Restaurant Servers, Want a Tip? Serve Black Customers Better

Restaurant Servers, Want a Tip? Serve Black Customers Better

According to a recent poll by The Root on attitudes and habits regarding tipping, African Americans are much more likely than whites to tip as a “reward for good service.”

These findings were among a number of differences in tipping habits across cultural lines revealed in The Root‘s online survey.

The vast majority (89 percent) of all respondents indicated that they tipped “all the time,” with 11 percent responding “most of the time.”

But when it came to whether there were ever reasons not to leave a tip, clear differences could be found along racial lines. A large percentage (upward of 40 percent) of both blacks and whites agreed that “rude,” “incompetent” or “horrible” service was an acceptable reason not to tip.

Whites were much more forgiving of bad service. Forty-nine percent said they would “always tip” no matter how bad the food or service. Only 37 percent of blacks said that they felt the same way, while 50 percent indicated that there would be no tip for waitstaff whom they regarded as rude or inept.

Jerome Rabow, a professor of sociology who lectures on race and ethnic relations at UCLA and California State University, Northridge, says that black restaurant patrons may be justified in their greater propensity to tip only when they feel they’ve received service that warrants it. Based on his own experience waiting tables as a young man and the anecdotal evidence gleaned from his students who are waiters today, Rabow believes that before black patrons can prove otherwise, they are often perceived by waiters as poor tippers, and, in turn, often receive substandard service, such as being ignored or overlooked, receiving meals after diners who arrive later or being greeted brusquely by waitstaff.

If this data collected by The Root is accurate, the lack of tipping on the part of black patrons is part of a vicious cycle food servers can break by dismissing the stereotype and providing black patrons with excellent service. –kathleen cross


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