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Why we shouldn’t tip, just for the sake of it

I hate tipping waiters. I do it all the time to avoid looking like an asshole, but deep down is a principle that digs at me: it’s the fact that tipping is a bogus social norm we’ve been brainwashed to abide.

We tip for two reasons: one is a sense of duty and the other is a sense of guilt.

We lie and tell ourselves we’re rewarding good service but that’s tosh; if that was true we’d tip our mechanics and flick a fiver to the kid behind the counter at McDonald’s.

The idea that people feel ’duty bound’ to tip is equally stupid. Duty to what? Do you really care if the guy pressing buttons at the coffee machine is struggling to afford another edgy tattoo?

It’s bullshit. Haven’t you noticed the passive aggressive tactics shaming you into compliance: your change coming back to you on a little silver plate so beady observers can watch you pick up each coin; or the EFTPOS machine handed over with the tipping screen conveniently waiting on the prompter.

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The worst is that waiter who asks if you want to tip, a rarity requiring steroidal levels of chutzpah.

We appropriated tipping from the US, except over there it makes a lot of sense; the waiters earn a pittance, less than $5 an hour. Here they make a minimum $16 per hour, according to the Fair Work Act. Casuals get $20.

That’s a liveable salary. Restaurant owners afford this by passing on the costs to consumers, which translates to higher meal prices — the whole point of this is to negate the need for a tip.

And yet we tip anyway, an arbitrary 10 or 15 per cent, or a mandatory ’gratuity charge’ if you’re at a table with a couple of extra people on it.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t tip for great service, or for any other worthy reason. I tip cab drivers if they don’t talk to me and I always help out the pizza guy, just because I used to be one.

And, look, if you’re one of those people who tips big to show off a bit, you’re a jackass, but more power to you.

I’m just saying we shouldn’t tip as a matter of routine. It’s not an entitlement, but that’s what it’s become.

Aside from a handful of truly memorable restaurants, eating out in Sydney is a pretty transactional affair — you wait for a table, you order your food, the waiter does their job, and off you go into the night.

That’s not tipworthy, but then again how’s that famous quote go? It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.

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