Tipping Editorial Cartoon

The morality of tipping

I winced a little as I withstood the disappointed gaze of my friend, a result of my refusal to tip the waitress who served us. 

“But why should I tip?” I wondered. “The waitress’ service was spotty, she served parties who arrived far after we did and she wasn’t particularly nice.” The standard response followed: “because it’s the right thing to do; they’re not paid enough as it is.”

But is it the “right” thing to do?

Not necessarily. Tipping, according to dictionary.com, is defined as “a small present of money given directly to someone for performing a service or menial task.” Despite being described as a “present,” tipping in the service industry has become a societal expectation. Since tips can indeed be described as presents, it is up to the consumer to decide whether or not the service provided is worth tipping. To refrain from tipping is one’s own right. Still, a refusal to tip is almost always followed by scorn or embarrassment.

This response primarily stems from the argument that waiters and waitresses are not paid enough by their employers. Because these employees are not paid enough, the general populace believes it is moral to tip. And maybe it is. But this leads to a far more prominent issue: the burden of underpaid workers has been pushed off employers and onto consumers. 

The shift from employer to consumer responsibility directly contradicts the concept of tipping being considered a present. The expectation of such a gift being given with each act of service lowers incentivization to provide quality work in the service industry. Don’t get me wrong; I have no qualms providing a large tip in response to exceptional service, but this controversy comes into play when I refuse to tip for bad service. 

Furthermore, tipping for bad service perpetuates the idea that such service is acceptable, and even commendable. By providing a reward for bad service, consumers allow workers to form an association with bad service and good tipping. 

So then what should be done about this tipping dilemma? It seems unethical to reject tipping altogether, yet tipping excessively happens far too often and is generally unwarranted. Thus, I propose we tip around 10 percent for bad service, 15 percent for acceptable service and 20 percent for exceptional service. This allows for a clear distinction between good and bad service to avoid rewarding subpar service while also bypassing the judgment that follows a refusal to tip. Additionally, it regulates the excessive nature of tipping, as people often tip one standard value without consideration for the quality of service.

The societal norm concerning tipping is one that potentially commends bad service. To mitigate this issue, we must reach a middle ground in which we tip well only when the service provided warrants it.

By Isaac Le, Staff writer
Editorial cartoon by Joy Wang