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How much do I tip? How much should I tip? How much do YOU tip? etc.... [moved from Ontario board]

Riffing off the Summerlicious discussion re: tipping, and resigned to the fact that tipping seems expected, here is what I do, and I'd be interested to hear what you think I SHOULD do and what YOU do in respect of this interesting and never-settled debate!

a) I don't feel the waiters' and auxiliary helpers' financial well-being is my responsibility. First and foremost it is theirs, with a close runner-up being their employer's. I regard my tip as a small extra reward for good service, with a variance upwards for especially good service and downwards for lousy service that stems from the waiter's performance, not from screw-ups in the kitchen and so forth.

b) The near-ubiquitous existence of tips' being pooled bothers me. I don't refer to the passing along of a small proportion of tips to busboys and maƮtre d's and so forth, but to the massing of tips so that the same portion of the loot is divided among the front line wait staff. This destroys the most human (not always the most admirable, true) incentive for waiter X to try extra-hard to please my table, in hopes he will receive an extra reward. To me this is no different than a the bonus pool at a bank or law firm, and numerous other examples in business and professional life.

c) Paying an ever-higher tax to the nanny state I cannot avoid, but since it has nothing to do with the quality of the wait staff or for that matter of the meal or anything else within the control of the restaurant writ large, then I don't see any reason whatsoever to tip on anything other than the pre-tax total.

d) In a typical restaurant without a sommelier, I think of part of the waiter's routine duty is to open, allow me to taste and then pour the wine. Some restaurants' style is then to leave the wine on the table or in the bucket for the patron to pour. Obviously kudos goes to the waiter who re-fills the glasses as appropriate - which does not mean topping them up every few moments in hopes of selling me another bottle. So for a $30-50 bottle of wine the resulting additional tip is relatively trivial. But for more expensive wine - and for a restaurant employing a sommelier - I become more conscious of the 200-300 % markups over retail typical of such establishments, and think that the service of the sommelier and the provision of nicer crystal is rightly the norm along with other things for which one undoubtedly does "pay" in the cost of the menu items but for which one does not tip: say linen napkins or a stool for a lady's purse A particularly helpful sommelier who has spent time in selecting the right wines should have a few bucks pressed into his hand. But if I have chosen myself two bottles of Sr. Castellani's excellent Amarone thereby swelling the coffers of Le Select by $310, for wine that retails at the LCBO for $55 a bottle, thus $110, I don't see any reason to tip any percentage on the extra $200 that appears on the bill. The waiter still will - or won't - attend to the topping up of the glasses; and unless one believes the tip should be some sort of a sin tax on the basis that only "the rich" (which I am not) would order such wines, then I think the realistic conclusion is that his additional labour is nil. This becomes even more true imho when a truly "rich" patron orders several bottles of a $300-500 wine.

e) So given the above ruminations and conditions, and presuming I occupy a table for a couple of hours and order a typical several-course meal, I tip 15% of the pre-tax total, perhaps rising to 18% for truly great service or cheerful fulfillment of unusual requests, perhaps going a definite slice below for (rarely seen) truly bad and incompetent service.

Over to you...

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    1. I generally tip more generously than 15% pre tax - but resent when I'm handed a machine and 15% post tax (sometimes as high as 18 or even 20 percent) is default. This was an issue at origin Liberty village for me. Service was often mediocre, save for one server in particular, and the default tip was 18 or 20 percent post-tax (I can't recall exactly), which is pretty significant. When an increased amount is expected and service is not up to par, I lower the percentage. Generally 15% pre-tax is the lowest I will tip, and sometimes my tip will be much higher - 50 or even 100% - if the bill is modest enough, and the service is outstanding.

      However, my preference, by far, would be if tips were split evenly among BOH and FOH. Both represent equal value to me. I would then consistently tip higher. I occasionally buy BOH rounds as my tip, and lower my FOH tip.

      Regardless, everyone should be able to tip what they're comfortable with - and really, that's all there is to it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: justxpete

        Last month Marben handed me a machine with one preset amount - 20%. That didn't bode well for the server. I changed the percentage and checked the receipt....sure enough it was also post tax.

        1. re: justsayn

          Precisely my issue! So incredibly presumptions to assume a 20% tip - especially given poor service.

          My whole point is many don't understand how significant the norm - 15% pre-tax - to the occasional 20% post-tax (by default) is.

          Huge difference!

      2. Tips are always pre-tax. Anyone who tells you differently is just trying to reach into your pocket.

        1. Points....

          A. you do not care or feel responsible for a server's financial well being...yet you have no problem having them serve you.

          B. you are bothered by the pooling of tips.

          I stopped reading after that....because you should care about A, and not about B....since the latter is none of your business how tips are distributed.

          18 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            I can't agree that how tips are distributed is none of the guest's business. While it may be out of my control, I most certainly would like to have a way to reward a particularly special server and know that the 'extra' is going where I want it to go. The idea that it may not is troublesome.

            1. re: Midlife

              Servers agree to the house rules and policies when they accept a position. If they accept it, that's all that counts. It balances out when others receive good tips and share the wealth. It's ridiculous to believe that only *I* should have a say in where my tip goes.... and you are the only one giving good tips....this is in general of course, not picking on you in this case.

              1. re: fourunder

                I appreciate the non-personal disclaimer, but I think you inserted the word "only" into a thought that was not intended to convey that. I suppose this all leads to a rolled up bill transferred in a handshake on the way out. Not foolproof, and hard to know if necessary, but would hopefully address my concern. I certainly don't want that special server to lose out on whatever portion of my tip they're signed up to get, so I'll continue to tough it out.

                1. re: Midlife

                  appreciate the non-personal disclaimer, but I think you inserted the word "only" into a thought that was not intended to convey that.
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  Well, I did not intend to single you out, but apparently you did for me. The OP has the same feelings on where the tips should be go...only in one's pocket where *I* intended it to go.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Not personal, but not sure you're getting my point either. What I'm troubled by is that "I" have NO say at all if tips are pooled, unless I go out of my way to try to slip the server something extra.... and hope it stays with the server. When anyone makes a statement like " It's <RIDICULOUS> to believe that only *I* should have a say in where my tip goes" I would respectfully disagree regardless of whether you're addressing me, the OP or anyone else. I may not be ABLE to control where it goes, but I really think I SHOULD have a SAY in it, if possible. If I don't, and can't get around that, it takes something out of the satisfaction of being able to reward a special service. Again, not personal, just examining and hoping to clarify the words you put in your post.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      "If" tips are pooled and you slip a server or anyone else in the establishment cash in a handshake or other clandestine method.. and they do not share that money with the rest of the "pool" then that is usually considered to be the same as them stealing that money and they may be fired with cause.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        midlife: you will only likely get a legitimate say in this IN YOUR DREAMS.

                        other than in your personal view, this is not considered the purview of the customer. different restaurants have different policies. i've NEVER heard any restaurant taking a poll of customer preferences on this issue.

                        your desire to have control of this issue as a customer would be considered OUT OF LINE to most folks in the business.

                        but, i guess you can WANT anything.
                        i WANT to be tall, blond, thin, an heiress, and to be able to balance in spike heels.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Wow! And I thought I had qualified the hell out of my opinions and desires on this. Just this evening I spoke with an acquaintance who has been a server for 15 years. Her take was that an extra hand-delivered gratuity would be accepted.and that reality was it would never be disclosed regardless of policy. She went on to add that she'd refuse to work anywhere that denied a server such a specifically personal and directly delivered extra gratuity. Oh well. Whatever.

                          1. re: Midlife

                            ive never heard of a restaurant allowing that

                            1. re: kpaxonite

                              Do they really have to allow it for it to happen?

                              1. re: Midlife

                                Let's say a server's family comes in to a restaurant where s/he is employed. At the end, they pay for their meal and leave a ginormous tip. The server takes the gratuity and adds it in complete amount as given to the tip pool. They do this because it's policy.....now do you think it's right for others to stuff any amount of a gratuity given to them for their service, and not add it to the tip pool as required.

                                If not, It's called stealing from your peers.

                                You can feel whatever you wish, but once you give the tip, you've done your part. You should not expect how it is received other than gratefully and expectations on how it is handled and dispersed is like you are giving it with conditions. The simple truth is tip pooling is common. If you give it within the confines of any establishment, it should be handled as expected by the house and staff....not the guest giving it.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Not sure why you all think I don't understand this. I'm not arguing the rules, I'm saying that reality doesn't always follow them. I just find it very difficult to believe that pooling rules are inviolate and no one ever bends them or turns their head. Note to self: don't go to restaurants where tips are pooled. Your tip doesn't go where you'd like it to go.

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    Its rare for people to break the rules because most people dont want to risk being fired or worse...and the other staffs incentive to report them is high.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      In "reality" banks get robbed, that does not make it right to rob a bank...

                                      Some people in the world are thieves. As is your friend if she takes tips that belong to the "pool".

                    2. re: fourunder

                      I might add here that the server I spoke with said she wouldn't work where tips are pooled, but "tipping out" is completely different and not an issue for her. She feels that pooling rewards people who don't always deserve it and limits her income. I'm wondering what the relative use of the two methods is in the industry.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        Scenario #1.... after shift, Waiter A makes a
                        $100 and Waiter B makes $50. The scenario kind of repeats the next evening, only B makes $100 and A pulls in only $40. I'd rater take $75 and $70. While the amount overall would be the same....what happens on the third day?

                        Scenario #2. due to seniority, Waiter A gets the best station and more tables for the evening, let's ay 6, Servers B & C get only 3 tables for the evening. Do you think B & C are going to be happy? It makes more sense for the house in fine dining to implement a pooled tip policy. It's more equitable, everyone makes the same tips and there are no disputes and labor issues. Everyone completes a shift and no one gets set home early. They all work together. It's why the best restaurants use a team system.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          It's exactly why the best restaurants use a team system.

                          And, in those countries like mine, where service charges have significantly replaced old-fashioned tipping, many then work to a team system, right down to the neighbourhood bistro type place. As, indeed, is often the case in countries where there's a no tipping culture.

                2. The original comment has been removed