What Does Tipping Have to do with Sex and Power?S

Jay Porter ran a restaurant without tips for six years and drew some disturbing observations about the correlation between tipping, sex, and power. Only men made public scenes about not getting to control the tipping process, he noticed, and it always went something like this:

And his go-to line was so predictable, we would wait for it, anticipate it. “I always tip way more than twenty percent!”

If that was the case, why were these guys so mad about paying only 18%, far less than they otherwise would? What was it about not choosing the amount they tipped, that infuriated them, even when they were getting a discount?

It had to be at least partially about lack of control. Or, more accurately, lack of imagined control. This guy thought that, in a tipped environment, his server would perform better in order to get more of his money. That idea is false, as shown both by repeated studies and common sense, but that was irrelevant. His anger could not be redeemed by mere facts.

Then what was this rage so primal that no exposure to reality could relieve it?

Porter said his restaurant fit the country's restaurant server demographics; over 70% of restaurant servers were female, most of them were under 30 — so he felt confident drawing this conclusion not only about his spot but about tipping overall: it's not so much a business arrangement as it is a convention about sex and power.

And in a context where we expect waitresses to both work for our tips and be objects of sexual attraction, their work and their sex appeal become two sides of the same coin. In the dining room, we assume that our server looks sexy because she wants to make more money from the men who are tipping her.

If a customer can't control his tip, he can't control attraction/prevent rejection.

[Jay Porter]

Image by photowind/Shutterstock.