Thoughts on Tipping – Pardon the Rant

Thoughts on Tipping

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good rant, so here goes… We’re currently on vacation and we went out for lunch yesterday. When the bill came, they had a handy little tipping guide at the bottom of the receipt. They listed suggested tip amounts for “good, ” “excellent, ” and “outstanding” service.

So far, so good, but… When I converted the dollar amounts into percentages, I discovered that their base recommendation for “good” service was 18% of the full bill, and it went up from there. Call me old fashioned, but if a server provides nothing more than “good” service, they’re getting nothing more than a standard 15% tip – calculated on the pre-tax total.

Restaurant tipping standards

Before you call me cheap, consider that none other than etiquette guru Emily Post recommends tipping your waiter or waitress in the range of 15-20% of the pre-tax total, depending on the level/quality of service. I have no problem tipping generously for excellent service, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to goad people into tipping more for standard service.

And yes, I’ve heard the argument (mostly from current and former waitstaff) that the base tip should now be 18% due to inflation, but I’m not buying it. After all, inflation produces higher prices across the board – including on the menu. This means that the actual dollar amounts being tipped increase in lockstep with menu prices.

Auto-gratuities for groups

Oh, and don’t get me started on auto-tipping for groups…

There are a few restaurants in our area that automatically apply an 18% gratuity to groups of six or more. On the surface, this is understandable. After all, groups often require more in the way of service (split bills, and so forth) and many people use being part of a group as cover for their under-tipping ways.

That’s all well and good, but my family isn’t a “group.” We’re a family. Yes we have four kids, but we ask for nothing over and above the standard level of service. There are no requests for split-checks, and you don’t even have to deal with all six of us – my wife and I go ahead and order on behalf of our younger kids.

If you insist on treating us as a “group, ” then the least that you can do is to let us know that you’re doing so. But in most cases, you don’t. Rather, you slip that 18% on the bill without so much as a word. Sure, it says (in fine print on the back of the menu) that groups are subject to an auto-tip, but most people don’t consider their wife and kids to be a group.

As such, I’d be willing to bet that most families don’t check for the auto-gratuity, and many end up double tipping. This has (almost) happened to us on more than one occasion, so I now check the bill carefully before deciding whether or not to leave an additional tip.

The funny thing is that, in many cases, I would have left a larger tip than what was automatically added to the bill. And if the waiter does me the courtesy of telling me that they’ve added an auto-gratuity, I sometimes still will – if it’s deserved. But if they don’t bother telling me, then they’re not getting another penny. And if the service was abysmal, I’m not above adjusting the tip down.

Why I’m still in favor of tipping

Despite the above, I don’t actually have a problem with our tip-based restaurant economy. People often argue that they’d rather pay a higher menu price in return for having the restaurant pay the waitstaff a reasonable wage. The problem with this approach is that, in the absence of a tip, your waiter’s interests are no longer aligned with your own.

If you’ve ever visited a country in which tipping isn’t expected, you may have noticed that the service isn’t as good – or at least that’s been my experience. By tying a portion of the waitstaff’s compensation to the quality of their service, you’re helping to ensure that they do a good job.

Of course, this won’t work if everyone just tips blindly, without regard to the quality of service. And guess what? It’s been argued that tips often don’t correlate well with the actual quality of service provided. Rather, many of us tip in response to custom, flirtation, etc. So do us all a favor and think before tipping.

54 Responses to “Thoughts on Tipping – Pardon the Rant”

  1. Anonymous

    It seems most people commenting on this have clearly never been a waitress in a restaurant. I live in Michigan I only make 3.50 an hour. Your tip is what I count on to pay my bills. You might not think I’m giving you the best service but you also have NO idea what I’m actually doing when I’m not just at your table. First of all I probably have 5 other tables at the same time. All of which have different needs or sometimes just way more high maintenance for no reason. When I don’t have any tables in the restaurant because it’s slow you better believe I’m not just standing around doing nothing. No im busting my ass making 3 fricken dollars to ensure the restaurant is always clean, restocked and running smoothly. I’m not just your server. There’s wayyy more that goes on in the background than you think. Also, some of your tip doesn’t even go to me, it goes to the bartender who made your drink, but keep in mind I’m the one who got your order, typed it in the computer and delivered it to you and made sure you were happy with your choice. We bust our ass not only to give you good service and to make the restaurant look good but we do it because your tip is what is going to bring me closer to minimum wage. Do you have any idea what it feels like to run around like a mad women trying to make everyone around you happy including the owner, which means lots of cleaning, then to finally grab the bill off the table after the guest leaves to realize they left you a shit tip. You feel like everything You just did for that table was worthless and u only got 2 bucks to show for it. Remember I said we only make $3 an hour. That’s where you come in. It’s called service industry for a reason if you don’t want To tip a decent amount then don’t go to a restaurant and expect someone to wait on you. And this whole tipping before tax…. HELLOOOO. If you tip me off your credit card that goes onto my paycheck (depending on the restaurant) which means my tip also gets taxed, so that’s taking away my money not to mention the tip out that goes to dishwashers and bartenders. I don’t control the menu prices, I don’t control how much the employer pays me an hour, and clearly my hard work and effort doesn’t control how much you are going to tip me. But maybe With a little more knowledge about why you are supposed to tip well you will actually do so or just not go sit down at a restaurant period. Please keep in mind that if I take long to get back to your table it could be because someone had an accident in back That needs to be cleaned up immediately for the workers safety or that another table of mine kept me wayyy longer than I wish they were would have. Or if I forget something, people make fricken mistakes, I have many tables, other people’s tables are pulling me aside as I walk by asking for stuff. I’m only human things happen. But if you ever worked in this industry you would understand how much work it is, how much multitasking there is and how much you have to remember, how fast paced youre moving, and how unrewarding and a pain in the ass it can be sometimes. So please, if you don’t know what you are talking about don’t go out to eat or suck it up pay the 20% and have some respect.

  2. Anonymous

    The truth about the tiping problem is that the first tipping goes to the BOSS which is always safe because it is added to the bill(the waiter never gets it) and then the second tipping goes to the waiter, that is optional from the costumer. The same problem happens in many restaurants all over the world.


  3. Anonymous

    “BG: Cash tips are preferred by some b/c they can get away with reporting less in the way of taxable income.”

    This is why I don’t tip in cash. I don’t approve of them dodging taxes through these means. A McDonalds worker doesn’t get to dodge taxes on part of their wage.

  4. Anonymous

    You don’t need the waiter’s interest aligned with your own to get good service. Try going to Japan. There is no such thing as tip, and their customer service in all industries is top-notch.

  5. Anonymous

    The tip is a reward or feedback for service. For someone that exhibits exceptional service I will give 20% but for someone that makes a lot of mistakes or even worse is rude 5 – 10% is warranted. I agree with you on auto tipping, there is no motivation to do a good job with it.

  6. Anonymous

    @Accolay – Agreed

    That’s like the tip jar at the dry cleaners….why am I tipping you? I just paid you for your service….sheesh!! Out of control!!!

  7. Anonymous

    I tip for service. And service means being waited on. If I didn’t want service, I could have stayed at home. I tip well for good service, and poor or nothing for fair or bad service.

    And I agree that tipping culture has become ridiculous. That means I don’t throw a tip in the jar on the counter when somebody rings up my order.

  8. Anonymous

    Back in the ’60s and prior, it was proper protocol for the owner of an establishment to decline a tip. I don’t know why that’s changed. I feel a little odd tipping the owner of the little diner down the street, and I feel downright irritated at being expected to tip a hairstylist when he/she is the owner of the salon. While I feel it’s good manners to offer the tip, I feel that it’s only proper for the owner to decline it.

  9. Anonymous

    In regards to bringing out kids food early, over the years I’ve come to expect parents to want the kids food out first typically when the child is in the 6 and under age range, and if the family is not getting appetizers.

    Usually what happens is parents forget to bring toys or color books or whatever, and the kids all seem to have ants in their pants from drinking cokes, so they’re ready to go! If you bring out their food first, the parents have the opportunity to cut it up, feed the kids, and deal with any issues before their food comes out. If they get it at the same time and the kids are misbehaving (most parents don’t have the ability to stop that) then their food sits and gets cold while they deal with their children.

    I make sure to always ask “Would you like for me to bring out the kids food first, or do you want it with the rest of the meal?” just to be sure, but deep down I think most parents like being able to get the kids fed first, and be able to enjoy their meal when the time comes.

    That’s really what the industry is about, letting you enjoy your experience, and that’s what the server is there to help along. If something is wrong, talk to your server, they can probably help fix it or at least attempt to make it right. If you have a good-great experience you’ll probably come back, and that’s good business, and if you’ve happened to have a great experience at a restaurant, tell your server, tell the manager, tell someone! And of course, when you come back, ask for the same server and build a friendship. When you’ve got friends in the business things tend to only get better.

    Moral of the story: Servers exist to help you enjoy your time at a restaurant, if they do a good job, let them know either with a monetary tip, or a verbal AND monetary tip (verbal tips are the worst “Great job man, best service ever, heres 5%) but if something is wrong, LET YOUR SERVER KNOW. We don’t want to sit through a meal with the wrong food or without some sauce or with a flat coke, so why would we want you to do the same? Tell us and we’ll try our best to fix it for you. We’re not mind readers, we can tell by the look on your face that something is wrong, but when we ask if everything is alright, and you say yes when it really isn’t, you’re only hurting yourself. (typically when people do that, they end up telling you what was wrong at the end of the meal when we can’t fix it, and expect us to pay for their food or give them something for free, or just get so upset that something was wrong that they wont tip)
    Communicate and you will have a better experience.

  10. Anonymous


    I have to disagree with the “Don’t do me any favors” quote from FCN. You can’t ask a server not to do you favors, because doing favors is their JOB. It’s what they do. You are paying them to do you favors. It’s called “service”.

    To be clear, I think it’s perfectly valid that you prefer not to have your kids’ food brought out early, and that’s 100% ok. I think it’s really cool that you raise your kids that way, and I wish more people would.

    At the same time, please understand that servers do their best to anticipate your needs. If they bring your kids food out early it’s because that’s what *most* parents prefer… they are honestly trying to give you better service.

    Most customers LOVE when servers do special little things like that without being asked. My best tips and feedback were from times when I tried to anticipate my customers needs without them telling me.

    Unfortunately, this can sometimes backfire. I understand your point, I’m just saying try to understand your server’s POV as well. They’re genuinely trying to be helpful, and your anger seems misdirected.

  11. Anonymous

    If asked it doesn’t bother me. If you assume it does irritate me. It also irritates me that many Americans lose sight of the fact that we are raising ADULTS!!! The courtesy wouldn’t be neccessary if people kept that in their minds! When my children get older wait staff will not be bringing their food early. We get a lot of compliments on how well behaved our children are at restaurants, it is because they are expected to behave and be patient and not ruin anyone else’s meal!!

    FCN also said – “Don’t do me any favors” by bringing out my children’s food, I know I’m not alone in this!

  12. Anonymous

    I worked 5 years as a waitress in the States.

    I agree with you that families should not be considered a “group”! At the restaurant where I worked, groups were for 8 or more people, which I think is much more realistic.

    I also agree that the percentage shouldn’t go up because of inflation… the amount of tip would rise with the menu prices over time.

    As for your complaints about servers not mentioning the added gratuity, that’s because servers aren’t allowed to discuss tips unless the customer brings it up (at least where I worked). I used to get past this by circling the added gratuity on the check, but it took me awhile to learn this.

    @23 Heather: Servers bring out the kids food as a courtesy to you. In my experience, most parents would tell me to go ahead and bring the kids food out as soon as it was ready so they could cut it up and whatnot. Personally I never did it unless asked ahead of time by the parents… but I don’t see a reason to be offended by it. They’re genuinely trying to be helpful.

  13. Anonymous

    I’m fine with tipping for good service, and even occasionally giving a really good tip for exceptional service, but I think it has gotten a bit out of hand at a lot of places with the auto-gratuities, even when the service is atrocious. I remember a time recently where we were there with a group of 10 people. We saw the waiter exacty twice. once to take our order, and once to bring our order (oh and of course to bring us our bill). Never once did he stop by to see if drinks needed refilling or if someone wanted dessert. Then of course we had the 18% gratuity tacked on automatically. One guy in the party was so upset that he called the manager and made him remove the auto-gratuity from his bill.

    I’ve been on trips to Europe a couple of times, and in several countries where tipping wasn’t expected, and in most cases I found the service to be slow and unfriendly. I could have just picked the wrong places, but it happened enough times for me to think that it wasn’t just a coincidence.

  14. Anonymous

    Michael) “I’m being taxed on the 12% of my total sales, so roughly 110ish dollars.”

    You are paying an _estimated_ tax based on 12% of total sales. What you truly bring home, is what your real income tax return should claim/disclose.

    You should not be paying taxes on the bus-boys earnings, the bartender’s tips, etc. _Your_ tax return should only show as taxable income what you yourself received.

    If you are overpaying taxes throughout the year, based on the estimation of 12% of sales — you will get those overpayments back in a refund.

    But I do get what you are saying: a bad tip can cause a waiter to actually lose money on a table, because of the mandatory tips to the bussers/bartenders/etc off of the ticket amount (which would’ve come out of the tips which you didn’t receive). But again, you don’t pay taxes on their income/tips, you should actually be claiming their tips as LOSSES against the tables you do make money on — hence lowering your overall tax-burden when someone stiff you on a tip.

    For example:

    Table 1: $100 ticket (no tip) — you lost $3.50 to the bartender, bussboy, hostess — they always get theirs.

    Table 2: $100 ticket ($20 tip) — you made $16.50 (the rest goes to the bussboy/bartender/hostess).

    After these two tables, your taxable income is $13.00 — because that is what you received. The “estimated tax” withheld from your paycheck, however was based on 12% of the $200 ticket amounts (12% of $200 is $24). You are due a tax-refund, because you paid an estimated tax on $24 income, but your true income was $13. Keep good records.

  15. Anonymous

    In regards to paying taxes on wage, I’ll try to help iron that out.

    As a server in AL, I was paid $2.13 an hour, and as a bartender (bar, full section, AND to go) I was paid $6.00 an hour.

    At the end of the night, your cashout (a summary of the nights sales) shows you a gross sales, which is what we say “I sold”. So gross sales of $890 means the server sold $890 in checks, that includes tax (net discounts tax and coupons, but you don’t tip out on that). So when we figure out what we owe to the rest of the floor staff (bartender, busboy, food runner, host, etc.) we use that number. That number is also what is used when tabulating our wage requirements. We can be legally paid under minimum wage so long as our tipped income exceeds minimum wage for the shift, so with an average of 12% of ones sales being taken out as tippable income, you see that 12% added to your paycheck in regards to taxes.

    So I sell ~900 tonight, I tip out 1% to the busboy for cleaning and resetting my tables ($9), 1% to the food runner for bringing my food out to the tables, 1% to the bartender for making my drinks, and a half percent to the host who helps clean up sometimes (mostly we tip them so the restaurant can get away with paying them less than minimum wage as well). So before I can count my money, I’m paying out about $35 to the helpers of the restaurant, and that does indeed come out of what you tipped me. So I tip those people out, and I can count my money. If I am lucky enough to have made 20% on all of my tables that night, I would have roughly $160-180 starting, knock the 35 off of that, and it’s at a more reasonable 130-140 for the night. Considering an average check is in the $35 range, that means I had about 20 tables in a 4 hour time frame, typically 4-5 at a time (4 turns is pretty impressive and rarely happens, probably more like 15-20 tables, a few larger ones and the number goes down) I’d say making $20 an hour is plenty reasonable for having 5 tables or 20-30 people an hour.

    I’m being taxed on the 12% of my total sales, so roughly 110 ish dollars. The accountant checks my credit card receipts against that 12% and adds cash onto the line on the paycheck to bring it up to the proper %, so when I get my paycheck, theres a line with *CASHTIPS* and that’s my taxable tipped income. This all goes to taxes. In 2010, I received 1 paycheck that actually had money on it, all others are VOID, which means I didn’t make enough to cover my tax burden, and I will owe at the end of the year.

    I was good about keeping up with my tips in 2010, and after adding them all up, and comparing them with my W2, I was surprisingly close, I ended up bringing home about $600 less than I was taxed on, and I’m fine with that, we all should be, that’s pretty dang close!

    But anyway, lets imagine I work at a restaurant where the average tip is 15% instead of 20%. That same 900 in sales ends up being $135 in tips at the end of the night, but I’m still paying out the busser/host/foodrunner/bar the same % of my sales, so for the 900 in sales I would walk with $100. So a friday night coming in at 4, leaving around 11, 11:30 (6-8 hours on the clock) I leave with $100, simple math will show that’s about $15 an hour at a 15% tip rate.

    Respectable? Quite. But then you have to start to consider the variables. getting a solid % across all of your tables in a night is something that never happens, and you have to deal with people who leave you great tips, and people who leave you poor to nothing tips. In the end it does all average out, but when you’re barely making 15%, and then you get a few tables who leave nothing, that % drops like a rock, and you start losing money. As I showed prior, we tip out the help staff regardless of whether or not we get tipped, so when you leave a poor tip, the server is the one fronting the bill, as well as the other tables.

    I’ll be honest, I made more money waiting tables than I do at a salaried biotech position, but waiting tables was time consuming, tiring, and all in all a huge drain. If you expect to make decent money as a server, you HAVE to work 11-12 shifts a week, which means you have no free time to do anything except after work (which typically means going to a bar, and blowing all the money you made to help make it through another week as a server).

    Tipping is a tough subject, and the US has taken the stance of tipping at a restaurant as a social contract. You understand that by eating in a traditional sit down restaurant, you abide by the understood rule of tipping your server for his/her service. You, the customer, are responsible for your server’s wage. It’s a messed up system, but that’s just the way it is.

    The moral of this long winded story is not that you should tip, but you are expected to when you enter the restaurant. That’s how it is in this country, it’s not my fault or yours, but if you don’t want to play by the rules, you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place. (that isn’t meant to sound mean or rude) I take care of every one of my customers to the best of my ability, and I try hard to let you know what’s going on so you can have an idea of what I’m doing. I give to you, you can return the kindness by being helpful, polite, and tipping me.

    sorry about how long this was, hopefully it clears some things up and lessens the divide by the anti-tippers and the tipped staff. And seriously, if you feel that tips are out of control, please, I beg you, work in a normal restaurant for a few weeks, you will understand after standing on your feet for 14 hours, dealing with human kind, and maybe earning a buck or two.

  16. Anonymous

    BG, say someone tips 15%, the busser gets 1% of sales, the host another 1% and the bar another 3-4% and the server gets 10%, great they are making more than the IRS assumes. But what happens when people tip less (more often in large groups)? The server makes less. I tip mostly in CC and have no problem with anyone that does, my issue is people flipping out about tipping the server 18% or not being told about the grat when it written clearly on the receipt.

  17. Anonymous

    Ginger) The IRS, ABSENT OF OTHER DOCUMENTATION, uses a conservative default of 8% of sales to calculate what a server could’ve gotten in tips (and what will be taxed). Even at 8% tipping, the waiter is still making money.

    If you aren’t keeping records to prove you are under 8% tipping — too bad for you.

    Now the IRS will use credit-card receipts (if available), to estimate the tipping on the cash transactions — which completely explains why waiters want their tips in cash:

    1) credit card receipts would show a ZERO tip, hence helping the estimate for the cash receipts
    2) waiter pockets the cash tips, no taxes are paid on it
    3) they screw over the busser/bartender/host, claiming no tip was left, etc

    You know what: I don’t want to be involved in any waitor’s schemes to defraud the rest of the taxpayers. I’ll tip what I want, and it’ll be on a credit card receipt. I have never tipped lower than 10% — but if you give awful service, you get what you deserve.

  18. Anonymous

    Oh, in regard to the fact that Emily Post says to tip 15-20%, she died in 1960. There have been some changes in that time, I would think.

  19. Anonymous

    “Chris) I’m confused — you are saying that waiters / waitresses must claim as _their_ income a percentage of the restaurants sales, even if they didn’t get a dime from it?!?

    Something is obviously not right with this picture.”
    Yes that is true, also a server has to tip out the busser, bartender and possible the host. Those two reason that is reason that the tips are now suppose to be 20% not 15%, back in the day you do not get taxed on what you did not earn and you did not tip out others (unless you wanted to).
    In regards to the “tell me there is a gratuity”, would you expect the server to tell you that he/she charged you for the salad or the beer or the soda, I doubt it. It is written clearly on the bill, read the bill.
    And, Chuck is correct, restaurants have been sued for autogratting one party and not another. And, if you do not want the kids food brought out first, tell your server, most restaurants tell their servers to do so unless you say otherwise.
    Btw, I am 26 and have only tipped 10% twice in my life because if I am willing to tip less than 15% I speak to the manager and they fix it. 20% is good service, 15% is ok (barely) and anything else is when you have spoken the manager and not had the problem fixed. This was what I was taught since I was a kid, if I went out with someone who complained about the 18% grat, I would call you cheap and change how I look at you, as it did here.

  20. Anonymous

    It’s always amazing to me how many comments a tipping article will create. And of course I end up reading them all too!

    Anectodally, my wife and I did spend our honeymoon in Ireland and I was unimpressed with the service we received. On several occassions I had to approach the staff in order to get a menu, to order, etc. Otherwise they just left us sitting at our table twiddling our thumbs.

  21. Anonymous

    For everyone that wants a decent wage paid to the server and no tipping, please take a trip to Germany, England or France where your server will not expect a tip but you will be expected to pay over $35 American for a burger, drink and fries. No one would do the job, or do it well for $10.00 an hour. And if they were getting paid $10.00 believe me you would not see service like you normally get.

    You want to talk about tipping…ok Lets talk about something a lot of people do not want to talk about: racial groups that do not tip. Black People, White trash, and Indians have a hard time tipping..sometime at all. I recently took a job in a side of town tha had a higher amount of black people that were patrons.

    On an average day if I sold $1000 I would have $300 in sales where I received NOTHING. Under restaurant policy I still had to tip support staff based on that, and still had to declare under Federal Law I made tips on that. So yeah I would actually have days where I walked with less then 10%. On Valentines Day this year we had a server who sold $600 and made $37.

    I lasted 3 months and found a job selling less but making more. The restaurant I worked for is still trying to “keep” tipped employees to no avail.

    So now the parties of 6 or more “Autograt,” but my family is not a party..well the problem you have is, if we only place it on certain parties we are discriminating and can be sued. Again my store in the black area, we applied it equally across the board because if we only applies it to the party of six black people and did not apply it to the family of 6 we would open ourselves up to be considerede discriminating. So everyone pays.

    I once, in a nicer area of town had a party from MOEN, 14 people for lunch, business men one check paid by one person. I was not able to wait on anyone else as they took up that many of my resources. They tipped, corporate card on a $250.00 check almost $60. That was essentially my lunch shift. Three weeks later I get a perty from MOEN again and the bill is $250 Indian guy pays, corparate card tips me $20. Again took my entire lunch, but after I paid the 4% tip out on sales- I made 10.00.

    The autograt ensures that the server is going to be at least minimally compensated for the effort they expend.

    Well thats an aspect of the job? Well 30 years ago maybe, but now with automatice forced tip out and declaring tips to the IRS, if I am forced to pay on what you buy-regardless of what I actually get you have to be considered forced to pay me in some circumstances.

    How about a party of 10 that one person shows up an hour before the rest? For an hour my entire section is locked and I am not making a dime that I could have made while waiting on other tables…

  22. Anonymous

    To the person “Michael” who said its a breach of contract that not tipping 18% for a group if the menu says so – that statement is absolutely false. There is no contract, signed, verbal or implied. And the courts routinely side with the customer in these tipping cases. In fact, if they added the tip automatically & i didn’t pay ANY kind of tip, it’s perfectly legal. A tip, by legal definition, is OPTIONAL, **ALWAYS** (even if the restaurant says its not optional, the law IS on the side of the customer)

  23. Anonymous

    Wow what a bunch of tightas$es. Probably because most of you are middle aged. I’m very frugal and smart with my finances, but I am very willing to part with 20-40% per meal. Make someones day for a change. I’ll give a dollar, and I’ll be given a dollar.
    If you don’t want to pay a tip, go to mcdonalds or some other fine establishment.

  24. Anonymous

    Oh tipping… I have so much to say.

    Let me start by saying, as a hairstylist, I rely on my tips. I need them to live. They give my minimum wage job with inconsistent hours a leg to stand on. And there is not one client that walks into my chair that I EXPECT a tip from. I bust my ass for every tip I get so I know I deserve it.

    Auto tipping. No way. Earn it.

    Minimum 18%? Yeah right. Work for it!

    Because my income is supplemented by tipping, when I’m out, whether for beauty or food or anything, my standards are high. I only tip when it’s deserved and when I tip well, it’s often followed up by compliments to the manager/ head office etc. And if the service is shit. Oh lordy! Watch out.

  25. Anonymous

    10% used to be the standard tip at least as recently as 1937, then it went up to 15% at some point at least by the 1980’s then it went up to 20%. Whats next? 25%.. 30%… should we expect to be tipping 60% by 2050? I see no necessary reason for the increase in the standard rate. Why should it go up?? Why shouldn’t it be 10% again like it used to be?

    In 7 states wait staff get full minimum wage regardless of tips. Thats not known by a lot of people. Yet in those 7 states the 20% standard rule still applies for some reason.

    I had fine service in UK & Ireland where tipping is generally not expected. It wasn’t super awesome service as a whole but it was comparable to common service in the US.

    I’d really prefer that wait staff get a decent living wage and then smaller purely optional tips. But since we have the system we have, I normally tip 20% for good service.

  26. Nickel

    Ellen: Our youngest is six, and the kids are no messier than a typical adult. As for “special” treatment like bringing out the kids meals first… Don’t do me any favors. We neither expect, nor want our kids’ food to be brought out early.

  27. Nickel

    Michael: Like I said, I understand the logic underlying auto-gratuity on groups. The problem I have is that my nuclear family isn’t a “group” in the intended sense, and it’s not reasonable to assume that people in our circumstance will recognize that they are considered to be a group, and will thus be subject to the auto-gratuity. It takes a waiter or waitress virtually no effort to say “by the way, we tacked on 18% as per restaurant policy” – unless, of course, they are hoping for the occasional double tip.

    As far as adding to the auto-gratuity, if the waiter has the decency to tell me that they’ve already added 18% to the bill, then I will add to the tip – assuming that a larger tip is warranted. This wasn’t a hypothetical, feel good statement – it’s the truth. Turning the tables, your statement that people should know better is just weak justification for creating a situation in which families will accidentally double tip.

    As for instances in which we receive bad service, I do speak to the manager, and I adjust the gratuity accordingly. As for your argument that the fine print on a menu constitutes a “contract,” that’s not quite true in a legal sense. And even if it was, there are two sides to every contract – if I’m paying what essentially constitutes a service fee, then I have every right to expect quality service in return.

  28. Anonymous

    I have definitely tipped more to attractive, flirty waitresses without even thinking about it.

    When I was a waiter, I always got the best tips from groups of middle aged women. They liked it when the guy in his mid-twenties gave them a little extra special attention and I liked the extra 5%.

    I usually tip around 18-20% for good service, but I have no problem tipping under 15% for bad service. I once left a 25 cent tip on a $10 meal because the service was so incredibly atrocious (got into a shouting argument with the waiter).

  29. Anonymous

    It annoys the snot out of me when servers bring my children food before my meal. 1. If I’m bringing my children to a restaurant they need to learn how to eat at a restaurant (ie. learn to sit quietly, respectfully and be patient). 2. If they get their food before mine, guess who’s done before I am – ugh!

    As a mother of five (ages 9-1), I can appreciate how hard wait staff work but please DO NOT bring out their food before mine!!!

    I also TOTALLY do not understand why you would tip on the after tax total….the restaurant doesn’t get that money?!

  30. Anonymous

    I think the problem is America as a society; we are some cheap SOB’s. I was recently in Japan, and tip and tax is included in everything. The servers in Japan work even harder than any waiters/waitresses in America, because this is their job. Americans don’t have the work ethic for this, and I know it would never work here, but it was nice not having to tip.

  31. Anonymous

    Chris said > Cash tips, for a person living on food service wages, are highly valued.
    Newlyfrugal said >All the servers want us to tip more and tip in cash.

    Why are cash tips preferable ? Does it really matter ?

  32. Anonymous

    Ellen) I don’t think anybody here is arguing that outstanding service shouldn’t be tipped very well. The issue is the so-so service has 18% (or higher) automatic gratuities.

    We recently had a group of 10 or so at a business lunch (family style chineese food). The waiter took the orders, brought the food/drinks — and we _never_ saw the guy again. No glasses were refilled, had to track down the hostess for extra silver-ware and napkins (for a late arrival), etc.

    The bill had an 18% automatic gratuity on it. We paid it, but I’m never going back to that place again.

  33. Anonymous

    I am not sure how old your children are, but as a parent of twin toddlers, I’ve noticed that waiters work very hard for tables with small children. It might not seem as complicated as serving a “group”, but the waiter usually stages the meals and drinks so that young children are served first. At our last lunch out, the waitress really hustled to make sure that we were well supplied with flatware, napkins, extra plates, etc. We always tip at least 20% and add another dollar because the staff has MUCH more to clean up after we leave.

  34. Anonymous

    Ok everyone, I have a solution. All the servers want us to tip more and tip in cash. Why don’t the customers stay home and make their own food? That way, we don’t have to pay more for tips or to tip in cash. Works for me.

    Stay away from restaurants completely. If you want food, go to the grocery store and buy ready-made food in their deli dept. or their prepared food section. No need to consider tipping.

    The servers and their families can go to each other’s restaurants and pay whatever amount they deem necessary. Fair enough?

  35. Anonymous

    Chris) I’m confused — you are saying that waiters / waitresses must claim as _their_ income a percentage of the restaurants sales, even if they didn’t get a dime from it?!?

    Something is obviously not right with this picture.

  36. Anonymous

    Inflation adjustment for tipping, hysterical.

    I’m ok with tipping if there is no expectation. I despise establishments asking for tips like the way they provided a tipping guide on your check. Insulting.

    I also appreciate ti if the tips are shared between wait staff, bar staff, kitchen staff, etc. It’s the team that delivers your dining experience, not just the wait staff

  37. Anonymous

    As a former food server many years ago (in a state where restaurants can legally pay half minimum wage to employees who are expected to make tip income), I can tell you that even a dollar or two above 15% for good service will mean the WORLD to your server. This is not a terribly high addition to the tip (for example, if your salad, wine or entree cost a dollar more than listed on the menu, you would have likely purchased it anyway.)

    For take-out, depending on how the restaurant handles this, a tip of 10% is appropriate and appreciated. Often the person fulfilling the to-go order is a server, who besides having to claim a percentage of take-out sales as tippable income, must take time away from his/her tables to package your food efficiently and correctly, and meet a narrow window between the food being ready and your time waiting to receive it. It’s a delicate balancing act for a busy server and this service should merit a tip.

    Finally, a very easy thing to do, which means just as much to your server as receiving a higher than 15% tip, is to tip in cash, even if paying by credit card. Servers often have to claim 15% of total sales (including tax) or total credit card tips for their shift, whichever is higher. Cash tips, for a person living on food service wages, are highly valued.

  38. Anonymous

    I tip on pre-tax amount. You should not have to tip on the tax. This is common sense and also agreed upon by etiquette experts. If you wish to tip on after-tax amount, fine. But there is no social or implied obligation to do so.

  39. Anonymous

    I’m solidly in the “rather pay a higher menu price in return for having the restaurant pay the waitstaff a reasonable wage” camp.

    Ensuring that the waiter is fairly compensated for the work they do should not be my job. Motivating the waiter to perform his job well should not be my job. These functions should be the shared responsibility of the waiter and his employer.

    The appropriate social obligation to show appreciation for service provided by an individual who is being compensated for his time is to kindly say, “Thank you.” If I wish to reward exceptional service, monitarily or otherwise, such reward should surely be proportional to the value of the service provided, not to the value of the most recent meal I consumed.

  40. Anonymous

    I would note a few things about the large party addition (I’m a waitress, and at my establishment, we add 20% to parties of 8 or more)

    * Many restaurants give the server the choice whether or not to add it on – we don’t *have* to charge this to anyone.
    * You would be shocked at how many groups leave awful tips – not only to “hide” their own poor tipping, but often just due to confusion. Another great trick is when some people contribute cash and put the balance on one person’s card – and then he only tips on his balance. We can’t decide our own gratuity based on the cash you give to us.
    *Particularly for older parties, $20 is seen as an acceptable tip for a large bill, no matter what the amount.

    Also, regarding the pre-tax/post-tax argument… I have to claim all of my tips, so that I can pay taxes on them. Get where I’m going with this? I receive no paycheck at all, just a check for $0, because it went to taxes.

  41. Anonymous

    @Heather that’s exactly what I was trying to say – that not only does tipping NOT ensure good service, in fact it gets you bad service if they think you might not tip “enough!”

  42. Anonymous

    Tipping on meals doesn’t bother me too much….tipping at the salon drives me crazy!

    Salon services are already INSANE. I’m supposed to tip on top of a $60 hair cut?!?!?! Don’t even get me started on nail techs. They give half assed service and then BLATENTLY ask me for a tip and make faces if my tip isn’t what they think it should be. Shame, shame, shame!!

    We currently live in NOVA but are from Kentucky. In Louisville I go to a fabulous salon that is no tipping. I get fantastic service and love that I don’t have to tip!! I never feel akward when I return to my stylist, hair colorist or nail tech, wondering if they feel like I’m a cheapskate when it comes to tips!! LOVE IT!

  43. Anonymous

    I agree with your rant, Nickel. Tipping is the consumer’s right to express their satisfaction/dissatisfaction.

    My only additional rant is this: Why do we tip based on the bill’s total? Look at 15% on a steak versus 15% on a salad. Presumably, the waiter’s level of service is the same for both orders…

  44. Anonymous

    I totally agree that there is no justification for “tip inflation”. Inflation is already in the menu, on which the tip is calculated!

    Saying waitpeople need tips to give good service is like saying we need a diety to cause people to be moral. In fact, multiple studies have shown that offering an external reward and/or punishment (such as a tip, allowance, corner time, or eternal damnation) actually causes people to behave worse than if you just tell them it’s the right thing to do or ask nicely as a favor.

  45. Anonymous

    This is one of those topics that I whole heartedly love and hate.

    The first point about 15% being the “norm” was true a long time ago, and depending on what restaurant you go to, might actually be acceptable. Most of the older clients tip in that range, and it’s to be expected when taking a table of older people.

    One thing I’ve never really understood is tipping on the pre-tax amount. It’s almost like cheating, but in a sense it’s kind of understandable.

    For groups of 6 or more, the gratuity is there because typically with 6 people or more, you will be at the table longer, have a more complicated set up to plan for (multiple appitizers, drinks, this that and the other) and typically will spend a good portion of time at or doing something for the table, causing a cycle of neglect on your other tables. The ensured tip on the party makes up for any less than stellar tips received from other tables at the same time.
    With auto-gratuities, you can always add more, so when you say “I would have tipped more than what was on the —” You’re really saying, I don’t want to tip extra even though theres a space to do so, I just want to pretend like I care, when in reality if I wanted to tip more I would have.

    Just because the tip is totaled on the bill doesn’t mean you can’t leave more, but it does mean you can’t leave less. If you get an automatic gratuity and stiff the server, you are effectively stealing from them. If you have a problem with the service or the charge, talk to a manager, that’s what they are there for. Don’t just leave less money, that’s a breach of contract which you agreed to by eating at that restaurant. It says it on the menu, if you don’t like it, manager or leave.

    I hate to sound rude, but if you glossed over the menu and missed the gratuity mention, and then didn’t look at the bill to see it, and then didn’t notice it on the credit card slip (supposing you use one) it’s really your own fault if you leave more than you meant to. It’s not the server’s job to hold your hand through the process, it’s plainly written on multiple things you receive at the restaurant.

    And lastly, since you don’t buy the idea of the standard tip % increase, I would suggest you take a week or two off work, and go get a job in a restaurant. Get some first hand experience, then come back and tell us how you feel.


  46. Anonymous

    Tipping is possibly the only financial area of my life where I care about what other people think. I live in MA (6.125 sales tax) and the majority of my friends/family believe that a 20% tip after tax is now standard. I always give this unless the service is crap. Is this more generous than necessary considering that I rarely get awesome service anywhere I go? Yes. But at the same time, its better that I just not go out to eat much at all considering I am paying money to put stuff in my body that will make me have to work out more.

  47. Anonymous

    PC) The point of the auto-dealer asking you that is to ensure you are getting the best 5-star service. I don’t see how you can be against that. They are bluntly asking you if there is anything at all possible that they can do for you to ensure that their service was 5-star.

    On the other hand, I have never had a waitress ask me what they could do better to be considered a 5-star service. Like Nickel says: they just tack on 18% to the bill and walk away, and 95% of the time, they won’t mention that the tip is auto-included either.

  48. Anonymous

    Well said !
    The ‘auto-added’ tip for groups as small as 6 is particularly aggravating since it typically ‘assumes’ 18%.

    Don’t get me started on the auto dealers repeatedly reminding you that they are ‘a 5 star’, ‘please review us as 5 star’ and that you will shortly be getting a survey in email.
    ‘If anything was not entirely perfect with your experience today, please let us know so we can immediately correct it’ (and presumably thus award us 5 stars).

    The net effect of all this goading is that I don’t bother to reply to their surveys any longer !

  49. Anonymous

    Whenever I don’t want to pay gratuity, I order takeout and eat at home. On vacation, you could find a nice park or public place to eat your takeout. It is not necessary to tip the person who bags your takeout order, but if you wish, you could give them $1 or $2, which is much less than 15% that I would pay on gratuity. I do not pay 18%. I pay 15% for a sit down meal.

  50. Anonymous

    My wife and I visited two economies last summer where tipping is not expected — Austria and Germany. We found the service to be excellent. The servers were universally (from street-side cafes to four-star restaurants) pleasant and attentive. More attentive, but in a less-obtrusive fashion, than we’ve had in the US. Drinks, for example, were automatically refilled without any interruption to our conversation. There were only a handful of things we wished would make their way from Austria to the US, but the waitstaff were definitely at the top of the list.

    Although the practice of tipping in the US should ensure good service, in practice it rarely seems to do so. The exceptions have been return visits where we receive a server who has benefited from a generous tip before. Since we do tip based on service, these are servers who performed well the first time around, and know that they’ll be rewarded if they give the same or better service each time. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the high rate of turnover in this industry in our area (a college town), these exceptions are few and far between.

  51. Anonymous

    My mother was a waitress, and a darn good one, too! A local DJ used to praise her on his radio broadcast. She went on to being a home companion, and organizer of home banguets. I always remember that, when tipping and, even if paid by debit/credit card I prefer to personally tip and praise her/his service. Try it, you’ll like it!

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