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The Tipping Culture in USA

Posted: 16th November 2015 10:58

Gratuity in the USA is a system that is unfortunately often misinformed.  As such, there is no universally accepted percentage of the bill to make up the tip; the assumption that ‘good service more pay’ should not be relied upon, especially when the paying consumer has their own ideas about how much is acceptable in the first place.  If you are looking to work in America’s service industry, do your homework and understand the dynamics that affect this rather complex social circumstance.


Before Prohibition started in 1919, tipping was a form of bribery, incompatible with American democracy – southern states passed laws outlawing it.  When the sale of alcohol was itself outlawed, the loss in profit made tipping more acceptable to supplement servers’ dwindling incomes; it has survived since, despite Prohibition ending in 1933.

Is It Compulsory?

Some places might see gratuity as being, by definition, a voluntary act on the part of the paying customer.  Others, however, may opt for adding a set tip to the bill, probably at around 10-15% of the bill.  Fast food joints have attempted to introduce tip jars on the counters with very limited success.

Federal Law

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a server should receive $30 in tips per month.  While federal law also states that hourly minimum wage for adults is $7.25 – in New York servers get $9 –different establishments will be able to pay as little as $2.13. The servers’ dependency on gratuity can alter from state to state as a result.


Your tips can be affected by the age of your clientele – younger customers might not have as much disposable income compared to older people.  That said, there are instances in which younger or less well-off customers will tip more, perhaps out of a sense of empathy.

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