How To Deal When You're Dating A Terrible Tipper

Illustrated By Elliot Salazar.
Welcome to The FAQs of Life, R29's new advice column. Each Tuesday, Colette will offer her sage wisdom on modern life and all its stumbling blocks. If you've got a query you'd like her to take on, send it to FAQs@refinery29.com or leave it in the comments. 

Q: My boyfriend is a great, generous guy (don't all questions to advice columns start that way?) with one major flaw: He's a terrible tipper. In a restaurant, he generally tips 10% (at least that's something?), and in a taxi, nothing. NOTHING.

I'm mortified, and I've tried everything: reminding him that 15% is the standard, pointing out that cab drivers are usually poor, hardworking folks — even stealthily slipping some cash up to the driver myself. Is this a deal-breaker? Other than just paying for every meal, cab ride, or other tippable service myself, is there anything I can do?
— Tip Waiters, Not Cows

A: Sigh. This question tells me you're dating someone who was never a waiter, counter-wench, or barista. That's error number one, TWNC: A few years in the service industry teaches a youngster courtesy, grace, and good champagne-opening skills. 

But, real talk: Your boyfriend has every right to question the effectiveness and rationality of the labor laws that govern tipped workers — it's an incredibly flawed system! People deserve better. He can complain about it, he can call his Congressperson to try to get it changed. What he cannot do is refuse to pay people for the work they've done. 

It’s time to abandon all subtlety (and your blueprints for tip-delivering drones); you need to have an up-front conversation with your boyfriend. Hopefully, if you gently question his logic, he will admit to never putting much thought into his tipping habits — or he'll realize he is punishing the wrong people. Yes, it’s going to be awkward; it is inherently awkward to tell someone what to do with his or her money. But, it is your duty — as someone who knows better — to chime in about your boyfriend’s behavior. With great knowledge of social mores comes great responsibility to shame outliers...as they say.

Conveniently, as someone who has argued on behalf of the tired, the poor, the apron’d masses before, I know that most under-tippers tend to adhere to a fairly reliable script — much like how every high school freshman’s paper on Frankenstein will end on some iteration of  "Man is the real monster.” Below, I’ve imagined how your boyfriend might defend his gratuities (or lack thereof); I’ve also taken the liberty of composing some fairly basic, but persuasive, responses. (Feel free to sneak a cheat-sheet onto your palm when the time comes.)
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Illustrated By Elliot Salazar.


Boyfriend: “I shouldn’t have to subsidize these workers’ low wages.”

You: "Under federal law, servers only make $2.13 an hour, with the assumption that tips will buoy their pay to the minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Tipping is incredibly outdated, but opting out of the system doesn't change anything; it merely denies hardworking people a living wage. Babe." 

BF: “Tipping is meant to be discretionary/performance-based.”

You: "Based on our labor laws, tipping is not a reward; it is the only means to achieve fair compensation. (See above.) Besides, I’m sure there have been plenty of days when you’ve sat at work, sweating out tequila and watching Vines of sassy babies... and yet you still received your full check on the 15th and the 30th. Sweetheart."

BF: “The server didn’t do a good job.”

You: "Most of the complaints lobbed against servers center on aspects of the dining experience that were entirely out of their control. Cold or late dishes are usually signs of an overwhelmed kitchen, not an incompetent server. Sub-par seating should be taken up with the host/hostess. A 15% tip means a server did his or her job at its most perfunctory level; it reflects that you sat down at a restaurant table and were presented food and/or drink. That’s the service you pay for by tipping — if your server sings you a ballad or lightens your life with a series of delightful quips, tip extra. Amor." 

For those of you who don't live in a place where you usually take cabs, let it be known: Not tipping in cabs is just untenable. Cab drivers are stuck carting around the worst versions of humans at the most inhumane hours — I’m talking 4 a.m. trips with wasted twentysomethings who are either trying to fingerbang each other or threatening to throw up or doing both at the same time — and 99.9999% of the time, these drivers are resisting the urge to just careen off a pier. Your boyfriend gets to kick up his feet and watch clips of Jimmy Fallon giggling with celebrities on a tiny TV while the driver operates heavy machinery — and BF doesn’t have the decency to celebrate that with a couple of extra dollars? Why he gotta be so rude? Don’t he know cab drivers are human too?

Your boyfriend needs to know that the blank line on his receipt after the subtotal isn’t an invitation to exercise some Caesar-like powers. Whether or not he was entertained isn’t the principal concern. Did he reach his intended destination? Was he brought food that he then consumed? Cool; then he should leave 15%, or else he is prioritizing his sense of entitlement over another human person’s survival. 
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