Tipping is a practice rooted in feudalism and slavery, and yet it continues in North America as a way to allow employers to pay wages below a living wage threshold.
“The origin of tipping is really the feudal system, it’s this idea of noblesse oblige. But when tipping came to the United States, it had a real racial tinge to it, because, originally, the workers who earned tips were almost exclusively black workers—they were newly freed slaves.
There was this massive anti-tipping movement to protest the practice, a resounding populist movement that actually got anti-tipping bills passed in six states across the country, including Washington state and many southern states. What’s interesting is that that movement, the anti-tipping populist one, ending up spreading to Europe and succeeding, because the labor movement picked it up and said ‘we are professionals, and we shouldn’t have to live on tips, because we should be paid by our employers.’ That’s why you see so little tipping in Europe. What we started here spread there and actually killed it at the origin in Europe.
We, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction in the states. The restaurant industry, which was hiring newly freed slaves as tipped workers, really wanted the right to hire these workers but pay them next to nothing. So they put forth this idea that they were valueless and really shouldn’t have to be paid by their employers. They essentially made the argument that newly freed slaves should get a zero dollar wage.”