You’d think, as a group, frugal people would be bad tippers. Giving someone a generous tip seems like a very anti-frugal thing to do. If one is trying to stretch their money as far as possible, giving extra money to a server wouldn’t be the most effective use of resources. As I’ve argued before, I think tipping is basically an institutionalized form of blackmail. You tip your server, they make sure mayo is the only sauce on your chicken sandwich.
Now this observation is hardly scientific, but I’ve noticed some of the cheapest (sorry,most frugal) people on the whole internet are great tippers. Frugal Dad gives 15-20%. The Simple Dollar is willing to give 40-50% for great service. (In his defense, he’s also willing to give nothing) One of the writers at Wisebread gives double the tax (16.5% where she lives) and isn’t afraid to increase that to 20% when impressed with the service. I’m sure if you went to your favorite frugal blogger, they’d probably tip a similar amount.
What’s much more interesting is the attitude of each of these bloggers. Each thinks that they are a generous tipper, going above and beyond what’s required. Various reasons were given for their non-frugal tipping ways, including the desire for better service the next time they go back to that restaurant, the desire to compensate someone for going above and beyond, and in Frugal Dad’s case, it’s an apparent case of charity to the server.
How much do real people tip? The only information I could find in my exhaustive search (read: 5 minutes on Google) is that the social norm is 15-20%. I suspect that much like driving, people assume they’re better tippers than they really are. These bloggers are hardly tipping record amounts.
From a purely financial standpoint, tipping is a bad idea. Unless your town only has a handful of restaurants, you can easily make your rounds to all the restaurants, stiff them all the tip, and by the time you make a second round, chances are you won’t even be remembered by the wait staff. One could very easily get away with not tipping.
If frugality is all about making the most out of limited resources or getting the most out of a dollar, wouldn’t frugal people shun tipping? Tipping is the exact antithesis of frugality- it’s something for nothing. The real reason why frugal people tip is because they don’t want to be perceived as cheap.
Why is someone frugal enough to make their own laundry detergent, or reuse their used dryer sheets, or count the number of squares of toilet paper they use, but not so frugal to not tip? What’s the difference? They do so many things that society deems to be cheap, yet aren’t willing to do that one last thing.
I am convinced that frugalites are afraid to tip because they’re scared they’ll be labeled as cheap. Newsflash- they already are.
P.S. While we’re on the topic, why are frugal people so anal about splitting the bill evenly, yet they’re still willing to be generous tippers? It’s okay if the restaurant staff gets extra money, but not their friends?