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Q: People of color, please help me reverse our reputation for being poor tippers. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out. Isn’t that right?
–Max Alert, Tampa, Florida
A: You are right. When setting your budget for any outing you should include accurate amounts for tipping service employees. Be aware that most employees who receive tips are paid very low wages and they rely on tips as a substantial part of their compensation. Just think about the members of your family who are porters, domestic workers or in other service capacities. Wouldn’t you want their customers to compensate them appropriately for their good service?
In defense of African Americans, our reputation of being poor tippers may be driven by the confusion surrounding the issue. As pointed out in How To Be: Contemporary Etiquette for African Americans by Harriette Cole (Simon & Schuster, $26). “[tipping] can get even the most savvy of us confused.”
For guidance, refer to The Original Tipping Page (www.tipping.org/tipping/tipping.html). It contains tipping discussions, articles, an Excel spreadsheet that contains a cross-section of tip percentages by dollar amounts, a Tip Rate Calculator and a chart outlining the gratuity amounts that are deemed appropriate for various service employees. For $5.99, you can also purchase tipping cards from the site that enable you to leave a small evaluation of the service along with your tip.
Remember, tipping is still, in most cases, reserved as a voluntary way for a customer to express their satisfaction for a rendered service. Larger tips should be left for extraordinary service, while smaller tips or no tips should be left for poor service.