When You’re Leaving a Tip, How Important Is It That the Server Actually Sees You Leave It?


We’ve all been there before.

You’re at some sort of café or coffee shop. Or, perhaps, a neighborhood bodega or pizzeria. Maybe even at a bar. You order your food or your drink. The service is good. Not exceptional, but professional, courteous and efficient. This also happens to be a day you’re carrying cash, so you pay with that instead of a bank card.


You get your change back, and you want to leave a tip. If you’re at a crowded bar, the custom is just to leave your tip on the bar near your drink. If at a coffee shop or pizzeria, there might be a tip jar next to the register.

But right when you go to leave your generous tip, the server walks away to tend to another customer. Or to perhaps prepare your food or drink. Either way, he is not going to witness you leaving the tip. And if the tip jar is full or the bar is crowded, he might not even know that you left one.

So what do you do? The answer here depends on what matters most to you. If you just want to give him extra money for his service and you don’t care if he doesn’t know you tipped him, you tip away and skip your tipping ass out the door. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that altruistic. Of course you want the server to have the cash. But you also want to communicate that you’re not a nontipping asshole. Especially if this happens to be a place that you frequent. You’re just a performatively tipping asshole, which comes in two forms:

  1. The performatively tipping asshole who makes a great deal of noise while leaving the tip—maybe bouncing some coins off of a jar or something—so that the server looks his way and notices;
  2. The performatively tipping asshole who, instead of making noise, just waits there like a bama until the server just happens to look his way again before tipping.

Of course, there’s always tipping-asshole option No. 3, which is when your need to be seen tipping outweighs your inclination to tip, so you just don’t tip at all unless there’s a witness present. These are, typically, the worst types of people. If people are watching, they’ll help old ladies cross the street. If no one’s watching, they’ll record the old lady’s street-crossing struggle on Snapchat.

And there’s a name for this type of person: Kappa.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Neo Haibane Renmei

Unless you impress me beyond all expectations, i dont tip.

Im not responsible for paying your salary on top of my meal.

Your management is capable of paying minimum wage. They refuse. I dont appreciate being made to feel bad or obligated to compensate your salary because your management or company is cheap and greedy.

I dont have money to burn, so service better be 5 star and ill pay a tip.