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Tips on tipping: When, why, and how much

Tips on tipping
Tips on tipping 04:30

 Check out Diane Gottsman's 2023 tipping guide below!

At the New York City restaurant Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen and her staff spend their day chopping, rolling and sautéing vegetables. Cohen really likes vegetables: "You get to be so creative and have so much fun with them. We're like pioneers in the vegetable world. And it's fun!"

She's a pioneer in another way, too: there's a no-tipping policy at her restaurant.

Giles asked, "What would you say is the biggest plus about having a no-tip system?"

"There's quite a few, actually," Cohen replied. "One is my guests don't have to do math at the end of the night – they can drink as much as they want and not have to worry! My staff is really happy. They all feel like they're making a fair wage."

And a happy staff stays. "Right now you hear about this revolving door in restaurants, and there's not enough staff? I am overstaffed," Cohen said.

Two things you won't find at Dirt Candy: Meat, and tips.   CBS News

Restaurateur Danny Meyer started a no-tipping policy in his restaurants in 2015. "It took a lot of explaining, because it's not the typical way that Americans go out to dine," he said. "But in that time, the consumers really got with the program."

Then, COVID hit. Restaurants closed. Jobs were lost. When they opened again, Meyer said, "New Yorkers were literally throwing dollar bills at our servers! We said we don't take tips here. After a week of that, I said to myself, this is insane. How can I say that I'm on the side of our staff and not permit them to benefit from putting themselves on the frontline? And so, we did reinstate tipping."

For now, he says, he has to live with it: "Unfortunately, if you're going to eliminate tipping in your restaurant in this country and you realize that most other restaurants are not doing that, you put yourself at a decided disadvantage when it comes to people shopping menu prices," he said. "I really respect the restaurants that have been able to stick with this. We just couldn't."

But, he added, "If and when this country says we're going to lay down our arms and stop tipping, we'll be at the front of the line!"

We've gotten used to tipping at restaurants. But now, it seems, we're being asked to tip everybody, for everything! Do you tip the barista who gives you your coffee? What about the person that hands you a muffin, or a bottle of water at the deli? And then there are gig workers, Uber and Lyft drivers, the people who deliver your food, groceries, and packages.

Tipping Fatigue
A tipping option is displayed on a card reader tablet at a business in Glenview, Ill., Jan. 20, 2023.  Nam Y. Huh/AP

And how much should we tip? And will the person who provided that service actually get it?

Even for etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, it's confusing: "We really do want to do the right thing," she said. "We want to tip, and tip appropriately, but sometimes we just don't know.

"I walked up to the counter, I bought a mug from a diner. They flipped that little tip app around and it says, 'Tip 20%, 25%, 30% …' There is a button that says, 'No tip.' And that kind of feels uncomfortable. But for that quick exchange, that happened in less than six seconds? I give no tip."

Saru Jayaraman, the founder of One Fair Wage, said, "As long as we allow one industry to get away with it, more and more and more industries are going to want that boondoggle."

Jayaraman said giving tips instead of wages began in the South after the Civil War. "We in America uniquely mutated tipping from being an extra bonus on top of a wage to becoming a replacement for wages. That became law in 1938 as part of the New Deal, when everybody got the right to a federal minimum wage for the first time, but tipped workers were excluded."

Sher said her organization's fight is "to just get everybody a full minimum wage, with tips on top. For everybody to be guaranteed a full wage from their employer, like every other worker in every other industry, and let tips be what they were always intended to be."

As for Amanda Cohen, would she ever consider going back to the tip system? "Absolutely not," she said. "I think this restaurant's on the right side of history."

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Story produced by Mary Lou Teel. Editor: Joseph Frandino.

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