Reader Email

Hey Mo,

How come black people, or Latinos feel the need never to tip properly. I work at a corporate chain restaurant and every time i see a black couple or family, or a foreign couple or family at my table, I know more often than not I’m going to be working for free. The service is good too, I mean I’m not some douchey “hey guys we’re in this together” type bullshit; but i give good service and I can talk with people like a human. But man I was hoping you could help me out and fill me in on why most black people or Latino people don’t feel its necessary to recognize the fact that their being a cheap prick.

Thanks man,


Tipping. Okay. So let me start off by saying that I’ve worked as a server at three different restaurant chains and a white-glove catering place. I was terrible at them all, but serving puts a decent amount of singles in your pocket and gives you mornings off to recover from hangovers. So I get where this question comes from.

Personally, I’ve never noticed any significant difference between the tips I got from black customers and those I got from whites. Then you say: but they’re only tipping you good because you’re black. And maybe what you said is right. Or maybe what you said is stupid. How would I ever know? I didn’t ask those people if they gave me race-based higher tips.

But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that different cultures don’t tip differently. I think with a lot of black people (and foreigners), there is this idea of “whatever I give that’s extra is good,” which if you’ve ever been a server you know is crazy  far from the truth. I know I have friends and family that I have to keep an eye on when we go out to make sure they don’t give our waitress a $5 tip regardless of the bill or service. And it’s not because they’re cheap people. They’re not. They just have zero idea of restaurant tip etiquette — especially if they’re old. I know a lot of middle aged black people who just were never taught that 20% is the expected minimum.

And it sucks for me because now I find myself OVER tipping just to fight the stereotype. I’m like McNabb staying in the pocket and not running even though it works because I’m afraid of making my race look bad. I’ve had servers sigh and give me shitty service because they THINK I won’t tip well and that’s the worst. I’ll have this inner battle between still wanting to tip well on bad service to stop the stereotype, or to give the server the tip they deserve. It’s a maddening cycle that I fear a lot of middle-class blacks go through. We get put in the “they ain’t gonna tip me anyway box” and get lazy-ass service. Shit sucks.

Most of the time, though, I’m over-tipping so that once they fit their mouth to say something about black people, they’ll remember my 35% from last week and have to reconsider their stance. Or just think I’m an aberration. Either way something is happening. So all in all I think for a lot of old heads out there a lot of them just don’t know that you gotta double that first number when the check comes. I guess the younger kids or other people who know better and still don’t tip are just assholes plain and simple, but I think a lot of cases it’s ignorance.  Anyone who says something like “why should I give you extra for doing your job” doesn’t understand that they can either tip or see the food prices go up 20-25%. Those people are stupid.