Intrusive Tipping Ethics

Just as enough monkeys typing on enough typewriters will eventually produce “King Lear,” it was inevitable that “Judge John Hodgeman,” who shares “the Ethicist’s” page in the New York Times Magazine, would eventually hit on a topic worthy of Ethics Alarms. The existence of his sub-section is one more demonstration that the Times doesn’t take ethics seriously, and the real “Ethicist,” Kwame Anthony Appiah, should demand that it be banished. Calling Hodgeman “judge” is itself misleading and dishonest: he isn’t one. He’s an alleged humorist and actor. I almost never bother to read his junk, but someone sent me this for comment.

The question posed to the fake judge was this:

My wife and I had dinner with another couple. The other gentleman (we’ll call him Steve) and I split the bill. When our cards came back, Steve asked me how much I was tipping. I was dumbfounded. “So the tips match,” he said. I asked my wife, and she agreed the tips did need to match. Who’s right?

This actually has happened to me several times; I also confess to being curious about what some dining companions tipped, especially when the service was of questionable quality. But ethically, it’s not a tough question.

The tips don’t have to match: each is a matter of personal choice. I may have thought the meal was great and the wait-person was charming; my companion may have other standards. The question asked by the “judge’s” correspondent seems like either a fishing expedition for a justification to tip less, or one to embarrass a companion into tipping more. Either motive is obnoxious.

And what was Hodgeman’s answer? I didn’t read it. I don’t care.

One thought on “Intrusive Tipping Ethics

  1. I’ve asked this question, too, but only to particularly close friends at places I frequent. My goal has simply not been to cause the waitress any worry. Or, if we split the bill, but I had an extra drink or something, I’ll put more of the tip on my bill.

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