Dollar bills and coins for tip or gratuity
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I Will Tip When I Darn Well Feel Like It

The majority of FlyerTalk members who responded regarding two articles posted recently at The Lobby have been leaving scathing comments.
One article is about why you absolutely must tip at a hotel property; and the other article responded to the overwhelming amount of bluntly critical comments posted by FlyerTalk members — which in and of itself received its own share of vociferously trenchant rebuttals.

I Will Tip When I Darn Well Feel Like It

It is no wonder that those articles authored by Peter Gunn — who once was a doorman at a boutique hotel in Manhattan for six years — received such an enormous response, as discussion of the practice of tipping is one of the more controversial topics which has been debated for years on FlyerTalk. A search using the word tipping in the titles only of discussions posted on FlyerTalk amount to 374 results; while the words tip and tips yielded 492 results and 466 results respectively — but to be fair, the results include the meaning of the word tip as advice rather than gratuity.
By the way, the word gratuity revealed a paltry 18 results.
My rebuttal to Peter Gunn — whom I have never met, by the way — is that I will tip when I darn well feel like it. What do you think of that?!?
Before we continue, let us look up the definitions of the word gratuity, which seem to support how I feel about tipping:

  • Something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary
  • A sum of money given to someone who provides service or a favor as a way to show graciousness or thankfulness, according to
  • A gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop, according to
  • A favor or gift, usually in the form of money, given in return for service, according to
  • A gift or reward, usually of money, for services rendered; or something given without claim or obligation, according to Collins English Dictionary

Oxford Dictionaries claims that the origin of the word gratuity is a “late 15th century (denoting graciousness or favour): from Old French gratuité or medieval Latin gratuitas ‘gift’, from Latin gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’.”
Voluntary. Gift. Reward. Hmm…none of those words imply obligatory or required. Assuming that none of the above definitions are considered obsolete, I would like to know since when did a gratuity become expected — and even obligatory in some cases? Am I missing something here?!?
There are some FlyerTalk members who believe that the word tips is derived from the acronym to insure proper service. Perhaps — but I have consistently found that politeness and respect towards the service provider goes a long, long way towards ensuring proper service, and can be far more effective. Most people deserve to be treated with respect and addressed politely. Respect and politeness can be far more valuable than mere money, in my opinion. Throwing money at someone who does not earn or deserve your respect — let alone perform the service in question properly or at all — should be considered insulting to a person with moral character.
I realize that giving a service provider a gratuity in advance can grant you greatly improved service. I will sometimes do just that — although it could result in the service provider fawning all over me. I abhor that. Just please do what I need for you to do, do it well, and then leave me alone and let me go about my business.
By the way — service is another key word.
I myself am an “IGI” — which stands for “I got it” — when it comes to services provided at full-service hotel properties. I do not need someone to hail a taxi cab for me unless I specifically request it. I do not need anyone opening a car door for me. I do not need anyone to carry my bag, which is small enough for me to handle, thank you very much. As I said before, just leave me alone and let me go about my business — and do not expect a tip for a service which I do not need or did not request. I will decide whether I want or need the service, and I will further decide whether or not you earned or deserved a tip.
Unfortunately, tipping is not solely an American phenomenon, as some may erroneously believe — although the procedures and policies of tipping do vary from country to country. In some countries, an obligatory service charge of ten percent may be levied on a restaurant bill, for example; while in other countries, tipping may not be customary at all and — as previously mentioned — may even be considered an insult in some cases…
…but as it is said in the old cliché: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Besides, leaving a gratuity for service in a restaurant is a debate for another time.


I understand the argument that service personnel — mainly in the United States — depend on gratuities due to low and even sub-standard compensation paid to them by their employers. They do deserve to earn a living and be compensated for their work. If those service personnel choose a job or profession which is reliant upon gratuities, then they need to perform their role as best as they possibly can — and unfortunately expect the occasional deadbeat to not leave a well-deserved tip. Others may argue that service personnel earn more than people think as a result of gratuities — but I am not about to tackle that debate here at this time.
The point I am attempting to make is that a tip should be deserved, not expected; earned, not required. If you are a service provider, did you offer a service of value to your customer — and did you do it exceptionally well? If so, that is how you will get a tip out of me. If not — well — that is up to me to decide. Not you.
Am I wrong?!?
I may post articles which go further in depth about the practice of tipping for other hotel staff members, restaurant workers, vehicle drivers and other professions related to travel. What articles would interest you pertaining to the earning of gratuities by service workers in industries related to travel? Please let me know.
By the way — please leave a gratuity for me in the Comments section below, as I cannot add that to your final bill.
Thank you.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. The majority of people in the United State depend on hand outs, problem is most do not want to work, it is not attractive or even profitable.
    Welfare is a way of life. and is rewarded far more than work and achievement.
    Most people with a GED can make a good living, why go to school,
    Life is good even Illegal’s kids qualify for Food Stamps..

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly on every point that you made. II honestly believe that at the root of the problem today is the entitlement mentality that people have.following logic you should tip for good service so if you tip and the service you received wasn’t above standard tipping only reinforces bad behavior or laziness.
    my sister who is very much of a liberal mindset even tried pressuring me one time to leaving a 15 to 20 percent gratuity at a buffet. Okay I can see leaving a small tip on a table but honestly the person at the buffet we’re there was even a self-service drink Center did absolutely nothing for me except pick up dishes as I ate. how does that person deserve a 15 to 20 percent gratuity?
    do I feel bad for folks that make less than minimum wage in these types of jobs ? sure I do. does that mean I feel obligated to subsidize their employment cost because their employers feel like giving them the shaft? how is it my responsibility? how is that not their responsibility to go out and seek a different job or a better paying job if they cant afford to make a living off of what they make?
    there was a time many many years ago when I was a waiter myself I didn’t blame other people for the fact that I was making less than minimum wage and I didn’t blame people if they didn’t feel like tipping me if I was having a bad or the service I provide wasnt top notch.
    I actually enjoy tIpping more than 20 percent when the service I received is great, but at the same time it’s almost a relief that I’m currently stationed in Japan where tipping is considered rude in order to avoid this whole new social arena were going into where tipping is expected, regardless of the level of service you receive

  3. The tipping should be included in the price so I don’t have to deal with it. They can set the rate at whatever they like. I just want to see the final price and not deal with the issue at all.

  4. You are not wrong. Since when it tipping mandatory? Since when are we written in stone that we have to give at least 15% during meal service, at least 18% added by the restaurant if you have party of 6 or more, and now I have heard these “service staff” talked amongst themselves that they believe 20% should be the minimum. Are you kidding me?
    Tipping should be voluntary, an extra financial incentive to provide excellent service, however, this should be something that comes with the job itself. The problem is, once the tipping culture in entrenched, employers would pay these service staff minimum wages now because they know these people will get good tips, and now when a person’s majority of income comes from tipping, that raises the stakes. For some, this means added motivation to provide great service. For others, this becomes an entitlement, I have bump into many wait staff that thinks they can put in minimal effort and still expect at least 15%, pathetic.

  5. I really hate this American practice of tipping. My friends/colleagues when traveling abroad (to countries where tipping is not common practice) feel awkward when not tipping. I am an extremely generous tipper to my bartender, room service personnel, restaurant waitstaff (most of the times), hairdresser…. but all others, if it is ‘IGI’, you are not getting a tip. Bitch about it all you want.
    There are many things I don’t like about Europe’s socialist society. Lack of mandatory tipping practice, is not definitely not of them. Build it in your cost and raise the prices. I’d rather pay more upfront than being obliged to pay a 20% tip.

  6. I don’t have a problem tipping waiters and bar staff in the USA since I know it’s part of their wages and the overall cost is still very reasonable.
    I do get a bit intimidated in USA hotels by the gauntlet of uniformed beggars you have to run each time you negotiate the stretch between front door and the lift.
    I just shove money at them and hope they get out of my way. 99% of the time they’re about as essential as the guy with the squeegee at the traffic lights.

  7. Certainly there’s a distinction between services that are needed and appreciated (being served at a restaurant) and useless, unnecessary ones such as opening a hotel door. I will tip on the generous side for the former, but will omit the tip for the latter.
    One obvious economic issue that prevents companies from simply raising their prices and omitting tipping as some suggest is competitive. It’s well established that people look at the list prices and make decisions based on them. A restaurant that raised its prices 20%, raised employees’ base pay, and established a “no tipping” policy would quickly lose business to a competitor. The system is as it is.

  8. Everybody with an opinion about tipping should watch the movie “Reservior Dogs”, in which a feisty but reflected character named “Mr. Pink” has a devoted (and actually well argued) speech about why he doesn’t tip. I tend to agree with with him in general.

  9. I was recently at a hotel with a holiday inn hotel manager in vegas and he was telling me that the people there get something like $13 an hour plus tips.
    thats $500 a week plus tips- not bad money.Living in the USA is far cheaper than my country and a lot of other countries.
    I think 15% is outrageous on top of a $400 bill for 4 for lunch $60!! ridiculous!
    I give 10% everywhere in the world, I begrudge giving 15%in USA.

  10. Good article and I completely agree. One of my first memories of NYC was a resto with really crappy service. There were 3 of us and the bill had an auto 18% tip. WTF? I paid by CC and adjusted the tip DOWNWARD, as appropriate, Yes, I did as the Romans do by still including something, although the waitress deserved absolutely none of it. Having said that, I also get great service at “nicer” department stores in the US. Should I also add in 20% to the salesperson although I think they do more than the average server does in a resto?

  11. The people I like to tip well are good housekeepers and turndown persons. They are slogging along at the bottom of the financial ladder, but working. In my opinion, by the nature of their work, working harder than the bellman or server with little chance for an jumping to a better situation, and less likely to see tip money in any quantity. A few unexpected dollars I won’t miss might do some real good.

  12. I pay for a product or service plus any taxes applicable fair and simple. I should not be obliged or looked down upon for not paying someones salary in the US or EU because they depend on tips..their employer employs them to perform a service for his/her financial benefit therefore responsible for rewarding them. I will pay a tip ONLY IF I feel like exceptional service was rendered….and detest it being expected like a beggar hoping for charity by some when I travel. If salaries are low that’s not my problem.

  13. @satman – do you SERIOUSLY believe this? I’m not quite sure what you consider a “handout” but lets just say its food stamps, welfare and unemployment. Per the WSJ, 15% of Americans are on food stamps. Almost all are below the poverty line. 4% of Americans are receiving unemployment payments. Another 4% are on Welfare. There is overlap in these three groups. Bottom line: fewer than 20% of Americans are receiving “handouts”. Now if you want to include Medicaid, well, there are fundamental problems with the argument that this is a handout. Fundamentally, corporate America dropped their end of the “social contract” as they tried to remain competitive with companies producing product in countries where the cost of labor and the cost of living are low. As a result, we all collectively pay more in payroll taxes to relieve US corporations from their “obligation” of providing healthcare insurance to their employees.
    @jayer – IMHO, this is the problem with America’s tipping culture. Your tipping “strategy” is not based on service but rather is based on your perception of social justice. Unfortunately this provides a disconnect from the behavioral rewards we are trying to promote AND it leads to some of the “tip inflation” insanity that is all too common now days. I’m 40 and in my lifetime tipping has gone from12-15% pre-tax excluding alcohol for marginal service, 15-18% for above-average and 18-22% for truly outstanding service. Now servers expect that bottle of wine to be included even when at a middling restaurant with no particular expertise. I’ve even been accused by a server for being stingy when leaving 18% pre-tax!
    IMHO, the biggest problem with th tipping culture is the complete disconnect in what should be a pay-for-performance scheme. I see no evidence that tipping in the majority of situations alters the customer service experience. Sure, we can all provide anecdotes of outstanding service in some restaurant or bar where we are regulars… But is that secondary to our longstanding business relationship or that extra couple percent you are providing? The reality is that servers all over the world provide excellence when receiving little or no tip. And excellent service exists in the US in locations that have (relatively) low pay: i.e. Walt Disney World. The difference between these settings and our average experience is that management and/or national identity EXPECTS people in service jobs to provide excellent customer service.

  14. Great points, except quoting a dictionary (or six) is unconvincing because there are many words whose connotation (colloquial usage) is different from their denotation (dictionary definition).
    In any case, we as a society have put the burden of supporting certain service workers on their customers under the guise of “only tipping for exceptional service”, which is not right. Until we go through some sort of societal-level cultural change this is a constant paradox we’ll have to put up with and likely tip even in times the service didn’t merit it.

  15. My grandma lives in an assisted living apartment with an on site restaurant (open to the public). It is explicitly advertised in the restaurant that there is no tipping. People love it and come from throughout the surrounding area to the restaurant.

  16. @fcgoal…. Lol u can’t be serious !! Your talking about how all the ppl u know love to go to the restaraunt at the old people home because tipping isn’t allowed …. That pretty much tells us what page your on …. Something tells me you love buffets and early bird specials too …

  17. Annoying as it can be, I find the US system of tipping restaurant staff works in favour of customers, in the big cities at least. Not because it encourages better service – that’s debatable at best. But because it allows flexibility in staff numbers to the business owner, so that they’re not stuck with high staff costs when business is slow. This encourages diversity in new startups by eliminating some of the risk, and resultant savings are (generally) passed on to the customer and in a busy place, the staff can make good money.
    However the same principle does not apply for the plethora of other services where tipping seems to be required.

  18. And it’s counterproductive to go online and insult people who don’t “get” the extent to which tipping is required in the USA, calling them tightwads and cheapasses etc.
    A quick look at a table of which citizens voluntarily give most to charity will show those notorious non-tippers, Australians and NZers , at the top, so “cheapness” is unlikely to be the explanation. A bit more honesty about how the system works , instead of coy statements about “rewards for good service” would be in everyone’s best interest.

  19. mandolino I understand what you are saying in that people from Australia or New Zealand don’t tip because its not in their culture. I live outside Washington DC so we don’t see too many folks from down under. However, we do get a LOT of tourists from the UK. Let me tell you waiters are upset when a party of English walk in. They know they will get stiffed when the Scottish walk in. Many waiters serve those parties appropriately. The folks that get shafted by a clash of “customs” are the English and Scottish who have lived in the US for a long time or a smarte enough to do a quick Google search and realize you do have to tip and DO tip. They often get bad service because their fellow countrymen are tightwads.

  20. @mandolino “But because it allows flexibility in staff numbers to the business owner, so that they’re not stuck with high staff costs when business is slow.”
    That’s what casual and flex staff are for. You have ‘core’ hours working full/part time to cover the expected min business, then have casual staff to cover the extra as required.

  21. @dgurusswarmy as Australians & New Zealanders were British Colonies, you may understand where our non-tipping culture comes from. While Australians do tip at full service restaurants its nothing like the tips mentioned as ‘customary’ in the States, as for tipping bartenders and hairdressers, not usually in Australia, unless its US tourists, which then raises a different lot of issues.

  22. USA was also a collection of British colonies, for much longer than the colonies that formed Australia were.

  23. I don’t like the notion of “obligatory” 18% tipping as it is practised in the USA, anymore than I l don’t like their practice of posting prices that don’t include taxes. Elsewhere in the world, the price that’s posted is the price you pay. At an American restaurant I have to remember that I’m going to end up paying around 25% more than the posted price (which makes the place less cheap than it sounds).
    However, that’s the way they do things over there and so I just put up with it.

  24. @Mandolino, yes, the USA declared independence in 1776 and Australia, despite Federation in 1901, only starting using Australian passports in 1965 (pre- 1965 they were British Passports – Commonwealth of Australia), the point being that Australia has maintained far more traditional British values and labour practices in certain aspects than the USA for number of historical reasons.

  25. I hate.. No I detest tipping. But I still tip at least 10% even when the service is bad. Why? Atleast for restaurants, most waitresses/waiters get below the minimum wage. This is outrageous but I can’t change the society

  26. One of the most ridiculous parts of our tipping system, at least in restaurants, is that it’s based on the price of the meal. The server can do exactly the same work for two diners, but because one eats chicken and the other eats filet mignon the tip is expected to be different. Perhaps tips should be based more on a flat rate per number of courses served. Or, ideally, we get rid of this whole concept which is more of a bribe than anything else.

  27. In the Bahamas a 15% “tip is automatically added to you bill. You can dispute it with the manager if the service has been rotten, but I’ve never seen it done. One thing that drives me up the wall is that when you pay with a CC, although the 15 % is already included (by Law)
    there is still an official line on the receipt “inviting you for “additiona; tip”. I usually draw a double line through it., so there may be no mistake about my displeasure of this con.
    I could never work in the service industry, but when I was in my teens I used to do a lot of caddying ~ usually 36 holes on the weekends during summer break~ (my Dad was a pro and had taught me lot and so I could advise the player(s) ~ the actual choice was of course the player’s. when one club would be preferable over another, if i was asked. I never went on the greens, (BTW we did not have those cute little electric carts ~ it was hard work, in all kinds of weather).
    I got a lot of appreciation during those months ~ money that went into to my UNI expenses acct. I’m an adult now thank God.If I worked in a hotel, it wouldn’t occure to me to expect some sort of tip fror bringing aspirin or suntan lotion up to to a guest room. Regardless of country. And when your’e in France and the service is compris, that additional cost is to cover laundry services etc.. They have proper wages and don’t need your measly 5-10 euros to pay for their up-keep. I go to France every year and usually bring a little prezzie for my favorite servers. And we always get the best tables ~ if there is a little wait, we also get a glass of bubbly., or before we leave.shot of limoncello. I guess it’s a matter of culture.
    I’ve boycotted the US (my kids though attended both prep and college ~ they are citizens) soon after 9/11. My problem wasn’t about tipping (didn’t bother me ~ I went with the flow) but the lack of respectful service from goverment agencies at the time. I didn’t need that kind of kicking around. The women at immigration in particular (usually 150-200 lbs used to scare the bejeesus out of me ~ I had visions of being shot if I didn’t behave as they wished ~ and I yearned to tell them where they should go. Not that they had passports, but I’d love to know how such an amazing amount of females, (from coast to coast), bona-fide rednecks could secure jobs that normally require a form of politeness. I imagine that tips don’t figure at the top of their lists ~ so let’s not pick on a particular country but perhaps examine how the power hungry/happy employees in the US go about their business in their fields. Not much to be proud about …..

  28. @mfl It’s wrong that tipping is “not in culture” in AU/NZ. I am a US citizen, and have lived in both those countries.
    In fact, people do tip when service is beyond the expected. When I go to a coffee shop in AU (one I frequent often when I am there) and they know exactly what I want without me having to say a word, I tip.
    The problem people (especially Australians) have is that restaurant workers fall under Fair Work Rules which grants them minimum ~AU$18/hr (a may be off a dollar or two). This doesn’t necessarily apply to casual workers (part-time), but there are even exceptions there. However, service professionals do make this minimum.

  29. @relberger, as an aussie, who has lived in Sydney for the past 50 odd years, I am not wrong, there isn’t the tipping culture in Australia you have in the USA. I did say in my post , that we tipped at full service restaurants,but not 25%, also in other circumstances you usually round up the taxi fares to add a small tip and at cafe you might add a couple of dollars to round up the bill, if you are having a sit down meal. I also go to my local cafe and get served the coffee i want, without ordering, but a tip isn’t expected for a single coffee if sitting down. When I travel to other cities in Australia and stay at hotels, I don’t tip the cleaning staff, or check-in clerks etc…… and yes if you have an American accent, there would be an expectation of a tip as Americans are known for their tipping when overseas.

  30. I also have a problem tipping someone who performs a service that I don’t need or didn’t ask for. I have no problem tipping well to anyone who performs a service above and beyond their “job description”. Service people should be paid decent wages for their work; tipping should recognize those people who do a very good job taking care of the guests. And, yes, sometimes I tip someone who is friendly and helpful when I am tired and cranky.

  31. The worst thing about tipping is when a process is set up to “run the gauntlet” …
    We were in a resort at Victoria Falls a few years ago. Accomodation was widely spread four-plex villas surrounding a central administration/sheckin/restaurant building.
    From arrival at the resort front door to reaching our room we passed through no less than 8 different service personnel levels all of whom expected a gratuity. The porter to checkin, the doorman, the porter to transport, the driver, the porter to the 4-plex, the prter to the room and then the house boy (who was only there two days, another house boy for the other two days).
    Have not returned! Have stayed elsewhere.

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