G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Slate’s Brian Palmer asks why we “tip” God 10% and waitstaff ~15% in the first place. Both norms have gained a foothold in our society, but restaurant tipping is on an upward trajectory whereas church “tipping” is on the decline.
Why do Americans increasingly prefer to donate money to waiters than to God? One potential explanation is simple awareness. Most studies on tipping show that a fair proportion of bad tippers or nontippers don’t know—or at least claim not to know—that they’re expected to leave 15 to 20 percent. Between 1987 and 2000, the likelihood that an average American would eat at a restaurant in any given week increased 40 percent. The more people dine out, and the more they hear servers moaning about their pitiful baseline wages, the more the tipping norm sinks in. God is experiencing no such awareness surge. Different methodologies yield different church attendance numbers, but most studies find that the proportion of Americans who attend church regularly has stayed nearly constant for decades.
Not only this but as more people go out to eat and more restaurants open up, more (typically young) people serve tables. Not only will they tip well later on when they aren’t servers, but they bring awareness of tipping norms to their families. My parents surely tip better now compared to before I began waiting tables. But as Palmer argues, the trajectory of these two social behaviors are moving in different directions because we come into contact with waiters and waitresses and they have a singular purpose of directly doing something in order to get you to give them money. God’s “service” is way off in the distance and he doesn’t smile at you and bring you extra dressing. Palmer continues:
There’s one other problem for the Christian God: He has a flock full of cheapskates. Long before Alois Bell stiffed her server on religious grounds, American waiters complained about the Sunday afternoon crowd leaving Bible quotes in lieu of cash tips. A 2012 study by Cornell University tipping expert Michael Lynn showed that Jews and people with no religion tip better than self-identified Christians. (To be fair, the overwhelming majority of Christians tip between 15 and 20 percent, just lower in the range than nonbelievers and Jews.) This phenomenon is difficult to explain, but it’s possible that Christians think their devotion to the next life exempts them from such social niceties as tipping in this one. That confidence in their ultimate salvation may also diminish their sense of financial obligation to God. Perhaps churches need to modify their appeal to something like “faith alone, plus 10 percent.”
At least someone finally delved into tipping studies and statistics. Too bad Palmer stops short of the real underlying issue. Christian piety is more closely correlated with frugality. The Sunday post-church restaurant lunch is a replacement for the Sunday family dinner or potluck. Basically, the people who go to lunch right after church probably are less aware about tipping norms and besides that, since they only spend “frivolously” one day a week, tend not to tip that well. And despite running jokes that Jews are cheap, modern Christians seem to embrace an ethic of frugality. One could look at the foods and beverages ordered by Christians, Jews, and atheists. I’d expect you’d find that the former orders many more split entrees and waters with lemon on top of taking advantage of coupons and other discounts.