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The Case for Tipping and (Gasp!) Against It

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Thrillist editor's note: Because tipping is such a hot button issue, and we like nothing more than hot buttons, we asked our own senior writer Dave Infante and contributing writer Sarah Walker to weigh in on the pros and cons of our tipping system. Please don't hurt Dave, waiters, we need him for other stuff.


Customary tipping screws the customer. You should know: I'm nice to waiters. I move the salt & pepper shakers when they're trying to set plates down. If I spill my drink, I'll apologize profusely. Oh, my croque monsieur is taking a little longer than expected? Pas de problème. But when it comes time to pay the check, I have to grit my teeth and leave monsieur another 18%, and I hate it.

I shouldn't be obligated to tip on food and drink. I know, I know -- you hate my guts. But I think my reasoning is pretty sound, so hear me out (or just head to the comments and start screaming):

More: Exactly what to tip (or better, not tip) around the world

In theory, I "get" gratuity. The faster, smoother, and pleasant-er you bring me a meatloaf, the better chance I will gratefully reward you with money. It's an incentive! That's capitalism, give or take a few multi-billion-dollar defense contracts.

But if my waiter knows I have to give a fiscal "thank you", there's no real incentive to do his job besides his normal wages (which he gets either way) and the look of pure joy on my face. Can I count on him to care about bringing me and this beef log together in a steamy, savory, gravy-laden union as much as I do? Maybe. Can he count on me to leave him 18% (or SOME additional amount) out of social obligation and good-heartedness? Yup.

In this scenario, I have no leverage to get my goddamned meatloaf. That's a real bummer, because meatloaf is delicious, and helplessness really curbs my appetite.

You're probably sneering, "this is just a warmed-over Reservoir Dogs argument". Fine. Just because something appears in a Quentin Tarantino movie doesn't mean it's irrelevant (except for Tim Roth). Mr. Pink is right -- if my waiter is extraordinary, then he deserves a tip. If he's not, then why am I taking an EXTRA sum out of my wallet than I would ORDINARILY? It's an institutionalized guilt trip, but if I abstain, I'm the bloodless Buscemi disciple who gets shouted out of the joint.

If I wasn't forced to give every waiter -- no matter how lethargic and lackadaisical -- an add-on, I'd have more money to spend on the servers who really go above and beyond. There are excellent waiters, waitresses, and bartenders out there, and when I have the pleasure of meeting them, I want to give them big-ass tips. But my "big-ass tip fund" is a tomb, pillaged 18% at a time by mediocre servers carpetbagging their way into financial gain, so I can't afford to drop more dough on the good guys. That sucks for the good guys.

How are we allowing this, society?!?

They say never to talk about politics at the dinner table, but if I voice my dissent at the table, it's all I'll hear. "These people rely on those tips! They're being paid below minimum wage! The restaurants wouldn't be able to afford payroll if they had to pay their staff full-price!"

To that, I say -- and read closely here, reader -- I know. And I don't want to talk about it right now.

It's not that I don't think those things are true. I looked them up; they mostly are. It's not that I don't care; I mostly do. But I didn't come here to iron out flawed business models, or find tax credit opportunities for small businesses, or establish continuing-education opportunities for waitstaffs -- I came here to eat a meal at a restaurant that sells meals and pays waiters to serve meals. The tip I leave at the end doesn't solve any of the inherent issues, but if I don't leave one, I'll be criticized mercilessly as the entitled prick who doesn't care about them.

That's broken logic.

You know what's nuts? I'll tip the dude who opens my beer, and who brings me a dish of tasty food, and even who parks my car. But I've never walked into the kitchen, found the dishwasher, and stuffed a tenner in his pocket for doing the shittiest job in the restaurant, and no one has a problem with that.

You're about to school me on tip-pooling. Go ahead. Do you know that your tips are getting distributed to the whole team? Did you ask? Do you think that sometimes, the math might get a little fuzzy when it comes time to divvy up the night's spoils? I do.

I like to tip. I really do. I go out of my way to leave big ones for baristas, bartenders, and waiters who've earned something extra. I just don't understand why I have to. If "gratuity" is required, is it really gratuity?

The case FOR tipping might convince you to tip better -- check it out on!

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