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Tips and expensive restaurants

Normally I tend to tip about 20%, so for a bill of $49 I would probably pay $60 and for a bill of $79 I would give $100.

Lately I have been wondering how tipping should be handled for larger bills, not in a scenario where there are many people in the group, but rather when the restaurant is expensive. For example I have paid $300 for a dinner for two a couple of days back. I ended up tipping $25. Now in a way giving the waiter $25 feels like quite a lot in absolute terms but percental it wasn't even 10%. Was I actually stingy and should have tipped 15-20% of $300, that is up to $60?

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  1. I generally tip 20% at any restaurant. The only exception would be if I bought a very expensive bottle of wine. So if I spent $200 on food, and ordered a $100 bottle of wine, I would tip $50, $40 on the food, and another $10 on the wine.

      1. re: Allstonian

        Since I never buy $100 bottles of wine, this isn't as big of an issue as some of you are making it. I do tip 20-25% on drinks as well as the meal. I was trying to illustrate that I might not tip 20% on what I would consider a very expensive bottle of wine (may not be expensive to everyone, but certainly to me). I don't let my wife tip anyone, however, as she feels it should be 30-40% and I can't cotton that. That said, I dropped a $5 tip on a $12 bill at a diner last weekend. The waitress was insanely busy, and still managed a smile for everyone, so I felt it was deserved.

      2. I think you could have gotten away with 15% and still kept a clear concience. 8.5% makes you stingy.

        1. I tip according to the cultural norms of whatever country I'm eating in. If that's a place where service is included, then I don't tip. Or a place where it's 20%, then I tip 20%.

          In my country, where service charges are commonplace,in preference to old-fashioned tipping, I would expect it to be added at the usual rate on the "bottom line" (which, FWIW, would include tax at 20%) regardless of whether it was a local bistro or a Michelin 3* place

            1. The tip is part of the meal. If you don't want to pay the tip, you should choose another restaurant. I actually agree with you in theory, but, in practice, it doesn't work that way.

              1. You were stingy. If you don't want to tip properly at expensive restaurants, avoid them in the future.

                A counterfactual: Do you tip $20 on a $20 bill?

                1. More expensive restaurants tend to have more complicated service and more staff to provide it. The waiter who stops by your table the minimum 4 times necessary at Uncle Willy's House of Roast Beef is probably serving 6-8 tables at a time, and will see each of those tables turn once an hour. The waiter who is carefully presenting and explaining each course for your 3 hour dinner at Chez Fancy Pants is probably only serving 4 or 5 tables and is seeing them turn at most once all night.

                  It gets a little questionable with expensive bottles of wine in the mix, but on the whole, the cost of your dinner is a (reasonably) good stand in for the amount of service that goes into providing it for you, and thus tipping a percentage makes sense even if the actual dollar values start to seem weird. I tend to tip a higher percentage at cheap places that still have table service, because the absolute dollar values can end up being pretty low at a place that serves $6 bowls of Pho, but I don't undertip at more expensive restaurants because I acknowledge that more work goes into providing the service at those places, whether it's being done by the waiter or the people he has to tip out to.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                    Agreed. I personally stick to 15% minimum (I feel this 20% trend is unnecessary inflation), but round up at cheaper family-run places.

                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                      Well stated. The server in Chez Fancy Pants is more likely serving 3 tables max further making your point.

                    2. You may as well have stiffed the server. He ended up losing money by waiting on you after he tipped out the busser, the bartender, and got dinged for taxes based on his percentage of sales.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Very true. Ideally, the OP should contact the restaurant to rectify the situation.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Yes, that's an admirable way to resolve this.

                          Scharn - do let us know if you take this avenue.

                      2. Stingy isn't even the right adjective....this goes beyond the pale.

                        1 Reply
                        1. In your example you tipped $21 on a bill of only $79, yet tipped only $4 more on a bill that was $221 more than your example. Yeah, you were stingy.

                          1. I'm guessing your $25 didn't feel like a lot to your waiter.

                            Yes, you were cheap and tipped poorly. I find it hard to believe you would think an 8% tip is anything but cheap.

                            1. Yes. Don't overthink this, just decide on a percentage and give it always. You can go up for great service, though this is not necessary. You can go down only for rude service.

                              1. Not only were you stingy, but the poor waiter is probably wondering what the heck he did to deserve such a lousy tip. Normally, people deliberately leave a lousy tip to send a message that service was inadequate.

                                In fine dining establishments, the wait staff are usually highly trained professionals who give great service and I'll up my tip FROM 20% to as high as 25% because I really appreciate that level of service, which helps to make the meal special (thinking of Grammercy Tavern, for instance).

                                1. So, OP, you asked an intelligent (in the sense of showing self-awareness, however belated) question and got uniform answers. What do you intend to do about your situation now?

                                  26 Replies
                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Well first I'm visiting and while tipping big is the norm in the US, giving the equivalent of $25 on a $300 tab would be considered VERY, VERY generous in Central Europe.

                                    Obviously tips appear too scale here, so next waiter will get his 15-20% no matter how high the tab. Guess that means $50 or whatever sometimes. :)

                                    1. re: Scharn

                                      It seems like you've been "visiting" for a while if your favorite Boston breakfast spots have started to let you down and you've been asking for butcher recommendations....

                                      1. re: Scharn

                                        No offense - but you've been posting from the Boston board since 2011 so you know what the tipping norms are in the States.

                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                            For what it's worth I am here a couple of times a year and I certainly do not need to explain myself to you.

                                            The horrible crime has happened that a waiter got $15 or $20 less than he should have. Sorry. Will just tip more next time. But while I feel a bit sorry it's certainly not the end of the world for anybody nor is it half as serious as some of you guys make it seem...

                                            1. re: Scharn

                                              It sounds like you probably should know better, and your undertipping is not $15 or 20, but more like $35! Aside from not properly compensating the server, you probably left him or her wondering what s/he did wrong, Indeed if as you say, this occurred only a couple of days ago, the right thing to do would be to call the restaurant management, say you realized that you made a mistake, and make things right.

                                              I travel extensively and with all the sources now available in print and online, it's very easy to find out what tip is appropriate anywhere!

                                              1. re: Scharn

                                                In the US, it would be considered a serious breach of social norms. Not serious in the criminal sense, but in judging people's character. (This is one reason why tipping threads get such energy among Americans at Chowhound, as I suspect you've witnessed by your time here.)

                                                Just to illustrate my point: many people, if they find out a friend or family member tips as you did, would feel duty bound either to confront that person or limit their social dealings with that person (when it comes to miserly parents, there is the via media of slipping more cash to the server after the parents after left the table (or even before they sit down)). The behavior is widely deemed to violate a social norm of equity. Americans may let millions of people go hungry or be imprisoned for silly things, so I am not arguing the consistency of the logic here, but this is just one of those things that if you spit at it here, you are spitting into the wind.

                                                It's serious enough that many folks would say you should contact the restaurant in question and rectify the error (you wouldn't have to confess the nature of it).

                                                I should note I am one the Chowhounds who is NOT Lord Bountiful when it comes to tipping standards, but relatively conservative about what should be considered agreed-upon custom versus optionally more generous.

                                                Every culture has its own set of strong social norms, which vary without strong logic from culture to culture. This is part of America's. We have weaker social norms about other things that your own culture probably cares more about, and if we stayed in your country long enough we would be remiss in not abiding by them (or not surprised if we reaped ill-will for failing to do so). For example, Americans typically fail a basic rule of etiquette in many parts of Europe to greet shop proprietors upon entering and leaving a shop.

                                                1. re: Scharn

                                                  I bet that the waiter would disagree with your idea that this is no big deal. But then again, it is just his livelihood on the line.

                                                  1. re: Scharn

                                                    From hotoynoodle's post below: "[W]hen diners have obviously had a great time and the server did a wonderful professional job, you have no idea what a punch in the stomach that sort of "tip" feels like."

                                                    This. It's not just that you miscalculated, or didn't know better - someone worked hard to serve you well, and for reward you presented them with a slap in the face.

                                                    I once waited on a group of college students one Labor Day weekend who left, as a tip, an enormous pile of loose change from all over Europe (back in the pre-Euro days.) US banks won't exchange foreign coins, so the tip was literally worthless - the young men apparently thought this was funny. This happened 30 years ago, and I haven't forgotten the unprovoked insult.

                                                    Your argument that you're not from the US, and that you're not entirely familiar with US tipping customs, is clearly disingenuous. You have been traveling to the US regularly for at least a few years. You've been in Boston several times just since last June, based on your posting history. You're in Boston often enough, and for long enough at a time, to have regular dining spots from which you'd like to branch out and to shop for provisions to do your own cooking - again, based on your posting history. You should know better, and you know you should know better. I hope that you make things good with the waiter as soon as possible.

                                                    1. re: Scharn

                                                      <is it half as serious as some of you guys make it seem>

                                                      It seems a little more serious, to me, than you're willing to concede.
                                                      Recently I stayed at a very high end hotel in S Cal. The hotel is visited by foreigners whose tipping habits are much different than ours in the US.
                                                      When I was told, before I ordered room service (I wasn't asking BTW) that there was an automatic $10 service charge and an automatic 23% tip involved I just shrugged my shoulders and agreed….no big deal. I'm paying what I'm paying for great service and I expect to tip high, which I always do anyway.

                                                      When I later asked why this was now part of the verbal agreement when ordering…
                                                      The response was very clear and concise…
                                                      There were those (mostly foreigners) who felt it acceptable to leave a $10% (or less) tip on an expensive meal.
                                                      The point is…

                                                      If you don't want to pay out big time for stellar service then it's probably a great idea to go somewhere else.

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        I think you are being a bit harsh on foreigners in general. Although the OP appears to have enough experience to know better, not everyone is in a foreign country for the umpteenth time.

                                                        Do you recall your first meal out in a foreign country the first time you traveled internationally, I do. I was dropped off at the hotel by a prepaid driver, I had no idea if I should tip him or not, I'd never had a prepaid driver before. I checked in and walked to the little restaurant next to the hotel. The meal was fine the service was fine, neither were anything to write home about, so I tipped as I would in the US at the time, about 15%. I'm sure the lady was quite surprised and pleased, as I latter found out the tipping customs in Europe are considerably different than those in the US. So now come over to the US for the first time and you get really good service, so you think a gratuity is in order, based on European standars 10% would be very generous. So, it's not always about "... don't want to pay out big time . . ." it's about knowing the customs of a particular country.

                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                          The first time I ate at a restaurant in Amsterdam I was terrified because my credit card receipt did not have a line for me to enter a gratuity. I ended up leaving cash on the table.

                                                          1. re: mikie

                                                            If only there was some way to type a phrase such as "tipping customs in ____" onto some sort of device (possibly hand-held?) and have answers pop up in a matter of seconds. Alas, some day.....

                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                              There is a device that I have in my pocket which can access the sum of human knowledge. I use it to look at pictures of young women I will never meet and argue with people who I don't know.

                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                Yep...perhaps someday someone will invent a handheld device which will have a software that will allow you to ask a question regarding appropriate tips anywhere in the world by either typing it in or even speaking it! What would I call such a software...perhaps something strange like Google!

                                                              2. re: mikie

                                                                Oh, and for the record, I've made countless "mistakes" when travelling and continue to as I explore new (to me) parts of the world and navigate different social customs.

                                                                I just don't think the OP's situation is a matter of simple ignorance, though. If it were, he/she might be more apt to acknowlege his/her mistake instead of just reasoning that "well, it would be a big tip in Eastern Europe, so...."

                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                    I believe I ruled out the OP as being a novice US traveler in my post. However having been a novice traveler in Europe, I can certianly see how there could be some confusion on their part the first time the get a restaurant tab in the US. I'm just cutting the novice a little slack, like I hope they would cut me a little slack if I were not aware of their customs.

                                                                    My daughter waited tables for a period, I've heard all the stories. There are people in the US that think a $2 tip is all that's necessary regardless of the cost of a meal. I work with a guy that's almost that bad, we just don't let him pick up the check when we're on a business trip. It's not even his money, he just can't tip 20% on anything over $10.

                                                                  2. re: mikie

                                                                    When was this? These days with so many travel websites it's pretty easy to check the tipping or other customs of countries you are traveling to.

                                                                    1. re: mikie

                                                                      Oh come on…

                                                                      I'm a very knowledgable traveler. I know the customs, the traditions and certainly the standards on tipping, no matter what country I'm in.
                                                                      It's easy…
                                                                      One should educate themselves before dining.

                                                                  3. re: Scharn

                                                                    No, it's not the end of the world. I mean, it wouldn't be the end of the world if your boss decided you would make less money today, right? he'll pay someone else the right amount in the future, but you will make less today, because he decided arbitrarily that you should make less and he only visits the country you work in sometimes.

                                                                    1. re: Scharn

                                                                      beg to differ, scharn
                                                                      actually it is very serious.
                                                                      after tipping out the others, and paying tax on the presumptive tip percentage that the IRS uses, the server has lost money by serving you.

                                                                      would you feel that if your employer TOOK MONEY OUT OF YOUR POCKET to allow you to work that this would be ok?
                                                                      thought not.

                                                                      1. re: Scharn

                                                                        Would you be upset if you weren't paid an hour or even two hours worth of wages for work you did? That's basically what happened here. While I think the system of tipping that we have here is silly (and the situation you describe basically proves my point) it's the system we have. Servers are paid below minimum wage and for some reason are dependent on patrons "tips" for the majority of their earnings.

                                                                        1. re: Scharn

                                                                          While not a horrible crime it's thoughtless behavior. The idea that you'd spend $300 on the meal and then decide that $25 is "quite a lot" for waitstaff should give you a lot of material for some introspection.

                                                                    2. re: Scharn

                                                                      The tipping situation in central Europe is totally irrelevent. As a traveller, you should make yourself aware of local customs. I'm British, living in the UK, and travel fairly extensively in Europe and North America. It is easy to establish what are the customs in a particular country.

                                                                      Whilst I would agree with you that the American high tip level sounds outrageous to we Europeans, that is their custom - they do many things differently than we do. Not least in not applying statutory minimum wage provision to serving staff, knowing that there's a high tip level. Weird, I know, but that's the situation.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        op: servers in europe make at the very least minimum wage and have the social safety net of things like health care and education. american servers do not. so while tipping is a hot button issue, this is a bald fact. servers live on TIPS and tips alone.

                                                                        also realize that in joe's clam shack a server may only tip out a small percent of the night's earnings, but in a high-end place servers often tip out as much as 40% to other support staff -- runners, bussers, expeditors, sommeliers, baristas, etc. that left your server with $15 from your tip. when diners have obviously had a great time and the server did a wonderful professional job, you have no idea what a punch in the stomach that sort of "tip" feels like.

                                                                        eta: in better places, very small tips often draw attention from management when checks get audited after service. they will want to know what the server did to piss you off and why they weren't informed. while it won't warrant a write-up or warning, it makes it seem like the server effed up somehow. not just that you were feeling stingy.

                                                                  4. Couple of comments, one snide, the other for you to think about.

                                                                    First, if you can't afford to tip the same percentage you would elsewhere, don't eat there.

                                                                    Second, the IRS assumes that servers make a certain percentage of the meal cost in tips and requires that the restaurant report that percentage at least as tip income. While I don't remember the percentage, and it isn't 15%, both the restaurant and the tax man make assumptions on what a server will receive as a tip. Also, remember that servers normally have to share their tips with the busboys, bartenders, and other front of the house staff. So you stiffed all of them, not just the server.

                                                                    1. Yes, by US standards you were beyond stingy…really unacceptably so. My personal guide is:

                                                                      25% for extraordinary service. To earn this, the server must have done something extra…something more than just providing the level of service expected in an excellent restaurant.

                                                                      20% for competent and excellent service.

                                                                      15% for service that is lacking in some important way…being kept waiting excessively long for food delivery without an explanation, bringing wrong food, etc. This tip assumes that the server although lacking in competence, is at least polite and hopefully at least modestly apologetic. I will also generally tip 15% at a buffet dinner where the server simply serves beverages, assuming he/she's reasonably attentive.

                                                                      10% for service that is totally inadequate in multiple ways and the server is not only grossly incompetent, but also unpleasant and not helpful. I always will complain to management about this.

                                                                      0% for grossly rude and incompetent service. I have only done this perhaps once or twice in many decades of dining out. Of course, the management hears about this immediately, because I'm likely on my feet and leaving if a server is grossly rude to me.

                                                                      I must admit, that I sometimes break my own rules and tip between these even amounts. I tend to overtip in really nice places, so 22% might be left to a very competent server, who did nothing "extra".

                                                                      1. I use a tip meter, well one based on service, not an actual meter. Under normal circumstances the meter starts at 15% and can go up or down 5% based on service. It's possible to go beyond that either way, but that takes some doing on the server's part. For an inexpensive meal with very good service I will likely tip over that range, but for very poor or especially insulting service I will leave an insulting tip. If I feel insulted by the wait staf I want them to know that I just didn't forget to leave a tip, I want them to know I'm upset with them. If I was really upset with the service I would probably leave an even lesser tip, but an 8% tip would be, IMO, a tip indicating displeasure with the server. In a restaurant where dinner for 2 comes to $300, I expect impecable service and usually receive it, so 20% or at least close to it would be in order. On the other hand, if the server ignored me almost completely, then perhaps an 8% tip was generous. A gratuity is earned in my opinion, not just given, but it does indicate my satisfaction with the service. If you received a bad meal, then this should have been brought to the attention of the wait staff and resolved with the manager.

                                                                        1. Yes stingy. What I don't get is why you decided to ask this question after your $300 dinner and not before it.

                                                                            1. Aren't you glad you started this thread and asked the question...

                                                                              1. I think tipping (for any and all services) should be declared illegal.

                                                                                29 Replies
                                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                                  So you think that the government should get involved in whether you have the right to give another person a small voluntary monetary gift, which is what a tip usually is?

                                                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                                                    If it was indeed voluntary, a small 10% "gift" wouldn't be treated with such hostility and, if one chose to not leave said "gift", that would be ok too.

                                                                                    1. re: grampart

                                                                                      Tips are indeed voluntary. While the server might scream at you if you don't leave one, the restaurant can't call the cops.

                                                                                      But let's assume that all tips are somehow abolished and that all restaurants cranked up their menu prices by, say, 20 percent in order to compensate their servers. So now, you pay as much for a dinner as before and probably more since menu prices, unlike tips, are subject to sales taxes. And you would no longer have the opportunity to calibrate your tip based on the quality of the service you received. Happy now?

                                                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                                                          It seems to work out that way pretty well in Europe. I traveled for a week about a year ago with collegues in Belgium and Germany and we had a number of discussions on tipping as they also travel in the US on occasion. Where as in the US the tip meter typically starts at 15-20%, in these countries it starts at 0. If wait staf is properly compensated by their employer then any gratuity they receive is indeed a bonus. However, in the US, they are not properly compensated by their employer and as stated up thread this is how they make a living, not on the $2.40 per hour they get from the restaurant.

                                                                                          And, although you are correct, tips are voluntary, one can easily see from all the above comments, they really are not. In the US if you don't tip, and tip properly, you are not considered in high regard.

                                                                                          1. re: mikie

                                                                                            First of all, the tip credit that exists in the federal minimum wage law as well as in many states that have minimum wage laws, does not absolve any employer from making sure that an employee makes at least the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 and quite higher in some states. All the tip credit concept means is that tips can be part of the employer meeting minimum wage standards.

                                                                                            The way I look at tipping is that it's just part of the cost of a meal. Get used to it! If you are in a store in Europe and you look at the price-tag of an item, it's likely that what the price-tag says is what you will pay at the register. VAT will likely have been included in the price tag. In the all-but-a-handfull US states that have sales taxes, the sales tax would probably be tacked on at the register making the cost higher than the price-tag. That's just the way things work in the US.

                                                                                            1. re: nocharge

                                                                                              First of all, the federal minimum wage law does not apply to establishments under a certian size, but that's irrelevent as my $2.40 per hour example was just a number thrown out as an example of how poorly waitstaf is paid and that they are not paid a living wage. I'll go out on a limb here and bet you don't live on $7.25 per hour. My guess is that you have totally missed my point here. To actually make a "living" wage you would need double the $7.25 an hour. In the US you have to make up the difference in tips. In Europe, you pay more up front for the meal but the waitstaf gets a living wage from the employer, so if they get a gratuity, it really is a bonus, not a make-up payment.

                                                                                              What we are talking about here is just like what the airlines are now doing, oh, do you need to check a bag, that will be $25, oh you have two bags, that will be another $50, what, you want a blanket or a pillow, that's another $5. They could include that in the price of a ticket, but they want to show the lowest possible price, so they do everything as an add on. What's wrong with paying an employee a living wage and that employee not having to rely on the gererosity of others to make a living. We don't do that with the guy that builds your house, or your car, or the guy that fixes your car, or the person who teaches your kids, or your butcher, why should waitstaff be treated any different.

                                                                                              1. re: mikie

                                                                                                Whether this is about restaurants or airlines, you end up paying a certain amount of money for whatever services were provided. Whether it's about restaurant tips or charges for checked-in luggage, you can decide whether the whole experience was worth the total money you spent. Agonizing about how it was itemized is a waste of time. (Assuming that there was a certain amount of transparency when it comes surcharges or customary tipping.)

                                                                                              2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                You know. While I am perfectly content with our current tipping system, I have to agree with grampart of his previous points about "tipping is not voluntary in US". A "no-tipping" system is not going to destroy the restaurant business. Much of the world does not share this 20% tipping system.

                                                                                                As mike has nicely pointed out, European countries have a different tipping system which works perfectly fine

                                                                                                I know if you actually tip a waiter or waitress in some Asian countries, they won't know what you are doing and actually may be considered as an insult. You may say "what do you mean by insult?" Just imagine you go see your doctor for next your medical appointment, and you stuff $40 bill in his hand as you walk out. This is how it will feel to some waiting staffs in Asia.

                                                                                                <The way I look at tipping is that it's just part of the cost of a meal.>

                                                                                                There is a contradiction here, and I think you see this too. If tipping is really "part of the cost of a meal", then it cannot be truly voluntary.

                                                                                                Legally speaking it may be voluntary, but it is not by custom, not by social pressure. I am not saying that it is ok not to pay tip, and I don't think grampart is saying that at all. He is just saying that he hopes for a different social system. For example, currently, we don't have congressional term limit. Someone may say that they don't like term limit, or they like term limit.

                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                  Customs in Europe vary from country to country. We do not have a uniform attitude towards tipping. It varies from, say, Belgium where service is inherently regarded as being included in the posted menu price, through countries which have traditional tipping, to countries, as here in the UK, where the service charge has largely replace old fashioned tipping.

                                                                                                  I don't like tipping - not least because I don't think it improves the service to the diner (although I accept that different folk may have different views about what is "good" service). As such, I think the move away from tipping to the service charge has been a very positive move and I'd hope that, in due course, we'll further move to the Belgian model.

                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                    Thanks for the correction. I should say that my main point is that the current US "tipping system" is not the only "correct" way to do thing. Some people may say: "Well, tipping reflects your appreciation of the service you get", but why don't this apply to other professions? Like other said, we Americans do not pay our doctors, nurses, teachers, butchers, ... in tips.

                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      I agree. Since it's become "tip 20% unless the waiter completely ignored you" for many of us, it's no longer serving any really useful purpose, except for increasing the wage of the server to an appropriate level. But from what I've heard, most waiters are very very happy with the system as it is, as they tend to make a pretty good salary, perhaps better than if we went to a standard wage.

                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                        How happy they are with the current system is going to depend a lot and I mean a lot, on what type of establishment they work in. For someone working at Morton's or Ruths Chris, where it's difficult for two people to get out under $250 then 20% a table is going to work out very well, on the other hand for someone working at Applebee's, 20% really is only going to bring them up to almost a livable wage. That's why I like the Belgian system, where the employer charges you for the true cost of the meal and service and the employee knows what they are going to make and that they can live on that amount.

                                                                                                        And Chem, who slipped you a $40 bill? ;) Who's face was on it, Howdey Duddy?

                                                                                                        1. re: mikie

                                                                                                          <How happy they are with the current system is going to depend a lot and I mean a lot, on what type of establishment they work in. >

                                                                                                          Agree, but I would think more people will support this because the poorer servers who barely get by will get paid more.

                                                                                                          <And Chem, who slipped you a $40 bill? ;)>

                                                                                                          :) At first, I wrote: Stuff a $20 bill in your doctor's hand, but then I thought $20 maybe below the 10% and people will scorn me (notice how many people scorned at the original poster), so I modified it into $40, but forgot I still had the word "bill" there. Yes, maybe there isn't a $40 bill, but at least I won't get yelled at for being cheap and a monster.

                                                                                                          By the way, if you go to Japan, you usually get reasonable service in restaurants, but it is not customary to pay tip (almost always no)

                                                                                                          "There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting"


                                                                                                          "Waiters and waitresses in restaurants in Japan will not expect you to tip. Like most services in Japan the view is: you are paying for a good service, why pay extra? So much so it's not uncommon to hear stories of staff chasing down patrons to hand back change that was left as a tip."


                                                                                                          I know I have said this before, but I will say it again. It is false to say that the tipping creates better service -- as a whole.

                                                                                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        Yes, understood your point, chemical, and concur. Tipping is an odd custom in whatever country, in that it is restricted to small groups of workers.

                                                                                                        Cultures can change. When my brother in law came to the UK, he worked (and still works) as a taxi driver. Fifteen years back, tips were regular each shift - not every customer, but certainly several tips eahc day. Now, it's a rare occurance - not even a "keep the change" sort of tip.

                                                                                                        As someone who really only observes American tipping practice from these pages and only experiences it on visits to your country, I also don't buy into the "reflects your appreciation" argument. When you read threads, most people have a standard tip percentage and pretty much stick to it unless there has been a disaster in service. Even then, folk will still offer, say, 10%, in situations where, in the UK, there would be no tip and a complaint to management. As such, I'd take the view that the tip is pretty much an integral part of the cost of the meal, as the tax, or the service charge in the UK.

                                                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      There is no particular contradiction in saying that tipping is voluntary and that it's part of the cost of a meal. When it comes to customs, as opposed to laws, people are free to abide by them or not. Not abiding by social customs may result in getting you a negative image. But you make the decision about the tradeoff. Tipping is part of the cost of a meal in the US unless you want to violate social customs and come across as a cheapskate in the eyes of your fellow diners (and restaurant servers).

                                                                                                      That's all there is to it.

                                                                                                      1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                        & if tipping while you are in the US goes against your principles/beliefs, you are free to cook your own meals or patronize fast food restaurants, where tipping is not customary. Bon Appetite!

                                                                                                        1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                          <if tipping while you are in the US goes against your principles/beliefs, you are free to cook your own meals >

                                                                                                          Some people are saying that there may be a better way. There is nothing wrong with discussing new idea.

                                                                                                          Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on this one. I am fine for tipping or not.

                                                                                                          To me the suggestion of "go home and cook if you disagree with the tipping system" is like saying "go home and don't vote if you disagree with the Electoral College" or "go home and don't fly if you disagree with the TSA search procedure"

                                                                                                          I hope you can appreciate that people can disagree with a certain custom or certain rule without having to stay home.

                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                            Yes CK, but if a diner in the US "disagrees with tipping and will not tip" do you really think it's ok for him (or her) to eat out at a sit down restaurant where the server's livelihood depends on tips and s/he will be taxed based upon assumptions related to this.

                                                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                              Ah, great point.

                                                                                                              I think there are different level of disagreements. Sometime the disagreement is merely of "there is a better way", while other times the disagreement is so strong: "This is morally wrong, and I rather die than to do this"

                                                                                                              <if a diner in the US "disagrees with tipping and will not tip">

                                                                                                              I think if you disagree to the point of not tipping, then you probably should consider not eating at these restaurants because you are hurting people and taking advantage of them -- taking advantage because the servers *think* you were going to tip, but you end up not.

                                                                                                              Let's give you an example.

                                                                                                              You know we drive on the right side of the road, whereas the Brits drive on the left side on the road, right?

                                                                                                              Let's say I believe US should start to change the law so that Americans drive on the left side because it is more efficient. Let's just say that. If I simply want to change the system while obeying the current law, then I think I am entitled to my opinion and should not have to "stay home". However, if I feel so strong that I start to drive on the left side of the road and endangering people's life, then yeah, I should stay home.

                                                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                              Nothing wrong w/ discussing new ideas, or disagreeing w/ the expected norm, but until you've changed the system, I believe you should tip (or serve yourself)-my opinion only.

                                                                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                      This famous bit from Reservoir Dogs may be a tad harsh and the language is a bit rough, but the opinion is valid. Btw, even though I hate the tipping system, I almost always ante up the 20% or more.


                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                        The notion that 3 refills does not require a tip...it takes 6?

                                                                                                        or the fact that the meal was free to you, because it was paid by someone else....

                                                                                                        So free food and 5 cups of free coffee is what it take for you to cough up a buck?

                                                                                                        Sorry, the opinion is not valid.

                                                                                                        However, I did like the movie and the bit.

                                                                                                  2. re: nocharge

                                                                                                    well one difference between a tip and a gift is that the government PRESUMES that the servers get tips and TAXES them on those PRESUMED tips whether or not the servers actually received them.

                                                                                                    the IRS normally doesn't tax small gifts.

                                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                      That's true. But my point was really that a tip (for the most part) would be considered a voluntary gift as opposed to a mandatory payment subject to sales taxes etc.

                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                        You are supposed to report gifts given and gifts received. When we calculate payroll for clients, we include tips to make sure the employers are submitting the correct amount to various government agencies.

                                                                                                  3. Like it or not, you don't get to apply volume discounts to tips when you spend more on a meal.

                                                                                                    Having said that I hope the OP doesn't feel like a pariah for asking a legitimate question. If it's possible to go back and remedy the tip though I'm sure it would be appreciated.

                                                                                                    1. Scharn,

                                                                                                      Everyone has a different tipping system, so there isn't really a right way or a wrong way. I was reading awhile ago that the tipping % has gradually moved up in the years. Used to be that 15% was plenty sufficient, then 20%, and now maybe 25%. Anyway, I usually tip around 20%. Disregard service performance, I usually tip higher under two conditions. First, if I eat alone. I tend to tip more (%) when I eat alone than eating out with friends. This is because the work effort for a waiter or waitress is not doubled to service a party of 1 vs a party of 2. Second, I tip at a higher percentage when the total bill is small. If I go out and eat a bowl of wonton for $4, I am not going to tip 80 cents.

                                                                                                      Considering that your standard is 20%, then I would think a $25 tip for a $300 bill is on the low end. I would think 15% is the least. Again, there isn't an absolutely right or absolute wrong way to do this. I can only say that I probably will pay higher.

                                                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                        "so there isn't really a right way or a wrong way."

                                                                                                        No. There is an accepted social norm that has some variation within it, and then there is stuff that is outside the norm. (The norms vary from culture to culture, yes, but there are norms.)

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                          I also tip more when I eat alone, plus I eat at off peak hours not wishing to hog a table. At places I'm a regular I will tip more. Who wants to be a regular cheap skate?

                                                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                            Very good point. I've often dined alone while traveling on business, often at "top" restaurants. I usually eat at "peak hours", and if I'm treated well, will tip very well (30% is not unusual). On the few occasions when the server has shown displeasure at me dining alone, their tip has been adjusted down appropriately.

                                                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                              <Who wants to be a regular cheap skate?>

                                                                                                              I heard many women like "Bad Boys". Maybe one can get attention that way? Next time I have an attractive waitress serves me, I will pay her especially low in tips to get her attention. (J/K)

                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                several of the restaurants on my regular rotation have policies in place to discourage "regular cheap skates" from ever returning.

                                                                                                                one proprietor even posts the names of such folks prominently at the register to make sure that they don't receive more service than they "should."

                                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                  < in place to discourage "regular cheap skates">

                                                                                                                  Only discouraged?

                                                                                                                  I remember reading an article of bad tipper being banned: Monica Convington


                                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                    I remember that story....she was a bad tipper.

                                                                                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                                      So say the owner of the restaurant, but she (Convington) claimed that she has always left good tips. :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                            No, just mine....they get that right for their investment.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                          Well, if no server in that restaurant wanted to wait on her, I think we can assume she WAS a bad tipper, & they have the right to refuse her service. She's free to choose some other restaurant to patronize ( or abuse, or my favorite option, she can fix meals for herself at home).

                                                                                                            2. since you asked,
                                                                                                              imho, yes, you were actually very stingy.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                I really hate tipping threads, I feel like such a beyotch for stating my opinion, but I worked as a waitress in my younger years, & as a consequence, I tip generously, & I'm mindful of what servers have to deal with- I wish all diners were.

                                                                                                                1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                  I've worked in the Restaurant business all my life....and I do not preach to anyone how they should spend their money, as I do not know their circumstances....however, I find those that do not tip treat servers with disdain and disrespect....not just being cheap. I also think it is a character flaw.

                                                                                                              2. This thread is hilarious (I guess Scharn has enough of a track record here to take the "lately I've been wondering" at face value, rather than figure this is trolling?).

                                                                                                                Now waiting for that Hunt fellow to tell us all what he once did at the DORCHESTER.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: psb

                                                                                                                  I can't tell you what Hunt might have done at the Dorchester. But I can tell you what would have been expected.

                                                                                                                  The restaurant there is one of only four Michelin three star restaurants in the UK. It is an expensive meal - three courses costing £85. That includes Value Added Tax at 20%. As common in very many British restaurants, the Dorchester does not have old-fashioned tipping, but adds a 12.5% service charge to the bottom line of the bill. 12.5% is pretty the usual percentage in London restaurants - it's 10% elsewhere in the country. Nothing further, by way of tip, is required or expected of the diner.

                                                                                                                2. I'm a pretty generous tipper and agree with most of the statements that the OP basically stiffed the server. Where i disagree is with the suggestions that he is a complete douche bag who should have done much more research prior to eating in America. First, yes there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that he's eaten in enough restaurants in the US to know better. He also tends to tip 20% which is good. He's unsure about whether this changes with larger tabs so he's doing the research using this new internet thing and asking the question to a group who's responses I assume he once respected. Pretty much as suggested by many respondents here. And what do we do? We throw him under the bus complete with name calling.
                                                                                                                  I like to believe that most hounds are fairly enlightened and as food is such an important part of our lives, probably more than any other group, we are more likely to research the local tipping customs. Last summer I traveled overseas with friends. In advance of our trip, my companions researched historic sites and museums while I researched restaurants and tipping customs. Without me my very civilized companions would have made more than a few blunders.
                                                                                                                  My daughter has been a server for years up here in Maine. In the summer, many Canadians eat at her workplace. Now Canada seems to be a place of well educated people with access to the internet but a very high percentage of her tips from these patrons fall into the less than 10% range. I guess most Canadians therefore are douche bags.
                                                                                                                  My point is to cut the guy some slack. He asked the question to get educated, not attacked. Should he have known better, maybe. Could he have known better, yup.
                                                                                                                  Was the server screwed in this case? Yeah, he was and it won't be the last time although it will probably be the last time by the OP who has learned two important lessons, 1. How to tip on large bills in the US and 2. If you're unsure of something food related, don't ask the folks on chowhound.

                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                    Right, except the OP's response was more along the lines of "oh well, not a big deal" and "hey, it's a big tip in Bratislava!"

                                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                      I think he was probably trying to make himself feel a little less bad once we universally pointed out his error to him. It does not make up for the fact that the server got screwed but I can assure you that this was not the first or last time that server will be short changed. Maybe that's why most of us here tip so generously - to make up for those who dont? I offen marvel at some of the posts on the tipping threads and how people will not tip or tip low. I can't remember the last time I tipped less than around 18% for even fairly poor service.

                                                                                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                        The OP asked "Was I actually stingy" and people replied that yes, OP, you were actually stingy.

                                                                                                                        Don't ask a question you don't want the answer to....

                                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                          Agree wholeheartedly!
                                                                                                                          The direction of the thread started bothering me when we started calling him out based on his should have known better because he was looking for a local butcher shop. ..

                                                                                                                    2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                      I find the whole post fairly disingenuous in that someone who is clearly a frequent diner at restaurants but only "lately" has been trying to figure out whether the percentage rule of thumb applies in all cases. Randomly picking $25 as a good-enough tip amount shows a level of thoughtlessness that deserves to be pointed out.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                        My post was meant to point out that, however disingenuous it might appear to those of us who do know better, the fact remains there are a lot of people who don't. I know some very well educated people who would scoff at the suggestion of a $100 tip being appropriate for a $500 tab (btw, I avoid dining with these types as much as possible). If the OP really had any sense to how egregregious his transgression was he'd be a fool to ask the question as any regular on CH should know that asking something like this will almost surely elicit responses like those I elude to. Disingenuous, I dont think so. Naive, yes.

                                                                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                          Except that the commenter tone mostly shifted after his rather blase and offhand response after the initial post. The decline in tone was interactive in that sense.

                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                            the op came here AFTER leaving a poor tip and later stated he/she would tip better "next time". even though a call easily could have been made to the restaurant and more money given to the server to right that wrong, that won't be done.

                                                                                                                            i think it's the cavalier reaction of the op that really set people's teeth on edge. i suspect when a question like this gets posted on the interwebs, the op already knows the answer.

                                                                                                                            agree that name-calling is never necessary, but the web is often full of sharp elbows.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                              I agree with most of what you write. My feeling was that he didn't feel right after leaving the inadequate tip and came here to confirm his suspicions which were promptly confirmed. I also agree that most OP's know the answers to their questions.
                                                                                                                              I have returned to a restaurant once when I realized I had under tipped. The server hadn't noticed and was surprised that someone would do that. In the OP's case he appears to believe that what's done is done and there's little that he can do to change the past. Not necessarily my m.o.

                                                                                                                        2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                          "He also tends to tip 20% which is good. He's unsure about whether this changes with larger tabs so he's doing the research using this new internet thing and asking the question to a group ....."

                                                                                                                          Although I do not cut my tip percentage based on a large check (bill), I understand the OP's query/perspective.

                                                                                                                          Back when I was in the retail business and had stores in shopping centers, the terms of the leases called for paying the shopping center owner a percentage of sales in addition to base rent. We always negotiated this percentage to drop as sales increased. For example 2% on up to 2 Million in sales, 1.75% from 2-3 Million, 1.5% 3-5 Million and so forth. This both protected us from paying out more due to inflation or the landlord getting a real bonus because we had a good year.
                                                                                                                          Some diners are of the opinion that if the steak is $50 or $75 there is no difference in the work performed by the server and there is an outside limit to the tip. Similarly, some diners I know tip a percentage on food, but a dollar amount per drink or bottle of wine.
                                                                                                                          And as the IRS model for perceived tip income is 8%, that server who only gets 10-12% on an expensive meal check is NOT being taxed on unreceived tips.

                                                                                                                          40 years ago when I worked as a waiter, we didn't tip out other employees, so it wasn't an issue. All tips we received were ours to keep. My 25YO daughter works weekends as a server. She tells me that 95%+ of tips in her establishment are paid via credit card, not cash. It is the agreement of both employees and management that the tip out percentage is on actual tip rec'd NOT a percentage of the check. So if a table tips poorly, a server does not end up losing money because the server must tip out a percentage of the check to hostess/busboy and bartender. The amount of the tip received is easily verified by checking the credit card receipts.

                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                            I happen to know a Canadian, and he is not a douche bag, he is a cheapskate and avoids restaurants where he would in any circumstance have to tip more than $20. Hahaha ;)

                                                                                                                            You are actually one of the few posters on this thread that I can agree with. One of my daughters also has waited tables and every night when she came home I would hear about the cheapskates and the few benefactors that helped make up for it. Because of her experience I always try to tip appropriately, however I do base the amount on a number of factors including level of service. Like many others, I'm inclined to tip more percentage wise for lite meals, or dining alone, but unlike at least some, I tip more for what I consider better service.

                                                                                                                            When we went to Italy with friends, I don't believe any of us researched the tipping customs there, didn't even occur to me at the time to do that. Most of our meals out were in the larger cities and I believe we tipped like any other American is accustomed. No one threw money back at me, so I guess we didn't insult anyone.

                                                                                                                            1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                              I suppose I'm in the minority but before I travel, I tend to buy a guidebook or read it for free online (Fodor's is free online). Guidebooks provide a wealth of information, including a tipping guide. Why people would go to a foreign country without a clue is beyond me.

                                                                                                                            2. you should have tipped $60

                                                                                                                              1. I've read a vast majority of these posts and I fall in accordance with most if not all, you were way out of line.

                                                                                                                                I actually checked your profile to see if you have posted before, I honestly thought this was some kind of joke.

                                                                                                                                Depending on how many "couple of days back" your experience was, or specifically, if it was during the holiday's it was an even more inconsiderate action to take.

                                                                                                                                1. Folks, it seems like what there is to say about the issue has been said here, and people are starting to get into discussing the discussion rather than discussing the issue, so we're going to lock this now.

                                                                                                                                  Added: The Original Poster has specifically asked that the thread be re-opened so he can post a follow-up, so we've done that. We'd ask that everyone please focus any further discussion on that when it arrives, and not on rehashing what's come before. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                  1. As a quick update i have contacted the restaurant and asked them to change the tab to a 20% tip, or $60.

                                                                                                                                    What essentially convinced me was Karl S thoughtful statement - and the general 100+ responses outrage.

                                                                                                                                    I would like everybody though to keep in mind though that the whole thing was an honest mistake and what feels completely obvious to those living in a certain culture is not necessarily obvious to those from a different background, because I honestly didn't intend to stiff anybody. In any case, wrong call from my side, but in the end it was corrected.

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Scharn

                                                                                                                                      so very kind of you to make this up to the server. :} excellent karma points for you.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Scharn

                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the update. Excellent and very proactive response. Very admirable indeed.

                                                                                                                                        No, I never thought you did this intentionally.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Scharn

                                                                                                                                          Well kudos to you. Friendly word of advice, next time do your research prior to travel!

                                                                                                                                        2. Recommend GlobeTipping Tip Calculator app. It gives tipping recommendations for all countries and has a tip calculator.