If you don't tip service industry workers, it doesn't matter how good of a person you are in every other aspect of life, you're being a scumbag.
There's really no other way of putting it. On second thought, there is, but let's keep this discussion relatively civil for the sake of productivity.
In my experience, bad tippers are rarely people you'd want to be associated with. They're often very entitled, ignorant or narcissistic people who have never worked in the service industry and quite possibly haven't worked a day in their lives. In essence, being a bad tipper is a sign of poor character.
Throughout both college and grad school, I had multiple jobs in the service industry. I've been a pizza delivery guy, a waiter and a bartender at various establishments. When I didn't receive tips, it was hard not to take it personally.
Anyone who's ever worked in service can tell you that venting about the job is both necessary and somewhat of a pastime amongst fellow workers. At the end of a shift, you get together with coworkers, have a drink and let it all out.
The majority of the time, these conversations evolve into anecdotes about rude or unruly customers.
These cathartic narratives almost always feature customers who were difficult and condescending the entire time, and had the audacity to leave without tipping to top it off.
There is nothing that enrages people in the service industry more than this, and they're completely justified.
If you're going to order food for delivery, drink in a bar or eat at a restaurant, make sure you tip. Plain and simple.
By Not Tipping, You're Depriving People Of Their Livelihood
The minimum wage in the United States is pathetically low. People should be paid a living wage. No one should have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
The cost of living is getting increasingly higher, especially in cities, and the minimum wage should be adjusted to accommodate it. It's common sense and both a sound and humane economic policy.
To put this into context: In New York City, one of the most expensive urban centers in the country, the minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. Yet, a living wage for one adult in NYC is $12.75. Multiply that number by more than two if this hypothetical adult has a child.
Far too many people are not getting paid enough, and they're struggling to survive as a consequence.
People in the service industry have it even worse in many ways because they aren't guaranteed the same wage as everyone else. Due to the tipping culture in the United States, their hourly wage has been adjusted and is often less than half of the standard minimum wage in many states.
In NYC, the food service minimum wage is $5.00, and for other service industry workers, it's $5.65. Thus, even if people in this industry work full-time, for 40-hours-a-week, after taxes their monthly paycheck will barely provide enough to pay for a week of groceries.
Indeed, tips are service industry workers' salaries. If customers don't tip them, they won't be able to cover any of their basic expenses.
I know what you're thinking: What if the service is awful?
There's a very simple answer to this question: You should still tip them. You made the decision to have other people make your food or drink and bring it to you, and if they fulfill that basic requirement then you need to pay them for doing their job. Always tip at least 15 to 20 percent. If the service is outstanding, tip even more.
If you don't agree with that policy and believe that tipping is degrading or shouldn't be necessary, here's another solution: Call up your local representative and pressure them to push for a living wage for every American worker.
Given the contentious nature of the debate surrounding the minimum wage, however, that's probably not going to happen any time soon.
Service Industry Workers Aren't Always Perfect, But Neither Are You
It's true that we go out to eat and drink because we want to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience. If your server or bartender is slow, rude, inattentive or incompetent, you could feel justified in not tipping him or her.
Yet, consider the fact that these people are only humans and that all people have their off-days. Perhaps their significant others dumped them right before their shift, or they just got a call and learned a family member is in the hospital.
It's incredibly difficult to fake a smile in these situations and be polite to patronizing customers who treat their servers like actual servants instead of human beings.
Even if you're an amiable customer who doesn't fall into this category, remain cognizant of the fact that your server or bartender probably dealt with a difficult customer at some point that day.
When you're running on empty, and struggling in other aspects of life, one moment and one customer can ruin an entire shift and your demeanor during it. If you've never worked in service, it can be difficult to understand this.
A lot of service workers are facing major obstacles in their day-to-day lives. Many of them are poor students or struggling single parents. In essence, you never know what kind of personal battles a stranger might be fighting, so be kind.
Not to mention, a lot of what goes wrong in restaurants or bars is completely out of the control of servers. When food comes out slow, it's often the kitchen's fault.
When the bar isn't properly stocked, it's because the manager didn't place the correct orders, or the bar-back is lazy and isn't bringing the bartenders what they need.
This is precisely why the best tippers are often people who currently work or have worked in the service industry. They know we're all only human and that restaurants and bars can be hectic and inefficient places.
Likewise, people's perceptions of "bad service" are inherently subjective and often a product of a disproportionate sense of entitlement.
We should all be glad we are privileged enough to live in a country that's safe and prosperous enough for us to go out and enjoy a meal or drink made by someone else.
Do the right thing, and always tip. Don't deprive people of their livelihood.
Citations: How You Tip Defines Your Character (Inc), Raising the minimum wage is common sense (USA Today), This State Could Soon Have the Countrys Highest Minimum Wage (Time), Living Wage Calculation for New York City (MIT)