Thinking Out Loud

February 7, 2013

Should the Tip for the Waitress Exceed Your Tithe Percentage?

I Give God Ten Percent - Applebee's Receipt

Q: What’s the difference between a canoe and a Christian in a restaurant?

A: A canoe tips.

The bill for the meal at Applebee’s came with a pre-calculated 18% tip, but you certainly had the option to override it with any tip you chose.

But one customer argued that God only gets 10%, so why should wait staff get 18%.

But then he [update – see comments] she left nothing.

So another server took a picture of the receipt containing the comment.

And the restaurant fired her — really a third party in all this — despite years of exemplary service and management aspirations.

Apparently the customer — who to make matters worse claimed to be a pastor — was outraged when the story went public and demanded that heads roll.  To appease the customer, Applebee’s rolled one head, and lost a perfectly good employee in the process. Not sure I want to eat there again.

And then, the story went world wide. The link I have is to The Guardian in the UK. The newspaper’s online version takes a line from the server, “…tipping is not optional. It is how we get paid;” and renders it as some kind of quaint American trivia headline, “Tips are not optional, they are how waiters get paid in America.”

Excuse me, don’t people tip in Great Britain?

But before we go to far here, are we led to believe that the person who stiffed the waitress really gives ten percent? Because statistics on both sides of the Atlantic don’t support that notion. And if the type of person who does give ten percent is also the type of person who doesn’t leave a tip, personally I would rather they tithed less.

For example: Recently we attended a youth outreach event that is being held in a large restaurant complex and entertainment center. Many of the attendees — in their late teens and twenties — go out to eat afterward and since they are identified as being from the “Christian” event, the last word to them before they are dismissed is to be kind and generous to their servers.

The last thing the world needs is another hot-headed Christian alienating others from Jesus. It might take an army of Christ-followers a lifetime to undo what this person did in just a few seconds.

What I really like about Chelsea Welch’s story is that in the end, she takes the high road, something the customer in the story didn’t do:

As this story has gotten popular, I’ve received inquiries as to where people can send money to support me. As a broke kid trying to get into college, it’s certainly appealing, but I’d really rather you make a difference to your next server. I’d rather you keep that money and that generosity for the next time you eat out.

To see the discussion on Reddit provoked by this, click this link.

Related article at Christianity Today: Why Are Christians Such Bad Tippers?


  1. thanks so much for posting this! Mind if I reblog?

    Comment by lala1966 — February 7, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  2. Reblogged this on Seeking God's Truth and commented:
    This is an example of exactly the kind of thing I am trying to bring across here!

    Comment by lala1966 — February 7, 2013 @ 7:43 am

  3. Reblogged this on Seasons Change, and so have I and commented:
    This is the kinds of things that destroys the worlds view of Christian …

    Comment by lala1966 — February 7, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  4. According to the family stories, my Great-Grandmother would leave 2$ tip during the depression and she was a farm lady that only occasionally came to town, and her words to my Grandmother were that the 2$ was how that person was going to feed their own family, and to be generous to those who serve. I try to be generous as a tipper and to charities that we support, but I have also convinced myself that this is part of my tithe….I hear the pastors all screaming! But, I interpret the message in the Bible about tithing as giving generously, 10%, in God’s name, for God’s glory. We all know that many churches have been hijacked by greedy leadership, where people’s tithe is used for the pastor’s personal comfort, not for serving the needy, so my conscience is clear. Yes, I have cut out the middleman, so to speak.

    Comment by mj — February 7, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    • I don’t believe that your entire tithe has to be routed through a church or be reflected in a tax receipt. I know a lot of people who see their tithe — or at least a part of it — to include direct aid or charity to people in need.

      But I’d never thought of a restaurant tip in those terms. I have to think about that one.

      Here in Canada, we tip 12.5 – 15% of the pre-tax total, but our food service workers receive a very fair minimum wage as well.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — February 7, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

  5. That’s so wrong, firing a waiter for posting a silly receipt! The pastor was stingy and humiliated and the restaurant fires the waiter? What is up with that? The pastor probably doesn’t even go there often on his own-if at all and I’m sure he doesn’t tip then either!

    Comment by Natalya — February 7, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

  6. I blogged this story a couple of days ago as well, but had a lot more to say about the pastor than the waitress. And it wasn’t he; the pastor in this case was she. So much for women being more sensitive. Not leaving a tip would be one thing, but then to be obnoxious about it in God’s name… wow.

    I worked at a couple of restaurants in high school and college. I remember reading at one of those places that while servers were paid less than minimum wage, if their paid wages plus tips did not average at least minimum wage for the pay period then the restaurant was to make up the difference. At the end of the week the server would be paid at least minimum wage as required by law. Minimum wage laws, however, vary by state so that could have just been in the state of Georgia. And, like I say, that was nearly 20 years ago and things change.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — February 8, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    • I actually missed your story, partly because this one was written a few days ahead. The pastor in question was a woman? This story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. I’ll bet the afternoon talk shows are pressing for interviews.

      Here in socialist Canada, the minimum wage has increased 50% from 2003 to 2011, much to the non-delight of small business owners. There is a food-service minimum that is just partially lower.

      I like your suggestions for possible outcomes. idealistic, but not impossible. Best case IMHO would be for Applebee’s to recant.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — February 8, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  7. The UK has quite a different tipping culture than North America. Tipping in the UK is, I think, more typical of how the practice started — they tip at most 10% when the service they received was deemed good. It’s considered to be an extra; a gift. In North America tipping has become a cultural norm that over time is less tied to the quality of service and more tied to the individual and their common practice (people usually tip the same amount, and only rarely adjust their percentage based on service; even then the adjustment is not very significant). There’s a great TEDx talk on this issue:

    Tithing is an Old Testament law; personally I think it has no more sway for us than laws about foods to eat or tattoos or how to wear your hair. Rather, I think the new covenant that Jesus established calls us to be *generous*. Overly generous. Generous with money sure, but also with time, talents, abilities, etc. Give to the church? Yes. Give to the food bank? Yes. Give to your waiter? Yes. How much? Until it starts to hurt. I think Jesus calls us to a life of radical generosity in all things to all people.

    Comment by Mike — February 8, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

    • Thanks, Mike; you added a lot of information to the discussion.
      I’m watching the video right now:

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — February 8, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

  8. >> “don’t people tip in Great Britain?” – as far as I know, tipping in the UK is for exceptional service and not a matter of course.

    In Australia there is no tipping. Wages are high and people consider employees are already paid for their service.
    I know a few people do tip but only when someone goes out of the way to provide extra service – certainly not a matter of course.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — February 8, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

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