cartman

Regarding "Do restaurants blacklist black customers?": the authors of the article seem very eager to conclude that the origin of the problem is racism in the service industry. Maybe the problem IS currently self-perpetuating, but let's also be honest here: could some of the black readers of this blog please comment on their tipping habits and standards? (I'm asking since I'm white) I'm genuinely curious to hear more about this. Do you usually tip 15%? Do you sometimes not tip at all? Do you tip based on the quality of the service you get?

My take: unless a server really screws up I always tip about 15%, usually rounded up. I admit it makes me feel magnanimous to tip 20% or more in special cases. If the price of the dinner is inflated by lots of beverages or a nice bottle of wine, I feel that 15% of the total bill is sometimes too much (e.g. a $130 dinner for 2 would "require" a $20 tip). I reason that it's okay to tip only on the food-section of the dinner and exclude the $50 bottle of wine from tipping, since there's such a hefty markup on wine as it is. Since the restaurant makes money on this markup, not the server, this reasoning could very well be flawed.

There's one more notion I'd like to throw out there for the reader's consideration (slightly off-topic): there's no country in the world except for the US where a person with no education working 3 nights a week as a server can pull down the equivalent of 2 times minimal wage. To me servers seem very well compensated for the job they do. Yay or nay?

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John S.

If it's true that restaurants are reluctant to hire blacks as waiters or waitresses (and I have no reason to doubt it) it seems like a class action lawsuit is warranted.

michael j hassett

Regarding Women Fall Behind in levels of happiness - The linked article reports on recent studies showing that women are less happy than they used to be. More on this later. Let's start with a different topic. Why is this story in the business section of the NY Times? Because economics, exemplified by Freakonomics, has taken over all the social sciences. Economics has become a methodology for analyzing human choice in any field: 1) Spot an anomaly, a decision humans make that seems quirky, odd, unexpected. Better yet, spot a hidden anomaly - a choice people make all the time that's a logically poor decision, or a choice routinely made for a misunderstood reason. 2) Formulate a theory that explains the choice in terms of the cost or benefit to the decision maker - economists will now define this broadly to include a psychic cost or benefit if they can find a way to measure it. 3) Find, or develop, data that you can analyze with regression analyses and other mathmetical tools to test your theory. Everything is economics - why did you give $10 to the beggar on the street (who might, and I stress the word might, be an able bodied con man, an addict who will use the money to feed his habit, a dangerous psychotic who will stalk you) instead of giving it to a reputable food bank that turns 90% of donation dollars into food reaching the truly needy? Why did you go to services this weekend instead of praying alone from the mountaintop? Who are you voting for in November 2008? It's all economics now. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. If a cost/benefit analysis, broadly defined and undertaken with mathmetical tools, can shed light on any area of human behaviour, then let the sunshine in. If I'm a political scientist, sociologist, psychologist, etc. - I may feel like my turf has been invaded, but my defense is to do a better job than the economist. I can use the same analytical tools, but my background should help me understand more about the real costs and benefits in my field, formulate a more refined theory, a more inventive way to gather about the real costs and benefits in my field, formulate a more refined theory, a more inventive way to gather data.

The linked NY Times story on the happy index has some highlights that might not belong in the business section. Women don't like spending time with their parents because they are doing chores with Mom while the men watch TV. Women spend the same amount of time working as in previous generations, but because it is more often a combination of in-home work and work at a paying job, the to-do list is twice as long, the frustration and anxiety are greater and women are less happy than they used to be. Men are happier. Bigger TVs, more channels, sharper picture - this generation has it all over the old timers. High school girls are just as unhappy as their mothers were in high school. Success in academics and sports can't overcome the time and anxiety spent on the desperate effort to be a hottie. High school boys are, you guessed it, happier than their fathers. See above - Bigger TVs, more channels, sharper picture and, for the high school boy, add near porn on free cable and high school girls that still work at being hotties. OK, the stuff about the TVs isn't all in the story, but I'm sensing a trend here. In fact the e-Times has retitled the story, "He's Happy, She's Less So". Freakonomics, why don't women just watch more TV? What is the psychic benefit that drives them to do all the work while the men veg out? From As Good As News - http://michaeljamesh.blogspot.com/2007/09/economics-rules-world.html

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Tommy_Grand

Huh? What's all this about women and happiness?

Jane Grey

I was just discussing this article with a friend of mine, and he said the same applies to his previous job of pizza delivery. Explain to me how he could have provided inferior racist service in the 15 seconds he interacted with the customer? he tells me only 15%-20% of black people would tip him. Thats vs 70-80% of whites.

anna

I guess I'd just like to point out (in response to Cartman's comment) that the US is also one of the few countries were waiters make about 3.50 ish an hour (higher in some states like California). This is below the minimum wage and basically servers make money from the tips they receive. On top of this, they have to tip out bussers, bartenders and hosts from their tip money on the basis of total sales (and not total tips). I'm minority, and I can safely say that I do not practice discrimination against other minorities when I serve them. However, I would venture to say that bad tippers come from all races, and not just minorities. Honestly, I believe people are bad tippers simply because they don't know how to tip/don't know how much servers are really getting paid, and not because they just like to tip poorly. Or perhaps, the service was just plain bad :).

Kip

I wonder what other groups are considered bad tippers? I have a suspicion that families with small children might be among that list. Usually when my wife and I go out to eat, we get pretty good service. But it seems like every time we have gone out to eat with our friends who have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, we get noticeably bad service.

Rational mad man

Do blacks tip less?
In my experiences they do.
I wish I could say otherwise.
When I was in my teens I worked as a waiter at several resturants. At the first, a mid range seafood place he toher servers seemed less than willing to serve black partons. Being young, idealistic, and fairly liberal I assumed it was a result of unconcious racism. As a result I made it known that i would take any black tables others wished to unload. I alos made a personal commitment not to allow my standards of service to drop.
Within days of my annoucement I was handling virtually everyu black customer that walked in the door, and busted my ass to provide them wiht good service. Looking back i can see that due to my desire not to engage in racist activities, I was actually providing better service for my black customers than my white customers. As an example I checked I on my black tables more often than my white tables, refilled their glasses more frequnetly, and got their food out faster.
I naturally assumed that my efforts would be rewarded, I was unfortunately "mugged by reality"
Within a few weeks it becaem clear that the ratio of tips to bill I was receiving was approximately 25% lower on avergae, and the number of no-tips I recieved was about 300% greater than my collegues who had offloaded their tables to me. Over the next 6 months this trend was confirmed, to the point that the bussers and bartenders would consistantly place my tables and drinks at the back of the line, due to my substansially lower tip-out. (the tip out was based on tips not check totals)
Interestingly enough the only other demographic that came as close to being this consistantly cheap were senior citizens who came in for the early bird specials. And despite most of them being on fixed incomes (I was in south florida) they on average tipped more than blacks by about 10-15% Even Europeans tourists were less consistant in their tipping habits than either group, despite the fact that working in a tourist area we had many people dining from countries where tipping is neither expected nor necessary due to server wages.
What I found most disheartening however was that even my regular black customers, who knew they would be well treated by me, consistantly tipped less than white regulars.
I still dont know what to make of the results of this impromptu experiment, and the similarities between retirees tipping behavior and blacks tipping behavior might suggest a link between tipping and income, allthough based on their manner of dress and vehicles It seemed my black cusomers were consistantly more wealthy than the early birders.

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cartman

Thanks for the answers. The particular server job I was referring to, Anna, is a fairly nice steak house here in Northern California ($20/$25 entrees), but probably a Chilly's wouldn't be that much different in wages. Back-of-the-envelope math: 3 nights a week at 200 or 250 each, say $700 a week, or 35K$ a year, for what's really a part-time job. And it's easy to pick up a few extra shifts and make more. If someone out there is actually a server, please provide more accurate numbers.

I don't doubt the situation is more dire for someone working the dayshift at IHOP. And probably a mega-chain like Cheesecake Factory wouldn't pay as well either.

I guess what I'm saying is: don't pity the wait staff at fairly nice restaurants, I suspect they have pretty cozy jobs.

John White

Hilarious! A restaurant where servers can make a guaranteed $200/night in tips? Anyone who thinks that's what the average server makes has never worked as a server!

David in Brooklyn

If good tipping habits are partly enforced by friends and family who have themselves been servers, and if racist restaurants deny server positions to the local blacks, then the importance of tips to a server's salary might be less-widely understood in the black community.

Just my $0.02.

anna

Sorry, to perpetuate this, but it's quite clear that Cartman has never worked as a server. I would say the overwhelming majority of servers do not walk with $200 in one shift. Secondly, any sane person who has worked in the food service industry for a relatively short time will know that it's definitely not a "cushy" job. It requires a cool head (angry, hungry customers), the ability to be on one's feet for a long time, carrying sizeable loads, good customer service skills, multi-tasking, etc.

RKW

I think David in Brooklyn has a great point.

As I said earlier, I'm black. I worked in the food service industry. I KNOW how important tips are.

But those who've not dined out regularly and who haven't worked as servers or bartenders or don't have family or friends who've worked in those positions simply might not realize how important tips are. This is particularly the case if they get a server with a crappy attitude.

Again, good point.

Matty C in Cali

Well, Anna, I too am a sever and Cartman is very wrong. So let me get this straight, you don't tip on alcohol service? So by that token I shouldn't have to give a bartender a percentage of my tips for making my drinks? No? I digress. I won't get too angry, some people don't know. I myself am not a "racists" server per se. I size a table up on demeanor, the way they're dressed, and attitude, and also a bit by what they order. For example, an African-American couple ordering 2 salmon steaks and 2 glasses of Chardonnay that are dressed in Prada and talk educated are going to get a world of better service from me then a white table with two screaming bratz and a mother dressed in the latest Walmart fashions ordering two chicken strips w/ fries. I hate to admit it but for me, its a class thing not a race thing. 80% of the time I'm right too. Sometimes I feel like a piece of crap though and get a decent tip, and sometimes I'll give 4 * service to an otherwise poor table to test my hypothesis. I just wish people with "normal" jobs wouldn't be so ignorant about what it is we do.

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funkg

Im black and a very good tipper, but then I am british and we are not so hung up on the ‘race' thing as you Americans are. I once visited Winston salem in north Carolina, and not only was I treated like an exotic specimen due to my English accent, but also they seemed shocked I could negotiate easily around the wine list. In Britain tipping is not a mandatory requirement but my parents once visited florida, and were treated appallingly by the servers as they did not understand the tipping rules. The only reason I tip is to get better return service.

JF

Honestly? Yes, blacks don't generally tip as well as whites but it's a very mixed bag. There are a lot who don't tip very well but there are a decent amount who tip well or over-well. Indians, however, almost always under-tip or don't tip at all. I'm lucky to get 10% from an Indian table. These are people who live in the US, not foreign tourists. And in general, they're far more demanding than tables of any other race.

Jacqui

This story is a bit dated but super interesting so I can't help it . . . I'm a server at Cheesecake Factory, and I do believe it has made me a sort of people-expert. Our location has about an equal mix of locals to international tourists. I can size up a table before they've got their hands on the menus. Of course, the smart servers don't do this -we know that we must maintain our spirit. Is it true that ON AVERAGE blacks tip less? ABSOLUTELY. But every once in a while a table will suprise you. I've been serving at this location for a year now, and I've had to teach myself that how much money a table leaves me is infrequently representative of the service I gave. I treat every single table with respect and committment, and I refuse to allow myself to over-analyze or attribute tips based on race.

For everyone out there subtracting the cost of a nice bottle of wine from their bill when tipping: If you're not going to tip on it, don't order it! Servers in resturaunts with bars and bussers tip out approximately 6% of their SALES. That means that it costs them 6% of YOUR BILL to SERVE YOU before they make any money. (Aside their $3.45 an hour, of course.) Some servers have to tip out more to get the help they need to stay afloat - this is not an easy job, you know. Brain surgery, no. But easy, no.

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SAN

I am a black female in my late 30's who dines out weekly and I consider myself a fairly good tipper for the past 10 years or so. Years ago, (in my teens and 20's) I was not because I had bought into the idea that they were already getting "paid" to do their jobs. I guess I helped feed the stereotype wihout realizing it at that time.

Funny thing is that my parents are and had always been good tippers. They, and two black female friends of mine used to chastise me (in my younger years) for not tipping appropriately. I thank them for beating that into my head!

I had heard, off and on, that blacks in general don't tip but I admit I was shocked to read about the seemingly vast majority of this on the internet. I was equally shocked about how servers try to avoid or "pass off" black tables. Maybe I'm just fortunate that I get decent service in most of the restaurants I go to. Since I moved here in 2003, I've tipped fairly well from the getgo and most of the time I continue to get good service. Only in a handful of rare situations like any other customer, have I felt justified in leaving a 0% tip.

It saddens me that black diners in general are viewed as poor tippers and equally sad that the low tipping continues to occur.

That said, it would be interesting to hear what servers do think of those "onesies twosies" black customers they encounter who do leave a proper tip. Are they some sort of rare, dying breed? Are they perceived as, for lack of a better term, "acting white?" Should I automatically be afraid of going into a restaurant for fear of the "no tip" stereotype and the great lengths many servers go to avoid black tables?

Just wanted to put in my 15% (LOL).

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cartman

Regarding "Do restaurants blacklist black customers?": the authors of the article seem very eager to conclude that the origin of the problem is racism in the service industry. Maybe the problem IS currently self-perpetuating, but let's also be honest here: could some of the black readers of this blog please comment on their tipping habits and standards? (I'm asking since I'm white) I'm genuinely curious to hear more about this. Do you usually tip 15%? Do you sometimes not tip at all? Do you tip based on the quality of the service you get?

My take: unless a server really screws up I always tip about 15%, usually rounded up. I admit it makes me feel magnanimous to tip 20% or more in special cases. If the price of the dinner is inflated by lots of beverages or a nice bottle of wine, I feel that 15% of the total bill is sometimes too much (e.g. a $130 dinner for 2 would "require" a $20 tip). I reason that it's okay to tip only on the food-section of the dinner and exclude the $50 bottle of wine from tipping, since there's such a hefty markup on wine as it is. Since the restaurant makes money on this markup, not the server, this reasoning could very well be flawed.

There's one more notion I'd like to throw out there for the reader's consideration (slightly off-topic): there's no country in the world except for the US where a person with no education working 3 nights a week as a server can pull down the equivalent of 2 times minimal wage. To me servers seem very well compensated for the job they do. Yay or nay?

Read more...

John S.

If it's true that restaurants are reluctant to hire blacks as waiters or waitresses (and I have no reason to doubt it) it seems like a class action lawsuit is warranted.