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Tipping for tableside entertainment

  • j

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.


              2. I detest the idea of tableside entertainment. If a restaurant's website mentions it, it is a guarantee that I will not eat there. If I'm at a place where I didnt know they had entertainment then, no, I wouldnt generally tip - in the vain hope that this might discourage the place from continuing with it in future.

                Grumpys of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your......erm, well, you have nothing to lose.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  I'm not into tableside entertainment either. I usually dread when anyone comes around to do magic or sing.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Ditto that Harters. I think I would have waved off the magician with a "no thank you!" should s/he have come up to perform.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      In the UK, we have a particular way of waving at people to convey this.

                      It involves two fingers only (and visitors to our country would be advised to check how this is done, so as not to accidentally give offence if, say, asking for two loaves of bread at the supermarket) :-0

                        1. re: Harters

                          here is a little history of the english "two-fingered" wave-off: http://www.ukqna.com/education/720-3-...

                          to find a photo, i went here: http://1to3.typepad.com/first_to_thir...

                          1. re: alkapal

                            INTERESTING! I didn't know the whole story - thanks, alka!

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              Although the Agincourt/archer reference to the "flicking the V" may, in fact, be an urban myth of fairly recent creation.


                              I'm quite fond of the archery reference that an archer would "pluck yew" and the phrase morphed from there. Decorum prevents me being more explicit about the morphing.

                              1. re: Harters

                                Then it's a good urban myth. :-) And hey - if you read it on the Internet, it's GOTTA be true, right?

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Right. And, of course, we traditionally hate the Frenchies. Centuries of wars and what with them only being 22 miles away.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    and their prodigious use of garlic, to which the english are extremely averse.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Indeed. We are often extremely averse to anything perceived as "foreign".

                                      Although garlic is commercially grown in the UK, particularly on the Isle of Wight where the climate is more amenable than where I live. It's the fault of those damn Romans - coming over here, occupying our country, planting their crops, building their roads. It's just not British, doncha know,

                    2. If the entertainment comes unannounced and unwanted, I tell them to go away.

                      end of story.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Maximilien


                        And if they don't go away, I do.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I won't go away, but I will ask them to let us have our privacy. In the future, I will not go back to that restaurant.

                      2. I was at a place with mariachis once and gave them $5 NOT to play anywhere near our table.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: BubblyOne

                          That reminds me of the famous exchange between Groucho and Chico Marx in Animal Crackers. Chico the bandleader explains his rates, and it turns out he charges more for rehearsing and not playing than he does for playing. When asked how much he charges for not rehearsing and not playing, Chico replies: "Nah, you could never afford that!"

                        2. I tip early to make them go away.....

                          1. Ok, why is a restaurant that's not a children's place having a magician come around during dinner? WTF. I have certainly never seen or heard of that.

                            I have a death stare that makes it clear people like this should stay far away, so tipping or not has never been an issue.

                            1. jfood again for the non popular opinion. he sorta likes the mariachi (sic) guys in a mexican restaurant in AZ. sorta like jimmy buffet music sounds better on the beach versus in a snow storm. and jfood normally gives a 5 or 10.

                              now on the other hand, keep those freakin' guys away from the jfoods when they are selling a rose. last year the jfoods were having dinner in rome 2 tables from nancy pelosi, the us ambassador and spouses when a flower seller started to approach their table. really big security intervened and threw him out of the restaurant. jfood wanted to give security a tip.

                              1. Jes,

                                For similar, I will usually hand over a $5 (if it's just my lovely wife and me).

                                Now, if its a musician, it'll start there, but if my wife makes a request, and the musician performs it well, then the tip gets doubled.

                                If the musician is not tableside, and has done a good job, then it's a $5 on the way out the door. If they have done an excellent job, then I double that. One night, my wife made 3 requests (gotta' talk to her about that), and all were performed very well. Dropped a $20 in the till, on the way to the valet. Heck, the valet got a $5 on the way in (to park it carefully and to not race it out on the street), and then gets another $5, if he/she has not put gum on the passenger seat, and there are no dings. Why not the magician, or the musician?

                                Strange, that I feel strange if the host/hostess sticks their hand out, when I arrive. Not sure why that feels so different. I guess that I don't spend THAT much time in Las Vegas?