I’m at brunch with Sylvia and some friends on Saturday and the subject of tipping comes up. I used to tip between 15 and 20% for everything. As I grew older and got to know more people who used to wait tables, I started to round up a little. The consensus now seems to be that 20% is standard and I have no problem leaving that. I acknowledge that waiting tables isn’t an easy job and that the pre-tax wages don’t reflect the effort.
My question: why is the standard 20% for servers and 10% for everything else?
When I said I used to tip 15 to 20% for everything, I mean everything. A $20 cab ride would turn into $24 including tip. The delivery guy brings me a $10 sandwich platter, I kick him another $2 on top of it. I tipped between 15 and 20% across the board, which meant I was notably undertipping for food service and notably overtipping for everything else.
Nobody I’ve ever met tips as generously for cab rides, pizza delivery, haircuts or massages as I do.
Why the different standard? I’m not making a case that servers should earn less; a 20% tip seems fair to me. But I’m curious as to why no other industry that lives on tips should earn more. Do masseurs and taxi drivers have some great wage structure that I’ve never heard of? Do delivery guys have a shitty union? Or is there some widely held, entirely false notion that delivering pizza is an easier job than waiting tables?