Blacks And Restaurant Tips


Blacks And Restaurant Tips

 By Chance Kelsey,

The Los Angeles times ( printed an article that says blacks have a reputation for tipping less than whites — but there maybe good reasons for this. I do feel that it is true, that certain blacks sometimes get worst service. This happens to all ethnic groups in America but more frequently with blacks. Now not all blacks experience bad restaurant service but many do, the article explains the many reasons for this. It is a combination of factors that has produced bad service towards blacks —  certain blacks being at fault partially and biasness on the part of certain restaurant staff (waiters and waitresses). 



Study shows blacks tip less — but they may have good reason

African American diners asked about the disparity cited economics, upbringing and expectations.
March 26 2006
"THAT waitress sized us up in two seconds. We’re black, and black people don’t tip," says Anthony, a character complaining about restaurant service in a scene from "Crash," winner of this year’s best-picture Oscar.

That’s not just Hollywood talking, a Cornell University associate professor says: Research indicates that African Americans, on average, leave smaller tips for servers than whites do and that they’re more likely to leave nothing.

Professor Michael Lynn’s latest report on this topic, "Race Differences in Tipping: Questions and Answers for the Restaurant Industry," issued in January, cites more than 12 studies by himself and others, most of them done since 2002.

Discriminatory service may be a factor, but there appear to be many others.

Poor tips, Lynn says, may contribute to black diners getting poorer service and to companies’ reluctance to open restaurants in predominantly black communities, not to mention angering servers and customers alike. And it fuels yet another debate about tipping, always a hot-button topic for travelers.

Lynn doesn’t discount the role of anti-black bias in any of these problems. But he mainly sees this cycle at work:

Expecting skimpy gratuities, waiters resist serving African Americans, or they provide poorer service, which discourages blacks from patronizing table-service restaurants. Low tips also make it hard for restaurants in black neighborhoods to attract and retain staff, causing turnover and decreasing profits.

Six years after Lynn, a respected expert on tipping at Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research in Ithaca, N.Y., began to study the racial gap in gratuities, the topic remains taboo, he says.

"It’s a problem the industry knows about," says Lynn, who is white. "But the big players with money are afraid to address the issue. They’re afraid of being labeled racist."

In an e-mail response, the National Restaurant Assn., an industry trade group in Washington, D.C., issued a statement saying it "commends" Cornell "for addressing disparities in consumer tipping behavior," but it did not specifically address the question of race.

Sue Hensley, spokeswoman for the restaurant association, said the group hadn’t researched this issue.

But she said it offers cards to restaurants, for distribution to customers, that calculate 15% and 20% tips for bills of various sizes. When that range became customary is not clear, but it was recommended by travel magazines as early as the 1950s, according to the association.

Gerry Fernandez, president of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, a nonprofit group in Providence, R.I., that promotes diversity, finds merit in Lynn’s findings.

"There absolutely is a perception that certain groups, African Americans in particular, do not tip as well as whites," says Fernandez, an African American whose grandparents hailed from Cape Verde, an island republic off Africa.

Why black people may tip less is not clear.

Income disparities and discriminatory service may play roles, Lynn says.

But even when black and white customers are in the same socioeconomic class or rate the quality of service equally, he says, several studies by himself and others found that they tip differently. Black diners average 10.9% to 14.7% of the bill, and white diners average 16.6% to 19.4%, depending on the study. The server’s race didn’t matter.

Black subjects are also more likely than whites to say they never tip servers (6% versus 2%, in one study) and to leave tips as flat-dollar amounts instead of percentages of the bill (50.7% versus 19.4%, in one study).

Lynn thinks the main reason that African Americans tip servers less is that most aren’t aware that the usual guideline is 15% to 20% of the bill. In one study, 35.9% of African Americans identified that range as the norm, versus 72.4% of whites.

Research data don’t show why African Americans may be less aware of the 15% to 20% guideline, Lynn added. But Fernandez and several black and mixed-raced diners I spoke with recently had no shortage of thoughts on this topic. They often cited economics.

Median household income for blacks in 2004 was 61% of that for non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And nearly a quarter of blacks lived in poverty in 2004, compared with 8.6% of non-Hispanic whites.

If you grow up poor, Fernandez said, you don’t eat out at fancy places — or at all. Fernandez, one of six children raised by a widowed mother in Hanson, Mass., said he didn’t set foot in a restaurant where gratuities were expected until he went to college.

"If you’re not exposed, how do you know [the tip rules]?" Kacey Towe, an image consultant of Creole descent, said between bites of peach cobbler at Harold & Belle’s in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles.

She and her black dining companion tipped their waiter — an acquaintance of Towe’s — $20 on their $80 dinner bill, 25%, at the upscale Creole restaurant.

Not far away, in the Ladera Heights area, Stephaney Bell, dining with her son Steven, 14, at T.G.I. Fridays, echoed the sentiments of several diners when she said, "A lot of black people can’t afford to tip as well."

She also sounded another common theme: Some African Americans base gratuities strictly on how they’re treated.

"Our expectations of service may be higher," she said.

Bell, who travels and eats out frequently as sales auditor for an auto manufacturer, later tipped less than 15% because she was unhappy with the service.

A few tables away, Reneé Davis, a black graphic designer, said, "A lot of white guys try to impress the table [with a big tip]. I’m not interested in impressing the table."

Contending that restaurateurs should pay more so servers don’t rely on gratuities, she said, "I have problems with 20% for a tip. I’m doing 15%."

Fernandez sees other factors affecting tips too.

Some African Americans may be "extremely sensitive" about service glitches, he said, such as getting their food late, after other tables are served, or being seated in the back. Such actions, whatever their intent, may be perceived as racial slights.

"Remember the back of the bus?" he said.

In addition, poor service motivated by bigotry may occur "way more than anybody wants to admit," Fernandez said.

Not everyone, of course, agrees that African Americans tip less. Several black diners I interviewed, in my unscientific sampling, said they thought they tipped the same as or sometimes more than whites.

Rip Rahman, service manager at T.G.I. Fridays, who is of Bangladeshi descent, dismissed race as factor in gratuities, saying, "As far as I can tell, it’s all about the service.

  1. My boyfriend and I discussed how they love to bring up the fact that black people don’t tip. He pointed out the fact that many times Whites don’t tip black servers either. Something to think about. Black people don’t tip White servers well (or all servers), and White people don’t tip Black servers. What’s really going on?

  2. @ Trenee

    Trenee said: My boyfriend and I discussed how they love to bring up the fact that black people don’t tip. He pointed out the fact that many times Whites don’t tip black servers either. Something to think about. Black people don’t tip White servers well (or all servers), and White people don’t tip Black servers. What’s really going on?

    My Response: Trenee that is a very interesting point your boyfriend brought up, they should do a study about why some whites don’t tip black servers well. Also, like you said Trenee certain blacks don’t tip blacks well or other waiters from other ethnicities well either. What you and your boyfriend have discussed needs to be studied by researchers too. Thank you for coming by and dropping sound analysis, I never thought of some of these things that you and your boyfriend have discussed.

    Black People And Bad Restaurant Service

  3. Denise

    You always seem to show our flaws. Since you are mixed race, why don’t you do a study on how mixed race persons tip, or mixed race women’s attitudes. I guess you have once again proven that us “darkies” have some serious issues, that the “mullato elites” have the answers for us once again. “Oh, mullato man, with your European blood, save us “darkies” from our ignorance, our sapphire women, our skin color envy, our cheap tipping, and our poor parenting”. Our people were in the masters house only for a short time, unlike your people what a shame, too bad we did not have a chance to be in the house that long, we missed out on being massa’s concubine, while missy made us her personal sowing machine and little massa or missy made us their little negra house pet. Congratulations on passing the brown paper bag test.

  4. Denise, U R HILARIOUS!!! I had a caramel honey like U once, her Black Daddy was SICK & TIRED of her datin’ yellowboys like us!

  5. Chance

    @ Denise,

    Denise said: You always seem to show our flaws. Since you are mixed race, why don’t you do a study on how mixed race persons tip, or mixed race women’s attitudes.

    Response: That would be nice if people like you stopped claiming everybody who has one drop of black blood, then we can focus on mixed race issues. And, at the same time still try to help blacks with there issues.

  6. Chance, u still think we ought to help blacks?

  7. Chance

    @ Kahlil,

    Kahlil said: Chance, u still think we ought to help blacks?

    Response: We have been helping them sine the turn of the 20th century, that responsibility can’t just be dropped like that because so many mulattoes are use to helping blacks, myself included. We can help ourselves and still help blacks and America in the process while at the sametime having our own category. There is a way to help a competing group, and not hurt yourself, you have to be careful about how to do it though.

  8. so what’s your proposition, My Dear Chancellor?.?.?.?????

  9. Chance

    @ Kahlil,

    What I Stated above!

  10. Chance says, “THERE IS A WAY to help a competing group, and not hurt yourself, you have to be careful about HOW to do it though.”

    Careful, yes; but “HOW”, Führer?

    -Il Duce

  11. noeatingheretonite

    I found this site through Denise who blogs on another site that I also blog on.

    I have a few comments, my basis is as an Asian person, wife of a black man, mother of a Mix race child.

    Why would you want to segregate yourself from blacks or whatever race you are mixed with?
    I find Khalil comment as disturbing as I find Blacks, Asians, Whites who comments that we shouldn’t ban together as a group of people to fight racism and injustice. I don’t agree that mix people are only of one race or only the race of the father, or that you should be classified as your own race, whether you like it or not you are both. Made of both parents. To ask “do you think we should help blacks?” shows ignorance. So you faced some discrimation from blacks or you faced some discrimation from your non-black race, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help people as a whole. The comment about how it’s good to help but just don’t help them more than youself is only valid if you feel that, that person or group of people will surpass you. For example, at work, some people are selfish/reluctant with what they want you to know about a job because they fear that you will do that job better than them and one day surpass them. It’s better to work towards unity and understanding in life. I’m not trying to be PC because on the internet PC is not something you need to practice. I don’t know any of you personally.

    I think a site of mix kids is a good idea because it can be used as a form of a support group. What isn’t a good idea is to show biasness and encourage separation from your races.

  12. le gris [@noteatinghere]

    face it, once you decided to blend with your black husband, you effectively created a child of an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT RACE…
    you CANNOT[!] place the burdens of YOUR race & your HUSBAND’S race on a uniquely NEW creation!


    your child will ultimately rebel.


    Black Man, Wholistically Return To Africa.

    White Man, Wholistically Return To Europe.

    Yellow Man, Wholistically Return To Asia.

    AMERICA Is The Land Of The CREOLE & HAPA!!!


    1] “Le Gris”

  14. noeatingheretonite

    you forgot the Native Americans, Mayans, Incas, Indegenious Tribes of S. American, etc. Hapa are for Native Hawaiians mixed with another race, right? And Creoles? Who do you mean when you say Creoles? Haitians? Portuguese? French? Africans mixed with french? Face it the world is bound to be a mixture of races. Are you trying to segrated yourself too?

  15. Chance

    @ noeatingheretonite,

    Response: Blacks and mixed race (mulattoes) were separated in the beginning and in 1910 the state of Tennessee passed a one drop blood rule that forced mulattoes and blacks to live together. Then all states passed one drop blood rule. Black culture has degenerated too low, so there is no use in renewing that culture. Mulattoes labeling themselves black open themselves up to all kinds of social and racial discrimination in America. Also, many blacks don’t like mulattoes because they show visible signs of being heavily mixed with white and other non white ethnicities. Many mulattoes don’t have a black phenotype so why claim black only? It is better for mulattoes to be like mestizo latinos, and claim all their racial ancestries and have their own separate category.

    The government got rid of the one drop blood rule in 1967, so mulattoes are free to choose their ethnic identity. People need to stop forcing other to identity with some group they don’t want to be labeled as.
    This is a democracy, so let people choose, whites don’t stop other white people from identifying as Native American, because whites respect your personal right too choose more than blacks respect the right to choose.

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