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Jun 19, 2010 01:44 PM

Need advice about tipping beyond the simple 20% of whatever the bill is....

Last week I went alone to a restaurant after 9pm just for coffee and dessert. They sat me in a two person booth. I stayed for a few hours doing paperwork from the office while my waiter came by a few times to give me free refills.

The bill was $10.80. I thought that a tip of the standard 20% or $2.00 was ridiculously small for all the time and attention spent on me so I gave my waiter a $20 bill and said to keep the change. This is a tip of around $9.00 which I guess makes sense since I was in a two person booth for a few hours. I go to this restaurant from time to time (mostly alone but sometimes with dining companions) and I want them to be happy to wait on me since it makes for a more enjoyable experience for me.

How do other readers of this forum figure out what to tip when the standard 20% doesn't seem to make sense? Examples would be helpful.

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  1. I think you are a good person.

    'nuff said.

    1. I never tip less than $5, even if if the bill is $10 and I'm in and out in 15 minutes; tipping any less just doesn't feel right.

      I think your $9 tip was thoughtful and appropriate for the length of time you were there. The sad thing is that many people would have left just the $2.

      1. jfood has stated repeatedly that the 20% is a nice guideline. Have the $1.99 breakfast special, do you leave $0.40. People get so caught up with percentages when it is DOLLARS that pay the bill. itting for a couple of hours (starting at 9PM) leaving the $20 seems about right. Last week jfood had a 6 course tasting menu for $30, and left a ten tip, it just felt right.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jfood


          I am with you 100% here. Percentages are not what most make of them.

          Though off-topic here, I always leave US$5/night in a hotel for housekeeping. If things were done well, then I bump that up. If things were done great, like fresh ice to my Montrachet in the bucket, 'cause there was no 'fridge," then US$10/day is not out of line.

          In the grand scheme of life, "my money comes and goes... , and flows through the holes in my pockets to my toes," so for service, I'd rather reward the good people, regardless of the math. Matter of fact, I'd rather make up a worthwhile figure than bother with the "math."

          Hunt, the lazy, math-challenged diner

        2. My general guideline is that if I feel guilty leaving 20%, I leave more. A very simple philosophy that's vague enough to be adapted. For a $2 coffee, for example, I'd usually leave a dollar.

          1. John,

            I'm cool with that. I have been in similar situations, and just go with my "gut," and do not bother with the math.

            Booked a table at a NOLA restaurant some years ago. They did a wine tasting, starting about 2 hours before our table, so we attended. Great tasting with about 12 Chards that night, and some great apps. When our table came up, I inquired about paying, and asked if it was all rolled into one bill.

            "There's no charge for the wine tasting," the bartender offered. He'd been great and fielded every question that I had, even when he had to do a bit of research. I protested, and wanted to pay my way.

            "There is no charge for the wine tasting," was his reply. I handed him a US$50, and said thanks.

            I've paid 3x that fare, and gotten 10% of the service in other places, so I felt that it would cover my wife and me, who had sat for 2 hours, sipping some very nice Chards, and eating some amazing apps. (wish that the fried flounder had been on the regular dinner menu!), and taking up space. Service was excellent, so I just made up a figure and paid that.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              That was really nice of you, Bill. The bartender probably really appreciated that.