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Jun 12, 2013 11:13 AM

The Bad Math Guy

Does anyone else have that one friend who insists on grabbing the check from the waiter? He hides it like it's a top secret document, then tells everyone what they owe. You throw in your share and then inevitably he lets his guard down and someone grabs the check from him and realizes he's asked everyone for $3-4 to little and this was going to come out of the servers tip portion of the bill. For the life of me I can never understand why people who can't figure out what 20-25% is, grab the bill.

I know it's a silly question, but it always seems like the mathematically challenged person in the group always grabs the bill.

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  1. Is the standard tip getting ready to go up to 25%? I suppose that is the next step, little chance for a stopover at 22.5%

    8 Replies
    1. re: kengk

      I don't know what the standard is, but I do know that some places are upping the automatic gratuity on large parties from 18% to 20%. My rule is 20% minimum unless the server does something completely obnoxious. If I know the place, the server or if the service is top notch, I have no problem giving 25%. Also, if I'm in a diner or something for breakfast and my meal is, say $10.20, I have no problem throwing $15 in.

      1. re: jhopp217

        and, much like jhopp217, if i'm in a gastropub and a drink costs $6, i'll tip the same amount as would if the drink costs $10.

        1. re: jhopp217

          I've scanned the thread and not seen anyone ask (although I could be missing it), is it possible your friend wants to avoid 'overtipping guy' from getting the bill?
          I tip roughly 15% and I'm fine with that. I throw in extra occasionally, sure, and I don't care about going a few bucks over especially on a small bill. But I don't think everyone at the table needs to feel obliged to do 20-25%, and perhaps he is reacting to that, even if he won't admit it when caught.

          1. re: julesrules

            You may be right, but it wouldn't mesh with his nature. He'll do this stuff and then we'll walk into a place and he'll buy a round, when we're all chipping in. very generous fellow.

            I'm not judging anyone, but in NY and major cities, 15% is the way of a long long time ago. 18% minimum is expected these days, with 20% almost assumed

            1. re: julesrules

              That was my first reaction. I would rather calculate a 15% tip to be split and if someone wants to throw in a couple more bucks they can.

          2. re: kengk

            I don't care if it is cheap, but I will forever stay at 15% unless it is beyond exceptional service. The beautiful thing about a percentage is that it increases with inflation, so I think 15% can always be the right amount. As inflation increases, so do menu prices and, in turn, the amount of tip even if the percentage stays at 15%.

            The exception to the 15% when it isn't beyond exceptional service is when there is an automatic gratuity for a group, but I find it ironic in that those are usually the situations where the service is most lacking, such as an empty water glass for a large portion of the meal and the server nowhere in sight to ask for more.

            1. re: kengk

              I'd go to 30%, as the math is easier.

              Just like the USPS, which increments the price of stamps by $0.01, every year. Just make it $0.50, and leave it for a couple of years!


            2. I'm actually the one who grabs the check, mostly to make sure there is a 20%-ish tip. It is painful to watch others try and do it. I don't know why is it so difficult, and maybe I have a head for numbers, but coworkers who have advanced degrees in everything still can't manage the restaurant check. So, I just do it outright, and it is almost assumed I'll do it.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Terrie H.

                When it comes to simple math, I go into A Beautiful Mind/Good Will Hunting mode, haha. I find it comical when you ask someone what 20% of $200 is and they immediately say $40, but when you ask what 20% of $170 is, they go into convulsions.

                1. re: jhopp217

                  I'm not terribly good at math, but it's pretty easy to figure out 10% of the total and then double it, even for me.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    I base it on the tax, at least you can start with that percentage. Here it's almost 9% so if you double it and round it up it's a good starting point.

                2. re: Terrie H.


                  Too many want all diners to go for 20%, or more, then pocket the cash, and leave 10%. Not cool.

                  I refuse to dine with such folk any more.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Good Lord, Bill, you've really seen that done? I'm amazed at the nerve.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      I had a boss who would go out with a group of us for dinner, collect money from each of us, then put it on his company credit card and be reimbursed by the company for the whole amount. We were supposed to be impressed that he knew how to fiddle the system.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I bet HIS boss would have been impressed to know how he was ripping off the company!

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          I experienced something like that in college. Freshman, newly arrived, had to do a group service project with others on my floor. After the project we all went out to lunch. At the end of the meal everyone threw in their money, except for one girl who said she didn't have a chance to get cash, so she would just use her credit card. As she organized all the money into a neat pile, she commented that she was going to put the entire bill on the card and keep the cash. Some kids made the usual rumblings that "oh no, that's a lot of money, you can ask them to just charge your portion" but she waved her hand and said no, she preferred to do it like that, because "her grandmother paid the credit card bill anyway."

                          Even at 18 I realized it did not REALLY effect me ... I had paid what I owed after all; I was not the one being taken advantage of ... And maybe her grandmother would have been happy to give her a wad of cash, which is essentially what happened ... but for some reason, it always, always bothered me that she came out of that meal having made several hundred dollars off the rest of us.

                          1. re: charmedgirl

                            Why do I have a feeling that she's doing very well for herself. She knows how to "game" people. That's pretty shady behavior and no shame about it either.

                            1. re: charmedgirl

                              Actually, she made several hundred dollars off her grandmother!

                              1. re: ricepad

                                Oh yes, I know ... as I said, it was as though her grandmother handed her a wad of cash, which who knows, maybe granny would have been happy to do.... but it *felt* like she was making the money off all of us.

                                Again, I knew intellectually it did not effect me, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way, and (obviously) I have never forgotten it.

                    2. Is he "Bad Math Guy" or "Screw The Waiter Guy"?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ricepad

                        No, he's a generous guy, that's the ironic thing. This past week, with six people, he said $35 per person. We all threw it in without hesitation. As we're leaving, my friend glanced down and saw the bill was $190. When we pointed out that he only did 10%, he claimed he meant to (in his head), do 10% and double it, but forgot. So we all threw in an extra $5 each and he was so embarrassed he threw in $10. The server ended up with almost a 30% tip

                        1. re: jhopp217

                          Why do you all keep allowing this guy to do something you're all privy to and don't like?
                          Perhaps a little intervention?

                          1. re: latindancer

                            Good question....he's usually the most sober, haha

                      2. I am horrid at math.. for tipping I always double the tax and add 2.00..and hope I did ok.. I did kind of messed up once when I was really little me and my sister called and made reservations for my dad for fathers day.. my mom gave us her credit card so we could pay and called ahead so we could take care of everything. The ticket came and I put the tip down the waitress took it and pretty soon the manager came over and took me away from the table..He explained that a tip should be about 20 % and I said but the service was twice as good so shouldnt the tip be 40 %? he laughed and said no... so he showed me were he crossed it out it on the ticket and changed it..
                        I am peranoid when I eat out with groups that the waiter is getting stiffed. But I also think it is kind of dorky to pull out my phone calculator and do accouting right there.

                        44 Replies
                        1. re: girloftheworld

                          depends where you live and how much the tax is?

                          my state sales tax is 6.25%. your method would only give $14.50 on $100.

                          uh, unless the service was awful, totally not enough. you may want to reconsider your stance on calculators.

                          1. re: girloftheworld

                            What's the sales tax in your area? I think ours is only 5% so that wouldn't work here.

                            1. re: girloftheworld

                              I've noticed in the many "how much to tip" threads over the years that lots of people say "double the tax" as a guideline. Where I live, that would be about a 16% tip. Tax rates vary, and I just don't understand why people can't look at the check and do math.

                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                I find it scary the number of people who can't do basic math. Double the final amount and divide by ten, fiddle w/ the final amount to make it convenient.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  wow, i divide by 10 and then double. lets argue about that for about 15 rounds chowder. but I agree. and to me 'fiddle' almost always means adjust upwards to a round number.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      "wow, i divide by 10 and then double."

                                      The commutative law is awesome.

                                      To be honest, I round up before I do the math. Tonight, meal came to $38. Round up to $40, divide by 10, double; or commutatively double and divide by 10; and get $8. Lazy. But, if I did it the long way and tip came to, say, $10.05, I'd most likely leave $10. So I normally round up, except when I don't.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Seems we all have our own methods for how we figure it out in our heads. I just multiply by 0.2

                                        1. re: Rick

                                          i just take 10% pre--tax total and double it.

                                          $116 = 11.60
                                          11.60 x 2 = 23.20

                                          1. re: Vidute

                                            if you were paying cash, would you expect change from $24? or just round up the 80 cents?

                                            just curious...

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              depends. i'll round up if the server says they'll be back with my change. if i'm asked if i want the change back, no round up- instead a bump down to 15%. if i have a handbag full of change, i'll make it an even 20%

                                  1. re: Terrie H.

                                    Some of us pay a lot more sales tax - it's utterly reliable math for the math impaired.

                                    For background, I've spent most my life in the Seattle area. Doubling the tax is always over 15%. Seattle proper, nearly 20%. I usually round up, too.

                                    I don't see a lot of 20% tippers around here.

                                  2. re: girloftheworld

                                    Here is a little bit of a better "tip" for you when calculating gratuities. (for example purposes we will use the 20% as the tipping standard)

                                    Let's say the check is $40. if you take 10% that is $4.00 then double it $4.+$4.= $8.00 there is your 20%.

                                    Don't feel bad, I just read a recent study that said, 5 out of 4 people have problems with numbers.

                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                      our tax is 8,5
                                      I think it is more of trying to mantain a decourm for me.. most of the time I am the youngest in the party if it is food club and I am trying not look silly..I can do "simple"math but somehow at a table the enviorment of everthing else the "in your head" gets a little slow.

                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                        you're still leaving under 20%. that's less than "average" in the northeast, for sure. i realize standards are less in the midwest and south.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          i double the tax and add a few dollars ... my "standards" are not like I experinced in THE North. But heres in the miiidweest we aint so lackin

                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                            you already explained your "formula".

                                            i have only worked in boston as a tipped employee and only in fine dining. my experience is that those from the midwest and south tend to tip closer to 10%, while killing me with kindness. the platitudes don't pay my mortgage -- even while i understand cost of living issues are relative.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I fail to see how 8.5 plus 8.5 which equals 17% even without the extra few dollars thrown in is closer to 10% than it is to 20 %; but then I already said my math skills are lacking. However, I will not bow to anyone who says my stanadrs or tipping manners are lacking due to my geographical location. Pehaps our mamas just teach us a little more about being judgemental than up in "Boaston".

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I didn't realize it was the customer's obligation to pay your mortgage. I get so tired of people who act like a "tip" is a REQUIREMENT rather than what it really is, a GRATUITY given based on the customer's perception of the service provided by the waitstaff. That is the job you chose, deal with it.
                                                I am positive that if grocery stores started implementing mandatory 20% tipping for their bag boys so they could pay them less that you would be bitching up a blue streak. How about it? You wouldn't mind paying an extra $40 on top of a $200 grocery bill would you? Maybe up it to 25% ($50) if he doesn't smash your loaf of bread or maybe even 30%($60) if he doesn't break your eggs!! The kid has bills to pay. After all, your platitudes don't pay his mortgage!

                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                  i realize tipping is a relentlessly hot-button issue. fact is, few states mandate fair pay for servers and most live off tips. bag boys (girls) do not. so yeah, lol, tips do pay the bills for any tipped employee.

                                                  it all works out to a relative average every month, and you pay your bills, OR you get a new job. please don't act like this is a surprise? some people think 10-12% is ok, because they walk in a geographic and/or time warp. coke used to cost a nickel too.

                                                  recent anecdote:

                                                  table of 7 southern ladies, all saucer-eyed about being in the big city and ALL saying how not hungry they were. le sigh. (why are you at dinner if not hungry?) told me up-front they needed the check split a certain way, yadayada. indeed, they were so very nice, but this is a place where the check average is $120 pp.

                                                  i was very accommodating and they went on about their d**k server in another place the night before who could not have been more put-out by their group, and how nice i was!!! they oohed and aahed and everything was great and i was so lovely. they split the check NINE WAYS; some left NO tip and overall, i got 11% on the bill.

                                                  kill me with kindness.

                                                  eta: am not suggesting 20% is the line for mailed-in service. i have been on the receiving end of server sexism when with my female friends -- all of whom have some connection to the industry.

                                                  but for a large group of ladies whom i read well and all said they had a great time, it's tough forget 11%.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    That was pretty smooth on their part getting a nine way split on a party of seven.

                                                    Of course, they may have just been so much in awe of the fancy northern ways that they forgot their ciphering.

                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                      certain companies don't allow alcohol to be expensed. it's not unusual for a person to ask the booze be put on a separate bill.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        although my company didn't require it, that's how my boss handled it every time we were at a dinner together.
                                                        he understood and wanted "good" wine which would have far exceeded any bill that could have been justified on our expense reports.
                                                        to him, it was worth it to avoid drinking "swill"

                                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      When I tip I tip for service.

                                                      I'm not thinking anything other than "this person is working to make a living", a certain percentage is my subjective standard and I tip accordingly. I'm not thinking to myself "this person has a mortgage to make and it's my obligation to subsidize".
                                                      The tip I choose to leave is going to be very, very generous if the person has waited on my table well.
                                                      If the person doesn't wait on my table well, well, my tip will reflect that and I figure it is he/she who's made the choice of how much I leave.

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        i'm not suggesting you should consider anything other than the service received. krap service begets krap tip.

                                                        however buried it may be, pretending there is no implicit understanding that your tip pays your server's bills is just silly. it is his/her income.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          <It is his/her income.>

                                                          ...and I *did* state 'this person is working to make a living'.
                                                          When I sit down at a table I expect good service. If the wait person decides (it's their choice) to not give me the service I expect then my tip will reflect that. Nothing is automatic.
                                                          Stellar service....25-30%
                                                          Lousy service...perhaps 10% if that.

                                                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        I apologize if I tend to get a little pissy about tipping, but I am an old school former restaurant worker (every area including some management) who learned from my mom (an even older school former waitress) and my grandmother (a stone-age school former restaurant/bar owner). I have seen many Hounds bash anyone who even thinks about tipping less than 20% no matter how lousy the service and/or numerous the sins committed by the server (INCLUDING stealing the change from the check) and it irks me to no end.

                                                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                          <I have seen many Hounds bash anyone who even thinks about tipping less than 20% no matter how lousy the service>

                                                          If a waiter gives me lousy service they're going to see it reflected in my lowered tip.
                                                          I hate like anything leaving anything less than 20-25%. I can go as far as giving the wait person the benefit of the doubt when he/she says my food's coming out of the kitchen slow because the kitchen is 'slammed'. it. The person either hasn't shared tips with her chef to make sure he/she's taken care, of which I consider stupid on his/her part, or the kitchen actually *is* slammed and it's not anyone's fault but the kitchen.
                                                          However, if the wait person just isn't paying attention, couldn't care less if my water/coffee isn't refilled, doesn't bring the check to me, doesn't come around to check on my table, etc....then expect a lower tip. End of story.

                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                            Do you play less for dry cleaning if the service is poor? Or if there is nothing on TV, do you not pay one day of cable bill? I realize it's a service, but I like to recognize that these are people and unless they say something derogatory or do something that would be deemed offensive, I can't see leaving less than 20%.

                                                            I wonder how tippers who tip based on service that does or doesn't meet their expectations would feel if they were paid at their jobs that way. Let's just say I know a lot of school teachers who might be making less than minumum wage.

                                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                                              It's interesting but not a 'go' for me.

                                                              I pay for service. I also pay on the full amount, including taxes.
                                                              I tip very generously between 20-30% if the service is what I expect it to be.
                                                              I pay through the nose for dry-cleaning and my expectations are high because I've chosen the best in my area. They always come through for me and the owner receives a bonus at the end of the year. I pay a fee for cable even though I don't watch TV alot of the time.
                                                              All the people who are service-oriented, who do work for me, are paid generously and given large 'tips' at the end of the year.
                                                              Anyone who takes their job for granted, doesn't work hard, and thinks they're *still* going to get a big payoff is sorely mistaken.
                                                              As I stated, I tip for service given.

                                                              1. re: jhopp217

                                                                " Let's just say I know a lot of school teachers who might be making less than minumum wage."

                                                                And I know a lot who would be millionaires.

                                                              2. re: latindancer

                                                                " it. The person either hasn't shared tips with her chef to make sure he/she's taken care, of which I consider stupid on his/her part"


                                                                you're suggesting servers are "stupid" for not bribing the kitchen to make their plates come out in a timely fashion? should they be bribing them even more to bump their chits to the front of the queue? where does the anarchy end?

                                                                many places i worked the chef was either the owner or far more handsomely paid than i was as a server. i certainly was in no position to try greasing palms so they would simply do their job. in my state it's also illegal for chefs to try dipping into the tip pool. and... you do realize i was already tipping out 20-40% of my shift earnings to support staff like runners, bartenders and bussers.

                                                                everybody thinks servers have nothing but money to burn.

                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                  I've known many servers in my lifetime.

                                                                  The really good ones, who make great tips on their shifts, give a fair share of their tip(s) to the chef.
                                                                  They establish a great relationship with the one person who can guarantee the food will come out quickly.
                                                                  Nobody's 'bribing'....they're doing something efficient and, in the end, highly productive.
                                                                  I find that extremely intelligent.

                                                                  Long ago I'd question why one server's food came out quicker than the server's table next to mine. Having the same exact conversation with friends who were servers they'd simply answer the question....the server whose food came out quicker tipped the chef. Common sense.

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    <where does the anarchy end?>

                                                                    Nah...pure logic.

                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                      lol, i realize your remark here is old, but the thread got bumped...

                                                                      having worked over 20 years in restaurants, in all capacities in foh, i have never met a a server who tipped a chef. maitre d's? yes. i also cannot imagine other staff going quietly into the night if one person tried pulling this -- they are about as cut-throat a group as you will ever meet.

                                                                      as to why some tables' food comes out before others there are plenty of plausible explanations -- all far more likely than bribery.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        I too have never seen chefs tipped, except by the diners themselves. As long as you don't piss the chef off, he will do his job to the best of his ability and beyond. If you're extra nice to him there might be a tiny bit of favoritism I guess. But nothing so obvious as consistently late orders.

                                                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                      I for one appreciate your insider's view of the restaurant's tipping distribution, because I haven't worked in the field and don't know how it rolls out.
                                                                      What do you think about Mario Batali, et al, taking a percentage of tips to do "wine research" or whatever the hell they said they were using it for? I think I have sa clue how you feel, but thought I should ask.

                                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                                        batali, along with his partner-in-crime bastianich, made the papers because he's a "celebrity". there have been numerous class action suits in my city of boston against some pretty big players, all of which were settled on the side of the servers.

                                                                        i have been a victim of it too, but in some smaller, chef-owned places. we simply didn't have the heft to mount a suit. it's vicious and demoralizing. the restaurant industry is really awful in the way it takes advantage of both foh and boh staff.

                                                                        somebody like batali is a millionaire many times over yet feels entitled to nickle and dime employees to whom he pays less than minimum wage. it's theft and fraud. yuk.

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          Here in California it is illegal for an employer to take any part of tips. If I recall correctly, an example in the law is for deductions to cover the house's proportional cost of processing credit card charges. If there WERE a legitimate cost they could deduct for, that might be one, but the state has said it isn't the employee's choice that the house accepts credit cards.

                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            it's totally illegal in my state of mass., as well., but that doesn't stop employers from pulling it. a frequent dodge is for the house to take a percentage of banquet/private function gratuities, before tipping out the service staff. the class action suits i mentioned above were settled in the million-dollar ranges.

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I was with a group in Virginia once and we tipped $15 on a $45 bill and I thought the waitress was going to ask us to marry her. Living in NY, they'd shrug at the 33% and not even thank you.

                                                    3. re: girloftheworld

                                                      Another option that is just as easy, and works any where despite tax rates - look at the total price, and move the decimal one place to the left. That is 10%. Double it, and you get 20%. From there, you can eyeball something in the middle if you want.

                                                      Personally, I'm good at math but lazy. I move the decimal, double it, then round up to the nearest whole dollar to make the addition easy.

                                                      1. re: girloftheworld

                                                        What a great story and what a nice manager to help you in such a discreet way. :-) Here is a quick way to get to 20%
                                                        Whatever the total is , for example $55.69, just take off the final number (in this case, it would be 9). That leaves you with 5.56...double that and you have 20% or $11.12 . If you round the number $55.69 up to 60.00 first, it is even easier, 6.00 + 6.00 is $12.00.

                                                      2. We always do 20% pretax minimum, which sometimes takes a little digging when the tab is handwritten and shows only the total. But that has become much less common. 20% is easy enough for me to do in my head, but we've mostly turned the job over to Mrs. O's iPhone and its tip calculator. Then, if we're in a group, the straight calculator function helps us divvy up the total. This leaves only the occasional major inequity between diners' meals to hash over unaided.

                                                        Figuring from the pretax total takes care of the variances from one jurisdiction to another.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                          You opened up a whole new can of worms....pre-tax or total.I don't have the patience to be bothered with people trying to figure out what they ate and the tax or tipping less on drinks. My "rule" is 20% minimum on total

                                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                                            Where we live, we are taxed at a rate of 15%. I tip on the total before tax. Usually 18-20%.

                                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                                              I think it may depend on where you eat. I had lunch with three friends at a Vietnamese restaurant. The dishes were in the $7-8 range. When the bill came, one of them said "I refuse to tip on the tax!" I thought to myself, what's 20% minus 10% of a $7 tab? I didn't even stop to figure it out. This person is generous in some ways and a nazi in others, I'm not going to change her, I prefer to enjoy her better parts when I can. But I don't go to lunch with her any more.

                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                Where I live the tax on $8 is 64 cents. 20% of that is 13 cents!!!!!!! COME ON!!!! Give me a break!!!! I would stop eating with her too.