The History of Tipping

Though tipping your waiter or waitress may feel like something that’s always been part of the dining experience in America, the fact is, the act of tipping is a borrowed custom from Europe.

It is not clear when the word “tip” came into the English language but some speculate that the origins of the word came from Samuel Johnson.  Johnson frequented a coffee shop which had a bowl labeled “To Insure Promptitude,” and Johnson and other guests would put a coin into the bowl throughout the evening to receive better service.  This soon was shortened to “T.I.P.” and then simply, tip. 

According to Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, tipping in the United States began just after the American Civil War in the late 1800’s.  Lynn suggests that wealthy Americans traveling abroad to Europe witnessed tipping and brought the aristocratic custom back with them to “show off,” or prove their elevated education and class.

Tipping wasn’t embraced by all Americans when the custom began to make its way into our country’s taverns and dining halls, and according to an article that appeared in The New York Times in 1897, a movement against tipping began in America.  The anti-tipping group believed that tipping was the “vilest of imported vices” because it created an aristocratic class in a country that fought hard to eliminate a class-driven society.   In 1915 six state legislators from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Carolina attempted and failed to pass an anti-tipping bill that would make leaving gratuities unlawful.

While tipping is not mandatory, it certainly is customary at almost all sit-down restaurants in America.  Generally, the average tip to leave would be 15% to 20% of the total meal cost.   Those who provide service are often dependent on tip income and generally are grateful for any tips received, especially when prompt and exceptional service has been provided.

Tipping is essentially the means by which to acknowledge good service, and good service is what you shall receive here at Willie’s.