Anyone know the Origin of Tipping Wait Staff in Restaurants?

...is it really rooted in the basic fear of restaurant owners not wanting to raise prices?

Yesterday as I was standing at the cash register at a big box store, waiting for the master card receipt to finish printing, this question, I couldn't answer, popped into my head.

I had just been served very well by the customer service representatives in the store who helped my find a solution to a plumbing problem i was having. And here at the check out stand there was no expectation of me having to pay a tip for the employees doing what their employer hired them to do - provide excellent customer service.

Yet in the restaurant industry today, it would appear that restaurant owners hire staff and pay them a small base salary but expect their customers to pay the wait staff for them. This just struck me as odd!

How did this one segment of the retail sector develop such different expectations?
I'd be interested in hearing how and or why this tipping expectation got started and why restauarants in particular, off load to the customer, their responsibilities to pay their employees a fair salary for the work done.

Does it have anything to do with confidence in the value they provide to the customer,... are they really that afraid of raising prices enough to not only cover their costs but also provide a decent profit? If they paid their staff a fair salary and had systems in place to ensure they provide great service to all customers, the customers would gladly pay the bill and the industry would be on their way to making better profits because all customers would be contributing to the real cost of wait staff wages instead of leaving that burden to the small percentage of us that do tip, even when the service is bad?

A similar case of being afraid of rasing prices, can be found in the independent hair stylist, who owns their own shop. They are completly free to set their own prices, and yet when the customers come in, asks how much for a hair cut, and pays only what they are told it would cost, they are made to feel cheap if they don't tip the hairdresser. What's up with that? If you wanted more money for the haircut, why didnt' they just ask for more before they started? After all they do set their own prices!

Tags: Tipping, in, restaurant

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I don't know if this is true but I heard that it originated in Europe. But instead of tipping after the meal your "tip" was put in a jar at the end of the table as an incentive to encourage your waiter or waitress to give excellent service. Money in the jar could be added or subtracted through out the meal....

This was told to me by one of my tables once, I found it interesting
Thanks Jeffery for the very thorough answer. There is no question it would be like putting up the going out of business sign for a restaurant to try swim against the current at this point, and without question consumers would judge the restaurant as being more expensive, even if they cost the same.

I was just curious on why similar retail service organizations didn't evolve this way while others did.
Its a very interesting business model, that would never have worked if you tried to implement it that way, because Consumers would have never bought into it.

And now i finally get it. It was the consumers who created the business model, beginning back in 1706 and it evolved to where it is today by those same consumers as opposed to being created or set up to work that way by restaurant owners. Thanks again for the explanations.
I always heard that TIPS meant To Insure Proper Service. I like the card idea. I also always tell the good waiter or waitress that they did a good job and their tip reflects it. In fact last night I was out to dinner with 3 friends and we had a great waitress in Carabba's. She received aa great tip and was so appreciative that it made it even better.
Sarah I love your jar on the end of the table concept. I think it would have much more effect on serving practices than our current-just add it on to the end of the bill after the deed is done-method.
Most servers who receive a small percentage added to the bill tend to lay it off on the customer as a "cheapskate" instead of taking any responsiblity that the service might have been the reason for a poor tip.
With the reward/incentive up front it might work better. I just might try that next time I dine out.
Ya know, Richard, for years I've threatened to have cards made up; sort of like an RSVP card and envelope.

The envelope will say, "A Tip For You." The card will say, "change your attitude."

The problem is that if you don't tip a server, he or she goes home and tells their spouse how that cheap SOB stiffed them. After all, it's never poor service on their part, right? But these cards would get the message home, I think, even more than just leaving, say, a quarter as many diners do.

By the way, food service isn't the only industry in which tipping evolved. At one time, virtually all service providers---from waiters (we weren't called servers when I came up in the business), to furniture delivery people, to barbers all recieved tips. Even the bag boy in the market expected one.

Due to unions, which resulted in better wages, and other social pressures, we've evolved away from tipping except in the two most notable industries: food service and hair styling.
You wish it were just the two industries! How about hotel porters, car park attendants, the guys who seat you at Las Vegas shows, cabbies, sky caps, etc.
It's a long list of hand outs if you are traveling at all.

Your idea of a tip card might help some of the servers realize that you weren't happy, thus their tip reflected that. In many fastfood establishments now(where no tipping is usually involved) there are customer response cards asking about food/service/cleanliness, etc.
Perhaps the dining houses should have a spot on the back of their check that let's you evaluate those things as well. Although, most of the time now all you get is a computer credit card printout, not the handwritten check of old.
Ah Ha, a marketing idea. Take your "Tip for You" card and sell it to restaurants for servers to include with the payment folio. Maybe even make it a small envelop to insert the tip in, with a checklist about service on the outside. MMMMM?

What do you servers say??
I own a Restaurant & Bar in a state that pays 7.95 for minimum wage. I would gladly bring that rate up to match what other places are paying ie, retail, hotel clerks, grocery store clerks, receptionists, if I could eliminate tips.......my waitstaff would not be working for me if I did this....they make an average of 17-25 dollars an hour in tips and this is why they do this job.....to put the whole tipping concept off on not wanting to pay our people a fair wage for the work done is not fair. By eliminating tips and paying a higher wage I would increase the number of people coming to my establishment as the increase in menu prices would be minimal to what the expected and standard tipping practices are. I am not suggesting that this is what should or ever will happen but lets be fair to the business owner who also works long hard hours, cares about their staff and is not always getting filthy rich!! In recent months we have had to raise our prices due to all products going up....we have had to redesign our concept in order that families can even affort to go out and eat anymore. How high can you keep raising your prices, for every different reason and have any customers left? With no customers everyone loses.
One story I heard originated in European pubs. There was a box at the entry marked TIP - To Insure Promptness. Gentry would place coins in the box to get favorable service from the local proprietor.
I am HIGHLY upset about this raise in minimum wage for everyone EXCEPT for tipped employees! I am a server at a buffet and I make 2.13 hr. It hasn't changed in over 20 years! I called one group to see if anything was being done and after I told him that they allow the restaurants to do this to us because "THE SERVER INDUSTRY IS MAINLY WOMEN". If it were men they would have congress held up by their balls right now. Anyway...he told me that this tip credit was written into the act because at that time it was mainly african americans in the industry and it was a way to get away with keeping them down. Now its a way to keep us women down. My check is about $20 a week after all the taxes they take out on my tips. Next year when wages go up to 7.15 and waitress pay doesnt increase all of their hourly wage will go to taxes and servers will get a check stamped VOID! I happens now it you claim to many tips! I am glad I am graduating college in December and wont have to worry about this but I fear for all the other women who have children at home and in a deteriating economy the customers can no longer afford to tip. This used to be a place where a uneducated woman could make a decent living or either work their way through college but not any more!
Brittany
That's incredible that you only get $2.13 per hour. In canada where i live the minimum wage applies to all workers and is now approaching $9.00 per hour, so when you add the tips to this, restaurant workers here make pretty good money. There is such a shortage of workers in Canada in all sectors that some restaurants must close during certian times of the day because they can't find enough staff to work. I know in some centres servers at Tim Hortons coffee shops make up to $18.00 per hour.
Randy,

I just wanted to point out that in fact it is untrue that servers are paid at the same minimum wage as other industries. As a matter of fact we, like the USA, have a separate wage for alcohol servers. This include anyone that works at an establishment legally allowed to serve booze. This wage is $7.60/h as opposed to minimum wage which is $8.75/h for people not directly serving liquor. Albeit that this is a much higher wage than $2.13 it is still important that we recognize that we have the same regulations in Canada.
The origins and theories on tipping is as clouded as the current laws that govern it. In 1972 George Foster, professor of anthropology at UC, Berkeley, looked at the origins of the words "tip" or "gratuity" in several languages. He found that, frequently, it evolved from "drink money", supporting the idea that the practice began in eating establishments. Foster theorized that tipping started with a desire to avoid envy on the part of the server and send the message that the server should have a drink at the customers expense. The origin of the word 'tip' is less clear. One popular theory says it's and acronym for "to insure promptness" or "to insure proper service". Jesse Shiedlower, principal editor in north america for the Oxford English Dictionary, says that's wrong because acronyms were'nt popular in english until the 1920's. Tip, says Shiedlower, began as a verb in the 17th century used in the language of thieves, meaning 'to give'. By the early 18th century, the meaning included, 'to give a gratuity to a servant or employee'. There is evidence that tipping has it's roots in the Roman Empire. To me this is all conjecture. I've researched this subject before, and the more I delve into it, the cloudier it gets. It seems there are thousands of answers to this question. And these days, the "servers" are'nt the only ones receiving the tips. Now managers, cooks, hostesses, et;al have their hands in the tip jar at my expense! I feel a rant comming on about how many hands are in this proverbial tip jar so I'm going to quit now. I hope this gives you some insight.

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