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Feb 8, 2009 09:16 AM

Tipping for tableside entertainment

Went out to dinner at a brewpub last night. We were a table of 4 adults in our late-20's and early 30's. A little while after sitting the restaurant's "official magician" came over and performed some tricks for us at our table. When he was done he told us he accpeted tips. We enjoyed his show and were entertained by him so we scrounged around and gave him a few bucks (basically all of the singles that we had between us). We had no idea what an appropriate tip was (we hadnt even ordered yet so a portion of our food bill wasnt an option nor am i sure if that makes sense). Any ideas what is expected in this case?

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  1. When a strolling mariachi band plays my request, I tip $5 (although I can count on the fingers of one hand how many strolling mariachi bands I've encountered). I'm not a fan of tableside entertainment. If a magician came over, I might make myself disappear.

    1. If I request something, I tip $3 or $4. If they just stop at my table and perform, I don't. I feel I am being forced to pay for usually a poor performance. And I won't. Two of our Mexican restos have a horrible singer. He will not go away and you can't talk to your friends. We plan to complain the next time it happens.

      1. I've been stuck in that situation before, probably at a similar restaurant. I hadn't carried cash because i'd intended to use my debit card, and really wasn't sure what to do at all ! It wasn't as if we had invited the guy over, and to be truthful, I found it to be a little tacky and interrupted our dinner conversation.

        I think you handled it very appropriately.

        1. i encounter two types of tableside entertainment - (1) you're in a lively area and there are street performers near the restaurant (oustide dining) who do their thing and then come by with a hat. fine - i give when the show is good (b/w $1-5 (i usually don't have cash)) and do not give other times. but i feel no compulsion to give - i just do it if i was entertained. then, there's (2) the restaurant who allows mariachi or whoever to come into the restaurant, assault your table, and then stand there and make you feel uncomfortable that you don't want to give $$ or haven't given enough. i've even had performers say "you have to give more" and we're just like - uh, we didn't ask for this jack$**!! and i don't have any dollars! but you don't want to appear cheap among friends and you don't want to get an awkward feeling - so you pay up. it's disgusting and i won't go back to places that do this. it's absurd. if they asked, that would be one thing. but to come up, do their thing and demand money is gross. i guess they just expect you to shoo them away if you don't want to pay?

          1. I am a professional restaurant magician. There has always been a debate within our own profession about accepting/asking for tips. I can tell you this. If the entertainer is working for the restaurant, then they should be getting compensated well by the restaurant to "add" to your dining experience and not to distract u from it. It should be a lot of fun and the performer should be aware of those times when it is best to leave people alone. I personally don't accept tips but if the table insists then I sometimes will accept it and give it to the server. My purpose is to enhance your experience, make u laugh, hopefully astonish you and to possibly make some new friends. It is really dissappointing to ruin that all over a few bucks. Having said that no magician should ever be expecting a tip. Thus, you shouldn't feel obligated to give one unless you really really want to because you had a good time!

            2 Replies
            1. re: drmagic64

              We had a clown come around once at A_________o Mexican Restaurant, the kind of irritating clown with balloons. My sister, who can't stand clowns in the best of situations (I'm not crazy about them either), actually called our waiter over to tell the clown not to come to our table.
              I think he gave us a dirty look.

              1. re: drmagic64

                Interesting observation, and thank you for sharing.

                I cannot recall any magician working in any restaurant, that I have dined. Now, we hire two for a couple of events, but also hire a jazz band, a tarot card reader, an artist and usually a strolling opera singer, for when the jazz band is on break. We have attended a few events with magicians, and each was great fun. In those situations, I have tipped. With our hosted events, besides the contract fee, I always tip, and if I happen to be in their audience, will do it again - just to give my guests a "hint."

                Now, I do have to admit that when I am dining, I would much prefer the only "entertainment" be background music, and that it be kept to the background. When leaving, I will almost always tip. I do not really want anyone, but the service staff, or a great friend (or fan of my wife's), stopping by my table, but that is just me.

                As you mention, perceiving whether there is an intrusion is part of the job. Thank you for noticing.