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May 26, 2000 12:29 PM
Discussion

Tipping ?

• s

I had an ok meal at Esperanto last week and the waitress put on a hefty tip (party of six), which we paid. It was more than 15%, which I thought was the standard. The question that arose out of this was: What would be the appropriate amount to tip on; the subtotal of your food, or the total including tax?

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1. At last a question i can answer! A tip is based on your food total. (I didn't know this until recently, either). I'm against tipping in general (even though i do it) and have sometimes thought a people's tip-revolt (meaning no tipping ever) would be a good idea. If no one tipped, prob. rest. prices would just go up, but at least we wouldn't have to do math problems every time we went out.

27 Replies
1. re: cinnamon (formerly cinnamongrill, etc.)

If the service is great I calculate the tip oon the total bill. If it's average or so-so, then it's the pre-tax total.
Cinnamongrill, have you ever waited on tables? Give it a try, you may sing a different tune once you do.
Anyone out there who has waited tables or worked in a restaurant please enlighten Cinnamongrill on this subject!

1. re: Micki

The tipping rule i told SLAP is what someone told me. I never heard of the one you mentioned, but i guess some people do that. About not tipping: As a close relative of a former waitperson, i feel i can speak freely. No, i have never waited on tables. Yes, i realize waitpeople depend upon tips for a large part of their income. I once knew someone who worked at 2 diff. places in the Village and she said that, except for the \$10/day she was paid, all her \$\$ came from tips. This was 20 years ago. Have conditions improved? All i meant (by saying no tipping would be a good idea) was that rest. owners should pay their waitstaffs decent \$\$, so that the customers don't feel guilted into paying, even when the service is lousy (which it frequently is). Are you a waitress? I assume you're one of the good ones, but, as you know, there are some rotten ones out there. Por ejemplo: My local coffee shop has a waitperson who, on occasion, has kept me waiting 20 minutes just to order while she hangs out smoking at the bar. I recently ordered lunch from her and mistakenly assumed she was listening while i told her what i wanted. A minute later, she returned, saying, "There was something you ordered that i can't remember." This led to me repeating my order and her saying, "No, it was something else" at every turn. Finally, i hit the forgotten item. I tipped her anyway. Don't you think that was nice? Anyway, if you're a waitress, i hope you get great tips. Too bad there are too many waitpeople who expect a reward for not doing anything. (What is it about my name that makes people wanna diss me????)

1. re: cinnamon/sdny/nicksip

Folks:
About 10 years ago, I waited tables. The money was great. Know why? Because I hustled my tail off to do 159 things at once, and to do them all efficiently. For a standard table of four, even while earning about \$3 an hour, I never once felt that I had a Constitutional right to my 15%. My attitude was that if I didn't get that 15%, generally speaking, it was my own damn fault and I needed to work harder.

That said, I do have a good deal of empathy sitting down in a restaurant. If the service is fair and you don't give that 15%, then you're sitting in the lap of luxury at someone else's expense. On the other hand, if the service is noticeably horrendous and it's impossible even to get the server's attention and tell him/her that this is so, then you're a fool for leaving that "20%, no matter what." You're condoning the bad service that's commonplace in New York City, and lowering the bar for what's considered good service.

I generally double the tax, which translates to 16.5% here in the city. For what it's worth, there have been two instances in my postrestaurant life in which I left NO TIP. One was Mario's in the Bronx, where I waited two full hours, and was ignored repeatedly by the server and the owner. When the food finally arrived, half of the orders were wrong, and the other half were ice cold. You make the call. It still sounds fair to me.

1. re: MIB

Tipping is appropriate and the amt. should definitely depend upon the quality of service. I'll leave anywhere from 10to20% before the tax.
Here's a qick tipping story although not from a restaurant....Took a cab from laguardia a few yrs. ago to manhattan...hot sommer day and the driver wouldn't turn on the A/C even though I asked. I warned him no tip without A/C and he pretended he didn't understand english. Got to my destination...paid the tab and no tip. For someone who supposedly didn't speak english he certainly knew plenty of english four letter words.
good sevice=s a good tip. Lousy service small or nothing. It's very simple.

1. re: Michael

Presumably we are all chowhounds here. Which means we prize food, and specifically pleasant restaurant experiences, above almost all things. So there is really no excuse for ANY of us to shirk the following rule: Tip 20 percent on the entire bill, tax included, whether at Kebab Cafe or Le Bernardin. Leave it to the amateurs, the mean of spirit, the people who eat for nourishment instead of pleasure to use their lousy few bucks as a motivational tool.

1. re: Pepper

Her's one - I had dinner last night with a friend at Cibo, 40th and 2nd Avenue. We had an excellent meal, good service. When the check came it had an 18% service charge added. I checked the menu, which stated a service charge would be added for parties of 5 or more. My friend, who was paying the bill thought that it was perhaps because we both have English accents, and they thought we might stiff the waiter. She wouldn't let me ask the Manager, but remarked that she would have added a 20% tip. Out of curiosity, I did call the manager today, and asked their policy, he confirmed the "parties of 5" thing and said it must have been a computer error, and we had been entered as 5 people. He was very nice, but not particulary apologetic - a shame, because the wait staff are costing themselves money if they continue to do that. I thought it was illegal anyway??

1. re: Gini

That's interesting. I've had the same experience a couple of times where a service charge was added to the bill. I am from the UK and assumed that this was the reason. Are we not known as good tippers ? I always tip, sometimes generously, so I'm doing my bit to dispel the myth.

2. re: Pepper

"Presumably we are all chowhounds here. Which means we prize food, and specifically pleasant restaurant experiences, above almost all things. So there is really no excuse for ANY of us to shirk the following rule: Tip 20 percent on the entire bill, tax included, whether at Kebab Cafe or Le Bernardin. Leave it to the amateurs, the mean of spirit, the people who eat for nourishment instead of pleasure to use their lousy few bucks as a motivational tool."

Yes, we all prize food, but not all of us are rich, and there's no reason for me to follow some rule you made up. In New York City, I double the tax and round up. And unless service is terrible, I never tip less than \$1, no matter how small the tab is (e.g. \$3 for a coffee and a tea). I prefer to be generous rather than stingy. But I will _NOT_ consider the tax part of the bill and figure a percentage based on the gross amount derived from adding the tax to the bill, least of all at a restaurant where the bill is already hefty and the tip, figured as double the tax, will be quite substantial (cf. Le Bernardin, though I'm not likely to go back there anytime soon). As far as I'm concerned, you can tip 100% if you like, but that has no effect on my behavior, nor should it.

By the way, for all those people who prefer the European system with the service charges: Would you like to wait as long for your service in New York as you do in France and Italy? If the service charge was included, might you not have to?

1. re: Michael

I agree with you right up to the reference to having to wait too long for your food in France and Italy - Ive only experienced Italy (extensively though) and don't recall feeling delayed, just the opposite. One of the wonderful things about eating there is getting into the more relaxing pace of eating - no one is pushing you through your meal to fit in another bunch of people, there is a civilized assumption that you are there for pleasure, to savor the wine, the food, the company. Thank God. If you have felt that the service there is too slow, you should examine your assumptions - did you go into a sit-down restaurant when you were rushing between other activities? We've all done that - and probably should have gone to a standup or takeout place instead.

I have found Italian service for the most part absolutely professional. Serving there IS a profession and not a fill-in between acting jobs. Maybe the stability of the service fee accounts in part for this?

1. re: jen kalb

This is getting dangerously off-topic and should probably be continued in the "General Topics" board. But no, I do not find service "too slow" in Italy, generally speaking - mostly because it's part of the culture, and something I simply accept, for both better and worse (and Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit). But if I were in a rush, I would _never_ go to a trattoria; I would go to a bar and get an acqua minerale and a panino, with or without a torta or gelato for dessert. _THAT'S_ how you get good food with fast service in Italy.

But the fact is that in New York, I simply don't want to wait as long for service, and I daresay most of us don't. I eat out almost every day of the week, and I usually don't want a "leisurely meal" that lasts 2 hours or so, especially when I'm by myself. And my argument is that if you take the responsibility and amount to tip out of customers' hands, service - professional or not - may very well get slower.

1. re: Michael

That argument makes a lot of sense. Of course, using that same logic it also makes sense to tip MTA motormen, dry cleaners, firemen, ER surgeons and cops, but we won't get into that.

1. re: Pepper

MTA Motormen, dry cleaners, firemen, etc. are paid a salary for their tasks.(The exception being volunteer firemen I suppose)
There is no other compensation save for \$3.10/hr from the house.

1. re: Chris

Not to get nitpicky, but the minimum wage is \$3.30, not \$3.10. So stop complaining!(g)

2. re: Michael

Michael, in my post I was just disagreeing with your last statement, which suggested that there was a causal linkage between a service charge structure and slow service-you did seem to be complaining about France and Italy. The service there is "slow" only in comparison to US expectations - rather, it comes at the civilized speed that the local market wants - the servers arent lazy and unmotivated, but highly professional, IMHO more professional than our tip-compensated servers.

2. re: Michael

I look at it this way..for those of you who cant seem to "figure" out how to Tip--JUST DOUBLE THE TAX AND YOUR WAITER WILL RELAX!

and those of you "foodies" "experts" ...pay for the service or get take out! that tip is divided up amongst the server, bar, busser, and sometimes food runner---how would you like to not get your full paycheck this week because the receptionist in your office was not satisified with how you left the fax machine? get over it! people are paid for service DONE! its actually a joy to pay people for what they do. If you still have a problem, then I bet that you feel that you are not being paid what you are worth.....

3. re: cinnamon/sdny/nicksip

un believable, you really have no idea what you are writing about..i will put this in black and white...THE MINIMUM WAGE FOE THE WAITPEOPLE IS \$3.10 AN HOUR --THEY ARE TAXED ON ALL FOOD/ BEV SALES--SO THEIR PAYCHECKS ARE USUALLY 0..THEY TIP OUT A MINIMUM OF 35% TO THE REST OF THE SUPPORT STAFF...SO YOUR 10.00 TIP BECAME A6.50 TIP--IF YOU LEAVE NOTHING ...THEY STILL HAVE TO PAY OUT THE BUSSERS AND BAR ETC......KING HENRY THE 8TH IS LONG GONE, SO IS SLAVERY!...WELL , I GUESS NOT

1. re: cinnamon/sdny/nicksip

Been on vacation - saw your post to my reply. No I'm not a waitress, but I was one when I was in college, and I was a good one, because I wanted to provide my customers with good service.
If you get bad service the best thing to do is speak with the manager of the establishment and let them know. Otherwise, you're a glutton for punishment.

4. re: cinnamon (formerly cinnamongrill, etc.)

we've had discussions ad nauseum on this subject. fact is, tips are THE major source of income for the wait staff. it makes sense for the restaurants to do it this way: rather than simply charge higher prices, the system gives staff an incentive to tempt the customers into spending more. its also a mechanism that'll warn the management of a poor waiter - the take'll be consistently lower than average. on the flip side, waiters can be unecessarily punished by screw ups in the kitchen or by management cock-ups.

the system can sometimes exploit the restaurant goers; for example, my wife, who worked in a restaurant through her college days, insists on leaving 20% of the tab (including tax!) no matter what the experience. she'd feel horribly guilty about leaving less.

1. re: cinnamon (formerly cinnamongrill, etc.)

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.
Ok.

When you eat at a restaurant you are entering an implicit agreement to monetarily compensate your waitperson in exchange for service. To forgo tipping is to renege on your part of the social contract after the other side has lived up to their side of the bargain. It is rude.

You didn't make these rules, but neither did your server.

A "people's tip revolt"? Please. Waitrons are people. too.

1. re: Phil

I really don't want to post endlessly about this, but what if the waitperson doesn't live up to his/her side of the bargain? Why should the customer be pressuer into paying when service is lousy, slow beyond belief, or (almost worse) provided with a "Who the hell wants to serve you when i have an audition to go to?" attitude. Isn't there anyone out there who'll back me up on this??

1. re: cinnamon/sdny

(1) Yes it would be nicer if the service charge was added to the bill as in Europe. (2) I dont think anyone should feel at all guilty for reducing a tip or stiffing a waiter who gave terrible service (making due allowance for cultural factors, etc.) (3) the tippers revolt would only hurt the servers - its not fair to penalize them for the structure of a system they don't control.

1. re: cinnamon/sdny

Your original words were "no tipping ever". To say now that lousy service may merit a non-tip is beside the point.

2. re: Phil

I once took a business law class and we studies the court cases that you are talking about which invloved "implicit agreement to monetarily compensate" in restaurants. It has nothing to do with tipping whatsoever. It means that you agree to pay for your food. You have no legal responsibility to tip.

That restaurant in Manhattan that called the polce when a party didnt pay wished that they hadn't, especially because it turned out to be a party of lawyers.

I'm not saying that you shouldnt tip (it would be rude) but you do not have toif the service is poor, and I don't see how they can make up whatever number they want you to pay when the standard is 15%.

If they menu had said that the tip would be added automatically, it might be a differant story. I'm not sure about that one.

You posted:
Subject: Re(2): Tipping ?
From: Phil.Wronski@worldnet.att.net (Phil)
Posted: May 26, 2000 at 14:01:13

In Reply To: Re(1): Tipping ?
Posted by cinnamon (formerly cinnamongrill, etc.) on May 26, 2000 at 12:44:33

Message:
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.
Ok.

When you eat at a restaurant you are entering an implicit agreement to monetarily compensate your waitperson in exchange for service. To forgo tipping is to renege on your part of the social contract after the other side has lived up to their side of the bargain. It is rude.

You didn't make these rules, but neither did your server.

A "people's tip revolt"? Please. Waitrons are people. too.

1. re: Jays

Hey, I'm not talking about the legal definition here. Non-tipping is rude, as we both agree, but legal.

And you can stiff terrible service. I've even known waitpeople (rarely!) to do this, though they emerge from the experience emotionally scarred, relating the tale as if starvation had forced them to eat human flesh.

3. re: cinnamon (formerly cinnamongrill, etc.)

In no particular order:
1. There is a (law/statute/provision)which allows restaurants to figure and indicate gratuity on parties of 6 or more persons. I believe the legal amount is 16.5%. It is not 20% nor is it 15%. The charge is calculated on the pretax total of the meal, food and beverage included. For a restaurant to exercise this right they must say so on the menu.

2. Tipping is voluntary. You may certainly pay the exact amount and walk away.

3. SERVICE IS A COMMODITY. In the retail model one get's much better service at POLO than at CENTURY 21 and pays a much higher price for the product. A few years ago Danny Meyer floated the idea of following the retail model, as is done abroad, by building the price of service into the menu items and eliminating the need to tip. The idea was roundly rejected by the majority of diners on his massive newsletter mailing list. As a rule, American diners feel that the power to reward or punish service is a fundemental right. We are not yet near a place where it will be given up.

4. SERVICE IS A COMMODITY(It bears repeating)As it stands now, the agreement is that you as the diner will pay a percentage of the check for it. In New York City I do not accept the arguement that doing the math is a diffcult challenge. It is perfectly acceptable and standard to double the 8.25% tax to arrive at 16.5% gratuity on the pre-tax total. You do indeed tip on everthing you order, food, wine, etc.

5. Because service is a commodity you can refuse to pay for it, even if you are a large party that had agreed to let the restaurant add the gratuity, if you are not satisfied with it as a product. This is what happened at the aforementioned Angelo & Maxies when the attorneys declined to pay the service charge.

1. re: Chris

Refusing to pay for service (which is, as you pointed out, a commodity) is the same as refusing to pay for a dish, I only exercise my right (or partial right) to do both when I feel that the product I got was TERRIBLE. I am all for the French model of including the service as some precentage of the price (mostly 12%) as this model represents the fact that food and service in a restaurant may be two distinct products, but that they are not seperable.

1. re: Chris

I usually tip "double the tax" (over 16%) or rounded up after 20% of the pre-tax bill (including that #\$^% overpriced bottle of wine, retail times 5).

Deliveries get around 16-25% depending on rounding, speed and/or weather. (Too bad there is no recourse for missing items, wrong orders, or bad food delivered.)

I really *resent* those credit card receipts that have a 15%= 20%= 25%= "guide" based on total amount (INCLUDING tax). Tacky, tacky, tacky, and stupid. I wish there was a way to penalize establishments for this act of stupidity, which makes their wait staff look greedy to those who know better.

But how does one tip if they're not in New York City? Is it different?

And what do chowhounds tip for restaurant pros other than their waiter(s)? Is there a minimum / maximum / midpoint?

Thanks...

ObStory: Worse service I've observed was an overhwlemed waitress who couldn't get anything right for one table at C*******s, got tipped below 15%, and lost it and chased the patrons to the door, asking they not tip anything at all if that's what they're tipping... the management seemed amused at it all and didn't do much to control the noise which was bothering other diners. Oy!

2. I think that 15% or double the tax is reasonable. If the service is good I round up to 20%. If the service is reasonably bad then I will leave less. I have never not tipped, but I certainly think it is fair to leave a small tip when I get bad service, just as I feel obliged to give a large tip when service is excellent.
Also, tip should be based on the pre-tax bill, and all drinks should be INCLUDED.

1. Joints that automatically add the tip on a 6+ party often state a rate of 18% not 15%.
I don't think service in NYC is uniformally bad -- actually, it's generally pretty good although there are unfortunate exceptions now and than that bring down the average level.
I've found that service in Europe is better than I'd expect it to be (again, generally) without a "tip incentive".

1. "If you still have a problem, then I bet that you feel that you are not being paid what you are worth....."

Well, I'm not, but I still tip. I felt awful the one time I wasn't able to leave a tip - for excellent service - because I had overordered and had to dig in my pockets for change. I remembered this the time I returned to that restaurant and tipped double of what I would have (to the same server, by the way).

Many of us have tipping rules that are highly irrational: for instance, since some places I usually order cheap stuff (muffin and coffee for breakfast,
soup for lunch or mid-afternoon, and so on) I tip 20%. I have been well aware for many years that a lot of restaurants don't pay their waitstaff except maybe carfare, and I have empathy for that. I kind of resent the "Tips" can on the counter of a lot of establishments, though, and I wonder: is this an excuse for the management to pay the workers only \$3.10 an hour as well? Please advise, because I often hold back on counter tips; I kind of resent having to pay extra for just gettting the coffee or whatever. Next they'll have tip jars at self-serve places. (Actually, as I recall, some do; is management's way out when they underpay their help?)

Oh, and because I rarely order food delivered, I usually overtip when I do. I was working with a woman who said she *never* tipped for delivery, her excuse being that she had a bad knee and the driver (this was out in Queens) had to bring the food regardless; she couldn't afford it. I don't buy it; she knows how to cook for herself.

9 Replies
1. re: Frank Language

I was amused by the "tips" can at Once Upon a Tart since it is entirely self-serve. Come to think of it, does anyone know the rationale for "tips" cans at coffee bars?

1. re: celia

The rationale is that the staff hope people will dump in their change out of goodwill so they'll get an extra buck at the end of the day. It has nothing to do with what they're paid.

I usually tip delivery folks 10% or a little more, often depending on my change situation. I do try to tip them better in nasty weather.

BTW, for those who might take delivery from the supermarket chains, the delivery men (mostly African immigrants) are paid on a "contract" basis by a third-party company, and actually earn 50-75 cents an hour before tips.

1. re: celia

We would think nothing of tipping a bartender, but a coffee bar employee, who might have comparable skills and is doing a similar type of job, gets no tip. Why?

A perfect espresso, not to mention a beautifully executed latte, is as difficult to create, or more so, than a decent martini. I nearly always tip at coffee bars. I think the workers deserve it.

If more people habitually tipped coffee bar workers, there might be cause to eliminate the tip jar, but it does remind some people (including, I admit it, me) who wouldn't otherwise do it.

1. re: MU

I don't want to belabor this but why tip bartenders? I have always done it automatically but since we're having this discussion ...

1. re: celia

You tip bartenders because you want to be served. It is expected. Too late for civilization to change that.

2. re: celia

I'm waiting for a New Yorker cartoon where a prisoner is about to be given a lethal injection, and next to the doctor with the needle there's a little box labeled "tips"

ciao

1. re: Jim Leff

Is that the same box that a moyel carries? (You got off the food topic first.)

3. re: Frank Language

I've been following this discussion with great enjoyment. I wasn't planning on chiming in, but the post from "Frank Language" brings up two points that have always puzzled me:

1. Tip jars in coffee bars and such, and
2. Tipping on delivered items.

I've never been really sure about this, but I *think* that in both cases the employees involved are, legally, supposed to be making the "real" minimum wage rather than the "server" minimum wage. (I suspect that, in practice, a lot of delivery people are paid under the table, if at all.) My only delivery experience was at Pizza Hut (I know-- yech-- but I was in high school at the time), and the drivers there made at least minimum wage. The average tip, at the time, was about a dollar per pizza, which was, in most cases, less than 10%.

I'd love to hear what other people do when faced with tip jars and delivery people.

1. re: Frank Language

You bring up a really good point on this woman not tipping her deliverer. I always overtip on deliveries, because they're BRINGING you/me/us food AND offering the convenience of not leaving the home or office. If you're too cheap to tip then go get it yourself or cook.

Oh, and by the way, most of these folks are immigrant laborers or teenagers who are probably getting paid under the table at less than minimum wage.

AND they're BRINGING you/me/us food and offering the convenience of not leaving the home or office. If you're too cheap to tip then go get it yourself or cook. Did I state that already?

NOT tipping these guys is heinous and selfish practice, IMHO.

2. Yes, I have very defined opinions on this - which is why I avoided posting - I have too much to say and will probably feel compelled to respond to any critical responsive posts. Just when you respond please remember that I am a lover not a fighter and want nothing but happiness and peace for us all! Now - this is a HUGE post (like two hours exhaustion of my poor-typing skills - severely tested) so you are forewarned.

History - started in food service at the tender age of 13 (McDonalds), moved up to diner counter service, then diner table service and Bobs Big Boy by age of sixteen. Worked my way through years sixteen to twenty-five as a waitress in and out of NYC in every conceivable type of establishment with every conceivable type of customer and co-workers EXCEPT fine dining. My husband also worked in restaurants although only in NYC fine dining after the first year (which earned him more money than he made in his first two years in financial industry! and which was also MUCH harder work than financial industry)

MOST OBJECTIVE OPINION I CAN GIVE This is the way it works - you sit and eat and someone takes care of your chow needs - you pay for it by tipping 15% on the entire bill EXCEPT the tax. In NY the easy way to do this is to double the tax - although that is a bit more - but it is not required - you can still do your exact fifteen. You know this is how it works before you come in to the restaurant. If you get average service this is what you are supposed to do. If you don't like the system don't participate in it.

IF YOU GET BEL0W OR ABOVE AVERAGE SERVICE - tip accordingly.

WHAT IS BELOW OR ABOVE AVERAGE SERVICE - this is where everyone differs. The problem is that - as in any interaction - people have different expectations and needs - serving or sharing a meal can be very personal and carry many psychological hidden strings. i think this is what causes so many problems in server-customer relations and also why people have different standards of "average service." The best way for this to be overcome is based in something actually said to me after I finished waitressing and professed to a "career" even more subservient and grueling - litigation paralegal. My first boss told me "always remember, your job is to make my job easier" Sounds pretty nasty but it wasn't intended that way and I can say that attitude got me a lot further than any other during my paralegal days.

Anyway the point is that a really good waiter or waitress realizes that it is all about the customers overall experience - they dine out for the service experience as well as the food - otherwise they would take out. The saying can be tailored to "the waitpersons job is to make the customer's meal easier" Easier is different to each person - a good waitperson will hone in on what that person wants and needs and give them that if they can. Yes it sounds like counseling at the table and it is a bit but in my opinion thats what service jobs are all about.

MY TWO PERSONAL STANDARDS FOR SERVICE:
----------------------------------------------------
For a \$35 or less per person meal with two courses and one drink. For fine dining just heighten all expectations to professional performance on these subjects, throw in exacting etiquette on their part and a willingness to be gracious and forgive unintentional lapses of it on the customers part and you can figure out the standards from me on that.
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######1. Effort and Willingness to be A SERVANT to the customer

i.e to ATTEMPT to satisfy the customers REASONABLE demands. Such as being willing to advocate for the customer with the kitchen - ask the chef to make something special even though they know that the chefs often will rip their head off and grumble about it, or willing to request managers or chefs approve some type of replacement or refund for returned food

willingness to be a servant to the customers - For example my grandmom has a severely restricted diet - is the waitress irritated by the constant questioning of ingredients? do they say "I dunno know - it's just your average chopped hamburger meat" or do they say "let me ask the kitchen exactly what is in it for you?" are they willing to find a cushion for her uncomfortably thin posterior or to perhaps repeat menu items that are clearly listed in large type rather than point to he page?

If they are being slammed with customers do they ask the manager or other waitstaff to help rather than make me wait or do they apologize and inform the customer they are working hard and are on their way rather than ignore our table every time they walk by? and do they do everything they can to make it up to me later?
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########2. knowledge and the willingness to acquire relevant knowledge through customer observation or inquiry of others

Does s/he have a good knowledge of the food and how it looks, what it costs, etc. when to fill my glass, how much time to leave us between courses according to our behavior, how rich is the dessert, what's going on in the neighborhood tonight that we can catch?, which subway goes to Battery park from here, what is the Knicks score and where is an ATM machine?
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All of #1 and #2 being said - if any one table demands all of the above-mentioned services in one sitting they are clearly needy for more than a meal!
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EUROPEAN SYSTEM OR U.S. - I find US service infinitely better across the board. I believe this is due to our darwinian system of service payment. i find this statement not to be true however when comparing higher priced establishments. I had some of the best service in my life in Italy last year (can I please go back please? is anyplace possibly better on earth?) (and who would want to eat fast in Italy? enjoy the experience!) and comparable service in other EU countries. As for EU waiting list/rim countries - you can pretty much forget it! I think our system is better since it produces good results at every level.

18% CHARGES ON BILLS - This is parties of six or more and 18 is the standard not 20 - and 18 should be on the bill without tax - a favorite waiter "trick" is to do it after tax. If you are a foreigner or in a tourist area and not six people you can be sure this was done because you are a foreigner or in a tourist area. It should, however, be written on the menu.

EVALUATiNG CHARACTER BY TIP - Despite trying not to for fear of disappointment in people I otherwise adore, to this day, I find myself evaluating people by their tips. In the end it is usually pretty accurate for me. I always notice what my fellow diners tip or suggest as a tip. Unless the service was poor (not first day waitress poor but sloppy waitress poor - WHICH I BELIEVE DESERVES A 10% TIP) or rude and intentionally bad (WHICH I BELIEVE DESERVES NO TIP)I NEVER EVER EVER Leave less than 15 % even if it means I cover more than my share. ALSO, I always take the time to educate people on the way it works (see above for that :-)) Often I find people don't recognize the challenges and physical labor of the job or, less kindly, just don't respect the job for classist reasons. To me it is similar to sitting and letting a racist or prejudiced joke go by without comment - it is WRONG and unless fellow diners and not waiters (as "subjects" of the "joke") call tippers onto the carpet for it they will think they can get away with it and it is okay. The key is in doing this nicely and without blame - assume ignorance on the tippers behalf and you can usually get away with this with anyone without breaking boundaries- just stretching them. It is unfortunate that this is necessary though.

MY FINAL SAY - I could tell a million bad and bizarre stories about customers but, eating out a lot, i could also tell you quite a lot of bad and bizarre stories about service. I could also relate similarly themed stories of the rich and famous' behavior in my husbands fine dining restaurants and the down and out of my all night joints and breakfast platter places (FYI on BREAKFAST - TIPPING LESS THAN A DOLLAR PER PERSON FOR ANY MEAL, DESPITE COST IS CRUMMY AND BAD KARMA) I can also tell you tales of happy human connection and kindness with regard to all of these places and people as well as relate service experiences which as a customer made me feel ORGASMIC.
The point? Everything exists.
Roll with it.
Just always remember to be kind.
Think the best not expect the worst - those people are the easiest and HAPPIEST customers and incidentally THE BEST TIPPERS!@

2 Replies
1. re: rebeccahodgson

The American system has better service but that's only because Amarican's are always in a rush to go somewher, a movie, a play, etc. We in America do not put an impotance on food and especially dinner as they do in europe. I have been annoyed at a lack of service in some european resaurants but then I realized, hey, sit back and enjoy, don't be sooo american, and I'm not tipping the waiter so what do you expect?

1. re: rebeccahodgson

Rebecca--I just read your long, informative post--reads like a must-have manual ("Tipping for Dummies?") It's good to hear stuff like that straight from the heart!

Re. your point about inadvertantly observing (and judging) others seated at your table by how they tip, I have to agree. Cheapness, when there's no monetary reason, is so often related to a lack of generosity of spirit. (And I'm not at all knocking those who cannot afford to tip fairly--they will probably be unable to go to that restaurant, in the first place.)I'm talking about the affluent-enough people I've eaten with, who, nevertheless, leave too small a tip for good service. So often that sort of customer is also "mean" in the way they treat people in general. If this happens, I invariably make up the amount myself as, as I leave the restaurant. I've never worked as a waitress--but it looks like a darn tough job.

I also hate when a fellow diner is too brusque--or is busy harrassing the waiter for what's not his/her fault. (ie. menu changes, delayed service from the kitchen.) I find myself desperately trying to smooth over my fellow diner's rude comments. Fortunately, it's only office lunches where that may happen.)

Anyway--wanted to say I enjoyed your entire post--and that some of us customers really do appreciate the service we get. And now I'm going to go back to your original post and read some of the responses you got. I finally have a minute to read them.

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