Is Over-Tipping a Problem in New York?

nyc tipping gratuity restaurant

Sometimes people go out to eat, and the tip is included, but the diners don’t realize, so they tip even more, says a Brooklyn councilmember who has introduced legislation to help ensure that this grave injustice never happens again, the Brooklyn Paper reports. Because imagine realizing later than one of those one-percenter food-service employees got an extra couple of bucks from you that you hadn’t determined them to deserve! The proposed bill would standardize how gratuities are added to receipts so that people who can’t decipher their checks wouldn’t be hoodwinked into generously compensating people who stand on their feet all day serving others.

In general, I find it distasteful when people use tipping as a way to comment on the way they deserve to be treated. It’s like, whenever I read a one-star Yelp review, I can’t help but assume that the person leaving it is a total asshole (I mean, they did go on Yelp afterward to express themselves!) who deserved the shabby treatment he or she allegedly received. It’s part of a larger attitude about self-importance, the emphasis on the individual. So what if someone didn’t do everything you wanted them to do? Get over it. Worry about someone else. Exercise your empathy, love your enemy, turn the other cheek. Imagine, what would Jesus do? Refuse to tip? Or tip more?

The legislation arrives months after a lawsuit from a tennis pro, who divides his time between the city and the Hamptons (and teaches tennis to the city’s elite); he sued several major Midtown restaurant chains for adding gratuities to parties of fewer than eight diners, even though that’s not allowed by city law, and for not making it clear that they did so. So, take that Applebee’s! Take that, Olive Garden!

Except, of course, it’s not the chains who would be affected, but their unlucky employees, who bring out plates of lousy food to many entitled cheapskates, some of whom double as tourists, surely unacquainted with the city’s tipping customs. (I stayed Upstate overnight last week and forgot to leave a tip for the caretaker of the place we stayed, and so ran back in and shoved some cash in his hand, and he seemed genuinely taken aback. “You didn’t have to do that,” he said. Of course I did! Do people usually not tip this guy? The horror!)

“The trashy people that go eat at these restaurants would never tip properly and the people who work there will get shafted,” one Gothamist commenter wrote. “I think all NYC restaurants should have automatic gratuity of some sort. Then you tip above and beyond. Either that, or make a higher minimum pay requirement. Can’t have it both ways. It’s not like the fucking Olive Garden will close, your just screwing people that work there.” Would that the councilmember—and the tennis pro—were more concerned with the conditions of the city’s workers. Either that, or that they knew how to read a check.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart 

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  1. To the author:
    Ummm… how about… no.

    Let me preface this by saying that I was a server and can certainly empathize with other servers. I feel that if you sucked, I’m giving you 15%. If you horribly sucked and ruined my day, I’m speaking to the manager before I give you your 15% (this is extremely rare for me). If service was good, I give between 18-20%. If there was something spectacular, I give more.

    Don’t know about you, but I don’t have spare money laying around to be dishing out extravagant tips. Heck, some of these servers are making upwards of $50K-80K–more than many of the patrons! I don’t think they deserve a premium because they stand on their feet all day. Do you suggest they roll over with my food while sitting on an office chair? C’mon now… That’s what their job entails and they are free to find another job if standing on their feet is an issue.

    As for your ridiculous logic that someone who feels they did not get satisfactory service should “get over it” or even “tip more.” How about this… going forward, anything you purchase, whether a service or product, why don’t you tack on an extra 20% for charity, since this is Jesus would do (yeah, if he wasn’t a carpenter). I completely believe someone is being a jerk if they wield their power as a tipper over the server’s head and use it as an excuse to be over-demanding and insensitive, but let’s face it, that’s not the average person.

    As for the guy who sued the restaurants…. If they’re breaking a law, there should be repercussions. I wouldn’t waste my time with it, but hey, to each his own. Think about how businesses would flip the script on patrons who break the law. I’m sure they wouldn’t hesitate to call the police if you decided to pay only 80% of the bill in order to put it in your favor. But it’s OK for them to break the law by adding 20% to yours? Yeah, makes sense.

    When it comes to auto-gratuity, I don’t really have an issue with it as long as it’s applied fairly to all patrons. But it’s no secret that some restaurants profile diners and apply it to tables they anticipate will be cheap. As a minority, I have a problem with this practice and I think that policy should be regulated.

    I seriously don’t get it. You have people working at Walmart and McDonald’s on their feet all day, making a fraction of what servers at a decent restaurant would make, but somehow now one seems to care about the low minimum wage and on the other side want to shove cash in the pockets of servers whose jobs only require marginally more knowledge and expertise as these low wage workers.

    Tip for you: Get over it.