09/25/2013 06:08 pm ET

A Tip for Women... Please Tip!

Men tip more than women. At least when it comes to tipping bathroom attendants. Here's how I came to find this out...

A few weeks ago, I was in the ladies' room at a chic restaurant in NYC's meatpacking district. It was the kind of ladies' room that had everything a woman could want in order to make her look and feel even more fabulous when she walked out than when she walked in. Bottles of hairspray and mouthwash, a comb and brush set, mascara and eye shadows, an array of perfumes and lotions and a bowl of peppermint candies neatly aligned the counter near the sinks. A lovely attendant was at my side with a paper towel as soon as I finished washing my hands. She thanked me as I put two dollars into the round wicker tip basket. Then she asked if I was OK. She noticed that I was staring at her tips.

"Is this all the money you've gotten so far this evening?"

"Yes, ma'am."

There were only a few lone dollars.

"But it's 9 PM on a Thursday night and the restaurant is packed. How is that possible?"

She smiled and shrugged.

"I wonder if the men's room attendant is doing any better," I offered.

"He is."

"How do you know?"

"He's my cousin."

"How much will he make by the end of the evening?"

"He'll make about $300. I'll make about $45."

I was completely taken aback. How was this possible? Was there really such a discrepancy between what men and women tip?

After our conversation, I deposited many more dollars into her tip basket and decided to take it upon myself to go on a mission to visit other restaurants in NYC with ladies' room attendants.

Guess what? They all said the same thing. Women tip less than men.


Here are the top excuses for why women don't tip ladies' room attendants:

1. "I left my money in my handbag at the table."
2. "My husband/boyfriend has the money."
3. "Why should I tip you when I can get my own damn paper towel?"

Most of the women who "promise to come back to the ladies' room with a tip" do not.

Here's what you should know about these ladies' room attendants:

1. Most ladies' room attendants pay out of their own pockets for all of the cosmetics that you see in the restroom. The cost is roughly $80 for a full supply, which they are responsible for replenishing.
2. Most ladies' room attendants barely make minimum wage.
3. Most ladies' room attendants receive $1 tips (if any) from patrons. Most men's room attendants receive between $1-$5.

I must confess that I felt a sense of shame on behalf of my gender, mixed with a sense of competitiveness. I want women to be the bigger tippers!

How much should you give? Most of my girlfriends give $1-$2 dollars for basic service (i.e. offering a towel). According to Peggy Post, etiquette expert and director of the Emily Post Institute, women should give $2-$3 if the attendant performs an "essential service," like mending a hem. From my own experience, I'd also like add a few other essentials, such as refastening a safety pin in a hard-to-reach place, offering a compliment about just how good my new hair color looks when I'm still feeling unsure or providing a tampon.

But let's forget about the essentials for a minute. What about just tipping out a sense of human kindness? Think about it. Think about what it might be like to be cooped up in a ladies' bathroom for many hours at a time, listening to the dulcet sounds of toilets flushing and women relieving themselves, overhearing inebriated women engage in oversharing and inhaling those lovely odors.

Then maybe, like me, you'll reach into your heart with a sense of compassion, and reach into your wallet with a few more dollars for the tip basket...