Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Anti-Tipping Crusade

When I was in high-school, I was very much opposed to tipping (I’ve since mellowed on the point). In fact, I used to get into lengthy arguments with friends on the subject, usually around the time that the bill came. If only I had known just how progressive I was being:

Today we think of tipping as beyond the scope of legal regulation. But in researching my Yale article I was surprised to learn that in the early twentieth century, progressives in seven states passed anti-tipping statutes that, to varying degrees, outlawed tipping.

Critics referred to the practice as “un-American” and incompatible with democracy. Former Yale law professor (and U.S. president) William Howard Taft was the “patron saint of the anti-tip crusade,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson roundly condemned the practice:

I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, yet it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

Tipping was attacked as bribery and as “the training school of graft.” In “The Itching Palm,” a 1916 manifesto against the practice, William Rufus Scott said that tipping is a form of “flunkyism” defined as “a willingness to be servile for a consideration.”

The entire post, which is about racial disparities in tipping, is well worth people’s time. Incidentally, I think my early opposition to tipping was mainly result of my inexperience at paying for meals. I would look at the prices on the menu, order, and then get upset that I ended up paying more than the menu price when all was said and done. It wasn’t long, however, before factoring tips into the price became second nature, at which point the whole thing ceased to bother me.


July 11, 2008 - Posted by | Economics, Food, History

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