Tipping Doesn't Work: Why Do Americans Still Do It?

The short history (and backward logic) of gratuity

More

The more you think about tipping, the less sense it makes.

We tip shoe-shiners, but not shoe salespeople. We tip the delivery men who bring us food, but not those who bring us packages. We tip in French restaurants in the U.S., but not in restaurants in France. Where did this bizarre practice come from? Why does it seem like Americans are the only ones still doing it? And does it even work?

The quick-and-dirty answer to those questions is: Europe invented tipping, Europe abolished tipping, and tipping doesn't really work. As Brian Phillips explained for Slate, there is overwhelming evidence that we tip randomly and mostly out of habit rather than for performance. In the end, the best tip might be $0.00. We should pay service workers a livable wage -- and leave it at that.

Jump to comments

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Fascinating Short Film About the Multiverse

If life is a series of infinite possibilities, what does it mean to be alive?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

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

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Video

Just In