Tips are earned.
I should actually just stop there; drop the proverbial mic and walk off, but all of us enjoy clarity, so let’s continue on, shall we?
Tips were never intended to create an entitlement nor give the expectation of the existence of any absolute “Minimum.” When I go out to eat, you start at 0% and work your way up. For excellent service, I’ll leave a $20 tip for a $15 bill. You earn a great tip from me when you go above and beyond the normal:
When you engage me beyond “what’s your order,” like crack a good joke and compliment my wife.
When the refills hit the table at or before my glass gets empty;
When you have intelligent things to say about the menu without me having to ask.
When you steer me away from an item that’s not up to par.
When you do something unexpected that makes my experience better.
The norm used to be 10%, and even then it was never understood as an expectation, but rather as a bonus for exceptionalism. Then the food service industry lobby kept pushing for higher and higher tip percentages and promoted the idea of minimum expectations and acted as if it should go up every time the wind blew. Then it became popular to attempt to shame people into giving higher tips with industry funded articles stating how only horrible people tip less than the new higher rate.
If I see a tip jar at the cashier’s counter of a coffee shop, fast food joint or stop-and-rob, or even taped to the outside of a drive-through window, I turn right around and leave. Giving me what I ordered is not “earning” a tip, and demanding a tip or acting like that tip is an expectation rather than a privileged bonus for exceptional service is insulting. I’ve left outrageous tips, and I’ve left a penny. Tips are a direct result of the amount of effort put into the service given. I don’t care what the service industry lobby says a tip percentage should be; they are tooting their own horn for their own benefit.
When I walk into a place that has a mandatory tip on the bill; I walk out and never go back because that is just pure arrogance and I will not pay a single dime to any establishment that does that. There are a lot of crappy service workers that expect 18-20% tips and have never earned that in their life. Tips are not the automatic entitlement the service industry lobby would like you to think they are, tips are for people who hustle and excel at what they do.
Personally I think sub-minimum wages should be banned altogether since the service industry as a whole has abused and distorted that completely in their own favor and put all of the pressure on the wait staff. Making someone go above and beyond just to reach minimum wage is degrading and unfair.