The Crazy Origins of Tipping

Life August 7, 2018
Origin of tipping


The Crazy Origins of Tipping

Do you ever wonder where certain social customs come from, or why we automatically do certain things? Whenever you out to eat or go get a drink, usually you expect to receive great service, and if so you generally leave a tip. But what are the rules and customs for tipping? And what are service workers expectation of receiving tips? But most importantly where did tipping come from and why do we tip.

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History of Tipping

In the 1800s Tipping was considered “un-American” and Undemocratic when rich Americans began to adopt this practice. Tipping started among European aristocrats in the 17th century and spread throughout the country after the civil war. When newly freed slaves flocked to major cities to find work most of what was available was “unskilled” positions in restaurants. Tipping was embraced as a way to employ freed slaves without having to actually pay them for their work. This quote by a reporter in 1902 shows the attitude of tipping “I had never known any but negro servants. Negroes takes tips, of course; one expects that of them- it is a token of their inferiority. But to give money to a white man was embarrassing to me.” This quote breaks my heart and angers me of the origin of tipping. Over time tipping became the norm and thanks to powerful lobbying of the restaurant industry, in 1938 congress passed Americas first minimum wage law allowing states to set a lower wage for tipped workers.

Tipping Culture

Today tipping is just a natural part of culture and society in the US and is something that you are supposed to do. We don’t really think twice about why we tip besides to reflect how great our service was or wasn’t. Maybe if we understand the history of tipping we will look at it a little differently and understand that we should treat people as people when they are serving us. As a customer we have a tendency to become impatient and feel like we are above others because we are paying good money for said service. I think the biggest thing to understand is that there is a system in place and that servers are usually helping more than one table or customer. So, remember to have a little patience and always speak up if you are in need of something. On the server’s end, they work hard to take care of their customers. It is a tough job that is fast paced and demanding.

Tipping today obviously has a different meaning than the racist history it was born from. Tipping helps service workers make decent money on a minimum wage salary and allows customers to show their appreciation for service. Like anything, if there is mutual respect on both sides things usually go smoothly. Maybe tipping will stay around, or maybe it will be changed to just a higher salary in the future, but for now let’s make the most of it.


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