I love Thai food. When work takes me to a new neighborhood, I often excitedly seek out a new spot to try out! One weekday afternoon, my business partner and I found ourselves sitting at a Thai restaurant we found on Yelp. The decor was beautiful and we got seated immediately. From the looks of everything, this should be another amazing Thai food experience. We looked through the menu and salivated. We were ready to order.
Our order was ready but our server was no where to be found. The restaurant had a few other occupied tables, so we figured they didn’t have enough servers. We patiently waited as other customers around us placed one order after another. Our server finally came to our table, but she was missing a smile or even a basic level of decent facial expression while interacting with another person, let alone a customer. After she left, I commented that she must be having a bad day.
But perhaps I was wrong. When the same server went over to the next table with two white customers, she was smiling, laughing, and making all types of food suggestions. After our food came, we wanted to ask for a couple of additional items. That was even more of a pain than ordering the first time. The server saw us and frowned even more as she finally dragged herself over to our table.
Now, I’m not one to jump to race with anything. I have never, ever complained about bad service at a restaurant or assumed somebody was mistreating me because of the color of my skin. But I didn’t know what other conclusion to draw in this situation. We were the only black people in the restaurant and the server was extremely nice to everybody but us. We were overly polite as always and placed very simple orders. And no cultural difference could account for this, unless the cultural difference is to be rude to black people.
When the time came to pay the bill, my partner and I got into a debate. He wanted to leave an overly generous tip to make a point to the bad server that black people tip well too. I said hell no! I am not about to tip this rude woman just to teach her a lesson. I should be treated well regardless of what your impression of my race’s tipping habits are.
First of all, tip or not tip, a server should treat me with basic decency. That is their job. The tip part comes for how helpful and attentive they were for the duration of time in their establishment. I am not tipping anybody for just brining food to me.
However, I did see the point my partner was making. If we were kinder and tipped well, maybe that server will treat the next black clients well. We were basically contemplating buying the server’s politeness, excepting we wouldn’t be the ones to benefit from it directly.
According to The Washington Post’s 2015 article What’s behind racial differences in restaurant tipping? , in a survey of roughly 1,000 servers around the nation, 34% thought black diners were “very bad”tippers while 36% thought we were “below average” tippers. That is a total of 70% of servers that put us in the category of below average tippers. In contrast, 98% of the same servers thought white dinners were either “average” or “above average” tippers.
The same article cites various other researches also and concludes the following two things:
- Blacks in general receive worst service than whites
- Blacks and whites differ on what they view as an average tip: “Whereas roughly 70 percent of whites identify the customary or expected restaurant tip to fall within 15-20 percent of the bill, only about 35 percent of blacks do.”
So, my partner’s belief that there probably is a noticeable difference between black and white tippers is backed up by research. Even accounting for economical differences, black people usually tend to tip less. The problem is, we also receive bad services more often than our white counterparts. But which one came first? Do we tip less because we get bad service or do we get bad service because we tip less?
My partner thinks that we should take it upon ourselves to teach a bad server that blacks can also tip well. He said, “If we don’t teach them, who will? When will this end?” I wouldn’t budge on it. The principle of the matter was that bad service should not get rewarded. I shouldn’t have to defend my whole race when I wasn’t even given a chance to be a good tipper.
What do you all have to say about this matter? Should I tip my bad server to teach them a lesson about how black people tip well too??