The politics of tipping

Do you tip at fast food restaurants?

It’s an ethical dilemma tailor made for HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and thrust into the 2016 spotlight when Hillary Clinton left an Ohio Chipotle without leaving a tip. 

When to tip can be a difficult decision, but it is especially tricky if you are running for president.

{mosads}Charles Wright, the manager of the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle, told Bloomberg that Clinton left no change in the tip jar after paying her bill, which came out to $20. 

“We get a bunch of tips,” Wright, a Republican voter, said of his store. “If we’re doing our job right, people tip.”

The story quickly went viral, with images from a security camera of Clinton in sunglasses ordering her chicken bowl with guacamole circulating on social media.

The story shows how every step taken by a presidential candidate will be heavily scrutinized by an ever-present media determined to find something to write about.

Strategists say the episode shows the spotlight will shine especially bright on Clinton, even in the most mundane situations.
“I think this incident is indicative of how every move she makes, at least for the time being‎, will be carefully scrutinized and analyzed to death,” Jim Manley, a veteran Democratic strategist and former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), wrote in an email. “Mayb‎e this will change, but I kinda doubt it. Gotcha style media coverage, along with politics, is here to stay.”

It also highlights the danger for candidates seeking to show their touch with the every day citizen, even if — contrary to Wright’s claim — many people don’t tip at the Mexican fast casual chain.

The Emily Post etiquette guidelines say there is “no obligation” to leave extra money in tip jars commonly found at fast food restaurants and coffee shops. But customers can “tip occasionally” for exceptional service. 

For politicians looking to show their common touch, however, it’s probably a good idea to leave a tip, whether at the Palm or Chipotle.


Politicians, like celebrities, are used to having the tipping decisions scrutinized — and many are ready to make headlines.

President Obama has gained a reputation as a big tipper dating back to his first presidential campaign in 2008. 

One month before Clinton conceded the nomination to Obama, he stopped at The Raleigh Times Bar in North Carolina, where he reportedly left an $18 tip on a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. 

Obama and Vice President Biden lunched at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. in 2009, and the president left $5 in the tip jar. 

And during the government shutdown in Oct. 2013, Obama and Biden walked to the Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop on Pennsylvania Ave., which was giving a 10 percent discount to furloughed government workers. 

The president paid a $21.56 lunch tab and left a tip of $18.44. 

Obama hasn’t always remembered to pay his bills, however.

After a Father’s Day meal at Kenny’s BBQ Smokehouse in Northeast Washington, the president forgot to pay his $55.58 tab. The White House cleared up the mistake and paid the bill by the end of the day. 

Democrats painted Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as an out of touch plutocrat during the 2012 campaign. To show he was a man in the people, Romney stopped by fast food chains on the trail.

He visited a Chipotle in Denver one month before Election Day. He left behind a $1.75 tip on a $18.25 bill.  

Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, was fond of eating at McDonald’s during his time in the White House. 

During a campaign stop in Michigan for vice president Al Gore in 2000, Clinton stopped his motorcade at a McDonald’s for an impromptu meal. He was accompanied by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea. 

Clinton reportedly pulled out several $20 bills to pay his bill, but the worker at the counter told him it was not necessary. 

“It’s on the house, didn’t they tell you?” the teenage girl said, according to Newsday, adding, “Unless you want to give tips.”

Newsday reported that Clinton slid “what appeared to be a $20 bill” back across the counter and said, “You guys go out and have some fun.”


Tags Barack Obama Chipotle Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Tipping
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