Dear Dr. Poussaint:
Having been a waitress for five years in one of the most prestigious restaurants in Cincinnati, I was appalled by your list of excuses for the poor tips a black waitress got from black customers.
I, too, received small or nonexistent tips from black people, as did every other waitress in the restaurant. Not all the black people I waited on were non-tippers, but the percentage of non-tippers was overwhelming.
The excuse that perhaps it was a restaurant frequented by lower income people who could not afford to tip does not apply to the place I worked. There the entrees cost from $6.50 to $14 a person.
I waited on hundreds over those five years who attended the Kool Jazz Festival held annually in Cincinnati. Those people paid a lot of money for their festival tickets. Many traveled from all over the country to attend and most had on what was obviously hundreds of dollars worth of clothes.
I find it difficult to believe that those people could not afford a 15 percent tip.
I am white and I had good rapport with the blacks who worked at the restaurant so, not wanting to offend anyone, I kept my mouth shut on the subject of blacks and tips.
Do you know who complained out loud about the size of the tips from blacks? My black co-workers!
I quit my job last year because of a move out of the state. I'm no longer in the restaurant business but this is a problem which does a lot to encourage prejudice against black people from all races working in the restaurant profession. B. W., Dallas Dear Dr. Poussaint:
I was outraged by your reply on the issue of black tipping. I am a white waitress in a nice restaurant (entree prices from $4 to $12) with a racially mixed clientele. I wait on a good number of black people and rarely receive a tip from them.
The possible reasons you gave for the non-tipping of blacks are not valid. The people I wait on dress expensively and usually spend around $30 a meal (for two) including some drinks. So I don't believe their resources are too marginal to leave a tip.
Also, the blacks I serve are pretty classy, at least some of them, so ignorance of the practice of tipping can be no excuse.
In my opinion the black waitress who wrote to you is not wrong.
I get stiffed occasionally by whites, but I can honestly say that 80 percent of the time when I am left with no tip it is from blacks. J. M., Milwaukee Dear J. M. and B. W.:
Your letters represented the majority of letters I got from waiters or waitresses who said they, too, shared the experience that most blacks do not tip.
It is hard to believe that this is true. The middle class blacks I have questioned and have known claim that they tip usually between 10 percent to 15 percent of the bill, and sometimes more.
I also know a few blacks who overtip to show their status or to make sure they will be welcomed back and treated without discrimination.
I cannot offer any other reasons why blacks do not tip. In order to further explore this issue an investigator would have to collect the facts (which could be difficult) and then examine a broad spectrum of blacks regarding their attitudes on tipping. Dr. Poussaint