Why Don’t We Tip at McDonald’s?

Tips have been ingrained in certain segments of American culture for decades. Tips have historically been in service industries where the responsiveness, attention, and care for delivering a service can vary significantly. Think massage and eating at a restaurant.

Tips are a way to show our appreciation for good service, and act as an incentive for providers to do their best job. Unfortunately, requesting tips has gotten way out of hand in the past few years with just about everyone asking for a tip, and using social pressure to get many to tip for literally no good reason.

Five Guys vs. McDonald’s

I love the burgers at Five Guys. I like to get the junior cheeseburger all the way. After telling the cashier my order, they instruct me to complete the transaction on the pin pad where every single time I must hit “no tip” before paying. It annoys me. Why are they asking for a tip? For doing their job? They literally give worse service than McDonald’s.

For instance, you get a receipt with a number written on it and must listen carefully for them to call it out. Five Guys is usually loud with many people conversing over their meal. They don’t deliver to a table nor do they employ a speaker so they can broadcast the number clearly. I either need to stand there and wait or can’t listen to my friend in the event I miss them calling out my number. So, why would I tip them?

Contrast that with McDonald’s. I like their Egg McMuffins. When eating in, McDonald’s gives me a number to place on my table and when the order is complete, they deliver it to my table. At no point am I asked at checkout or thereafter to tip them – yet they do more than Five Guys. You may say, “Five Guys offers premium burgers,” at which point I would agree and mention that is accounted for in the price of the food. Tipping is an element of rewarding service, not delivering a product I paid for.

Why should I tip at Five Guys when they offer literally no service and not at McDonald’s where they will actually bring the food to your table?

I Am a Bad Person…

I went to a cookie place the other day and asked for a chocolate chip cookie. As I went to pay, I was again asked how much of a tip I want to give. Are you kidding me? For what? For the employee that gets paid a wage to take the order and deliver the cookie? Tip requesting has gotten out of hand. Who knows, maybe next time I buy a soda from a machine, the machine will ask how much I want to tip.

These companies are relying on psychological factors to guilt people into tipping their employees…so perhaps the company can pay their employees less. Tip them, and you feel good. Don’t tip and you are a selfish, bad person. Yes, I feel a little bad when I don’t tip, but then quickly remind myself they haven’t done anything worth tipping. And that is the rub.

Tipping should be for good service; it should be for something that helps us have a better experience, whether through speed of service, advice on what to get, or quantity of food. We all love it when our single scoop of ice cream looks more like a double scoop.

But a Really Good Tipper if Deserved

I have no problem tipping where it is deserved. In fact, I believe I am one of the best tippers out there, when the service is good. The other week my wife and I ate at a restaurant that was clearly suffering from a shortage in staffing. Yet, the employees were working their tails off. The chef brought us our meal. The service wasn’t the best, but the effort sure was. We ended up tipping 50% of our lunch bill.

When we go to a restaurant, I am surprised servers don’t ask what they can do to earn a great tip. Or perhaps ask what they can do to ensure we have a great experience. I don’t care if they tell me their name. I don’t care if they squat to be eye level with me. Here’s what I care about. Does my soda stay constantly full or do I have to wait (or ask) for a refill? If I’m paying $4 for a soda, I want my money’s worth. Those servers that “get it”, will end up seeing around a 25% tip. Those that don’t…well they will get less.

The Future of Tipping

I don’t expect these companies to stop asking us for tips. But I think companies should really question their value add for the tip. Five Guys – either deliver to the tables or consider getting a microphone so people can enjoy conversation while waiting for the food order to be announced (with the latter I still probably wouldn’t tip, but it would be nicer).

I don’t mind tipping and I would love to support the individuals working at these companies. But they should earn it through making my experience better – just like a server at a restaurant or a masseuse.

I’d love to hear your ideas on tipping. Click here to email me some of your thoughts.