Tipping first arrived in America in the late 19th century, and was decried as bribery and quickly banned. We had the right idea back then, and we never should have been talked into accepting this "repugnant custom," writes Brian Palmer in Slate. Not only is tipping awful for restaurant employees (who are often not paid a living wage, and whose tips "have virtually nothing to do with the quality of service," studies have found) and not so pleasant for customers either (the "gratuity" is now a "moral obligation"), it also "perpetuates racism" given the stereotype of African-Americans as bad tippers.
Plus, there are the ridiculously complicated laws about tipping, which vary from state to state. Ultimately, lawyers are the only ones benefiting from this abhorrent practice, Palmer writes. So how to fix the problem? Obviously, laws need to be changed. But Palmer also recommends two simple practices: "Announce your tipping practice to your server as soon as you sit down. Virtually every other employee in America knows how much they’ll be paid up front." And "tip a flat, but reasonably generous, dollar amount per person in your party. A server’s pay shouldn’t be linked to whether or not you have room for dessert." Click for his full column.