The Afronista Rants #8: Black Folk Don’t Tip!

When I was in my early twenties, I worked in an upscale hotel that had a pretty nice restaurant.  I was officially the room service operator, but I ended up doing double duty as a hostess in the restaurant, as well as a server.  One day I served a group of well-dressed black men.  By overhearing (ear-hustling) their conversation, I would assume they were doctors, or something medicinal.  Of course, it is only an assumption, but they seemed to be quite well-versed.  They seemed to be much more than just some random guys talking about cancer and pharmaceuticals.  Anyway, they ordered a pretty lavish lunch.  They had several drinks from the bar, appetisers, salads, soups, main courses, and two of the guys had dessert.  In the end, their bill came up to approximately $250.  One man paid for the entire meal on his MasterCard.

The tip he left:  $0.

Perhaps my service left much to be desired.  I don’t know.  We were not particularly busy so I was able to give them as much attention as they needed.  I brought their food promptly; I ran back to the kitchen a several times for steak sauce, hot sauce, ranch dressing, whatever, and it didn’t take me two years to do it.  I figured that I would get the standard 10%, no more, no less than what is deserved.  I was SERIOUSLY annoyed that I got absolutely nothing.

When I went into the back, I told my co-workers, “Those cheap ass bastards didn’t even leave a tip!”  Billy, my white co-worker laughed and said, “No offense, but black people don’t tip.”

Uhm, I beg your pardon?  I’m too broke to eat out much, but when I do, I tip and my parents are restaurant freaks and they always tip.  What do you mean black people don’t tip?

Steve, the Asian guy said, “Yeah, they never leave a tip.  That’s why I hate serving them.  You bust your ass for nothing.” 

Determined to prove them wrong, I decided that every time a black person tipped me, I was going to rub it in their faces.  So I really started paying attention, and I also upped my game to make sure that it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t get a tip.  I slapped some Vaseline on my teeth and smiled till my face cracked.  If I had to run from the kitchen to the floor with their food balanced on my head to ensure they got the hottest food possible, I would do it.  Anything they could possibly desire, I would make sure that my customers got it. 

Hah.  He was right, hardly any of my black customers tipped me.  The ones who did “tip” me merely rounded up their bills to even number.  A $9.96 bill meant that I got four cents tip.  Whoopee!  By contrast, my white customers always tipped.  Some were quite cheap, yes.  A few times I got precisely ONE DOLLAR.  One old white lady gave me two quarters with a big smile like she was doing me a favour.  Gee, thanks.  But for the most part, I got something.  I noticed that Asians tipped quite well.  We used to fight over who would serve the Asians that came into the restaurant.  We were all broke college kids, okay?  We had to do what we had to do.

Anyway, fast forward to my mid-20s.  I can now afford to eat out more, better quality of restaurants too.  I had just moved to Baltimore.  A group of us, mostly black, went out to the club and decided to hit up an all-night diner afterwards.  The diner had a strict “no check splitting” policy.  There was about 10 of us.  We kept the waiter busy with our annoying demands, mine included.  “Can I get more hot sauce?”  “Is it possible that you could put the gravy on the side?”  “My fries are cold.” “Can I get more ketchup?”  I don’t like my food to touch so I always ask for separate plates for everything.  I am sure we got a heavy dosage of “special sauce” that night because it was really quite over the top.

When the bill came, it was in the 200s.  First, we got into a fight trying to figure out who ordered what.  I took control of the check and went around the table:  Candace had pasta; Mike had chicken; Tonya had the burger… After figuring out who had what, I simply divided the tax by 10 instead of trying to calculate five percent by everybody’s order.  Too annoying.  Because our party was larger than six, the gratuity was already added.  That’s where the fight broke out.

Candace had a pasta dish that was $10.99.  When I told her $15.00, she shrieked, “Why do I have to pay $4 extra?”  Uhm, cuz you have to tip him.  “I don’t want to.”  Too bad.  It’s on the bill.  Then they started crying about being forced to tip someone who had basically been our slave for the past two hours.  None of my black friends wanted to tip the waiter (who was also black).  I thought it was exceptionally rude, and if the restaurant had been able to split the bill, I would have paid for my food, tipped him privately and walked off. 

Instead, we sat there for another 30 minutes, screaming at each other about why they had to tip and why they didn’t want to tip.  To make it easier, I just divided the automatic gratuity by 10.  It came out so that we were going to tip the guy about $2 each.  Everybody ordered dinner, except one person who had dessert.  And even that one person didn’t even mind adding on $2 to her $6 dessert. 

We did eventually come to some sort of conclusion, but some of us left the table looking at each other with that eye, you know… the side eye.  I decided, “this is a group of people I will not eat out with again.”  I don’t like it when people don’t tip.  A lesson I was taught as a kid, “If you can’t afford to tip you can’t afford to do whatever it is that requires tipping.”  I was taught to tip ALL service people:  waiters/waitresses, bell hops, taxi drivers, beauticians, barbers, your tattoo artist, and the chick that waxes your bikini line, everyone that is doing you a service. 

I came across an article just now, <a href=”http://www.thegrio.com/2010/01/does-race-play-a-role-in-the-way-we-tip.php”&gt; Does Race Play a Role in the Way We Tip?</a>  According to this study, I suppose it does.  There are a lot of reasons cited why black people don’t tip:  not having enough money, not knowing the proper custom, etc.  There was also some evidence in a bit of racism when black people enter a restaurant; nobody wants to serve them because they are notorious for not tipping.  The person who did the study, whom I understood to be black, stated that she has never been treated poorly when in the company of her white friends and associates, but if it’s an all black group, then the service becomes terrible.  Presumably, because they are black and were automatically discounted to be shitty tippers.  Since they probably won’t tip, let’s just treat them like crap.  Who cares?

We do know that on the whole blacks make less, have less disposable income.  That doesn’t mean that they should never eat out to a restaurant; it just means they should hold off eating out until they can afford EVERYTHING, because tipping is apart of the American culture, and it’s not something you do when you get exceptional service.  In case you didn’t know, 10% is the minimum you should tip.  If your server gives you basic service, the basic tip is 10%.  You give them more if they are exceptional.  If they suck so bad that you don’t want to give them a tip, you should report them because they deserve being disciplined. 

It’s not right that we have a stigma of not tipping, but hate to say it, if you don’t tip and the whole population is generally seen as a group of people that don’t tip, the only way to get rid of that, is to change the culture of our race.  START TIPPING.  Once again, if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford whatever it is that requires tipping. 

And let’s not be cheap like the whites.  Yes, they tip, but $1 for a $90 meal is a slap in the face and I’d rather not get a tip at all if that’s the case.  When I went out of town recently, the girl I went with told me that she didn’t know how important tipping was until a few years ago.  A teacher of hers had to let her know that it was important if you wanted to continue to receive exceptional service from someone.  The teacher gave her some money so she could tip the service person.  However, when we were out of town, I noticed that her tips were quite miserly.  I’m not saying we need to break the bank.  I’m also not saying we need to reward bad behaviour on the part of service personnel, but these people are doing you a service.  If they do a good job, and not just a good job, but an excellent job, they deserve to be rewarded. 

Candace from the diner disaster earlier said, “Why should I tip them?  I didn’t force them to be a waiter.”

No, you didn’t, but you did force the guy to run back into the kitchen THREE times because you needed more ketchup, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing.  Then she complained that her food was cold because she wouldn’t eat it because she didn’t have enough ketchup.  “That’s his job,” Candace said rudely.  There’s almost nothing you can say to that; it’s that blatant stubborn idiotic streak I find in some black people that I just can’t go up against. 

That night in the diner, I paid $25 for everything, even though I only got a $6 egg sandwich and a $6 dessert.  Not only was I exceptionally fussy, but the table was rude to the waiter (and he wasn’t rude back to us) and he deserved it.  I felt like I had to make up for their bad behaviour.  When I went out of town, I put into my budget how much money I would need for tips:  the cab driver, all the restaurants I would be eating in, the bellhop who carries my luggage to the room, even the maid (which most people always forget or ignore), a little something for the concierge guys who give me the dibs on all the local happenings.  I tip based on how much I spend, how fussy I am and the quality of the service.  I expect basic and good service, but when I get exceptional service (like the patisserie who made me my own dessert in Vegas), you will get an exceptional tip.  I gave that woman $10 tip even though the dessert was only $5.  I was SOOO pleased that she offered to make me anything I wanted, then it took me about 8 minutes just to figure out what I did want, and she brought it back very quickly.  That was the best $15 ice cream sundae hot chocolate fudge caramel pecan brownie thingie I ever had in my life.  Worth every penny. 

I think the biggest reason black people don’t tip is that they didn’t know they needed to do so.  In the article, one woman mentions that nobody ever told her, just like my friend.  Secondly, some of us just don’t have the funds for it.  So here’s the remedy.  Teach your children why we tip, how to tip, when to tip, and if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford whatever it is that requires tipping. 

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14 responses to “The Afronista Rants #8: Black Folk Don’t Tip!

  1. When I first hear of this issue, I didn’t believe it. My children entered the service industry and said it was sadly true.
    Recently, while waiting for a valet to bring up my car I had the opportunity to witness it first hand. Car after car with African American drivers not only didn’t tip but often ignored the valet. It was a cold, rainy day and those young men were out in the elements running for these individuals.
    The non-African Americans tipped better than 90% of the time.
    Your insights were helpful but the reason is not significant, it is a genuine and embarrassing accurate ethnic trait.

  2. To rose (My friend phoenix wrote a blog about this you should read it)

    How dare you write that not tipping it a trait of black people! That is one of the most prejudice and ignorant statements that has crossed my screen in months. You are miseducated and ill-informed. African americans not only come in an array of colors, the same is true of personality, behavior and mentality. Cast us all into the same bucket if you wish, just don’t be upset when it overflows and spills.

  3. Your point was well written i agree with most of what you say but i will say that it is not all black people that are like that. Now true i have had a few experiences like that and i understand your anger i am a broke waiter now and i have been for 10 years. People can say what they want about black people but at they end of the day… they have to look at the service they gave because i’ve seen it first hand once people accept the statement black people don’t tip they serve them accordingly and thats just wrong.

    pXd

    Black People – http://foxxxthedisgruntledwaiter.blogspot.com/

  4. Please read the blog above as it also quotes those who were as disheartened to discover this reality, as I was.

    Maybe it is the lack of an understanding of the dismal hourly wage of those in the service industry and the fact that tips are crucial to maintain a living.

    Please spread the word that this behavior is hurtful not only to those in the service industry but most importantly to a proud culture.

    To quote a bumper sticker on an old, dented, rusty car, “Jesus would tip 20%.”

  5. J’King, it’s funny you mention the “stereotyping cultures” scenario, as it happens to every race. Don’t get all offended, because we all know you’re just going to deem it racism, and start shouting your mouth off as to why you deserve better.

    I worked in the service industry for several years of my college and high school career. I gave excellent service to anyone sitting at my table, and would constantly get complimented. However, out of every type of person you could possibly get, it would either be blacks, or indians (not native-americans). Black people would always have a habit of busting your balls, and making excuses as to why they didn’t like this or that, and Indians only ever ordered water with no ice, and sauteed veggies with the spiciest sauce imaginable.

    Hate to say it, but this was accurate of about 96% of the blacks and indians that walked through our door. Either they’re not familiar with tipping, or just don’t give a shit (more than likely the reason).

    There are always exceptions to the rules, and this is not to say that I didn’t have cheap tips from whites and asians. 20% of the bill before taxes is the proper tip to be given for great service. If you’re tipping a mere 10%, you’re going to look like a cheap ass, and if you tip nothing, you better run out of that establishment as the waitress might have one of the cooks chase you out with a butcher knife.

    If you’d rather not tip, then please stay the fuck at home and cook your own food. That eliminates excess stress, and bullshit for me, and people who work in the same industry. Thanks.

  6. “In case you didn’t know, 10% is the minimum you should tip. If your server gives you basic service, the basic tip is 10%.” No. 18% is the basic tip for basic service, and anything less than 15% is UNACCEPTABLE unless you have been treated poorly. I actually RARELY get stiffed by black people. They almost always tip, but they usually leave between 5-10%. It amazes me that you think 10% is minimal when, in reality, it is quite offensive when you have given superb service.

  7. Tyler,

    I wrote “In case you didn’t know, 10% is the minimum you should tip. If your server gives you basic service, the basic tip is 10%. You give them more if they are exceptional.”

    You wrote, “It amazes me that you think 10% is minimal when, in reality, it is quite offensive when you have given superb service.”

    I wouldn’t give 10% to someone who has given superb service and that is not what I said. I said 10% for BASIC service, if they are exceptional, you give them more.

    Your response is also a little nonsensical. You wrote, “I actually RARELY get stiffed by black people. They almost always tip, but they usually leave between 5-10%.” You rarely get stiffed by black people because they always tip you but they usually leave between 5-10%, and then you said it was offensive to get less than 10%. I’m not sure where you’re going with your statements.

  8. My thoughts are why is the customer at fault for the low wages of the restaurant industry ? Restaurants should pay a living wage to the servers and if the price of the food goes up, so be it.
    It should not be the customers burden to make up the differece for the low wages restaurants pay.

    • Darryl,

      I’m just throwing out some thoughts here, and I really don’t know, but I think if restaurants upped the wages of their workers and subsequently raised food prices, then people would complain.

      They would probably feel they weren’t getting anything for their money, despite being told that the extra cost went to pay for the servers. Does anybody really care how much someone ELSE is getting paid?

      And on top of that, if servers were paid an honest wage, they would no longer have to jump through hoops to get paid. They would be just as nasty as everybody else in the service industry these days. If you’ve been on a flight in the past three years… Flight attendants get paid regularly (not for tips) and they are some of the nastiest service workers ever, because they know whether they smile at me or throw a bag of peanuts at my face, they are still getting paid.

  9. So ive been working at an upscale casual dining restaurant as a waitress for only a short period of time. Dinner for 2 including 2 drinks, 1 app, and 2 entrees, can range from anywhere between 50-90 dollars. (depending on main course, eg. pasta, steak etc) And i 100% agree with you Ryan. I haven’t even been in the industry for long and it’s not racism, just experience…black people dont tip (at least a large majority) Of course i have had some black people tip very well, but that is usually a huge surprise. I have never been treated so rudely and talked to in such an ignorant manner than i have when serving black tables. I dont understand how one can go to a restaurant and treat another person like that…you just look stupid and uneducated. Ive brought drinks over and had black people sip them and practically throw them back at me demanding something else. And they are always the most RIDICULOUS DEMANDS. And after all the f****** stuff you do for them they leave NO TIP. A servers job is to SERVE…therefore bring out your food, and bring you a drink. Dealing with attitude and disgusting behavior is not what i feel a serving job entails. I work my hardest to please every table, but sadly im starting to give up on pleasing black tables. I can figure out within the first few minutes of meeting my table if they are worth my effort. So when i approach a table of black people and they start treating me with no respect, i GIVE UP. It just disgusts me that they think they can act like that. But at the end of the day i think how pathetic their lives must be if they have to treat a SERVER poorly to feel like the ‘bigger person’. Learn some respect and learn to tip…you cheap and rude f***s

  10. “There was also some evidence in a bit of racism when black people enter a restaurant; nobody wants to serve them because they are notorious for not tipping.”

    I’ve never worked as wait-staff but everyone I know tells the same story.

    Is it racism if it’s actually true?

  11. Sorry but its true. Blacks don’t tip. I work at a bar with several black girls and they agree. They’re also the most demanding. Unless you’ve worked as a server or bartender, you really have no idea.

  12. I have been a server at a restaurant for approximately a year that unfortunately attracts a lot of “unsavory” customers. I’ve found that black people do tip less than whites, but that class is a better indicator of who will tip than race. I made this video to document my experience while serving.

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