Oprah’s ‘Tip Only 10 Percent’ Advice Mere Rumor, but Painful

Nathan Wuertenberg

Commentary EditorNathan Wuertenburg

How much do you tip your waitress? Fifteen percent? Twenty? Feeling generous? What about twenty-five? In a recently overheard conversation on campus I learned something very interesting about someone I’m sure everyone is familiar with: Oprah. It seems, out of the generosity of her spirit, that Oprah has advised her audience of nearly 4.5 million men and women to only tip their servers ten percent to save money in the middle of the economic crisis.

Intrigued, I decided to do a little research. So, I rounded up a few waitress friends I knew and asked for their opinions. One, who had already heard about Oprah’s advice, was none too pleased. I can’t repeat what she said for the purposes of this article. Another, however, did tell me something very interesting indeed. It seems that, at the restaurant she works at (a national chain) if a server makes an average of less that twenty percent tips, they’re no longer a server. Could Oprah really have said something that could cost even more people their jobs in this economic climate?

No. After a little cruising through various online forums, Oprah’s official website, and YouTube I discovered the traces of a very revealing rumor. That’s all it really was. One more harmless Internet rumor. Seemingly harmless anyway. Oprah never told anyone to tip their servers ten percent. No evidence, despite how much people insist, exists to the contrary. In fact, her website recommends tipping servers fifteen to twenty percent (generous enough to make any waiter or waitress happy).

However, in the course of my Internet research, I did find out that many people, including servers, wrongly believe that African American customers tip less that other customers. There have even been psychological studies published to attempt to prove this. Personally, I think this belief, and those studies, are worth about as much as a horse’s end product.

It’s interesting that, of all the celebrities that could have been in a rumor about poor tippers, the one that society and the Internet pick is one of the most influential African Americans in the United States today. It’s discouraging that these kind of thoughts still exist, even in a “harmless” Internet rumor.

5 Comments on "Oprah’s ‘Tip Only 10 Percent’ Advice Mere Rumor, but Painful"

  1. Hey Nathan I'm sorry to break it to you but African Americans do tip less then whites, unless you're talking about older seniors. I've been in the biz for over 20 years in fine dinin, chains, pretty much all forms of restaurants. That just the way it is. Even African American waiters will tell ya that, so get over it!

  2. I'm African american and yes black people do not know how to tip.

  3. The comments above are unfortunately correct. Many black people do tip very well and it is unfortunate this stereotype has come about. The more unfortunate part about it is that is is true, and even if you are not racist by any means at all whatsoever, when you wait table, you will figure it out pretty quickly. Some may argue that blacks may receive worse service. This IS true because many servers are fed up with bad tips from black people and take it upon themselves to not give quality service based on skin color. Other servers like myself ALWAYS GIVE GREAT SERVICE no matter who the person is… even when you know they aren't going to tip you. Though the service may be impeccable 100% percent of the time, a server WILL notice that black people often tip insufficiently (more so than other races). I waited tables for months before I found out this was a stereotype and not something that was just occurring in my section.

  4. javon smith | October 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm |

    not only do african-american people not tip, they are the most often the people who want to send their food back all day and change their minds and just generally be annoying… I guess it's the only place where they feel like they have control after their race was controlled for so long.. way to perpetuate the stereotype guys, lets be progressive here.. I'm willing to if you would quit pulling a Plaxico Burress (shooting yourself in the leg)

  5. WRONG. I am a white server/bartender, and I have worked as such for the last ten years, both in the south and in the midwest. Black people are no less likely to tip badly than white ones — instead, you'll find servers who BELIEVE this racist myth tend to approach black tables with chips on their shoulder, no matter how much they crow about how they treat everyone equally. I've seen it time and time again, and I laugh at it because I generally make around 10% more than these servers. Next time you want to bitch about how you're being tipped, check your own attitude — people are a lot more sensitive to looks, body language, and tone than you think.

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