Gilded Age Tipping in America
“Women are accused of being inclined to meanness in the matter of feeing waiters,” commented a woman recently, “but I think, perhaps, those who are take their cue from a meanly-inclined husband or brother. On a dining car recently a man sat opposite me who ate stolidly through the courses of the dollar dinner, had a bottle of Apollinaris opened for him, and left 5 cents by his plate when he had done. The waiter pointedly allowed the nickel to remain until every dish had been removed, undoubtedly hoping that the persons at the adjacent tables would see the small coin before, with an indescribable flip, he pocketed it.
“Not long ago I saw a man in a New-York restaurant tuck a five-dollar bill in the waiter’s hand at the beginning of a luncheon he was ordering for his party of two ladies and himself. This seemed to me as bad in its way as the five cent fee. We Americans do not take kindly to the fee system. It is contrary to the principles of our institutions, but it, is apparently beyond control, and we women, with the rest, must accept, if in moderation.
“Among my women friends I find no general rule in regard to the matter. One woman whom I consider rather fast doesn't fee because ‘it's vulgar’; another, who is proverbially extravagant, because she ‘can't afford it’; still another because the waiter won’t expect it from a woman, and so on. I’ve seen a rich woman leave 5 cents and a poor one leave 50 cents. A favorite practice when several women are lunching together is to divide the fee, each contributing an equal part. Men, I believe, never do this, though I don't see why it isn’t a sensible notion. I should really be glad of some authoritative utterance concerning the etiquette of women’s feeing.”– New York Times, 1892
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