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tipping - don't forget to


This may be marginal for the list, but want to remind people to tip their waitstaff, especially now. I read an article about how restaurants, feeling the economic pinch, are cutting staff, meaning the remaining staff works harder than before. Especially in local places, where prices are not real high, this means the waitstaff is working harder for low wages and lower tips. If you have a favorite local spot, be sure to tip appropriately.

I went out for a quick breakfast at a local place last week, I saw a table of 4 and a table of 2 near me both stiff the server. She did a fine job, was pleasant, took orders promptly, refilled coffee, etc. I left her a bit larger tip than I needed to, I just felt so badly for her. It simply isn't right.

  1. How did you know they stiffed the server? Just curious.

    1. I tip the waitstaff based on the service I receive not based on the state of the economy, the state of my budget or how strapped for cash the restaurant might be.

      The only time I ever stiff a wait person is if they don't do their job for reasons they can change (they're talking on their cell phone while serving me for example).

      I'm also curious how the OP knows the tables near them stiffed the server.

      1. my daughter is a waitress in south Fl, she moans constantly about the tips she gets, some of them work out 15% to the exact penny! And her customers are not the easy kind being that we live here!!

        18 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          There are a lot of senior citizens in South Florida so I don't begrudge them either tipping 15% or working it out to the exact penny. 15% is a reasonable tip and there is a valid argument to be made for not increasing the percentage of the tip just because inflation has increased the total of the restaurant tab. Working it out to the exact percentage? At least they still can, which is more than can be said for some of the math-challenged members of the younger generation.

          I don't know what "her customers are not the easy kind being that we live here!!" means.

          1. re: taos

            It means they are senior citizens....high maintenance, low tipping, asking about discounts, making lemonade from Sweet-n-low & water with lemon, sending back stuff, soup's too hot, then too cold. If anyone ever got a 15% tip from my MIL it would be a miracle.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              Thanks. Just trying to decipher the twisted syntax in that sentence. I already commented on the senior citizen issue but will add that when you run a restaurant or work in one, you do so with the understanding that you take whatever customers walk in the door. It's part of being in the hospitality business.

              My parents are both senior citizens. And while my father does not fit the stereotype (he'll order expensive stuff, eat quickly, leave a generous tip and not ask for favors), my mother does. She'll get the cheapest thing on the menu, linger for hours and under no circumstances leave more than 15%, even when we are there for hours demanding all kinds of favors. It's a hold-over from growing up in the depression when eating out was a special treat and when ever penny mattered. She doesn't believe that just because meals cost more the rate of tipping should be increased. I don't fault her but when we eat out together and she's paying, I either offer to pay the tip or slip a few extra 10s or 20s on the table on our way out the door.

              1. re: taos

                FL is a VERY interesting place at times.

                jfood was asked once to play golf with some senior relatives in FL. After an excruciating 9 holes (7 iron was the longest club needed) jfood was coerced into breakfast where it is unlimited coffee with the breakfast special $1.85 with tax.

                So this 8-some sits at two booths, all order the special, and 7 of us (you figure out who did not) ordered at least 4 cups of coffee each. The poor waitress was run ragged. Each person received their $1.85 check, dropped a couple of Washingtons on the table and headed to the door. Jfood was floored, a 15-cent tip from each. OMG

                jfood left his two Washingtons staring at a Jackson.

                1. re: jfood

                  actually her main complaint is generally not the tips though they probably are nearer to 10% than 15% but being run ragged, noses turned up at the food, soup too cold, bread too stale, too much on the plate, too little on the plate, complaining about something or other, convinced that this deli serves such and such when they never have, not liking the first table offered (nor the 2nd or 3rd), water too cold, not enough ice or too much, doggy bag box too small, AC too strong, and so on ad infinitum. Sometimes, she tells me, she doesn't even know what they are complaining about.

                  1. re: smartie

                    We had a case of that at my restaurant this weekend. Grandma was bitching and moaning about everything under the sun, while her six other family members seemed mortified. She spoke to management to complain more and to let them know she'd only be leaving the waiter 10% (like she had any intention of leaving more than that to begin with).

                    As they were leaving, one member of her party pulled management aside and told them everything was fine, and that she does this every time. He said she loves to complain; it makes her feel important in her sad, old life. They gave up trying to change her behavior long ago.

                2. re: taos

                  "It's a hold-over from growing up in the depression when eating out was a special treat and when ever penny mattered."

                  Newsflash: this is another one of those times for elderly people on fixed incomes whose assets were hard hit by the financial panic. I was staying with my parents (who were 9 years old when FDR became president) in the first week of this past March, and my mother's reaction to the torrent of news about the plummeting stock market can only be described as an echo of what she experienced as a child; there was terror not only in her face but her body. My parents went out to lunch (to eat hamburgers, I might add) for their 61st anniversary last week, which I think is the first time they've done that in the past year; it was a very special thing for them to do.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    eating with "Depression Raised" parents is always an interesting event, i.e. taking bread home even if it will never be eaten.

                    But these guys were just nasty and jfood will not repeat their comments. No golf with these guys any time soon.

                    1. re: jfood

                      My 86 year old MIL lives in an assisted living facility and takes back to her apartment any little morsel left and hoards it in her frig or wraps bread, cake, etc. in a napkin and leaves it on the counter until someone gets rid of it. She eats very little but is a food hoarder. I generally go there when she is getting her hair done each week and throw stuff out. Because of her demetia she doesn't miss it. I tell ya.....on my 80th birthday I am stepping in front of a bus.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        "on my 80th birthday I am stepping in front of a bus."

                        You do know that nothing you write on the internet really goes away, right? ; )

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          Yep....hehe....and this isn't the first time I've written it. Fortunately I come from a crappy gene pool ;-)

              2. re: taos

                15% is not a reasonable tip. The standard has been 20% for some time now.

                1. re: inbiz

                  Actually, it's not uniformly so. 20% has become a standard in certain areas, but far from all. And it may be receding.

                  1. re: inbiz

                    you may want to do a search on this topic since your perception is not as standard as you wish it to be.

                    1. re: inbiz

                      If every single customer tipped 15%, I'll bet waitpersons would be ecstatic.

                      1. re: grampart

                        Definitely not in my part of the country.

                  2. re: smartie

                    15% is still considered the norm in most of FL. I am not sure why she is expecting to get more- it's just not going to happen. It's not really that bad considering we have no state/local income taxes.

                    1. re: queencru

                      I am surprised it is 15 % ...i would think more to 10% .

                  3. Maybe slightly off point but given the relative cost of a server vesus a BOH employee jfood would assume it is the BOH that is suffering the most from this. In the FOH, if there are less people the MOD or owner is probably balancing who will be asked to cover tables on any given day and still earn some money. The marginal cost of a server is negligible.


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      jfood is right. I'd just like to add, in response to the OP that I'm not sure what the use of a reminder will be. People who tip will continue to tip, people who do not tip will continue to not tip.

                      1. re: haggisdragon

                        true enough. but i don't think it hurts to point things out occasionally. if we just shrug our shoulders nothing will ever change. my husband, for example, tips very low. i read him the article and have hounded him, he's now tipping somewhere between 15-20% depending on service. at least he does when i'm with him, 'cause mind you he is not happy i called him out on it.

                        1. re: ivysmom

                          I here you there. Whenever I'm out with someone who I know to be stingy tipper, I do my best to make sure the tip is appropriate.

                        2. re: haggisdragon

                          I agree to an extent. Also, the people on CH seem to be fairly sophisticated diners, for the most part. I'm not saying that everyone only eats gourmet, but that they know the unspoken rules of eating in public that make a servers job much easier. What we think of as common sense, most of the dining public has no idea. So, if this thread educated even one more person, it's definitely worthwhile.

                      2. I've worked in the restaurant business for over 30 years in one capacity or another, including waiting tables. I have also been stiffed a few times and felt like I was working for free at times. The thing is, there is always going to be those who feel like it's not the customer's fault that waitstaff only get paid $2.13 an hour (or whatever they get paid in your area) and they are not responsible, which in a way, is true. You can't really expect to make a certain amount of tip money waiting tables because there is no law making anyone pay a set amount in tips. Morally, customers should pay a certain percentage and treat others with dignity and not take advantage because they're the customer and think they can do no wrong.

                        It's true that sometimes wait staff gets the s-end of the stick which is why I didn't do it long. Now, my daughter makes a killing in Arizona, but she works in an area where the people are loaded and gets a lot of sport figure customers. But she is a stickler for customer service & they love her but she does have her not so good days like everyone else. These days, to do the job is to take everything that comes along with it, unfortunately.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          "The thing is, there is always going to be those who feel like it's not the customer's fault that waitstaff only get paid $2.13 an hour"

                          Uhh, there are people who *do* feel that it is the customer's fault?

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Jfood thinks Cherylptw means ...who get paid $2.13 an hour "by the restaurant".

                            If you believe it is the customer's fault on the minimum wage, jfood would like to hear that argument.

                            1. re: jfood

                              Just to play devil's advocate, there are many people who believe in not raising minimum wage, for a variety of reasons. Small businesses often say that it will be the end of them if they are forced to pay even higher wages. Restauranteurs are some of the biggest lobbyists against raising minimum wage and keeping the lower server wage. I'm guessing these people also go out to eat.

                              I'm working my way through law school as a server and I still don't hand out tips just because I know the people make minimum wage. I work very hard at my job and I expect the same from the people that wait on me.

                            2. re: jgg13

                              Uhh, I guess you didn't bother to read the part where I said "Morally, customers should pay a certain percentage and treat others with dignity and not take advantage because they're the customer and think they can do no wrong."

                              And that's what I mean! I didn't stutter....

                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                It isn't a customer's fault if someone chooses to work a job that can end up paying less than minimum wage. It irks me when servers pull the "oh woe is me" card ... there are all sorts of jobs with a much more steady (both higher & lower, but steady) wage model, people who bemoan living based on tips can always take one of those jobs. It isn't *my* fault that my server is being paid like crap, and it isn't my duty to make sure they can make ends meet ... just as it isn't the duty of any customers downstream of me to make sure that I can make ends meet. It is a job that you take, and much like any other performance based payment structure, you know that you're going to be at the mercy of some factors outside of your direct control when it comes to your salary.

                                Also, I don't see what not demeaning a server has to do with it apparently being the customer's fault that the server chose to take a sub-minwage job. That should just be standard behavior.

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  You know, you should really read the entire post before responding. Did you not see the part where I said "You can't really expect to make a certain amount of tip money waiting tables because there is no law making anyone pay a set amount in tips"

                                  This conversation is over....

                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                    You can't say "The thing is, there is always going to be those who feel like it's not the customer's fault that waitstaff only get paid $2.13 an hour (or whatever they get paid in your area) and they are not responsible, which in a way, is true." and then when called out on blaming customers for seemingly being at fault respond with something completely unrelated, like "Morally, customers should pay a certain percentage and treat others with dignity and not take advantage because they're the customer and think they can do no wrong." start blaming folks for not reading what you wrote.

                                    The fact remains that you put forth the position that customers are at fault for the server's wages, and you've yet to explain why that might be the case.

                          2. If you are not ready to give 15% for good service, ESPECIALLY if you are a high-maintainence customer, then you shouldn't be eating at a restaurant that gives table service. I am not willing to pay a valet to park my car, so I park it myself. Period.
                            A restaurant should, and would not seat you unless they're ready for you (that's why you'll sometimes find your party still waiting to be sat when there are empty tables; they're not ready to give you the proper service yet). Likewise, by going and sitting down at a table with table service, you're saying that you're willing and able to pay for your meal and your service, whether it's a place with real napkins or Denny's.
                            Times are tough for everyone, and I guarantee that server isn't taking your order and bringing you your meal because it's their hobby.

                            1. ivysmom are you sure they didn't leave a charge tip? I know that cash is prefered but sometimes I leave a charge tip. If the place is one where you take up your own check and pay at the register it would be really hard to tell.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                Michelly, thanks for your reply -- well put. My personal tipping philosophy is the more downscale the place, the bigger I tip. That waitress in the diner who has been on her feet since 6 am isnt doing it because she loves to get up early and serve surly customers -- I usually tip her 50% or better, to make up for the granny in the next booth who fusses because the coffee is too hot and MIGHT leave her 10%.

                                I visit Florida regularly, and even some of the relatives my own age (late 40s) are tightwads when it comes to tipping. I've been known to go back more than once after restaurant meals and augment the meager gratuities they leave. There are people like this everywhere, but I guess I notice it more when Im on vacation. Seniors on fixed incomes do, indeed, watch every penny, whether they need to or not. But even those who are financially "well off" can find it difficult to move past that 15% regardless of how well they were treated. For many of them going out to eat is a rare treat, and they feel entitiled to be as difficult as they want (see cranky granny upthread who needed to feel important). My mom is not difficult as a customer -- she wants what she wants -- but doesnt hesitate to tell a server that if they wont substitute this for that, she just wont eat it. She will let me pay the bill (dad always picked up the check) but always wants to pay the tip. I tell her, no, I'll put it on the card, to make sure the server gets more than her customary 15% (she'd be shocked to know I also tip on the wine!) I try to explain that servers make less than minimum wage, and she always says "well, there ARE other jobs" (we cut her some slack, since this is a woman who hasn't drawn a paycheck since she married dad in 1956). My point is, some of them just dont know (or after a certain age, refuse to acknowledge) that times have changed.

                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                  Speaking of the "cranky granny", does it seem like that was from a particular generation or just a trend among the elderly? I definitely remember seeing it from my grandparents generation but now that my parents generation are roughly the same age I don't see it nearly as much.

                              2. This may be slightly off-topic a/o not quite scientific, but the servers where I work have been noticing a trend in lower tips. We're in an area where 20% is the norm and there have apparently been loads of 15%ers lately. Has anyone else noticed this or found himself tipping less?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: invinotheresverde


                                  Because of many items including some very convincing posts by you, jfood had raised his tipping norm closer to 20%. But in these times where everyone is receiving less in their paychecks and bonuses, he felt that a rising tide raises all ships and a dropping tide does likewise. He returned to his 15% norm a month or so ago.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I would imagine that it is due to the general economy. I personally haven't really changed, but my own tipping strategy is more born out of laziness than anything else (Unless something noteworthily good or bad happens, I just take 20% of the final total and round to the nearest dollar, unless that rounding is downward and would drive the tip to being lower than 15%).

                                    I was going to say that I do this because calculating 20% is easier than 15, but given that about half the time I end up calculating 15% anyways, I suppose it ends up being more work than less, but hey whatever :)

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      I've not been tipping less, because due to an austerity budget I've shifted almost all eating out to breakfast or lunch, and that no more than once a week if even that. The only time I eat dinner out is for a friend's birthday, a few times a year.

                                      But I would not be surprised that the 20% norm that migrated from the lower half of Manhattan to other urban food meccas in the past half-generation with the booms is perhaps receding with the end of those booms. Only a small portion (the youngest adults) of the demographic would not remember the longtime standard of 15% (again, outside the lower half of Manhattan, where 20% has been in place since at least the 1970s), so it's not shocking that many people would not think 15% was unconscionable. A standard has to be in place a lot longer to take permanent root.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        Good point, it makes sense that much like the stock market you might see a general upward trend but localized peaks & valleys.

                                    2. I'm ready to get slammed for this one. However, those who disagree with me, take note: I will not be shaken from my stance lightly.

                                      I worked as a server in a chain place in college for a year. My sister has worked at a number of bars and restaurants of various sizes and clienteles over the past seven years. Servers run themselves off their legs to help make our dining experience pleasant and comfortable. I am not advocating giving 20% tips for lousy service. However, when you get competent or excellent service, 20% is certainly not a huge or unfair amount to tip.

                                      As for it not being the customer's fault that servers are only paid $2.13 an hour...obviously, not all of us feel this pay scale is right. However, many customers are voters. Voters are the ones who vote for laws allowing restaurants to pay servers far below the actual minimum wage because they receive those fabulous tips that are supposed to make up for the disparity. My sister is an outstanding server and I can't tell you how many times she has had weeks in which she's worked 65 or 70 hours and made less than $6 an hour total because she worked a bad section a few times that week. I guarantee that many of those cranky old grannies who leave maybe a five to 10% tip on a good day are some of the same people voting down minimum wage increases for those same workers.

                                      I guess this thread makes me think of that old story about the little kid who saved up his money in the late 30s-early 40s so he could get an ice cream sundae; he turned down a larger and more expensive sundae he could just barely have afforded so that he could leave the waitress the remainder of his money as a tip. It's a modern-day fable, but there's a good point to it. If you are going to a place with table service, plan to leave a fair tip if you receive decent service. If a member of your party runs the server off her legs and then leaves a buck fifty for their $20 order, think about kicking in extra to make up for the cheapskate if you're able to do so. Whether the server is a young woman working her way through college on tips or an older woman doing the only job she can get given her experience and level of education, you are impacting someone's livelihood when you undertip.

                                      I am dirt poor and I go out to a restaurant once in a blue moon. Just because I'm broke and the economy sucks and my husband had no job for half this year doesn't mean it's right for me to give a server a 10% tip if she was pleasant and handled our service competently. A gratuity is an assumed part of a table-service restaurant; that's why so many places make it a part of your bill if you come in as a part of a relatively large group. Yes, customer service is a part of every server's job. Yes, they should be pleasant and efficient. No, I am not saying every server deserves a 20% tip. I am saying that service jobs like this are constantly undervalued in our society. I did this job for a while and I was absolutely awful at it. I know how hard servers work and I'm amazed by the ability of some of them to manage every task or problem that arises without turning a hair. A lot of people try to wait tables and fail miserably or remain on staff and are terrible at their jobs. Those who perform competently should be fairly compensated. If you did everything you were supposed to for your job, took care of every detail and problem, and your boss decided to just not pay you part of your wage because he was cheap and had the technical option to pay you as much or as little as he pleased - how would you feel? Particularly if you were paid a base wage that couldn't keep you in any kind of home or pay for your food? How long could you keep coming back each day with a smile and a can-do attitude?

                                      Anyway, that's my rant. I'm sorry about the length of my post.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: tonina_mdc

                                        I don't recall ever getting a chance to vote on server's salaries. If I had a vote they'd be paid a straight wage like everyone else in the world (which depending on the venue might be minwage, our could be a hefty salary - as already happens in various high end joints) taking with it the raised menu prices, and doing away with tips. But hey, like I said, no one has asked me to vote on that.

                                        "How long could you keep coming back each day with a smile and a can-do attitude?"

                                        That's why I don't work at that job ... they don't have to work at that job either, there are other careers available.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          THere's also the issue that long-term servers tend to resist replacing the tipping system with something else (like the regular minimum wage).

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            The good ones at least, from what I've seen. But yeah, that's another reason why I don't really ever buy the whole "woe is them, they make peanuts" bit.

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              I was a waiter for ten years. I wouldn't have done it for one day if the pay was minimum wage and no tips.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Did I say that in my utopia that all servers would get paid minwage? I don't believe that I did, no. In fact, I believe I said "which depending on the venue might be minwage, our could be a hefty salary" which would imply that the salary scale for servers would work the same as it does in every job ... lower end gigs pay less and higher end gigs pay more. Someone working the local diner would probably be getting paid minwage while someone working at a 3 star place would be getting paid a tidy sum.

                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                  I was agreeing with not buying the whole "Woe is them, they make peanuts" comment. I made a killing in tips.

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    Ah, mea culpa.

                                                    You're one of the people that I think of when the issue of servers not wanting to do away with tips, I've seen you make that comment before.

                                                    But yeah, I just would rather it be like pretty much every profession where the job pays roughly what people think it is worth which would mean decent salaries in decent places and crappy salaries in low end places. Let that change the prices on the menu and let's just be done with it. OTOH, there'd be far less things to debate about over and over and over and over again on CH.

                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                      Where I worked, there were plenty of $400 nights. We were all pissed if we didn't make $300 every Saturday.

                                                      I'm sure the economy's changed all that now.

                                      2. I don't even know why I'm reading this. The vast majority (and by that I mean almost all) the people I've dealt with in the course of my career are pleasant and leave the standard 20% or above. The rare few who don't conduct themselves thusly in every aspect of their lives. It's not just servers that notice, it's your friends, colleagues and family that are embarrassed and hate to dine w/you. It can hurt your career (assuming you have a decent job yourself). So, I say go ahead. Keep up your hateful ways. Life must be a pleasant experience.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: inbiz

                                          I hate life, but I always tip 20%+. Where does that put me?

                                          1. re: haggisdragon

                                            In the front of the house w/the rest of us.

                                        2. The discussion of tipping is one of those topics that usually doesn't go well on our site. Everybody has a strong opinion and nobody is willing to listen to others' opinions. Eventually the discussion gets nastier and nastier. We see this discussion heading in that direction, so we've removed some posts and are closing this topic to further discussion.