HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


verbal praise a subsitute for proper tip?

i write this b/c of all the blogs that have a reply of what the proper tipping percentage is. I am a server at a restaurant and I am just wondering what do you think is the proper tip for standard/good service: 10%, 15%, 20%? What kind of service do you need in order to leave a tip of 20%? Also, does a verbal praise of how good service is warrant the diner to tip less? Our restaurant also has comment cards to hand out with the bill and it was a steady trend that if I received positive feedback on my service my tip for that table was not as high as I would had hoped. I stopped giving out the comment cards and my tips on tables i feel i gave excellent service to were as high as i had hoped. what are your two cents?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. there are lots of threads here about tipping. although the search function is not great, you'll still gets lots.

    imho, a verbal tip is near equivalent to a slap in the face. those who proclaim their generosity, "we'll take good care of you," or "thankyouthankyouthankyouthankoubestmealeverbestmealever," will not do the *right thing*. no matter how good the service.

    sorry. just my experience. i suspect yours as well, which explains your post.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I agree with the other Posters. A Server appreciates your praise, but it doesn't pay the bills. If the service is superior, I make sure to tell the waitsstaff during the meal service, not just after. When/if the Mgr stops by our table, I make a point of telling him/her who and what we like about our service and if possible I do it in front of the wait staff. If the Mgr doesn't stop by during the meal, I'll make a point of stopping at the Mgr's podium to relay positive comments. It's a win/win... The Server invariably asks us to ask for him/her on our next visit. We have done so, and are always rewarded by continued excellent service and we are able to make sure a great Server has an appreciative and generous table.

    2. As a server, I don't ever think a verbal tip is a good substitute for a monetary tip. I mean, we work for tips. The times that I've really really gone out of my way to ensure my table had a great experience (i.e. begging the chef to make special requests or happily taking back an entree someone just didn't like because they ordered it wrong, etc.) and got the verbal tip plus a 10% or less tip... it was always insulting. I know some people don't believe in tipping... but it's just how things are done here. Like it or not, as my mom has always said: if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out.

      Someone going out of their way to fill out a comment card or telling the manager you did a great job is nice... but at most restaurants I'm aware of, people make minimum wage without raises. So, maybe if your restaurant uses these comments to give you a better section, it wont be doing anything to make you more money or to make up for the crappy tip. In addition to an appopriate tip, comments are nice... but as a substitute it's just rude. What I've come to realize is that when you give your best service and get a lousy tip... it isn't about you. These people weren't going to tip you well no matter what you did. Always doing your best is the only way to go. That way, if you get stiffed, you know it wasn't your fault and you can't feel bad.

      1. The US standard tip is 15-20% pretax for full service meals (towards the higher end of that in most (but not all) fine dining-oriented areas, towards the lower end of that most of elsewhere); 10% for buffet service.

        Older folks in some areas may still be used to 10% as the normal baseline, and they think they are giving a good tip with that understanding.

        Tourists often come from places with different or no tipping customs, and don't necessarily know local practice.

        So there's lot of room for misunderstanding. Bottom line: your understanding of the meaning of the tip and the patrons' understanding can be quite different. The patrons' understanding is, unfortunately, the one that counts.

        Verbal praise should be in addition to, rather than instead of, monetary gratuity.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I agree with all of the points Karl has made. One of my biggest annoyances is the tourist thing. It actually hasn't happened to me. But, as a traveler isn't it YOUR responsiblity to learn the local customs and practices? I can't imagine travelling to a foreign land and not doing a little research. EEK.

          1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

            You and I might agree, and many tourists do, but others have other priorities. And this is phenomenon that crosses regional, national, ethnic and class boundaries - there are simply people who try and people who don't (at least very much).

            Part of it has to do with the intent of travelling. For some of us, it is to immerse ourselves in a place that is not our home. For others, it is to forget the daily stress of life. There is overlap between those circles, but there are a lot of people in the second circle who find worrying about local custom a stressor that violates the point of travelling.

            1. re: Karl S

              There are a lot of people who travel on a budget and think that it's ok to skimp on the tip. Plenty of visitors still think that the tip is a voluntary gesture and don't realize that it is an integral part of their servers' income.

              1. re: hrhboo

                This falls under what I was saying. I've heard that in certain countries it is an insult to tip the waiters. I also read that in Iran the cab drivers will refuse your money. It's a whole ritual they go through. Why? I don't remmeber. It's your job to know that you are to "insist" he take it, otherwise he doesn't get paid, which of course isn't his goal. He's just going through the traditional song and dance. I guess I'd just pick up a "China for dummies" book before I went there. Or those Lonely Planet guides, etc. At the very least it makes for interesting reading on the plane.

                1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                  In Iran tips are not accepted because according to Islamic law people are not to accept money that they have not earned (with the exception of charity/gifts/donations, tips fall into none of these categories). For example, interest is not paid by Islamic banks etc. Conversely, in Egypt which is also somewhat Islamic you can't get a single thing done without tipping everyone who helps you along the way.

                  I am now in the habit of tipping, so while in the UK I usually leave a little extra with the check in restaurants. Severs sometimes look at me as if I'm mad and one chased after me thinking I had overpaid by accident. Of course, many are pleased too!

                  I agree with you that it is the responsibility of travelers to familiarize themselves with local customs.

                  1. re: hrhboo

                    I don't know if the situation you describe in Egypt is considered "tipping". It's more like payoffs as in many cases you are giving the money in advance of the service being completed. Experienced that many times myself throughout Latin America, trying to get most anything done on time. We actually had a line item for it on our budgets when I was working out of Mexico City - a hard expense to explain to the conservative corp officers back in the Netherlands.

          2. re: Karl S

            You make a valid point. My boyfriend and I are both from the UK and have British accents. We have lived in one of the most touristy parts of LA for years and are always generous tippers. Amusingly, in certain restaurants we usually get a little card with our check explaining tipping etiquette in the US and a guide on proper tip percentages. This has never happened to my American friends in the same restaurants, so I suppose the restaurant staff assume we are tourists who might not know how to tip.

          3. I love tipping threads, and the discussion that ensues

            I am a lifelong Chicagoan who worked in restaurants for years before I got sick of the crappy pay and hours, so I know how hard the work is, and how hard 99% of the people in the industry work for their money.

            So when I dine out 2 - 3 times a week, my standard tip is 20% of the total bill, tax included. I have been known to tip 30% if the meal, and service was top notch. At the bar I tip a dollar a beer or shot, or 20% whichever is more. But I also like many people get more generous tipwise after a couple of "pops", & if my drink is never empty, or if I am bought a round.

            Regarding verbal praise, thats not something I do much of, and do not feel it should be used in place of a tip by others.

            1. --What do you think is the proper tip for standard/good service: 10%, 15%, 20%?

              20% for good service.

              --What kind of service do you need in order to leave a tip of 20%?

              I always leave 20% unless confronted with my 'deal breakers', i.e., being rushed, being rudely treated, and in general, that's about it.

              --Also, does a verbal praise of how good service is warrant the diner to tip less?

              No, never.

              I would never make the correlation between verbal praise and tipping less. To do so just sounds like a way for cheapskates to leave less tip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dolores

                A server can't buy groceries with "verbs." I always tip 20 to 25%.

              2. Praise is all well and good, but there's a reason for the saying: money talks and BS walks. Tips and comment cards are meant for different audiences. The tip is for the server, but the comments are for the management.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ricepad

                  You can't spend a compliment -- put your money where your mouth is. Praise is nice (and non-taxable) but money talks.

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    I believe that's pretty much what I said.

                2. For good (though not exceptional) service, I would normally tip 15%. I'm in Toronto: is 15% standard for Canadians and 20% standard for Americans?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: thought_for_food

                    thought for food, I'm in New York and 20% is standard for me. Even more so now that I've read what servers around here make per hour.

                    1. re: dolores

                      I almost always give 20% pre-tax, lunch or dinner, unless there's a major flaw in the service. However, what I don't like, and I'm not sure how widespread the practice is, is to have a program for printing checks that offers suggested tips based on percentages, 10, 15, 20, etc. Seems that always base that on the taxable amount. Don't know if anyone else has seen this. I just do the math on the pre-tax amount, and I usually round up. I know servers work hard, but this seems like nickel-and-diming and a matter of principle.

                      1. re: markabauman

                        markabauman, I always tip on the entire amount.

                        There's a good thread here on the tip calculators on the bottom of bills, it's quite entertaining to read.

                        1. re: markabauman

                          The response is simple: resist. It is wrong.

                      2. re: thought_for_food

                        20% is the higher-end standard in some places in the US; it is hardly universal. 15% is more common over more of the country.

                        1. re: thought_for_food

                          In Toronto too.

                          For dinner, I usually give 15% (used to just double the tax, round up to the nearest dollar) unless the service is exceptionally good or bad. For lunch I tend to go to inexpensive places when I do go out, so I might add a dollar or two more.
                          For dim sum, usually between 10-15%. Although considering how many ppl actually serve us, would it be "fair" to give more?
                          At higher-end places I'm more inclined to tip 20%, where the price point is astronomically higher. I wonder how I got trained to think like this.

                          Wouldn't think of giving verbal praise in lieu of a real tip though..

                        2. the jfood answers to the OP questions.

                          - 15% is the standard tip
                          - great service with no flaws for 20%
                          - there is NO justification for substituting verbal praise for dollar praise. if you had good service leave the appropriate tip and tell the server how you enjoyed the meal. say something nice to the MOD on the way out.
                          - jfood doe not fill out comment cards or answer surveys on the phone. The questionsa are normally so lame that the answers can not possible relay the feelings.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: jfood

                            To add yet another complication, how much is a standard tip at a buffet meal? There is less table service and fewer wait staff, I imagine, than at a non-buffet restaurant.

                            1. re: thought_for_food

                              10% for buffet is standard, and jfood is sure Karl S will confirm, please do, so jfood does not take the heat alone.

                              1. re: jfood

                                YEs, I do so confirm. It was in my first post on this thread, too...

                          2. the verbal tip is most always clear you are thanks to death within 5 minutes of service

                            1. Complements don't feed the bulldog. Does your electric company take complements instead of cash?

                              The worst was the little religious cards people would leave me instead of a tip, something like repent now or burn forever. Those don't feed the bulldog either.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: chileheadmike

                                It never ceases to amaze me what people think is OK if it is done in the name of (their only way to heaven) religion.

                                Speaking of tipping, Detroit Lions player Roy Williams recently stepped into a pile of pepperoni by bragging about how he doesn't tip the pizza delivery guy, although the outcry from fans apparently caused him to change his mind.

                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  I read about that. He changed his tune? That's excellent!

                                2. re: chileheadmike

                                  Oh, man, I completely forgot about those 'blessing' cards! I think I only got two in my serving career, but that was two too many. What would make anybody think they were acceptable forms of appreciation, let alone remuneration??

                                  1. re: chileheadmike

                                    OMG! I had forgotten all about the little cards! Once was a waitron at a place that required everyone work Sundays & do doubles. Had a very large after church crowd. Never failed to amaze me how often I would get the "verbal tip" of what a sweet, helpful, etc. server I was & which would immediately segue to inquiring what church I attended. My reply (wished I could say none of your biz, but don't offend the wallet) was it was rather difficult to be there when we had to be here preparing for all you church people! They would lecture us about how bad it was that we were missing church, but it never seemed to occur to them that their Sunday dining choices were creating the need for this "terrible" situation! Always this would turn into a table of campers with 9 separate checks and next to nothing in tips.

                                  2. No offense but this just sounds like whining to me about not getting good enough tips. While it sucks that your tips are really out of your control, you have to realize just that - they're out of your control. Sometimes a person may not have that much money so they can't afford a 20% tip in addition to their meal. Other times they may just think you deserved it - but either way you're going to have to get over it, and just keep providing good service to everyone. Once you stop focusing on the tips, they might come in higher more often.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Chew on That

                                      I'm not of the "if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip X amount" school, but I AM a believer that if you can't afford to pay for your meal AND leave a fair tip, STAY HOME.

                                      Waiters use their tips to buy groceries, pay the mortgage, put braces on their kids, etc. Tip money isn't just "fun money".

                                      Not being able to afford dining out (yes, the tip is a factor) shouldn't be subsidized by your waiter. Eat at home.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        I'd have to agree with you on this issue.As with the necessity of paying tax, anticipating leaving a tip should always be factored into the equation. If the budget is tight, there are many restaurant choices available which will allow someone with limited resources to dine out AND leave a decent tip. If that isn't possible then I would say takeout is the way to go..

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          it is rare, if not never, that jfood agrees with invino but they come close on this one.

                                          jfood would modify the "stay at home comment" to "find a place where the total cost of the meal plus tax and tip is within your budget".

                                          Come on invino. as someone in the biz you should be promoting your industry versus telling everyone to stay home. everyone deserves a night out and this persisitant only the wealthy deserve to eat out needs to be modified.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            I thought that part was obvious, Mr. Food.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              fair enough guys,i see your point. i like jfood's modificiation.

                                          2. as good a substitute for a tip as apologizing for lack of good service in place of actually giving it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. as a former waitress, you know the tip wasn't going to be great, the more "thank you" and "great job's" I got. Talk is cheap. I know I'm giving great service, but I wasn't waiting table becaused I loved it

                                              1. The trouble with this thread is that it can discourage people from even going out to restaurants if there is going to be consternation and great gnashing of teeth and servers becoming homeless and babies starving to death if a tip is 15.03 percent instead of 16.23 percent . It may make the entire evening uncomfortable. A night out is meant to be enjoyable, not like a visit to the dentist.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: mpalmer6c

                                                  After reading these threads, I feel more sorry for the servers of the world than I ever did before.

                                                  I used to think retail was awful, but now I realize that servers deserve the Nobel Prize for putting up with some of the patrons in their restaurants. And they don't get minimum wage. And they are not unionized.

                                                  Religious cards in lieu of a tip??????????????? Phew.

                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    Dolores, it's really not that bad. Yes, they don't get minimum wage and do live on tips, but that makes it worth it for some people. Otherwise, there would be NO servers. While my best friend was in grad school at Columbia she realized she made more money waitressing at your typical pub medium scale pub grub type place, than she would have nannying or as a Teacher (since she didn't have her Masters yet)!!

                                                    1. re: SweetPea914

                                                      Okay, thanks SweetPea914 and for your other vaporized post.

                                                  2. re: mpalmer6c

                                                    One of my waiters received a tin of homemade cookies from a guest around the holidays on a decent sized bill (over $400) as a tip.

                                                    The woman said she never tips waiters around the holidays, as her expenses around that time are higher and she can't afford it. Don't even get me started on how she can still afford a $400 dinner...

                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      >The woman said she never tips waiters around the
                                                      >holidays, as her expenses around that time are higher
                                                      >and she can't afford it.
                                                      it's putative "explanations" like this that cause you to wonder
                                                      "is this person a knave or a fool". i dunno how people in the
                                                      business deal with people like this ... does "management
                                                      get involved" or do they figure as long as her credit card clears
                                                      on the food bill, the Cookie Tip is the waiters problem.
                                                      [int his case it seems clear this woman is a known and repeat hazard].

                                                      maybe you could bring her a lump of coal with tobiko as an
                                                      amuse this Xmas.

                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                        Does a server (or perhaps management) have any sort of recourse here? Perhaps the valet could sell her car?

                                                      2. re: mpalmer6c

                                                        I have never known a server to be that petty. Most are professional and you would never know it if they were feeling less than joyful about you. We know not every table is going to be great (meant on every level), realize its a game of averages. If you are doing your job right and are lucky enough not to get a bad table then the evening generally averages out. But when a table is bad, it is usually really really bad and can change one nights take home to very little. Those of use who do this work for any period of time believe it is our job to help make your evening enjoyable.
                                                        We are born with that little host/est gene that delights in creating a warm happy delicious cocoon for our guests. And most of the servers you have dealt with have probably done so or the prospect of dining out would have lost all appeal!

                                                      3. It amazed me that people think that verbal praise somehow equals proper tipping. It's like buying a TV, and assuming you get to pay less if you tell the salesman "Nice tie."

                                                        1. If I take the time to compliment the server, and write a note about how pleased I was with the service, and praised the server to management, you can be darn sure the server has gotten a larger tip than I would normally give! Verbal praise is a way to get the same service next time, and to say that you are above the rest, but if it isn't followed up with the cash it is meaningless.

                                                          1. I saw the posts from servers who recieved prayer cards, or a tin of cookies instead of a tip, and was shocked, I cant believe there are people out there who would do such a thing.

                                                            I have never been a server (thank god), but if someone pulled that cheapskate crap on me they probably would have found me waiting for them out by their car. You dont mess with a persons $$$, & their livelyhood.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: swsidejim

                                                              See Swsidejim,
                                                              It's comments like that (even though we all know that its meant entirely tongue in cheek) that perpetuates the stereotype of servers taking revenge on patrons. Servers who take pride in their careers (and I am a career server) would never dream of doing anything like that...OK we MIGHT dream of it but we would NEVER act on it. Any server who revenges themselves on a guest should be hung by their ankles!!

                                                              1. re: kimmer1850

                                                                as I said, thank god I have never been a server.

                                                                Also as I stated, you dont mess with a persons money, and livelyhood. If you do, bad things may happen to you.

                                                                leaving a prayer card, or a tin of cookies is unnaceptable for a tip

                                                                1. re: kimmer1850

                                                                  --Any server who revenges themselves on a guest should be hung by their ankles!!--

                                                                  As should any server or manager who treat their patrons like dirt.

                                                                  And still these threads go on, as if rudeness is acceptable, from either servers or managers or patrons.