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Tipping/Cash Only Question

Random Tipping etiquette question. I was at a cash-only restaurant the other day, and when the time came to pay, I had enough cash for dinner and a not quite adequate tip (less than 15% - was a few bucks more expensive than I expected). Do I leave a small tip, or pay $3 to use the ripoff ATM in the restaurant (to add maybe $5 to the tip).

Similar question re: tipping when no small bills.

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  1. I wouldn't use the ATM.....does that answer your question.

    Only restaurants I go to where its "cash only" when the bill could be over $50 which is what I'm guessing your check was is Chinese restaurants. We all know the numerous reasons why its "cash only".

    As far as tipping if I have no small bills I ask for change from the cashier or the server.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      I've seen cash only at a wide variety of places. I'm not sure what you're implying by saying that it's only Chinese restaurants and we all know the reasons why.

      Typically I've seen it's old-fashioned places owned by the same family for generations and this is how they've always done things. They're not out to cheat anyone.

      1. re: monku

        I don't find it entirely uncommon in Manhattan for restaurants, across all cuisines and price ranges, to be cash-only.

        I can think of a variety of reasons for this-- not having to pay credit card surcharges is a huge advantage, especially with restaurant profit margins so slim to begin with.

      2. Maybe it's just me, but IMO it's not the server's fault you don't have sufficient funds with you, so I see no reason to penalize the server. I think you have to deal with the $3 .. or... walk down the street, use a less expensive ATM and return with the rest of the tip (the graciousness of returning to complete the tip may bring you good things on a future visit).

        The cash only policy isn't of the server's doing -- and how the restaurant gets paid has no correlation to the amount of a proper tip (i.e. a server should still get tipped on comped items -- if the items were comped for any reason other than the server's incompetence).

        If you don't have small bills for the tip -- you get change at the restaurant.. again I see no justification for shorting a server for purely for your own convenience.

        1. I sort of have my own tipping scale...

          When seated I'm planning on tipping 20% if the service is good, if there's a problem with the food thats not the servers fault, unless it sat waiting to be served for an unreasonable amount of time.

          What I end up tipping may be more or less than 20% depending on the quality of service, never less than 10%. Cali4nia takes taxes, 8% of the total tickets a waiter/waitress serves per pay period, no service person should ever have to pay for my eating out.

          If the service was up to par, I'd pay the fee to use the ATM, lacking the small bills needed to tip, I'd get change.

          Thats just me.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Demented

            im not saying you are making this mistake, but I see it all the time. It is true that servers are taxed on tips(rightfully so) but its at the rate of whatever tax bracket they fall in. Lets assume that most servers are in the 15% fed bracket........so they pay 15% tax on 8%(the feds guess at their tip) of their sales........so thats about 1% of their gross sales.

            1. re: nkeane

              Servers pay taxes on what they declare as tips. Restaurants report the sales, which are always underestimated, and nobody reports all of their earnings. I could be wrong, but there is no 15% bracket, is there?

              1. re: AHan

                Everyone pays taxes when they fill out their 1040 and submit in April. Everyone, including servers, have estimates withheld duringthe year.

                1. re: AHan

                  maybe not. My point was more that servers dont pay 8% of their gross sales in taxes, but that the fed. assumes tips to be 8%(a minimum, if you report more you get taxed on more......although I dont know who would do that?) and they then pay taxes on that amount. Like Jfood says below, its usually used to estimate witholdings from the servers paycheck. Some servers I know get no paycheck once all their taxes are withheld from their check!

                  work 30hrs@$8/hr, pay taxes on that, then have all your tip taxes withheld and you have either a laughable sum, or you end up owing!! good times!

                  1. re: AHan

                    "I could be wrong, but there is no 15% bracket, is there?"

                    Of course there is: http://www.moneychimp.com/features/ta...

                2. re: Demented

                  They're not paying for you to eat out, they're paying taxes on income they earned. They don't calculate your bill based on your tax rate, why would you calculate their tip on their (purported) tax rate?

                3. What did you do? or is this a "what if"

                  1. Use the ATM. Your lack of cash and the fees at the ATM are not an excuse to shortchange your server.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: taos

                      Not only is your lack of cash not the server's fault, it's also not their fault that you ordered more than you could comfortably pay for and tip properly. I always check when a place is cash only that I have enough to actually eat what I want there. If I don't, I can leave and go get more cash and come back, order less food or use the pricy ATM on site and deal with the fee. One ATM fee is not going to make or break you, financially.

                    2. i'd say it really depends on the sort of place...
                      but if tipping was in order, i'd take out a hefty amount from that atm just to make it a worthwhile transaction

                      1. babylitigator, i agree with many of the other posters that you should pay the appropriate amount for the tip. if you really don't want to pay the $3, you could find a cheaper ATM or drop off the tip off later in the day. in the future, i would recommend keeping some extra cash hidden in your car. my grandmom used to call it 'mad money', and it has saved me on several occasions.

                        1. If there is a cheap/free ATM close by that you can use instead, go there for the tip and return with it. If not, just get enough money out of the $3 ATM to make it not so much of a ripoff and ask for change if you only get big bills. The only time it's a huge ripoff is if you're just getting a $10 or $20 out. Get out $100 and the loss doesn't seem so outrageous.

                          1. Pay and tip appropriately. In this case, that means using the ATM (or going to another ATM and returning immediately to fill out the tip to the level you felt it should be).

                            1. " I had enough cash for dinner and a not quite adequate tip" - actually you did not. The tip IS PARTOF the price of dinner. Would you feel comfortable going to the owner or MOD and say, "sorry but I am a liitle short of cash for the burger but not to worry i paid the server his part of the meal." Jfood thinks he may grab you by the ear and hold your nose to the ATM machine as you removed a few dollars topay him.

                              The idea that you are stiffingthe server is frightening.

                              Bad planning and overeating on the customer's side is not the responsibility of the owner or server. You ate the meal now eat the $3. Now look around for a bank that reimburses you for ATM fees.

                              1. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out. That's what my mom always taught me, and it applies here. It's demoralizing to a server to work hard for someone who doesn't appreciate it. An unexpected bad tip does that every time. Don't do it unless you mean it.

                                1. Think of the ATM surcharge as the price of this lesson: know how much money you have, and order accordingly, including enough consideration for the tip. When you order more than you can afford (including tip), *somebody* is going to get ripped off (your words). Who should that be, the server, who did nothing to deserve the ripoff, or you, who didn't plan sufficiently?

                                  1. I would simply tell the server I didn't have enough cash on me and would give them a bigger tip on the next visit.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: gourmet wife

                                      Why not go with the actual truth? "I don't want to pay the ATM fee so, sorry about you not getting an appropriate tip." Or "I didn't plan my night and my spending appropriately, so I've decided you're the one who comes out short tonight. Thanks for doing a good job, though."

                                      I don't understand the idea that if one doesn't handle their own responsibilities appropriately someone else should foot the bill. I suppose it's prevalent these days, but it's not a good way to do things.

                                      Tipping appropriately (not lavishly or extravagantly or anything else) is a part of the cost of a meal out at a sit down restaurant. If you were short on the total bill before tip you'd use the ATM. This isn't different than that.

                                      1. re: gourmet wife

                                        If it is a server you see frequently, that may be fine. I've even been at a restaurant (where I ate frequently at the time) and discovered I had left my wallet in the car three blocks away. I told the MOD that I would be right back, he told me don't worry, gave me a copy of my tab and told me to just settle up next time.

                                        But that was HIS decision, not mine.

                                        As it was raining cats and dogs I truly appreciated his kindness, and in addition to settling the tab a couple of days later you can bet he got a very generous tip.

                                      2. It kind of depends. If it's a small place and you're a well-known regular, you can probably explain the situation to your server and make up the shortfall (plus a little extra as a "knucklehead penalty") on your next visit. Otherwise, suck up the $3 fee. Again, consider it a "knucklehead penalty." It will help you remember to pay more attention next time.

                                        I don't understand the question re: small bills. Why would anybody think it's okay to do anything other than get change and leave an appropriate tip? (Okay, the server wouldn't complain if you tipped $50 or $100, but I'm assuming that's not in the cards...)

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          "Knucklehead penalty". I like it!

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            I think the OP's question about small bills relates to tipping in non-restaurant situations, like bellhops and valet parkers, where <$5 tips are appropriate. What to do if you find yourself with nothing smaller than a $10 bill? Answer: plan ahead and always carry a bunch of singles.

                                            1. re: BobB

                                              That makes sense. I had a bit of a bit of a disconnect given that the first 'graph was about cash-only restaurants.

                                              I often find myself out of dollar bills, but have never had a problem getting a valet to break a $20. If that makes me clueless, so be it. Better than being stingy.

                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                I've never had cause to do this at a restaurant, but when I've not had the appropriate-sized bills for a bellhop, valet, etc., at a hotel, I've asked to have the tip added to my bill. (And yes, I tend to round up, as a "knucklehead penalty".)

                                              2. re: BobB

                                                there are situations were I know Im going to need lots of singles(we all know what those "situations" are) but honestly, going about everyday life isnt one of them. I would have no problem asking the potential tip recipient to break a larger bill. If said person had a problem with it, I would have no issue "solving" that problem.........

                                                1. re: BobB

                                                  Many people, myself included seem to be squeamish about asking for change when we give a tip. Tipping is somehow supposed to be discrete, and asking a valet or server to break a $5 when we want to leave a $3 or $4 tip seems a bit cheap. The funny thing is, the valet or server is more than happy to do it - he has a pocket full of dollar bills, he appreciates getting a few of them out of his pocket, and is glad you are tipping, rather than giving him (or her) a $1 tip because that is what you happen to have in small bills. Now if its a $50 or $100, thats probably something you should handle at the cashier either on your way in or on your way out. I even know of places that will increase your credit card tab to cover the valet's tip (obviously this does not apply to cash only places).

                                              3. Go to your nearest low-fee ATM...right now, and take out $15-$20. "Hide" it in a out-of-the-way place in your wallet, and forget it's there until you're short of gratuity cash. Remember it at that point, and withdraw it from its secret place with a flourish and a smile.
                                                If you haven't done this before-hand, eat the cost of the ATM fee as an object lesson. It's not fair to the server to short them on the tip or tell them you'll make it up to them next time.
                                                And regarding "no small bills" - a good server should know to bring you back change that can make a decent tip possible. But I've had situations where the bill is $28 and change, I give them $40, and I get a $10, a $1, and pocket change. I'm not leaving a 35% tip, so they'd better hope I've got some singles in my pocket.

                                                13 Replies
                                                1. re: podunkboy

                                                  "But I've had situations where the bill is $28 and change, I give them $40, and I get a $10, a $1, and pocket change. I'm not leaving a 35% tip, so they'd better hope I've got some singles in my pocket."

                                                  When I was a server (at a crappy restaurant with bad management, mediocre food and low standards for hiring -- which is why they gave someone like me, with absolutely no experience, the job and then didn't train her), many of my fellow servers did this purposely in the hopes that it would result in the customer leaving the larger bill as a tip. I always thought it was a really stupid thing to do since members of the general public, who don't read Chowhound and feel strongly about such things, would, I think, be more likely to stiff than be overly generous. For that I reason I would always bring back change in dollar bills in lots of denominations, hoping that the easier I made it on the customer to tip, the more likely they would be to do so.

                                                  ... I still got lousy tips, but I attribute that more to the failings of the restaurant as a whole and my lack of waitressing skills than anything else. ;-)

                                                  1. re: charmedgirl

                                                    That makes you a smart server...your fellow servers were not thinking correctly..
                                                    I'm dumbfounded when a server brings back large bills and you're saying they're doing this so the customer will have no choice but to tip them larger than intended? What an idiotic, illogical assumption. I have never stiffed a server. I believer they need to make a living and even the dumbest of them all will get the very minimal tip from me....just from principle alone.

                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                      I can't say all servers are so motivated when they bring back change. A bunch of them probably are working quickly and making change the easiest way they can, which means using larger bills. But yeah, at my restaurant at least, there was a school of thought that if you brought back large bills, they customer would round up and leave the large bill rather than go to the trouble of trying to make change.

                                                      1. re: charmedgirl

                                                        " I believer they need to make a living and even the dumbest of them all will get the very minimal tip from me....just from principle alone."

                                                        boy I wish my customers/clients thought this way! You mean I can royally screw something up and still get paid!?!?!?!?!

                                                        I personally have had experiences where I left no tip, but never without explaining just why that was to a manager or the server themselves. zero service=zero tip. terrible service=terrible tip.

                                                        1. re: nkeane

                                                          What is "zero service"? The food never came to you? I wouldn't tip if I didn't get my food but if that was the case I wouldn't pay anything much less leave a tip.

                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                            zero service is absent server, having to ask for things I need....knife fork, water refills, etc...basically its the server that you never see except when your food is dropped and when the bill is dropped.

                                                            1. re: nkeane

                                                              Dropping off your bill and your food isn't service? Interesting.

                                                              1. re: nkeane

                                                                Ostensibly, the server took your order, brought you the right order to you and then brought you a bill. This is more then zero service. Even if there were no water refills and difficulty getting extra cutlery this service should be rewarded with some sort of tip. At least 10% if not more, IMO.

                                                    2. re: podunkboy

                                                      Funny coincidence...the last time I ate dinner out my total bill was $28. I put $40 in the check holder (two $20's) and when the waiter came to pick it up I told him to keep the change. Several minutes later he came back to the table and gave me an enthusiastic "thank you". Maybe I'm too generous.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Actually now that I think of it I wasn't THAT generous, when you calculate the "excess tip" (assuming 20% is the norm) I gave:

                                                          $12 - 20% X $28 = $6.40. So I tipped him $6.40 "too much". Maybe the $6.40 could be considered the "dining alone premium" in the equation since I was taking up a table for two.

                                                          1. re: john333

                                                            I do not believe that there is any reason to tip as a solo more than tipping as a single in a party of 4. There is no such thing as a "dining alone premium" IMO.

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              Agreed. Any more than Bob and I seated at a 4 top should pay a premium.

                                                    3. I'm assuming the restaurant had prices on the menu. Also assume you had some idea of the amount of money you were carrying. Also assume you knew in advance that it was cash only. If all those assumptions are correct, then you chose to order more than you could afford to pay. So you either eat the ATM fee or tell the server you'll be right back, go to another ATM and return immediately.

                                                      And in doing the math, if you wanted to leave $5 more on the tip, then it was more than "a few bucks more expensive" than you expected.

                                                      1. I understand how you feel about the 'ripoff' ATM in the restaurant. It's rather unnerving however it's there for the convenience of people who didn't realize the cash-only policy of the restaurant and you're paying for it.
                                                        The server shouldn't have to be penalized for people who aren't prepared with cash. Pay the $3 and forget about it.
                                                        I'm always prepared with cash for the server when I dine...I give the server his/her tip in cash (always 20% unless they really screw up) when I'm using a credit card....I don't care how large the bill.

                                                        1. I suppose the "right" answer would be to suck it up and pay the ATM fee to tip the guy, but the other route is to explain (ignore the ATM), and tell him that you'll return next time to give him an appropriate tip, then tip a little more ($1-$2). Of course that only works if you're planning to come back.

                                                          I've done the "return to tip" thing several times - once to my haircut place that won't let us tip on the credit card (I rarely have cash), and just recently at a massage place. There's only 1 restaurant downstairs from the place, and it was cash only, but that left me about $4 short for his tip. When I handed him all the cash I had, I told him I would give him the rest next time I came... which should be next week.

                                                          One time we didn't have small bills to give the valet in the hotel, so we ignored the tip part and later gave it to him when we saw him again on our way out (he didn't get the car for us again - we lef t to walk around the area).

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: boltnut55

                                                            Ran into this situation once, but luckily I had enough cash for a reduced tip.

                                                            I get 5% back from the credit card company, so it costs me 5% of the bill if the restaurant does not take credit cards, vs the restaurants only pay 2% to process my credit card or whatever it is. So if I am in there for any more than just one drink, and they are cash only, I am reducing the tip by 5% especially if I don't know about it. I think the few cash only restaurants I know of are priced the same vs competitors, so its not like I am saving any money or getting more for my money kind of thing. So I know off 5% from the tip because they don't take credit cards if I find they don't take credit cards when I pay, and that's what I did; a 15% tip went to a 10% tip. Neither will I return because of that. I expect to be able to see that they are cash only when I enter the door so I can determine if I have enough cash. Now, if you don't have enough cash to cover the bill, and they haven't said anything about cash only, unfortunately, the waiter is not getting a tip in exchange for the inconvenience that I have to put up with plus the meal already cost me a little more than 5% more because I am not earning credit card rewards. Plus, I now have to pay an ATM fee, so its now costing me like 7-10% ish more and you can't forget the restaurant has a cost of processing cash too, though it may not be as much as with credit cards.

                                                            I will tip fairly otherwise. But cash only is an inconvenience for me and I will consider other restaurants that accept credit cards before I patronize a place that only takes cash with the exception for just a drink.

                                                            I really haven't found that cash only businesses, including restaurants, offer anything that ones that credit cards don't offer.

                                                            1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                              You punish the server because of the owner's business decisions? Yeah, that's fair.

                                                              Hell, your complaints aren't even based on the owner's business practices so much as your own cluelessness. If you plan to use a credit card, it's incumbent on you to find out if the place accepts them beforehand. If you're surprised when the bill comes and the place is cash only, it's your fault.

                                                              You should be ashamed of yourself.

                                                              In the future, given that you "haven't found that cash only [restaurants] offer anything that ones that credit cards don't offer," perhaps you could just confine you dining experiences to Applebee's and The Cheesecake Factory. No problem getting your 5% rebate there.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                Thank YOU, Alan. I saw red over this. Talk about only caring about oneself.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Indeed, thank YOU, Alan.

                                                                  I thought I'd seen and heard it all but this 5% math takes the cake.

                                                                  re: the OP: the OP should indeed use the ATM (or one nearby) and pay the tip. The OP miscalculated.

                                                                2. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                  I'd swear you used to sit at my sushi bar, way back when...

                                                                    1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                      Ah heck, they did not take your form of payment just walk out and screw the restaurant and the server. How dare they?

                                                                      1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                        You should really look on the front door when you walk into any food or beverage establishment, virtually universally they have these cute little stickers on the door that show what types of credit cards they accept, you remember seeing them don't you? If you don't see these stickers, then it is a hint that maybe they don't accept cards and you might want to check with them before you order anything. Also, it may have escaped your attention that on cash there are these tiny little words that say "Legal tender for all debts public or private." That means that you can pay your bill almost anywhere with it. A really great system! My credit cards don't say that. If you find a credit card with those words, please please let all of us know as soon as possible. Until then, please confine your numbers games to casinos.

                                                                        1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                          OMG: you really are some piece of work!
                                                                          Hopefully, you confine your dining out to some of the finer establishments such as Applebys and Cheescake Factory. I can only imagine what a joy you are to live with.
                                                                          I hope you get lots of satisfaction out of screwing some hardworking server out of their wages because of your screwed up math logic. Incredible.

                                                                          1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                            Uh, we may have a troll in our midsts. First/only post.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Or s/he didn't like having their head (deservedly) handed to them.

                                                                              1. re: mlkrgr09

                                                                                Who do you get 5% from? The best I've ever seen is 2% and capped at not very much per year. Are there limits and stupid conditions (eg you have to carry a balance to get the rebate).

                                                                                To OP - if I were a regular I'd leave the 10% and say I'd catch them next time. If I weren't I wouldn't say anything just use the ATM but likely not come back.

                                                                            2. Am I the only person that keeps a backup $100 bill in my wallet with my credit cards? When I have to use the backup it gets replaced immediately.

                                                                              I can not understand folks that run around without any folding money.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: duck833

                                                                                I run around without folding money about 95% of the time. Almost everyone I know that's around my age is the same way, too. Personally, I keep track of my money much better by using cards than using cash. That being said, if I go to a cash-only restaurant (I can't even remember the last time this might have been, though) I make sure I have enough.

                                                                                1. re: duck833

                                                                                  ummm... .it must be nice to have an extra hundred dollars to keep your credit cards company. I try for $20 when possible. But in case you haven't noticed a whole lot of people are out of work, or have taken pay cuts in the 10% to 15% range.

                                                                                  Your comment seems to have an elitist "let them eat cake" ring to it, although I am sure it was not intentional. But then the original comment was made in ignorance as well.

                                                                                2. Use the ATM. It's the right thing to do.
                                                                                  I know every one does things differently but I always charge my food bill when I can (Need those air miles) but I never use my CC for a tip.
                                                                                  A lot of servers live day to day. If you charge a tip many restaurants pay bi-weekly so it could be some time before the server receives the tip.
                                                                                  When I leave a cash tip I know they get paid ASAP.

                                                                                  1. If you don't have enough money, then you get some more.

                                                                                    1. Im a third generation restaurant owner. On a typical day my restaurant pulls in 80% or more in card purchases (most of them debit ran as credit) Other people may have different millage because we cater to the 18-35 crowd in a Texas college town.

                                                                                      I personally find it unforgivable that in this day and age that any place does not accept credit cards, i am only charged 2.7%, if you cant afford 2.7 percent then raise all of your menu prices 2.7 percent and take cards.

                                                                                      I am an extremely good tipper (usually over 25%) having worked in this industry all of my life, that being said there is no way i would pay the $3 fee at the ripoff atm.

                                                                                      I understand how many responders thought that maybe this was an asian or indian restaurant as the only restaurants that i personally know that do not take cards are newly opened ethnic restaurants. Because of my knowledge of this i do go by the atm and grab cash before going to new asian or indian restaurants and just chalk it up to the owners not yet being assimilated into american culture. (which is why i am eating at their restaurant in the first place!)