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A look at the evolution of tipping culture



Indians aren’t generous tippers. When restaurants started adding service charge to the bill, it solved the problem of stingy tipping to some extent. However, the Central Board of Direct Taxes says that all restaurants may not have been passing off the amount to employees. While the apex tax body examines where the tips have gone, we take a look at the evolution of tipping culture, and what to trip where

Journey of a Tip

The concept of giving staff a small amount of money to appreciate good service becomes prevalent in English mansions

The earliest usage of the word “tip”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Urban legend says the word was derived from “To Insure Promptitude”, inspired by a sign that writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson noticed on a tipping jar in an 18th century coffee house he used to frequent in England. Legend also has it that the acronym is nothing more than a rumour that grew stronger over the years

When tipping an allowance to staff at hotels, restaurants, pubs becomes common across Britain, the aristocracy tries to abolish tipping, which leads to riots in London


Nouveau riche Americans visit Europe after the Civil War and take back home tipping culture


Journalists think the concept of tipping is”as un-American as slavery” and an Anti-Tipping Society of America is formed in Georgia. In the decade that follows, six US states, including Washington, pass an anti-tipping law


All anti-tipping laws are repealed across US states


US Congress passes an amendment to Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA). According to the amendment, tipped employees can be paid a lower minimum wage of $2.13/hour as opposed to $5.15/hour if they earn at least $30 in tips every month


India’s apex tax body, Central Board of Direct Taxes, examines the balance sheets of restaurants to check cases of under-reporting or non-reporting of additional income from service charge not passed onto employees as their tip


Tipping, which has become an unwritten rule in the US and parts of Europe, gets affected by racial and sexual biases. So a handful of restaurants across these countries call for a ban on tipping and decide to pay their employees better wages instead

mind it!


Tipping not a part of traditional culture; nobody minds if you do, nobody cares if you don’t either


Tipping not a part of their culture but they don’t mind a small token of appreciation either


It may cause confusion in the mind of the one you just tipped and even offend them in a country that believes good service is the norm

South Korea

High-end hotels include a 10% service charge in the bill; tipping over and above that for stay, to cabbies, or at restaurants is often considered inappropriate


15-20% of the total bill is the norm; anything less than that will get you server’s scorn


10%-15% of the total bill is expected as tip

real to reel

Here’s a great tipping story that has inspired three movies – It Could Happen To You, the 1994 film starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda, which was then remade in Hindi (1999) and Telugu (2007) as Bade Dilwala and Bahumati, respectively

The real-life story involves two characters – Robert Cunningham and Phyllis Penzo of Westchester County, New York. It was 1984. Police detective Cunningham was a regular at Sal’s Pizzeria where Penzo had been waiting tables for 24 years. While clearing his bill for linguini and clam sauce, Cunningham offered to split a lottery ticket with Penzo in lieu of her tip. She agreed. They picked three numbers each for the New York State Lotto. One day Cunningham called her to say that they had won $6 million and that half of it belonged to her.

The movies showed Cunningham’s wife as a money-grubber who didn’t want to part with her fortune, while the real Mrs Cunningham did want to share the pot. The movies also threw in a romantic angle between the cop and the waitress. But in real life they remained friends.

Amy does it

The internet is filled with the worst of tipping stories.

From writing “00000000000000000.1” on the tip line of a receipt to a table of 18 leaving a handful of coins covered in sauce, there is a long list of terrible customer behaviour.

Perhaps that’s the reason why Amy Schumer, American actor and stand-up comedian, tips generously. She has been a waitress in the past and knows what the pits are like in that line of work. She’s known to have tipped bartenders anywhere between $80 and $1,000. On one occasion, she left a note with a tip: “I’ve been there, I get it, you guys are great.”

Source: People.com, mentalfloss.com, Tripsavvy.com, businessinsider.in and other news reports

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