The Case Against Tipping

Watch out, servers of New York—Foster Kamer will not tip you. Or if he does, he won't be happy. Tipping has become so commonplace as to lose meaning, the Village Voice writer argues in a new feature for the recently launched Gourmet Live application, a custom done more to avoid social shame than to show real appreciation for a server's work. He traces the history of tipping, the problems that tipping brings for both workers and consumers, and what we might do as a society to end our addiction to handing out extra dollars for show:

To understand how tipping got here, a little bit of history might be on the menu. The etymology of tipping is just as widely misunderstood as the practice itself. It's commonly accepted that the origin of "tipping" or "tip" comes from the British (who eschew tipping more than we do) in the early 19th century, who used to hang signs in pubs with the word "TIP" as an acronym of "To Insure Promptitude," when in fact, it actually first appeared as a verb in George Farquhar's 1707 The Beaux' Stratagem after being used in criminal circles as a word meant to imply the unnecessary and gratuitous gifting of something somewhat taboo, like a joke, or a sure bet, or illicit money exchanges. That feeling of being robbed by having to tip for bad service? Now you know: the word tipping came from criminals. ...

So, now that you know that tipping is racist, enforces anything but fairness and a meritocracy, preys on your guiltiest impulses, started as a criminal practice, continues as a criminal practice, and exploits people on every side of it, what's to be done? Can anything be done?

Surely it can. The majority of industrialized nations make a service charge obligatory in restaurants, with an option to tip after it. That'd be a start.

Read the full story at the new Gourmet Live.

Presented by

John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Health

Just In