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The New Rules on Tipping: Enough, Is Enough. And what to do about it.

The New Rules on Tipping, Part 1:

Setting the Record Straight

Tipping has gotten out of hand, so we need new rules to set the record straight.

Let's face it, folks—what started as a gesture of appreciation has morphed into a confusing, obligatory mess that often leaves us wondering if we're being generous or just guilt-tripped into subsidizing someone else's paycheck. But how did we get here?

And I'll pause to say..."I get it. Many people got through college working a jobs that paid well in tips. But unfortunately, we shouldn't be stuck paying the price."

Customer service has gone down. While prices and the cost of tips have gone up.

Let's rewind a bit. The roots of tipping are darker than you'd expect. Post-emancipation in the United States, tipping became a way for employers to avoid paying newly freed slaves fair wages. Instead of a decent salary, they got tips. Fast forward, and tipping evolved into a reward for exceptional service, a token of gratitude for a job well done. But somewhere along the line, businesses got clever. They realized they could pass the buck—literally—onto us, the customers, to cover their labor costs. This should never have gotten out of hand.

Recently, I visited a restaurant in Denver, Colorado, that took this to a new level. They boldly placed a sign announcing a mandatory 10% charge for employee perks and benefits. Yes, you read that right. They didn’t even bother disguising it as a tip. This made me wonder: have we completely lost our way?

If you're feeling as lost as I am, don't worry. We’re here to set the record straight. But first, a little history lesson to understand how we arrived at this tipping crossroads.

The History of Tipping

The concept of tipping dates back to medieval times in Europe, where it was known as "vails" and given to servants for their extra efforts. However, it wasn't until the late 19th century that tipping truly took root in the U.S., thanks to wealthy Americans who brought the custom back from their European travels. By the early 1900s, the practice was entrenched, despite strong opposition. Figures like William R. Scott, who penned "The Itching Palm," argued that tipping was undemocratic and un-American. Nevertheless, tipping persisted and gradually became a standard part of American dining and service culture.

In theory, tipping is supposed to be a reward for excellent service. But as more businesses use it to subsidize wages, the original purpose has been lost. It's no longer about recognizing great service; it's about compensating for inadequate paychecks.

So, what's the solution?

Let's set some new ground rules to bring tipping back to its roots.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we'll dive into the "New Tipping Rules." Here’s a sneak peek: tipping should NOT be a subsidy for low wages, it should be reserved for exceptional service, and it should NEVER be automated. Sound intriguing? Trust me, you won’t want to miss it. Let’s take tipping back to where it belongs—an optional reward for going above and beyond.

Catch you in the next part, where we’ll break down the rules that’ll revolutionize the way we think about tipping.

The New Tipping Rules, Part 2:

Revolutionizing Tipping Etiquette

Alright folks, buckle up for part two of our deep dive into the chaotic world of tipping. In the first part, we laid out how tipping has spiraled out of control and hinted at some new rules to bring sanity back to this age-old practice. Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of these new tipping rules. It's time to clear the air and reclaim the original purpose of tipping—rewarding exceptional service.

So, what are these new rules?

Let’s break them down.

Rule #1: Tipping is NOT a Subsidy

First things first, tipping should NOT fall on the customer's shoulders to subsidize employee wages. Let's trade hats for a second. Imagine if your boss told you, “Hey, I’m going to pay you less, but don’t worry, you can make it up through customer tips.” Sounds absurd, right?

But that's exactly what's happening. Business owners need to step up and pay fair wages instead of relying on tips to cover the gap. If they need to raise their prices to do that, so be it. No one forced them to open a business, and it shouldn’t fall on us to subsidize their employees.

Rule #2: Tipping is ONLY for Great Service

Tipping should be a bonus for service that goes above and beyond, not an expected part of the transaction. Remember when tipping was about saying "thank you" for a unique experience? We need to get back to that.

The barista who finds your wallet left behind and drives all the way across town to make sure that you get it before your lunch break, the server who administers the Heimlich maneuver when you choke on your food, the person who goes above an beyond the regular job description —that's who deserves a tip.

Tipping should be a spontaneous gesture of appreciation for outstanding service, not an automatic addition to the bill.

Rule #3: Tipping should NEVER be Automated

Automated tipping? No thanks. When you see that little screen spinning around asking for a 20% tip for just handing you a coffee, it’s a no from me. Tipping should be a surprise, a little extra reward for going above and beyond. Simply filling a cup of coffee or pulling a beer tap doesn’t cut it. These are basic job duties. Tipping should come into play when the service provided exceeds these basic expectations.

Rule #4: Tipping is NOT a Reflection of You

Let’s clear up a major misconception—tipping is NOT about you. It's about the service. A recent study on Uber and Lyft tipping habits found that most people tipped out of habit or obligation, not because of exceptional service. Tipping should not be a reflection of your economic status or self-perception. It’s a "thank you" for exceptional behavior, not an obligation. The only thing tipping should reflect is the quality of service you received.

Rule #5: Tipping is NOT Reserved for Any Specific Job

This might be the most liberating rule of all—tipping isn’t just for frontline workers. Had an amazing meal? Tip the kitchen staff. Your hotel room sparkling clean and beyond your expectations? Tip the cleaning crew. Tipping should be about recognizing excellence wherever it happens, not just at the table. This means you’re free to show your appreciation to anyone who makes your experience exceptional.

Breaking The Social Stigma

It's not you. It's not me. It's about fixing what is already out of hand.

In Part 3, we’ll dive into the societal shift and the mental awkwardness that comes with changing our tipping habits. We’ll explore how this new system, while initially uncomfortable, can lead to more rewarding experiences and a better quality of service overall.

Stay tuned as we continue to unravel the mess of modern tipping and work towards a system that truly rewards greatness. Catch you in the next part where we’ll tackle the societal shake-up that’s about to unfold.

The New Tipping Rules, Part 3:

Navigating the Tipping Transformation

Welcome back, dear readers, to the grand finale of our series on tipping. We've walked through the history, laid out the new rules, and now it's time to tackle the real challenge:

shifting our tipping culture and navigating the inevitable awkwardness.

It's not going to be easy, but hey, change never is. Let’s dive into the societal shake-up and why this change, while initially uncomfortable, will ultimately be liberating.

Getting It Wrong

Recently Robert Calver of Grand Rapids, Michigan posted a TikTok video and wrote that his new rule is "not tipping at a restaurant where he places an order while standing up."

This is NOT the cultural shift we need. This is a hard and fast rule, with ZERO merit. In my humble opinion, this seems more like a reaction-gone-viral, than what should become a standard for tipping. This does not fix any problems. It only adds to the confusion.

Tipping, or not tipping, shouldn't matter if you are sitting, standing or swimming. Tipping should be focused on whether or not a person has gone above and beyond the call of their duties. It should be a reward for exceptionally great behavior or skill. Sitting or standing doesn't matter.

Embracing the Shift

First things first, we need to acknowledge that tipping wasn’t always the norm. Yep, you heard it right. Tipping, as we know it, is largely an American phenomenon. Travel across Europe, Asia, or Australia, and you'll find tipping customs are drastically different, if they exist at all. So, reverting to a system where tipping is reserved for exceptional service shouldn’t feel strange; it should feel like coming home. It’s about getting back to the core idea of tipping as a bonus, not a baseline.

The Liberation of Wallets and Minds

Think about it: with our new tipping rules, you'll save money. Those dollars that used to trickle away into automatic tips for average service can now be spent on more meaningful experiences. Employers, no longer relying on tips to subsidize wages, will need to step up their game. This means better pay for employees and, in turn, better service for us. It's a win-win.

Imagine dining out without that mental math at the end of the meal. No more squinting at the bill, no more second-guessing yourself. Just straightforward pricing and the freedom to tip only when the service truly stands out. It’s a cleaner, more transparent system.

Incentivizing Excellence

Now, let's talk about service. If employees know that tips are "truly" a reward for exceptional service, it creates a powerful incentive to excel. No more complacency. No more mediocrity. This new system encourages personal growth and achievement. Employees who consistently go above and beyond will be recognized and rewarded, fostering a culture of excellence.

The Real Deal: Personal Growth and Improvement

Our current tipping system actually holds people back from their true potential. When everyone gets a tip, regardless of the quality of service, where's the motivation to improve? By reserving tips for outstanding service, we help incentivize personal growth. It's about fostering a culture where people strive for greatness, seek to better their lives, and achieve their goals.

And let’s be real, by doing your part—rewarding only those who provide exceptional service—you’re contributing to a broader societal shift. You’re helping to create an environment where excellence is the standard, not the exception.

The Global Perspective

Consider this: in most parts of the world, tipping isn't customary. People get paid fair wages, and great service is simply part of the job. Even in countries were wages are low, culturally tips are still not part of the transaction. If they can do it, so can we. This change should feel liberating, not weird. We’re not venturing into uncharted territory; we’re aligning ourselves with a global standard that makes sense.

The opposite of this is that we infect the rest of the world with our obligatory tipping standards. I'm writing this blog from Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. In the years that I traveled here in the past, tipping was NOT the norm. On this trip, the locals have become so used to tipping, that a small tip actually results in immediate sneers and not-so-secretive talk among employees. We have not only screwed up our system, but we have infected others as well.

The Awkward Phase

Yes, there will be awkward moments. Change always comes with a bit of discomfort. You might feel strange not tipping for average service, or you might get a side-eye when you don’t add that automatic 20% at the café. But stick with it. As more people adopt this mindset, it will become the new norm. And in the end, you'll feel good knowing that your tips are meaningful, your money is well spent, and the service you receive is truly exceptional.

The Final Push

So, here’s your call to action: start tipping with intention. Reserve your tips for those who go above and beyond. Help create a system that rewards excellence and fosters personal growth. By doing so, you're not just changing your own habits—you’re contributing to a cultural shift that benefits everyone.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore the impact of these new tipping rules and how they’re reshaping our dining and service experiences. Until then, keep striving for greatness, and don’t settle for anything less.

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