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Mar 26, 2012 09:44 PM

Does promising a higher tip get better service?

Ok, so first question (alongside my other thread) is does promising a high tip get better service? If so, how does one go about this tastefully - and what is a high % as a tip? It's just that I have seen some lovely restaurants reviewed here and elsewhere where the service sounds average to shoddy, and for quite high prices and tip ($ amount that is). Then again, are we being held to ransom?

Also, what happens when you refuse to tip, or lower the % / $ amount - due to bad service. Does anyone do this? If so when and why? If not then why not because if I under deliver to my clients either they never come back and / or they don;t pay the full $ on the current project (sic 'meal')?

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  1. wrt your first question: please don't do this. there is no "tasteful" way to discuss any part of gratuity ahead of the service, you will come off as a douche if you try to. just be normal and polite and the server will generally be normal and polite and competent, right back... but you can't win em all.

    8 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      Thanks soupkitten - point taken and I probably agree. I have experienced great service in America (in SF) just about all the time. However it does seem, from this forum (and a few others) that t vary quite a bit in NYC. Then again, if there wasn't below par service then the other service experiences would not stand out as much in a positive manner, kind of like we need rainy days to make sunny blue days seem...

      1. re: soupkitten

        ditto the soupkitten. Any mention of the tipping to the waitstaff just means you're an ass. and, as someone who has worked tables, the person that mentions what a great tip they will leave..... NEVER does. Be nice, be patient, be polite. Hope that is reflected.

        1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

          Ok, so how often do you receive bad(ish) or just plain bad service - and then do you 'undertip', and if so to what degree?

          Also keen to know what 'blow your mind' service should be as a tip - because I am sure that will happen to.

          1. re: PerfectPalate

            Good followup question. I can't say that I can recall receiving bad service lately, but I frequent local, non-chain places, that can't afford poor service.

            I also think there is a precipitating moment that started this thread that you are not mentioning, but I'll play along.

            I am always gracious and kind to waitstaff. They are servers, not my servants. I listen to them, and look at them in the face, and deal with them as reasonable, competent people working in a taxing job.

            But I do recall not long ago a server telling me that my raw sausage was "the way it was supposed to be", and arguing with me about it . I flat out told her that persuading a customer to eat raw sausage was an extremely bad idea, and left. I've never been back, and that was my statement.

            I tip 20% as a rule, more if the service was exceptional.

            1. re: PerfectPalate

              First I would consider "promising a good tip" up front a bribe and would expect to get a bad reaction. Then you intention runs up against their expectation and most likely more ill will. I have been the business in some way a good portion of my life. I am what many here would call a "good tipper" I tip 20% on total, not pre-tax and round up to the nearest dollar amount. If it is shoddy or lazy service ( part of being in the business is you learn to read the room) I do reflect that in my tip (15%). If it is downright horrible service, I speak with the manager and also in the tip (10%)

              And if I had a fabulous service experience, I will up the tip and speak to the manager to express my happiness and/or follow up with an email.

              1. re: Quine

                That pretty much speaks for me too.

                I might tip extra, and off the tab, for great service from the sommelier, but that will depend on their service, over, and above the regular waitstaff.

                I have also tipped a busser extra, and off the tab, because they did a great job.

                Still, making a deal, before the meal, is just not my style.


              2. re: PerfectPalate

                i appreciate your investigating the foreign tipping in u.s. before your visit. :) if it helps, i've tried to explain u.s. tipping to friends from abroad, by telling them that rather than having an "invisible" service charge that reflects the server's wage/compensation, as in europe and most of the rest of the world-- in the u.s. the service charge is "visible" in the form of the tip. it just means that a menu item at a full-service u.s. restaurant winds up costing a bit more than the printed price. but tipping is not a purely optional thing in the u.s, as it is elsewhere. folks who don't tip have committed a faux pas and have been very demeaning toward the service staff at the restaurant-- please understand that u.s. restaurant server wages are far, *far* too low to actually live on, and in addition the servers do not have heath care coverage of any kind or paid vacation/sick time, or retirement funds to speak of, as they do in many other countries-- for servers here, all of this comes out of pocket, and they rely almost totally on their tips. it is part of u.s. culture, that folks who can afford to dine at fine restaurants, can also afford to pay their server for service, sort of like an independent contractor. the good news is that servers are generally motivated to give good service.

                so in practical terms, what are you looking at? there will be some disagreement between individuals and some regional variation, but generally in u.s. urban centers the standard tip is 18%-20% of the check at full-service restaurants. this is most certainly true for nyc, which iirc is where you will be visiting.

                at a buffet or partial-service restaurant, many folks will tip 10%-15%. at a full-service restaurant, 10% is a baseline tip, implying that service was very subpar/unsatisfactory. for myself i am in line w Quine's post.

                i usually tip cabbies 10%. if sitting at a bar, paying cash, tip $1/drink minimum or $2 for mixed cocktails. in nyc the bartender will often offer a "buyback" (free drink) after a few rounds-- unless the customer has been miserly w the tips! ;-P

                1. re: PerfectPalate

                  I normally receive great service, and then, after that service, tip accordingly. It is always "after the fact," and never "before."

                  If I have to "promise" anything, I am going to be very uncomfortable.


            2. PP

              I see that you are a Kiwi and are likely to have a view about tipping similar to those if us who are Europeans. It's one of those "different culture" things - I see many threads here, from Americans, where they talk of tipping 10 - 15% even for shoddy service. The sort of service where, in the UK, I'd be leaving no tip whatsoever.

              Such is life - following the customs of foreign countries we visit (as we always try to) goes towards making America such an expensive tourist destination.

              1. I don't promise a good tip but tip well and especially at my regular places, get above and beyond when it comes to service.

                I've heard servers say over the years the people who promise to tip well ahead of time, rarely do.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Well...there have been times when my friends and I have gone out to dinner after a prolonged cocktail hour and arrive at the restaurant ever so much more funny and witty than usual. At those times I've told the server if he/she will put up with us we'll make it worth his/her while. Maybe that's just paying for babysitting though.

                  1. re: Samalicious

                    I've been in that situation as well (and we're a festive I was thinking more along the lines of sober people...hehe....who give the hostess and staff a wink and nudge with a "we tip well" statement.

                  1. re: beevod

                    Tackiness aside, it singles you out as a goofball. The best way to get good service is to engage the waitstaff. Promising them money is demeaning.

                    1. re: ferret

                      Well-stated, and along the lines of my thinking, as well.


                  2. I am in full agreement that indicating up front what a tip COULD be is crass and obnoxious behavior. However, I'm reminded of something I read a long time ago...a diner would sit down and put money on the table in the form of a GOOD tip, and detract from it (pocketing singles from the pile) if there were any issues. Certainly not something I'd recommend, but still, interesting.

                    8 Replies
                      1. re: njmarshall55

                        That sounds like a really cheesy gameshow...

                        1. re: ricepad

                          And wouldn't it be fun if the server got to request more money be put on the table every time the customer was an unreasonable jerk.

                        2. re: njmarshall55

                          Can you imagine your boss doing that? Your salary on a stack in his desk. Every time you go in there and does something he's not happy with, he takes some from the stack. Demeaning? Passive aggressive?

                          1. re: njmarshall55

                            If by "interesting" you mean obnoxious and tacky....I'm imaging some guy stroking his mustache and taking back dollar bills each time a server errs in his mind.

                            1. re: LeoLioness

                              And saying, "garcon" and snapping his fingers when he wants the server.

                              1. re: chowser

                                while holding a stopwatch in his other hand! lmao!
                                (as the server looks around for the hidden camera)

                              2. re: LeoLioness

                                Yes. That's exactly what I mean by "interesting."