The problem with tipping

I spent the summer working at a Cold Stone Creamery in Kennesaw, Georgia. Working there taught me a great many lessons about working with white people again, more of the intricacies of the service industry, and about human behavior in general. One of the most perplexing things about the entire experience was the infrequency I experienced with tipping. I could see patterns here and there, but most of what I did in many a situation was complain about tipping.

I always tipped services automatically. Even decent service was worthy of some additional compensation, yet many times I encountered people that received their ice cream and good service and promptly leave. They’d pay in exact change and brusquely exit, pay with debit card and leave the tip section blank, put their change in there pockets and avoid eyeing the tip jar in front of them. It grew to be rather frustrating to give good service to people I really didn’t like all that much to get nothing but pay just over minimum wage.

The worst of all these situations were from two different groups of people: young people and Black people. Considering that I’m addressing a demographic that fits in both of these categories, I must ask what the problem is. Do you not have decorum? While we may be broke college students, when you can spare the extra dollar, would it hurt? What confuses me about youth is that all their money is disposable income, so an extra dollar or so is not so much of a loss since it’s not going toward bills for the most part. Youth should tip moderately well when they encounter good service.

Black people on the other hand are a complete conundrum. This is especially so with Black women. The most demanding people that I have ever served were Black women. They must have everything just so, from the drop of fudge in their ice cream, to the arrangement of whipped cream in their frozen mochas. How can a group of people demand so much in their service, then not reward said courteous service? We’ve been in situations where we did not receive the best treatment or get good wages, why can we not empathize? Can we at least tip Black people, because many don’t do that? As Black people, we have so much rhetoric about supporting one another, but we don’t even tip Black servers in restaurants.

In our society, we find it customary to tip average service, so much to the point that servers receive most of their income through tips as opposed to their low wages. What began as a custom to receive expedient service in Rome grew to a reward for hard work all over the world. It’s an act of courtesy and compassion to give gratuity to meals and assorted services, and we must think about how we would appreciate tips ourselves.

We need to keep one another in mind when we go on our normal experiences. That time we spend in Waffle House or Cold Stone are times that we enjoy because of the services we receive. As young people, we should recognize that we aren’t far from these situations, and that we may even have a job like that at present. Show that you appreciate a job well done and cough up an extra dollar. We talk about you behind your back otherwise.


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