"Tipping is not a city in China” is a sentence placed on many restaurant tip jars, a friendly reminder to the customers that tips are welcome. The saying dates to at least 1975, when New York (NY) Post syndicated entertainment columnist Earl Wilson wrote that waiters at a midtown pub would soon be wearing the saying on T-shirts.
Not only is “tipping” not a city in China, but tipping is also not a custom in China.
31 July 1975, Idaho Falls (ID) Post-Register, “TV excitement coming to NY” by Earl Wilson, pg. A13, col. 2:
EARL’S PEARLS: Waiters at a midtown pub will soon be wearing T-shirts with the sentence: “‘Tipping’ Is Not A City In China.”
17 January 1980, Washington (DC) Post, “Going Places” by Yolanda Marshall Tisdale, pg. DC2:
The audience poured out into the lobby past the bar sign that read: Tipping is not a city in China.
By A. G. Mojtabai
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin
There’s a sign over the cash register: TIPPING IS NOT A CITY IN CHINA.
Winning at Slot Machines
By Jim Regan
Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press
Casino employees have been overheard to say again and again, “Someone should tell these folks it’s OK to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and that tipping is not a city in China!”
Google News Archive
10 February 1985, Toledo (OH) Blade, pg. D4, col. 4:
One reads: “Harry Buffalo, 50 cents” and the other says “Tipping is not a city in China.”
19 August 1987, Washington (DC) ,i.Post, “Chefs of the Chefs: Speculations at the Annual Gathing” by Phyllis C. Richman, food section, pg. E1:
Lately signs have appeared in bars and restaurants coast to coast: “TIPPING is not a city in China” (except for one I saw that got it wrong: “TIPPING is a city in China").
New York (NY) Times
Getting a Taste Of ‘Slow’ Food Along the Gulf
By STEVE BURKHOLDER; STEVE BURKHOLDER is a writer who lives in Middletown, Conn.
Published: Sunday, February 5, 1989
Beside the cash register sits a small jar for gratuities, its subtle message: “Tipping is not a city in China.”
Passport Hong Kong:
Your pocket guide to Hong Kong business, customs & etiquette
By Andrew Grzeskowiak
San Rafael, CA: World Trade Press
A Note on Tipping
Some American restaurants and cafes have clever little signs by the cash register that read “Tipping is not a city in China.” Neither is tipping a custom in China, having originated in the West. If you are a guest, permit your host to decide this issue. Fancy restaurants include a 10 percent service charge in your bill. If you’re alone, let your conscience be your guide, but don’t feel obligated to reward bad service.
Jing Fong Waiters Want Their Tips
Leaving a tip is an interesting thing in Chinese culture - some people leave smaller tips in line with 10% (whereas a server at a restaurant most anywhere else would sneer at that) but the reason may be that tips aren’t left in China. Have you noticed a different dynamic with tipping at Chinatown restaurants? And since we know it’ll come, let’s just get “Tipping is not a city in China” out of the way.
By Jen Chung in News on April 6, 2006 10:32 AM
The Atlantic Food Channel
Jul 1 2009, 12:55 pm by Corby Kummer
Tipping Really Isn’t A City In China
Jim Fallows recently wrote about what strikes him most forcefully as he re-enters U.S. life after spending three years in China. The shuttle driver on the way in from the Aspen airport made clear that he expected a tip in a particularly blatant way—reminding Jim that in China tipping is so unusual as to be even insulting.