Tipping was imported from Europe, and when it arrived in America, it met with impassioned and organized opposition. While the precise origin of tipping is uncertain, it is commonly traced to Tudor England, according to “Tipping,” Kerry Segrave’s history of the custom.
By the 17th century, it was expected that overnight guests to private homes would provide sums of money, known as vails, to the host’s servants. Soon after, customers began tipping in London coffeehouses and other commercial establishments. One frequented by Samuel Johnson had a bowl printed with the words “To Insure Promptitude,” and some speculate that “tip” is an acronym for this phrase.
Tipping began as an aristocratic practice, a sprinkle of change for social inferiors, and it quickly spread among the upper classes of Europe. Yet even at its outset, tipping engendered feelings of anxiety and resentment. In the mid-1800s, after leaving the Bell Inn of Gloucester, the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle complained: “The dirty scrub of a waiter grumbled about his allowance, which I reckoned liberal. I added sixpence to it, and [he] produced a bow which I was near rewarding with a kick.”
The New York Times Sunday Magazine profiles a restaurant that has eliminated tipping.
Not a bad idea. The shift up to 20 percent tipping spoils my dinner, most of all because it’s become an entitlement, not a performance incentive.
I still remember exiting a Korean restaurant, with the owner in hot pursuit. The service was so horrible–offensive, even–that I left not a penny of a tip. The owner, outraged, threatened to call the police. Yes, the police.
I’m now asked to tip my coffee counter kid. And call him a barista.
The world is descending into madness.