QUESTION 46: TIPPING
At the end of the Passover vacation at the hotel, we
were supposed to tip the waiters and busboys. The
recommended amount was to pay the waiters $36 and the
busboys $24 for each person at the table. The hotel
doesn't pay them anything, and these workers depended
totally on tips for their pay. When I gave my tips,
my waiter and busboy looked quite unhappy, and I asked
why. They pointed out a few families that had paid
very little. When I asked the head of one of these
families, who had 11 adults at their table, he said
they only paid a total of $75 to the busboy (the
recommended fee was $264). He added, "I didn't realize
that tips were extra. I thought they were included in
my bill. Besides, tips are always optional, that's
what the word 'tip' means." When I suggested that
he understood the arrangement incorrectly, he objected
to my being involved at all. I said that there was
a problem of chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name),
and that I had a requirement of tochacha (showing
another person that they might be making a mistake).
Did I have a requirement to tell them what I think?
I think that you should definitely tell them that
they should tip. If they don't want to give $264
and they want to round it out to $250 or $200 it's
one thing. But everyone knows that tips are not
included, unless there's a "gratuities included" sign.
If it doesn't say that, then tips are not included.
And if it says, "optional tipping recommended", then
it means tips are not included. And if they were new
to vacationing, and they didn't know this, then it is
high time they became educated and were told. There
is a problem of chilul Hashem, and what you did was
the right the thing to do.
There is a gemorah (section of the Talmud) about
tipping in Mesechta Megillah (the book of the Talmud
dealing with Purim) in a couple of places. It says
that inn-keepers weren't able to charge rent to an
oleh regel (one who attends festivals in Jerusalem).
Why? Because it is said that that all of Klal Yisroel
owns the property in Jerusalem. Therefore, the inn-keepers
couldn't even charge rent. But it says that the
proprietors should be tipped, and that they could
take the tips even against the will of the tenants.
And that sum could be quite a lot. The Talmud says
that we can learn from that practice that it is the
way of the world to leave a tip for a proprietor. The
commentaries note that the Talmud says that it is the
orach ara (accepted custom, literally 'the way of the
land') to leave a tip. It's derech erertz (the civil,
proper thing to do. And if you don't do it, you don't
have derech eretz, and you don't follow the ways of the
Generally, a tip is voluntary. But the Talmud says that
for those whose entire income will be coming from the tip
- such as the inn-keepers in Jerusalem - the tip becomes
mandatory. So you see that in such cases, giving a tip
is an obligation. This is a Hallachah (Jewish law) that
the Gemorah (Talmud) states clearly, not just a nice way
to behave. When I said the fee could be rounded off, it's
simply because when there's a larger group, very often
the rate is cut a bit.
So to what extent should I urge them to tip?
Well, since it's mandatory, and even in a case where it's
not mandatory, it's certainly the way of the world and the
proper thing to do. And there is the third problem, as you
mentioned, that not giving a tip could be a chilul Hashem.
Given the fact that all three could be violated here, I
think you should definitely urge them to pay the tip. But
on the other hand, don't be mochiach (chastising) - don't
rebuke them too much, because you may end up having a personal
problem with the people. They'll wonder, "Who do you think
you are?" Are you our mashgiach (supervisor)? :Perhaps the
type of person who doesn't tip would probably not spare you a
generous counter-attack, telling you how he views it.
When I mentioned it to him, he told me not to get involved.
So my real question is, should I give him tochacha (rebuke)
again? The first time I mentioned it he just brushed me off,
and it didn't seem to get into his consciousness at all. I
wondered whether the second attempt might work.
When it's time to give tochacha a second time, you should say,
"I understand. You're right; it's not my business. But I seem
to remember hearing that giving tips is sometimes actually an
obligation. In this case it is an obligation, because the
person doesn't make his living other than from tips. And
since this may be so, maybe you should ask a question to
There are a couple of ways to make tochacha more effective.
One is to say, "I think I remember having heard --", to
create some kind of hesitancy, even if you're absolutely
certain. Mipnei darkei shalom (for the sake of having peace) -
because you're trying to make peace, it's justified to twist
the truth a little bit, and you could definitely say, "I
think I remember - I'm not certain - I'm almost certain."
Secondly, a person who is being mochiach (chastising)
somebody else should recommend that they ask a sheiloh
(questions) because it's definitely something that can't
be decided on one's own.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 47: RETURNING APPLES
My wife said that she bought 5 apples at a local market,
and that they tasted spoiled. I returned the apples,
and they gave me $1.50 back. When I got home, my wife
admitted that she wasn't absolutely sure she had gotten
the apples from that store. Am I obligated to return
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