Some journalists and other social commentators have in recent years called for the abolition of restaurant tipping, primarily because they argue that it hurts workers. Several restaurateurs have even replaced tipping at their restaurants with automatic service charges or inclusive pricing.
Another argument against tipping is that it detracts from customers’ dining experience. However, two studies I recently conducted – one published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management and another forthcoming at the Journal of Consumer Affairs – indicate that tipping actually benefits customers, while its elimination can harm them.
Debate over tipping
Opponents of tipping argue it pays workers low and unreliable incomes, discriminates against less attractive servers as well as servers of color and empowers customers to sexually harass female servers.
Some also believe that it leads to poorer rather than better customer service and satisfaction. That’s because it supposedly attracts younger, part-time and less professional workers to tipped occupations, undermines servers’ intrinsic motivations to care for their customers, discourages service enhancing teamwork among servers and encourages discrimination in service delivery against customers believed to be poor tippers.