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Why do we tip?

Why do you think people leave tips at restaurants?

Not interested in discussing HOW MUCH you tip, just WHY.

Put another way, what compels a person to tip, no matter how much or little?

It certainly isn't the law, such that it would be illegal not to tip (generally speaking, of course).

Is it for the "service" of the server? But the server is already being paid a wage for being there (no matter how little, the server is being paid).

Is it something about social mores and perhaps even peer pressure? If it is, what about when you are dining alone at a place that you will never return to? If you left no tip, who would know? Yet, we still tip (at least I hope we do).

Is it something that makes us feel "good" or "better" about ourselves? In the same way when we donate food to a food bank or shelter?

Is it just a force of habit? Something that is just expected?

Is it just the "right" thing to do? If you say "yes" then it just begs the question. Why is it the "right" thing to do?

I mean, seriously, at what other time do we simply "give away" money to non-family members without there being some sort of religious undertone (tithing), moral principle (donations to the needy), or otherwise compelled by law or contract?

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  1. unfortunately it has become "expected" in our society. there are many countries that dont tip and they do fine. i dont mind tipping but expecting a certain percentage is ridiculous. i tip based on the actual service i recieve. sometimes you will get 25%...sometimes 10% and once in a while......5%. but normally i recieve the expected service, so i do the "customary" 15%.
    i hate tip jars.
    i hate automatic gratuity on the bill for parties of less than 8.

    30 Replies
    1. re: samtron608

      and....the main reason for tipping.....cause you HAVE to! otherwise servers these days will chase you out the door!
      its baked into our culture to tip. simple as that. i just hate the assumed percentage that "must" be tipped.

      1. re: samtron608

        In many other countries, there is not the same level of service that you receive in the US. A sterling example of how the gratuity pays for that.

        1. re: Jemon

          Jemon,

          I'm not really sure that tips actually provide an incentive for better service.

          Let's consider this thought experiement.

          Alternative Reality 1. No one ever tips. In a world where there are no tips, the servers would essentially all provide the same (or comparable) service. If there are some servers who provide subpar service, they would be replaced by better servers. So in the long run we would reach an equilibrium where, generally speaking, most of the servers would be providing good, if not very good, service simply b virtue of the labor market.

          Alternate Realit 2. Tipping is not "expected" and some people tip and others don't. If the server in this world is not sure which table is going to tip, then there is every incentive to provide the best service possible. Only when the diner finishes and leaves no tip would the server -- even after providing really good service -- realize he got stiffed. But even then the good service would have already been provided. So even in a world where tips are not "expected" there is still the incentive to provide good service.

          In fact, I would argue that making tips quasi-mandatory (as it is now) actually provides a discinentive for good service.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            In alternate reality 1, servers wouldn't stay servers for long with poor "from the employer" pay since the job is VERY stressful. Wages would undoubtedly be much higher than what they make now if there were to be servers of quality. Given the situation where the wages are poor, good servers would be few and far between and it would be like dining in the "locals" places in a few countries I can think of, where it is difficult to receive good service. The money is often the only thing that keeps a server working as a server instead of doing something easy.

            Alternate reality 2 is actually THIS reality, sort of. Servers do "expect" a tip, however, servers know that bad service=bad tip, and sometimes no tip. In the past, I've worked as a server and seen many bad servers get stiffed.
            Also, there are many times when good servers provide good service and get stiffed. Not everyone tips a constant all the time and servers know that.
            In my great and varied experience, most servers have seen that most of the time, good service equals good tip, so any server worth their salt will actually provide the best possible service when they are able.
            For your last argument, "quasi-mandatory tips" basically means that servers are paid a constant, independent of their quality. This lies in the boundaries of your constant wages idea of alt reality 1, if I understood correctly.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Sorry, disagree, that "subpar" servers would be replaced. What constitutes subpar? The customer's reaction? Anyone who's worked in the business knows that some customers are just unreasonable, and most managers, while presenting a polite face to the customer, will take their waiter's side at the end of the night.

              And I know from experience that only the thought that I might get a decent tip kept me giving acceptable service to people who ordered a bottle of "Chab-Bliss" to go with their medium-well "Fill It Migg None". (I mean really - white wine with steak?!) So I think tipping is a very direct incentive to provide a high level of service, even though any decent game theorist would have doubts about its effectiveness.

              1. re: FrankD

                Try a good, heavy, American style Chardonnay with steak. :) But only if that steak is served without a sauce.

                1. re: Jemon

                  I can just see the customer I had in mind: "I'll have the Charred-donney".

                  "I'm sorry, which one, sir?"

                  "The Charred - doo - nay"

                  "I'm sorry, again, please?"

                  "A bottle of the Chabb-Bliss".

                  1. re: FrankD

                    Do you feel better about yourself now?

                    1. re: FrankD

                      To tie this back to the OP... When a server is condescending to me or my guests (regardless of whether they can correctly pronounce French words), I see no need to tip at all.

                      Once I had a server who assumed that a request for "Chablis" referred to cheap jug wine and put his haughty on when someone asked for it. Fortunately there was someone more knowledgeable in the house; that person received the gratuity for several nice bottles of wine.

                      Ignorance is excusable. Arrogance is not.

                  2. re: FrankD

                    [Quote] And I know from experience that only the thought that I might get a decent tip kept me giving acceptable service to people who ordered a bottle of "Chab-Bliss" to go with their medium-well "Fill It Migg None". (I mean really - white wine with steak?!) [/Quote]

                    I have worked in various establishments, from a Nevada buffet to a '50s diner to a top end steakhouse, and I never even blink when a customer makes a "strange" order. Why should I care if they want white wine (or even Tawny Port, I've seen it) with their steak. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, "let them eat cake, just so long as I get a tip". LOL

                  3. re: ipsedixit

                    Have you ever eaten in a restaurant in an ex-Soviet Bloc country, and had an older wait person. Old habits are hard to break, the idea of service does not exist. The communist mentality of" I get paid for showing up" still is evident in some of the Soviet era folks. They do not care for the "pay for performance" idea that we Capitalists consider a basic principle.

                  4. re: Jemon

                    "In many other countries, there is not the same level of service that you receive in the US."

                    That's a completely absurd statement. After 20 years in international business I've eaten in many, many countries in almost all parts of the world, and I can assure you that you can get good and bad service anywhere, completely independently of the local tipping customs.

                    The only exception I'd make is for state-owned restaurants in Soviet-bloc countries, pre-1991. There you could count on miserable service pretty much 100% of the time.

                    1. re: BobB

                      No, I agree with you. You can get good and bad service in all parts of the world, but at many small family restaurants in Europe, as far as I know, the service is much more lax than in the US. Not saying it's bad, it's just not the same consistently.

                      1. re: Jemon

                        The way tips are paid by the customer in the U.S. there is actually a DISincentive to provide good service.

                        Generally speaking, diners are expected to tip approx. 20%. Servers knows this going in and so do diners. In that kind of dynamic, there is little incentive to provide "better" service because even with exemplary service few diners will pony up more than 20%. Some will, but most will not.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Diners where I live do not. Most people have no idea how to tip and think leaving a dollar or two is "correct".

                          I tip because I know that servers do not make minimum wage and that their livelihood depends on tips. You do have to earn your tips however. If the service is terrible (not the food but the service), I will not tip the full 20%.

                        2. re: Jemon

                          This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America.

                          1. re: Harters

                            <This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America.>

                            "America" is a big place. Just recently we were down the Jersey shore and marveling at the work ethic of the folks -- mostly young kids -- and how refreshing it was after groaning over the slack texter type of we see so much of in NYC. And thinking of how much more the servers and bartenders make in the city because of the much higher prices. (Tho perhaps management is to blame?)

                            1. re: Up With Olives

                              Yes, but server and bartenders pay a much higher rent in NYC too.

                              1. re: Up With Olives

                                NYC is also a big place and the "Slack texter type" you encountered are usually in the next,hip,and ethnic places where this type of service is not only tolerated but encouraged in order to fit the theme and address of the establishment .
                                NYC is however the home of some of the best table service,wine service and food service in the world as I'm sure you know.

                                1. re: Duppie

                                  been a while since i sang my refrain - all food is ethnic.

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Quite right and I am guilty of using it in the wrong context but most understand what I mean and that's a start.

                                2. re: Up With Olives

                                  ""America" is a big place"

                                  Indeed. As is Europe. I've travelled to several states in America and several countries in Europe and based my "generally speaking " comment on those visits to say there is a different style between the two . And different expectations as to what constitutes good service. I prefer one to the other.

                                    1. re: Duppie

                                      "This will depend on your definition of "lax". Generally speaking, I prefer the style of service we have in Europe to the often found style in America."

                                      Same quote you can read twice above. It would appear that Harters prefers the European style, unless I've misread three times.

                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                    It is a "dirty secret" but in many "noted" $$$$ venues, the waiters actually have to pay the front of the house manager, to get on the schedule. Obviously, this occurs in places where a good waiter can and does make $450-700 gross a shift.

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        invino,

                                        If you are asking for names of operations that do this, let me say it is a trade thing, and secondly why would I expose to you an obviously questionable transaction that has IRS implications for all involved? I will mention that I do know, first hand, it is quite common in NYC and Vegas.

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          I concur and it's not only in $$$$,$$$,$$ establishments but across the board. It's the cost of doing business in any large metropolitan city where the staff rely on their livelihood from tip outs and the communal tip jar.Haven't you read of the spate of law suits against Jon George,Batali,Flay all the way down to the local Thai take out joint?

                          2. re: samtron608

                            Auto gratuity isn't acceptable for seven people, but fine for eight?

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              you can use that argument for lots of things. so lets not go there! ahah
                              some places wont take an rsvp for anything less than 8 people. so its not acceptable to take an rsvp for 7 but okay for 8? and of course many more examples outside the restuarant world.
                              i was merely making a point due to the fact auto gratuity started with 8 people.. lately ive seen many places lower it to 6. next it will be 4...then it will be automatic no matter what.
                              either way, i tip...because we have to. if wages for servers were higher and tips werent needed or required i wouldnt pay it. why?? because the price of our food will be up about 15% (avg tip) to make up for the higher wages. and i tip based on service. bad service i still tip..but it wont be 15%. good service i tip anywhere from 20-25%.
                              that being said i think its a travesty the govt allows restuarants to pay servers below min wage.

                          3. The server is being paid by the restaurant to simply give you your food/drinks. The tip "pays" for the actual service. Essentially, you're paying for politeness and their attention and time.

                            Analogy, if you took your car to a mechanic to fix some engine problems, and they washed it for you afterward, they went above their normal service duty. You didn't pay for it directly but you would probably be compelled to give them a "gratuity" afterward showing that you were grateful for their extra work.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jemon

                              What? you tip your car mechanic? if they provided extra stuff like washing my car I might be inclined to go back but to tip them? never.

                              1. re: sparkareno

                                If my mechanic fixed my car, then washed it and checked other things outside of his/her duty, I think that would deserve a tip. I would be more inclined to thank them than someone who would just fix it and leave grubby grease spots all over the paint.

                            2. Most states allow employers to take a "tip credit" and pay their servers well below minimum wage with the expectation that with tips the employee will be making at or above minimum wage. I tip (and rather well most of the time) because I feel someone who works hard at a difficult job should be able to make a decent living. On one hand, this system allows the customer to reward good service and punish poor service. But in my younger years working in the food service industry I saw many times when waitstaff provided exceptional service and were rewarded with little or no tip. My favorite was when a table would leave a little pocket bible as a tip, as if the waiter could feed his kids with that. I would prefer that the whole tip credit system be phased out but I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. So I'll keep tipping well for good service.

                              35 Replies
                              1. re: Coogles

                                If there were no tips, at some point restaurants would have to pay their servers more.

                                Another thought experiment.

                                Let's say currently a hypothetical server makes 10 (6 min. wage and 4 tip).

                                If tips were abolished then the server only makes 6.

                                The current servers would most likely look for other employment in comparable blue-collar industries (store clerks, delivery persons, etc.) where the pay is comparable to their original 10 server salary.

                                If servers start leaving the restaurant industry there will be a shortage of servers, prompting restaurant owners to increase wages in order to hire servers, thereby increasing the base (or minimum) wage that a server makes.

                                In the long run equilibrium, then, it'd be expected that even without tips a server's salary will not be negatively effected.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  In principle, I agree with you, but that's not the world in which we live (or at least I live). Our current paradigm 'expects' that my server depends on my tips to be able to pay his or her bills, and, having been on the other side of the table, I'm not about to shortchange a server simply because I want to influence a paradigm shift.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    The problem with this scenario is that it removes the incentive to provide exceptional service. In the current system, flawed as it is, a waiter who provides consistent excellent service will take more home that a waiter who provides average or poor service. In the world you describe, the average servers salary may not be negatively effected but the good servers will either take a pay cut or leave the industry. Either way, we'll be left with poorer service and higher menu prices. I would also say that the really good servers might find it hard to find another blue collar job that pays the same. I know a guy that is a really good waiter at a high end steakhouse who claims he pulls in six figures a year, and with the average tab at this place I doubt that's an exaggeration. My ideal answer would be to phase out the tip credit over time but still encourage tipping to a lesser extent to reward above average service.

                                    1. re: Coogles

                                      I've dined in plenty of countries that do not have the same tipping expectations as in the US, and the service was just fine. In fact, it was often better because the servers are paid a decent wage and the job is seen as a respectable career, not just a way to make ends meet.

                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                        A server making 60K+(that's what the better ones earn at my restaurant) in the US isn't a "respectable career"?

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          Where I live, most servers are college students working part time or others who are looking for a "real" job, even in the moderate-nice restaurants. There are very few career servers, and generally only in the nicest, most expensive restaurants. A server earning $60K is not the norm in the US. The average salary for a server in the US is ~$20K, so no, I would not consider that a respectable or viable career.

                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                            Plenty of servers working that $20K for 20+ years feel it's a respectable career.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              How many people make a career of serving in a restaurant that isn't high end or owned/operated by a member of their family? Honestly, I just don't see it happening that much around here. I live a fairly average place when it comes to cost of living, and $20K is not a living wage, it is barely enough to cover housing and utilities. I'm sure there are regional differences, but by and large waiting tables is not seen as a long term career in the US. It is something people do in college, as a side job, or as temporary work.

                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                Call it working or career, there are many people who work for $20K or less, doesn't matter where you live.

                                                I live in the Los Angeles area.
                                                I've frequented restaurants where servers have been there 20+years and they're proud of what they do. Some of these places are coffee shops and delis.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      you make some assumptions that are problematic, i'd just like to point them out. many folks who work as servers work part time jobs. that is, p/t server plus raising kids, p/t server plus school, p/t server plus second or third server job, p/t server plus internship, p/t server plus full time job. assuming that all, a majority, or some folks currently working as servers could simply drop a serving job and go work a 40 hour blue collar job, which unlike the existing server jobs do not have flexible hours--is just crazy. you can't fill in for "the lunch shift" at the factory while the kids are at school, or work a four hour "cocktail" gig late night at the gas station, while studying for your master's degree, for obvious examples.

                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        How does the distinction between part-time versus full-time change the analysis?

                                        The labor market provides the same incentives (or disincentives) for part or full time workers.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          i'm saying that you can't walk into a gas station and ask to work a 1/2 (4 hour) shift three or four days a week. the gas station may let you work part time, 2 or 3 *eight* hour shifts a week, but then of course you can't make it fit with your school/kids/other job, the way you can if you work four hours here and there, or work very late at night for a short period of time (cocktail hour). regular part time jobs are 8 hour shifts. regular employers outside of the hospitality industry absolutely don't jack around with four hour blocks of time with their workers. you work your 8 hours. can't go to school, take care of the kids, or get to your other job? guess you can't take the job then, duh.

                                          a single parent with 2 kids in school can have a serving job during lunches while the kids are in school, and hire a babysitter for the 2 cocktail shifts s/he works in a week, and have a prayer at actually supporting the family. *tons* of people in this country do exactly this, or substitute putting oneself through college/trade school for the children. in the same situation, without a service job, it would= unaffordable childcare, unworkable shifts/hours, unemployment, incomplete education, lack of social and economic mobility for individuals and families, just lots and lots of problems that would disproportionately affect working class people, the economically disadvantaged, females, children. . .

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            "i'm saying that you can't walk into a gas station and ask to work a 1/2 (4 hour) shift three or four days a week ... "
                                            ________________________________________________

                                            Of course you can, and I'm speaking from personal experience.

                                            But that's besides the point. There are many different part-time jobs that offer flexible schedules -- e.g. clerk at WalMart or department stores like Nordstroms.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              you're seriously wanting working people to give up serving jobs to work at wal mart, a la "nickel and dimed?" good luck with that. . .

                                              it's news to me that employers outside of hospitality will hire people for 4 hour blocks. i'm quite sure that doesn't fly in hospitals and factories, for example. are you sure that the retail employers you mention wouldn't show any preference for hiring folks able to work full 8 hour shifts when required? i also wasn't aware you could work as a clerk at nordstroms from 10 pm to 2 am, but i guess i learned something new today.

                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                              My college aged daughter works part time for Abercrombie and Fitch. ALL there part time shifts are 4 hours. They changed from 5 hours last year. 4 Hours means NO breaks, no lunch (the law in CT doesn't require it). You work 4 hours and get paid fro 4 hours work.
                                              No employees get full day shifts unless they are 40 hour full time employees.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                oh okay that makes sense with the no breaks thing. what does A&F pay/hr, if you know?

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  The lowest pay grade for a store clerk at a company like A/F would typically (stress "typically") start off at about $5 above federal minimum wage.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Where are you getting that info? Retail stores usually pay their employees the state minimum wage, which is nowhere near an extra $5 an hour.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      WRONG!!! <VBG> My daughter is a college senior, started with A&F when she was 16 and now has just gotten a raise to $8.95/hr. Starting employees get $7.40 here

                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        In SF ... the A&F employees typically make about $1 more than the state minimum wage (which, if I recall correctly, is some where between 9.50 and 10). Fed min. wage is (what?) 7.25?

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Which is still not even close to $12.25! That is a huge difference when multiplied over a work week/month/year for someone who isn't making a lot of money to begin with....

                                                          but these things don't really have anything to do with the original thread anyway, so....

                                                          if you want to relate them, its a FAR cry from the $20-$40 hour that the average server makes. Big range, but of course, you know that restaurants vary greatly.

                                                          BTW, state minimum wage is $8/hour, so that brings it to $9/hour.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Connecticut minimum is $8,25, so with 6 years on the job my daughter gets just 70 cents/hr above minumum

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              yeah i don't think "almost $9/hr" after 6 years is very good pay. i sure don't think it would be possible to support a single person, let alone a family, on that kind of a part time paycheck for any length of time at all if that were the only income. since it's less than $200/week, gross pay, pretax. . .

                                            3. re: ipsedixit

                                              "Let's say currently a hypothetical server makes 10 (6 min. wage and 4 tip)."

                                              Might be true at, say, Denny's, but I worked at a number of steak/seafood chains, and I normally made 3-4x in tips what I made in wages. In fact, I lived day to day off my tips, and generally used my paycheques just to pay my rent.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                Currently, the majority of servers receive a check for nothing, and actually owe money at the end of the year to taxes. When I was a waiter, I could only DREAM of getting pay checks big enough to pay my rent! They were always for zero dollars.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    Would either of you care to explain this? How does the establishment get away with paying you ZERO?

                                                    At the time I was working, liquor servers got less than minimum wage, but it was still about $2.50/hr. Working 30 hrs/week, I got a cheque for a little less than $300/month (after taxes and other deductions), which paid the rent for my room at my frat house.

                                                    How did your situations break down?

                                                    1. re: FrankD

                                                      Simple enough. The gross amount of the paycheck is based on **wages**; withholding is based on **income**, which includes the wage paid by the employer plus assumed tips of 8% of total sales. If the withholding amount exceeds gross wages, the net paycheck is zero.

                                                      For example, let's take a server who in an average week works 30 hours at $2.13 per hour and sells $5,000 in food and beverage. Assumed income is $463.90 ($63.90 in wages plus $400 in tips). FICA withholding will be $35.49, which leaves only $28.41 to satisfy federal, state, and local income taxes. Unless this server claims an inordinate number of W-4 exemptions, the net paycheck will be zero.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Wow. As intrusive as Revenue Canada can be, even they don't take money up front on "assumed" income.

                                                        1. re: FrankD

                                                          Revenue UK will sort of make an "assumption". It has a "rule of thumb" that servers are likely to make a certain amount through tips. Someone systematically declaring significantly less than this on their tax return is likely to attract their interest. It has similar "rules of thumb" for folk working in other cash industries (e.g. taxi, window cleaning, etc)

                                                          1. re: FrankD

                                                            Well, turnabout is fair play. The IRS assumes tips of 8%, and many servers declare that amount as income even though their actual tips far exceed that amount.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              why is it "fair play"? Are you suggesting it is unfair to have the tax taken out "as one goes" (the way it is for everyone else)? And somehow "fair" to pay less than you owe?

                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                Wow, is somebody a little cranky this morning, or what?

                                                                "Turnabout is fair play" is a common enough aphorism. If you're unfamiliar with its use in general, I recommend that you Google it.

                                                                As used in this context, I was responding to FrankD's concern that it is "intrusive" to withhold based on assumed tips of 8% of sales. In fact, that assumption probably underestimates a server's tip income. But the fact that an estimate is in place reduces a server's likelihood of determining and reporting actual tips received.

                                                                Thus the government's "intrusive" assumption, which is supposed to compel a server to report tip income, actually tends to cause some - perhaps even most - tips to go unreported. The tax collector is hoist by his own petard, so to speak. (Look that one up while you're at it.)

                                                                DISCLAIMER: The author is not challenging government withholding of taxes based on actual income earned. Neither is the author condoning the commission of tax fraud. The opinions expressed here are those of the poster, and not necessarily those of Chowhound or Chow.com. That will be all.

                                                            2. re: FrankD

                                                              In US, our IRS (internal revenue service) cannot wait for the money at the end of the year. It wants the tax money. Now. On every paycheck.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                yeah. damn them for needing to fix streets, supply schools, and pay the army. how dare they!

                                              2. This applies to the U.S. only:

                                                You dine at a restaurant. Food is offered by the menu. The prices you're paying are for kitchen labor, food cost, ambience (including linen laundry) and leasehold costs. The 20% you tip your server is for just that -- service. Diminish the tip if the service is poor; that's the way it works and has been working, culturally, for a long, long time. However, if the *food* is poor, don't take it out on your server. The recourse one takes when the food is poor is to take it up with the server and return the offending dish -- then the server becomes your "advocate." If the server performs this assistance for you quickly and seamlessly, their tip should remain intact. If you don't feel they've done a good job as your advocate; by all means reduce the tip.

                                                I receive tips when I bartend (I must give them to the tipped staff 'cause I'm management). It's always nice when I receive a little something extra for a job well done. On the other side of the coin, if I'm careless it's represented in my tip; it's a learning experience.

                                                When I go out I like to tip well. I'm often remembered and non-scientifically value the complimentary drinks, apps, desserts and other perks I receive as even compensation for the extra expense. Not to mention the outstanding service, which is guaranteed.

                                                Of course, if you want to split hairs, tipping is "optional." And I've encountered a few people in my life who don't tip at all... because, they say, tipping is "optional." One of these individuals is a former colleague who "took me out" to lunch -- it was a memorably ghastly experience. Apparently this bone-head wouldn't tip and yet returned to the same places over and over again. I wonder why they ever bothered serving him again. I never spoke to this guy after I saw this (relatively rich) man look me straight in the eye and give me that rationale with a straight face!

                                                1. All the discussion above is (almost) totally off the mark. The reason why we tip is that the food service system in the US has evolved to make it an expected (and from the point of view of common decency, required) part of the payment process. In most (if not all) states in the US of A, restaurants are allowed, BY LAW, to pay their servers far less than minimum wage, on the expectation that the balance will be made up by tips.

                                                  Should it be this way? No. Is it this way in other countries? No. The situation varies by country. In most places there is no special extra-low wage minimum for servers, and they either get paid decently to begin with or a standard "service charge" is part of the bill as a matter of course. In some places a tip of 5% or 10% is standard, in others you simply round up to the nearest whole unit of currency or leave a few coins, in yet other countries it is considered bad form and you would never tip at all. But in the US, THAT'S THE WAY IT IS. If you don't tip you are condemning your server to a sub-minimum wage. You can legally do that but it makes you an a-hole.

                                                  As I said - I'm not saying this is the way it should be, but this is the way it is, and if you want to change it, start lobbying for servers to get paid a living wage, don't start by stiffing them.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    In New York State a Waiter/Waitress is only paid $2. and change per hour. The rely on their tips to make a living.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      Exactly. Very well stated. I am not going to be a (what you said). Just because no one sees what I'm doing and I may never go back doesn't make it right. Thank you, BobB.

                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                        Thank you, thank you. You said it perfectly.

                                                        edited to add: and you are from Brookline! Even better!

                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                          "The reason why we tip is that the food service system in the US has evolved to make it an expected (and from the point of view of common decency, required) part of the payment process."

                                                          ________________________________________________________

                                                          In response, I posted this upthread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7146...

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            You presume that there is some sort of equilibrium that the system will return to. However, this is not a closed system, and more likely we would see more owners turn to more temporary, flexible, and part time labor. If it follows other sectors of the service, and especially food service economy, we'd likely see lower wages, worse service, and higher profits. THAT would be the new system. The owner's incentive would be to drive down wages to the lowest point before profits were negatively affected.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Yes, I saw that.

                                                              "If there were no tips, at some point restaurants would have to pay their servers more."

                                                              Maybe, maybe not, as Cachetes points out. But regardless, the idea that the way to change things is to start stiffing waiters in hopes that they'll quit and restaurant owners will have to start offering them more money in order to get them back strikes me as morally distasteful, to say the least.

                                                            2. re: BobB

                                                              Again, very well said. In a moderately pricey restaurant in California, a server makes $8/hour for wages and probably about $30-$40/hour in tips. Anyone can see how it is to their advantage to try and boost their tip average.

                                                              I think that the only way that servers could make decent money without the tip system would be for the food to be outrageously expensive so the restaurant could afford to pay them. So either way, the consumer is having to foot the bill. Many people just don't see it that way I guess.

                                                              1. re: BobB

                                                                Thanks, BobB. This is not a philosophical issue, it's a business matter, and the restaurant business in the U.S. has succeeded in passing most of its labor costs onto the customer in the form of tips. That's a simple economic fact. This gibberish about "what if everyone refused to tip" is just that---gibberish. Of course, if tipping were eliminated and the labor cost were incorporated into the restaurant prices, who knows whether we'd pay more or less. But to blame this on servers' getting away with something they don't deserve is obscene. I do think that poor service deserves a poor tip but 1) make sure it's the service, not the kitchen or management and 2) I wouldn't totally stiff a server in any case.

                                                                1. re: Masonville

                                                                  But again, I say, the customer will end up paying it anyway in the increased cost of food to pay the server more money.

                                                              2. Force of habit for me. The "done thing" if you will.


                                                                I'm sort of reasonably content with the added service charge which an increasing number of places apply here in place of traditional tipping, although I much prefer the system in Belgium & France where service is included in the menu price. I can think of no other industry where, in effect, I am expected to pay separately for an order to be taken and delivered (no insult intended towards servers - I know it's not that straightforward but you know what I mean).

                                                                1. There are some restaurants out there that put a mandatory service charge (averaging 18%, in some cases more) so ahem...no "tip" is necessary. More restaurants levy this mandatory fee for parties of 6 or more, thus lessening your choices of letting you feel guilty or not.

                                                                  In Hong Kong a lot of run of the mill places slap a mandatory 10% service fee. Locals on top of that leave chump change (loose coins). The last time I visited and ate with a friend, he was appalled that I took away the coins, told me to them behind, or else the waitstaff might spit on my (or his) food the next time I went back there.

                                                                  There's no such thing as a tip jar in Taipei that I can recall. Not in Starbucks, Dante's coffee, Mister Donut, Dunkin Donuts, Ten Ren tea station etc etc.

                                                                  1. Emily Post would have you believe that it's proper etiquette....it's about doing the "right" thing like holding the door open for a lady.

                                                                    BTW: No need to leave anything for the barista in the tip jar at Starbucks according to Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post (www.emilypost.com).

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: monku

                                                                      I tend not to leave tips for counter service like a barista unless they are doing something extra for me or I've been particularly demanding. This usually only happens at the ice cream shop where there are many different flavors and the let you sample before you decide. My own rule is never sample more than two in a visit, don't hold up the line behind by "thinking"/tasting. If you taste and have the cash to do so leave some kind of tip, even if it's only the change from the transaction.

                                                                    2. I agree with everything BobB says up thread. And I'd like to add that having worked in restaurants for over 12 years, I know how hard that job is. As a server I made less than $3/hour and had no benefits. That is SOP in many states. So I went without health insurance for many years. I dealt with very difficult people who had little respect for others "below" them. And handling other people's food inevitably had pretty gross moments.

                                                                      I tip because people deserve better than $3/hour for working hard. I tip more for people who make extra effort. And I tip even more if it's a place I intend to frequent because that extra couple of dollars means less to me (And I'm nowhere near wealthy) than it does to the person receiving that tip.

                                                                      1. you could argue that in the US restaurants could just add 20% to the prices and pay their staff accordingly and either tip out their own staff based on covers or experience or whatever or not and pay them a better wage to start with.

                                                                        But we all know that servers in expensive restaurants take home very good money when they are experienced and the place is busy. They would presumably take home less that way and the restaurant would keep more.

                                                                        I don't want to hear how stressful it is to be a server - many many jobs are stressful.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: smartie

                                                                          Restaurants could possibly do that, and some do, by simply charging an automatic gratuity. Then what happens? People get upset because they have to pay a set gratuity. Especially if they feel like they didn't receive service comparable to that percentage of tip.

                                                                          If, hypothetically, the whole institution were to change and people were not supposed to tip because this was the case, they would know about it anyway because of the price difference between takeout food and in house dining at the same establishment. How does anyone propose that would that be handled?

                                                                          I know many jobs are stressful, but those jobs are often or always higher paying than being a server.

                                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                                            I'm a high school teacher and most servers I know say they could never do my job. Also the teachers who "serve on the side", consider the serving job almost a vacation from the the teaching job.I think the ratio of BS you have to deal with is reversed. While 10-20% of kids are nice, polite and doing what they should be there are probably 10-20% of people acting like jerks for servers to deal with.

                                                                            1. re: smartie

                                                                              I totally agree with you that many jobs are as stressful, or more, than serving. But few are so contingent upon serving so many 'masters', nor are many of us threatened with having our pay cut multiple times/day just b/c we do one little thing wrong.

                                                                              1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                That is VERY true. And again to melpy, like I said, high school teachers make more money than servers and (usually) get a three month vacation plus good benefits. "More stressful" I won't argue with on many counts, but MUCH better compensated.

                                                                                1. re: Jemon

                                                                                  Teachers are not good example because teachers are well compensated for - in our areas Sure many of us make more than teachers, but if we take into account of their good pension plan, and long vacation time, they are good earners -- pay-per-work hour.

                                                                            2. Why do men wear pants instead of skirts? It's a social convention.

                                                                              The history of that convention may be interesting, but is purely academic. Arguments can be made as to why the tradition should continue or be abolished, but given that the custom isn't going to change, they're completely irrelevant. The fact is that we tip because that's what we're expected to do.

                                                                              Of course, you're always free to defy convention. Wear a skirt to dinner, stiff the server, whatever; there's no law against it. But at least you can enjoy a meal in drag without depriving low-paid workers of income that the dominant paradigm says they've earned.

                                                                              1. Ipsedixit,

                                                                                These are very deep questions. Well, as deep as we want to self-examine ourselves. I really don't know the origin of tipping for restaurants. I do know the argument is for showing appreciation of the servers. Another quesiton, which you hinted, is why do we tip even when the service is below average? I don't know.

                                                                                The servers are indeed paid, yet many based their real incomes on the tip. It might have been a cycle. The restaurants do not pay them well because we tip and we tip because we know the restaurants do not pay them enough.

                                                                                I think there is indeed a certain level of social pressure. Society expects us to tip - even for bad services.

                                                                                I definitely do not think tipping makes us feel good about ourselves and I certainly do not feel like I donate money to the waitress. I do make donations and while I do believe many waitresses are underpaid. I cannot say they are the very first people pop up in my mind for donation.

                                                                                Yes, it is a something expected of me.

                                                                                I don't know what is the right thing to do. I often question what is right.

                                                                                Let me put it this way. Most of time, I believe I receive good to adequate services and I tip them based on what I believe they deserve. However, I also tip when the service is bad and I often wonder why the heck I did those. I think I did it because I were compelled to follow the social expectation.

                                                                                I like to think of tip in restaurants like bonus at work. It is not supposed to be "give away" nor it is based on religious or moral causes. However, I cannot explain why people tip when the service is bad, because I certainly do not get my bonus when I perform below average.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  "I definitely do not think tipping makes us feel good about ourselves ..."
                                                                                  _____________________________________________________________

                                                                                  But don't you feel "bad" when you don't leavea tip? (Double negative, I know ..)

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    ipsedixit,

                                                                                    Absolutely agree, yes, which is why I think there is a social expectation and when I don't tip I feel I don't live up to the expectation. It is almost like a "duty" than a "right", if you know what I mean.

                                                                                    In short, I agree that "tipping" makes me feel "not bad", but it does not boost my happiness from the normal level. It just makes sure my happiness level sinks.

                                                                                2. I am a server by choice - I'm college educated and fully capable of being a working "professional" but I love the restaurant business and don't want to give it up.
                                                                                  If I did not recieve tips I would be making (pretax) $150 per week.
                                                                                  I currently make approximately (pretax) $950 per week.
                                                                                  Can you imagine the increase in cost to the consumer if the restaurant had to make up for that difference?
                                                                                  At least now, if you can't afford to tip you can order less food and you can still eat out...many people would only be able to eat fast food if gratuity was eliminated.

                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: mlw83

                                                                                    "Can you imagine the increase in cost to the consumer if the restaurant had to make up for that difference?"
                                                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                    Um, in theory there would be 0 (zero) increase in cost to the consumer. (Assuming an %18 average tip). The bill would be %18 higher to be sure, but since the diner no longer adds an %18 tip their total cost for the evening's meal would be the same as before. Don't you see that from the customer's point of view this would be a wash?

                                                                                    Truth be told though the overall cost of dining would increase slightly because of some increases in indirect costs of the restaurant paying higher wages. However eliminating tipping in favor of server's salaries being fully paid by menu costs would not result in the dramatic price increase you imagine.

                                                                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                      That is exactly what I said much earlier in this thread. If the restaurant didn't take tips and paid the server salary +18-20% of sales instead (commission), the cost of food would have to rise by that percentage. People aren't seeing this, as that money has to come from somewhere or else profits will be cut into. So either way, if the consumer doesn't want to tip and prefers the system where the restaurant pays out the servers, that money is still coming out of the consumers pocket. And once again, the question that I asked that was never answered is, why does anyone suppose that when there is automatic gratuity, people usually don't like it? There is a thread on this around here already, I know, but now these two topics have come together.

                                                                                      1. re: Jemon

                                                                                        "the question that I asked that was never answered is, why does anyone suppose that when there is automatic gratuity, people usually don't like it?"

                                                                                        Actually I thought I had answered it when I said I *did* like it. I have no way of knowing whether "people" do or do not like it.

                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                          When I said that I didn't mean "everyone", but as you can see in this thread for example, the majority was upset by it.

                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/554447

                                                                                          EDIT: and here as well:
                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/469379

                                                                                          And i won't go digging much more, but it's always controversial I guess.

                                                                                      2. re: kmcarr

                                                                                        kmcarr,

                                                                                        Mostly agree. There will be no huge huge change. However, there will be a cost increase for people who averagely tip low and a cost decrease for people who averagely tip high because consumers are now enforced to pay for a set % increase, as opposed to a variable % (in tips).

                                                                                        There will likely be an impact on restaurant business (beside what you mentioned). This is because people who had been paying higher tips will now pay lower but will not necessary eat out more. People who had been paying lower tips will feel the added burdens and will actually eat out less.

                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                          What would also likely happen is that the people who love to pride themselves as being "very generous" would *still* tip on top of the autograt, and start the whole cycle over again. 50 years from now we'll be having another debate about the cheapskates who don't tip 20% over and above the autograt.

                                                                                          As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather everything just get priced into the freaking menu and pay the servers more. That way there'd be no more stupid arguments about this crap. Sure, the menu prices would be higher, but since we're expected to always tip x% anyways, it's just a shell game.

                                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                                            "since we're expected to always tip x% anyways, it's just a shell game."

                                                                                            I agree (accepting that, as a European, I have a very different take on tipping than most North Americans). However, when I do read the many tipping threads, I quickly realise that most North Americans pretty much tip the same amount whether service has been good, indifferent or not very good. It is, as you say, an amount that folk feel is expected - so that's what they tip. And, because servers can pretty much expect roughly the same amount of tip from week to week, it is doing nothing to enhance service - all it is doing is allowing restaurant owners to pay low wages.

                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                              Agreed! This would make life so much easier, and everything more above board. Because a tip is not voluntary; it is expected.

                                                                                            2. re: jgg13

                                                                                              Know that this is an old thread and just read it recently. If the 18-20% price is priced into the menu, this would make it too expensive for people who purchased to-go who received little or no service.

                                                                                              Keeping it separate is a better option.

                                                                                              1. re: M_and_H

                                                                                                Surely prices would be discounted for take-away as they generally are in the UK. We also have the interesting scenario that Value Added Tax (our equivalent of an American sales tax) is levied on sit-down meals but not on take-away.

                                                                                          2. re: kmcarr

                                                                                            Actually, you math is NOT correct. IF the restaurant replaced an 18% average tip with an 18% increase in wages, the restauarant would also pay 7.5% social security tax on the 18%, state and federal unemployment tax on the 18% increase, and workman's compensation insurance premiums on the 18%.
                                                                                            In Connecticut that would amount to approximately 42% on top of the 18%, so an 18% increase would actually cost the restaurant 25%.

                                                                                            Therefore, I'd rather tip 18% (or 20) than have the restaurant pass along a 25% increase in prices.

                                                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                              Restaurants already pay FICA, unemployment and workman's comp on their server's tips. Currently determining their servers' current tip income is usually done as a % of sales which no doubt lower than the true tip income earned by servers. So yes, a restaurant's tax liability would increase (which I alluded to in my original post), but It would not increase the full 18%. It would increase by the differential of what they are currently paying in taxes on estimated tip income and the actual salary paid to workers under the full wage, no tip model.

                                                                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                and besides, if the workman's comp, unemployement, etc. taxes are being paid currently at "too low" a rate, then where do you think the balance (in overall society) comes from? The rest of us, one way or another, No free lunches.

                                                                                        2. Is it for the "service" of the server? But the server is already being paid a wage for being there (no matter how little, the server is being paid).

                                                                                          we make generally between 2 and 4 an hour....if you didn't tip, i'd run after you and punch you in the face. and for the amount of crap we deal with, no one would be a server or bartender if it wasn't for the money. i do the job for the cash....not because i enjoy bringing vats of ranch to overweight angry women that are mad at me for not being fat. and because i enjoy having men ask me to rim their dirty martini with my underwear. or pretending that i'm genuinely concerned that the acoustics of the room aren't to your liking. like honestly, someone told me that i needed to fix the walls because there was too much of an echo. as soon as you leave, i'm gonna break out the sledgehammer and the spackle. i work at a high end latin american restaurant and someone was furious we didn't have nachos....eat a fried plantain and shut the hell up. i am NOT the nacho fairy. oh and it's great when kids empty sugar packets all over the table and then the parents have the audacity to ask for more. parents should have a limb removed with a tightly wrapped wire for this.

                                                                                          but i take it with a smile. it's prostitution essentially. and for this, i deserve a tip! a good one!

                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                            HAHAHAHAHA! Hilarious! I mentioned something like this much earlier in the thread, but not in such grisly detail.

                                                                                            1. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                              OMG, what a hilarious post, slidinginsocks. Not funny hilarious, but.....well, thank you for sharing. You confirm what I thought about being in the service business. And yes, you do deserve a very good tip.

                                                                                              1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                thank you both for finding it amusing. i needed to vent. i've been a bartender for the past 7 years...oh man i'm only 25. but i just started at this upscale restaurant as a server and i need to get back into the swing of acting like i care. as a bartender, you can be yourself and people like it. you can tell someone to go Eff themselves, and they'll usually get a kick out of it if it's delivered right. but hey...it's money. anyway, that was my first post and i'm happy i made you laugh. it certainly made me feel better.

                                                                                                1. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                                  You're welcome slidinginsocks. A question, if I may? Has to do with service and tips, so it's not too OT. When I request a drink a certain way, should I feel intimidated because it is outside the norm?

                                                                                                  Reason: I had a perfect Maker's Mark Sidecar at a restaurant in Westchester, and I'm on a Holy Grail to repeat it everywhere I go. With not much success (one place elsewhere, out of state), as you can imagine. Is the drink too esoteric, or am I too unreasonable? DH usually says 'just drink it' and I do. In addition, I never ever undertip.

                                                                                                  Thank you. BTW, a very good bartender is worth his/her weight in gold, imo.

                                                                                                  Duppie: so true. I've never been in service, but have worked with customers. Good grief is all I can say.

                                                                                                  1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                    well to answer that question, i learned a lil trick for margaritas...believe it or not, i had a very tiny splash of milk. sounds horrible i know. milk kinda grosses me out but it really does make it wonderful. sorta like the whole egg white thing in drink. it doesn't curdle, but it cuts the tequila (allowing to use tons) and gives it a lovely froth. i request this often and then usually encourage the bartender and staff to grab a straw and try a lil bit.

                                                                                                    so no, definitely order it the way you want it. i know i always do. and if it's not to my liking, i'll politely send it back. but thats only happened once and the cocktail waitress was an idiot. i usually sit at the bar anyway and supervise. and if it's a really good drink , the bartender should be interested in learning how to make it. i know tons of people that have started making margaritas that way and i have tons of regulars that come in and request it.

                                                                                                    although i'm not sure what you're asking for exactly...if it's just a simple addition or something along those lines, it shouldn't be a problem given the bartender has the means to do it. but i would avoid ordering a complicated drink that requires boiling water or something like that at a bar thats 3 deep on a friday night.

                                                                                                    that reminds me of a man that asked me to pour him a beer with the bubbles on the bottom. like honestly, what the hell does that even mean?

                                                                                                    1. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                                      Thanks, sliding! I'll have to try the milk trick next time I make a margarita for DH.

                                                                                                      I thought it was a simple request -- MM Sidecar, up, cold, with sugar on the rim. It came back with the usual brandy and no sugar. It may have happened that the server only caught the word 'sidecar' and not the others, since the place was very busy.

                                                                                                      Bubbles on the bottom -- I haven't heard that one in years, my uncle used to say that. I guess it was funny in the 1950s....... :o)

                                                                                                      1. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                                        Uh oh. Some of us drinkers are lactose intolerant. (I know it sounds ridiculous until it happens to you.) Whenever I feel sad about "no ice cream" I remember how happy I am it's not "no liquor"!

                                                                                                2. re: slidinginsocks

                                                                                                  Having been in your shoes ,
                                                                                                  [ Slinging frozen margaritas to under age college kids and lost German tourist} you have succinctly described the server experience IMO and now my new hero. Everyone should be a server,bartender,dishwasher,or reservationist for at least one day before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to comment on the dynamics of serving in a restaurant,bar or local hotdog stand.

                                                                                                3. Why?

                                                                                                  Simple.

                                                                                                  Because restaurants don't pay a decent wage and servers have to pay their bills.

                                                                                                  20 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                    That sort of isn't my problem as a customer. As customers of many other sorts of businesses during our daily lives, how often do we consider how much an employee is being paid; whether they can meet their bills; and, therefore, whether we should pay some more directly to the employee. Can't recall ever doing that.

                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                      You have a point. But, in this case, since restaurant owners are allowed to take advantage of other human beings, I will gladly tip very generously to make up for their greed.

                                                                                                      1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                        Understood. I believe it's a sociological problem you have in North America that we do not have in Europe - here minimum wage means minimum wage. Even in those countries, like mine, where many of us would argue that minimum wage is not adequate wage, it is still minimum wage. That said, in the UK, restaurant staff would usually be paid above legal minimum in any event.

                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                          Yes, true. Having read what servers get paid here vs Europe, it is an American issue. I believe servers get insurance coverage in Europe, as well? So civilized.

                                                                                                          1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                            Yes, indeed - although I can only be certain about the UK. Servers are regarded in law as any other employee of a business so will have health cover (although few of us have cover in addition to our publically funded National Health Service) and other rights. Doesnt matter if they are part-time or only temporary employees. Should point out that minimum wage for children aged 16/17 is less than for an adult.

                                                                                                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                              I was insured the entire time I waited tables.

                                                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                I doubt that is across the board in NY.

                                                                                                                No matter, I'll still tip more than generously to make up for the kinds of people servers have to endure.

                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                              I heard that food was much more expensive in UK restaurants and in a number of other places in the west of Europe when compared to the US, is that true?

                                                                                                              1. re: Jemon

                                                                                                                Jemon - Difficult to answer properly even just for the UK - our prices include Value Added Tax at 17.5%, whilst American menu prices are tax-exclusive. Tipping rates are generally different. There is then the "silly season" of trying to compare prices across two (or more) currencies which fluctuate in value against each other. Let alone all the other social and economic differences between, say, the US and the UK. For example, we always find restaurant prices for wine to be generally far higher in the US than the UK (and far higher in the UK than in some other European countries). Cultural differences towards dining out also come into play and affect pricing - I have a sense (from reading many Chowhound posts) that many US restaurants are geared up to serving folk who often choose to eat out as a simple alternative to cooking. In the UK, as generally in Europe, eating out is regarded much more as an "event" - a date, a celebration, quality time with a partner - that brings different expectations of the place. Exceptions obviously apply.

                                                                                                                But, if you want a guess at it, then I'd say that high-end dining is broadly similar in cost of the meal (the whole experience - food, drink, tax, tip). The US wins hands down at the bottom end for price - there's no way in the UK, a place could do "all you can eat" buffet breakfasts that we often come across in America for similar price. In the mid-range (the three course bistro meal, if you like), then I think you would generally see much better value for money (in terms of the food quality) in the UK. Obviously there are exceptions in both countries at all levels.

                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                  What I meant was an average restaurant price at a chain-type of location that every average "non-chowhound" frequents; some place that sells a basic type of meal.

                                                                                                                  Like, a dinner with chicken and pasta might be roughly $12-16 in the US, after tax, for example. How much would something along these lines cost in the UK, on the average, in general, at an average family oriented chain restaurant?

                                                                                                                  I believe a euro is worth about $1.25 still?

                                                                                                                  EDIT: I'm trying to get an idea how a restaurant in the UK can AFFORD to pay their staff so much, when it's nearly impossible in the US in many cases.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Jemon

                                                                                                                    From a mini-chain (Olive Press) near to me - "penne, with chargrilled chicken, mushrooms, cream and basil pesto" is £9.20 (which, as I said, includes tax at 17.5%).

                                                                                                                    I think that converts to around $11.80 net of tax (13.86 with tax) - so it looks like it's around the same.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                      one difference is that the uk server gets health care and other govt benefits that the u.s. server does not. in theory, the (u.s.) tip helps to cover the disparities between those who can afford to be served by others, and those doing the serving.

                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                        Exactly. Not only do they have to serve the public, they have to be underpaid (no pension, no health benefits) and abused and undertipped in the process.

                                                                                                                        1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                                          Let's have a waiter and waitress union, just like the auto union.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                            Some countries do, don't they? I think it's a great idea.

                                                                                                                            Except I would call it a 'waitperson' union.

                                                                                                                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                                                                              Maybe in some European countries. Definitely, there is no national waiter/waitress unions in US, Mexico, Indians, Japan.... possibility some local forms.

                                                                                                                              I am NOT serious about this.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                  In the UK, those restaurant staff who are unionised are usually members of UNITE (our largest trade union).

                                                                                                                                  UNITE is a member of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations - an umbrella organisation of some 336 trade unions from 120 countries, with its base in Geneva.

                                                                                                                                  It currently campaigns in the industry for employers to ensure a transparent and fairer tipping system.
                                                                                                                                  http://www.fairtips.org/

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                    there are absolutely hospitality unions in the u.s, and most major hotel servers and barstaff are unionized. i worked at one establishment with a large staff that deducted union dues (teamsters) from our paychecks, though there was some noise after they locked the doors that the owners were not actually submitting the dues to the union, they were using the funds for some high-stakes gambling instead. . . and UNITE HERE is the u.s. version of the hospitality worker's union you reference.

                                                                                                                                    at any rate, unions are generally for folks who work full time (union stage hand and movie/entertainment work excepted), and we're back to the significant issue that the majority of servers do *not* work full time. if all servers in the u.s. were suddenly unionized, their top priority would probably be to preserve the current tip structure (over a wage increase to $10-$20/hr, over pensions, even over health coverage).

                                                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                                                            Then I'm a very grateful sheep. Ba'a.

                                                                                                            1. re: grampart

                                                                                                              If being a sheep means not supporting exploitative labor practices, then bully for us!

                                                                                                              1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                Sure, I tip; and as Frank Zappa once said "do what you want but leave a tip along the way".
                                                                                                                I leave generous tips at places I frequent such as coffee shops, hey, $5.00 on a $16.00 check goes a long way. Not that I need coddling, but it is something I like when as I come through the door, my coffee is already waiting black no sugar, and my spouse or guest gets the same attention. Also, the cooks get occasional tips and a Christmas envelope too. Never had a Club Sandwich with skimpy ingredients.
                                                                                                                I guess overall it is a way of getting things to your liking and standards without being a whiner or pain in the ascot.

                                                                                                                Oh, I
                                                                                                                owned a restaurant and our wait staff pulled down about $250.00/day. Not bad for a casual beach place no hard liqour serving BL and D.

                                                                                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                  Update, I went out to lunch today with a friend. He paid; the bill was $50.50. He tipped $15.00. He is a good friend , so I asked how did you arrive at the tip? He said I like this place and the wait staff. End of conversation. He thinks like I do.

                                                                                                              1. I REFUSE to tip for bad service. I tip 20% to reward normal (good) service and as high as 30% for outstanding service. When I open my restaurant (which is looking more and more likely) my waitstaff will receive normal minimum wage ($7.50/hr) plus tips rather than Waitstaff Wages ($3.75 plus tips). They will be told that tips are extra rewards from happy customers, not obligatory supplements to their wages. If you want tips, do a good job!

                                                                                                                1. Maybe I missed it in the above posts but there is still the question why do we tip in restaurants when there are numerous other places including most retail establishments that rely on personal service where we don't tip. And conversely I can also think of other places hairdressers, car washes, where a tip is expected. Obviously a more complicated issue than restaurant tipping.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: mexivilla

                                                                                                                    mexivilla.....also limo and taxis, delivery people, UPS and Postal people get an annual Christmas tip, pool service person, valet parking attendants bag boy at the supermarket when he brings your stuff to your car,barbers, boat dock service people, charter fishing boat mates, fish cutters at the local dockside wholesaler, housekeepers, doormen, luggage assistant people in hotels, sky caps at airports. Granted some of the regular service personnel get Christmas tips; but for me those who I do not have a routine relationship with get "transaction" tips for each event or encounter. ie parking attendant, fish cutters, sky caps etc.

                                                                                                                    So, why do we do it TRADITION......lol.......

                                                                                                                  2. I tip when a server is outstanding at their job. Which is unfortunately few and far between. I don't reward mediocrity.

                                                                                                                    And I don't worry about this much anymore, because we have stopped eating at restaurants, with the exception of celebrating an occasion with friends/family at their request.

                                                                                                                    When we did dine out, I would tip when a server did the following:

                                                                                                                    * Greet us politely and with at least a minimal effort of enthusiasm. I don't want you acting like you can't wait to go home, that I'm wasting your time, that you wish I didn't patron the restaurant.

                                                                                                                    * Repeat and confirm order. (This is more of a preference, I wouldn't NOT tip if it didn't happen.)

                                                                                                                    * Return promptly - within 2 minutes - with water (if they didn't arrive with water) and extra napkins, in addition to any bread/biscuits that came with the meal. Bringing breads before the meal is something a lot of servers completely neglect to do and it's frustrating - I don't want to sit with yummy smells wafting by and no food on my table - and I won't notice how long my dinner is taking if I have something to occupy me. And for God's sake don't stiff me on napkins.

                                                                                                                    * Let me know when my meal was almost ready. (This is more of a preference, I wouldn't NOT tip if it didn't happen.)

                                                                                                                    * Brought me the meal and have me taste to ensure it's what I wanted; in lieu of that, return to the table within 2 minutes tops to ensure that we have what we need.

                                                                                                                    * Come by occasionally with refills. I don't ever want to see my water glass less than 1/3. I've absolutely refused tips because the water service is abominable. If I didn't want water, I'd say so, or I'd be back eating on the Appalachian Trail and not in a restaurant. And if they make me resort to asking another server to track you down, or I spend a lot of my dinner distractedly craning my neck to find you, that's bad.

                                                                                                                    * When he/she swings by the table throughout the meal, remove any dinnerware that's obviously done and inquire about plates you're unsure of. Don't let plates stack up.

                                                                                                                    * Brought my check soon after it's obvious that I'm nearly done eating. After suggesting dessert/coffee, of course. I don't want to wait for 10 minutes for the check.

                                                                                                                    If a server could manage these very basic skills, I'd tip. If they went beyond, I'd tip handsomely.

                                                                                                                    It's not hard, this should the bare minimum for a serving job. The fact that I'm thrilled when I receive this is perhaps telling of the state of restaurants - or perhaps just the restaurants that we used to patron.

                                                                                                                    Restaurants were really the only hospitality-genre businesses I used. I cut my own hair and do my nails and other bodycare myself, so I did appreciate being waited on and therefore tipped. There is also always the thought that waitstaff is traditionally paid poorly - anywhere from $2.50/hr to skimming minimum wage - and therefore if they will work for a tip, then I'll give them a tip.

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                                      Sorry, but as long as the server brings you your food and doesn't render it inedible, not tipping at least 10% or so is flat-out immoral and disgraceful. That is the system in this country - if you don't like it, don't go to restaurants.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JReichert

                                                                                                                        <Brought my check soon after it's obvious that I'm nearly done eating. After suggesting dessert/coffee, of course. I don't want to wait for 10 minutes for the check.>

                                                                                                                        And I've read others who want to ding the waiter because they are "being rushed". Waiters can't win sometimes.

                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                          Not to mention this one:

                                                                                                                          "* When he/she swings by the table throughout the meal, remove any dinnerware that's obviously done and inquire about plates you're unsure of. Don't let plates stack up."

                                                                                                                          In traditional formal service, no plates are cleared until everyone has finished a course. Removing one person's plate while another is still eating is considered rude.

                                                                                                                          Yes, I know this is not universally observed these days, not by a long shot, but to penalize a server for following the formal rules...?

                                                                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                            I was not aware of the formal rule, Bob, that's interesting. I wasn' really addressing the main course plate, though; I'm referring to side dishes and bread dishes and extra glasses (if there are any) that pile up and make the table uncomfortably crowded.

                                                                                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                              Since one of JReichert's rules was "And for God's sake don't stiff me on napkins," I don't think we're talking about formal dining, here. I've never been to a restaurant with cloth napkins that offered more than one at a time. Although I like the idea of someone wandering the dining room with a laundry basket, just in case you'd like extras.

                                                                                                                        2. My daughter is a server. The restaurants don't have to pay minimum wage to their servers if they get to keep tips. So their "wage" is under $3/hr.
                                                                                                                          I think it is a ridiculous situation. Try that with other professions.
                                                                                                                          That said, a good server can make decent money, she can make more in one shift than I make with a master's degree, as a substitute teacher.

                                                                                                                          1. Does ipsedixit tip ? If so or if not, why?