Why Black People Don’t Tip

By Jeff Thomas

Bayou Classic Results

Every year you hear it during Bayou Classic. You probably believe it too.  Black people just don’t tip at restaurants .  So restaurants, if they open at all, close early. Hotels require armbands for guests.  Hotels raise their rates. New Orleans’ tourism economy places the you’re only kinda welcome mat out for Bayou Classic fans.  Cause the prevailing overarching theme is, “Black people don’t tip.”

Also, you hear, you might hear that some manager asked the black person for proof that he was a hotel guest, just after a warm and pleasant greeting to the white person. You might know that the few restaurants that are open only offer limited menus, featuring fried chicken.  And you might know  lines are long, and service is slow.  You probably didn’t hear that the waiters are rude.

Chicken or the Egg

What came first?  The bad service or no tips?  While the narrative is black people don’t tip, is the reality black people get bad service? Is the bad service because huge crowds overwhelm understaffed restaurants? Or do wait staff just expect low tips, so they provide bad service?  Is race a factor?  Most of the servers who complain are white, while most of the Bayou Classic customers are African American.  African American servers rarely complain, and black owned restaurants welcome the huge crowds and big paydays. Yet white restaurants close early and offer limited menus and their white waiters complain. Why don’t black people tip at restaurants?


African Americans and restaurants have a complicated relationship in America.  In fact, the Canal St. site of the building collapse was once the epicenter for the civil rights protests in New Orleans.  Oretha Castle Haley led groups of protesters to sit in at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworth.  And across the country African Americans used restaurants sit ins to achieve a sense of equality in America. For years after, African Americans received poor, disgruntled service from restaurant staff who felt forced to comply with changing laws.  To this day, most African Americans are keenly aware of service differences when eating out.  And not tipping is the historical response to bad service.

Narrative Fallacy and Confirmation Bias

We love great stories.  We can remember things better when there is a story attached to the details.  The problem is narrative fallacy occurs meaning later we often ignore facts and cling to the emotion of the story.  This narrative fallacy may be a factor in the widely accepted story that black people don’t tip.  So, when a ready to tip and hungry group of African Americans sit at a table, the waiter’s preconceived notions contribute to poor service and even ignoring the black table for a table of white patrons who suffer no such preconceived bias. 

While some of the Bayou Classic visitors are college students, most are college graduates who fly into town, pay to stay in downtown hotels and are good job having, middle aged professional alumni looking to enjoy the intense rivalry.  Meanwhile some college kid visits and spends $15 bucks at a Daiquiri shop and eats fast food on Canal St.  But confirmation bias – the tendency to see things as you wish them to be – leads to widespread reports of tip shorting.  Even if black people tipped at 35%, there is no way to overcome the built-in beliefs of waiters who believe that black people don’t tip.

 No matter what really happens the narrative will be the same.  People will believe what they want to believe.  Yet the city reports that Bayou Classic had $50 million-dollar economic input. 

With just a little better customer service, that could be a $50.05 million dollar impact.

4 thoughts on “Why Black People Don’t Tip

  • December 9, 2019 at 7:53 am

    You left out the part,where you noticed the linen appeared worn.It was, because,Hotels routinely replace fresh linen w/old worn linen for us.This to go along with the gourmet chicken menu’s.
    MARRIOTT was notorious for this practice,Maintaining a storage facility behind the hotel for AM events.Soooo rather than complain uselessly,we gratefully cutback on the gratuities.
    Former employee in hotel industry (security).

  • December 9, 2019 at 10:03 am

    As a waitress, it is absolutely not a myth. “BLACK PEOPLE” don’t tip and they have the waitress running back and forth, like really extra. No matter how nice or well you wait on the customer they are just not grateful in African American restaurants. Self hate, slave mentality mindset is what we are dealing with and black people supporting or tipping in restaurants. My position is I wait on you as if you tipped me $100.00, the not tipping is totally on them. I go to restaurants and make sure I tip, black, white it doesn’t matter. Someone serves you and you should be thankful. However black customers go to white own restaurants and they tip really big regardless of the service. I have seen with my own eyes. Tip black on black has a lot to do with that plantation mindset. Consciously or unconsciously, knowing or unknowingly self hate is deeply embedded in their minds, heart and soul. I could go on and on but I will stop here. I love my people but my people need to love themselves and their own people.

  • December 9, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Thanks for telling it like it really is. These white waiters don’t want to serve us half the time but expect a great tip. Nope!

    • December 17, 2019 at 8:23 am

      News flash, black waiters don’t like catching black patrons either, because “we don’t tip”. also known for being bad tippers are Asians and anyone from Europe.


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