Tipping the wait staff is a way of life in America. I admit when I first graced these shores well over three decades ago, I was new to the concept of tipping. I grew up in a land where workers were paid a wage for their work and tipping was a vocabulary word used for those who were in danger of falling or inebriated.
I am not against the practice of tipping itself, what gives me angst is the ability it gives some restaurants in its ability to pay workers a low wage while charging premium prices for their services and then have the temerity to expect the public to still supplement their employees' wages.
If you decide to hire someone to perform a job, you, the employer, are expected to compensate them with a living wage.
I have long wondered about the origins of this practice and therefore I went searching...
It is said that tipping has a dark origin. This article posits that tipping was brought to America by Europeans and was once looked at very unflatteringly. Its unflattering spread within the US began after the end of the civil war.
When tipping began to spread in post-Civil War America, it was tarred as "a cancer in the breast of democracy," "flunkeyism" and "a gross and offensive caricature of mercy." But the most common insult hurled at it was "offensively un-American."
European immigrants surging into the U.S. were charged with bringing this deplorable custom with them. But in fact, it was also American tourists, like the characters in Henry James' novels, who picked up the restaurant conventions of the continent and imported them back to America.
The second reason cited for the 'tipping the scales of condescension' was during the post-slavery era when only jobs of servitude were available to the newly-freed blacks. This meant that people of color were always kept in the background of financial prosperity as they were not actually paid a wage but left to make a living based solely on the generosity of their benefactors who used tipping as a means to further subjugate blacks.
Despite being banned in 1915, the practice made a comeback in 1926 and has been alive and well ever since.
Share your thoughts, should patrons be responsible for ensuring that service employees' ability to earn a living wage?