Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Tipping

Most of us--me included--think of tipping as very American. But it's not.

Before the Civil War, American's didn't tip waitstaff, porters, bellhops, etc. It wasn't until after the Civil War that new-money people traveled to Europe and saw this practice there. These new-money people brought tipping back with them. They did it as a way to show off that they knew European customs and to flaunt their wealth.

Some in society felt this was a very un-American practice. From before the time of the Revolutionary War, Americans tried hard to be nothing like their European ancestry they had broken away from.

Late in the nineteenth century, organization arose against tipping. Two of them are the Anit-Tipping Society and the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. These groups felt that tipping widened the gap between the "Haves" and the "Have-nots." That it demeaned those of a lower income. That it did more harmed than good.

I can see how this could be viewed as harmful when used poorly. One example is railroad companies who would "hire" newly freed slaves who would work for tips only so the railroad wouldn't have to pay them. I wonder how many people never tipped them because of their skin color. I imagine a lot.

After further research on current tipping practices, I'm not sure if I'm for or against "tipping." I didn't realize until a few years ago that there is a "tipping minimum wage" that is between two and three dollars in most states. The rest of the income for these workers is expected to come from tips. I always thought that the tip was above and beyond a normal wage. It's sad that this isn't the case. That sounds un-American to me.

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