A TikToker questioned the idea of percentage-based tipping in a viral clip that sparked a debate on why gratuities are such a big part of American dining culture.
Simran (@basicbrownbee) posed a simple query: why should a server get paid $30 for bringing out a $150 steak in one hand, and $10 for the $50 steak they’re carrying in the other?
Numerous commenters had their own thoughts on tipping based on percentages and the economics of the food service industry in general.
“Can someone explain why tipping 20% on a $150 steak vs $50 steak is different if all the waiter did was bring both steaks out at the same time?” she asks in the clip.
Simran looks into the camera as a tablet rests beneath her, she squints her eyes in an attempt to drive the validity of the question home to her viewership, while further explaining in her caption: “Assuming the steaks are all you got.”
Her question sparked a debate on tipping practices in the comments section of the post.
Some folks, like this one individual, agreed with Simran’s point of view: “I’ve never understood why people think you should tip more the more your food costs.”
Another remarked that forking over 20% of their restaurant bill over to somebody for carrying a few items to their table hardly sounds fair. “Honestly tho. You want $30 for carrying a steak to me and maybe a jug of water??” they shared.
Others argued that the economics of gratuities somehow got twisted over time and made a point about how tips should be appropriately scaled. “I been sayin that. bigger tips are for bigger parties, not more expensive food,” one user wrote.
@basicbrownbee Assuming the steaks are all you got #justconfused ♬ original sound – athena
However, some folks who responded to Simran’s post said that they tip 20% no matter what.
“I never realize people actually thought like this. I’ll always tip 20% or more, I’d be ashamed otherwise,” a TikToker commented.
Simran responded to the aforementioned comment: “I always do too, I was just curious on why the pricing is different (this scenario was supposed to be at same restaurant/conditions-just dif steak $).”
Some folks, like this individual, quipped that there’s nothing forcing a person to leave a tip for a meal: “Fun fact: you have the option to leave zero.”
The concept of percentage-based tipping is something that’s been called into question by numerous folks in online posts, like this one Redditor who sincerely asked why it wasn’t gauged by some other measurement, such as time at a table. “Why is tipping based off a percentage? Why is their service worth more when I order a $20 steak than a $7 burger?” the Reddit user wrote.
Another brought up a point about subsidizing corporate profits by covering the wages of its workforce, and putting that onus on the consumer: “Because more of society is moving to service based industries, and they want you to feel obligated to tip because it is in their best interests.”
Another commenter on TikTok had a similar idea. “It’s so the consumer is forced to subsidize the workforce, instead of the business being responsible for employees,” they argued.
The idea of percentage-based tipping was predicated on the idea that a higher bill cost usually meant that the server in question was performing more work. In the ’50s, it was commonplace for US customers to leave 10% of their bill, however by 2023, that amount has jumped as high as 25%, according to CNBC in a piece that delineated how “tipping in the United States got out of control.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Simran via TikTok comment for further information.