It’s a move most likely seen in television and movies: “I’ll make it worth your while,” a man (it’s seemingly always a man) might say with a handshake to a host or server, with a folded bill hiding inside their palm. “Of course, sir,” the worker might say before seating them at the best table in the house or bringing out the last bottle of a rare wine. The handshake tip is a way to secretly hand money to a service worker that also forces them to touch your sweaty palm.
It’s unclear who this move is for. Does it make the person doing it feel cool? Is it a way for them to try to conceal their own wealth? Or perhaps it’s to hide the small bill they’re passing off as a generous sum, hoping the person receiving it doesn’t notice until it’s too late? Does the person receiving the money not want their coworkers to know? Is the recipient presumed to be dying for some human touch in the middle of their workday? Whatever the reason, it just doesn’t really ever make sense to do it. Don’t be this kind of tipper.
Not everyone wants to be touched. This was true pre-pandemic and has become even more true now that germ-consciousness is top of mind. Forcing someone to grab your hand in order to be compensated for a job well done isn’t the considerate act you might think it is.
And even if someone is willing to go in for the shake, if they’re not expecting a folded-up bill in the process, the action might actually end up drawing more attention than less. If the recipient isn’t ready to grip onto some cash, the money can slip onto the floor unnoticed. It can flop around in plain sight of everyone in the restaurant. It can cause an audible reaction from the person receiving the money. It’s not always as subtle as you think.
Slipping a “secret” tip to a restaurant host ahead of time doesn’t always lead to specialized service, either—because depending on how the restaurant is run, not everyone to whom you’re slipping cash has the power to help you out. If you just gave a host $50 to move your name to the top of the waitlist, there’s no guarantee that their “I’ll see what I can do” can actually turn into anything. It’s always better to follow the restaurant’s protocol and respect its workers for the job they’re already doing.
It’s true that in many cases, cash is much better for workers than a credit card tip because it’s less likely to be taxed, tampered with by restaurant managers, or held until the server’s next paycheck. But that doesn’t mean slipping them some bills needs to be a covert operation.
There’s no reason to be shy about tipping, whether you do it before or after your meal. If anything, visible cash might act as a cue for other diners to take care of their servers, bartenders, bus people, or anyone else who is helping them enjoy their meal. For the most part, those people you’re tipping don’t care if it’s a “secret” or not. Money is money, and restaurant workers will take it however you choose to present it. So why bother making it so covert?
And if you truly do still feel the need to hand someone money this way, it’d better be a big bill—restaurants workers don’t get paid enough to touch your hand for anything less than $20.