Tired of Tipping

Dear Dr. Per Cap:

Everywhere I go, I feel browbeaten to give a tip. Almost everybody providing a service these days expects a big gratuity and lays a guilt trip if you don’t pay up. What’s a hard-working Native supposed to do?


Tired of Tipping

Dear Tired,

Just say, “No” ― if you’re old enough to remember Nancy Reagan. Granted her advice didn’t apply to gratuities, but it easily could have.

I have written about the ever-encroaching tipping culture in this column before. And while it’s good form to tip restaurant servers, food delivery drivers, and blackjack dealers for good service and winning hands, I continue to hear complaints from consumers fed up with the pressure to tip in situations where gratuities didn’t used to be the norm.

Tipping for counter service seems to be the most common grievance. Coffee shops, food trucks, fast casual restaurants, and other eateries in which designated wait staff won’t seat you at a table, serve your food, or check in periodically throughout the meal.  Traditionally, no one tipped counter employees, but many businesses now place a tip jar next to the register or nudge customers who pay using electronic point-of-sale devices that make tipping the default option. It puts the burden on the customer who must tap a “no tip” key while completing a purchase. Suffice it to say, it can create an awkward exchange, leaving customers feeling self-conscious and embarrassed for withholding a tip.

But you don’t have to play that game. One solution is to pay cash whenever possible. It’s much easier to take your change, say thanks, and move on with your day when paying with a few, hard-earned twenties, as opposed to swiping a card or tapping a payment app that puts you through the tip-baiting ringer outlined above.

Another strategy is to eat out less. Between higher prices, mediocre service, and so-so food, you might enjoy eating at home more often and save money, too.

I notice non-restaurant businesses working similar angles for gratuities. The other day, we purchased a new mattress and the delivery drivers offered to haul away our old mattress for a tip. I politely declined the offer and scheduled a bulky item pickup with the solid waste department in my community ― no tip required.

What’s also troubling is how many folks have just accepted ubiquitous tipping as the new norm. I’ve heard people say, “You get what you pay for, and tipping gets you better service.”  That might be true, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a word that comes to mind when we pay to be treated better than the person who does not tip: bribery.

Little life glitches like this matter because a few bucks here and a few bucks there add up. Pay attention and remember that you have other options.


Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.