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Is Tipping Big the New Black?


Miami Danny
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I know people mostly like to complain about BAD service, and why they undertip, etc., and that is much more fun, I admit it. But with sites like bitterwairess, etc., bad tippers are getting enough play. I'd like to hear from people who love their servers and compensate them accordingly. I bring this up because I had lunch at Ceiba (in Washington, DC) today, and for the second time in a row, the service was just incredible. For starters, the gentleman who sat me remembered me from my last visit in January(!), even remembered where I sat! The waiter, Ronnie, was by turns knowledgable, funny, patient, engaging, and, best of all, discreet. He even twisted the foil around the leftover fish taco into a mad shape just for grins. The food, not incidentally, was vastly superior to my last visit, the fish tacos sublime, the pepita-crusted tilapia crunchy and moist on its bed of corn and bacon spiked mashed plantains, and the nice portion of crab fritters were also perfectly fried, and served with a searingly hot Scotch Bonnet sauce. The huge chips and tapenade accompaniments were refreshed over and over. The sopapillas for dessert brought me back to Santa Fe, and the little box of homemade caramel corn (on the house) is like God's Cracker Jacks. I was also presented with six small dessert bites, two each of cookies stuffed with dulce de leche, Mexican Butter Cookies, and fruit square-on the house. All were just amazing.

My point is that the service on my last visit brought me back to Ceiba. It gave me another chance to try the food, and I was grateful that I did. With three drinks, the bill came to $75 including tax, for two. TIP-$25! Well deserved for a one hour and forty-five minute lunch. Any other big tippers out there?

Edited by Miami Danny (log)
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Last couple times at Komi I've left large tips...once because we did the tasting menu, drank 4 bottles of wine, were there for 4 hours, and got rather obnoxious and loud by the end of the evening. Part for an excellent evening, part because we were a little rowdy!

The second time, the waitress did an excellent job pairing the wines to our dishes, we had 5 different dishes and tried 4 different wines and each wine was delicious.

I also leave large tips for my favorite bartender at my favorite bar, but then again he hooks us up with major discounts on beer and takes good care of us, so it's worth the money.

In general I'll leave 20%, unless the service really sucks, more if the service goes above the call or the person shows a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the job, like our wine pairing waitress at Komi.

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I would have done the same for service like that. Although I am somewhat ambivalent about the whole notion of tipping to begin with, I accept that those are the rules of the game and I play by them. That means: generous service gets a generous tip.

Don’t you have a machine that puts food into the mouth and pushes it down?

--Nikita Khrushchev to Richard Nixon during the "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow, 1959

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I've probably gone as high as 35%, or a little more if I get good service and/or end up getting comped something. Service would have to be be pretty bad for me to go below 20%.

But I'm never entirely sure if I am doing the appropriate thing. My personal service experience consists of a summer waiting/bussing tables at Pizza Hut where a good tip was one that wasn't under a dollar, in pennies or dropped in a used soda glass.

To the restaurant people - what would stand out as a large tip? Does 25% qualify or is it closer to 40%? What qualifies as embarassingly high?

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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I tip a standard 20%, and my bigger tips are usually at less-expensive places that still make me really enjoy my meal. I leave 25%+ at my neighborhood cafe because I'm a regular, the servers (and owner) know us, we always manage to get squeezed in immediately even when the place is packed, I love the food, etc etc. (Mark's Kitchen in Takoma, FWIW)

Edited by EllenH (log)

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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When I had dinner at Aurora in Dallas earlier this year, on my tab of $75, I left $120. It was worth every penny. ANd I can hardly wait to go back.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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We always tip 20%, good service will get 25, 30 or higher. I left closer to 30 at Palena the other night because we were a little rowdy and our waiter was very good.

On breakfast at a diner I typically leave close to 50 - breakfast is cheap and it seems like the servers get cheated out of making good tips in the AM.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I don't really think of myself as a generous tipper. I tend to leave 20% minimum and more if the service is outstanding, sometimes 100%. I figure it’s a tough job, even tougher to do it well, and these people live on tips. After all, how well would any of us do if our salary was pegged to performance? And not an overall, averaged out performance but broken down by the hour, by every work-related interaction? However, from time to time, I am reminded not everyone is inclined to tip the same way.

I've got great friends, good people, who think 15% is what you leave for stellar service and scold me for leaving a penny more. Or leave five bucks when we've been comped for $50 worth of cocktails. And then there are those who calculate the tip without tax AND forget to add the tax back to the final bill "Let's see it was $100 before tax so let's leave $115," not realizing what they've done is force the server to cover the tax out of that $15 tip.

Some people I’ve observed are downright punitive in their tipping practices. It is usually when I dine with someone who is not part of the restaurant industry or has never, not once, not even for a week before hating it and quitting, served drinks, waited tables or worked in a kitchen. These are the customers who are unhappy with the food and want to punish the server, the ones want to punish the server for being "rude" when not chatty enough or "overly familiar" when less reserved, the ones who want to punish the server if the food took longer than they expected, and so on. And God help you if the server makes an actual mistake or spills a drink.

Others act as if they have a license to abuse the staff by virtue of sitting their ass in the dining room. One friend actually said to a runner who had the misfortune of bringing his appetizer with the entrees "That just cost you your tip." The server rushed over to see what was the matter and when I pointed out that it could easily have been a kitchen error, he said to the server "Well, then you tell the kitchen they just cost you your tip." I thought she was going to burst into tears. And I was mortified.

Perhaps, the best, the worst?, incident happened at a seafood place in Florida with a few friends. Two of the girls deemed the server an incompetent bitch and decided to leave nothing, not a cent. The rest of us tipped 15% on our share. One of the non-tippers argued with us vigorously, trying to convince us to leave nothing. I thought “She sucked but wasn't appallingly bad and WTF it’s a seafood restaurant at the beach, what do you want?” The server said nothing.

We then stuck around and got hammered at the bar. Emboldened by our obvious drunkenness, the server chose to confront us as we left. What did the loudest advocate of a zero tipping policy say? Well, she chose not to share her critique of the server’s performance and simply walked away leaving the rest of us to deal with the angry server. The server got her revenge later and double charged the loudmouth’s credit card. (The rest of us had left cash.) For the record, I am no fan of credit card fraud or any felony for that matter but in this case, I understand.

Edited by monkey2000 (log)

"Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam; spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam. "

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Former waitress here. There is no such thing as over-tipping.

I tip 30% or more in places where tips are shared........not that I often frequent places with a sommelier - but I do go to sushi bars once a week or so, and I understand the waiters have to share their tips with the sushi chef.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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Isn't talking about how well you tip somewhat akin to talking about how well you, well, you know...

That's why I never bring up either subject when the wife's in the room.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Tipping is an interesting subject for me. While I agree with the above poster that there is no such thing as over-tipping, I also believe the converse has some relevance, too --- there is no such thing as undertipping. That's the policy I try to stick to, at least.

I think it is ridiculous to say "I always tip XX%". If the service is good, I tip well. If the service is terrible, I do not tip well. Namely, I think the quality of the service (not the food, by the way!) should be reflected in the amount/percentage of the tip. To me, the service is such an important part of the experience of eating in a restaurant. That being the case, I understand service is variable from place to place, meal to meal, waitperson to waitperson. And that variation means that sticking to a certain percentage simply doesn't work for me.

Also, I cannot stand it when a waiter/waitress illustrates a strong sense of entitlement to receive a certain tip regardless of whether or not they make any effort to do their job. Providing service to the customer is their job, and if they do not do their job, I don't think they should feel entitled to be paid for it. Plain and simple. While I have never worked in the food business, I have worked. I don't see anything special about the food business that should set it apart from any other kind of business. For a person to be entitled to be paid, I think they ought to be doing their job. For me, it's that simple.

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I think it is ridiculous to say "I always tip XX%".  If the service is good, I tip well.  If the service is terrible, I do not tip well.  Namely, I think the quality of the service (not the food, by the way!) should be reflected in the amount/percentage of the tip.  To me, the service is such an important part of the experience of eating in a restaurant.  That being the case, I understand service is variable from place to place, meal to meal, waitperson to waitperson.  And that variation means that sticking to a certain percentage simply doesn't work for me. 

Also, I cannot stand it when a waiter/waitress illustrates a strong sense of entitlement to receive a certain tip regardless of whether or not they make any effort to do their job.  Providing service to the customer is their job, and if they do not do their job, I don't think they should feel entitled to be paid for it.  Plain and simple.  While I have never worked in the food business, I have worked.  I don't see anything special about the food business that should set it apart from any other kind of business.  For a person to be entitled to be paid, I think they ought to be doing their job.  For me, it's that simple.

I am someone who has worked in the food business, and I can say -- ridiculously, clearly -- that I always tip at least 20%. This is how servers are paid, and in some places they are paid very poorly indeed. Tipping at least 20% is, for me, just part of the deal.

By "the deal," I mean that the server gets paid to serve me. Tupac17616, unless your server didn't take your order, bring your food, and clear your plates, then she or he did in fact "provide service to the customer" and thus deserves to be paid for the service. Whether he or she did it to your satisfaction is another matter.

Perhaps I'm gullible, but I have tended to find that surly servers are usually surly for particular reasons. In my experience, those reasons have included the back of the house treating them like shit, being wildly short-staffed, having to deal with a demanding and rude table, and so on.

I'm glad I'm no longer in a position to have to wait tables to pay the bills. And though it may be ridiculous, I'm grateful to those people who are serving me, even if they're having a bad day, and want to compensate them for it every single time.

I'm curious to hear how many other folks on this thread work or have worked front of the house.

edited to fix two typos -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Also, I cannot stand it when a waiter/waitress illustrates a strong sense of entitlement to receive a certain tip regardless of whether or not they make any effort to do their job.

I tip well, 15% at the diner and 20% elsewhere and adjustments up for running the server, or using the table for a long time (more at fine dining up to 40% and the servers often show they deserve it), but I have to agree with you. I am tired of tipping 20% when I have to chase the server for service and the ultimate killer for me is waiting a long time for a check, even after it has been requested. I tip anyway for fear of future bad service, or worse, being called a cheapskate. It's the standard where I live, and most restaurants are busy regardless of how good they are. There is no real competition for servers in the everyday restaurants. I'm happy to say it only happens about 10% of the time, but when it does, I feel wrong tipping less than the standard, so I never do it. So, I guess I'm saying, Yes, tipping well is the new black.

edited to say: chrisamirault, I know sometimes the kitchen is really busy, or if I'm eating first seating, sometimes the servers have other duties and tasks to deal with or as you mentioned large groups or demanding tables. I do take that into account. I am talking about servers who are hanging around the bar, or have just disappeared from the floor for twenty minutes. I hope that clarifies my post.

Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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I have been accused of overtipping, in particular by my mother, a former waitress. I can't help it, I just want to show my appreciation for the fact that these people have to put up with a whole lot of crap from the general public.

FWIW, I work counter food service and have been working in service related jobs for the last ten years.

< Linda >

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I have worked front of house in a couple of cafes, a neighbourhood BYO restaurant, and slinging cocktails in a nightclub. I normally tip 15% to 20%, and more as warranted (I do grossly overtip on occasion), but I have to say that I won't tip 20% for crappy service, even if they provide the actual items of service, e.g., bringing me my food and my check. Just being there is not enough. I understand having a bad day, etc. (trust me, I am one cranky cranky person), but if you can't get over it or put it aside to provide an acceptable level of service, you are in the wrong business. (This doesn't include kitchen error or items beyond the control of the server.)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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Hi, Miami Danny:

My absolute base tipping percentage is 20%; below that I will not go. When I go out for dinner, I am usually focused on whomever I am with, and I won't pull my attention from that to analyze the waitperson's performance or motivations. I do not have enough information to base my compensation level on what I observe in the few minutes the waitperson is in my company. If I tip generously for bad service, I am glad because that person probably needed it more than anyone.

I DO take the time to meet the server's eyes and smile, and to thank them verbally as well as monetarily. It embarrasses me to be in the company of someone who considers a server to be beneath the call for ordinary good manners.

Things that motivate me to exceed my 20% base: service so stellar that it DOES get my attention; excellent food; a sunny day; any accident or mishap that the server has. I enjoy making contributions regularly and this underpaid type of worker (waitpeople) is a good place to do that.

I worry that, when people are subjected to rude and careless service in many areas where tips are not an issue, they take out their built-up frustrations on the hapless waitperson, first chance they get. I also feel that many people look for a reason not to tip fairly.

Iamthestretch, Iamimpressed. It IS gauche to discuss things like this in public, but we're among family here. I am new to this site, but love it already.

Miami Danny, I have to say, your dinner experience sounds absolutely divine. Thanks for sharing.

Catherine

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Thought I'd ask a question that might add a different perspective to this discussion. What's the difference in minimum and average wages for FOH staff in the U.S. versus Canada? Could this account for the difference in tipping habits between Americans and Canadians?

Most people I know are in the habit of doubling the G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax which is 7%) and then rounding up to the nearest $1 or $5; this is for good, not great service. Tips for great service run, on average, in the 20% to 25% range.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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Things that motivate me to exceed my 20% base: service so stellar that it DOES get my attention; excellent food; a sunny day; any accident or mishap that the server has.  I enjoy making contributions regularly and this underpaid type of worker (waitpeople) is a good place to do that.

I'll add being part of a big table, hanging out for a long time for drinks, dessert, or conversation, and -- my favorite! -- a large mess left by one of my kids!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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