Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Apr 15, 2005 11:34 AM

another tipping 16% too little for excellent service?

  • e

My partner and I had dinner at Babbo this week with two out-of-town friends. The meal was primo, and the service, from the waiter and the wine person to the host and busboy, was top-notch all the way. Although we split the bill two ways, the tip was determined by one of our friends, who doubled the tax so the tip came to about 16% -plus, the tax being 8 percent-plus here in Manhattan. I felt that this as too little and told my friend so after leaving. He replied that doubling the tax was the standard here in NYC, although as I said, he is from out-of-town and does not often eat in top NYC places. Later in private, my partner suggested that, rather than upbraiding our friend about his "cheapness," I should have put cash down on the table in the amount I felt was proper to make up a proper tip amount. My questions: What is the standard or accepted amount for a tip after a meal such as I described? Would adding to the tip in cash (the bill was paid by credit card) be a good solution if I felt the tip was too small? Thanks for helping settle a minor dispute!!!!!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. t
    torta basilica

    I leave additional cash all the time if I feel my dining partner didn't leave enough tip. Just don't be obvious about it & be the last to leave the table... Or, if 2 credit cards, just put what you think is proper for your meal on yours - what they do is their problem.

    6 Replies
    1. re: torta basilica

      If the meal was wonderful I think 20% is more like it. And 16% is NOT standard in New York.

      Just make your tip is higher on the credit card slip or add cash.

      1. re: JudiAU

        I believe that 16%-18% is an acceptable tip for an average dining experience in NYC.

        1. re: JudiAU

          NYC sales tax is 8.625%, so doubled that is already 17.25%. Then depending which way you round (I usually round up), it can get you closer to 18% just by doubling the tax. I agree that most people in NYC simply double the tax. If the service were really spectacular, I'd keep adding on additional dollars to the doubled number.

          1. re: josephsm

            wow, when did NYC tax go from 8.25% to 8.65%? I haven't lived in NY since 1996 though I visit often. Obviously that makes my math-related reply inaccurate (methodology OK, but actual numbers bad).


            1. re: JugglerDave

              The increase was in early 2003. Good ol' Pataki raised our income taxes then too. Living in NYC is a costly proposition, but so far well worth it.

          2. re: JudiAU

            Why "Don't be obvious"? Do you think the diner is ashamed of tipping more, or the waiter is embarrassed about receiving more? By "being obvious," the diner would just be practicing what he/she preached to the person who paid for dinner.

        2. Not to be a math stickler, but if you double an 8% tax, then you are paying 16% on the BEFORE-TAX total, while "most" tip percentages are are usually given on the check total after tax, in this case it would be 14.8%.

          (actually NYC tax is 8.25%, so numbers are 16.5% and 15.2% respectively)

          To complicate matters, some states have weird ways of doing alcohol taxes (pennsylvania, for example, has a 10% tax on "drinks by the glass", but MOST but not all places include that in the drink price, while some places itemize the bar bill and tax separately). So in these places you may or may not be tipping on the alcohol, or alcohol+tax if you just double the tax.


          4 Replies
          1. re: JugglerDave

            "while 'most' tip percentages are are usually given on the check total after tax"

            Actually, the reverse has been and remains the norm. You don't tip on the tax. And the sale for IRS purposes is ex tax. There is zero reason for including the tax in the denominator.

            1. re: Karl S.

              I second the point that tip is paid on the pre-tax amount of the meal.

              1. re: Karl S.

                Right! You tip on the pre tax total.

              2. Doubling the tax in NYC is definately the norm for the majority of people.

                Just a question but when did a 17.25% tip end up being considered too little? I have noticed that many menus state that the "service charge" for groups will be 18% or now more often even 20%. Personally I think that a tip in the 15% to 20% is fine and a judgement call. Sometimes I leave more than 20% at inexpensive places just to feel like I gave enough money to mean anything or for spectacular service. Incredible service being something that is becoming rarer and rarer, even in top places.

                With tax at 8.625%, doubling the tax to a tip of 17.25%and then rounding up to the nearest dollar or two is ok. I find that I round out to the nearest even dollar amount and the tip ends up well over 18% or 19%.

                Now it looks like the NY City sales tax will be going up .125% in the next few weeks or months to 8.75%. So then doubling the tax will make a standard tip 17.5%. Which I think is a fair tip, especially when rounded up it will usually be over 18% or 19%.

                1 Reply
                1. re: The Rogue

                  Agree. The standard for a long while has been 15-20% based on the pre-tax total.

                2. god yes, 16% is too little, especially for excellent service! i waited tables in NYC for 3 years and let me tell you that doubling the tax IS NOT ENOUGH! if you can afford to shell out $100 for dinner, then you should be able to spend the extra $5 for $20. otherwise, you obviously need it more than me. and just to let you know, not all waiters are making big bucks. many are struggling to make ends meet, especially when you end up owing $1000+ to the IRS each year because your employer won't take the correct taxes out of your $0 "paycheck"
                  enough ranting. in short, if you enjoyed the food and service, help someone out and leave 20 or more percent. the karma WILL come back to you. or you will be talked about by the waitstaff for being cheap


                  10 Replies
                  1. re: jen

                    This discusion has been very interesting to me. Do I understand you to mean that the wait staff will "talk about" in a negative way anyone who leaves less than 20 percent? What percentage of diners would you say leave this amount in a high-end place???????

                    1. re: erica

                      My husband and I eat out an average of 4 nights a week. We probably spend between $100-$150 each evening. If service is lacking, we'll tip 15% rounded up to the nearest dollar. If service is good, we tip 20-25%. If food and service are outstanding, we'll tip as much as 30-40% percent and it always comes back to us tenfold.

                    2. re: jen

                      That web site is an embarrassment to waiters and the restaurants they work at, not diners.

                      >>then you should be able to spend the extra $5 for $20. otherwise, you obviously need it more than me

                      If "I" (the diner) need it more than you (as you say), then that would seem to be a perfectly logical reason not to give it to you, right? Why argue then?


                      1. re: jen

                        When is it the servers decision how much tip they should get? Tips are not mandatory or even obligatory. They are a GIFT.

                        The US has somehow got caught in this tip trap, which is total nonsense. I have traveled all over the world and in many countries they refuse a tip or give money back if you tip too much. I think we need to pay servers a real wage and get rid of tips altogether.

                        1. re: jen

                          Interesting. Should I really be concerned if I get "talked about" by the waitstaff? This is like a previous post on tipping where the bartender said that if you don't tip her well enough, you will get watered down drinks next time. This kind of tip extortion doesn't work for me. I would rather stay home.

                          1. re: Darlene

                            So true, tip extortion is exactly what it is and not to be tolerated. If I get treated bad, watered drinks, or talked about, not only do they never see me again, but I wage all out war against them and tell every person I meet about the attitude problem with that bar or restaurant. In my neighborhood this means the place will be out of business in two months.

                            I have owned and run food businesses and this type of behavior by my employees got them fired immediately.

                          2. re: jen

                            Wow, you've either got incredible guts or don't know any better - but you probably won't find much agreement on any of your illogical and hilarious venting here. Your points are so far off-base, I find it hard not to respond emotionally. I half-expected that you were kidding.

                            It's disappointing to hear waitstaff blame the customers for their financial situation, but it happens all the time. If you're not making a living wage, talk to your boss, try to become a better waitperson, or work somewhere else.

                            1. re: jen

                              Whereas we customers will just talk about you for being greedy and possessing a overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

                              1. re: jen

                                I would hate to dine in your establishment. The standard is 15% tip for good service in the states, 20% for outstanding. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you seek out another career, Jen.

                                btw, I used to work in the service industry as a bartender in a restaurant. So my tips were based on the tips the diners left. So I may be able to understand how difficult it is to make a living. But this is the way life is. Deal with it.

                                1. re: Mox

                                  I'd also like to say that I usually tip at least 20% in restaurants. But I won't get bitter if somebody tips 15. I do have a problem if people leave less than 15, though.

                              2. double the tax. thats more than 17% which is already more than the 15% norm we were all taught. Don't be intimidated. I am much more inclined to give bigger tips in Chinatown, say, than at high-end places with correspondingly huger tabs. There could be a special meal with special service which would warrant going higher, but in a restaurant of the class of Babbo, good service is part of what they are pricing for.

                                PS I have been known to sneak money on the table too when I feel my husband is being a bit stingy...

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  "More than the 15% norm we were all taught"? I was always taught that 20% was the norm for good service.

                                  1. re: Kirk

                                    That was only true for the lower half of Manhattan a generation ago; it was the subject of commentary then about how unusual it was, reflecting how unusual that area was compared to the rest of the country. Nowadays, between 15-20 has become more common in the larger urban areas (hence the 18 mandatory gratuity [sic] that has become commonplace for large parties in those areas). But 15 still remains the normal baseline in most places otherwise in the US.

                                    1. re: Karl S.

                                      I should add that I was referring to merely "good" service. AND IN CASH, ROUNDED UP TO THE NEAREST DOLLAR. For unusual, excellent service, of course something like 20 or more is well deserved. For me, actually, that's 25-33 range. Then for very rare personal service that makes for an event to remember for a long time, 40-50. But that's just me.

                                      My typical tip for barely adequate service (which is unusual, I have to say) is 15, on the credit card rather than cash. And figured out to the penny.

                                      And never take out the kitchen's problems on the server. But obvious server problems deserve a lower-than-normal tip plus a mention to the manageer or captain before leaving.

                                    2. re: Kirk

                                      well, I guess I have lived in NY for more than a generation....15% (or twice the tax) was the benchmark certainly well into the 80s even in business upscale venues - tho I recall issues about tipping the maitre d', sommelier, etc for special services. While values may have changed somewhat subsequently, I still see the 20% as another aspect of splashing out in luxe venues, something I dont do too much of these days, as opposed to the norm.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        Actually, I generally tip a higher percentage at less expensive restaurants. If lunch or dinner for two is $30 - $40, and the service has been good, I am very likely to tip 20% or more. I figure that a good server deserves an extra couple of bucks for taking good care of me for an hour. Fifteen percent of $40 is $6, 20% is $8 and 25% is $10. Why begrudge someone trying make a living $2 - $4 when they have done a good job? And if I go back to the restaurant and have the same server, they tend to remember me -- in a positive way.

                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                          15% was what my age group (I'm now 52) was taught but it seems that 18-20% is now the norm for those raised in the '90s. Higher salary expectations for blue collar positions probably, but I'm no sociologist. As I stated in my own post, I do 20% after tax for excellent & a couple of points down for everything else except crap. So do most of my friends. And, since we live in the same area and frequent many of the same places, I'm beginning to wonder why your food seems to be as good. :-)