I’m a Black Customer in Your Restaurant and I Have a Dilemma with Tipping

Sam McKenzie Jr.
6 min readDec 1, 2017

When I was a child, my family went out to eat every weekend on Saturdays, or on Sundays after church. It was one thing we did as a family on a regular basis.

When the check was presented I’d stare down at the receipt as my dad signed. He always left big tips. One day I asked him why he left such big tips.

He told me, “Because white people think we don’t tip.”

His words stuck with me.

Now as an adult, I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve watched servers do everything possible to avoid Black customers.

They run to the bathroom. They head to the back of the restaurant.

They look at each other and sigh, “I’ll take them.”

Waiters and waitresses will whisper to each other, “Have you had them before? Are they okay?”

I’ve read their eyes and I’ve even seen them play “Not It” games.

Sometimes it seems like I get a nonwhite server by default.

I suspect I’ve received poor service because “white people think we don’t tip.”

But what difference does it make if white people think we don’t tip, especially if I like the food?

Should I care what they think of my tips if my order is correct and the wait staff doesn’t get rude?

According to an article in the Washington Post, What’s behind racial differences in tipping? we should care because it makes a big difference.

If the tip money isn’t right, restaurants won’t open in some areas. If the color of the clientele leans one way, some restaurants may struggle to hire and retain wait staff. Patrons file lawsuits for discrimination and restaurants payout all because of the tipping stereotype.

This thought about Black diners is bad for business.

And, of course, it’s bad for the Black customer too.

I understand the tipping protocols. I give 20% as a standard. It’s just easier for me to add that way.

But when the service is substandard I get into the weeds. I feel a dilemma.