On tipping and overtipping.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 June

On those who are constantly wary of unseen dangers.

One of my hobbies is restaurants. I like to go to places I’ve never been to before, and eat their food. It’s obviously not an inexpensive hobby, which is why I do it maybe twice a month. But now I know a lot of great places to eat.

And when I go to restaurants, I prefer to overtip. And by overtip, I mean go above the customary 15 percent gratuity. I want my waiters to be glad they served me, not think, “Next time he visits I’m definitely sneezing in his food.” And if that idea horrifies you, maybe you’ll think twice about undertipping.

Because whenever I go to restaurants with other people, most of them don’t share my views about tipping. Usually the opposite. A lot of people hate the American custom of tipping.

Part of it is because people look at the menu, order their food, get the bill, find it’s slightly higher than they expected to pay (what’s with all the restaurants that won’t put on the menu how much the beverages cost?—and it’s always more than you’d expect), and are a little annoyed. Then they see the line on the bill for the waiter’s gratuity, and frequently get a little more annoyed. “Pay the waiter for doing the job she’s supposed to do anyway? Her boss is supposed to do that. Why do I have to do that?”

Because waiters aren’t paid squat. Most of ’em make minimum wage. Ever tried to live on minimum wage? You might… if you work full time and have no dependents. That’s not true of most people, waiters included.

In a really busy restaurant waiters can make really good tip money. But not every restaurant gets that kind of business. In order to pay their waiters a decent living wage, most restaurants would probably have to raise their prices… oh, about 15 percent or more, I should think. In the long run it might be cheaper for customers to just tip them.

But instead, for no good reason, a lot of annoyed customers take it out on their undeserving waiters, and shaft ’em when it comes to tips.

So part of the reason I overtip, is to make up for all the Christian jerks who undertip. Don’t think the waiters don’t know you’re Christian; they heard you praying. If you came in after church, they see the church clothes and hairstyles. And inside, their hearts died just a little, ’cause they know y’all undertip.

…Really, it’s why I gotta be good all the time.

Many Christians are of the firm opinion if 10 percent is good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for a waiter. And those are the generous Christians. Lots of us aren’t so generous.

I mean, we’ll give to our churches, and sometimes to the needy. But most of our charity is based on merit, not on love, nor even on need. If we figure people are worthy or deserving of our money, then we give. Which ain’t generosity; it’s karma. And waiters aren’t always deemed worthy, ’cause even if they do a good job, we figure that’s their job. They didn’t go above and beyond their job; or at least didn’t go far enough.

Problem is, waiters know how Christianity works. (Especially when they themselves are Christian.) They know we’re supposed to be about grace. So we should be the best tippers ever. But we’re not. We pray over the food and bless it; we never think to bless the restaurant—to pray it stays open, to pray it pays its waiters more—and that’s the extent of our Christian practice. We aren’t necessarily kinder nor more patient towards the waiters. And we don’t tip well.

So when waiters know we’re Christian, they know their friendliness and good service will go all for naught. That they’re gonna get tipped, at best, 10 percent—and at worst, one of those gospel tracts which look like folded money, but when you unfold them, they tell you something about storing up treasures in heaven. God bless. Be warm and well fed. Jm 2.16

Seriously, this is just evil. Mike Duran

Years ago, when I first started overtipping, I didn’t let anyone in on my intentions. I wanted to be subtle. One of those “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is up to” Mt 6.3 kind of benefactors. But when I went out to eat with fellow Christians, we wouldn’t get separate checks; we’d get a bill for the whole group. We’d each figure out what we oughta pay for our meals, then figure out what we oughta contribute towards the tip. Say my meal was $15, after taxes. Most of the time I wanna give $20, which is a nice $5 tip; a 33 percent tip instead of the usual 15.

Well, when you don’t tell anyone you’re overtipping, and your tip goes into a giant tip pot, what invariably happens is one of the people in your group—the self-appointed money-handler, who’s making sure the bill gets paid—will say, “Wow, the waiter has a pretty big tip here. Better take some money back.” And, no fooling, they do. They’d take the $5 I meant for our waiter, and find someone to give it back to. Regardless of how much (or if) they tipped. Kinda like how the rich get tax breaks which have nothing to do with their tax brackets.

Yeah, this is stealing. I gave that $5 to the waiter, not the money-handler.

Yet Christians do this all the time. I watched this behavior more than a dozen times. Steaming in frustration, I might add, ’cause I was thinking more about concealing my generosity than speaking up for the shafted waiter. I don’t now. “Leave that tip alone, you miser,” I’ll say—half-jokingly, because I don’t wanna make things tense, but half serious, because they are being a miser.

But some misers never take the hint. So because of them, I got clever. When the check rolls around, usually I put in nothing towards the tip. The money-handler sorts out the bill and pays it; the tip gets sorted and left behind at the table. And as everyone files out the door, I surreptitiously sneak back and put my money atop the tip money. Ka-ching.

Yeah, everyone else probably undertipped, which means my contribution only balances things out: It takes a 9.8 percent tip, and raises it to 9.9. But my heart’s in the right place… for all the good that does.

Of course I try to avoid this scenario and get separate checks. Waiters hate the hassle, and try to get rid of it, but they’re fools if they do. Because now everybody’s accountable for their own tip. The waiter knows exactly who’s being stingy, and more of them are gonna bother to be fair. And I can overtip and actually make some impact instead of none: “Hey, at least this guy is generous.” They may not remember me specifically, and that’s totally fine, but they’ll remember there’s one Christian who tries to live up to the title.

And if the waiters do specifically remember me, I won’t get the salad with all the little hairs hiding under the dressing. No you really don’t wanna know where those hairs came from.