Adam Platt: Americans Powerless Against ‘Myth’ of Tipping

Americans are stuck in a ‘zombielike haze’ of obligatory tipping, says Adam Platt

(Photo: flickr/rachaelvoohees/CC4.0)

America is a nation of "zombie tippers," including Adam Platt himself, he admits.

This week, New York Magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt became the most recent food industry figurehead to come out against what he calls the “ancient, seductive, institutionalized myth of the 20-percent tip” in America, and by extension, the undying expectation of tips within the hospitality industry.

Last year, New York Times critic Pete Wells also called for an end to our endless tipping culture, which he explained is “guaranteed to have no effect on your service,” and called for a new system that better supports the restaurant industry.

Some restaurants — Per Se, Alinea, and Coi among them — have already done away with tips, implementing a surcharge instead, or prices that include cost of service. Other high-profile restaurateurs have teased similar changes, but have yet to follow through.

In New York especially, Platt writes, we exist in an “increasingly anxious, tip saturated age,” that tipping is a conditioned behavior from which there is no escape.

Inspired by a recent trip to Singapore where there was the “blissful absence” of tipping culture, Platt himself tried to institute an individual change, conducting an experiment in which he would tip based on merit rather than obligation for a single day, and recorded the results.

On Tuesday’s CBS This Morning, Platt spoke more about his experiment and the restaurant industry’s “Byzantine system” which is built upon a foundation of unfair tipping policies.

As for Platt’s own experiment, he writes that even during a dinner where a dish he ordered never arrived, he couldn’t help but calculate 20 percent and “meekly [sign] the check.”

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

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