eat at a trattoria in Italy, a bistro in France, or a piqueteadero in Colombia, you’ll notice that tipping is not a common practice.
But in the United States, it won’t go unnoticed if you leave a restaurant without tipping, and you can probably forget about ever eating there again without enduring heated glares from the staff and management.
Although tipping in the United States is not technically mandatory, it’s customary and it’s frowned-on if you don’t.
Why do we tip in the United States?
We all have different motivations for tipping. You’ll leave a tip if the service was amazing, or maybe you only tip because it’s a custom.
The reasons for tipping vary. But you have to wonder, why does this practice seem to be a custom only in the United States? The answer is tied to history; specifically, to 17th century England
It’s a Blurry History
The history of tipping is one that's been explored and debated—it’s not a totally clear story. According to BusinessInsider, the custom began in Western Europe. It was like an allowance that the aristocratic British class would give to people of a lower economic class.
When wealthy Americans traveled back and forth from England to the U.S., they brought this tradition back with them to the states.
At First, Some Americans were Opposed to Tipping
When upper-class Americans began bringing this tipping tradition back to the United States from Europe, many people begrudged the practice. Those in opposition to tipping argued that it was undemocratic to tip and that it enforced a classist and separatist agenda.
Not everybody had funds tip leave extra money after paying for their meals. Those who could tip, aka the upper class, treated the act of tipping more like a modern-day bribery for better service.
From the early 1900s to 1926, there were anti-tipping laws put in place throughout the United States. But in 1926, those laws were repealed and gradually society shifted to the point it is at now, where tipping is the custom that we all recognize and follow.
Gratuity and the Prohibition
When the American Prohibition came to pass, restaurants were hit especially hard. The purchase of alcohol contributed significantly to their sales, so when alcohol became illegal, their numbers suffered.
Servers’ wages were definitely affected. Servers felt even more pressure to work for tips to ease the hardship of this loss of revenue. Restaurant owners placed much of the burden on the servers to make up the losses. It's not a coincidence that anti-tipping laws were repealed right in the middle of the Prohibition era.
Meal Kits Make it Simple
If you’re dining at a restaurant in the United States, you should most definitely leave a tip. Many servers are paid below minimum wage and they rely on these tips to survive and make ends meet.
But when you order a meal kit, you don’t have to worry about tipping at the end. When you cook delicious meals at home you don’t run the risk of ruining a perfectly great meal by being asked to do math afterward. And even though tipping is a normal custom in the United States, it can still be beguiling.
Do you tip off of the tax amount, or before taxes? Do you tip if the service is average, or only if it’s exceptional? Should the burden of whether servers make a living wage be placed on the consumer, or is it the restaurant owners responsibility? Share your thoughts with us. Leave a comment or a question below.
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