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More tipping scenarios - how much, when and how ?

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Scenario 1 (quasi-pizza parlor style):

You order from a counter, pay immediately, then find yourself a table.
Server 1 brings a pitcher of water, fills your glasses, and leaves the pitcher on your table.
Server 2 brings one round of bread, but later asks if you want another.
Server 3 later brings your entrees.
Server 4 clears your table as you leave.

How much do you tip ?
If you pay and tip in cash, do you give the tip to the cashier before you even seat yourself, leave the tip on your table before you leave, or drop the tip in the tip jar as you're leaving ?

Scenario 2 (Armadillo Willy's style):

You order from a counter, pay immediately, then collect flatware, napkins, water and water glasses, and find yourself a table.
Your order is called out, you go back to pick it up, and take it to your table.
A server clears your table as you leave.

How much do you tip ?
If you pay and tip in cash, do you give the tip to the cashier before you even seat yourself, leave the tip on your table before you leave, or drop the tip in the tip jar as you're leaving ?

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  1. A 100,000 tipping threads -- at least half of them from the last week alone -- not enuff for ya, huh?

    4 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      The presence of all these tipping threads shows what an unnecessarily convoluted and vaguely arbitrary system US-style tipping has become. This is why service should just be built into the prices. Then, I can stop wasting time thinking about how much to tip and 100,000 other tipping related details, and just consider if the total cost for food, environment and service is worth what the restauranteur is asking.

      1. re: dump123456789

        Oh, I totally agree. But then, I'm from Germany where most people in the service industry are professionals, and even when they aren't, are paid living wages.

        1. re: dump123456789

          But if the service charges are built in to prices the restaurants cannot continue scamming the government out of taxes!

          Honestly the entire industry makes me sick.

        2. re: linguafood

          It varies a great deal. In each situation I tip what I think is right...but then I rarely eat in Scenario 1 or 2 but if there is a tip jar that is the way I would go--amounts based upon your discretion. PS I got a coffee today from a cart that gives a big discount to the people who work for the organization I work for. The coffee, discounted, was $1.50, I think it is $2 otherwise. I dropped two quarters into the tip jar--seemed right to me.

        3. I think with all tipping scenarios, tip with whatever you feel comfortable with and as much or as little as you want with a clear conscious.

          20%? That's custom. Not law.

          You want to tip less? Go ahead, as long as you feel ok with it.

          You want to tip 50% on a counter service place like you mentioned? Go for it, as long as you feel comfortable with it.

          1. My question isn't "what is the social custom ?", it's "what would *you* in particular do and why".

            Tipping in both scenarios is a logistical mess.

            If you tip when you pay upfront, you're tipping on service that hasn't been provided yet, and which could be awful or great.

            If you leave the tip on the table at the end, you might just be tipping the server who cleared your table. (Just recently, a server I'd never seen before rushed up to my table as I was leaving to wish me a nice day, right after I left a tip on the table.)

            If you leave the tip in the tip jar as you leave, you have to cut into the ordering line, and make a spectacle of yourself. (And as stated in the tip jar thread, who even knows who that money goes to ?)

            At least in scenario 1, it's more obvious someone should receive a tip.

            Scenario 2 is more ambiguous, since it's actually a variation of tipping the barista. The only people who provide you any service at Armadillo Willy's are the order taker/cashier, the cook, and the table clearer. The barista is the equivalent of the cook, but the barista actually does less work per customer in that capacity. None of these people provide service at your table, and none are paid as servers, so tipping is not an expected supplement to their wages. So, why does the barista seem to get singled out for tips above all the others ?

            In addition, what's the difference between the various roles at Armadillo Willy's and the same roles at your shopping mall food court ? (The table clearers have to do much more work at the food court.) And what's the difference then between the food court and McDonald's ?

            4 Replies
            1. re: dump123456789

              Two very general comments:

              The scenario where I would prepay for service would typically be at a hofbrau. I pick up a tray and silverware, slide it down past various food stations to pick up different dishes and then to the cash register to pay. After that point, there isn't a lot that can be really good or bad about service, so I usually give a good tip when I pay. These places are usually so inexpensive that the difference between a good and a bad tip might be 75 cents. I'm not going to worry that I might be overtipping people for possibly subsequent subpar service if we are talking that kind of money.

              I also don't worry about who gets my tip. I assume that places with tip jars have polices for how to split the money between employees. More upscale places often have tip pooling polices so that a server might have to share the tips with the bartender, hostess, etc., according to some formula that may vary from restaurant to restaurant. I never ever worry about what the tip-out percentages are at different restaurants that I frequent or whether they are equitable. Once I've left a decent tip, I've done my part and I'm not going to lose any sleep over how that money is distributed inside the restaurant.

              1. re: nocharge

                Having never been to a hofbrau, I get the sense that it's like a cafeteria. What service are you tipping for in that setting ?

                And the issue about how the tip jar tips were split is that, in some places, those tips are actually all going to management, not the service people.

                1. re: dump123456789

                  The service would be mainly busboy-type service. There would be a waitress taking drink orders, but those would be paid for and tipped on separately.

                  Management taking part of the employee tips often give rise to lawsuits and rightly so.

              2. re: dump123456789

                In Scenario 1, if I'm doing carryout, I leave a buck in the tip jar on the way out. If I'm dining in, I do the same except based on the level of service. I've never been in a situation where doing that "makes a spectacle."

                In Scenario 2, I leave a buck or two depending on how thorough/interactive/personable the server is.

              3. It's a tough call dump123456789

                So I just ate at scenario # 2 today, (burger joint) and I left the tip on the table. I'm not going to premptively tip at the counter when they take my order since I haven't yet received the food, don't know how good it is, how prompt it will be, and the drinks etc. are all self serve so there isn't anyone actually doing much of anything other than taking an order and ringing up the tab. So I really don't think a tip is expected or appropriate. If I were placing a harry met Sally order, perhaps. But I don't think 2 cheesburger baskets straight up warrents a tip.

                On the # 1 scenario, I'd leave a tip at the table and let the employees duke it out. They probably share tips since it seems as if every server and bus person was involved in taking care of customers. It seems to me that this happens at Restaurants where the staff pool and share since there isn't the consequent sense of table "ownership" and turf wars that develop over customers.

                I suspect that the culture of tipping baristas is a consequence of, on average most foo-foo coffee drinks involve a level of customization and skill and technique that the other two kinds of counter service events don't. And never underestimate the power of frequency. You typically see your barista a lot, and they get to know you and it means a lot to have the coffee ready to go when you get to the line before you even order. So tipping in that situation would be expected. My barista remembers that I like steamed soy milk and sugar free hazlenut in the biggest size they have. He's my hero at 7:30 am. And he gets a tip.

                1 Reply
                1. re: aggiecat

                  I never go anywhere with near the frequency that some people go to the same coffee places (or bars). Your explanation helps clarify the difference between your barista and the personnel in my scenario 2. Would it be any different if you dropped into a coffee place, while on a business trip, that you were never going to be in again ? Would that be more like your burger joint example ?

                  Scenario 1 is the one that happened recently that triggered this thread. The server who suddenly appeared out of nowhere when I was getting up to leave seemed a bit shady, like he might not have been intending to pool the tip. We never saw him before that, and his approach was very abrupt.

                2. Some may call me stingy, but I tip for service rendered, so I would not be tipping the cashier at the time I placed an order.

                  Scenario 1...if my standard was to leave 20% in a full service restaurant, then I'd leave 15% here. No one came to my table and took an order. I'd leave the 15% on the table when I leave. It's up to staff/management to divide the tip based on their own arrangement (so much for bus person, water person, server, etc.).

                  Scenario 2

                  The only service provider is the person who clears the table. I don't consider the order taker/cashier as entitled to a tip (and where I live they would not be eligible for the lower waitperson minimum wage).

                  As for the person who clears the table, I'd probaly leave $1 for up to 2 plates and a glass, $2 for 2 plates ( or bowl), coffee cup/saucer and glass. Cash on the table.

                  1. I don't understand Scenario 2. That is not a server, that is a bus boy or someone assigned to clean up. If they are not SERVING you anything, they are a clean up person. Seriously, they don't even serve you a drink? That's not a server. My guess is that this person is paid at least minimum wage and not a server wage and isn't expected to rely on tips as part of their income. I would not tip on scenario 2.

                    Scenario 1 - I would tip whatever I thought the service was collectively and let them duke out who gets what, that's not my call. Maybe they pool tips and split them at the end. If the overall service warranted a nice tip, that's what I'd leave.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      Scenario 2 was more about how/why the food preparer is any different than a barista. If you tip the barista (assume you're not a regular), why not the food preparer in scenario 2 ?

                    2. Well, in my personal case, both scenario #1 and #2 are not full service restaurants. They are a fast casual restaurant, designed so that tipping is not required. Now I'm originally from SE Asia, where in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, in general there is NO TIPPING at smaller, restaurants. If a tip is required, usually 10%. Only in cases of weddings, large banquets, anywhere there is a multi-course fancy sit down restaurant, even in hotel restaurants, then the tip is usually added to your bill (up to 18%) and non-negotiable. So I find tipping actually a very strange thing.

                      That said, in fast casual places, if I tip, the tip is $1.00 for each diner. If there were 2 of us, I'd tip $2.00 To me, this is like fast food burgers; you order at a counter, either pick up your food or have the food delivered, is still like fast food. I don't tip at fast food places, do you?

                      I don't buy coffee/tea daily; no baristas for me, since I'm particular about my coffee, I make my own coffee daily. First the beans are to my personal taste, and I have yet to find any coffee place that carries 100% Kona coffee on the menu. I can buy that in a pound bag, but no cafe has ever carried 100% Kona coffee that I can stand in line and get as a drink.

                      For me personally, even the Japanese instant coffees beat the coffee at ANY cafe; most coffees here are bitter, super acidic, the roast burnt and the coffee also tastes burnt, just smelling the coffees at Starbucks, even Kean Coffee gives me an instant severe headache. I have not had that problem at all in cafes in Japan, Taiwan or Singapore. I don't know why. I went to Kean Coffee in Tustin, it's Mr. Diedrich's store, and I couldn't find anything to order. They told me that their customers prefer dark roasted coffee, and they were very nice. In fact, they gave me samples of every coffee they had. Every sample, as soon as I smelled it (before I even sipped), gave me an instant severe headache. As soon as the offending coffee was removed, I could breath again. I ended up thanking him and left without buying.

                      Tipping is truly personal. The baristas who knows your standard order? It's worth it to tip because it's a service you use everyday. And you are thankful because you get your drink faster. But if I'm in a restaurant where it's a 1 time visit (especially out of town), I tip 10-15%. Generally I prefer to take my food to go, so I don't have to tip.

                      I believe this American habit of tipping is bad. I'd much rather have tip built into the price.

                      1. I believe Yale offers an online course in tipping.

                        1. scenario 2 is ever slice pizzeria in NYC. I'm a good tipper, but i don't often tip in that situation.

                          but then scenario 1 isn't how i get my pizza in NYC, scenario 2 is, so i cannot comment

                          1. Scenario #1 I would leave a couple of bucks per person in my party on the table if they don't have a tip jar. Scenario #2, if they have a tip jar I would drop in a dollar or two, otherwise I would assume no tipping allowed since I had to do everything myself.

                            1. Where I am, I doubt if anyone would even consider tipping in either of the scenarios in the OP.

                              1. I'm a server, and make my mortgage, students loans, and car payment all with my tips. And I would not tip in these instances. They are both serve yourself restaurants. I guarantee that they are making a wage. I make $3.90 an hour. At most I would give $1-2.