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Is Tipping Big the New Black?


Miami Danny
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Some people here have mentioned the value of $2 and what it can buy. At the risk of getting yelled at for being off-topic, I want to comment. I am an accountant with special interests in estate planning and personal financial planning. I think many people do not realize the power of thinking like these people I mention.

Over a year, carefully NOT dropping that extra $2, parking further away and saving the higher parking fees, bringing lunch from home three days a week and saving the difference between that and eating out...all this taken together can have a shockingly big effect on a person's financial picture. It makes me happy to see that some people still practice thoughtful stewardship of their assets.

I like to see people think out what they want to do, and include themselves as one of the beneficiaries of that planning. Being generous is NOT the same as being sloppy. Plan fairly and stick to it. Pay yourself first. That way, you live to dine out another day, and offer another generous tip!

Catherine

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I'll preface this by saying I tip post tax, but I queried the waiter at Waiter Rant and he told me pre-tax.  "The government gets enough..." was his point.  I continue to do it because it's negligible, but a dollar is a dollar. Its significance is personal.

Huh? The amount the government gets (the sales tax on your meal) is not changed by the amount you tip. In the sense that the waitron is reporting her/his tips and paying income tax on it, yes, that tax amount is changed...but even then, this comment makes no sense: "Don't give me a raise, boss. I'll just have to pay income tax on it." Maybe I should stand up, but this one went right over my head.

Perhaps the waitron honestly pays his/her taxes, and feels the one or two dollars extra perhaps adds up to a few thousand per year, and just enough to put one in a different tax bracket as you stated. It may be their concern. It is not mine. I agree with you...Taxes be damned, the more you make, the more you make.

Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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I'm still interested in the psychology of why people tip, especially large amounts. I gave some possible reasons above. I think its  to do with boosting their own egos, or to impress, rather than as reward.

Maybe its somehow its to do with guilt, perhaps at being waited on, or at the sensual pleasure of food...

I like the social contract theory as well. As you grow up going out to dinner with your parents or friends or whatever you see over time that it is just socially right to reward excellent service with a large sum, and to punish poor service with a meager one. In other service related professions the ability to do one's job can effect how much one makes by quite a bit. A mechanic, housekeeper, or landscaper known for doing excellent work will receive more clients, be able to charge more, and have more income coming in. A waiter however can't advertise themself or draw people in just for their service, since the main draw is the restaurant.

Imagine you have a restaurant with two waiters, one awful and one incredible. If your hostess seats an equal number of people in each waiter's section their income at the end of the day would be nearly identical if they were paid via a service charge built into the prices of the entrees (and maybe a little bit more for the great guy if he upsold a bit, or made the guests feel so welcome they ordered an extra round of drinks). Under the tipping system though the guests will feel much better after having dined with the good waiter, and thus will be much more likely to reward that skillfull service by paying appropriately for it, and his income will be even higher, as it should be.

Basically, I think it comes down to people wanting to tip well on occasion because it is just the right thing to do. Excellence deserves to be rewarded.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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But this discussion isn't about changing the system, it's about choices people make within the system.

Last night we were in an upscale restaurant where the service absolutely sucked. It began with our waiter seating us at a "special table" by the window that was reserved for someone else and then asking us to move after the wine was already served. Then he brought the appetizers for another table to our table - and got surly when we told him of his error.

From there on he decided to ignore us - you know the strategy. Our wine is empty and I try to signal him while he repeatedly looks around the entire room and "fails" to see us. Then there is a 20 minute delay between the time we order our second bottle of wine and the time it arrives - without any explanation. And of course the wine is corked, and of course the waiter insists that it is not. We almost left then and there - but our show was next door and it was too late to get a table anywhere else.

Now admittedly this doesn't happen often. Infact this might have been the worst service we have ever had anywhere.

Well I made my choice "within the system" - and this guy got a tip of zero. Social contract? You must be kidding.

Actually, you were well within the social contract -- it does work both ways (a fact convenientley, though rarely, forgotton by both diners and servers). "Average" service requires some "average" tip. Sucky service -- your call.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Actually, you were well within the social contract -- it does work both ways (a fact convenientley, though rarely, forgotton by both diners and servers).  "Average" service requires some "average" tip.  Sucky service -- your call.

Exactly. The social contract says that a certain percentage tip is expected if you receive adequate service. This is amply demonstrated by the myriad posts in these forums from members who have been embarassed by friends and/or relatives who are habitual "low tippers." Tipping <15% for adequate service in an American restaurant breaks the social contract. On the other hand, it is entirely within the social contract to tip <15% if the service is substandard. Now, some people may argue that one should have an understanding of what is/is not under the server's control before making the determination to lower the tip. I would be one of those people.

That said, I would also point out that, even for things that are not under the server's control, there are things that can be said/done to improve the diner's disposition. Customers like to feel that the server is on their side. If a dish comes out late and cold, for example, one is always favorably disposed towards a server who apologises profusely, says "this isn't up to our standards" and replaces/comps the dish.

--

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I was at the Blue Door at the Delano Hotel in South Beach, dining alone. I hate (hate, hate, hate) getting my food before my wine arrives, and so I made a point of asking my server to hold my order until the wine had been served. Sure enough, minutes later, my entree arrives without the wine. I looked up, irked, and the runner arsked if there was a probelen, and I told them that I have been arrured that the food would not arrive before the wine.

The next few minutes were a blur of waiters, managers and miscellaneous staff. Suffice it to say that the wine came out rapidly, the entree had either been prepared afresh, or held under a magical heat lamp that made it appear to have been cooked afresh, and dessert was comped. I had admit, despite the error, they seemed to be on my side.

I tipped well.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'll preface this by saying I tip post tax, but I queried the waiter at Waiter Rant and he told me pre-tax.  "The government gets enough..." was his point.  I continue to do it because it's negligible, but a dollar is a dollar. Its significance is personal.

Huh? The amount the government gets (the sales tax on your meal) is not changed by the amount you tip. In the sense that the waitron is reporting her/his tips and paying income tax on it, yes, that tax amount is changed...but even then, this comment makes no sense: "Don't give me a raise, boss. I'll just have to pay income tax on it." Maybe I should stand up, but this one went right over my head.

Perhaps the waitron honestly pays his/her taxes, and feels the one or two dollars extra perhaps adds up to a few thousand per year, and just enough to put one in a different tax bracket as you stated. It may be their concern. It is not mine. I agree with you...Taxes be damned, the more you make, the more you make.

Well said! *breathes sigh of relief*

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Under the tipping system though the guests will feel much better after having dined with the good waiter, and thus will be much more likely to reward that skillfull service by paying appropriately for it, and his income will be even higher, as it should be. 

This is interesting as an observation, and I know that a lot of people believe this to be true, but I am not convinced. I have been a server for a good while now, a manager before that, and I've never seen any evidence to indicate that good servers who give good service make more money than bad servers who give bad service. I haven't even seen evidence that a good server who's having a bad day will necessarily make a lower tip percent average on that bad day. It's nice to think that the system would predictably work so well that you could easy correlate good service with good tips, but I have looked for evidence of this and found none.

For instance: One of the things that really, really irks me happened today. I waited on a table of 2 at lunch time, and the gentleman and lady seated at this particular table not only enjoyed their food and service, but they were downright effusive about their pleasure with the experience. A question as to whether everything was good was met with the answer, "Good? Everything's marvelous!"

At the end of the meal the check was dropped, and they gave me 2 $20 bills to pay their check of $33.75, and I picked up the cash to go make change. I stopped for the slightest instant to look back at the table to see if they were waiting for change or not (sometimes people don't say "keep the change" but they get up immediately and leave anyway, so it's a wasted effort to make the change and head back out there, only to have to bus the table, change in hand) and I noted that $6.25 is just under 20%, so very likely a reasonable tip amount.

So I made the decision to break out change and returned to the table with change and receipt on a plate. I thanked them, they smiled and nodded, and then proceeded to remove $2 from the pile of change. Really, I was somewhat aghast that both of these people, who seemed friendly, educated and polite, simply did not know that $4.25 - an amount less than 15% - is not a good tip commensurate with good service. But I can only conclude that they do not know.

And really, how is a server supposed to know the difference?

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Under the tipping system though the guests will feel much better after having dined with the good waiter, and thus will be much more likely to reward that skillfull service by paying appropriately for it, and his income will be even higher, as it should be. 

(Snip)

Really, I was somewhat aghast that both of these people, who seemed friendly, educated and polite, simply did not know that $4.25 - an amount less than 15% - is not a good tip commensurate with good service. But I can only conclude that they do not know.

And really, how is a server supposed to know the difference?

My only observation about this is when you return cash to the table, (which I feel all servers should do), a fine line is drawn for the cheapskate diners. They start thinking... "gee , $4.25 is almost $5.00....that's plenty". Suddenly, the service is not the question for them, but the value of a dollar. The situation you decribe almost explains to me that very frustrating question "Do you want change?" which I hate, but your expectation as a server should be that all diners know that 15% is the absolute bottom for good service. I think they know. I think they're cheap.

Emma Peel

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Some people here have mentioned the value of $2 and what it can buy.  At the risk of getting yelled at for being off-topic, I want to comment.  I am an accountant with special interests in estate planning and personal financial planning.  I think many people do not realize the power of thinking like these people I mention. 

Over a year, carefully NOT dropping that extra $2, parking further away and saving the higher parking fees, bringing lunch from home three days a week and saving the difference between that and eating out...all this taken together can have a shockingly big effect on a person's financial picture.  It makes me happy to see that some people still practice thoughtful stewardship of their assets. 

I like to see people think out what they want to do, and include themselves as one of the beneficiaries of that planning.  Being generous is NOT the same as being sloppy.  Plan fairly and stick to it.  Pay yourself first.  That way, you live to dine out another day, and offer another generous tip!

Catherine

Thank you, Catherine - perhaps off topic, but well worth the digression.

sg

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wish I there was a forum where my managers would spend time coming up with stupid reasons to enrich my paltry fixed salary.

Tipping policies or self prescribed practices here in the US are bordering the insanity of our annual tax filings. Just simplify the whole darn thing, one fixed rate added to your bill simple as that!!!! Everyone pays the same and vice versa.

At this rate it won't be long before we're expected to pay 50% tips!!

C'mon people we should be coming up with ways to reduce tips and have more money to dine out ... Is there any other situation in your daily lives that you put so much effort trying to enrich someone else at your expense??? :wacko:

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After reading these four pages, I think some of you are right, most of the time. Money is money, and it all counts or this subject would not be here. (even $2.00)

I have many years experience in the small upscale restaurant business and believe that there are several reasons for overtipping.

1. Excellant service

2. Trying to get lucky with a waitress (or waiter or date)

3. Trying to impress someone (maybe just yourself)

4. You have a lot of money and enjoy sharing it

5. Compensating ( for multitudes of things)

Is it wrong? Yes, if you want somthing in return, especially if you get it. No, if it is done out of the goodness of your heart and everybody wins.

Amounts? In California 20% before tax is the norm for good service (I usually tip 20% unless the service is superb or pitiful.) Do I believe I am compelled to tip? No, it is my choice. It does not matter the servers' circustances, he or she chose this job knowing the pay scale. If the service is bad, I tip less than 10% or nothing. If I am harrassed by a server, I report him or her to management and expect action (I would never again want to be served by that person.) I fired a server for following a customer out the door and down the street asking why she didn't get a bigger tip. (Unacceptable behavior is still unacceptable behavior.)

I believe that we get what we deserve in the long run, there may be bad days and bad tips and there may be good days and good tips, they even out. People go out to enjoy a dining experience and we who serve are working to provide that. In exchange we all appreciate a little recognition.

I like recognition for my food, maybe you like recognition for having lots of money. If you don't have lots of money why splash it around? Come around again tomorrow for a great glass of wine and relax1

Just my .02 :wink:

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C'mon people we should be coming up with ways to reduce tips and have more money to dine out ... Is there any other situation in your daily lives that you put so much effort trying to enrich someone else at your expense??? :wacko:

What I don't get here is why a difference of 5 percentage points on the tip would make a really considerable difference in your ability to dine out or your sense that it's a reasonable expense. The whole cost of going to a restaurant is inflated in a sense. You've got huge markups on wine most of the time. You pay to have the food prepared for you. Basically from the minute you walk in the door you pay a lot of money to have people do stuff for you. Why should the server be any different? As I understand it, tips are how they get paid. So if the whole amount including a decent tip is too much for you, the restaurant is too expensive for you.

I would really be interested in the views of experienced people in the industry like Food Tutor. (Sorry to single you out, but you come to mind.) Would a no-tipping system in the US be better for everyone? I've heard comments here and there but never a complete rundown. If it were better I would gladly go along with it, but at the moment tipping is the system. Questioning the whole system seems like kind of a red herring when you're debating proper percentages.

Personally, I tip 20% (after tax) almost every time. But then, I tend to eat at places where 20% is hardly more than $20, so I can afford it. I did give 25% the other day at a small French bistro. The place was slammed and the usual host wasn't there. The person who was hosting was not doing a good job and the server was run off his feet. He cheerfully acknowledged that we had been made to wait and he comped us two quite nice glasses of wine. And then, I'm ashamed to say we pushed at the end to get out of there. All in all, I wanted to make sure it was obviously a good tip. So, yes, when I leave a big tip I guess I'm compensating for something but I thought I should.

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I would really be interested in the views of experienced people in the industry like Food Tutor. (Sorry to single you out, but you come to mind.) Would a no-tipping system in the US be better for everyone? I've heard comments here and there but never a complete rundown. If it were better I would gladly go along with it, but at the moment tipping is the system. Questioning the whole system seems like kind of a red herring when you're debating proper percentages.

When I see comments like the one from SG, talking about "enriching someone else at your expense," it makes me think that perhaps the resentment that breeds on both sides of the tipping equation is a good reason for going to a non-tipping situation. Much speculation has been made as to what sort of hourly wage a server would have to be paid in lieu of tips, or whether a service charge would be added to the bill. There are certainly benefits to doing away with tipping altogether, and you can look to countries that do not observe this practice to get an idea of how servers earn a living there, and whether service is better or worse there. From what I've heard, service is marvelous in Japan, where there is no tipping, and quite good in parts of Europe that use service charges in lieu of tips.

But in the United States, I'd have to say that our tipping system has come about largely through the choices of the consumers, the employers and the servers who like it that way. For whatever reason, I don't see any likelihood that it will change.

As far as overtipping someone, I don't think the intention is to contribute toward "enriching" a server, or helping them make that down payment on a new Mercedes, whilst forgoing perhaps an evening of dining out for yourself in order to do so, but rather it's just a way of saying, "I had a good time tonight - so have a beer on me!"

SG, if you're that envious of the tips received by servers, as compared to what you describe as your own "paltry" salary, perhaps I could recommend some career counseling for you? Heck, my restaurant is hiring if you want to slide in and get your share of some of that "easy money." :biggrin:

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But in the United States, I'd have to say that our tipping system has come about largely through the choices of the consumers, the employers and the servers who like it that way. For whatever reason, I don't see any likelihood that it will change.

Thanks for answering my query! What you say is pretty much what I've suspected; the system seems to upset people but it's not going to change. And people were still perfectly free to tip less than 20%, last time I heard. If they are upset about tipping 15%, maybe the restaurant isn't really in their comfort zone.

The other thing is, even if the US adopted the system of some other countries and abolished tipping, you'd still have to pay for your food and service one way or the other. I don't see how it would come out much cheaper on average than what the cost of the meal plus a reasonable tip is, unless they started to do things to reduce their total profits. Reducing the total cost of a meal by specifically reducing what the server gets, as these calls to abolish tipping often seem to suggest, is about the silliest way I can think of.

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... as these calls to abolish tipping often seem to suggest, is about the silliest way I can think of.

I have to agree with you Tess, because if the service was included, people would continue to tip on top of that because old habits die hard. And what would be worse is, if the service was included in the price of the meal, in a city like New York, (and perhaps many others) it would be an opportunity for restaurateurs to simply raise their prices, and not necessarily give the profit to the servers.

Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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I also think that Europeans understand very well the concept of tipping, they just choose not to when they're in the states (see above, "I don't believe in tipping").

When we (from Europe) went to the States, I was actually a bit nervous about the whole tipping business. Wanting to do it right but still not wanting to spend too much. It also took us some time to calculate both tax and tip in, when you look at a menu to check the price range of a restaurant.

We ate out every single night for 3 weeks, in places of very different standing (a Maine lobster shack on one end of the scale, Babbo on the other). I think we ended up tipping 15-20% at most places. That may seem pretty cheap to some of you but for us it was a lot.

I wonder.. when a New Yorker comes to Amsterdam, does he "understand the concept of tipping" that's common practice over here, and act like the locals, or will he use his own concept, and tip big?

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...I wonder.. when a New Yorker comes to Amsterdam, does he "understand the concept of tipping" that's common practice over here, and act like the locals, or will he use his own concept, and tip big?

I'm a New Yorker and when in Amsterdam, I think I do as the locals do. I do not tip big, but I always tip at least 10%-15% on top of the service charge, in cash. Now I'm interested to know, and perhaps you can tell me the answer, is that part of the reason I tip on top of service is because I'm American and I believe it is expected. Am I wrong?

Edited by emmapeel (log)

Emma Peel

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If there is a service charge, then you should not tip.

Here in the UK the Good Food Guide had a big campaign a few years ago, reasonably successfully, against restaurants that had a service charge but then left the credit card slip open. Such places were downgraded.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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  • 1 month later...
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?

Anything above 25% is "a large tip" in my books - there are no "embarrassingly high" tips.

Anything under 15% is inadequate and deserves an explanation.

There is no such thing as "over-tipping". You tipped what you did because you wanted to so how can it be "too much"?.

As to "service charges" they should always be clearly indicated however in many cases guests may wish to supplement the service charge (which may be as little as 15% of pre-tax depending on house policy) and that is why credit card slips are left open.

''Wine is a beverage to enjoy with your meal, with good conversation, if it's too expensive all you talk about is the wine.'' Bill Bowers - The Captain's Tavern, Miami

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  • 3 weeks later...

I actually feel guilty. Tonight I tipped 17% and I feel guilty.

Our server irritated me. First, without bothering to ask if we'd ever been to the restaurant before, he took us through the entire menu, revealing several his favorite items (most expensive one in each category, natch). I think his accent was fake. It was hard-sell city on the beverages -- he wouldn't stop asking us if we wanted more of them. He even asked my 8-year-old son directly if he wanted another $2.75 Sprite after our plates had been cleared and just as we were about to ask for the check. :angry: But nothing went terribly wrong. We received what we ordered in a timely fashion.

So, I punished the server by leaving only 17%. That'll show him!

But as I drove away from the restaurant, I thought about the hard-working bartenders and the helpful bussers and I suddenly felt bad about that 17%. They deserved more, right? Why should they suffer because our server rubbed me the wrong way?

I often tell myself that I would have no problem adjusting a tip downward if the service warrants it. Yet, tonight I did just that and feel bad about it. I don't know if tipping big is the new black but for me, when I'm in the mood to leave a big(ger) tip, it's because I've just finished a pleasant experience; one that made me happy. Good experience, good tip. Bad experience, bad tip (w/ exceptions for things that are obviously beyond the server's control).

For me, a big tip -- as it turns out -- is a reward given to a person for doing his or her job not only appropriately but in a way that makes me feel good about the experience I just had. I love being in a situation where I feel a bigger tip is appropriate. All restaurant experiences should be so good.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Ron, I think that part of the challenge is that it's impossible to know what that 17% communicated. I mean, who knows, that might be a big tip for that person. I know that I often believe that the percentage is first and foremost in my server's mind when they see what the tip was, but I think that's likely wrong-headed at least in some cases, and certainly when the tip is in the high teens....

Now if you'd left the price of that Sprite and had pointed out why.... :raz:

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I leave large tips because I used to be a waitress. I spent 80-plus hours a week on my feet.........I've never had such a hard job. So much of the environment is out of one's control: Surly chefs, sexually harassing patrons, disengaged waiters, managers who created more chaos than calming it; tables who leave no tip.

25%? I can afford it, and sweetie, you earned it.

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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