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Tipping (a Legislative Issue)


The origins of the word tip can be traced back to the early seventeenth century in England. Then, it was a verb meaning 'to give' or 'to pass along'. In the early eighteenth century, it took on its familiar current use of 'to give a gratuity to (a person)'. It has also been said that the term "TIPS" stands for "To Insure Proper Service", which would imply that one would not get proper service without leaving a tip. This last definition was most likely added more recently to reflect one of the realities of tipping.

For many of us, it can be a very complicated issue deciding who, when and how much to tip. Of course, there are numerous guides available to help us out. These guides may be important for those of us who run into new situations where we do not know whether we are expected to tip or not. A tipping guide can be especially important when we are traveling to another country where the who, when and how much to tip may be different.

In general, waiters, taxi drivers, hairdressers, and bellhops expect to be tipped, but there are numerous others who may expect or at least want a tip. The expected amount of the tip varies greatly based on the situation. In some cases, we may be expected to tip anywhere between 10 and 30 percent or more of the bill. In other cases, especially when there is no separate bill for someone’s portion of the service, some set tip amount or per item tip amount may be expected. For instance, a skycap or bellhop may expect a dollar per bag. In many other cases, tips may not be expected or may even be illegal. For instance, you should never tip a government employee, since this would be considered extortion or a bribe, which is illegal in the United States.

Example Situations

Let us say two individuals are dining at a restaurant. If their waiter knows or at least believes that both diners will give about the same percentage when tipping, then both diners should expect about the same level of service. Of course, if one patron orders lobster and the other orders a hamburger, then the waiter could receive a much bigger tip from the diner with the higher priced meal than the other diner for doing about the same amount of work. Shouldn’t both diners tip the same for the same amount of service? Would a waiter give different amounts of service? To get bigger tips, would a waiter pressure the individuals they serve to order more items and more expensive items?

On the other hand, what if one diner was known or believed to give bigger tips than another diner? Obviously, the waiter might gravitate towards providing better service to the bigger tipper. If the waiter was not very busy, then he or she could provide extra service to the bigger tipper while still providing good service to the other diner. If the waiter was busy, then the only way to provide better service to the bigger tipper might be to provide less service to the other diner. Then, after having received less service, this other diner may leave a smaller tip than he or she would have with better service. Either way, this could result in being provided with less service the next time this diner eats at this restaurant. That is, if this person wasn’t driven off by the poor service.

In another case, an individual comes into a restaurant that has 3 waiters. One waiter provides excellent service, one provides good service and the other provides poor service. It is quite likely that even the poor waiter may expect the same tip as the excellent waiter would have gotten. In some places, tips are pooled, so that everyone gets the same amount, irrespective of what type of service they provided. If a person is expected to tip the same amount no matter how good their service was, doesn’t this invalidate the whole idea behind tipping?

If an individual is a long-term patron, he or she may know which waiter is excellent and ask to be seated in this waiter’s section. Probably, someone new would not know which waiter would provide good service, so he or she may be seated wherever there is room. Since the long-term patrons are sitting in the excellent or good sections, this new person would be seated in the poor section. After being provided poor service, this individual may not return, unless, by chance, the food happened to be outstanding.

In still another case, an individual comes into a restaurant without a reservation and tips the maître d' to get a table. Other patrons, who had made reservations, may now have to wait longer for a table. Other individuals may have tried to make a reservation, but could not get one, since the maître d' was holding out a few tables for any last-minute "tipping" patrons.


Supposedly, the idea behind giving a tip is to reward good service, with a larger tip being left for better service. However, a tip is often considered more of an entitlement, with little relationship to actual quality of service. Depending on what service a tip is for, there is an expected amount or percentage. Not giving a tip or giving too small of a tip can result in consequences. Individuals can be labeled cheap or stingy, have insults hurled at them, or be given poor service the next time.

Therefore, there is a great deal of pressure placed on us to tip. At one time in certain cases, it was considered generous to leave a 10% tip, but now, a 20% or 30% tip may be expected. The whole idea of tipping reminds me of extortion. "You pay me a cut, or you get poor or little, if any, service."

Whether a tip is expected or not is dependent on what service is being provided and what country or even what city we are in. In fact, there are some countries where it is even considered an insult to offer a tip. In the U.S. and many other countries, waiters, taxi drivers, bellhops, maids, and hairdressers expect tips, but cashiers, tellers, public servants and office workers do not.

If we give a government official a tip for performing a service, it would be considered extortion or a bribe, which is illegal. In some countries, someone may need to bribe an official to get anything done, but we would consider this to be extortion and would consider that country's government as being corrupt. It seems to me that all tips are basically the same thing as extortion or a bribe.

An employer also has a problem in that his or her employees are only partially working for the business. An employee may be more concerned with how much he or she can get in tips than with the success of the business. Some employees may also be providing, for the right tip, some additional services that are not related to the employer’s business, which they may be providing on company time. In addition, if patrons are only expressing how well their service was through their tips, then the employer may not get enough feedback to know which employees are truly better or worse than the others.

Tips are not part of an employee's paycheck, so we must rely on the employee reporting all his or her tips. I am sure there are honest individuals who report or at least try to report all their tips, but there are many individuals who will underreport their tips. Those individuals who do not report all their tips are not paying all their fair share of taxes and are therefore forcing the rest of us to make up the difference.

Some additional problems have come from the recent proliferation of the use of payment tablets. These tablets often include suggested tipping percentages. One issue is that these suggested tipping percentages are much higher than what had been normal. Another issue is that these tipping options are included for things that we normally would not tip for. These tablets also make it easier for everyone to see how much or how little we tip, which can add pressure on us to tip more.


Since there are so many problems with tipping and there are better alternatives, the simplest, easiest and best solution would be to stop the practice of tipping. We should make it illegal just as any other form of extortion or bribery would be. We would not need to remember complicated rules governing who and how much to tip or to worry about whether we have over or under tipped or not. All of us should be charged the same price for the same service.

If needed, a business could provide a list of extra services, along with a cost for each. For instance, in addition to the set prices for menu items, a restaurant might have a service or table charge. Those of us ordering take-out would only pay for the food and beverages, but those of us who eat in the restaurant would also pay an additional service or table charge. This additional charge could be a fixed percentage based on the cost of the food and beverages like a tip or it might be better to charge based on table size and how long someone stayed.

We can also look at another example with Skycaps and bellhops. In each case, there could simply be posted charges for their baggage handling. They may have the same check in or carry rate per bag or discounted rates based on number of bags. For instance, we may be charged one rate for the first bag, but a discounted rate for each additional bag. For other services that can be provided by bellhops, there would be a list that included the appropriate charges. We could see what the charges would be and decide whether we wanted to get and to pay for that service or not.

All of us should expect the same quality of service for the same cost. If we had compliments or complaints about the service we received, we could provide our feedback or performance ratings directly to the employers or management. If the employer or a manager was not available, there could be another, secure, method to provide our feedback, like a feedback card to be mailed or to be put in a drop box. This would give employers better control over the quality of their employees’ work.

Without tips, employers would need to provide their employees with either a higher, more realistic, pay, or commissions. With a higher fixed pay, an employee’s pay would reflect the quantity and quality of service that they provide. With commissions, an employee would get a percentage of what they sell and would make more by having more and higher spending customers. Commissions would work best where patrons can choose who serves them, so that better performing employees would make more. With all pay being reported, there could be no problem with unreported income. This would even save both the employer and employee a lot of extra paperwork.

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Last Updated:
Wednesday, December 27, 2023
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