Gratuities confuse people. Somewhat predictably, the young seem to be plagued with the most widespread ignorance on tipping. Perhaps it’s just a lack of education. While just about every parent, or whatever, feels obligated to drop knowledge on topics like the birds and the bees and the importance of earning a few bucks delivering pizza, few parents deem it important to educate their offspring on social etiquette like tipping. As a result, young’ns learn this shit the hard way – that is: by being repeatedly embarrassed by colleagues or even by waiters and bartenders until they eventually grow the fuck up. They can be perplexed by sub-stellar service or why they’re ignored for long periods of time. They can even be cut off by bartenders and waiters. It’s a vicious cycle. Those folks sometimes feel antagonized and as a result – you guessed it – don’t tip well or don’t tip at all.
I’ve touched on this topic quite a few times here and here in terms of tipping, race, gender and age. But rather than trying to get all scientific myself, I today defer to our good friends over at WaitButWhy.com who have published what is arguably the most comprehensive article on tipping in modern history. It’s essentially a the idiot’s guide to why, where, who, when, and how much to tip (or not). It covers not only Hospitality workers, but doormen, hairdressers, valets, masseuses, etc. – the whole gamut of greedy mofos seeking “free money.”
If you gain nothing else from the article as a Bartender or Waiter, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone and you’re not wrong in absolutely despising the French and their non-tipping, Marlboro-loving asses. Leviticus even says that on the 4th day, God created the French for the very purpose of being an outlet for hate. And if the Bible says it, it must be true. Just kidding (but not entirely). Waiters and Bartenders can often be found crying in the dish room at the very sight or sound of easily identifiable Eurotrash. The French and their requests for “wOn bierre pleez” or, the equally frequently repeated mantra: “wOn Mahr-tEEni pleez” (when what they really want is Sweet Vermouth) are fodder for nightly cold sweats.
If you’re somewhat new to this blog, take note that I’m rarely politically correct. On the few occasions when I am, it’s most likely to save my homeys from extra embarrassment they assuredly deserve. But that’s another story. As someone who has long profited from the tipping culture in the United States, I completely support the findings in the article. Despite inspiring very deep sadness within me, the findings are not wrong and the statistics speak for themselves.
Now look: I’m frequently on the fence as to whether or not the current state of tipping in the U.S. is a good thing or not. Having been born/raised in the United States, but having traveled in several other countries, including France (I fucking love that country by the way), I feel I have an excellent perspective on both the pros and cons of salaried v. tipped cultures. I much prefer current customs in terms of attaining excellent service. There are obviously many conflicting views, including those expressed by the shriveled nad-sporting meatheads over at Bodybuilders Against Tipping. Those guys really elevate human dignity, intelligence and etiquette to a whole new plateau, don’t they?
That doesn’t make me, or anyone else in Hospitality, a hater. The statistical observations are indisputable. Take the findings on tipping and race for example… they’re not indicative of every single person of every race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. In my experience, they’re not necessarily representative of the majority of the respective groups. They’re findings on a big picture basis. That means that the trends, both good and bad, are often unmistakable when measuring one group versus another. Some examples:
- Men as a whole almost always tip better than women. For this reason, a bartender or server will just about always either (a) hand a check presenter to the man in a group if no specific person has asked or (b) gravitate towards a man when 3, 4, or 5 parties are battling to hand them payment.
- Groups of middle-aged businessmen in button shirts or better yet, suits, are a bartender’s ideal customer. Here you have the smallest chance of a walk-out or other significant disagreement, and the highest probability of consistently excessive gratuities.
- Gay men are just about equally revered as problem-free and enormously generous.
The reasons behind these trends is another story entirely – enough to inspire a dozen dissertations. There are a myriad of factors behind the trends including (but not limited to): legacy of slavery, previously socially persecuted class, higher education / lack of higher education, conservative Judeo-Christian or conservative Asian-Pacific upbringing, social class, feminism, first-hand experience in Hospitality, mental-health issues, geographical upbringing and value proposition v. relocation, and a host of other inputs.
The sad part is that there are obviously many, many exceptions to single every one of these stereotypes/observations. Looking at these groups in general, consistent themes become impossible to ignore. For me, it’s soul-crushing to develop prejudices and expect certain behaviors based on race, gender, creed, strut, dress, jewelry, etc. particularly in the instances where you expect the worst from folks of your own walk of life. I’m a minority. It’s beyond depressing (but not at all insulting) to realize that – as a group – minorities tend to fall on the cheap-ass end of the spectrum. But, that doesn’t make it any less untrue – ya know?
Equally disheartening is when exceptions prove you wrong. But hey, that’s just the way it often is. Working Front-of-House for a substantial period of time changes you significantly in terms of judging folks. It’s not unlike the personality devolution of long-time law enforcement employees. Many, but not all, grow to be somewhat callous, judgmental, and inexplicably defensive – often assuming the worst of people they meet until proven otherwise. In club bartending circles, extreme cases manifest themselves as the “douchebag bartender” we’ve all encountered at one point or another.
I’m not sorry if the truth offends some folks. Seek professional counseling if you’re uber-liberal leftist mind is blown and your rage unmanageable. The truth is the truth.