The story is now known, but there’s a bigger story as sketched by Brian Palmer:
When Applebee’s tried to impose an automatic 18 percent tip last week on the bill of Atlanta pastor Alois Bell, she crossed it out, reduced the tip to zero, and added the note, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” A waitress posted the receipt online, earning Bell nationwide derision and the server a pink slip for violating Bell’s “right to privacy,” according to Applebee’s. Over the weekend, the restaurant chain suffered an avalanche of criticism. More than 20,000 angry Facebook commenters responded to the company’s attempts to explain its decision to fire the offending waitress….
Tipping had an inauspicious start in America. When the practice migrated from Europe, many consumers considered it bribery. The Anti-Tipping Society of America, a lobby group of traveling salesmen, pushed many states to ban the practice. When the laws were struck down or repealed under pressure from restaurant and hotel owners who profited in saved wages, members of the media suggested that a tip should total no more than 10 percent. Since then, the national tipping rate seems to have risen inexorably. Guides from the 1960s suggest that an appropriate tip ranged from 10 to 20 percent, with 15 percent representing the average. Tipping a server 10 percent is now widely considered a serious offense, and a Zagat survey from 2012 found the average restaurant tip has risen to 19.7 percent.
America’s churches should be so lucky. When the Christian research group Empty Tomb began tracking tithing in 1968, mainstream Christians gave 3.3 percent of their income to a church. Those donations have steadily dropped, falling to a mere 2.38 percent in the most recent survey. Evangelicals like Bell typically give more, but their donations have also fallen by around 30 percent since the late 1960s. Churches could really use the cash, too. Only 10 percent of U.S. congregations have an endowment that exceeds their annual operating budget. Even the Mormon church, the international tithe-collecting champion, fails to pressure the faithful into a full 10 percent tithe. There’s little data on U.S. contributions, but Canadian Mormons pay about 8 percent of annual income to the church. (Fortunately for Mormons, the church hardly needs the money.)