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How the Beckham’s became the ‘Takeums’

The Beckhams’ reluctance to tip employees in the service industry has become such a signature of theirs that their close friend Elton John has a nickname for the couple: the “Takeums.” This nickname came after a week-long stint on the Grammy winner’s luxury yacht.

“Elton would later complain that the ‘Takeums’ had forgotten the customary courtesy of tipping the crew,” the New York Post quoted from Bower’s book. “A sum of about $26,733 was expected for [that] one week.”

Since the June publication of “House of Beckham,” the Beckhams have yet to defend themselves against these allegations. However, their reported actions may be part of a widerspread phenomenon: tip fatigue.

An overwhelming 72% of American adults believe that tipping is more expected now than it was five years ago, according to a 2023 Pew Research Center study that surveyed nearly 12,000 people.

Nearly a third (29%) of Americans in the Pew survey also admitted they felt an obligation to tip, rather than seeing it as a personal case-by-case choice based on quality of service.

As debate continues to swirl around the increase in tipping expectations in recent years, how much is the right amount to tip for the average American?

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Why tipping is such a hot topic these days

The Madrid waitress who clued Beckham in to how his zero dollar tip would impact her finances — especially since he’s such a high-profile celebrity — is the perfect illustration of why tips are such a big topic of conversation right now: it’s how many people earn their livelihoods.

The median annual wage for wait staff is $31,940 (just over $15 per hour), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. federal government says that’s nearly the same annual income as the poverty line for a family of four.

There are no exact statistics on the average tips that wait staff receive. However, restaurant inventory management system Binwise estimates that wait staff earn 60% of their income through tips. This can translate into an extra $100 per shift. The extra $500 per week — about $26,000 per year (before taxes) — can nearly double the average waiter’s annual salary.

According to a 2021 the New York Times (NYT) article, many restaurants with “no tipping” policies have reversed them in recent years because they noticed that their staff made less money — even after they increased the staff wages.

“The numbers don’t lie,” the NYT quoted David Stockwell, owner of the Italian bistro Faun in Brooklyn, which opened its doors as a tip-free eatery in 2016 before bringing tipping in 2018.

“We thought it was the rare instance when a good business decision lined up with a good ethical decision,” he added. “But we realized all the problems that came with the model started rearing their heads in our business.”

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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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