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Tipping Etiquette

I need some advice/input.

I have a very special occasion coming up. My husband and I will be going out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The dinner will cost around $120 per person. However, on this occasion I have my eye on an extremely special bottle of wine I would like to treat us to. The wine will cost approximately $2,500. How would I tip for this?

Normally we order a bottle of wine that is around $40 or so and include that in the tip. But when the wine is so very expensive, compared to the cost of the food what is customary?

Thanks in advance!

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    1. This is a very very special situation in which I would call up the GM of the restaurant, tell them the situation and ask them what's appropriate.

      11 Replies
      1. re: jpschust

        great suggestion. but expect the GM might say "tip whatever you feel is appropriate".

        the CUSTOM of tipping says X% on the bill, and that IS including wine. you decide what percentage is appropriate for the level of service you recieved and whether you prefer to tip on the before or after tax total.

        there is a school of thought that says a high price on wine justifies lowering the tip percentage on that item. also some say wine service can only be "so good" and so there should be a maximum dollar amount to tip on a bottle of wine (ie- no wine service is ever worthy of more than a $50 tip).

        you tip what you want. here are some restaurant facts to help with your decision...

        -the server, regardless of what you tip, will "tip out" 5% on his sales, give or take. so at the end of his shift he will give $125 to the "pool". whether this is fair or not is irrelavent. most restaurants have not yet adopted the lesser tip for expensive bottles idea. (so calling the GM is certainly a good call)

        - as soon as you order a $2500 bottle, (i'm assuming this isn't the average price of wine for this place) the ENTIRE RESTAURANT STAFF will be doing backflips to cater to your every whim and give you the most perfect service you've ever dreamed of in all aspects of your experience, not just wine service.

        - whatever you choose to tip, you WILL be remembered by your server and the rest of the staff and managers, because you spent so much money there.

        1. re: excuse me miss

          Yah, the custom doesn't neccesarily include alcohol. There are many threads on it. Ask the GM if the server needs to tip out based on wine sales. If the GM is unhelpful it's a pretty good sign about the restaurant in general.

          1. re: jpschust

            The server will still be taxed on $2,500.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              ibid.

              everyone pays estimated taxes and then trues up on April 15th.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                I refuse the tax argument as a reason to tip 20%. It's a silly argument on its face, but even if we took that argument on its face then the tip would be maybe 6-8%. I'm sorry, even if I order a 2k+ bottle no waiter will get more than about 100 bucks on the bottle. It makes absolutely no sense to do so.

                1. re: jpschust

                  I don't remember saying a 20% tip was necessary.

                  Simply be aware that by leaving a bad tip (which $100 on a $2,500 bottle of wine would be, unless you consider a 4% tip generous) financially hurts your server. Your waiter will be in the red after taxes and tipping out if that's what you leave. As in, you literally are taking money out of his pocket.

                  I don't believe in throwing money around, but I also don't want a waiter to have to pay for my extravagance.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Incorrect, the server does NOT claim 2500 on his 1040, he claims 100. it is his responsibility to keep accurate records and file a 1040 on actual, not imagined income.

                    1. re: jfood

                      You're 100% incorrect.
                      Servers are taxed on their sales, not their tips. If they were taxed on tips, the IRS would get much less money, as most servers don't understand why claiming as much as possible is beneficial for things like retirement, etc.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        Right back at you Verde. You need to do your research:

                        " This is also a good time to remind servers that there is a myth out there about reporting tips earned. Many restaurant employers and restaurant employees may have heard the false rumor that tip-earners only need to report tips equal to 8% (or perhaps some other number, such as 10%) of their sales. That's a widespread misconception. The law requires employees to report and pay taxes on 100% of the tips they keep after tip-outs. It's that simple.

                        The 8% figure is simply a threshold below which many employers must allocate tips and report certain additional information to the IRS. The IRS can use this information to flag restaurants where employees may be underreporting tips. Reporting less than 100% of tips can get both you and your employer in trouble" re: http://www.waiter-training.com/newsle...

                        Likewise you should read publication 1244 of the IRS:

                        http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1244.pdf

                        And here is an interesting bulletin

                        http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1872.pdf

                        It is inconceivable that people believe that waiters are the only class in the US that believes it is required to claim income based on something other than money received.

                        It's unfortunate this misconception is so pervasive.

                        1. re: jfood

                          When I last worked at a reastaurant as a server and not a sommelier, we tipped out and claimed taxes based on our sales.

              2. re: jpschust

                wow, i've never heard of not having to tip out on alcohol. i want that job!!
                ;)

          2. SpareRib, what do you think you should tip? What's your initial hunch?

            1. $2,500 x 20% = $500.

              For that, I'll personally fly over to the East Coast (from the west coast), pour a nice glass for you two, play you a nice piece of romantic jazz on a grand, massage your shoulders, and have chocolate-covered strawberries personally delivered to you.

              How's my offer? :-)

              On a serious note - I think for something in the thousands, it's 20-30%, plus an invite for the wine steward to sit down and have a quick drink with you.

              8 Replies
              1. re: HungWeiLo

                I just don't get the suggestion, often made here, that I am somehow expected to share my extremely expensive wine with a steward or waiter, especially when it's "bring your own". Since when did this person become my intimate dining companion and best friend? Sorry this just too bizarre for my taste.

                1. re: Leonardo

                  you're not expected. but if you have a special wine and the server has done alot to make your evening special it's a nice gesture to offer them a taste (as in 1oz).

                  1. re: excuse me miss

                    Yes - I think the "1oz" part that I left out is important. You're not inviting them for a big chug, just a bit of a sip to show gratitude.

                2. re: HungWeiLo

                  are you kidding me on that price? I hope you are (the tip price is what I'm discussing here).

                  1. re: jpschust

                    The $500 was said half in jest. But it is certainly an ambiguous conundrum. On one hand, you have the waiter's sales tallied at the end of the day for the calculation of income taxes owed. But on the other hand, $500 for a guy who compliments your taste in food and wine, gives you small talk, and pours you an occasional drink of wine is of course very silly. (OK - so they may be knowledgeable about wine and what filters to use and whatnot - but seriously - I doubt many will know the difference either way.)

                    But ultimately, if poster can splurge a car down payment on a bottle of crushed grapes, they can probably spread a little wealth all around... :-)

                    1. re: HungWeiLo

                      But as noticed above you don't end up paying tax on what you don't make.

                      That said, just because I can pay $2500 for a bottle of wine doesn't mean I need to give the sales guy extra money he didn't earn. And I don't think that just because you have wine knowledge that you earn 500 for pouring the wine I know I'm going to choose.

                      1. re: HungWeiLo

                        <...compliments your taste in food and wine, gives you small talk, and pours you an occasional drink of wine...>

                        i certainly hope you don't think this is all professional waiters do.

                    2. SpareRib, please let us know what happens, I'm very curious. I have not yet splurged on a bottle of wine quite that expensive, but may in the future. For bottles in the range of $200-500, i have in the past tipped the usual 15-20%, but that is more reasonable. Thanks for an interesting question.

                      1. I honestly wonder if any bottle of wine could taste *that* good to be worth $2500, but anyway... as a former server at a high-end place with a great wine list (nothing that expensive though!) I'm honestly not sure what I would expect if you ordered a $2500 bottle of wine, other than that I'd be completely nervous opening it. I don't think I would expect you to tip the regular percentage, and yet I'm not sure what the answer is. I was hoping I'd see it here, but it seems to have turned into an argument about how much (if any) to tip on wine, who gets tipped out on what, etc. Hmmm. We'll see, maybe a sommelier with pipe up...

                        1. Talk to the GM of the place. It may be that the wine should be ordered directly from the captain via the bar or something or some other arrangement so that it's not including in the sales totals of waitstaff. I would then suggest that the old-fashioned wine tip for the sommelier - 10% - might be a good reference point.