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Christians are Bad Tippers and Other Lies

By Dwight Widaman | Editor


Just a few minutes ago I heard a story on Christian radio that Christians are, you guessed it, bad tippers. It’s a convenient story that even the Christian media can’t resist sharing. Problem is, it’s not true.

Tipping is just another subject where perceptions about Christians don’t match with statistics. And when our own media spreads the lies, we just can’t win.

In a February story Metro Voice reported a trip out to eat turned into a nightmare for the Rev. Alois Bell of the World Deliverance Ministries Church in Granite City, Ill. Bell and a group of friends went to Applebee’s. Following company policy, their server, Chelsea Welch, added an automatic tip to the bills.

Bell was not pleased not being given the opportunity to reward the server herself and was, instead, told what to tip.

“I give God 10%,” Bell wrote on the bill. “Why do you get 18?”

Welch posted the check on Facebook, and it went viral. She eventually was fired, while Bell apologized (saying she’d left a cash tip) after her note made headlines.

Turns out Welsh isn’t the only server to have issues with church folks. Nor was Bell the only diner to be called out for bad tipping when she actually did leave a tip.

Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, worked her way through college as a waitress. She alleged Christians were notorious for being bad tippers and wrote about it in a piece for Christianity Today’s website.

“My fellow servers called them the ‘Holy Rollers,'” she wrote. “Knowing there would be little, if any, tip left at the end of their meal, the servers saw the Christians’ robust attempts at ‘friendliness’ instead as pushy and arrogant. The memories still pain me now.”

Who is to say that was not the case for Swallow and her coworkers? Metro Voice reported on a study from Michael Lynn of Cornell University and Benjamin Katz of HCD Research indicates that all the coverage of the topic in secular as well as Christian media outlets simply isn’t true.

The research showed that, overall, Christians are pretty good tippers–in fact they are better tippers than the average American diner. Their survey of 1,068 Americans found that the average Christian tipped 17 percent for good service. Only about one in eight Christians left a smaller tip for good service. The national average for a tip left is just under 15 percent.

Just like the population in general, there are some Christians who may be bad tippers.  It is an uphill climb to persuade the media and public that those folks don’t represent our community as a whole. A few bad tippers give all the other Christians a bad name. Most “bad tipper” episodes have, in fact, been found to be false with waiters and waitresses falsifying receipts in order to gain media attention, sympathy and donations.

With Christians currently serving as THE most popular group of people to hate in American culture, regardless of the facts, there is nothing Christians can do to tread the tsunami of bad press over tipping. In Roman times the public believed Christians were drinking the blood of babies when Christians took communion. It may not be that bad now, but it still shows the public is just as gullible 2,000 years later.