Friday, February 26, 2010

#6 Blacks and Tipping

I have always heard people, numerous Blacks and some Whites, say that Black patrons are poor tippers. I have witnessed this as well, but never thought my personal sample was valid on the entire group. I have even called out a few poor tippers in my day, and they always say they are bad at math, or the service was poor/racist, or they were distracted, and this is why they tipped poorly, to which I mutter BS. So are Blacks really bad tippers? Also, does the race of the participants affect the tip? Check your seat belts and air bags folks.

A little bit of robust research at Cornell (here) presents that not only do Blacks tip 20% less than Whites, Black servers get smaller tips all around, including from Blacks, AND Blacks tip Black servers lesser amounts than do Whites. Wow! There's that Black-on-Black racism question again. A few more facts: tip disparities remain despite comparable service; Blacks are less familiar with the 15-20% tipping norm than Whites; socio-economic status of tippers or servers does not seem to matter; Blacks stiff (fail to tip at all) at 3-7 times the rate of Whites.

So the question remains. Why are Blacks such poor tippers? We have one answer, in general terms – Blacks are less knowledgeable about tipping. The good professors at Cornell, the leading school in hospitality, would say that the service industry needs to educate folks on tipping. Accurate tipping is also a mathematical exercise, so education attainment plays a big role. I would add, critically, that a variation on oppositional culture (resistance) bleeds into tipping consideration, regardless of the race of the server, with non-black owned businesses portrayed, in the mind of the tipper, as ‘the man’. I wonder about results for black patrons in Black-owned establishments?

Lastly, the researchers go to great lengths to avoid stating why White and Black patrons tip Black servers less than equivalent Whites. However, I will say the answer for both that Cornell avoided – racism. Once all other influences are accounted for, both Whites and Blacks are negatively influenced by the race of the server, even when the service is measured as better from the Black server (taxi study). But, the research stops here unfortunately. Until academics can study these conclusions completely and openly, without taboo violation and reprisal, the toughest questions will remain as mysteries.

James C. Collier


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boukman70 said...

I hate to call out my people like this, but that study is pretty consistent with my experiences when I waited tables in Atlanta way back when. Pretty much nobody wanted to wait on black customers. They wouldn't say it, but, if it was a floating station night, and black folks walked in, suddenly everybody needed to take a cigarette break.

In my experience, black folks generally made special orders (these were in your more "upscale" restaurants where that was more often frowned upon), always had you running around for whatever popped into their heads, were usually pretty rude about it (that oppositional behavior you talked about), and then stiffed you on the tip. You'd be lucky to get a 10 percent tip where the custom was basically 20 percent. They generally made for a rather unpleasant work experience.

I will say, however, in the more upscale establishments, I didn't find myself being tipped less than my white counterparts. I mean, attractive women will always win the "tip race," but I was treated fairly well for such the crap job that waiting tables outside of country clubs is.

atldude said...

I was at the ATL airport waiting on a flight so went to the bar. The patron in front of me was some rap star I didn't notice - but other did. Ladies were swarming him and his large entourage for pictures. When it was bill pay time he whipped out a big wad of hundreds and peeled off a couple to get the tab.

After he left I asked the bartender (a Black lady) who that was. "Mike Jones" she said "and the f'er only left me a dollar!"

I thought it was funny, but as I've never been a server didn't know it was a "thing".

MarcusT. said...

Maybe folks just don't want to tip, does there really have to be a reason?

atldude said...

Marcus, servers get paid a whole lot less than minimum wage and basically subsist on tips. So it is expected. In countries like Brazil, they get paid a fair wage so it is NOT expected, therefore, no tipping.

Those folks are there to help you out and give you good service. If you want good service, tip them. If you want to be ignored and not get your food/beer, don't tip.

boukman70 said...

Altdude is right. Servers make HALF of minimum wage with no benefits, whatsoever. I think it's a horrible system, but that's what we have here. If people don't feel like tipping, they can go to McDonald's. However, at a restaurant with service, it is expected that you tip. And people feed their own families off of those tips.

Marcus said...

Um... pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get a better job lols.

uglyblackjohn said...

In Cali. servers get min. plus tips.
Where a pay check might be $200 - nightly tips (for bartenders) range from $100- $500 a night (for a six hour shift).

Many chains offer paid vacations, medical, dental and 401k programs.
Since all tips aren't claimed - servers, bartenders and strippers qualify for housing, MediCare and other public benefits.

Some top of the line apartment complexes recruit those from these indutries to fill their "poor" quota which was part of their construction loan package.
Why have really poor people messing up your complex or building.

But the bottom line is simple.
Those who've worked in tipping jobs are the best tippers.
Many Blacks don't become bartenders or waiters so few understand the system.
Is it "racist"?
Nope, it's demographics.

If someone doesn't tip well - I don't hang out with them.
If a woman doesn't tip - she's kicked to the curb.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, it's possible that black (american) servers could be less friendly than white servers -- less willing to go all the way to ingratiate themselves with the customers. They might have more attitude. In order for a waiter to earn a decent tip, he doesn't merely have to serve the customers -- he has to get them to like him, which means being friendly, SMILING, making it appear that you CARE about the customers. You cannot be sullen.

I don't have any sort of facts, and my experience with black (American) servers is limited, but I think we shouldn't ignore this possible explanation for why black servers might earn less.

Full disclosure: I'm a Somali. My brother was a server in several restaurants in the Northern Virginia area and he never complained about earning less than any other server, and I'm pretty sure waiters are privy to how much their coworkers are earning.

Urban Mac User said...

I've worked both "front and back of the house"
as we say in the resturant business, and I lousy tippers know no color lines. I've gotten great tips from
both black and whites, and lousy from same.

Now that I'm out of the biz, I find that I carry
a tip card in my wallet, and I adjust based upon how
many times I had to get up and actually walk to
the server station and get napkins and even my own tea pitcher.

From top to bottom the system needs reform.
bad servers need to be fired, and servers should
be paid minimum wage, eliminating tips
all together.

Anonymous said...

Servers should be paid minimum wage with no tips? Do you realize that almost everyone in the 'back of the house' makes more than minimum wage?

ogunsiron said...

Marcus :
It's a about common courtesy.
I tip 20% or so when the service is good, a little bit more when it's really awesome and almost always 15%. The only way I'd refuse to tip or tip less than 15% i if I received less than barely adequate service. In that case I'd actually let the server or their boss know about this so they know why i am not tipping.
You're a grown man so you can in fact refuse to tip. Just be ready to deal with the consequences of being extremely rude.

Anonymous said...

i dont think most blacks know about tipping. to solve this problem restaurants should put on receipts that people should leave 15-20% for good service. now im black, used to be a server, and for me, the people who didnt tip were FOREIGNERS. they dont tip at all. why? because they don't know, in other countries waitress make 10-15 bucks an hour.

now, i did i have this interesting incident where i had this table of just horrible white folks, they had me opening up bottles of wine, then sending it back, i was doing this all night, it was horrific. then, at the end of the night they left me like 5 bucks on a 200 dollar bill, and they knew what they did was fucked. so, ironically the next day i was at a bar and I saw two of the patrons from the table there, and i told them off. like i went crazy mad black woman on them, i said "it is courtesy to leave at least 15% dont you have any class?" it was awesome. i almost lost my job for that, but it didnt matter cuz i was moving away for law school the next week. but in conclusion, black folks might be bad tippers but i dont think it is malicious, i myself have not experienced any intra-racism from black patrons, however, i have in MANY other situations...

Gina said...

I had to educate both of my (admittedly rural) mom about tipping. She was under the impression that servers made more than they do, and that leaving $1/person as a 'tip' was acceptable. My husband and I consistently leave 20% (unless service warrants 15%), in the hopes of disproving the stereotype. Both of us carry tip charts in our wallets, just to be safe.

ogunsiron said...

heartsiren & Gina :
You have a point about it being maybe an issue of ignorance. For a long time i thought the customary tip was 10% until i was told otherwise by friends. I can easily imagine a ghettorat simply not knowing about tips at all. No tipping at KFC or McDs after all :)

MarcusT. said...

Never said I didn't tip.

I'm just not going to add "poor tippers" to the list of black pathology.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe blacks folks are the only ones who reason- why the hell should I be paying you what your boss should be paying you?"

Here is a person without the slightest grasp of business or economics.

Anonymous said...

5 years ago,I delivered newspapers to a 120 customers they were all BLACK. Did I ever receive any occasional tips or even compliments for my service? NO! BUT when there were problems with the press and the papers were sometimes late I got talked about a lot and the things my black brothers and sisters would say sure wasn't pointing to racial unity. THE ONLY TIP I WOULD RECEIVE WOULD BE WAS A TIP TO DRESS BETTER cause they thought my clothes were out of style, you know raggedy! Oh and when Christmas time came, out of 120 customers only two showed up with a card and money gift. You know I would have even appreciated a simple MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM A FEW OF THEM. Considering the area I delivered was gang laden, on some streets I would have to circle and scan between the houses and check the alleys to make sure no one would be standing there and planning to rob me or take my auto which was a big problem for Paper Carriers.Now I deliver to 155 customers out of that number I have only 3 black families and here it comes! I constantly receive tips from the whites and when Christmas comes my holiday money gits is well over $200.How happy I would have been if my black brothers and sisters could have show some positive sign if I could have only even received words that were not thoughtless and often mean.

Diane said...

Just adding my 2 cents to the mix. When I go to restaurants I often receive not bad service but, less than fair. Like, I'd have to ask the waiter to take my order or get the check or bring napkins. Perhaps this is due to being in NY. But, I hate tipping due to often receiving less than par service. Perhaps its due to being black. They see a table of black consumers and don't really bother to really service us.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, Diane... blacks don't tip well because they receive bad service. I like it. It fits perfectly in the reversal of cause and effect that drives the narrative of race in this country. Just like how blacks commit more crime because the police target them.

Anonymous said...

During college I worked as a waiter at a restaurant featuring Cajun and Seafood fare for $2.13 an hour. The restaurant was situated directly between middle class white and lower middle class black neighborhoods near Houston, TX. We had an even mix of white, black, and hispanic servers.

From my experience I found that even the black servers resented having black patrons in their sections. The tips were often the change from an even dollar amount... $1.79 on a $98.21 tab...the change from a $100 bill for example or the customary $2.00 handshake. I would guess that at best 1 in 10 African American diners would leave a proper tip.

In addition, the black patrons seemed to need extra services...straws, lemons, extra this, extra that, substitute this, send this back, a gallon of tartar sauce, Chill my red wine...etc. Basically run you and each time you come back need something else causing you to neglect your other tables.

5 minutes before closing EVERY night was the rush for black patrons keeping us there late at night and for little compensation. They also seemed to take longer to eat or sit for hours after finishing thus occupying a table in your section longer causing that table to miss a seating it may have gotten instead.

It causes you to stereotype for your livlihood. Do I focus my attention on this demanding table for $2.00 or do I focus on my other 3 tables who will actually help pay my tuition? Servers will do the same with rednecks...and even women. A table full of women is difficult too generally speaking.

Ashamedly, we had a game called BINGO! If your four table section had three "BT's" (black tables)and you were seated with a fourth black table...then you shouted BINGO and the rest of the staff had to give you a dollar each because your night was basically shot. Remember that black servers participated in this game and were usually the most vocal about the stinginess/ignorance of black tippers.

I did my best to provide first class service to everyone and often made it a game to give black tables a great experience in an effort to get the biggest tip they ever gave anyone and many times I felt I succeeded even if the tip was below custom. Somehow knowing that I probably got more out of him than anyone else in his life gave me some satisfaction even if not monetary. I feel I was always courteous and respectful to everyone. I know it isn't fair to deny anyone my best because of what may have happened before. It isnt fair that a minority that may be a good tipper should get sub-standard service because of tips that others leave.

However, many others were not like me. Those blacks that feel they get inferior service should understand that this tipping stereotype has validity and servers will maximize service to others who are statistically more likely to include a fair tip for far less hassle.

My personal opinion is that alot of black diners just dont know what a proper tip is because they werent taught or didnt work in a service industry. I think that if they did know they would leave a customary tip of 15%-20% Also, I recieved several overly generous tips from black folks and terrible ones from white patrons. But, the 5, 10 15 theory was generally applicable. 5% from Blacks, 10% from Hispanics, 15% from Whites

Mr. Collier I ran into your blog a couple years back. I have never posted but I check in several times a week and usually enjoy your insight. This topic hit very close to home because I was raised in a an extremely racially tolerant home with a black adopted sister, but from experience after experience in the restaurant I learned to stereotype black diners (not to give bad service but to expect a poor tip). This is not something I am proud of and still think of to this day.

I am extremely interested in your views of personal responsibility and I think you do a wonderful job. Keep it up.


Anonymous said...

This is just such an old story. You're just noticing this? I mean, geez, just talk to anyone who has waited tables at all--of any race--and you'll get the story immediately.

I'd add how many times I saw Black waiters cuss when seated with too many Black tables, but it's just redundant at this point.

It's funny how it's the little things. I waited tables for six years in the Oakland/Berkeley area, and let me tell you: that experience turned more good young idealistic White liberals against their former views than anything else I witnessed.

James C. Collier said...

Jackson: Geez? Thanks for dissing the idea of the post and then adding your two cents. If I wasn't use to backhand compliments, I would be offended.

uglyblackjohn said...

Tipping and Volunteer work - why do so few few Blacks do either?

(Many fail to see the value and advantages of either.)

Anonymous said...

I'm the Somali guy from above. For about a year I delivered Pizza, and the three non-tippers that pissed me off the most we're all black, though to be fair, one of them was an immigrant family that just arrived. The other one was a hospital employee and an older lady, but really, the final person should have known better: he lived in a decent house in a suburban neighborhood and he merely gave me a smile. His house was the maximum distance from the store.

Anonymous said...

Once again Mr Collier, you are making generalizations based on bad data, I live in Atlanta...and generally, this is really class based. social economics play a part, most middle to upper class, and educated professional blacks know the 15-25% rule, many working to lower class blacks dont!

Those that eat in Applebees, may not know the rule...but you can rest assure black folks that dine at establishments like Bones steakhouse...know better!

Anonymous said...

Once again Mr Collier, you are making generalizations based on bad data, I live in Atlanta...and generally, this is really class based. social economics play a part, most middle to upper class, and educated professional blacks know the 15-25% rule, many working to lower class blacks dont!

Those that eat in Applebees, may not know the rule...but you can rest assure black folks that dine at establishments like Bones steakhouse...know better!

rikyrah said...

interesting topic.

my one sister, my niece and I are big tippers. Minimum 15%, and, if good service, I'll go up to 25%.

my other sister is not, and I don't even fight with her about it anymore. I just do the tip.

my sister, my niece and I worked in the food service industry and understand what tips mean.

the sister who doesn't tip right has never worked in the industry.

I was also raised by parents who repeatedly told us - if you can't afford to give a good tip, you shouldn't have gone out to eat in the first place. I agree with that.

it takes the worst service in the world for me to leave no tip.

bad service, I'll leave 10%.

Christine said...

I just got fired for posing this question at work. I asked "what's up with black people and tipping?". They fired me this morning. I guess white ladies aren't allowed to ask such questions without being offensive. Can't wait to bring this up when I teach my Cutural Geography class next semester. Some things are apparently just taboo...I should have known better!