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Tipping: Settle this for me once and for all PLEASE

OK....is it still 15% or is it de rigeur nowadays to tip 20% as a standard base tip?

I grew up thinking that 15% was the proper tip and have always tipped such for a perfectly "average" dinner service. More and more often, I am encountering in the media that 20% seems to be the minimum tip as long as nothing disastrous happens during your meal.

I've tipped 20% often for great service and don't mind doing so, but I see it as excessive as a general baseline to work with.

So, am I being a cheapskate or is this a case of restaurant workers trying to make something real by repeating it often enough?

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  1. If you do a search on this board you will find perhaps 10+ hours of reading on this subject. The opinions vary widely, but there IS a significant base that feels 20% is the "new 15%". Some of it seems to depend on how up-scale the restaurant is, though I personally don't see how that matters, other than that those dining upscale may be able to afford more.

    If the posters here have not had too much of this subject recently you should get a lot of opinions on this.

    1. I always tip 20%. But in all my restaurant-going years in Manhattan, I'ved never encountered bad service. (It also ensures that if you happen to inadvertently leave your eyeglasses on the table or your briefcase by your seat, your server will make an effort to return them.)

      1. One of the only things Zagat is useful for is info on average, local tipping practices. You don't actually have to buy one, just drop by a book store and read the first page of the guide. It's a pretty good indication of what the average person, in your area, who eats out often, tips. In the SF Bay Area it's somewhere between 17% and 18%. Personally, I usually tip %20 but I don't have a family to support.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          The reason the Bay Area is 17% or 18%, we all double the local sales tax. No math involved.

          1. re: Janet

            And because those servers make minimum wage.

        2. You're in New York, which has the same tax rate as Los Angeles; double the tax, then round up to the next dollar for good service and down to the next dollar for mediocre service. (If you have bad service, you shouldn't tip nearly that much, and you should talk to the manager so the message that comes through is "your service sucked", not "I'm a [censored]ing cheapskate".)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            The talk-to-the-manager thing sounds good in theory, but in my experience there is a vast nether region between fair-to-good service and talk-to-the-manager-bad service. I admit to being non-confrontational to a fault, but still -- probably 90 percent of my bad-service experiences would have sounded like whine-whine-whine if laid out as a complaint to a manager.

          2. 15% is an average tip, 20% is an above-average tip for above-average service.

            I suspect that any time the subject comes up online, all the waiters and their friends chime in with "at least 20%, you cheapskate!"

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I'm a waiter, and I don't fault you for that!

              I write this a lot on these boards, but I really enjoy my job.

              If someone leaves me less than 20% I don't really care, I just work for the next table and the next...it just goes. Sure, I could live in an ideal world where that happens, but I don't and I don't mind my job so I do it.

              Now, leave me ten percent and I'm shitty. That means I'm paying some extra taxes on my sales and not making the income to pay it...

            2. Let's see ... assuming good service ... dinner for two maybe $50-$100, $200 if you make more money than is good for you ... difference between 15% and 20% = $2.50-$5, maybe $10 ... assuming you want to be remembered and treated as well or better when you return ...

              ... [thinking]...

              We're talking a couple of bucks, ten at the most! Yeah, quibbling about that is cheap! Somebody able to spend $200 on a meal can throw ten bucks to some bum on the street and not feel it, is $2.50-$10 extra too much to buy a feeling that you weren't stingy, plus to buy a warm welcome on your return, too much?

              2 Replies
              1. re: wayne keyser

                If the standard base tip is 20%, then you could use that same reasoning to justify leaving 25%.

                The question is, what's the standard tip for average service? I think it's 15%.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I agree. Thanks. And who's throwing ten bucks to some bum on the street?

              2. It really does depend on where you are in the country.

                Here in Phoenix, 15% is standard. I tend to tip somewhere between 15-20% and a full 20% or more for great service. You simply couldn't sell the 20%-as-standard here.

                1. I don't know if this is relevant to this thread, but should the tip be based on the total, or the pre-tax total? I was always told it was on the pre-tax total but I've met some who think it's on the grand total.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: cheryl_h

                    If you do it by doubling the tax (in LA, SF and NYC) you're tipping 16.5% or 17% on the pre-tax.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Which is roughly the same as 15% on the total bill.

                    2. re: cheryl_h

                      Pre-tax. Always. And don't let the restaurant "help you out" by calculating the tip for you, as they do in some places in NYC, right on the bill, with the tip at 15%, 18% and 20%, always based on the total including tax.

                      1. re: Cara

                        So you don't tax on the TOTAL bill, but just the pre-tax total? I've always tipped on the final check, which inevitably includes the sale tax.


                        1. re: TexasToast

                          There's no consensus on that, though people on both sides of the issue have claimed that "everyone" does one or the other.

                          I suspect the people who say the standard tip is higher than 15% are more likely to tip on the pre-tax total.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I wonder if it's a matter of state law? I know that, at least in relation to delivery charges, Texas allows businesses to charge sales tax on an added delivery charge, as well as on the price of the goods purchased.


                            1. re: TexasToast

                              Whether what is a matter of state law?

                              In California, sales tax is applied to all food consumed on the premises and on any service charge the restaurant imposes. There's no law that requires businesses to itemize the sales tax on the bill, they're free to price things tax-included.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                That's what I was wanting to know; whether sales tax is charged on service charges, or on food only. And then, whether that makes a difference to those people who tip on the food bill only or on the food bill + tax total.


                    3. do you include wine/alcohol when you calculate your percentage?

                      1 Reply
                      1. lol i hate tipping. so many threads. see michael bauer's sf chronicle recent blog.

                        at a cheap place, i want to tip 30-50%. at an expensive place just the miminum.

                        i want to tip the guy who gathers my spinach without dumping in it.

                        1. In Manhattan, the standard tip in middling to upper establishments was 20% a generation ago. That was pretty much confined to Manhattan and the rest of the country was 15% (though there were more rural areas where you might have found the very old-fashioned 10% standard still in play). Urban areas with costs commensurate to living in Manhattan have migrated to the 18-20% range in the past generation, but this is hardly universal and lots of folks still treat 15% as the norm. Servers may whine, but custom is what customers determine it is, and tipping is a matter of custom. Custom by its very nature is difficult to change.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Karl S

                            Sorry KS but during the 80's and 90's I ate at a ton of NY restos and would only leave 20% if the service was extraordinary, my standard base was 15% and the normal was 18%. The resto ranged from 1-50 in the Zagats guide so there was a pretty good cross section.

                          2. Thanks for everyone's replies. I live in NYC and I've basically been doubling tax and rouding up/down to the nearest dollar depending on the meal and calling that roughly a "15%" tip. I guess I'll keep doing that and err on the higher side from now on for average meals out.

                            1. At the restaurants I've worked at in the Northeast, the vast majority of the tips received by the service staff are 20+% of the total, including tax and alcohol. When that's the case, yes, 15% is considered cheap. I personally never tip less than 20% unless service is really bad. Like someone else said, the difference may be only a few dollars, in my mind you can buy alot of good will (and karma) with those few dollars, so why not?

                              26 Replies
                              1. re: Kbee

                                Forgot to add.. people that tip 15% when everything was great come across as amateurs, "don't get out much" types. Sorry if you don't like to hear that, but that's how you're viewed.

                                1. re: Kbee

                                  That't not terribly relevant to most customers, of course.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    The question was asked by the original poster, who presumably wanted to know people's opinions on the subject. My answer is one of many, sorry if you don't like it.

                                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                      An amatuer diner... or someone who doesn't get out much. Someone inexperienced in patronizing places where gratuities are expected.

                                      1. re: Kbee

                                        i guess compared to the many amateur servers I encounter...

                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                          Touche'... not saying they're not out there. Then you tip accordingly. But that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about when things go well.

                                            1. re: Kbee

                                              The standard range is 15-20%, 15% for standard service up to 20% for superior.

                                              If you wait tables at a place where service is consistently superior, then you would get used to 20%.

                                              On the other hand, if you work at a place where the waiters believe that customers who don't know enough to tip 20% are "amateurs" ... I can think of more than one explanation.

                                              1. re: Kbee

                                                You can have adequate service from an amateur server, in which case an adequate tip (15%) is plenty.

                                                I tip 20% when the servers have gone above and beyond the norm of reciting the specials, taking the order, checking in periodically, and bringing the cheque. For example, if they've made recommendations, if we've had to send something back and they've been gracious about it, if there were any freebies during the meal, etc.

                                                As an aside, the best service I ever had was at Cafe Bizou in Sherman Oaks... one of my friends got violently ill just as the main dishes arrived. As I carried her through the restaurant, I flung my credit card at a passing waitress. I called an ambulance and sent another friend with her, and in the intervening five minutes, they'd boxed up our entrees, charged my card, ordered round my car and put the food in the car. I think I tipped 120% that night.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  As a waiter I would totally agree with you if only you were to remove "if there were any freebies during the meal" from your 20% criterion.

                                                  1. re: Davis

                                                    I never know how much the freebies cost, so I just increase my tip according to the tip percentage of what I think the cost would have been... but I should say that I don't set an upper bound of 20%.

                                            2. re: Kbee

                                              "An amatuer diner... or someone who doesn't get out much. Someone inexperienced in patronizing places where gratuities are expected."

                                              Servers can expect 35% gratuity. That doesn't mean they are going to get it. If I lived in a city where 20% was standard, then fine. But I don't. Phoenix standard is 15% and I tend to tip slightly above that for standard service.

                                              If that makes me an amateur, then so be it.

                                          1. re: Kbee

                                            If I were Letterman and wrote the top 10 things I am concerned about at a resto, I do not think "The Waiter thinks I'm a cheapskate" hits the top 50. You are very fortunate that you have a 20+ gig going.

                                            FYI - I agree that you can buy goodwill but you can not buy good karma, that's earned.

                                          2. re: Kbee

                                            You say "the difference may be only a few dollars", but if you multiply that by the # of times you eat out per month, it can quickly add up.

                                            I calculate tip on pre-tax amount. I hate it when 18% tip is included in large parties, because the service for big groups usually sucks.

                                            1. re: Hapa Dude

                                              It's only happened 2 times but if the service is truly bad and the waiter basically ignored the party because they assume the 18% was theirs irrespective of service, take the check to the manager when given and calmly explain that the waiter was not up to par and tell him to adjust the bill to the tip you feel appropriate. Both times the manager apologized, adjusted and I am sure the waiter was told.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Again, I'd never let service slack on a large party.

                                                Once I served a party of forty kids and their parents. Well, they weren't kids, but were in their teens. Afterwards, they all complimented me on my service and on the service.

                                                I made about thirty percent on that one.

                                            2. re: Kbee

                                              What was the price point where you worked? It matters to me. If a place is overpriced, IMO, I am going to come in at 15% for average service. If its a bargain, there is a really good chance the server is going to get more, so as not to penalize them for low prices. At the very top end, I tend to tip 20%, but the service is usually not average when the bill is greater than $100/pp.

                                              1. re: Chris Rising

                                                Thank you! Finally someone mentioned the price CHARGED for food in the establishment having an affect on the tip. The last (and I stress the word LAST) time I went to the chain restaurant Smokey Bones for a work lunch, they had raised their lunch menu prices 30%. Overnight. We were used to having lunch there for between $7.00 to $10.00 per person - and that included drinks and tax. This last time, however, my bill for a salad and un-sweet iced tea was $15.00. For LUNCH menu pricing.

                                                I realize I live in a lower-priced part of the country for meals, but we also get paid lower salaries, so it is all about perspective. This is a chain restaurant...no better than any old Applebee's, Chili's, Benigann's, Olive Garden, etc. We see it as just one step above Sonny's. It does NOT merit a 30% increase in pricing. Because of this I left only 7% tip with the written instructions on my cheque for the server to ask their manager for the rest of their tip out of the 30% upcharge they just placed on their menu items.

                                                I know what several of you are going to say - "It's not the server's fault for the menu pricing."...and you are absolutely correct - it's not. Normally I would not have taken out my frustrations over being extorted out on an innocent server...but in this particular case, our server was horrible that day and ignored our *huge* party of five - refilling our glasses with the wrong drinks & the food for my mates was cold and one person didn't receive their plate until almost 10 minutes after everyone else had been served. It just happened to work out that way.

                                                We eat out almost every day - trying new places - but this restaurant has been permanently removed from the list of options. 30% upcharge adds up when you are eating lunch out ~4 days/week.

                                                So my question to everyone is...what do you do when there are things outside of the server's control that make your dining experience horriffic? Things like being in a sports bar where the management refuses to air a televised game of a team they personally dislike (true - this actually happened to my friends). Or having the music box at the next table set so loud that nobody can hear their table mate (also Smokey Bones - but several months earlier). Or a place so freezing cold (because the servers are running around like maniacs and it feels normal to them) that your teeth chatter & your lips turn blue. (So appealing when you're on a date. I swear the guy thought I had a nervous tic or was convulsing.) These are things that are not the fault of the server, but can really have an affect on your overall dining experience. Besides the obvious of not returning to these places, what is your recourse? There clearly isn't a manager that is able to help as he/she is usually the problem...and they are not tipped. It's frustrating when the food is good - or even downright craveable - but you just can't stand dinning in. (Take out just doesn't have the same punch as eating it straight from the kitchen.) Any suggestions or past experience with this issue?

                                                1. re: debrolex

                                                  You're absolutely right that the waiter isn't at fault for the increase in prices. Do you really, honestly think that the management is going to give the waiter the difference? No way. You stiffed that waiter the same as if you'd left that tip on the old pricing.

                                                  I just completely fail to understand why people don't complain about service until it comes time to calculate the tip. If the food is cold, SEND IT BACK. If the drinks are refilled wrong, SEND THEM BACK. Chances are they'll fix it and your meal will be at least salvageable.

                                                  As for the sports bar problem... it's really obvious what teams a particular bar supports when you go in, paraphernalia and neon beer signs and whatnot. If they refuse and it's that important to you to watch that game at a bar, leave and go elsewhere.

                                                  The music box, the temperature, these things are not the server's fault and your tip to the server needs to be based on the service, not on your overall dining experience. Every place has a manager, and if you don't get anywhere with the manager, leave and don't come back.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    Not to mention that in sports situations people get irrational. I've worked nights and seen guests taunt other guests for their choice of sport and team. Sports are just a game, but no one seems to feel that way.

                                                    I'm on the edge of hating sports because of that.

                                                  2. re: debrolex

                                                    I think the things you mention are the type of things you call to the attention of CORPORATE. Sure, they know they raised prices, but they need to hear that customers have noticed and are pissed. Same with the rest of the problems.

                                                    1. re: debrolex

                                                      If the prices are too high, don't eat there.

                                                      Don't stiff the waiter because you're unhappy about a price hike.

                                                      1. re: debrolex

                                                        here's the point I've raised before and I won't get into raising prices 30% (ouch!!!). Does the waiter deserve a 30% increase in their tip as well. If I left 15% on Tuesday should i leave 15% of Wednesday or should there be an downward adjustment there to the same dollar aount as Tuesday.

                                                        This is why I have said in many threads that while prices of menus have increased and percentages have increased this is a double dipping for the waiters.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          That's sort of a moot point, since a restaurant that raises its prices 30% in one week will be out of business in a month.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            "We operate nearly 1,400 Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill and Seasons 52 restaurants in North America, employing more than 150,000 people who serve 300 million meals annually. All of our restaurants are company-owned, and Darden offers no franchise opportunities domestically."

                                                            I'd guess these people have managed to figure it out. That's why I say let corporate know ....

                                                  3. A 20% tip is standard in all metropolitan areas. 15% is provincial. Somebody said that 20% is the new 15%, and this is indeed true.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: uman

                                                      20% isn't standard in San Francisco.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Again, waiters in SF are paid minimum wage hourly.

                                                      2. re: uman

                                                        It isn't standard in Phoenix or Albuquerque or Denver or Tucson or...

                                                        1. re: uman

                                                          Not standard in LA, either. In fact, tipping in certain parts of LA hasn't got to 15% yet.

                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                            20% is absolutely the standard base in New York, whether high end or greasy spoon. Anything less and you are seen as a tourist or cheap.

                                                            Sorry, meant to reply to the uman thread.

                                                            1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                              I lived in New York for 4 years. No one I know I tipped 20%. In fact it was quite a shock for me coming from Chicago where service was always generally good so I gave 20% to NYC where service quite frankly was always generally mediocre to bad and see everyone insist on 15% only. It was also the first place I heard about people saying you tip pre-tax. Quite probably all my friends are cheapskates. However, service wise it was a rare treat to get as good of service in NYC as I got in Chicago.

                                                              eta now that I'm out of NYC we're actually back to tipping 20% on average.

                                                          2. re: uman

                                                            20% ain't stadard in jfood land

                                                            1. re: uman

                                                              20% is not standard in Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater. Only for exceptional service

                                                            2. Tipping originally started off as a reward for good service. That said I tip 20% for good friendly service, 15% for mediocre service and if it is apparent that the server is not overworked, and gives poor and rude service I will leave a penny so that they know I didnt just forget. To do otherwise would just encourage this kind of service to continue on to the rest of you. With that kind of attitude the server should find another kind of work and does not deserve to be rewarded!!!

                                                              29 Replies
                                                              1. re: malibumike

                                                                If you leave a penny, but don't talk to the manager, the message is "I'm a cheapskate", not "you're a crappy waiter".

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  perhaps, but why make an already bad experience worse discussing it with a manager with equally poor skills? Also Im not out to get a free meal, or to get anyone fired, the transaction is between myself & the server, if they are terrible they will get a note or told face to face they got "stiffed".

                                                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                                                    But how do you *know* the manager has equally poor skills without speaking directly to them? Without letting the manager know you got poor service, you aren't giving the restaurant the opportunity to correct the issue.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      If the service is that bad and the manager doesn't realize it, then they are just as bad a manager.

                                                                      1. re: Hojo

                                                                        There are all sorts of circumstances that could prevent the manager from knowing a server is bad at his/her job - being a NEW server is one instance. Without telling the manager of the poor service issue and leaving a penny, you're just going to be pegged as a lousy patron.

                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          I mentioned poor and rude service, I think most people can recoginze when somebody is new and will allow for it.

                                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        agreed, but Id rather deal with the server rather than bring a 3rd party in. Either way poor service will quickly doom a restaurant,

                                                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                                                          Yes, poor service *can* doom a restaurant (not always, but it can). But if you don't let a manager know, you're helping to doom it by not allowing them to correct it.

                                                                          If the manager says "you're crazy! You were just waited on by the BEST server in the restaurant!" - then you can go away knowing you had lousy service, had informed management of said lousy service, and they're just plain stupid and the restaurant could eventually fail.

                                                                          But again - by not telling management, you're helping them doom it.

                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            for me its not responsibility to help a restaurant,

                                                                            Im not some ogre, i worked as a cook in restaurants, and know how hard these people work, I tip well, and have only "stiffed" a waiter/waitress 2x out of maybe a few thousand meals.

                                                                            there are too many choices where I live (CHicago area), if a place isnt any good I move on, something has to be really good to warrant a return. Lifes too short for bad food or bad service

                                                                            1. re: swsidejim

                                                                              Right, and I worked as a waiter in restaurants. If you leave the penny, you're a lousy tipper and I'm glad I didn't waste my time on you; if you leave the penny and confront me, chances are pretty good I'm going to foist the manager on you (probably politely) anyway.

                                                                              I don't understand this concept of not wanting to fix the issue. If the food was excellent but the service was subpar, you bet I'd talk to the manager, and probably say exactly that, in the hopes that the next time I went, service would be better.

                                                                              You can refuse to accept comps -- just say, "I don't want any kind of handout, I just want to let you know I won't be leaving John a tip today, and why."

                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                why fix an issue that isnt that important,

                                                                                like I said I dont live in a town with 2 or 3 dining choices, if I have a bad experience I wont return. too many other places to try that actually want your business.

                                                                                1. re: swsidejim

                                                                                  More to the point, why fix a problem that isn't /your/ problem? It isn't the /customer's/ responsibility to manage the restaurant.

                                                                                  1. re: PDXpat

                                                                                    I'm just trying to help my fellow chowhounds and hope they would/will do the same for me in the future.

                                                                                    1. re: malibumike

                                                                                      Which is the reason for leaving a poor tip --such as a single penny, in extreme cases. It's a clear message, in the language that counts most. The management and wait staff have a strong economic incentive to hear that message and correct any problems. No need to be confrontational.
                                                                                      I've worked in the food industry myself years ago, and have many friends and acquaintances who do today. For this reason, among others, it's much easier for me to over-tip than under-tip. But as you correctly point out, customer-care issues need to be communicated, and a low tip is clearest and least obtrusive way of accomplishing that.

                                                                                      1. re: PDXpat

                                                                                        >>"Which is the reason for leaving a poor tip --such as a single penny, in extreme cases. It's a clear message, in the language that counts most."<<

                                                                                        In my experience, leaving a penny without talking to the manager just gets you dismissed as a pompous ass. Please note, I'm not saying that's what you are. My point is simply that people are remarkably adept at rationalizing their behavior -- and yours. Your waiter isn't going to have some sort of service epiphany because you tipped a penny.

                                                                                        The only way to make a difference is to talk to the manager. Whether you care enough about the food to complain is up to you.

                                                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                          I guess your experience has been different than mine. I find that your argument WRT rationalization applies to management as much as floor staff. In either case, it all boils down to whether the house cares about service. If they do, either method of communication is taken very seriously. If not, well...either is a waste of time.

                                                                                          Allow me to draw an analogy: If I go to a play (about food, of course) and feel that one of the parts was badly played, is it incumbent upon me to go backstage afterwards and tell the Director the Braised Fennel missed his cues and dropped his lines? Of course not. /That/ behavior gets me dismissed as a pompous ass, and rightly so. The Director, if even minimally competent, already knows the part was poorly played.

                                                                                          The staff of the restaurant are professionals, or are anyway pretending to be. I trust them to know their roles and play them as well as they can. The thin applause of a light tip indicates my dissatisfaction with that particular evening's performance. Nothing more is required from me; nothing more is likely to be productive.

                                                                                          I don't expect the server to have an epiphany. For one thing, I'm the /customer/, that's not my role. Training and monitoring floor staff is the part of the manager and/or headwaiter. For another, my experience may not be representative; there are any number of reasons for a poor performance on a given night, some of which may be offstage, out of my view.

                                                                                          If many customers experience poor service at the hands of one particular staff member the manager will notice, and the server will most asuredly notice others making better tips night after night. If all servers do a poor job, the /manager/ is incompetent or uncaring, and complaing to him will accomplish nothing.

                                                                                          At the final curtain, it comes to this: if the house cares about quality of service, crummy tips are one of the customary and expected signals the staff is watching for. Trust me, they /know/ this language. What more is needed?

                                                                                          1. re: PDXpat

                                                                                            I like your anology. The director knows his budget limitations which may prevent him from filling a weak spot with a better braise. I find this hard to believe, but when you take an opera away from a major house to play in a smaller/lesser venue, whole parts are removed! If a resto manager is at least awake, he knows who his weak performers are and he knows his limitations on replacing them with better.

                                                                                            1. re: yayadave

                                                                                              The difference is that you're not likely to patronise a play more than once or twice, whereas you may patronise a restaurant a hundred, five hundred or a thousand times.

                                                                                            2. re: PDXpat

                                                                                              I think your analogy is flawed for the reason Das Ubergeek states. But even if it's granted, you haven't really addressed my point. You say:

                                                                                              "At the final curtain, it comes to this: if the house cares about quality of service, crummy tips are one of the customary and expected signals the staff is watching for."

                                                                                              I don't disagree, though I think mentioning something politely to the manager is similarly understood. What I'm saying is that leaving a penny is such an extreme act that it overwhelms the message. If you feel that strongly and wish to communicate your displeasure effectively, the way to do so is to leave a poor tip (e.g., 10%) and speak to the manager, which is an extreme enough act itself.

                                                                                              Stated in terms of your own analogy, leaving a penny is like writing a review that singles out one performer for sustained and personal insult. Such a review is likely to be dismissed as a reflection of some bias on the part of the reviewer. Even if other critics echo the pan using less provocative terms, the original rant just won't count. It gets rejected as anomalous and unreliable even by a rational actor.

                                                                                            3. re: a_and_w

                                                                                              On the contrary. I tip a penny to get my message across to my server without getting him/her 'in trouble' with their manager. I always feel like 'getting the manager' to discuss poor server performance is like telling the teacher that little Johnny stuck Missy's braids in the ink well...as if the teacher couldn't see that for herself. If I have a problem with the FOOD, then I will talk with the manager...that's not the fault of the server.

                                                                                              I assume that the server has the *potential* to be a good server. I assume that they would want to please their customers so they EARN that tip.

                                                                                              If I were a server, I hope I'd KNOW I had let down a table - even if I didn't mean to intentionally. Maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Maybe I was preoccupied with an arguement I had with a co-worker. These things will affect my performance. If I got the penny, I'd have to realize that even if I didn't think so, somehow I had let down a table. My problem became their problem - and that's not right. It's 'financially-stated' wake-up call without getting 'written up'. It would make me try harder on the next table. The last thing I would want is to have my manager involved over something my customer could subtly notify me of. I'm a prideful person, I admit it. I want my manager to believe I'm doing a fantastic job. If he/she believes I am, then my desire to please is higher. If I think {any day now they will fire me}, I will be dwelling on that. Give me my punishment quietly and clearly and I will learn from it. Just my perspective for what it's worth.

                                                                                              1. re: debrolex

                                                                                                I have to say, having been a waiter, that diners are sized up, and generally pretty accurately, as soon as they sit down.

                                                                                                Older people with specific instructions or special orders, or people who come blustering in without a reservation and demand the VIP treatment? Bad tippers.

                                                                                                Families with three screaming kids, a harridan of a mother and a harassed-looking father? Usually pretty good.

                                                                                                First dates? Almost always really good.

                                                                                                Regulars? Pure gold.

                                                                                                Are there exceptions? Of course there are... but the manager and the waiter can both size you up before your food order hits the line.

                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  The problem with your approach, Das Ubergeek, is that once you've made up your mind about a person being a bad tipper, you treat them accordingly, in which case, they'll leave you the tip you expected! It's classic self-fulfilling prophecy!

                                                                                                  I hate it when it's done to me. I can always tell when a waiter is fawning over a table where he THINKS he will get a huge tip, and ignoring tables where he thinks the tip will be not worth his time. The problem is, I out-tip just about everyone, and sometimes, I'll tip more than the meal itself. But, single me out and give me crappy service, and you'll never know.


                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                    I understand fully that the waiter makes a living on the basis of my tips and friday/saturdays are their bread and butter. I also understand that at most of the resto i go to i am very much the outlier by not ordering a bottle of wine nor a couple of rounds of drinks. Neither my wife nor I drink.

                                                                                                    So what I normally do is compensate and "tip" them for close to the amount if we had a drink and a glass of wine so the net tip for the meal we ate is 25-35%.

                                                                                                    This IMMEDIATELY goes to the 15-20% range if I get that "sized up" attitude that "they ain't ordering liquor look" when I ask for water and my DW orders a diet coke.

                                                                                                    So I agree with the self-fulfilling prophecy theory with the adder from the title of a song from Sunset Boulevard, "That Face." It can cost you the 10-15% adder at Table de Jfood.

                                                                                                    My regular restos know me and understand so the regulars are gold comment is spot on.

                                                                                                  2. re: debrolex

                                                                                                    Yeah, your assessment is purely ridiculous.

                                                                                                    You have to understand that waiters get penny tips when they do a good job quite often. It'll be from jackasses who want to be cool in front of their friends. Sometimes, you'd be surprised if you worked in this business, they'll pull that shit just to look powerful.

                                                                                                    The penny tip does nothing, and if you aren't careful you'll have a waiter with some baseball experience. I've seen a kid or two pegged in the back of the head with said penny.

                                                                                                    Just talk with the manager.

                                                                                                    Always talk with the manager.

                                                                                                    Need I repeat myself, talk with the manager.

                                                                                                    The penny is just an insult and does nothing.

                                                                                          2. re: swsidejim

                                                                                            At some point you're going to run out of options that are convenient or nearby with that kind of attitude.

                                                                                            Try as he or she might, a manager cannot watch, say, four servers and two or three busboys and a runner all the time.

                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                              possibly, but with a 150 mile round trip daily commute I have alot of dining options, and only 2 places I wont return to for poor service, most places I go the servers do a good job, and I leave happy, and they get the 20% tip or more.

                                                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                A waiter that thinks I'm a cheapskate for leaving a penny is so stupid they should be commited. No waiter that sees that penny wouldn't realize that the customer was pissed off at their service!!! But You're right, to be fair to other poor saps that might run across this waiter I should also talk to the management, Thanks

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                  I don't believe that the server is not aware of the quality of their service. A bad tip should not be a surprise. Informing the management is optional. The tip provides the proper incentive for the server to change their behavior.

                                                                                2. re: malibumike

                                                                                  I did the penny gig when I was younger and after many years of thought and discussions with DW agree that it does not send the right message that the waiter.

                                                                                  The meal should NEVER get to this point. If waiter is rude, biligerent, or any other bad thing that would justify the penny-routine, the manager must be informed during the meal, not when its over. Then a new waiter is assigned, or the manager steps in.

                                                                                  The penny gig might ONLY be used when both the waiter and the manager hit rock bottom. At that point they have basically told you that customers do not matter. So eat the food, pay, leave the penny (don't forget to give one to the manager on the way out as well) and never return. But at least you gave it the old college try.

                                                                                3. Drinking:

                                                                                  At least a dollar per drink or 20% whichever is greater.


                                                                                  Pretty much 20%+ of total, drinks and tax included., unless the service was poor then they get 10-15%, or if it is really bad a penny, and a note telling the server why.

                                                                                  I worked in restaurants for 10+ years, and have no patience for a poorly trained wait staff. Also I can tell the difference if it is the kitchens "fault" or the servers for the bad experience, and treat each accordingly.

                                                                                  1. I have been a waiter in Manhattan for a couple of years and my tip percentage (calculated as an average from all of my tables every night) is approximately 20% (with drinks and tax included) with a few degrees of variation either upward or downward on any given evening. I have worked in both fine dining and more casual restaurants and the percentage has actually increased in the more casual restaurants, I supposed because when you get a bad tip on a $500 bill it hurts a lot more than a $80 one.

                                                                                    My question is what actually indicates "average" service as opposed to "great" service. Personally I feel that I give competent service all the time (water glasses are always full, order is taken and delivered correctly and efficiently, I'm pleasant...the customer wants for nothing but I don't feel, in that instance, that I'm giving great service, per se, just fulfilling my basic duties as a waiter. However, there are times when I really connect with certain customers, I can help them choose a wine that they appreciate or something similar to enhance their meal. At those times I feel like I'm giving "great" service, even thought I'm doing little more than the times when I'm giving "average" service. And not everyone is looking to connect with me...sometimes people are engrossed in their own conversations or just want to eat and run. In those circumstances should I receive less of a tip because technically there's nothing special about my service? I'm just not quite sure how the general public makes the distinction.

                                                                                    I do, however, expect that if I'm there when you need me, I answer your questions appropriately, and your meal goes off without a hitch that I should receive a 20% tip.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Davis

                                                                                      If I am out with my husband sans children and you take care of our dining needs without "connecting" with us, you are likely to receive upwards of 20%. On the other hand, if we have our children with us and you engage them and make sure that their food is to their liking you, again, will recieve 20+%. I guess you need to be a bit of a mind-reader. Special service means different things to different people.

                                                                                      In the less urban areas of the southeast 15% still seems to be the rule.

                                                                                      1. re: Davis

                                                                                        Davis' was the most cogent response to the O.P.

                                                                                        1. re: Davis

                                                                                          Nice job Davis. To customers connection is two way. Sometimes you want the discussion sometimes you want to be left alone. Tough Karnak at this point.

                                                                                          1. re: Davis

                                                                                            Thanks Davis - good response and did make me re-evaluate what I would consider 'great' service. FWIW, my conception of average service would be less than what you described. Water filled, but not quite as often as I would like, questions responded to accurately enough, etc etc. If I were as taken care of as well as you described, I would probably leave a 20% tip.

                                                                                            1. re: Davis

                                                                                              I wish I had had waiters like you half the time I lived in NYC. All I want that garners 20% is prompt service, water glasses full, knowledgable about the menu, eye contact and don't take 3 years to get me the check or give it too me too early. Also in NYC I would prefer that if I asked for mustard you bring it to me fairly promptly without me having to ask for it 3 times. Not sure why NY'ers are afraid of mustard. That basic service merits 20% from me.

                                                                                              In NYC I would rarely get eye contact. Servers would disappear for hours, checks would take forever to arrive. Monosyllables would be the replies, etc., etc. Questions were often treated with contempt. So that merits 15% from me or worse if necessary.

                                                                                              If you go even further in the extra mile, like walking my 3 year old around the restaurant or bringing us an apple b/c we had a whim to finish our meal with it or help us with the wine list or help us get to the theater on time or whatever then you get more than 20%.

                                                                                              And if my husband isn't looking I often even base the tip on post tax. And even if he is it's based on drinks and food.

                                                                                            2. AMEN! I agree with Davis.

                                                                                              1. Regardless of the number-20%, 15%--why ever should it be calculated including sales tax? That has nothing to do with it. I'm all for rewarding good to great service (with the percent going up at the great end). But sales tax should not play a part. If I want to leave 30% I'm doing it based on dinner/drinks cost. Or in fact, more likely I'm starting at 20% and adding whatever dollars are easy for me to pull out of my wallet if it's cash or add on the credit slip, never considering sales tax.

                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                                                                                                  Tax is not customarily included in the base for calculation, that much is quite simple and has not changed in any of the standard etiquette manuals. If it makes it easier to calculate to use the gross total, the customer is always are free to do so. But a server who calculates the appropriate benchmark against the total gross of taxes is only deluding him or herself.

                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                    The standard is to tip on the total bill. Tax is a cost of business just like food, rent, salaries, and utilities--the restaurant owner is paying it, not you. That it's left out of the menu prices and added in as a separate item on the bill is just marketing.

                                                                                                    If you tip 15% on the bill before tax, you're leaving a below-average tip. If you tip 20% on the bill before tax, you're in the average range.

                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                      Reference was to sales tax added to bill paid by customer.

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                        ACtually, no it's not standard anywhere. The customer is paying that sales tax already. The customer is not receiving anything for that sales tax, so there's nothing that merits a tip with respect to. I realize it's easier for some folks to use the gross total, but that is not the standard and has never been.

                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                          The total bill's the standard on which the 15% standard tip is based.

                                                                                                          The restaurant owner pays the sales tax, just like payroll tax, property tax, or income tax. There's no law that says that menu prices can't include sales tax. They just split it out because it makes the food look cheaper.

                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                            The pretax standard is regardless of the level of tip; the denominator is universal in that regard. I do not know of any esteemed American etiquette guide (let alone a lot of the less formal ones) that say differently.

                                                                                                            The reason I insist on this point is that I think the burden of declaring people to be cheapskates falls on those trying to change social customs. People cannot rightly be termed cheap when they are observing long-standing custom.

                                                                                                            Mind you, I would encourage everyone to be generous, and I do not stint on tipping. I just don't look down on people who observe the custom more strictly, and I do not think servers have any right to do so and they should not be encouraged to do so: it's a violation of basic hospitality.

                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                              I don't dispute that many people leave 15% tip on the post-tax total (particularly because the large print makes math easier), but I dispute that it's a standard.

                                                                                                              The fact that we're having this growing discussion about it means it's not a standard, or at least no longer a standard.

                                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                Actually, it's only a handful of folks (mostly waiters and ex-waiters, who automatically do not count on changing standards in this regard) who raise it. It's simply never been an issue in all the years I've been tipping; I have yet to meet a fellow customer who works on the post-amount. The "growth" in the discussion therefore appears to be almost entirely virtual.

                                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                  Most people I know tip 200% of the sales tax. Is that 16% on the total bill or 17.5% on the pre-tax bill?

                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                    You would be undertipping woefully in Massachusetts. We have a 5% commonwealth sales tax. No county sales taxes (because counties count for nothing here; in fact, over half of Massachusetts has no counties (several were dissolved a decade ago)).

                                                                                                                    For me and the vast majority of my dining companions, the calculation is easy: you take your portion of the underlying bill (pretax) and add 25% (20% for tip and 5% for tax). When some friends insist on 15% on the pretax base for tip base, we don't haggle them for being cheap, because they are not being cheap, they are just not being generous. Some groups are dominated by the latter, and I still just add my usual -- unless the service was barely adequate, in which I tend to round down towards 15%. The other method of dealing with barely adequate service is to put the tip on the credit card to the penny rather than cash; I normally tip in cash and encourage dining companions to leave the tip in cash.

                                                                                                                    When I dine alone, which is frequently, my tip base is normally 25%, and often goes higher (sometime much higher); I like to reward servers who are attentive to single diners.

                                                                                                                    I am no enemy of servers. I just also resist maligning fellow diners for observing long-standing custom.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                      In Connecticut it would work out to a 12% tip on the total. I always have to remember to triple the tax in places with 6% tax rates.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                        Sorry DU and RL but I feel like I'm walking in front of the net at center court at Flushing Meadows but I live in CT and eat 5-8 meals per month in Boston.

                                                                                                                        I tip on the total including tax and it ranges between 15-18% of that "with-tax" total. It's what have done since I tipped my first deli waiter for my $1.35 turkey sandwich in the 60's. Old habits tough to beat.

                                                                                                      2. I can recall when 10 percent was the "proper" tip. The price of food is subject to inflation, and therefore the actual amount of the tip; I do find it illogical and galling that the percentage should escalate, too.

                                                                                                        1. Many restaurants have a fixed gratuity that they apply to parties of six or more, often 18%, calculated on the pre-tax total. Although I dislike this practice, it is a benchmark one can use.

                                                                                                          I prefer the idea of "service compris", where a tip genuinely reflects a reward for good service rather than being an essential part of a server's take-home pay.

                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: maviris

                                                                                                            "Service compris", the norm in France, has been done at a couple of places here, and you should hear the outcry from people who think that tips are optional and that their freedom is somehow being reduced. These are the same people who routinely post about how terrible service is wherever they go, even at places where the service is known to be wonderful, but who can't see the relationship between "exercising your freedom to be a crappy tipper" and "getting bad service the next time".

                                                                                                            I'd love to go to a place and see, for example, $20 on the menu and know that my total out the door is $20 -- "service et taxes compris". Sure, the "cost" is probably $16 on today's menus but that would alert me to the actual cost.

                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                              Value-added tax is virtually always included in menu prices, no?

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                Computerised bills are required by law to break out the pre-tax and pre-service total for you, so what you get is typically something like this:

                                                                                                                Montant: 164,46 €

                                                                                                                Montant HT 120,00 € + Service 18,00 € + TVA 26,46€

                                                                                                                Typically, yes, the price you see is the price you pay, though, so your 40,00€ (before taxes) meal will be 55,00 € on the menu (15% service and 19.6% VAT)

                                                                                                                The law does not apply to handwritten bills and is widely flouted anyway.

                                                                                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                "I'd love to go to a place and see, for example, $20 on the menu and know that my total out the door is $20 -- 'service et taxes compris'" - my dream as well. I am a good tipper; I just hate it. I would just LOVE to be able to order a meal for a certain amount and then pay that amount and leave with good feeling all around.

                                                                                                                1. re: Marsha

                                                                                                                  Right, and leave the spare change both so you don't jangle on your way to the city's perfect, efficient, safe, clean public transit (while we're wandering in Fantasy City) and the waiter can, with the night's proceeds, pay for a well-deserved glass of locally-produced wine.

                                                                                                                  By the way, you get major kudos for the single quotation marks within the double quotation marks, as well as for the semicolon; it's a dying breed of educated people who know how to write properly.

                                                                                                              3. re: maviris

                                                                                                                In California, any service charge is subject to sales tax, so if they calculated it on the post-sales-tax total they'd have to add in the sales tax on the service charge.

                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                  The same is true in France... and in Quebec (when service is included), which has a double whammy:

                                                                                                                  Hors-taxes: $20
                                                                                                                  Service: $3
                                                                                                                  TPS/GST: $1.61 (based on 7% of $23)
                                                                                                                  TVQ/QST: $1.85 (based on 7.5% of $24.61)

                                                                                                                  Quebec's effective tax rate isn't 14.5% (7% GST + 7.5% QST), it's 15.125% (7% GST + 7.5% on the total including GST).

                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                    A correction to myself: I forgot that the GST was lowered to 6% in July... I haven't been up there since then. That makes Quebec's effective tax rate 13.95% and Prince Edward Island's 16.6% (6% GST and 10% provincial portion on top of that = 16.6% HST).

                                                                                                              4. Base the tip on the pre-tax or total bill? There's obviously no consensus:

                                                                                                                "The Zagat Survey that was released yesterday showed that San Franciscans are cheap when it comes to tipping. ...

                                                                                                                "Earlier this week, I had dinner with Tim and Nina Zagat, and I asked them to clarify whether the percentages were based on the tip before taxes or after.

                                                                                                                "That led to an interesting discussion ... Nina bases her tip on the pretax total. Tim bases his on the after-tax figure ..."


                                                                                                                1. The Zagats are hardly representative of the general public.

                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                    No, but they've been surveying the restaurant-going public for a long time.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                      But that's not relevant to the answer they gave personally.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                        They were answering as the publishers of the poll. They published the average tip as 18.4% for San Francisco, which is a ridculously precise figure if you don't also ask resondents what they're basing it on.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                          ACtually, an average tends to be like that; it's in it's nature (as opposed to a median). And it doesn't tell you the denominator used (pretax or total). So the objection stands.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                            Average or median, they're mixing two inconsistent datasets resulting from an ambiguous question.

                                                                                                                            Not normalizing the base amount introduces a margin of error. Per the survey, the average tip on the pre-tax bill in SF is between 18.4% and 19.7%, depending on what percentage of respondents tip on the total bill.

                                                                                                                  2. I feel that the most important thing is extreme precision, so I always bring a roll of pennies and a calculator so I can tip exactly 18.33 percent -- 17.67 percent if the service failed to meet my nine-point checklist of server requirements, and on rare occasions I'll go as high as 18.72 or even 18.92 percent if the service was exceptional.

                                                                                                                    I'm kidding, of course. Wouldn't want this post to be erased like some others. I usually tip 20-40 percent, because I'm one of those annoying customers who sits and has a dozen coffee refills after my meal. But I'm not anal about it. A percentage point on a typical check of, say, $15, is fifteen cents. FIFTEEN CENTS, people!

                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: fnarf

                                                                                                                      Actually, if we are pleased with our experience, we tend to tip 20% on the post-tax total. We are in an informal dinner group and the people in it tend to be the same – in fact, the last time we went out, our bill was quite low, and people put in so much, even after we announced the total and a couple of people took back a few dollars, the tip was still 30% of the post-tax total. Although we are not fussy or troublesome customers, we do tend to drink a lot of water and linger over our meals, so it seems fair. Also, we live in a small city, and dine out frequently in the same places when we aren’t traveling. I am not sure if it is the tip, the regularity, or our polite nature (most likely a combination of all three) but we are treated extremely well.

                                                                                                                      I do find that the people we know who dine out frequently also seem to tip at a higher rate – of course, this may be that those people simply have more disposable income and are less likely to be concerned about a few dollars

                                                                                                                      1. re: meg944

                                                                                                                        You bring up an interesting point. If you're holding down a table to linger a while at a busy time, you're preventing the table from being turned over and are cutting into the server's earning potential. An adjustment in the tip might be appropriate. I never thought of it before.

                                                                                                                        1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                                          Oh, yes, this is definitely appropriate.

                                                                                                                        2. re: meg944

                                                                                                                          We do this a lot too... if we're in a large group, we adjust everybody's contribution up a buck or two and leave the waiter a hefty tip.

                                                                                                                      2. I find it interesting that this is always such a heated topic, not only here but among friends, family and co-workers. People who would never question what is spent on other goods and services will argue vehemently over tipping. It has always been my opinion that this perennial discussion (with the exception of regional/local custom and culture) has less to do with economics and more to do with character.

                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                                                                                          Who's character? The patron? Or the server?

                                                                                                                          1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                                                                                            That also applies the character than tends to need to judge that They (Other People) Don't Tip Enough....

                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                              I do judge that, quite often, because I quite often see people tipping at ten percent or less, and thinking they're being generous. Even if you're grudgingly squeezing out another dime to make it an even 12%, that's just cheap. There's nothing worse than being cheap. C'mon, a dollar's going to hurt you that much?

                                                                                                                              I think the root of the discussion is Americans' profound discomfort with the idea of "service". We want it, we expect it, we have oftentimes grandiose notions of how we'd like it done, to us: but we're also philosophically ashamed because we prefer to think of ourselves as both egalitarian and Calvinistically self-denying.

                                                                                                                              So when we are in a situation where direct personal service -- people doing your precise bidding by doing personal things for you that you are physically capable of doing for yourself -- is normal and expected, we freak out a little. We start worrying about "too much" and "not enough". We start calculating exact percentages and futzing around with small coins in a way that just doesn't make any sense. But then, emotional discomfort in the presence of class distinctions is a fundamental part of the American experience, don't you think?

                                                                                                                              1. re: fnarf

                                                                                                                                I guess I've only once seen someone try to tip 10% as standard for full service (10% is the standard for buffet, of course), but I am aware as I noted earlier and another poster affirmed that 10% used to be the standard a couple of generations ago and still may be in some areas of the country. I am inclined to avoid judging such people's lack of different experience.

                                                                                                                                I do agree about the class dis-ease in the US, but I don't think it comes up that often in that way in restaurants. Rather, it comes up with people worrying that others are in a position to judge them; which is the very point I am trying to caution about. THere are still plenty of Americans for whom a non-chain, non-diner-style restaurant experience is relatively rare, and it will remain rare when they think there are others out to judge them in this regard.

                                                                                                                                1. re: fnarf

                                                                                                                                  I'm really sorry you mentioned "class distinctions" because The Ogre is probably gonna getcha and zap your post.

                                                                                                                                  Discussing our attitude toward "service" - we get service, even very personal service, in other places, but the cost of that service is included in the final bill. I do not think to tip my dentist, for example. But restaurants do not include a $20 or $25 an hour wage for their servers in the cost of the meal.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                                                    That's a shame if it happens, because it is a good post.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: fnarf

                                                                                                                                    If I was really purchsing that what I choose not to do myself, I would gladly walk in to the kitchen, order from the chef, and carry my plate back to my table. Then I could tuck a twenty right into his apron.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: fnarf

                                                                                                                                      Talk about cogent! Thanks for that perspective - it's spot on.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                      Your response to my post on character is a little unclear to me. While I may bristle at under tipping, especially by those who are not ignorant or inexperienced, I also find it condescending to view some people as "not knowing any better". Back to character, I was not just talking about the ideological low tipper, but also the insecure patron who wrings his hands over how much to tip, or the show-off who makes the grand gesture of over tipping, regardless of service. Pedantically scolding a low tipper in your party is unacceptable, but I have been neurotic enough to disretely return to a table to leave more if a host has not been generous.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: SunnysideUp

                                                                                                                                      People argue because they're sure they know what the rules are, and can't believe that other people don't.

                                                                                                                                    4. Is it possible that what Davis described as competent service is "expected" service? "(water glasses are always full, order is taken and delivered correctly and efficiently, I'm pleasant...the customer wants for nothing" This then is the base line service which should receive the base line tip, if it's 15%, twice the tax amount, 20%, before tax, or after tax. From this base line tip for base line service, adjustments can be made. But, notice, the occasion for extra or above "expected" service does not always arise. You can cook a good steak to serve a good steak, or you can cook a good steak and serve a terrible steak, but you can not cook a good steak to be an outstanding steak. Some tables just don't require any extra service. Some people feel that if nothing went wrong, they got superior service which deserves superior reward. I think if they did not require any extra service and, on the other hand, nothing went wrong, then base line tip for base line service. With the terms defined this way, we can have a discussion. I remember that when the standard was 10%, servers would complain that people were leaving the same 10% they always left when the cost of living kept going up. They seemed to forget that the cost of the meal that the tip per centage was based on was going up also. But now, both the cost of the meal and the standard tip per cent have gone up. How to justify that tip rate increase? Well, the base wage paid to servers has not gone up much. It's probably still under three bucks an hour most places. Maybe the tip rate had to go up to adjust for this. Now I have a clearer way to look at this. I usually tip well, starting at 20% of the total, including taxes and rounding up. This even for marginal service. So what must I do for exceptional service? 25% or 25%+ ? Maybe I need to back that down to 15% for standard service and have 5% either way to adjust for sub-standard or exceptional service.

                                                                                                                                      Just musing.

                                                                                                                                      1. And how do we feel about tip jars on a counter?

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                                                                                                                                        1. re: eaf6563

                                                                                                                                          I tip the person who slings my coffee, the person who pulls my beer, the person who carries my bag, the person who parks my car and manages not to scratch it, the person who waits on me at table, the taxi driver who gets me safely to where I'm going, the barber who doesn't give me an embarrassing haircut, the concierge who gets me a difficult table or seat at an entertainment and, at Christmas, the maid who cleans my house.

                                                                                                                                          Notice that the person who stands there, half-baked on whatever the drug of the moment is, manages to bawl my order into a microphone, and slop it toward me on a counter, leaving me to clean up after myself does not figure on that list. Neither does the person who manages to find the table I reserved last week all by him- or herself without any helpful hints.

                                                                                                                                        2. Last week I went to dinner, since our table was not ready, we had drinks at the bar. The bartender then said that we may transfer the tab to the dinner bill. I tipped the bartender at this point. However, I still tipped 20%+ on the total bill after dinner, did I overtip? Should I have deducted the tip I left at the bar? The waiter might not realize that I have tipped at the bar and might thought that I undertipped.

                                                                                                                                          What are your thoughts on this?

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                                                                                                                                          1. re: Problem Child

                                                                                                                                            You should have closed out your bar tab, tipped the bartender, and then opened a new check for dinner.


                                                                                                                                          2. Honestly, I wish this whole service thing would go away. It is stupid. Go ahead and increase the prices to pay the waiters more. The restaurants want to attract more customers by not including the tip on the menu meanwhile the waiters hope someone would be extra nice and give a huge tip; the customers get to worry about how much to tip to look generous or simply to not offend. Waiters are there to do a job properly just like other jobs, they should be paid accordingly and be fired if imcompetent. This process should not be a burden on the customer.

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. Tipping is a much more complex subject than the postings I've read suggest.

                                                                                                                                              In much of the developed world, tipping is a non issue since wait staff are compensated fairly for their work. I have been in restaurants, both fancy and cheap, in several countries where servers have literally run after me to return money left on the table. One server, told that the tip was for extraordinary service, actually appeared insulted. [No, this does not happen in France :-)]

                                                                                                                                              North American restaurateurs have gotten away with underpaying staff for so long that we, the customers, end up feeling guilty, or embarassed, for not taking up the slack. The solution is for wait staff to be paid fairly for their work.

                                                                                                                                              Unless we are told, we don't know whether tips (or service charges) are pooled or the server keeps them; whether the server pays a percentage to other staff (and which staff are paid); or whether the tips actually go to the house and the server gets nothing. And we are NOT told, except, and rarely, by servers who feel cheated by their employers.

                                                                                                                                              At one <self service!!> restaurant in Toronto, much of the staff came via a government program for the unemployed and their minimum wage pay was partly subsidized. The (relatively pricy for its type) restaurant charged a "mandatory" service charge (I believe 10%) on all bills. This was fine with me until I learned that management kept the service charge and the employees got little or nothing. Next time there, I refused to pay it. My partner was squirming, but the staffer at the cash beamed as a manager quietly deleted the charge from the bill without hesitating for a moment.

                                                                                                                                              I don't understand our custom of tipping a percentage of the bill. It makes no sense at all. When I was an "ignorant" teen, I used to have lunch at a chain restaurant in New York (Schraffts) where mains were ordered by calling into a mike and delivering a plate from a dumbwaiter to the counter. The serving staff themselves made and served the desserts, some of which were quite complex. Not knowing any better, I would tip on the work involved in filling my order rather than on the amount of the bill. I would tip 5 cents on my 99 cent lunch (yes, I'm old) and 25 cents on my 25 cent dessert. The staff loved this, but I soon learned the error of my ways and began to tip the expected percentage (then 10%) anyway. If we are going to tip, the amount should reflect the amount of work done and the quality of the work, irrespective of the bill.

                                                                                                                                              Why should a hard working server at a McDonalds get minimum or student wage plus nothing? ? Why should a hard working server at a Swiss Chalet (a chain chicken place, with a liquor license, in Canada) be expected to subsist on minimum wage plus, perhaps, a $1.00 tip per cover (I don't know if they get to keep their tips) while a server who does NOTHING more gets $10.00 per cover simply because the place is more expensive? If we are going to compensate restaurant staff via tips, surely menu prices shouldn't be the criterion of value. Just because a restaurant is expensive doesn't mean the server has done a better job or has even done more.

                                                                                                                                              My partner used to own a fine dining restaurant. Servers paid a percentage to the bussers, runners, cooks, and dishwashers, and to the bar when alcohol was served. The servers kept the rest and a server could easily make $50K a year (much of it not reported for taxes). Some of them worked very hard and deserved every cent, but many put in less effort than the folks at that chicken place who lived below the poverty line.

                                                                                                                                              Personally, I don't have the cojones to take a stand alone--it's just a pointless waste of time. Given "no problems" as the sole criterion, I tip 15% before tax and 10% on alcohol (typically marked up 150-300% here). The service sometimes isn't worth that much, but it's easier to just conform. When service is exceptional, I may tip MUCH more. And what is, indeed, exceptional is MY subjective opinion. When I get really good service at a very cheap restaurant, I tip 25% and up.

                                                                                                                                              Sure servers size up customers -- some more accurately than others. But all servers can be very wrong. And servers who are pros may not fawn over a perceived "bad" table, but they still do a professional job serving it, even when it REALLY hurts to the point of backroom tears.

                                                                                                                                              When elements of service spoil my experience a little, I'll tip less. The most frequent reasons are "attitude" and ignoring my table while fawning over others. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the server, who gets the expected poor tip, never knowing that giving my table great service (without pretense or attitude) would have netted substantially more.

                                                                                                                                              I have sometimes encountered service so apallingly bad that management (or even another server) had to intervene. I have sometimes simply left nothing -- because nothing was the appropriate tip. On a very few occasions over decades, I have left two pennies on the table because nothing else would make the point.

                                                                                                                                              After the worst restaurant meal of my life, at TGI Fridays in Niagara Falls ON, the server got a 20% tip on a comped bill. The foul food following a 1.5 hour wait wasn't the server's fault and oh did she try keep us at least somewhat content.

                                                                                                                                              I'll never stiff a server for bad food, though I'm unlikely to return. But why shouldn't the server be penalized when my hot food goes cold while said server is chatting up a hot babe/guy?

                                                                                                                                              I don't like to tip when served by a restaurant owner, who can control food costs and menu prices at will, but I again wimp out and hand over the windfall. In many of these situations, it is clear the the bill itself isn't being rung up.

                                                                                                                                              I don't personally feel service charges are the answer. We don't tip the grocer, or pay a service charge, for our retail food. Costs of doing business are wrapped into the price. I've worked for tips myself, so nobody can claim that I "don't understand the realities". Fact is, the entire system sucks.