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Slipping the waiter a "tip" under the table

Restaurant pools its tips.

Customer pays both the bill and the tip with a credit card.

Customer then slips the waiter some cash under the table as special "personal tip"


More importantly, is this common?

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  1. I prefer to pay the restaurant tab with the credit card, and tip in cash. That lets the waitron decide how much he wants to share with the rest of the staff, and, since his 'earnings' are based as a percentage of the credit carded tab, it makes his life a little less expensive on April 15.

    Of course, if you're on an expense account, and must provide receipts, it's a different matter. If your reimbursed expenses would only allow a 15% tip, and you wanted to remain in the good graces of the server, certainly a little 'off the books' under the table wouldn't hurt.

    9 Replies
    1. re: southocean

      So if I understand you correctly, you are encouraging the waiter to screw his/her coworkers and break the law by underpayment of taxes. On April 15th I pay all may taxes, why should a waiter be able to skirt his/her obligation.

      1. re: southocean

        jfood is not big on aiding people in screwing fellow workers or the IRS.

        Ask the MOD on the way out how to handle.

        1. re: southocean

          I don't think the person that was doing this was trying to either encourage the waiter to shortchange the rest of the staff or become an accomplice in tax fraud.

          Rather, I believe the intent was to provide an extra reward for the waiter that had provided uber service -- service that deserved more "tip" than her pro rata share.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            My personal feelings exactly. If there is any ethical issue, I assume that the recipient will handle it properly. As the CEO of the Ritz Carlton chain shared with me at dinner many years ago, the tenant is "we're ladies and gentlemen, assisting ladies and gentlemen." This was in response to my question on how they won their first Malcom Baldridge Service Award.

            At the car wash, I usually tip the person, who finishes the auto, and hands me the keys. Does he/she pass that on to the crew? I hope so.


          2. re: southocean

            I understand the desire to pay extra for a special waiter, but this put the waiter in a moral dilemma situation. By accepting the money, he also has to hide this money and this transaction from his coworkers and he has to break an agreement: the agreement for all waiters and waitresses to share their tips. If his coworkers find out, the he will get in a lot of troubles. As far as his coworkers' concern, they share their tips with everyone, but this waiter did not. Even if he is not punished, this act would have shaken the trust among the servers. Now, everyone wonders if everyone is doing the same thing, if it is ok for everyone to pocket the money now.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Is that not the moral responsibility of the server? If I find a pile of $, and feel that I know from whom it fell, am I not responsible for trying to return that?

              I see no dilemma in this. If I know that I share tips, regular, or extra, I am then morally bound to do so. There should be no issue in that. It is all about how things are set up. If a man, or woman, is honest and responsible, there should be zero equivocation.

              Maybe I am just naive, and that all people are out to scam all others?


              1. re: Bill Hunt


                You have a good point, but I feel there is no need to pay two separate tips in this case. What is the intent of the customer for "slipping the waiter a special personal tip" if the customer expects the waiter of interest to share the tip? Then what is the purpose of tipping under the table? If the customer desires the waiter to pocket the extra tip, then is it not expecting the waiter to break a trust?

                If the customer want to show his/her appreciation, the customer can send a card, buy a small gift, ... The waiter can freely accept these other forms of appreciation without breaking the promise and the trust.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Nothing says thank you as well as $$$.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Money being a vestile gift may be true, but in this specific case, it put the waiter in an odd situation. If you expect the waiter to share the extra tip, like Bill Hunt expects, then it is gift which the person cannot have. Why give a person a present he cannot have? If you desire the waiter to pocket the extra tip, then is it tempting the waiter to break an agreement, a trust?

          3. I don't know the answer to any of your questions, not having waited table in 45 years. A lot depends on what's required/customary in any given restaurant. I do however sympathize with the basic impulse--there have been many instances in which outstanding service is provided but clearly not the norm in a restaurant, and it would be nice to tip the server, not the entire waitstaff.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Masonville

              In an anecdotal instance, we dined at a resort restaurant. Our waiter was pretty bad, but our busser was excellent and did triple duty for our needs. I tipped lower than I normally do on the bill, but slipped the busser US $20, for the extra work and attention. I have no reservations having done so.


            2. Personally, I would never tip twice.

              If I had a doubt about the restaurant owner's practice towards tipping, I would not tip by credit card but in cash. That said, I think pooled tips divided between all employees are a good thing, so all contributors to the diner's experience benefit (that said, I'm much more in favour of the system in, for example, Belgium and France, where the menu price includes service and no additional tip is expected.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Harters

                Ninety-nine point nine % of my tips are done on my credit cards.

                As for any policy of sharing tips, that is between the individuals. They become responsible for handling that aspect, should I add monetary amounts beyond. Maybe I am just a capitalist, and do not ascribe to the "collective good" idea. If someone does extra, they should reap the benefits, and if others just barely get by, they should not receive anything extra. Gotta' do well, and you shall be rewarded, especially by Hunt.


              2. I had never considered the concept of screwing the IRS or somebody's coworkers if a waiter was especially good, far better than their coworkers, if I give them something extra. I don't think I've ever done it, but to think I never would because it's against the law or cheating somebody's coworkers is a reach.

                After all, I wouldn't be slipping the waiter the crown jewels.

                6 Replies
                1. re: EWSflash

                  I do it all the time. If a server I know really well is waiting my table, I tip generously on the bill via credit card and hand the server some token cash in appreciation.

                  Am I going to stop doing it? Guess.

                  1. re: anonymouse1935

                    I' m against the pooling of tips because frankly I do not feel its fair to the ones who deserve the better tips. I always wished I knew in advance who pools and who doesn't but I guess the majority do

                    1. re: Gold

                      That is a good point. Some will skate by, knowing that a collective concept will still cover them, regardless of how poorly they perform. Others will rise to the occasion and offer excellent service. Who should be rewarded? In a Communist culture - each should receive the exact same compensation. However, I like to say "thank you" to those, who rise above, and do not just sit back, expecting to be compensated too.

                      Sorry that service still makes an impact with me, but that is life.


                    2. re: anonymouse1935

                      I am with you on this one. I do it all the time too.

                      I don't agree with pooling tips. Aren't we supposed to be a Captialist economy and not Socialst? If we work hard and do a good job, aren't we supposed to be rewarded for that effort?

                      I know some of the reasons for pooling because my mom was a waitress. On one level it avoids conflicts among staff members and MIGHT result in better service for the customer.

                      In places that didn't pool my mom often got stuck with the undesirable tables that were deemed not likely to tip. No one else would wait on them.

                      I'll leave the moral decisions up to the server who can then decide to drop it in the tip pool and share with all. If the server chooses to keep the money, then whether or not they report it on their tax form is their decision.

                      I am trying to acknowledge and reward excellence. My hope would be the server keeps the money and pays the government.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I do it, too. Typically it's for bussers that are the only ones making the dining experience decent.

                        I don't really care what he does with the money. None of my business. I just want to show him or her that i appreciated them picking up the slack of the server.

                        I used to be a server in nice restaurants, not in tip pooled ones. Management didn't care about disparity in tips. You earned what you earned. Sometimes you'd get a 5% tip after busting your hump, sometimes a 100%. Luck of the draw and it all evens out in the end.

                        The pool tipping makes sense in really well run places where everyone works together and they treat every table like it's their own. They're responsible for every guest in the building and they all work hard. Of course, it's up to management to keep the staff well run.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Oh wait, if one shows up for work, should they not reap the benefits from those, who go overboard? Of course not, but that concept is too quickly lost, on too many.

                          Service is about, well service. If one goes beyond, and one just gets by, who should get the extra "thank you?"

                          "Excellence" SHOULD be rewarded. Mediocrity should not. Now, in a totally communal environment, it will be, as we are talking about the "collective good," and that is a good reason to reward that "excellence."

                          Just my capitalistic opinion,


                    3. The only places I frequent that I know tip pooling occurs is at certain Chinese restaurants and the service is normally just adequate, so I see no reason to give a waiter a special "personal tip".

                      OTH: One day at Elite (dim sum) in Monterey Park. I met the waiter at the cashier to pay the bill. The waiter gave me the bill and walked away. The bill came to about $100 including tax. I put $100 on the tray with the bill and was going to leave the $15 tip with the cashier. She wasn't looking and pointed to a box with a slot next to the cash register and said it was for the tips. The slot was so small you have to fold the money in quarters to put it into the box.
                      After I put the $15 tip into the box, it occured to me I could have just slipped a few bucks into the box and no one would have been the wiser.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: monku

                        " I could have just slipped a few bucks into the box and no one would have been the wiser."

                        The person in the mirror you saw before you went to sleep that night would have known. Character is doing the right thing when noone is watching.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Do you think the waiter thinks the same thing when he's filling out IRS form 4070 ?

                          1. re: monku

                            that is completely up to the server, same mirror, same position by jfood. people who think that aiding a person screwing their fellow employees says a lot about that person, not the person jfood would want handling the splitting the bill at jfood's table.

                            1. re: jfood

                              Yes, that "mirror" can be pretty harsh - light of dawn and all. That is where "the rubber meets the road."

                              It's all about ethics. You all remember those, don't you? Do what is right. Your "heart" will tell you what to do. Trust your heart.


                      2. Only time I do this is if I'm with a group and I feel the tip left by whoever is organizing the payment is too small. My guess is if you try to job the "shared tip" system, you're going to fail, as the pressure from the waiter's peers (and bosses) to share (if that's the rule) are stronger than the risk of taking your money and not telling anyone.

                        Or you could leave a card and ask them to call you and meet them outside after work and tip them then! :)

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: L2k

                          L2k Agree, and if someone insists on picking up the bill at on of "my restaurants, where I am a regular, and he/she "cheaps out" on the tip, I will quietly "shake hands" with the waiter upon leaving.

                          1. re: ospreycove

                            >>> Or you could leave a card and ask them to call you and meet them outside after work and tip them then! :)


                            It is like like the above comment when your hosts undertips. When I leave a tip I mean specifically for the waiter, I am as discreet as leaving an extra tip to supplement serious undertipping by the host.

                            I am not exactly standing up, clinking my glass and saying "Attention I'm giving my server extra because he is so much better than the rest of you"

                            Another thought on pooling, some restaurants actually take part of the tip for themselves. I can't control the way a restaurant distributes the tips. I'm on board with a little share going to the kitchen or bus staff. However, I really believe the waitstaff should keep their own tips. Otherwise it defeats the whole purpose of tipping ... better service. What incentive is there if everyone gets the same money. It is like that year-end bonus at work. If you get a boost due to excellent performance, it is incentive to try harder the following year for another bonus.

                            1. re: rworange

                              "Attention I'm giving my server extra because he is so much better than the rest of you"

                              In all of my cases, I cannot imagine that anyone else knows. It's like my philanthropic endeavors - anonymous. Who needs to know? It's all about reward for going beyond, and not about ME. Even if I feel that I will never be back in that restaurant, however long I live, it is about what went down that night.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I gotta say Bill, you're making the dining experience sound a little epic.

                                1. re: haggisdragon

                                  For me, dining SHOULD be "epic."


                          2. re: L2k

                            I hate when that happens. Fortunately, it seldom happens nowadays, but I do recall many previous episodes, where the tip was left out. When I was aware of this, I always stepped up, and made things as "right," as I could.

                            Back in my youth, I'd often be in the position of having a bill split between many couples. Back then, few ever considered tax, or tip. I always made good on both, even when it meant that my appetizer and wine B-T-G cost 3x what some others full meals did. Someone's gotta' step up, and it was often me.

                            To the best of my knowledge, I have never stiffed any server, and have done more than "my share" in too many cases. One should pay their way, and if they need to pay their "brother's" way, so be it.

                            Now, over the decades, I have taken "notes," and will pare the guest list, based on those, but in the end, no server should come up short.

                            If they excel, then they need to be rewarded. How they deal with that is up to them, their ethics and to any agreement they might have made.


                          3. I would approach this as a gift, not a tip. Buy a thank you card, write a nice note to the waiter, add cash, and either mail to the waiter and hand deliver the next time you're at the restaurant.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mpjmph

                              Would that eliminate the need to report it to the IRS?

                              I've actually done that, but it us usually at places I frequent and at the end of the year as a personal Christmas bonus. It would be too complex on a regular basis and often I don't return to a place.

                              But hey ... what an idea. Maybe I'll have some thank you cards made up about what extrodinary service I received and please accept this 'gift' for my appreciationl ... specificying it is NOT a top to be shared. I could throw those in my purse.

                              No, I'm not joking. I seriously like the idea. It is not just throwing cash at someone. It is also specifically giving someone a boost by SAYING how much you appreciated them. Who doesn't like to be sincerly told they are wonderful. Remembering my mom's waitress days, I think she would have been thrilled to get a thank you card every now and then.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Relating to another post on this thread, I found myself wanting to say "thank you" to some people at a particular resort. All gratuities are included, but two people went beyond. I sent each on a special book. For two others, who went beyond, I graced their palms with $. What happens beyond is between them, their employers and the IRS. Hey, how much would the IRS assess two Glenn Beck books?

                                Hunt, happy to say an extra thank you, where deserved.

                            2. You can tip in any combination of cash and credit you want, just as you can pay your bill that way. What the waiter does with the cash is the waiter's business. The fact that you gave them something extra is probably appreciated, even if they put that money into the tip pool. There is no reason to assume that they will do otherwise, or to assume that they are going to attempt to screw the IRS. Moreover this is not likely the only cash tip they will receive on that shift.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                I agree. That is between them, the pool, and the IRS. Does everyone report the US $ 20, that they found in the gutter? Who knows?

                                It's about personal choices.


                              2. If I know a resto pools tips and I'm say a 'regular', I'll give a tip under the table to the server. IMO, tip pools reward bad servers off the backs of the good ones.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cstr

                                  You make a good point. Pooled tips DO reward the bad servers, but that is too common today. Show up for work, and you get the tips from those, who go beyond. The "chaff" should fall, during the "harvest."

                                  Sorry for being so service-centric, but that reflects my personal sensibilities.


                                2. I do this, when the service warrants it. The recipient is more often the sommelier, though I may well have tipped on the wine in the bill.

                                  I have also "slipped" a bit of something extra at resorts, where gratuities are included. Extra deserves extra in my book. Sometimes it's cash, and sometimes it's something else, like a favorite book in the mail.

                                  Just my way of experiencing life,


                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I don't think I've ever read a thread where so many people are so out of touch with the server's reality of working in restaurants. Servers make nothing relative to the people who can patronize places that expect four figures for a dinner and if you don't think that each one of them is scrambling for any crumb that falls from the table than you are living in La La land.

                                    I still remember my first bartending job, 23 years old, busting my butt and trying to do the right thing in an upscale midtown Manhattan restaurant, and scratching my head why at the end of the shift I had basically nothing kicked back by the waiters. When I asked the owner how come I didn't get any share of the tips, even though drinks were routinely 30 percent of the bill - I'm an old guy, this is back in the day when Manhattans and Martinis were the order of the day - he said if you don't like it, leave. So I left and I'm sure he replaced me with someone else the waiters could shaft.

                                    As you walk out the door with a happy little food and wine buzz, if slipping the bus boy a 20 makes the night feel right than God bless you. But please, just do us all a favor and let go of the self serving assumption that there is any altruism, from you to them or eventually from them towards their fellow employees or even the IRS, trotting along after that cash under the table.

                                    1. re: mtr

                                      I cannot directly address your situation, as we are in NYC less often, than even London. Still, I understand (or think that I do) your issues.

                                      Going back some years, we did the "wine tasting" at a NOLA restaurant, prior to dining there. We came early, and stayed until our table. The bartender was excellent, and the "wine tasting" was great. The bartender was on top of the 12 Chardonnays presented, and knew the appetizers well. When we finished, and were summoned to be seated, I inquired on the bill. The bartender's comment was, "it's all on the house." No way! I tipped him US$50, as I felt that should have been the cost for the entire tasting, plus appetizers. What he did with that is his business.

                                      Only regret that I have is the "fried flounder" appetizer, was not on the regular menu! That is as bad as it got.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Maybe the bartender was "in business for himself"......expecting a tip in lieu of a bill!!!

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          Could have been, but then he (in this case) was walking a thin line. What if I had just said, "OK," and walked away? In my case, it was worth every $, and the bartender fulfilled his role to the max. I did not hesitate to have tipped, as I did. I would also repeat, should I be presented with the same situation.


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            I would have tipped as well; it is just we do not know what latitude employees have in restaurants. In small, owner managed/supervised operatrions, I would assume the employees are following the wishes of the owner. In corporate operations, sho knows.

                                            1. re: ospreycove

                                              That is a good point. We will never know 100%. Until then, I'll just go with my gut, and hope for the best.


                                  2. I guess I disagree a little with the premise of the original post. In my experience, exceptional service is a function of a well-trained staff working together as a team (could that be the word, rather than socialism?). It is unusual to find a demoralized staff going through the motions except for the gem who happens to be serving my table. The staff agrees to pool their tips when they sign on, and unless I'm mistaken, the tips are proportionately higher for waiters than other staff in many instances, so if you leave a bigger tip, your server will automatically be compensated at a higher rate.

                                    1. I worked in the restaurant business for many years, front of the house and administration, and I loathe the idea of tip pooling. I worked in some very nice places, but never encountered a waitstaff where there wasn't a slacker. Why should the good servers be penalized for their cohorts' poor performance? I always wonder about the dim sum cart ladies and if they even get a share of the tips, since there's always a waiter who brings the tea and the check, at least in the places I've been to.
                                      I've never slipped a server extra dough because of tip pooling--never thought of it, and of course you don't always know the restaurant's policy--but I have lingered behind to make up a better tip when dining with cheapskates. Anybody who has ever waited table knows how tough a job it is, and how grateful you can feel to a regular who tips well. About a zillion years ago I worked in a fried fish place on Cape Cod, and there was one guy who always tipped ten bucks...around a 90% tip in those days. We loved him. I'm not that generous, but all servers know that restaurant folks tip the best.