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

The short history (and backward logic) of gratuity

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.

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

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

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

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Video

Just In