Christians and Tipping Part 1

Another night at the restaurant that I work at and I try to get myself ready for the divine appointments/ conversations that God has setup for me once again.  I begin to setup my section and greet my fellow coworkers with messages that are meant to point them towards our Father and then the manager calls us over to the line up.  Roll call…check! Now for housekeeping to let us know what they expect, and gives us the parties that are in town or joining us that shift; and then it comes.  The manager announces that there is a Christian convention in town, local Church, or ___________ Christian event coming to the restaurant and the groans begin.  This time was a little different though after the meeting a young lady that I worked with asks an honest and long-deserved question,

“Why are Christian people the worst tippers?” OUCH!

It’s so true. As a whole, Christians are thought of by restaurant workers to be among the absolute worst tippers of any single identifiable group. Sundays after church, and during events like the one mentioned, Christians go out in large numbers, perhaps unaware of how poorly they are representing the gospel to a very specific and largely “un-reached” and hurting people group, their servers. This is not a letter from a server complaining about how some people tip, I do well at my job.  This is a post from one brother in Christ to other Christians, to inform them of the horrendous damage we do to the Gospel on a regular basis.  Probably the best answer to why we are often the worst tippers is very likely, “ignorance.” Living such vastly different lifestyles than many servers and bartenders, my belief (or honest hope) is that the average Christian is simply unaware that 20% of one’s total bill is the expected minimum gratuity one should ever leave in a full-service restaurant. Anything less is personally offensive to the person who served you. Many family-oriented, frugality-minded Christians eat out infrequently it seems, and it is sometimes a large indulgence for them to even go to a restaurant (I understand that, but your non-Christian servers don’t). Especially after giving at church on Sundays, the tip is an easy place to begin to cut back. I have even heard more than a few professing Christians say, “I gave God 10%, why should you get more?”  Others may get away with leaving less, but for the Christian it comes down to the fact that personally offending a person all but destroys your chance of them being open to the Gospel (Pr 18:19).  For the Christian, it must never be an issue of whether the server even deserved a good tip or not – do you deserve heaven?  No! We are called to reflect this in our dealings with the world, by being both merciful and generous to those who may not always be deserving of it either.

What do you think?

Have you seen this?

Are you a bad tipper?


About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on April 15, 2010, in ...from Jon, Missional. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I’ve heard lots of anecdotes about Christians being poor tippers. I even heard one story where a group of 10 or so came into Chili’s and informed the waitress at the beginning that she would not be receiving a tip. When she inquired as to why she was told that the Bible says you shouldn’t work on Sundays. Her manager rightfully served them himself saying that he would not have his staff work for free. This is outrageous, and based on poor theology coupled with poor common sense, but I don’t think it represents the norm. There are other groups of people stereotyped as being poor tippers – engineers being one. Mostly it comes down to being cheap. I think that for most of those who are poor tippers it is a combination of your theory and just general stinginess. I think it’s human nature (remember, it’s a sinful nature we’ve got) to not want to part with money if we’re not forced to do so. Honestly, I also think that programs like Dave Ramsey’s and Crown’s that so many Christians are into these days may contribute to this as well. They give wise advice on finances and budgeting is very important. But when you make the budget the ruler of your life, if you can cut a corner here or there to keep the budget in line, you do. You can’t leave five bucks off the check you send in for the water bill, but you can neglect to lay down a 5 for the server without any consequences. That said, I always leave around a 20% tip unless I’m just completely ignored, and then I usually will still leave around 15%.

    I do think your statement that a 20% tip is the minimum expected regardless of service rendered is high. That may be what all servers want, but a quick survey of the net shows most tip guidelines are similar to this one from Emily Post ( 15-20% pretax.

  2. Mark B. Teerink

    Two-part response:
    First part: Tipping has gotten out-of-hand. When I was young, it was standard to tip 10%. Then it went to 15%. Now 20% is the “expected minimum”?! Moreover, the level of service has steadily declined, in my experience, amongst waitstaff at most restaurants during the same time this increase in expected tipping has risen. Also, tipping is supposed to be a reward for good service–the amount should reflect the leval of service. There should not be ANY “expected minimum” to begin with. Of course, a major part of the problem is that employers do not pay a decent, livable wage and so the waitstaff are dependent on tips–which is unconscionable, IMHO.

    Second part: Generosity should be one of the hallmark’s of a true Christ-follower. Unfortunately, it seems the exact opposite is evident amongst many “Christians.” Regardless of my expressed opinion on tipping, above, I believe that generous tipping is the “right” thing to do as a Christ-follower, because I recgonize that the people waiting on me are, in fact, dependent on tips to make their living. The only exception to that is when the service truly is bad–and then I make a point of mentioning it to the right person, because that is only proper, as well.

    Christians should not be miserly Scrooges!

    • Mark, I think you just don’t get it. Society has decide that there is a minimum tip – it’s 15% (you can look that up in any etiquette book). Not tipping and making excuses for it isn’t anything but bad etiquette. Period. It has nothing to do with generosity, being Christ-like, or that you think there shouldn’t be a minimum. That’s the whole problem. People make this hard and make it a debate when it isn’t. Grab an etiquette book. It’s all right there.

      • I do get it. But etiquette does not say that tipping is “required” if
        there is bad service. Moreover, who decides that its now 20% (or,
        according to your etiquette book, 15%)–if it’s “society”, I guess I
        missed that vote… As I said, when I was young, it was 10%–oh, and
        the restaurant owners paid a livable wage, too. The tip was intended to
        reward good service. Today, whether the service is good or simply
        tolerable, you are “expected” to tip a “minimum” of 20%. That’s just
        bogus. If a server provides good service, I tip 18-20%. If they
        provide excellent service, they often will get more. But if their
        service is not reward-worthy, what right do they have to “expect” any
        tip at all? Finally, it actually does have to do with generosity and
        being Christ-like: May self-styled “Christians” are–as the article in
        the original link indicated–less than generous people, which is _not_ Christ-like and reflects on the Church poorly. But an “expected
        minimum” tip of 20% goes to a completely different issue.

      • Mark is right. Tipping is not required for bad service. But what is bad service to most Christians or other bad tippers? Usually it’s something like, “my Diet Coke ran out and I actually had to ask for one. Can you believe that?” Then the person is leaving a crap tip (defined as below 15%). It goes like this, if you get the minimum service (which is not bad service as some people see it, it’s just minimum) you leave the minimum tip, which, as we have discussed is 15%. It’s not 20%, and if servers expect that then they don’t know their etiquette. Anything you want to leave over 15% is completely discretionary, unless, of course, you are at a fine dining restaurant, where the minimum tip is, indeed, 18-20%, depending where you look (this is an area of unsettled etiquette). There is absolutely no reason to ever leave a tip above 20% ever. Go ahead if you want to, but etiquette does not call for it. And the problem with leaving more than 20% at certain times is that it gives justifications for leaving a less than 15% later at other times. That’s is what etiquette is all about – there are just certain general rules that are followed in a civilized society.

        As far as owners not paying a living wage, they can’t. If they did, they would have to pass the price along to the customer, who would then complaint about the high price of the food, stop coming to the restaurant, cause it to close, which would cause everyone to be out of a job and screwed. It’s a lot easier to just leave 4.5 on 30 instead of 3. I mean, come on. I can see it now, “Can you believe how much they charge for this hamburger? I can barely afford this, guess I’ll just take it out on the server.” And so on, and so forth.

        So, how do we solve the problem? Easy. We, meaning those who live in society, follow etiquette rules that have been forumlated over centuries. No, they aren’t voted on formally, which is probably why you missed it, Mark. Think of it like the stock market – the rule, like the price of stock, is discovered when the collective whole of society comes together. Now, you don’t have to “buy the stock at the certain price” or “follow the etiquette rule,” just don’t say that there isn’t one and make an excuse why you are an exception to the rule. The fact that we are even debating etiquette pretty much somes up the entire problem with Christians as tippers (and anyone else for that matter) and soceity as a whole.

      • Mark B. Teerink

        I think that this is where we disagree: You state, “if you get the
        minimum service…you leave the minimum tip, which, as we discussed is
        15%.” I’m sorry, but I don’t really care what some “etiquette book” has
        to say about it–tipping is for _good_ service, not “minimum” service.
        It’s kind of like kids’ birthdays these days–it used to be that if a
        kid had a birthday party, s/he invited a handful of his/her friends for
        cake and ice cream, and the guests brought some small gifts. Now its is expected that every kid in the class is invited, and the _birthday_
        child gives each of his/her guests a “gift bag”, and each guest is
        expected to bring a nice gift–it’s completely ridiculous. But it is
        modern day “etiquette”, I guess because “the collective whole” (whatever
        that means–is it like the proverbial “they”?) has decided this is how
        it should be. That doesn’t make it “right” nor does it make it
        “sensible.” I am a generous tipper–when the service is up to par. (I
        worked in the food industry for nearly 10 years, so don’t think that I
        don’t know what it means to rely on tips!) But poor (or “minimum”)
        service should _not_ automatically mean the server is due a tip of 15%. Indeed, if it is truly poor service, they are not _entitled_ to any tip
        at all.

      • Well, Mark, you just pretty much summed up the stereotypical Christian view on tipping. Congratulations, you just make everyone’s point.

        And, no, the etiquette books don’t say you have to give a card for every holiday, but if you read one you would know this.

        I think Jon wrote this post for a reason. Why the heck would anyone want to listen to you or any Christian about their eternal Salvation when you and the other Christians that share your mentality don’t even understand the simple concept of etiquette? I think the point is to spread awareness of the stereotype so more people will be inclined to listedn to His message. It really isn’t that big a deal. I mean, what do you and the others have against etiquette? Seriously, it just makes Christians look bad and defeats the uttimate purpose.

      • And what I meant about making everyone’s point is that the stereotypical view of Christians in relation to tipping is that they do not care about etiquette and are, thus, bad tippers. Your response shows the hostility some Christians seem to have toward it, which has always been a mystery to me.

      • Mark B. Teerink

        Ryan, I’m sorry, but you have completely misrepresented what I have
        said. I understand perfectly the concept of etiquette. I also
        understand the difference between stating an opinion, and engaging in ad hominem attacks. And, as to a “stereotypical Christian view on
        tipping,” you have yet to point out any flaw in my argument, other than
        that it is contrary to something in etiquette books. I have also
        clearly stated that I am, in normal circumstances, a generous tipper–so
        if that is what you meant by “stereotypical Christian view on tipping,”
        then I guess it’s a good thing! In any event, when it comes to how
        waitstaff and other service industry people are treated, if you knew me
        in the least, you would know that I err far over on the side of
        generosity, kindness, and respect–I’ve been there, and I know what it
        is like, and I empathize with their circumstances. However, you have
        yet to make a single point supporting the argument that tipping a
        “minimum 15%” is either reasonable or necessary in any case, except to
        assert that it is found in etiquette books. If you truly understood
        etiquette, you would understand that it is much, much more a matter of
        attitude and gracious conduct towards others than it is some rule
        written in a book. Even the most well-known etiquette gurus agree that
        shabby service should NOT be rewarded with a 15% tip–you can look that
        up yourself, I did. Moreover, you clearly have missed the point of my comments: How is it “right” or “correct” that, while overall levels of
        service have declined significantly (or, at least that is what various
        polls indicate is the general perception), the standard “expected” tip
        has gone from 10%, to 15%, to (in many places) 18%, to (in the original
        article that started this discussion) 20%?! THAT is what I was questioning.

        To conclude: If waitstaff perform adequately, then I would agree that
        they should expect a standard tip (15-18%). If they perform
        exceptionally well, then 20% is appropriate (but should NEVER be the
        “expected minimum” as stated in the original article). But if waitstaff perform shabbily, rudely, inattentively, etc., what right do they have
        to “expect” some minimum tip at all–let alone 15% or more? Even the
        etiquette experts agree that is not necessary, or even appropriate.

    • Mark B. Teerink

      This whole subject is, IMHO, just another example of the “entitlement”
      society that has grown up around us. Everyone thinks that they are
      simply “entitled” to certain things. Well, guess what, you aren’t
      “entitled” to a darn thing. In the real world, you have to earn what
      you get–including the tip! When I worked in restaurants, sometimes I
      made good tips, sometimes not so good–but every time I made _really_
      big tips (in those days that meant 15% or more), it was the result of
      some extra effort that I put out that pleased the customer. If I had
      told a customer that they “owed” me any tip at all, they would have
      laughed at me and left a penny, just to make a point. Tips are a reward
      for good service. They are _not_ an entitlement–regardless of what
      some etiquette guru has to say about it. (I bet the etiquette books
      also say that you “must” give a card on every single Hallmark Holiday
      ever dreamed up, too….)

      And that’s all I got to say ’bout that….

  3. I’ve been a waitress and I can tell that my complaint with Chrisitians is not there lack of tipping cause I get that all the way around but there lack of compassion and patience with their servers which often results in bad tips cause they don’t like their servers even though its not typically the servers fault when bad things happen in resturaunts. Also who teaches their kids to tip 20% percent. Ask the teenagers I work with and they have no idea how much to tip cause they have never been taught. The other issue is we tend to have a hirer authority to answer to and so we hold back when it comes to money. But I think that if you can’t tip well maybe you shouldn’t be eating out at all cause servers get paid less than other workers in the resturaunt
    because the people they work for expect them to get paid tips to make up the difference. If you don’t know these things it will effect the amount you tend to give and the attitude you have toward your servers.

  4. Well, after reading the blog…. I never thought of this before, nor would I know if it is true. However I have some possible idea’s about it.
    1. Christians are judgmental.
    2. Christians think what is good enough for them, must be good enough for everyone else.
    3. Christians give all they can to the church, serving “GOD” and therefore cannot afford to pay those who serve them. Yet are to embarrassed to say they cannot afford to go out to eat.
    4. Christians think that they should get better service from a complete stranger at a restaurant then they get at home.
    5. Server’s often think they deserve 20% for taking your order, getting your drinks, and bringing your food. Many times, Server’s don’t do a good job. If you are a server, and you hardly ever get 20%…. wake up. I normally tip between 15%(the old norm) and 20%(the new norm), however when I experience a great server I tip much more. True service is hard find. A good server will get great tips even when the food is messed up, and taste horrible.

  5. I guess blatant “racism” like this is OK as long as it is true?

    • 2 quick things:

      1: It’s not racist but extremely prejudiced but based off of some amount of truth.

      2: For us, as believers, to overlook the reality of our perception within this industry and possible hindering of the Gospel is very important to look at wouldn’t you agree?

      • Thank you. Better word. “Extremely Prejudiced.” People have been fired for making broad sweeping comments similar to what was above. Remember Jimmy the Greek? And he actually didn’t say anything negative, just stereotyped.

        Are Jewish jokes back in play now. You know they are cheap people, right?

        And I don’t base whether or not the Gospel is hindered on people’s screw ups.

        I don’t tip hairdressers, sonic car siders, or people with just a tip jar. I don’t like it but cave to society and tip the pizza delivery guy, applebees car side to go and a few other places. And none of it has to do with whether or not I am Christian. If I was a heathen I would tip WAY LESS than I do now. WAY LESS.

        I am with Mr. Teerink on all this. I knew I like that guy. 🙂

  6. I have two thoughts:
    1. A tip is related to the service you get at the restaurant – good service gets a minimum tip (generally 15% for me but sometimes 20%) and great service gets a bigger tip (more than 20% that you stated here)

    2. I also keep in mind that these people are supporting a family and I don’t know what life is dealing with them at that moment so I try to be generous (as much as I can be).

    Great post Jon!

  7. The answer to this question is simple. Christians are bad tippers (on the whole, there are always exceptions) becasue they don’t know etiquette rules or they don’t care about them. A lot of Christians think that since they “shouldn’t live for the world” they can just throw out the rules society has put in place for general courtesy (that is what etiquette rules are after all). Tipping is one of these rules. Simple – when you go out to eat you tip between 15-20%, regardless of whether or not it’s generous, it’s Christ-like, you server is a heathen, or you feel bad for them. Etiquette says 15-50%, so you tip 15-20%. That’s it.

    • You have data to back this up? Or just you and the other servers bad mouthing folks in the back? I was a cook and got ZERO tips. And when the waiter screwed up who got blamed. The cook…

      You know what they call a basement full of waiters? A wine cellar.

  8. Katrina Alexander

    If they will rob God, then they will definitely rob you! If the service that bad, then I just stop going to that restaurant or I talk with the manager. We eat out often, and most servers say they are surprised that we tipped.

  9. I read your blog. I found these two items interesting:

    1) “20% of one’s total bill is the expected minimum gratuity one should ever leave in a full-service restaurant” Is this the servers standard? I have never heard of this being the minimum, if that is the case, the servers perception of what they think they sould get is skewed from the start, nevermind what Christians tipping habits are.

    2) “For the Christian, it must never be an issue of whether the server even deserved a good tip or not – do you deserve heaven? No! We are called to reflect this in our dealings with the world, by being both merciful and generous to those who may not always be deserving of it either.” That’s funny, I heard the same rational concerning an underperforming employee of a church. They just kept paying them, and allowed then to be a drain on the tithed resources. This is their job, does the bible also say those who do dot work do not eat? Work=reward? Is’nt the parable of the talents comparable, the Lord was pleased with the servant that mutliplied their gift? All work is not created equal nor is the pay. I do not think the bible calls to tip well regardless of performance. God is merciful and ful of grace concerning salvation and sin, I am not sure how this applies to tipping a server. That’s my two cents.

    • JW
      To quote “For the Christian, it must never be an issue of whether the server even deserved a good tip or not – do you deserve heaven….” isn’t a great argument for keeping an under performing staff member, I agree with you in that sense.
      A few questions:
      – Is it your job to punish the server or is it the role of the managers and owners?
      – Is money immediately taken from your pockets when you have a bad day?
      – Is the server a believer? If not, since when do we hold outsiders to the same standards as we believers?
      – I agree “All work is not created equal nor is the pay”. Is $2.13/hour fair wage?
      – Is it your job to set the wage (pre minimum wage)?
      – If you disagree, why frequent full service restaurants?
      – If you don’t like that servers are paid that much why not lobby for fair wages?

      • Jon, Jon.

        Throwing choice in there. Don’t work at a full service restaurant if you don’t like getting stiffed on tips.

        UPS pays better and has better benefits, and you don’t have to liquor people up to get money.

  10. One more funny one.

    I would say Jesus and the woman at the well story is a perfect example of leaving a track instead of leaving a tip.

    Oh yes, give me some of this water that I may never be thirsty again. (give me a giant tip then I will believe in your god and be sooo happy.) Jesus said, nope. I have something better…insert track.

    • Brice,
      Thank you so much for the continued engagement, I truly think this conversation should continue.
      As for the example that you cited (Jesus’ encounter @ Jacob’s Well), you are correct.
      – Jesus does encounter a woman and request her service (drawing of water)
      – After a conversation the woman request the eternal water [tip] that Jesus offered
      – Jesus denied her the [tip] and instead gave her the Gospel [Bible track]
      – The woman received the the Gospel
      A few questions:
      – Was my server open to the Gospel (the woman at the well was)?
      – Did the Holy Spirit ask me to leave a bad tip (regardless of service) so that I could leave the Gospel [track]?
      – How do my actions (here and everywhere else) affect the propagation of the Gospel?
      – Are we [as believers] leaning to much on our rights and not towards the Gospel?
      Ultimately, I don’t want you or anyone to think I’m making a either/or distinction as much as I want us to have a both/and debate. I don’t care if you leave a track but I think we should consider the questions above. I just want for us [as Christians] to think about our perception to outsiders while sharing the Gospel in all possible situation. These are just my thoughts and would love yours.

      • Aw now.

        In your questions summary you state did the HS ask me to leave a bad tip. But in the above recount you didn’t say Jesus left a bad tip. Yet he did. Or did he?

        There is no biblical record of Jesus tipping. WWJD?

        I kid.

        To me this is a broader problem of late, and will ultimately be the down fall of modern gospel “tries.” The reliance on people and their lives as truth, versus the scriptures and Jesus as truth. I have been thinking much of this lately. We often say the messenger does not negate the message…I believe this to be true. But a shift of late is taking us away from that.

        Humans are always a hinderance to the advance of the gospel. Eventually we all fail and then the heathens say, “look, I knew it, you suck, and I don’t want to know your god.” It needs to be taught more like education. 2+2=4, no matter what my teacher was like in his off time.

  11. As a non-Christian, I can honestly say that yeah, on one hand, I have seen that Christians can be some of the worst tippers. But on the other hand, so can the drunk who needs to make sure they have enough money to buy the next round. Working with Jon is a treat and we struggle nightly to ensure that service is above and beyond. To be left with miserly tips from anyone is an insult and does not inspire us to give the same service again to the same people when they return. I also am insulted when anyone, of any faith, leaves behind some form of literature for me to read. But I keep moving on. I continue to do the best that I possibly can and hope that the patrons are generous with my wages. In today’s work age, the jobs are limited. Being a server was not my first, nor even my second, choice of work. That is what I do though, so I do it the best I can. I get to know some of the patrons, by first name even, and look forward to seeing them again. Some tip well, others tip the minimum suggested. I am often asked what I would suggest as a tip. This comes from people who are good solid Christians as well as the above posters “Heathen”. I am usually at a loss to give them any tipping suggestion other then to mention that they should tip on how well they were served. This is what I do. 20%? Yeah, that is a nice round number to tip, but what if that server went above and beyond? Kind of seems cheap. I have tipped well over 100% of my bill in more then a few instances. These people that chose to be servers make little hourly, and they depend on the patrons to help them put food in the mouths of their families. By the same token, if the service was horrible and the server obviously does not care, why would I leave them even 20%?

    So. All this being said, I can honestly say I do not see where any one group of people be they Christian or Buddist Monks tip any differently. It is the individual who ultimately decides what they will leave behind. The same individual should remember that they could very well get the same server in the future and servers have long memories.

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