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How should I have tipped?

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I ate dinner at a bar last night and discovered that their bottled wines are half off if you take them to go. Great deal. I took 2 bottles with me.

My dinner totaled X amount. But with the two bottles it was like 3X total, even a little more than 3X. When the bartender presented me with my charge slip to sign, I hestitated on the tip line. I felt cheap leaving what "looked like" less than a 10% tip as I would have been tipping on just my food/drink consumed at the bar, but I couldn't justify "tipping" on 2 bottles of wine that he just reached behind him and pulled and handed to me, not to mention which my tip would be nearly 4X what I would have left on just my food and drink consumed on site. But I did hesitate and felt weird and so in the end, I tipped somewhere in between. Way over my normal 20% but under what 20% would have been if I had tipped on the total.

Should I have asked the bartender to ring the wine separately or something?

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  1. Oh my. That's a tough one. I probably would have asked them to ring it separately. I sometimes (well, rarely) order food at a restaurant to go after I have dinner there and ask for separate checks. I'm curious -- why did you buy wines to go from a restaurant? Even though they were half off, restaurants tend to really mark up their liquor. Wouldn't you get a better deal buying them in a store?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Miss Needle

      No - the wines I bought were wines I regularly buy and they were definitely below what I pay in the store unless that particular one is on sale or something. That's why I bought them. I guess I just wasn't thinking about how he would ring it up. If I buy from there again I will ask that they be rung separately.

    2. rockandroller -- i have read many of your posts and i am confident that you would never shortchange a server. this is a unique situation, and i agree that next time you can separate your service vs. retail orders for tipping purposes. but in the instant situation, i'd just be right upfront and mention to your server that the service was great and you are tipping 18-20% and then laugh and say the wine bargain was too good to pass up but you are assuming that is treated separately. an exception may be if the bartender clued you into the wine special, in which case he or she possibly deserved some compensation for letting you know about the bargain.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        thanks for the vote of confidence, I feel a little less like a heel now! :)

        I'm the one who noticed the wording about the wine, which was on what I thought was the happy hour menu so I asked the bartender about it and if it was all the time or just during certain hours (it's all the time).

        I just felt uncomfortable because I wasn't expecting it. I will ask them to separate it next time, but I was just wondering if what I did was ok or if, when I go back again, the guy is going to finger me as some kind of sub-par tipper. Surely he couldn't have been expecting me to tip on that total amount.

        If I were the bartender, I think I would have just rung them up separately unless that weren't allowed.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          Ringing them up separately may mean nothing, as your bartender may still be getting taxed and have to tip out on those bottles.

          You should just ask him if those wines count as part of his sales. If not, definitely don't tip, if yes, well, I guess you'd need to use your own discretion.

      2. Although jfood agrees having two slips would give some psychological benefit, remember you would be leaving 0% on the take-away. And BTW that's the correct amount to leave.

        jfood would leave the standard 15-18% (more if you like) on the dining amount and mention something to the bartender on how you calculated. If he is upset, well sort of a "nothing else you can do" in jfood's book. And after reading a lot of your posts R&R, jfood knows you are not trying to do a "Gotcha" with the server.

        Bottom line is tip on the served amount that you eat.

        1. Why not just leave cash on the bar. It seems to be mostly in your head that you didn't like writing in a less than 20% tip on the tip line. I can't imagine the bartender expected a tip on the wine to go. There are other occasions it comes up as well. For example when one orders a to go meal. I think on those rare occasions, I tip including the to go order, but it seldom makes much difference. If it did, I would likely reduce the tip like you did. More than usual on the in house bill, but less than usual on the total bill.

          1. In our wine shop/tasting bar we often have tasters who buy wine to go (after all, that's the point really). If they purchase the wine before we've presented the tasking check we will ring it all on one tab. We certainly don't expect them to tip on the bottles they're taking out any more than we expect a tip on straight retail bottle sales. Every once in a while someone will tip 15-20% of the grand total..... and this is sometimes where the wine is several times the cost of the tastings. We're amazed and grateful. On the other hand there are many people who don't tip on a straight tasting check at all (even one including cheese pairing plates and other small apps), though it's the same kind of service they'd get in a restaurant. It's been pointed out to me on these boards that wine tasting is not the same as being in a bar, but is more like tasting at a winery. Can't say I agree, but people are all different in their ideas on such things.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Midlife

              "Every once in a while someone will tip 15-20% of the grand total..... and this is sometimes where the wine is several times the cost of the tastings. We're amazed and grateful."

              I think these are the people who had their guilt outweigh the fact that they know it wasn't a reasonable amount to tip. Might I suggest that amazed and grateful is not how they feel about feeling somehow "suggested" to tip on take out bottles of wine and they may not be inclined to do it in the future? I just feel it's a little bit of a psychological game being played on the customer, whether that's what was intended or not, and either they overtip and are uneasy about it or fear being perceived as cheap because they tipped much lower than the "total" bill. This being my first experience at a bar buying wines to go I will definitely forever more now specifically request that the wines be rung up separately or if that's not possible, feel I have to somehow uncomfortably point out to the bartender that "i'm only tipping you for X," which is not comfortable to discuss no matter how you put it.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                To be honest I never really thought that anyone would do it out of guilt simply because the total includes both purchases. Probably a better idea to present two separate checks (we do have the ability to do one with a tip line and one without, thought it does cost us a small processing fee for each one????!!!!!!! I think you're right.

                1. re: Midlife

                  Midlife, I would hate for you to have to pay an extra processing fee for doing the right thing. With your business, a wine-tasting where tips are appropriate and then a retail wine-selling where they are not -- I wonder if you can program your checks to print out the wine-tasting and food portion first, then have a tip line beneath, and then include the retail wine purchases under that so it is obvious that the tip can be calculated on the first amount. This neatly solves the problem without multiple sales slips and I'd think could be easily accomplished with some very basic programming.

                  1. re: nosh

                    I agree; you shouldn't have to pay a fee. I would tell the bartenders to print two slips and have them draw a line through the tip line or something? If people WANT to tip more, they can do it on the "consumed-there" chit.

                2. re: rockandroller1

                  I really don't think any discussion, apology, or request for a second slip is required or even recommended. I certainly don't think they need present you with two slips.

                  Just do the mental math and tip on the part of the bill that you were served (eg if the bottle was ~$20 and the total was $45, just tip around $4-$5. If you want to round up a buck or two, go ahead.

                  1. re: xanadude

                    I agree, this is a be a grown up and take responsibility for your decisions moment. Tip what you wish on the amount you wish and move on.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      That's what I did, of course, but there's no denying many people would feel conflicted, like I did, that it "looks like" an egregiously low tip based on the total bill that was presented.

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        I completely understand that and I agree. I suppose I'm bristling at the notion that anyone would think you did something wrong because I think there's too much concern with what things "look like" these days as opposed to what they actually are. That's a far larger issue, of course, than the tip line on a bill at a wine bar, though it does apply to food a lot, as well.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          I work at two restaurants that are also licensed for retail, and sometimes my guests' checks are hundreds of dollars more because of takeout wine. I never, EVER expect that amount to be reflected in the tip, and if someone does, they're in the wrong. Proceed with confidence. Maybe tack on an extra buck or two (I have to go down to the cellar, find the stuff, bag it up... which is so totally not a big deal) as a token, but know that any server (or bartender) worth her (or his) salt is not expecting to be tipped for things she (or he) didn't do.

                          1. re: ctscorp

                            Thank you cts!

                            1. re: ctscorp

                              Does that wine count as part of your sales?

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                It does -- hence the couple bucks extra. I guess it should be 8% of the total amount... but really, I have enough customers tip me 20% or over that it all comes out in the wash. (Admittedly, I've been serving for 15+ years, so it's pretty easy for me to look at the "big picture.")

                                1. re: ctscorp

                                  You have a great attitude!

                                  If it were me, I'm pretty sure I'd ask the owner to create a to go number to ring the wine under separately.

                                  1. re: ctscorp

                                    CTS, I like your attitude, and wish you were working in MY city. I would ask to be seated in your section every time!

                    2. I had this exact scenario happen to me at a teahouse. DH was taking me out for dinner and after dinner I went over to the retail side to buy some tea. My waitress happen to be on that side and rung me through. When I looked at the bill it included the dinner as well. I asked to re-ring the bill separately as DH pays for dinner and I pay for things I want to buy. I did not tip on the retail item and yes DH did tip on the dinner.