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Jun 19, 2008 12:38 PM

$100 Gift Certificate Tip Included?

I received a $100 gift certificate to a restuarant. If the bill (with tax) is $80, does that mean I can give the server the gift certificate and he/she would then get the $20 differnece, or should I leave a tip? (Not dumb, just never used a restaurant gift certificate.)


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  1. I would ask the server. If he/she is comfortable having the tip come out of the gift cert. then there's no reason for you to sweat it----if he/she is not so confident that the house will pass it thru to them then I would make sure that they see the cash.
    But it doesn't seem to me to be much different from writing the tip into a credit card charge, from the server's standpoint---a tough situation if management is corrupt and a reason why I always prefer to tip with cash.

    1. I agree with the above poster. However, one other thing to consider -- sometimes it is the policy of the restaurant that certain things (tax, alcohol, tip) are not allowed to be included with the gift certificate. (I have no idea why this is but it's happened to DH and me.) So I'd say check with the place too to be sure that you can give the balance as tip to the server.

      1. A $100 gift certificate is just like a Franklin. If the bill is $80 and you want to leave a $20 tip then slip the certificate in the check presenter, get your hat, get your coat say good-byes and leave.

        This whole notion of checking with the server if this is OK is ridiculous. If the MOD/manager is corrupt, jfood wants to know nothing of it, that 's between the server and his employer. jfood is there to eat and pay, not save the world.

        15 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Well----for some people, caring about other people is ridiculous. Sad but true. I'll continue to do so.

          1. re: JonL

            let's rephrase this since jfood came off looking like a jerk in the other post. Jfood believes that everyone deserves their due and just like placing the tip on the credit card he assumes the resaurant is doing the right thing. but he is not getting involved with inside-baseball at the restaurant. Should he check with the runner to make sure he gets his percentage, or the bartender on the way out mention that the tab was $200 and to makes sure the she gets her cut.

            But there are two types of certifcates:

            1 - For a given amount purchased from the resto, which appears to be the case here. In that case if you spend $80 and the cert is for $100, your cool. And in this case jfood would NOT check with the server.
            2 - For a free dinner, not to exceed $100. In this latter case, jfood would assume the tip is NOT included and would leave cash for the server.

            Hopefully this clears up the post. sorry for the irritation.

            1. re: jfood

              Fair enough. My suggestion to ask the server was for the purpose of providing an opportunity to express either explicitly or 'reading between the lines' if there was a problem or a preference. No--I am not interested in auditing the owners books. Just doing the right thing if/when there is a simple non-intrusive way of doing so. I am not familiar with the specifics of gift certs so I cannot comment on the subject of what is or isn't implicit in the various types.

              1. re: JonL

                Just to relate my experience. I recently had dinner in Red Bank. We had a $200 g/c . Dinner came to about $160. We decided to tip 'up' a bit and were politely and somewhat apologetically informed by the Host that a g/c could only be used towards food and beverage and that any remaining amout in excess of $25 would be returned to us in the form of another g/c. to be applied towards a future visit. I stated I thought that was unreasonable, he told me that was the policy of the restaurant. The Servor discreetly told us that they had instituted this policy b/c people often received g/c in large denominations and then used them to pay for one drink or a dessert and then wanted cash back and it was becoming a financial hardship for some smaller restaurants.

                1. re: Tay

                  Thanks to all who responded. I will use the GC as a $100 bill (which is what the giver paid for it and if the bill is $80, then I should recieve $20 "change." Which, of course would go to the server. If the bill is over $100, I would be expected to pay the difference, right? So why not if below I get the "change" and us it as a tip.

                  If the GC stated "dinner" for two, drinks, tax and tip not included," different scenario.

                  1. re: Stuartmc910

                    Why don't you just call the restaurant and ask what if anything is their policy on the matter? Unless you're looking to pick a fight over any disagreement with it once you get there, isn't that simpler than your assuming you ought to be correct?

                    1. re: Stuartmc910

                      As discounts are referred to in a few messages below, I just wanted to mention that a restaurant group (not chain) which we frequent offers cards (much like debit cards) which purchasers may maintain/recharge OR give as gift cards. It's the restaurant group's practice to always "up" the amount paid to be credited on card by 10% to 20% (holiday promos up the %). The policy is that the cards may not be used for tips and only for food/drinks, presumably because the group does not intend to "subsidize" patrons tipping (paying to server $1 tip on card, for which patron paid $0.80), and lose cash, but does want to encourage return patrons who then effectively get discounted purchases, and encourage the giving of gift cards (purchased at effective discount) to bring in new customers.

                    2. re: Tay

                      Yeah, it really depends on the restaurant. For smaller restaurants, it is an accounting issue. They get the money for the gift certificate and have to put it somewhere on the books. So it goes in to food/beverage. If the customer then wants to use only 3/4 of the gift certificate for food/beverage, the money then has to be taken out of the account. If you consider every single gift certificate issued, this can quickly become a major accounting headache. I imagine larger places and chains have the manpower to account for these situations.

                      I have no idea how they account for the food beverage separation or the tax.

                      Also, any restrictions should be clearly marked on the gift certificate.

                      1. re: Tay

                        how is this a finacial hardship to anyone?? if someone comes in and plunks down $200(or 2000, or 2million), buys a GC, and later that GC is used for $100(or 10, or 1) worth of food and bev., why is remitting the difference a burden. It wasnt their money in the first place. The only burden is the act of making change!? its not a comp/give away/coupon/discount/anything else.

                        1. re: nkeane

                          If a restaurant sells a $200 certificate it is hoping for $200 of sales plus the inherent profit on such sale. If someone comes in with the card and orders a cup of coffee for $5 and takes $195 in cash to go spend elsewhere, the restaurant has the financial hardship of the lack of $195 of sales and the profit.

                          A gift card is not "please hold my money" it is a commitment to purchase $x of goods or services.

                          1. re: jfood

                            but they had that same "hardship" before the GC was purchased! Im not saying its right to do your 5/195 scenerio, but its not much skin off the restaurants back either. Again, this is why I just give cash in these situations. A GC is like saying to the recipient, "here is some cash.........that I GET TO TELL YOU WHAT TO DO WITH!"

                            1. re: nkeane

                              That is the exact reason a lot of people like to give gift certificates, so that way they know what their money is going towards. Sure, some people might not care what you do with their gift, but many like to know it went to a nice dinner, or new clothes, or books, etc.

                              1. re: nkeane

                                The giver did not give cash, it gave a GC.

                                But here, the giver thought through where the recipient might like to eat, went there and bought a GC for the recipient to enjoy a dinner and then the recipient is upset because s/he can not convert to cash? Ouch for good manners. No good deed goes unpunished comes to mind.

                                And if you give them a bottle of wine or a box of candy, you are also telling them what to drink or eat, no?.

                                Why is the giving or receiving a gift so much a recipient's view that (a) I should be able to convert to cash or (b) I should have the full ability to exchange for what I want versus what the giver felt was a nice gesture.

                                Where did all the entitlement of a receiver of a gift come from to demand that the gift being a fully liquid instrument which can be converted to cash such that the receiver decides on what s/he should receive.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  if you want to give the gift of a dinner(which in my opinion is a great gift) just take the person to dinner!
                                  GC's(imo) are a passive-aggressive punt!
                                  btw, Cash is the greatest GC ever invented, can be used like money(cause it is), good anywhere, and never expires!

                                  1. re: nkeane

                                    well you and jfood will have to continue to disagree, and with a GC now in the passive aggressive bucket, he cannot even get into that ridiculousness. Why? because someone decides where the recipient needs to eat. To that jfood replies...Your Kidding.

                                    And people think that giving cash is the ultimate cop-out. It gives the impression that the giver believes his/her time is worth more than thinking of and then taking the time to buy a gift versus a C-note in an envelope.

                                    Just different points of view, N.

                2. I would pay the tip in cash. Just the same as I try to pay the tip in cash when I am paying by CC. You never know how long it will take the owner to pay out the tip to the waiter from a gift cert or CC. I'd rather make sure they get the money right away.

                  1. The right thing to do depends on the circumstances of how the GC was initially obtained. If purchased at face value from the restaurant, it should be treated same as cash, and it's absolutely okay to take the tip (and tax for that matter) from the GC. If obtained through a discounted source (third-party seller) or won at, say, a charity silent auction, you'll want to tip and pay tax separately, whether the restaurant's policy explicitly states so or not.

                    To best demonstrate why, I need to provide an admittedly extreme, unrealistic example. Let's say the check is $20 and you want to leave the server an $80 tip.

                    If the GC was purchased from the restaurant up front for $100, they received the $80 to pay the server the tip in cash or via charge along with the $20 to cover the check, without the need for management to reach into their pockets.

                    If the restaurant provided the GC at no charge to a charity silent auction out of the goodness of their hearts, they got nothing for it up front; management expects that you're going to use it to buy up to $100 worth of food & beverage, which really costs them an average of perhaps 40% of that amount.Then you'd pay the balance (if any) of F&B over $100 along with the tax and tip by either cash or credit card. $40 was the restaurant's expected cost of contributing the $100 GC to the auction.

                    But if you ask them to use the comped GC to settle a $20 check and leave an $80 tip, management would need to reach into their pockets for 40% of $20 (their cost of your F&B) plus $80 in cash to give to the server. What management expected would cost them $40 when making the contribution now winds up costing them $88.

                    In a situation where you're dealing with a donated or third-party GC, it's not fair to put management in the position of incurring more than the cost they thought they were facing when the GC was issued, and that's what you're asking them to do by essentially providing you the "change" so you can use that to tip the server. Giving you the change in the form of another GC keeps them within their $40 expected cost, and is obviously good business as it helps ensure another visit.