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Jul 21, 2008 10:52 AM

Tip/Bribe Maitre D'/Host(ess) = No; Tip/Bribe Server/Bartender = Yes; Why?

The thread on "bribing" the Maitre D' put a question in jfood's head. Just trying to gain some perspective.

There have been many posts over the years about how to handle the "extra" tip one gives a server for bringing a comped dessert as well as how much extra to give the local bartender for giving you free drinks. Now in each case there has almost always been unanimous consent that each deserve something.

Why is it then so unappetizing to many to give a MD a tip for providing something, i.e. a table, a nicer table, etc.? Now to those who will post "the person next in line is hurt" let me state before that flame war begins that jfood understands that but if jfood orders a chocolate cake dessert and pays $9 (plus 20% tip) total $10.80 and the table next to him gets the same dessert gratis and leaves $5 more as a tip, hasn't jfood been hurt in that scenario?

Jfood is just trying to understand why there is such a divergence on these two issues.


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  1. interesting. i don't follow a rigid set of rules but it seems that i tend to tip a maitre d' after the fact if/when some extraordinary service has been performed. i'll also seek out the wine expert, again, after the fact, if something remarkable was offered.

    i seem to do this in the form of a handshake with cash. it's spontaneous and always above the overall tip i wrote in on my credit card receipt.

    i don't think i addressed your post but it did give me a chance to examine what i do vs. what i say. tipping is art, not science.

    1. If the staff of a restaurant likes you, they will be nice to you. One reason for tipping, and occasionally "bribing" is that if you come back, and come back regularly, you will be perceived as *a nice person.*

      In everyday life, we don't make friends by giving out money; but in a restaurant it is usually the only way we can express our appreciation.


      1. I don't usually dine in places nice enough to have a maitre'd, and when I do I don't think I've ever asked for anything special that they needed to accommodate, but if I did, I'd probably tip.

        But I think the answer could be because bartenders and servers are not paid min. wage, part of their income is expected to be made in tips, so while it seems like "extra" to a customer to tip, they're making up a shortage management is legally allowed to handle because it's "expected" they'll make up the difference. To my knowledge, NOBODY else can be paid less than min., whether it's hostess or busser or dish dog or whatever; nowhere I've worked was anyone paid less than min wage except servers and bartenders. So the MD may really be making out with tips on top of a better hourly wage, whereas the server/bartender is just making a living wage with the tip.

        1. Isn't part of the distinction when the tipping vs. bribing happens? I mean, in the matre d' scenario, you'd be bribing the person before the "favor" was given - it's not a reward for thoughtful and enjoyable service, it's payment for putting you "ahead" of the line, so to speak. With tipping, it's more of a reward/show of appreciation for extra service.

          I don't think you're hurt when the diner next to your gets comped - you have no expectation for a free dessert - you expect to pay for it, and if it's comped, that's a bonus. On the other hand, if you're waiting for a table, you expect the resto to keep to the list (+ reservations) and not let people jump the line. If it's set up as first come-first served, then if they let someone play by different rules and take a spot in line they aren't entitled to, you are hurt (longer wait, worse table, plus it messes up the incentive for making reservations early, etc.).

          1 Reply
          1. re: akq

            Good point!

            Tipping is not bribing.

            On the other hand, if you are a well-liked regular, the regular rules will often be messed with anyway.


          2. pre vs post. "showing your appreciation" vs "paying to jump the queue".

            By tipping (voluntarily, after the service is rendered), it's not a pay-to-play relationship.