WTF is Gratuity???

gratuity tips tipping service reward | adulting

this isn't your grandma's gratuity


Where is the rubric that tells you when/where/and how much to tip? And even if there is a handy-dandy chart somewhere on Pinterest, can anyone explain to me the reasoning behind it? How is anyone supposed to know when to tip?

For me, when I was growing up, I was taught to always tip my servers in restaurants, but I never new that I was supposed to tip the person cutting my hair. It wasn't until I went in to get my hair colored at this super fancy spa and they flat out asked me if I wanted to leave a tip. I left feeling like a horrible person! I honestly just didn't know that I had been jipping good people out of their income. It got me thinking, who the hell am I screwing over without even realizing it?!? 

When I started doing the research (and did indeed find a fancy chart on Pinterest) I found all of these inconsistencies: 

  • When you are getting fed, you are supposed to tip your servers at a restaurant, but not the busboy or the chef.
  • When you need to #treatyoself, you are supposed to tip your hairdresser or manicurist, but not your masseuse. 
  • When you are catching that early morning flight, you are supposed to tip your taxi driver, but not your airport shuttle driver.
  • When you check-in at a hotel, you are supposed to tip the bellboy and concierge, but not the person at the front desk.
  • When you order a late-night pizza, you are supposed to tip the delivery man, but not the person who brings you your AmazonNow package.

Who decided which jobs "qualify" for tips?

Real life question: were the standards for tipping based off of the differences between wage and salary?

Do you tip those individuals who are "living off tips" and not those who are "getting a firm salary"? Like the chef at a restaurant - is he "secure" enough in his job that he doesn't need the financial benefit of tipping? Sure, there are those Top Chef restaurateurs who bring in a hefty salary every year. But what about the line cooks? They can't possibly be on salary at your local Olive Garden. And yet, they don't get anything extra for their night's work, so it probably isn't based off of that.

In most states, servers in the food industry make between $3-$5 an hour. AN HOUR. So even if they worked really hard in an 8 hour shift, there is a possibility that they might only be earning $40 a day. How is anyone supposed to support a life with that kind of income? Even though federal minimum wage currently is at $7.25 an hour, employers can get away with paying their workers half of that. 

Now I know there are people out there that will say "yeah, but they get to keep their tips, so it can't be that bad." First of all, let's imagine you make $4 an hour plus tips; you wait on 5 tables and do the best that you can to ensure that each of your tables receives your best; there is a high possibility that only two or three of your tables will actually give you a tip. So regardless of how well you do your job, you may go home with just a few dollars. Second, tips are taxable income, so if you think you are being generous by tipping 20% on a $20 bill while sitting for over an hour, they are still only walking out with a portion of that "generous" $4.

This is exactly why the lowest amount I tip is 15%. Usually, for normal, forgettable service, I tip 22%. For excellent service, I'll go as high as 30%. Only when my service is flat out horrible do I tip lower that 20%. Not only do these individuals get paid below the "Fair Labor Act" standard, but they receive little to no acknowledgement. As you probably know from my other posts, I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement. I want to reward behavior that I like: When my husband puts the laundry away, I want to reward him immediately so that he is more likely to do it again!

The same goes for this kind of situation, if I am happy with my service, whether that be at a restaurant or salon or a particularly friendly Uber driver (in a non-creepy way of course), I want to reward their good spirit and encourage them in some tangible way.

But why is that limited to some pre-determined set of roles or jobs that are "allowed" to or "supposed" to receive tips?

I don't mean to "put down" any profession but, why would the person who brings my food from the kitchen to my table get a tip, when the person who has to clean up after me doesn't (that's a tough job! just ask my husband....).

And if it has to purely do with the fact that servers get paid less than minimum wage, then why am I supposed to tip my manicurist? They get minimum wage right?

And what about taxi drivers? It's considered very rude not to tip them, but the national average for their hourly wage is $16!

So where is the line and who created it?

To me, it feels like when you were a little kid and were told you could either hand out birthday party invitations to everyone in your class, or no one. Either you tip all individuals who perform services for you, or no one. 

Who's with me?

Let's destroy these pre-determined rules, and make our own. 


BTWs for those who are interested, food servers in the following states are paid the full minimum wage of that state: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. And only two of these states (Minnesota and Nevada) have a minimum wage of less than $9.50 an hour.