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Oct 4, 2007 04:08 PM

Tipping BEFORE the meal - what would you have done?

So I went to a booksigning event the other day that was held at a restaurant. I was told the cost would be $15 for some hors d'eurves and that I had to reserve a seat with my credit card.

Upon arriving, they rung me up and handed me a bill of $16.24 and I had to sign and put my total (there was a tip line.) I didn't even think about it (because it sort of felt like carry out the way I was signing the bill at the counter) and just put a line in the tip line and made the total $16.24

The manager kind of gave me a dirty look and then I realized "Oooh...I didn't tip." It was too late then and so I just walked away feeling partially guilty. But, I also thought it was just an even $15 event cost, not a taxable and tippable $15. I had also just spent $37 on her book so I was less inclined to feel bad. Plus, I hadn't even been served yet! And, to make me feel less guilty, I wasn't even served all of the hors d'eurves!

Was I in the wrong?

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  1. For such an event, I wouldn't have expected to be taxed nor would I expect to tip on it either. Given the sequence of events, I suppose that if I felt like I'd gotten some sort of service I might have opted to leave some cash at the end. Ultimately, though, it seems a case of a really poorly put together event in some ways. I think you chalk it up to a learning experience and keep it mind the next time you encounter something like that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ccbweb

      I agree! Thanks! I'm glad I wasn't completely wrong to assume it would just be $15...

    2. You did absolutely nothing wrong. You went to a booksigning that charged admission and you paid. If anyone should give a tip to the servers, it's the owner of the bookshop. Do you tip the hot dog guy at Yankee Stadium (sorry watching the game)? Do you tip the bartender at the Senior Prom? Go to a charity event for $500 and then be expected to slip the waiter some money?

      The only dirty look the owner should have given was when he went home and looked in the mirror.

      40 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Yes, it is proper to tip the bartender at Senior Proms, wedding receptions, office parties.

        1. re: FrankJBN

          It is proper for the host to tip at these affairs, but i hope you are not saying that the guests should tip the staff. If i was unclear i apologize.

          1. re: jfood

            No you were clear, was I unclear? I am saying that it is accepted practice for the guests, the users of the service beyond that provided to all, to tip bartenders at such affairs.

            1. re: FrankJBN

              OK, then we totally disagree.

              I would be horrified and mrs jfood would be mortified if any guest at a function we hosted thought it necessary to tip the bartender, server or anyone working at our party.

              May have a different conclusion at a public event. At a book signing type thingy where the HD's are included in the price of admission, and there is a cash bar, then a tip to the bartender is acceptable. But a wedding reception, a B'nai Mitzvah or a prom where the price of admission includes food and beverage, under NO circumstances is a tip from a guest anything other than a faux pas.


              1. re: jfood

                Agree 100% with jfood. The bartenders should absolutely be tipped (and tipped well if they provide great service), but NOT by the guests. The hosts should be doing the tipping and make it clear in advance that this will happen. One of the tackiest things I ever encountered was a 'tip jar' at a party hosted by a neighbor.

                1. re: bnemes3343

                  I don't agree. If a guest wants to tip a bartender at a wedding, they should feel free to tip a bartender at a wedding.

                  1. re: bnemes3343

                    Thank you so much bnemes3343 for understanding the role of a guest at a function in this "i'll do whatever I want" world. M&M jfood would be mortified if they saw a bartender, server, or anyone else hired by them take money from a guest at an event they were hosting. At every event they have hosted over the years everyone is instructed to tell any guest that reaches into their pocket "your hosts have taken care of everything." That is the proper etiquette.

                    An event outside the home is an extension of the home and all decorum at home should extend to that venue. What's next, collect money from guests at the house for getting their coats out of the closet and helping them on with them? Should the bartender on the terrace collect tips as well? Nope. It's called common courtesy, good manners, and understanding the role of a host(ess) at an affair and likewise as a guest.

                    Once again thank you for understanding good manners and decorum.

                    1. re: jfood

                      >>collect money from guests at the house for getting their coats out of the closet and helping them on with them?

                      Your analogy does not correlate to a guest having the right to tip a bartender at a wedding if they so desire.

                      Good manners? Not being able to tip the bartender is the reverse of good manners.

                2. re: FrankJBN

                  I'm not aware of that. I, the host, would tip the bartender at a party I had thrown. I'm not saying it's unheard of for a guest to feel the desire to tip for above and beyond service, but I don't think it's expected.

                  1. re: danna

                    A faux pas? According to whom? I always tip the bartender at a party. I have also seen many other people do likewise.

                    Likewise, at an organized weekend away event where the same people sit at the table for the duration of the event, and where the price of admission includes the food, we always pool some money to tip the servers who wait on us.

                    1. re: dolores

                      According to pretty much every ettiquette book (I would say every, but ya never know what's out there) the host tips, so the guests don't have to. I'm with Jfood, I'd feel horrible if I thought my guests were ponying up tips. When I got married, I checked to make sure the staff wouldn't be accepting tips. The caterers were appalled that I would think they would allow tips to be accepted from guests. If you're at a work funcion with a no-host bar, that's one thing, but if you're at a catered affair, that's completely different. The hosts should pay the tip, and the guests should be free to enjoy themselves without feeling dunned. (I wouldn't go so far as saying it's a faux pas, but the reasoning behind it being a faux pas is you're implying your hosts didn't tip their wait staff appropriately.)

                      1. re: writergirl

                        >>>the reasoning behind it being a faux pas is you're implying your hosts didn't tip their wait staff appropriately.)

                        Wow, for real? That wouldn't occur to me in a million years. If the hosts hadn't tipped the staff appropriately, I bet it would show in their attitude. IF their attitude and their service to me, a guest, was good to very good (i.e., not being ignored, not gruff service), then by all the logic here, I would have to assume they were paid and tipped properly.

                        That said, whenever I have tipped a bartender at a function, it has been because he/she took the time to look me in the eye, perHAPS even exchanged a word or two, made my drink EXACTLY as I wanted it, and by heck, I'm going to tip him or her and I don't give a flying fig if Emily Post is turning over in her grave or not.

                        What an amazing thought process, having to follow the rules put out by some dead etiquette lady in the year 2007.

                  2. re: FrankJBN

                    The practice of tipping at weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events where the guest is not paying for liquor varies by geographic area and often, though not always, by (gee, how diplomatically can I put this?) how upscale the event is. I would not want or expect my guests to come to a party that I am hosting and expect them to have to put their hand into their pocket for anything but the ticket for the coat check or the valet parking. (Some venues give the host the choice of paying a flat fee to be split among the valet parkers and post a sign indicating no tipping necessary, taken care of by the host...or the host doesn't pay, the venue doesn't put up the sign and there is tipping at will.)

                    As far as the booksigning is/was concerned, it would not have dawned on me that a tip, especially in advance of service, would have been expected, even though the event was held at a restaurant.

                3. re: FrankJBN

                  Actuall it's not "proper". Those people are being tipped by the person/people hosting the party. I find it very rude to see those tip jars at a private party. If it were to ever happen at a private party I was throwing the offending bartender would remove said tip jar or be fired on the spot.

                  1. re: SweetPea914

                    Could you cite to some authority that indicates this is not "proper"? As I note, it is the accepted practice.

                    "the offending bartender would remove said tip jar or be fired on the spot"

                    Would you then tend the bar?

                    1. re: FrankJBN

                      I will get back to you shortly with specific links on etiquette that will prove my point.
                      However, to address your other questions,

                      "As I note, it is the accepted practice"
                      Yes, unfortunately many people are confused when it comes to the difference between proper etiquette and what has become "accepted practice"
                      To be specific, when I host a private party (let's use a restaurant location for this private party) I am paying the restaurant for the food, alcohol, tax and tip. I pay 20% tip (or 15% or 30% depending on the service, though 18% is usually the minimum for private parties) to all the service people just as I would when I eat at any restaurant. As the hostess, it is my obligation to tip the servers. I do not expect my guests to do that anymore than I would ask my guests to bring their own wine.

                      "Would you then tend the bar?"
                      By all means I would

                      1. re: SweetPea914

                        And I will still continue to tip the bartenders and anyone else who deserves it.

                        I'll also tip the person who takes my coat and the person who gets my car.

                        1. re: dolores

                          I realize this is an old discussion and those involved for the most part aren't around. I usually do tip the bartender at hosted events but this has made me rethink it since the host already does tip. I see it done more often than not. But tipping the bartender at weddings would be like tipping the servers who bring food or those passing appetizers. It is odd now that I think about it. I know we added a very generous tip to our bartender at our wedding so it would have been unnecessary for our guests.

                          1. re: chowser

                            I have never understood the idea of tipping the bartender at a wedding. Would the people who do that leave a $20 on the table for the person who brings the food?

                            1. re: DGresh

                              I never thought about it but did it through habit. Order a drink, add a tip. Reading this made me think it is odd. Not just weddings but work functions, etc. I do think the bar tenders should turn down tips in those cases but have never seen that happen.

                      2. re: FrankJBN

                        Here are a few links, I could also cite the paragraph's from Emily Post's book, but it's rather lengthy.

                        Here's another, do a google searchand you will find tons of info...

                        Dear Social Grace,

                        Your recent column about tipping massage therapists at a party recalled this question I have had for a long time. At an event such as a wedding where there is a hosted bar, are guests obligated or expected to tip the bartender? If so, what would be a proper amount? Or is tipping strictly the responsibility of the host?

                        Via the Internet

                        Dear Questioning Madam or Sir,

                        The answer to your final question is yes: If you hire bartenders to serve your beverages at your party, you are responsible for paying and tipping them. However, many people do seem unaware of this fact: I've volunteered as a bartender at fundraisers and had guests leave unnecessary tips in empty glasses while I wasn't looking. People have become so habituated to tip jars that they see one even when none is present.

                        So there's no need to tip at a hosted bar. But if I do see a tip jar at a private party's hosted bar, I try to ignore its unseemliness, and I assume the best -- that is, that the host is innocently ignorant of this aspect of his hosting duties. Then, rather than let someone be underpaid, I toss a couple of bucks into the jar.

                        1. re: SweetPea914

                          I have to admit, my first response was "of course you tip your bartender" at a wedding. After a little thought though, I've seen rather large tips handed out to servers at receptions so I'm starting to agree with the why tip them crowd.

                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                            I think the key point is that there are two different things going on. There's the question of whether staff at an event should be tipped and the answer in my mind is, if they provide good service, absolutely they should be tipped. Then the second question is, who should tip them? The answer to that, again in my mind, is the host of the event should tip as they see fit and taking the certainly already included labor charge into account. I don't think the guests at such an event should be expected to tip as a matter of course.

                            I can imagine special circumstances in which a guest might choose to tip if one of the severs or bartenders went out of their way to accommodate a special need of one of the guests, but this would be the exception.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              On the other side of the coin, a story from the hostess' perspective. It's funny that you mention a guest feeling the need to tip. We recently had my Daughter's Christening at a restaurant, sit down luncheon, open bar, the whole 9 yards.
                              One of the waitresses, who I adore, was taking drink orders. From across the room I saw my Uncle slip her some cash. My initial reaction was to be offended. I think my first thought was, does he think I'm not going to tip her? Or tip her enough? For whatever reason, it kind of bugged me. I chalked it up to
                              A - He thought he was doing the right thing and
                              B - My Aunt (his sister) is notoriously a PITA and was probably being difficult, so he felt she deserved a little something extra.
                              Now, we tipped very generously, I eat at this restaurant often and am always very well taken care of and knowing this waitress she deserved a few extra $ that some people may have given her. But my initial reaction of being offended is just something I couldn't help.

                      3. re: SweetPea914

                        I agree about removing the tip jar. I was horrified to see a tip jar on the bar at my wedding, when I had already tipped the required 18% up front.

                      4. re: FrankJBN

                        I tip the bartender if its a no-host bar, ALWAYS. But to tip at a reception?? No, I usually don't, unless there's been a special favor. The reason is simple: I do a lot of meeting/reception planning, and I have yet to be at any catered event where the caterer does not charge a service fee (as a percentage) added to the bottom line. If I am paying that service fee to the caterer, I don't think I should have to pay again to the server. Now, if the service fee is being charged by the caterer and NOT passed on to the servers, I want to know about it. And I would encourage anyone who knows of any such caterers/restaurants to publicly name them. Because that's just wrong.

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          Actually, it's not. The host pays a gratutity for the event that covers the staff. While guests tend to slip a couple of dollars here and there (habitual tipping), it is def not required and in all honesty, frowned upon. If the host desires to tip the staff more at the end of the event, they're welcome to and the extra is appreciated. However, as an event coordinator I ban tip jars at events and wouldn't hesitate to fire somebody who blatantly disobeys me.

                        2. re: jfood

                          I am not sure about the private parties, but yes, I do tip the hot dog guy, or the cracker jack guy or whatever, when they bring the whatever to my seats (not at the concession stands).... I think that is a fairly common practice actually.

                          1. re: susancinsf


                            your paranthetical is my example, go wait on line and get a dog. no tip. and if your saying that you tip the guy screamin' "get your red hots" walking around the stadium you are very genrous. I do not tip those guys.


                            1. re: jfood

                              Those guys I do tip. Usually just $1 regardless of buying 1 dog or 4. My husband probably tips $1/per dog, but he delivered pizza in college and always over-tips imo. This could start a whole new tipping thread, but do we really need a whole new tipping thread :-)

                              1. re: SweetPea914

                                to be honest it never occured to me to tip the dog-guy. live and learn.

                              2. re: jfood

                                I'm not tipping a guy on an $8 can of beer. That's insane. Tipping at a ballpark...other than letting him keep a quarter or something, some of you guys just love throwing money away.

                                1. re: luniz

                                  to be clear, i do not tip dog-guys at a ball game and have nointention of changing that process. I also ignore 99% of the tip jars that have sprouted across america, unless i am in my gym shorts and do not want to carry the change.

                                  1. re: luniz

                                    The vendor doesn't set the price for the beer. He just carries it up and down, and up and down....toting those beer coolers is heavy work. (Not to mention that they can't have one). At day-long events, hubby always tells the vendor to keep the change, as do most of the guys around us that I notice. If tipping on an overpriced beverage is outside your budget, don't; but if you can give a tip, and want to, do. Nobody needs rules for this.

                                2. re: susancinsf

                                  tipping the hot dog guy most certainly is not common practice.

                                3. re: jfood

                                  yes. i tip the hot dog guy at yankee stadium. every time.

                                  1. re: thew


                                    You are a true fan and a loyal hot dog vendee. I bow to your kindness.

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    I do tip the bartender, at weddings, etc. But I have never been to a senior prom where there is a bar. And I sure hope there isn't any anywhere.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      absolutely tip the server at a ball game, at a wedding, at a club meeting

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        I agree, KaimukiMan. Not tipping the bartender at a wedding is like going to a fine restaurant and only tipping 15%.

                                    2. Dh and I go to many a book signing. We actually collect first edition signed books as a hobby. We have...
                                      A. Never been charged to attend such an event.
                                      B. Never had to pay for food at such an event.
                                      C. Never had to pay a gratuity.
                                      If it turned out there were hors d'oeuvres or an open bar, I might tip someone through out the evening, but at these events Iwould not expect to need to tip as I wouldn't at any private party.

                                      1. "The manager kind of gave me a dirty look and then I realized "Oooh...I didn't tip."

                                        Well, given that, I'd say you over tipped.

                                        1. Putting the tip issue aside for a moment, whether it was taxable is something that's entirely determined by the state, not the restaurant or the event organizers. Sales tax is *collected*, not charged--there is a difference. You went to a catered affair at a restaurant; the only way tax shouldn't have been collected is if there were zero food charges to multiply by 8.25%.

                                          The organizers could have priced the affair at $13.86 and presented you a slip with an additional $1.14 in sales tax to total the quoted $15. That's what happens when you buy a ticket to a movie theatre or sports event that's a nice, round amount.

                                          I'd suggest to the organizers for future events--set their price accordingly (including tax and tip) so it doesn't present any surprises. I suspect if the organizers told you the same event would be $20 rather than $15, you would have gone, had a good time and not posted since the tax and gratuity would be buried in the $20.

                                          Like a few other concurrently running threads on this board (e.g. charging for carryout containers), people seem to be more willing to pay these amounts when they're built into the cost, but badwill is generated when they're viewed as "extras."

                                          Re: The tip. It's not a "meal," it's a catered hors d'oeuvres function. If the restaurant was expecting extras for service, they should have built it into the price as catered functions generally are subject to service charges rather than gratuities. I wouldn't have tipped on the assumption that it was already built in to the price they were charging.

                                          FWIW, I suspect the restaurant's charge slip printer is incapable of printing a receipt without a gratuity line.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: tubman

                                            I agree about the tax, and while I was surprised/confused, I wasn't complaining about the tax. I was just annoyed about the dirty look I was given when I didn't tip. That's all, but thanks for your comments!

                                            1. re: tubman

                                              Agreed across the board. When my wine shop first opened I was adding tax to a $15 or $20 flight charge and was advised by customers that they never had tax added in other places. Well......... the state of California considers a wine tasting to be like ordering a drink in a bar and it IS taxable, in the same way that my served cheese plates are taxable. When I submit my tax payment I have to calculate the tastings and use a little algebra to see how much of the rounded charge is sales tax. That's the same as if I set up my system to charge $18.56 + tax = $20.00. I have no idea if my fellow tasting rooms understand this, but it's the law here.

                                              AND I also agree that most smaller restaurants likely have only one type of credit card machine routine and it prints a tip line whether they want it to or not. It took me six months to get my merchant services company to reprogram my terminals so I could give my servers a typical restaurant-style tip bill to hand to tasters. We were originally set up as a retail wine operation and had no facility for tips on charge slips.

                                              Whether or not someone leaves a tip for just a tasting flight varies...... many people don't think it's necessary, though I can't say I really understand why. They may feel we're doing the tastings to sell wine, so they don't feel that all the info and knowledge we impart is something to tip for. Yet I'm sure the same people would tip for a beer at any bar.

                                              1. re: tubman

                                                tubman: "I suspect the restaurant's charge slip printer is incapable of printing a receipt without a gratuity line"

                                                Then I would say whoever printed it should put a line through it or X it out. that would be the proper thing to do. However, most places I know won't do that, in the hopes you are not paying attention and add a tip there when you have already done so. Cheesy. Especially cheesy when as far as I understand it, something like a service charge is a flat percentage to ensure the smooth, attentive handling of a large group by the locale and making it easier on the patron. I also presume service charge is basically tip money that will be split amongst those who served the party.

                                                Case in point: My 85 year old M-I-L hosted a holiday dinner in a private room two weeks ago, and she caught something interesting on her bill:

                                                Food Charges
                                                Beverage charges
                                                Service charge (it was over 6 people, and of course you expect this)
                                                A TIP LINE WITH A BLANK SPACE FOR ENTRY

                                                She "automatically" had put in a tip and was adding up the total when she had a "wait a minute" moment. She of course crossed the tip amount she had entered out.

                                                However, as she usually does, she did slip our wonderful server a nice crisp bill in a large amount because she felt she had been extra attentive and she personally wanted her to have it and not have to share it.