The case for tipping, and (gasp!) against it: a point/counterpoint

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.

dave check bad tip

The case against tipping: Dave

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 & 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):

The obligation contradicts the meaning

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 & 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 & 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.

It screws truly great waiters

If I wasn’t forced to give every waiter -- no matter how lethargic & lackadaisical -- an add-on, I’d have more money to spend on the servers who really go above & 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?!?

It drags meals into trumped-up socio-economic debates

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.

It’s totally arbitrary who you’re supposed to tip

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?

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The case for tipping: Sarah

I have a life rule: never wear pants on a Sunday. Or any bottom for that matter. It’s called a bottomless mimosa brunch for a reason. There is a bottom to the mimosas I can drink, but not to my outfit.

Now that we know each other a little better, I’ll let you in on my second life rule: always be nice to the waitstaff. As a corollary to that rule, if I’m with someone who is rude to the waitstaff, I’m out. They are done in my book. Friendship over. It could be my grandmother. I’d say, “Sorry, Muriel, we’re done. I’m calling you by your first name because you are no longer my grandma, but a stranger to me, as you were unkind to our waiter.”

So as an ADDENDUM to that rule, if you don’t “believe” in tipping, I think you are a straight-up monster who should be banished to the netherworld from whence you came. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Muriel.

Waiters are not your own personal butlers

Let’s really examine this. First, do you think the waitstaff WANTS to be there? Unless they work at some crazy fancy restaurant where being a waiter is a celebrated profession, do you think this is their highest life goal? To be yelled at by a chef and run around all night delivering food that they can’t eat? And worse, see all the food you didn’t effing eat when they carry away your gross plates? And watch people have fun and get boozed up while they sweat and toil as your temporary butler? They don’t even get to wear a cool tux! Jesus, even if we weren’t all such entitled dicks when we go to a restaurant (and you KNOW we are), the least we can do is give them 20% of the bill so they don’t KILL themselves after all of that.

Still don’t want to tip? So what you’re telling me is that you were too lazy to cook food for yourself, so you went to a restaurant where someone BRINGS FOOD to you while you SIT and do NOTHING that contributes to the preparation and serving of the thing you need to effing live and you reward the people who are bringing you said nourishment with nothing? You know what that reminds me of? Indentured servitude. Know who loved that? Early American colonists. And know what they were? A**HOLES.

Stop being a cheap-ass in bars

“But Sarah,” you say. “I always tip at restaurants. I just don’t want to pay a dollar to the bartender for opening my Schlitz.” You know what? They don’t deserve a tip for that. What they deserve a tip for is for putting up with [overserved!] dickheads yelling at them across a bar all night and then going home at 4am with nothing to show for it but beer soaked clothes and maybe some [overserved!] person who is throwing themselves at them who they’ll sleep with because what the hell and then regret it in the morning because then that person will keep showing up to their bar far after whatever they have is over and they are essentially prisoners because they can’t run away. THAT’S why you can part with your precious dollar you inconsiderate devil person.

Maybe they’re making your coffee. That’s an effing skill! That should be rewarded! Can you work a cold-press machine, let alone a freakin’ Dunkin’ Donuts machine? You can’t. I promise you 100% that if I placed you behind a Starbucks counter right now you’d have no clue what to do, coupled with the fact that there’s a line of 20 coffee-crazed NormCores in a hurry. Hey, if you don’t want to tip then make your own coffee! Do you know how much money you’d save if you made it at home? Enough to not worry about your precious finances when you tip 20% at a restaurant.


I was a waitress for a hot two months and it was the worst. The. F***ing. Worst. I don’t understand how people do it. It’s so hard. So even if your waiter is an a**hole to you, how much your little feelings are hurt is nothing compared to how their soul hurts every single time they clock in. And if you STILL don’t want to tip, move to Europe where they don't tip but you won’t be able to afford to eat out anyway. So joke’s on you, idiot!

Dave Infante is a senior writer for Thrillist food & drink, and despite what you may have been told, does not want to be poisoned to death at his next dinner out. Follow/lambaste him on Twitter at @dinfontay.

Sarah Walker writes for McSweeney's and MTV's Awkward. Once she didn't tip enough at a nail salon and the lady yelled at her. That was a formative experience. Follow her at @swalks.