Rumor Control

There’s been a rumor floating around the internet for some time that Oprah Winfrey once said, referring to the depressed state of the economy, that “It’s okay to tip 10%.” After receiving countless emails on this subject I thought I’d put this matter to rest. Oprah never said that! In fact a spokesman from Harpo Productions, Dan Holbroooke, had this to say.

“She did recently feature the founder of the blog ‘Waiter Rant’ on her show to discuss the idea that tipping less than 15 percent is considered rude.”

I’l take that as a ironclad refutation! And If you don’t believe me scour the internet. You won’t find any legitimate record of her saying those words. Nothing in print, audio or video. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Now Oprah is more than capable of  taking care of herself and doesn’t need me to defend her – but I’m sick of getting all those emails. She never said it’s okay to tip 10%! Got it? Case closed. To use the words of Chris Crocker – “Just leave her alone!”

But if you want to talk about cheapskate customers using the state of the economy as an excuse to tip less than 15-20%, that’s another story! Have you waiters in the trenches noticed a drop in tip percentages? Or are people just ordering less expensive food and drink which result in lower check totals and tips? Rage on in the comments section.


Comments

Rumor Control — 136 Comments

  1. Only under dire circumstances should anyone tip less than 15%. 20% is my norm, more for great service. Remember, service staff don’t make minimum wage – they make LESS than minimum wage because they factor in T.I.P.S.

    I’ve only once not left a tip, and the reason was the service was so heinous, it deserved less than zero. Note that I said the service, not the food. I would never punish a waiter for bad food.

  2. In this bad economy we eat out less, but we still tip the same: generally 20% unless we get poor service. Waiters earn it! So do hair dressers, such as my daughter.

  3. I think it is a sad state that Oprah has become the standard for appropriate behavior. Need an excuse to be a jerk? Oprah said it was okay.

  4. I always tip even if the service is horrendous. My significant other gets mad at me sometimes for doing it. I just can’t help myself. We don’t always know what’s going on with the server. We haven’t walked in their shoes. They could have a bad day, be struggling in life, or they could just be a jerk. Not for me to say.

  5. I totally agree with David. I have friends who are servers that had to go back to work immediately after the death of a child, because they needed the money.
    You never know what was going on. I might not tip my normal 20-25%, but tip at least 15%.

  6. After reading my post, I feel I need to clarify: Only under dire circumstances (bad service that is caused by the server) should one tip 15% or less. 20% is the norm now. If you cannot afford to tip 20%, DO NOT EAT at an establishment that offers table service.

    Even when I travel overseas, when I know servers are paid differently and don’t expect a tip of 20%, I pay it. I would rather over-reward than under reward. I look at dining as a pleasurable experience, not only a means of getting food into my stomach. If the waitstaff facilitates a good experience, they should be rewarded.

  7. The other day I got zero tip on an $80 dollar bill and a note on the bottom of the credit card slip that said “Is the recession so bad you can only put three tomatoes on a dish?” Its a GARNISH, our standard has been three since I worked there, AND we gave this lady six.

    So I had to pay to serve her that day. Thanks so much for that.

    Rage over, back to being a normal human being.

  8. Always tip, sometimes well over 20% when the service is good. Recession is no excuse. Like he says: if you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t be dining out in the first place.

    Traveling in Europe is a mixed bag: service is frequently automatically included, especially at hotels, so you need to check. Actually, I have noticed most American hotels do this for room service, in addition to a “service fee”, but now some of them are doing it when you dine in their restaurants.

    What’s the deal? Do waitstaff actually get this money?

  9. My wife and I dine out frequently and rarely if ever leave less than 20%.
    However, a while back we took my parents and some of their friends to a nice restaurant for dinner. The service was horrific. Every type of mistake including the wrong food.
    My wife ordered coffee and the waiter brought it in a water glass. When we asked why he said, in a very snotty voice, they are out of coffee cups whereupon a waiter walked by with a half dozen coffee cups on his tray.
    I tipped $40 on a $400 tab.
    The waiter brought back the $40 in his open hand and said, “This tip is embarrassing.”
    I looked him in the eye, took the money out of his hand and said, “You’re absolutely right.”
    The manager came over to see what happened and after hearing the story he promptly fired the waiter.
    Service is more important than food every time so I make sure I compensate those who make the meal enjoyable.

  10. I eat at inexpensive restaurants pretty often – 20% is the baseline, except if the resulting tip is less than $5. Then our “minimum tip” comes into play – we don’t leave less than $5. Last week, I ate lunch @ Johnny Rockets – the tab was $10. The tip was $5.

    I eat with a couple of friends once a week at an inexpensive place; the server knows us, directs us to her section, keeps us well stocked in chips, salsa, knows our order ahead of time…and one of my companions “forgets” to tip just about every other week. We tip for her, because that’s just *wrong*. [coincidentally, she's never worked in food service]

  11. One thing I struggle with, is the new rule of a minimum of 15%, even if the service is bad. If a server can do the bare minimum for their customers and expect a 15% tip, or work their tail off for 20% or more, is the extra 5% really worth the effort? It doesn’t seem to me like there is enough of a performance/reward feedback to motivate most servers.

  12. In a place where I work we have switched to one less waiter during daytime shifts, and we are making pretty much the same money as before the change. Glad our managers are sensible enough. Our bread and butter business: brunches are still the same. Busy as always, maybe little less busy but we still waiting lines… Re. tips: I don’t feel people tips less because of economy in our restaurant (UWS in NYC). Here and there you get an obvious asshole but otherwise it’s still mostly tourists that need to be reminded about proper tipping

  13. @Jim – I’m so glad you did that. I’ve only confronted one customer about their shitty tip. Everyone at the table wanted custom shit and separate tabs on a 14 top. One of the people at the table felt it would be fun to need something from the kitchen every time I walked past. In the end, the service to other tables was crappier and as it turns out this guy had a $39 bill and I knew when I gave him the stupid book I’d get 2 $20s and be like “keep it, you were awesome”… as it turns out, I was right.

    I came back with all of his money and told him he obviously needed the money more then I did and paid for his entire meal by giving him back his book. He looked at me like I was the son of Satan for calling him out in front of all of his friends.

  14. I know my European experience is not relevant here but to me it seems to me a little bit like servers are saying how much they should get and say it is a standard. or not?
    And what about this, Clay:
    “If you cannot afford to tip 20%, DO NOT EAT at an establishment that offers table service.”
    Is this the opinion of the server or of the owner? And whose one is more relevant?
    When in the US I tip you guys as expected. I don’t like your model but the model in my country is even worse because I almost always get bad service….

  15. Even if Oprah DID say it, who the hell died and made her Final Arbiter of All That Is Right and Proper?

    Good lord, people. Turn off the TV for a minute and engage your OWN brain cells.

  16. @Sim ” ‘If you cannot afford to tip 20%, DO NOT EAT at an establishment that offers table service.’ Is that the opinion of the server or the owner? And whose one is more relevant?”

    It’s not a matter whose opinion is more relevant. Because tips are an expected and customary part of this country’s dining out model, the total meal cost includes food, drinks, taxes, and TIP. If someone’s meal budget neglects money for tipping then they must reevaluate where to eat.

  17. Here’s what I’m doing: going out less frequently, but tipping *more*! The last three times I (and/or my wife) have been out, I’ve tipped 30%.

    Missy: What? You want me to think for myself? No can do!

  18. I’m always tipping nicely when tips are required, but have never, ever, understood why a waiter need to make more money getting and serving me a $100 bottle of wine than a $50 one. Anyone? And I mean any truly insightful comments other than “Just pay up!”?

  19. My girlfriend works as a server in an upscale chain restaurant and she tells me that people are spending less, and tipping less. Where 20% was the baseline for her M-F business clients, she has noticed that they now (for the most part) start at 15%.

    People will use any excuse for being cheapskates, in my opinion. Its a shame and I think all restaurants should have suggested gratuity on all checks. Ignorance isn’t excuse when you can see what the actual tip should be.

  20. I’m not a waiter, but here’s my 2 cents. It’s unfortunate to hear that people are spending and tipping less when they go out to eat. It’s just the way it is with this economy. These days, my bf and I try to tip at least 20% and if we get great service, we’ll bump it to 30%. Honestly, if we can afford to go out and eat, we should be able to afford tipping the waiter.

  21. Michael, you tip 20% for good service, on the total bill including the wine for this reason: when you order a good, healthy, expensive bottle of wine your needs go to the top of the pile.

    In fact, you will probably get a whole lot more out of your dining experience than you would otherwise. I appreciate a good guest who knows how to really enjoy a bottle of good wine. In fact, I will probably go to the chef and conspire to make your experience fucking amazing by doing things like surprising you and your friends with an intermezzo of granita, or having your desert plated with some extra love, or seating a family with crying babies far away from your table. You may not see everything we do for you, but we do it and it’s rewarding beyond the tip. It’s fun for everybody and everybody wins. You aren’t entitled to all this extra shit, and you won’t get it everywhere you go, but we will remember your name, what you ate, what your needs are and how you tip. It is the difference in whether or not you get laid or how happy your mother is on her birthday. The bottom line is that it’s fun and it should be. We are in the business of decadence, so fuck yeah you should enjoy the shit out of that bottle of Brunello and your diner, and pony up when it’s time to settle the tab. Bon appetit mon cheri!

  22. I always tip at least 15% as a standard and 20% for great service. I tip in tip jars at the coffee counter and self-serve (they are still prepping the meal, right?). I also often tip $1 on a $4 cup of coffee. Those guys work HARD.

  23. the hotel i work at, the Alegria hotel and spa, i have noticed that while people are ordering less expensive, they are leaving bigger tips…i dont know the reasoning behind this and im pretty sure i dont

  24. Micheal, many servers pay out a portion of their total sales in tipshare. She if you tip the same on both prices of wine, the $100 wine costs the server money. When someone doesn’t tip, we still pay tipshare on their bill and we end up paying out of our own pockets to serve them. In the restaurant I work at, we tip 3% of our total sales to be split between the hosts, bussers and bartenders. Our total sales include items that are comped off because of kitchen error and other stuff. Most of us work to make sure there aren’t many kitchen errors b/c we know that you will only tip on the total after the comp so we’re automatically losing 3% of the cost of that item out of our own pockets.

  25. Jeez, Steve. I hope you got to take a shower after that post. I know it would make me feel dirty. I get that Oprah has made you a lot of money but that was a bit over the top.

    I think a lot of people here aren’t telling the truth about their waiting experience. Everyone that I’ve worked with, including myself, will tip well for good service but they’re all the first ones to leave less if the service was crap. I think you’re all hoping to convince the casual reader to tip more. Waiters are harsher on bad service than anyone and some of you actually wrote that you’ll still leave 15%? I’m calling you out on that one. I’ve been there and I’ve eaten with too many of you.

  26. Lola, it might seem small but most servers do notice if we get tipped 15% versus 20%. Most people immediately calculate what percentage they were tipped as soon as they receive the check. It’s not just the amount of money but also what we could have done better in service.

  27. I haven’t had my tips suffer because of the recession. In fact, many people – like nice Dave Trowbridge – tip more these days. What I have seen is that people are eating out less and as a result I’ve seen many independently owned restaurants close their doors forever. It’s a sad reality for sure.

  28. We just had a tipping dilemma last night — service was decent, except for two things. One, she forgot that we had ordered a dessert – we were enjoying our after-dinner drinks, so, it wasn’t a big deal. But, eventually (20 minutes?), she remembered, brought it to us and said she wasn’t going to charge us. The other thing was that someone at our table ordered a drink that had fresh fruit in it, and the drink tasted like the fruit was rotten. We put the drink over to the side (where it was clear that no one was drinking it), but she didn’t notice or check in for 10 minutes or so to see what was the matter. Again, she was very nice and replaced the drink.

    So, my thinking was an 18% tip for solid, but not excellent, service. But, my friend said, she gave us a dessert and a drink for free, we should tip over 20%. I wasn’t convinced…

  29. I tip a minimum of 20% largely due to reading this and other waitering blogs.

    With this economy, we go out less often. When we do go out, we spend less on the meal. But we tip a higher percentage to make up for the lower check amount.

  30. In a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David stands up against an additional tip, on top of an 18% “included tip” that was already on the bill. Now, being Australian, if I were in the US and saw the 18% included tip on a bill, I would just think, “Oh that’s cool, the tip is included”, and proceed to pay the exact bill amount with no extra. Of course, I’d probably then receive evil looks from my waiter, wouldn’t I? This is why the whole thing still baffles me.

    I think it will get to a point where the bill will have:

    Total amount
    + Included gratuity %18
    + Additional gratuity %__
    + Additional additional gratuity %__
    + Smile tax %__
    + Cutlery request reward incentive %__

    … and so on.

    Next time I travel overseas I suppose I’ll just leave %50 to be on the safe side. Or perhaps I’ll just go to McDonalds.

    You guys sure are making it difficult for yourselves.

  31. I would have to agree with you on the decreasing tips. Not only are people leaving less they are now splitting dinners and I even had a couple split a cup of freakin soup last night! I refused to give them an extra bowl fuck you both! If you’re that cheap you can eat from the same bowl!

  32. I have to say that in my restaurant, we have a fair mix of international tourists, American tourists, and New Yorkers. We (as waiters) have always had issues getting at least 15% from International guests (I’m speaking generally here… some are incredible tippers). Lately however, it has been common practice for 75% of ALL of our guests to tip less than 15%. Our restaurant’s resident “Doomsayer” proclaims that he is down $6000 from last year (he keeps OCD records of his tips).

    So it’s not that people are realizing that they have less money, and are ordering less… it’s that most are continuing to splurge on their wants, without considering OUR needs. Most people ARE eating out less. As a result, par levels on shifts are going down, which means fewer shifts for less-senior waiters (which is the case in my restaurant). For example… I have been with my current restaurant for almost 3 years, and I’m only getting 2 shifts a week! With people tipping less and less, it makes it very hard to live. We are counting on that 15-20% to pay our rent/bills, or (god forbid) buy food.

    So to all guests out there… PLEASE tip at least 15%. I’m a very good waiter, and I take pride in doing a great job with every single table. It is just painful to have to beg for tips. Imagine your boss calls you into his office one day, and announces that he/she will be altering your paycheck based on how he/she feels about your weekly performance. You know you’re great at your job. You know you’re doing everything (and more) that you can to do a good job. How would you feel if your paycheck was 5-9% lower than you were expecting. Hurts, doesn’t it?

    We have a hard job. Bear with us…

  33. If a tip is “required” as so many people like to say, then it should be built in to the cost of the food, and the staff should be on a straight hourly rate or salary.

    No where on the menu does it say “unless you leave 20%, you’re not welcome here”. If you don’t like the pay or conditions, get another job!

    With all that begin said, if the service is good I leave around 25%, if the service is lousy that will drop to around 8-10% and if the service is terrible I have no problem leaving absolutely nothing.

  34. Sorry, 15% is most certainly NOT the minimum. I worked as a waiter for 5 years in a high end restaurant, so I’m generally more tuned to tipping than most people I dine with. I also generally always tip very well. But if the service is bad, I have no problem whatsoever with leaving 1-10%. Sorry, the tip is important and I know some people live off of them (I certainly used to) but it’s for GOOD service.

    If you suck, are rude or lazy or don’t put any effort in and still expect a 15%+ tip, fuck you. We always considered a low low tip to be worse than no tip at all and it was a signal that you needed to get on your game.

  35. I appreciate when restaurants provide the calculations on the receipt, i.e. 15% would be x, 18% would be y….
    My elderly father is usually a generous tipper but as he’s gotten older he can’t do the math in his head like he used to.

  36. I always love conversations about tips – the variance in opinions is striking. A few thoughts.

    1. I agree that tipping is a reward for good service. It’s not absolutely deserved. If you don’t like that system, work somewhere else. If you can’t, work your ass off and it won’t be an issue most of the time.

    2. I have RARELY tipped more than 20% because quite frankly, I’ve never seen the service that “texas” writes about above. Even in the best restaurants in my city (yes, a city), service is generally poor.

    3. I’m considered by many servers to be a dream customer… I order quickly, eat quickly and try to respect the work-load of my server. But almost always, because I’m not demanding, I get crappy service.

    4. I shouldn’t have to buy wine to get the great service. Other things about my visit should qualify me for great service if you want a good tip. Like what? Oh, like SHOWING UP at your establishment. I’m sorry, but very few places actually serve meals that are better than a lot of fast food places. So what am I paying for? The SERVICE.

  37. What I have noticed is that my regular clients keep tipping at 15%, but are coming in less often.
    There is also a rise in clients tipping barely 10% and really generous tips to help even out the score are getting fewer. Here in Quebec the average is 15% tip and waiters are taxed on 10% of their sales. So when someone’s stiffs you for a tip, you not only have less money, you are taxed on that absence of money.

  38. We go out to eat less frequently now than we did prior to this recession. As a result, we tip MORE than we did before. So-so service gets 15-20% and great service gets 30%. Why? I supposed cuz we’re making up for some asshole who used the economy as an excuse not to tip. We’re also trying to help make up for fewer visits, hoping that tipping more will even out in the end.

    Tipping is part of the cost of a meal out. If you can’t afford to tip, eat at home or go buy McDogfood’s.

  39. There are so many aspects of serving that are SO important.
    I know my customers, most by name and many by sight. I remember their seating preferences, their favorites from the menu & wine list, which specials would be more appealing to them. I know favorite drinks, I respect the customers wishes and do my very best to help them to relax and enjoy their meal.
    Tipping is required in the USA, period. I believe that the amount of the tip depends entirely on the service. Friendly, knowledgeable staff, comfortable atmosphere, and some comfort foods and adventurous eating choices are the basic difference between an excellent experience or one leaving you wondering if the drive thru would have been better.

  40. Having been a waitress results in both less and more tipping from me. Whereas before, I’d do 15% automatically, I am now not afraid to undertip a server who clearly has made a choice not to provide decent service. (I think this has happened about three times in my life — not common.) Obviously, I also tip more for great service and understand the difference between overworked waiters and crappy ones.

  41. I’m a a server and I believe in one of your blogs,(or maybe in an interview) you mentioned the fact that this country as a culture, is set up for servers to be tipped.

    That, in fact, if restaurants had to pay all their servers a fairly decent wage(over $8/hr), then the prices of entrees would go up. The professional servers would leave the business, and there would be alot of inexperienced people working in restaurants.

    I hate to overhear anyone saying “well, if you don’t like the money you make as a server, do something else!” As if by saying that, they justify not having to tip as much, because the server chose that profession. You chose to eat out and know you should tip. Seriously.

  42. I haven’t changed my tipping habits, always leaving around 20%. Dining out two or three times a month less than before, though.

    Only once in my life have left nothing – well, that’s not true. I left a nickel on a 30$ tab. T’was breakfast at JFK Airport in NYC – in transit to Disney World. The milk was warm, coffee was cold, and the plates were dirty – and thrown at us from across the divider. Final touch: the waitress came running and screaming at us halfway down the corridor.

  43. I have been a casino cocktail server for almost 20yrs. I am used to the occasional loser not tipping. However, recently I am hearing the excuse “Times are tuff” more and more (Something that I havent heard in the past 18yrs) and not tip at all. Then I look at the gaming table to see them putting $100 on one hand of blackjack. They use it as an excuse not to tip. I can only put on a fake smile and think KARMA.

  44. I’m sorry, but tipping IS required. It’s part of the eating out ritual. If you are too fucking cheap to leave a tip, don’t go out to eat at all! I hate when I get stiffed on any check because I always provide my customers with great service. What many people don’t understand or choose to ignore is the fact that servers depend on T.I.P.S. to make their living. Please leave at least 15 percent when you go out to eat.

  45. @Tips Are Not Required: You sound like a bitch. -f I ever had to wait on you and put up with you attitude, you just might be leaving with a fork in your eye.

  46. Rage on I will. I’m a hotel bellman. If the standard tip used to be a five, the new standard seems to be anywhere from a three dollar tip down to an “I’ll get you later.”

    More to your industry, I tip 20% no matter what. It should just be factored in as a part of the price of eating out. The state of the economy is a lousy excuse to dick with a hard worker’s revenue.

  47. As far as tipping non-waiters goes…in high school I worked as a hostess at a Thai restaurant that also did take out, meaning that I was responsible for taking, packing, and checking out take-out orders as well as seating a full (popular) restaurant and bussing tables–usually I was running my entire shift. The waiters’ tips were never shared with non-waitstaff. When, very occasionally, someone left a couple dollars tip on a take-out order, I used it to buy a treat after work: a candy bar, cheap nail polish, something small. But it absolutely made my day after working a tough job. I wish I could tell those tippers how grateful I was.

  48. I am a barista at an independent coffee shop, and tips have gone down. We are just as busy, if not busier, than ever, and it sucks because I’m busting my ass for less money.
    I have a lot of respect for waiters and waitresses, because while I have to deal with customers abusing me for 5 minutes tops, you guys have to deal with tables for god knows how long. I could never do it. I am always extremely polite as a customer and tip 20% (or more if the service was great), however, if my server is extremely rude (this has only happened to me twice) I’m not going to leave a good tip. If I lose my temper and act bitchy to a customer because they are being rude to me, I don’t expect them to tip me.
    While tips are necessary to live, when you work for tips, you have to know that they are based on service. I understand that other things may be going on in your life, but there is no excuse for being rude, as an employee in the service industry, to a customer who is being polite to you. A minimal amount of friendliness is the least that I expect from my server, and I will gladly give a 20% tip for that.

  49. If not Oprah – who gets to decide the appropriate tipping amount and how did it get to be that 15-20% was considered the norm?
    I have to say it – it really irks me when people say things like ‘if you can’t afford to tip you can’t afford to eat out’. Surely poor tips are better than half empty restaurants losing money…???

  50. After reading this blog post, and seeing the ungrateful attitude of waiters everywhere, I vow never again to tip more than 5% in any circumstance… I’m tired of waitstaff acting like a tip is expected… it’s a gift, not a wage, and it should be given freely or not at all… if your employer won’t pay you a wage you can live on, you should renegotiate or walk out, not hit up your customers for bigger gifts… I’ll be damned if I get called a cheapskate after paying extra for snotty service, just because the waiter didn’t like his percentage…

    I have given my last 20% tip…

  51. nice to know a anti waiter is using the sight.
    if every waiter who was unhappy with there wages “renegotiate” then you would be standing in more buffet lines than Micheal Moore.

    good luck with your anti tip campaign

  52. Try this for a doozy.
    I once got headhunted to work in a rivals kitchen (used to go to their bar for drinks after work as my place had a policy against it)

    So I go there (more money and promotion, why turn it down huh?) and spend the next few weeks getting the kitchen into shape. I eventually left after deciding on a career change.
    So about a year after I left I took my mother their for a family birthday, big party of us approx 10 people.

    Its a mid week, the restaurant is less than 1/4 full, we get seated and order our drinks, of the 4 bottles of wine we enquired about only one was available (the worst one on the menu), I deferred and settled for a coffee, we Order our food.

    nearly an hour alter I finally go to the waitress station and enquire about our food, the waitress apologises and goes to check our order, a fe minutes later the food comes out and we tuck into our starters, and finished we then wait for our mains, the waitress pops round and asks if everything is ok, weorder more drinks and ask if the mains will take as long to come out. assured they wont

    An hour later I give up, and go to the kitchen. The chefs are hardly ‘busy’ and are instead arsing around in the kitchen, I appraoch the waitress and have no choice but to complain, she leaves and comes back with out food, I take one look at the food and that was it. Bone dry meat (like eating cardboard) chips that had best been binned an hour ago and salad that was way beyond its best.

    So under these kind of circumstances would you still expect to pay a 15% tip for service?
    My Brother refused to pay, it was that bad, and this guy lives and breathes takeaways lol

  53. I agree with barista-
    No matter what is going on in your life- you have no other problems from beginning to the end of shift.

  54. Oh sure Anonymous, you’re always able to shut out the entire world when you’re working at your job. You’ve never been sick, had a death in the family, financial or relationship problems or a sick kid. And if you did, it never bothered you while working? You’re made of tougher stuff than I!

  55. It’s not about the tip percentage… it’s about the sense of entitlement.

    Diner Waitress, et al – I’m sorry that people stiff you if you’re doing a great job. Maybe if there was a “standard” that defined what a great job would be, we could measure against it and tip accordingly. Of course there isn’t, though.

    Additionally, why do you not tip the people who check you out at the grocery store or the electronics store? Don’t they “serve” you? Aren’t they providing some sort of service to you that, perhaps, changes quality with the amount spent? Ahhh… they do (compare service levels at an Apple store and at Best Buy). But would you ever think to add 20% to your computer purchase to the person who talked you through the sale and answered every one of your questions? Of course not.

    There are a LOT more servers out there than there are restaurant managers and owners. If they decided to unionize (which many have) or at least use the internet to mobilize – they could effectively stop the practice of default tipping in the US simply by demanding an hourly wage that was livable w/o tips.

    That way, I pay for my food and my drink per the advertised price. I don’t have to worry about tipping and the entitlement or service quality issues associated with good vs bad tips. Rather, if there’s excellent service, I’ll return to that restaurant. If there’s bad service, I won’t.

    Are there downsides to this? Sure: you have to report your full income now. You probably won’t get as many shifts and will have to work more to make the same amount of money. Your income will be 100% based on the number of hours you work…. all of these things just like the rest of us in non-hospitality-related jobs.

  56. I was a waiter in an upscale (for the area) restaurant when gas went over $4 per gallon. The mean tip went from 18% to 13%. Many of the people who formerly tipped 15% went down to 10%.

  57. I usually tip 30-40 percent*, regardless of service. To me a tip isn’t about rewarding or punishing the waiter, but about paying them the living wage they need to to get by.

    I think there’s this underlying sense of entitlement in a lot of people when they go to a restaurant. Unlike most other professional interactions, they don’t just expect the waiter to do their job, they want the waiter to SERVE them. If the waiter does that to their satisfaction, then the customer benevolently gives them the carrot they’ve been holding up the whole time. If not, then the customer gets indignant because they weren’t treated like they’re somebody special, and so they vindictively take it out of the waiter’s pocket. Either way, the customer is holding this power over the waiter, instead of it just being two human beings on equal footing who respect each other.

    I’d bet good money that if most of those customers had to deal with the same kind of attitude in their own jobs, they’d never stop bitching about it. What if every time your boss asked you for some report and you didn’t get it to them fast enough, or it had some typos in it, they took $50 out of your weekly paycheck?

    (* I’m lower middle class living in the midwest, usually with a bill around $8-14 before tip, and have never worked in food service.)

  58. I tip 20% as a rule. Less if the service sucked. I HATE when a tip is automatically added. I do NOT add to a tip that’s already been added to my bill. If you think I’m too stupid or cheap to tip you, you get exactly what you ask for, no more. Sorry.

  59. We eat out less, but we tip higher when we go. The hubby and I have a particular restaurant we frequent, a local family-owned place that does fantastic food and drink at really good prices. And we’re SURE there are bastards out there who aren’t tipping well during the crunch, so we make sure we give a big tip (20% is the minimum we give at that restaurant).

  60. One thing I don’t understand is those who argue that “if you can’t afford to tip at least 20%, stay home!” If those people who tip 15% take your advice, are you really better off? Say dinner for 2, totals $50. They leave a tip of 15%, or $7.50. Is a server better off not getting that $7.50 because that couple stays home? That’s not adding up for me.

  61. Cheryl S., don’t be offended by the included grat…it is usually only done for larger parties…and should be noted on the menu . Ours says ” For parties of 7 or more adult guests, an 18% grat will be included”. it’s not a personal thing…we can;t pick n choose who to grat. it’s done because #1…large parties take a lot of work, and you’re usually taking less tables while you’re waiting on them; and #2 there are many people out there who think $20 will cover it…even when the bill reaches 300 plus…and we have no way of telling you’re not one of them ;)

  62. A lot of non-industry people simply don’t realize that it’s standard practice for servers to tip out the back of house. At my restaurant, and I certainly feel it’s a good one, I hand over 5% ON MY SALES to the kitchen and the bar at the end of my shift. That’s regardless of what my customers might have tipped.

    So if your check was $100, and you leave me 10%, at the end of the day I only see $5.

  63. Personally, because of said crappy economy, I’m going the other way. I am in fact ordering less, having water instead of a beverage. But because I was a waitress a eleventy squillion years ago, I find myself tipping 25% and up these days, knowing others are being ‘frugal’ and most waiters need the money even more than I do. Putting cash into the hands of people who are going to spend it will REPAIR the economy! No matter what wall street, various politicians and the Fed say, that’s the only way to fix it – by spending it. And I’d rather put it into the hands of someone working his or her ass off than into some restaurant owner’s pocket.

  64. Wife and I share many meals, not because we’re cheap but because we think portion size is out of hand. We do tip in the 25-30% range.

    One question – tip as a percentage of:
    Food
    Food & Alcohol
    Food & Alcohol & Tax

    Which one?

    Why would I tip on the tax?
    Thanks
    David

  65. I work in an office in downtown Atlanta and have take-out from area hotels and restaurants almost every day (not organized enough to make a sandwich to take to work – and in any case, I hate sandwiches-blah). There is a very nice upscale hotel near us that I order from a lot. Take outs are picked up at their bar. I was waiting for my order when a woman sitting at the bar asked me if I tip on take out – I said absolutely – it’s not the staff’s fault or concern that I don’t have time to eat lunch at their establishment, but I appreciate their time and care putting my order together. She seemed surprised and responded that she doesn’t tip on take-out but she will now. And she works in the hospitality industry – shocking!

    My hard and fast rule for tipping is move the decimal over one space to the left, round UP to the nearest dollar and double it to determine the tip. A.K.A. $17.50 is $1.75 rounded up is $2 and then doubled to reach a $4 tip. Simple, no math needed, really. It really surprises me when people try to use the lame excuse that they don’t know how much to tip, or it’s too difficult to figure out how much. It’s not like it’s the SAT or something.

    At Christmas, my husband tips $100 at some restaurant – waitstaff work harder than many people I know. Actually, anyone in the service industry works his or her tail off – tip them! Tip the valet, tip your taxicab driver, tip the concierge who make a restaurant reservation for you, tip the housekeeper when you stay in a hotel, etc, etc. It’s the right thing to do.

  66. First to the australian dude who put that whole additional tip comment like its getting outta hand, that larry david show is all about really out there situations being handled poorly. Yes an additional tip line is fine as a way of saying you can leave more if you like. My restaurant does not have said line and i still get people giving me extra to make it 20%. Others out there believe that if gratuity is already added you dont have to leave more, certainly you dont, but the additional tip line is just a gentle reminder that you can if you truly enjoyed the service. On the flip side you can leave less. Tips means To Ensure Prompt Service, if you feel that you did not get treated properly you can ask to have it removed but you better have a good reason why.
    As for sim asking who is more relevant the server or the business owner I ask you who handles your food. Does the business owner even care who you are, to them you are money in their pocket. They dont care what you give the server since they are required to pay them less than minimum wage. They can pile extra side work on them to keep them longer and longer after shifts are done since servers cost a business pennies in the bucket. So really if you cant afford to take care of the people taking care of you stay out of a restaurant. There are plenty of fast food places with good food that doesnt require any form of service charge.

  67. And to JR its not a gift you jackass its our lives. You are one of the ignorant people out there who need to walk a mile in our uncomfortable slip resistant shoes, usually accomplished after only one shift. You get a thousand in sales with a 5% tip average, that gives you 50 dollars, then tip ouit 4.5% leaving you with a grand total of, wait for it…….FIVE BUCKS AFTER 8 HOURS NONSTOP ON YOUR FEET!!!!! Thankfully many out there arent as ignorant or arrogant as you to play with others livelyhood. This industry is not server friendly many of whome work very long shifts with no breaks because the government still cant figure out how to check and make sure we get them. Cant report the violations because restaurants know how to cover their tracks, it sucks but its true.
    To all those out there who do leave amazing tips for amazing service thank you. You will never know how much your server truly does appreciate you and how special you make them feel. You will walk outta that restaurant being looked at by the whole staff as a great person. Seriously word of a great tip spreads faster than rumors in high school.

  68. When you Tip your waiter/ess (definitely not waitron) or bartender you are doing more than critiquing a meal or service. Your tips make sure that the restaurant can afford to have enought servers on the floor to adequately handle the business. If the labor costs of the servers who can work anywhere from 4 to 16 hours a day were added at even minimum wage the dinner and lunch costs would go up. Would you go to a fine dining restaurant (not in New York) and pay $60 – $100 for an entree? NO you would be outraged. But a server in that business with the skills to create the ambience you demand for even $25 or less should, in a “Real World” pay scale based on expertise, be making $20-$30 an hour if not more.
    Restaurants can barely afford to pay the chefs and cooks what they deserve, they definitely cannot afford a full staff of qualified servers and bartenders (and busboys, foodrunners, dishwashers, hostesses and so much more). When you walk into a restaurant you take for granted that someone will be there to take care of all your needs (especially including unreasonable ones, i.e.: off menu special requests, substitutions and stronger drinks), and there mostly always will be. You the guest do not know what is going on behind the scenes, which is how we like it. we treat every guest as if they are the only person we have to deal with, unfortunately that is never the truth. We are dealing with 4 or more tables just like you.
    A good server has no problem with this, but… there are less and less good servers out there. Why? Because people begrudge the Tip. When you are working for $2.50/hour with no benefits (no healthcare, vacation or retirement plan) and have to work doubles in order to pay the bills. it is hard to justify getting out of bed and doing all the things you the guest and management and kitchen staff expect us to do when someone makes you feel like your skills are unimportant and set your worth at 10% or, more often than not, less.

    There is no arbitrary number we should come up with for tips, you should not neeed a card to figure it out. There is no other job or business where every customer(including good ones) expects something special everytime they come in. Whether it be the “best” table, “heavy” drinks, off-menu substitution or a multitude of other requests we must fetch for our bone (20% AHH!). Bad servers are a few good tables away from being good servers (mostly) but the reverse also holds true!

  69. JG: You’re comparing waiters to workers who at the very least, make minimum wage. And to top that off, those Apple and Best Buy employees get commission as well! How ignorant can you be! It doesn’t take a waiter to understand the differences!

  70. i really do think servers should make a minimum wage at least and if they all fought for it they’d get it. So the restaurant food prices will rise; they are going to anyway. But this way everyone who eats out shares in that cost not just those of us who feel guilty about not tipping enough. I for one am tired of making up the difference for some cheap jerk who probably drives a BMW.

  71. How much do you guys tip the pizza guy? I did it for a year, and of many $50+ orders, I would get the change, i.e. for a $50.50 order, I would get $51 and a “keep the change”. And don’t get me started on free delivery coupons.

  72. I work at a large Italian Restaurant chain and most of us servers have noticed the decline in tips. In fact most patrons are tipping 10% or less (dear patrons please round up). One of our biggest laughs, because you have to laugh so you don’t cry is how so many people on credit cards leave a dollar amount with some change to make their credit card an even number. This baffles all of us because where do you go that you charge even dollars except when pumping gasoline in your automobile?!? To address why is there a standard on tip percentages, our paychecks list our sales (all food, drinks, and alcohol) as well as tips declared which is also provided to the government. In order not to be audited you MUST be declaring a minimum of 14% of your sales (I live in Ohio). I am not asking for a freebe on the next 6% if people tip 20% because I do claim all my tips for the mere fact it is the honest thing to do and it will benefit me when I retire since social security is based on earned income.

  73. Sorry, but I refuse to be blackmailed into additional costs when the service sucks. I go to a high end French restaurant where the service rocks … they recognize me, remember my favorites and sneak me a taste sometimes. For them, 25% is the minimum since they make the meal special. But some jerk at a chain restaurant who disappears for long stretches of time? Look, I want to get out of there as much as the restaurant wants to turn over the table, so suck-up service on the front end won’t balance out a disappearance act when I want the check. I don’t feel obligated to “pay” for lousy service or just to actually get the check. I recently got back from San Francisco, and I tipped to reflect the service I got, which once meant they got one dollar for being assholes.

  74. Frankly, I prefer the system in France. The gratuity is factored into the price of the food, which is more expensive. You can leave something extra, but it’s not required. I ate at one of the highest end restaurants in Paris and left a smaller tip than I would here because the food was extremely expensive and I knew that the waiters are professionals who are paid well and don’t expect excessive tips. And even at lower end restaurants, the service is fine. I’ve never had bad service in France. In fact, I prefer their model– less intrusive.

    People complain about the tip system in the US but I bet most are too cheap to go for a system where wait staff are treated like employees everywhere else, and the cost of food goes up.

    But I almost always leave at least 20% here. People who leave less for their servers because of “the economy” are assholes. As others have said, the tip is part of the cost of the meal. If you can’t afford to tip, don’t eat out, you fricking cheapskate.

  75. For real if you work for tips they should be included in the bill , that would solve all our problems and the cheap people have no excuse any more !

  76. My system has alway been a 10-20-30 system. 10% if the service is really bad, 20% if they do a good/average job, and 30% for really outstanding service.

  77. When I first dined out I thought 15% was a fair and good tip until I started out dining out with a good friend of mine. Ever since then I started tipping 20% for good services even as high as 30$, but 15% was minimum for a bad one. However lately I’m hesitant to tip well over the 15% range now because here in B.C. Canada, they just introduced a 7% tax. I think I will start tipping on the food with 20% but no longer the tipping on the tax!

  78. I am honestly wondering about something here. And I’m going to be late for work if I stop to read all the comments, so maybe this can be addressed in another of Waiters columns (and I hope I’m not repeating someone else). I live in Seattle where minimum wage is $8.55 and servers are paid full wage no matter what (this means you aren’t using tips to take your hourly up to minimum wage, you already get that full wage AND extra money that may or may not be declared on taxes) Why should people here continue to tip as much as they do in other areas where A) minimum wage is lower and B) people use tips to make minimum wage? And just to let everyone who is going to flame me know: I am playing a devil’s advocate here. My first job was as a dishwasher and I’ve gone to culinary school. I’ve worked in cafeterias, fast food, coffee houses, etc. over the years, so I know what the struggle can be like. I continue to work in the service industry, but don’t get tipped for it because I’m now management. Just some thoughts to chew on. And flame away, I won’t actually be back to read comments and defend the points I’ve just agitated up.

  79. Did not think I got a very good answer to my question (on tips for $50/$100 wine). I agree with the people arguing waiters should be paid ‘normal wages’ and have the opportunity to score extra by giving out great service. Wondering how much waters thinks their salary should be. A ‘bottom line’ figure, with everything included (before tax). What is fair pr hour?

  80. Pft! You are an idiot if you choose to work in a profession that legislates you being paid less than minimum wage.

    I would gladly pay 15% more for my entree, if it would mean waitstaff could get minimum wage. And I know many people who feel the same.

    In most of Northern Europe, the idea of tipping is ludicruous. Even more so in Japan. The American model is plain silly. Let the consumer decided how much they want to pay for the TOTAL experience of dining out. The TIP should be a bonus if deserved, not mandated.

  81. I will sometimes tip less than 15%, but only only only if I a) calculate the tip wrong (which has been known to happen, but I try to go above what I think is the right amount, just in case) or if I b) literally don’t have the money. I’ve had times where I’ve had to stop and get a coffee and a plate of fries and it takes all but 50¢ of my money. When that happens, though, I at least try to apologise directly to my server so they know I wasn’t trying to be cheap.

  82. I’m sorry, but tips should not be automatically expected; there is service that should come along with it. If I receive poor service; no tip – plain and simple. And for the folks that say “if you can’t afford to tip 20% then don’t go out to eat at places that provide table service”, while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it is a ludicrous statement.

  83. Let me preface my comments by mentioning that I live in the United States, understand that tipping is expected and generally leave between 15%-25%.

    That being said, I find a lot of the comments by waiters/waitresses…. curious. First, I’ve always understood that that a tip is compensation (?) or a reward (?) for service well done, not extra money that wait staff are entitled to simply for showing up and providing us with the pleasure of their company. Good service = good tip, bad service = bad tip – nothing more, nothing less.

    Secondly, I realize that many waitstaff depend heavily on tips to supplement their income and provide for their necessities. But – and I know I’ll sound a bit heartless here – when did it become my responsibility to make sure your financial needs are meet?

    I’m sorry the other table in your section stiffed you, that you’re having a bad day or a big bill came due – that has nothing to do with me. Regardless of your circumstances, I’m still going to tip you based on the service you provided.

    Finally, since when does the “toughness” of your job have anything to do with how well you perform your duties or how much you deserve to be tipped? I have no doubt that being a server is one of the tougher jobs out there – what’s your point? Maybe I’m sounding like a broken record here but wait staff are there to provide a service, and they’re paid for the quality of that service. Is there something else I’m missing here?

  84. There are a lot of people who make less than minimum wage (eg. pensioners) and they don’t get tips to make up their income. So maybe they should never eat out again because adding 20% puts a restaurant/diner meal out of their reach? They lose the social interaction and a meal. I struggle to add 10% plus any other coin I may have when I can get out once a month or so and maybe have a hamburger or eggs and meet old friends. Those with money and health have no idea!

  85. I totally agree with this last comment. Cough up the tips or stay at home and serve yourself you fucking cheapskates!!! Tips are required!

  86. as a fellow waiter the minimum should always be 15% unless the service stank in tht case the server seems to not care for the tip therefore the customer doesn’t have tip the 15-20% range….

  87. I’ve never worked as a waiter, but I totally agree that if you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to eat out. I generally tip 15%-18% for standard service and 20%+ for above average service.

    The only time I have ever tipped below 15% was a time when I was literally the only person in the restaurant and waited twenty minutes before being seen by my waiter after I had been seated by a hostess. They were sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender while I was in plain site, and that was just too much for me to tolerate. This behavior unfortunately continued throughout the meal and led me to leave the only bad tip I can ever remember giving.

  88. Working for tips is like working for commission, except it’s not based on your sales; the customer decides what you are worth.

    I won’t bitch about the long hours, the no breaks, no health care or even sick/vacation time, because I chose this job. I like this job! Hell, I have a university degree, but this is what I want to do. I work hard, and I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling to make someone’s night out special for them.

    I only ask that when you’re pleased with my service, please remember that you are deciding my sales commission. If you thought I was sub-standard, well, that is what the tip is for.

  89. @husnain azam:

    So if there’s a “minimum” level requird/expected, then it’s not really a tip anymore is it? And if that’s the case, then why even bother with the pretense of tip as compensation for service? Just factor it into the cost of the food and be done with it.

  90. Pingback: Waiter Rant refutes rumor about Winfrey tip advice « So You Want To Be A Waiter

  91. I think this focus on exact tip percentages is misguided: a better measure would be how much time and effort was provided to serve in meal in an acceptable fashion. A person dining alone with a $7 meal, a glass of water and a cup of coffee should leave a higher percentage tip than the usual 15% benchmark, probably much higher in percentage terms, even if that only means leaving an extra buck.

    On the other hand, it takes just as much effort to take an order for a $15 steak than a $7 burger and it doesn’t take much more effort to take an order for two people at the same table than for one. It seems to me than if a wait-person spent, at most, 10 minutes providing service (including placing orders and other work done out of sight), then a $5 tip which works out to 15% should be more than adequate. In the end, it’s the hourly wage that counts, not the percentage earned on total sales.

  92. It’s so much simpler here, and I do sympathise with waiters in any location where tips make up the basic wage.

    My wife and I went out for dinner on friday night. Total bill was $73. I tipped $10, to which the waitress responded with a gorgeous smile and a very sincere, “Thankyou!”.

    Stateside I imagine we’d have been stared-down for leaving less than 15%. I think next time we visit the States, we’ll just tip 30% regardless of the quality of the meal/service, purely to avoid being clubbed with a pepper mill.

    At least next time the Aussie Dollar will buy us enough USD to cover it. Last time we were in Hawaii, $1AUD bought us 45 US cents. That hurt!

  93. I used to enjoy going out to eat. I tip very well for good service. sometimes I have tipped over 100% if the wait staff made the experience something special.

    Lately though, in my town (Baton Rouge, La) I have had a seriously bad run of experiences, and have way way cut back on how much we eat out. For the “experience of service” factor alone.

    One top-dollar restaurant in our area, we had THREE bad experiences in a row. I spoke with management each time. I was very polite, explained what I was unhappy with (poor service, resulting in cold food, rushed experience, incorrect order-taking, poor service at the table -meaning they were totally inattentive and not present to give any service, refills etc). The management seemed very concerned about our experience with a $500 food/drink bill, but the poor service continued until I stopped going there. This experience has repeated itself all over town. I had a waitress calculate and include a tip on the bill for 18% for a table of 5 that included a child of only a few years old. I dropped her percentage to 10% based on her service (very poor) and she had the manager come over to ask what was wrong, and when I explained all the things, and topped it off with the pre-calculated tip and total, there was just a shrug and ” sorry your experience was bad. Please give us another try at a later date.”

    This downhill slide of service in general has turned me off from patronizing restaurants as much as I used to, and I have not been affected in the least by our economic troubles.

    If I could find some good service, paired with good food, someone could milk me dry and leave both of us happy.

  94. I’ve been a waitress for six years now, and I’ve worked in four different restaurants, from a neighborhood place to fine dining. For all who commented that tips are a “reward” or “extra compensation”, that is simply not true. Tips are my rent, gas, tuition, groceries. At one place I worked, for six months I never received a paycheck of more than $25. That was for two weeks work, at least 20, but usually 25-30 hours a week. The reason? I had to tip out 40% of my tips to bussers, runners, bartenders, and hostesses, but I was the lucky one that paid ALL the taxes, which were calculated by sales. So if you don’t tip, you are taking money out of your server’s pocket.

    I don’t believe that 20% is an across the board minimum. 15% is all I expect for pretty good service, although I will admit to being upset when I don’t get more for excellent service. If I go above and beyond, or if I can finagle you anything for free, I expect at least 20%. However, I have actually worked with servers that I wouldn’t tip more than 10% if I was their table.

    As far as all servers asking for a decent wage? I know servers that have been fired from jobs from complaining about management skimming hours off their paychecks, outright stealing tips from pools, and refusing breaks even for 8 or 10 hour shifts. And you want us to go to the owners of our restaurants and ask for more money when there’s 10% unemployment and 20 people a day dropping off applications? Not likely.

    Last month, I had a couple sit in my section. I was not very busy, and I lavished them with attention. I gave them a free dessert. At the end, the man paid and left me NOTHING. He must have noticed the dirty looks from the entire waitstaff, because he approached me on his way out to say, “You know, times are tough right now. I didn’t have money to leave you. But good job though.” He and his date ordered an appetizer, two salads, two steaks, and three $10 alcoholic beverages each. Tough times indeed.

    In short, TIP. Don’t make excuses or complain about the system. You know what is, deal with it. Tip appropriately for service: good servers get more, bad servers get less (but not nothing unless they’ve intentionally offended or mistreated you). Be reasonable with tips, 15% is the standard starting point. And if you don’t want to follow these rules, then never eat at the same place twice, because you WILL be remembered.

  95. my reaction to BlueWindKami after i posted my reply us us Ohio servers (who get paid half of minimum wage and MUST report at least 14% of our sales as tips no matter). So sorry you are blackmailed? However your true colors show about a “free taste:… everyone wants something free yet takes it out on the service staff that has to follow company policy and get this we have to deal with arrogance like you and the kitchen staff which can get hostile towards us because of YOUR special requests. At times it feels we can’t win behind the scenes or on the front line, but don’t worry… you are such the type that doesn’t get it nor addressed any issue i brought up, except that you feel blackmailed. I am also perplexed why on this site so many tip so well, however it is a huge problem for servers? I don’t think I am biased here, but this online, and I believed that hot girl who ended up having thick glasses and more chins than a chinese phone book!

  96. In the UK the standard tip is 10%, but all the serving staff will be earning minimum wage or more. I think that’s one of the reasons why Brits get a bad name in restaurants in the US, we’re just not used to tipping over 10% and the majority probably don’t realise that the servers are on less than minimum wage.

    However, I would always tip more than 10% here for good service.

  97. The issue here is that I think everyone (correctly) has a reasonable expectation that people do their jobs professionally and decently. If that does not occur, you can not convince me to tip at minimum 20% so my server isn’t punished for serving me (having to pay to work). The thing is, in most jobs, if you don’t do your job well you are penalized whether it be a hit on your job evaluation, losing a promotion or a raise, or what not. I have worked in the service industry (non commissioned sales, wait staff, counter worker of a Dairy Queen, etc) and I do sympathisize with how hard the work is but at the same time, if you aren’t willing to do your job that’s not my issue.

    I have rarely tipped badly, and I never penalize waiters for bad food because that’s not their fault, but when I have it was very much deserved, and honestly I couldn’t have cared one iota if they had to pay out of their own pocket for their tip out. I had to pay for a bill on an absolutely horrible experience, so we’re even. I also agree with someone who said in an earlier comment that sometimes the easier to wait on and lower maintenence people get the worst service. For some reason, I have also noticed service declining with the economy which I would think would be the opposite of what would happen. If you have less people coming in wouldn’t you give them better service so you get better tips to make up for the decrease in patronage overall?

  98. I continue to be amazed by the number of servers on here who seem to believe that tipping is required. Even if you use the spelled out version of “tips” (to insure [sic] prompt service), the point many patrons are trying to make here still seems to be lost on you: YOU HAVE TO PERFORM WELL TO GET THE TIP.

    But you know, you’re right. I’m going to start eating at more places (including my own home) that don’t have waitstaff. I can move my own food from the counter to the table – and refill my own glass of soda. I won’t have to worry about you adding your DNA (or anything else) to my meal… and I don’t have to be bothered with paying for “service” based on the price of the food itself.

    I’m going to encourage my friends to do the same – all folks who normally eat out at least 4x/week. I’m guessing that at the end of the day, the restaurants, bars and waitstaff themselves will be worse off as a result of our lack of patronage. You can decide for yourself if something was better than nothing.

    Oh, and don’t come around complaining that you’re losing shifts or your job. You brought this on yourself.

  99. I feel so old right now. I’ve been in this business since I was 10 yrs. old – my mother had her own catering business – and ever since, over 40 yrs. of war stories, both good and bad. I still love what I do and I am very competent. I have regulars at my current job (I’ve been there 12 yrs.) and I also have guests that “follow” me from other restaurants I’ve worked around the city. They will dine wherever I am presently serving. And that is simply a high compliment to any industry person. I mean the great gratuities just flow from that kind of reputation.

    So when I give my best professional service to a new guest, as I try to give to all my tables I do expect a fair tip. And this applies to single diners. In fact, I have met some of the most interesting people by engaging those dining alone. I have a ton of single regulars – we talk about literature, history, politics, business, wine, food, etc. They have given me presents of books, bottles of wine, football & hockey tickets and thoughtful cards. So sweet and totally not necessary.

    Therefore, if you are having a bad day and choose to take it out on me because I’m your nearest target, that is not the way I work. I absolutely do not bring my problems to the job – I have too much pride to stoop to that. I will choose not to work if I have problems that are so overwhelming that I can’t perform to my standards. I am at least a professional and do not apologize for the honest, hard work that I do.

    As far as tipping on bottles of wine – I feel as Texas does that it entails a lot more behind the scenes than a guest will ever know. From polishing the Riedels and decanting a red, which can be delicate depending on the vintage. And the interaction with the kitchen to make your experience more enjoyable. So ordering a $100 bottle as opposed to a $50 bottle could make a great meal better.

    And back to the tipping on bottles, most customers do not realize our gratuity practices within our little system. At my present job, we are required to tip out 4% of our TOTAL sales to our bussers, bartenders and food runners. None of whom assist us in any way in serving that $400 bottle of wine. So if my bottle wine sales are $900 for the night, and I receive no tip on that amount, I am still required to tip out staff $36 !! So I am paying out of pocket to serve you those bottles. Sounds fair to me.

    On that same note, when you leave me 10% on a check of $500, I am paying to wait on you, as we have to claim all charge tips (90% of which our daily business entails) so we have to absorb the loss. I am not trying to be a whiner, but just stating the facts. I feel my 4 decades serving/bartending/bussing/cooking probably qualify me as someone who has a clue.

  100. I live in southwestern Ontario, Cananda. Times are tough here, but people don’t like to give up the pleasure of dinner and drinks. So as a result, we are working just as hard and makings less money. The owner doesn’t feel it, he’s still making his…but us…running our ass and making half the cash…

  101. I have very mixed feelings on tips.

    Having worked in diners and restaurants for the past few years as a cook or expo (or any other BOH position), I know what servers do. I know that it’s a hard job, having done tables a few times. I also know that, when i go out to eat, I tip through the roof for servers I loved due to quality of service, better than most for standard service, and have no issue leaving nothing for bad service.

    Why? Because I honestly don’t care if a server is having a bad day. Just like I don’t care if the clerk at 7-11 is having one. We’re in a professional transaction,where I control your pay. I don’t abuse this,but don’t expect me to tip when you really have dropped the ball when waiting on me. I know enough by now to know when something is your fault, and when it’s not.I don’t take tip down for food quality, or quickness of food. I don’t take it down for anything outside of your control. I understand you have to pay out your expos,your bussers, your hostesses. But at the same time, realize this as a server, and make sure you have your game on. If you don’t care enough to do your job right, then I don’t care if you have to pay to wait on me.

    If you did honestly just drop the ball on my table, then tips the rest of the night should make up for it. If you’re consistantly getting stiffed or less than 15, perhaps serving isn’t a good fit.

    In the same vein, I really appreciate a good server, and will drop atleast 5 dollars down at a place like waffle house (ya know, where your whole meal is 4$),and up to 40% anywhere upscale.

  102. I am a server and I do not believe in ever leaving less than 15%. I have had my bad days and no matter how much I try to not reflect them upon my guests, it does happen. I have been in that server’s shoes. Even if I just get deplorable service I will leave a note explaining that I do not believe in poor tipping and let them know what they did that I thought was wrong or poor in service.

  103. To jg:

    First of all, tips are “expected”, not “required”. You expect to be be paid for the fruits of your labor, don’t you? Well…so do I.

    Yes, you have some alternatives to dining with me. You aren’t “required” to dine with me. I’m sure that you can find some place to eat where you can get a perfectly cooked prime filet or server you multiple courses without tipping. Maybe McDonald’s.

    Frankly, if you don’t show up for dinner but you weren’t going to tip me in the first place, I’m not going to “complaining that I’m (sic) losing shifts or my (sic) job”. After all, I wasn’t getting paid anything from you anyway. You were just diverting my service from those who understand that menu prices don’t reflect the cost of staffing the restaurant. I’d rather take care of THEM rather than wasting my time with you.

    Have a nice day.

  104. Teleburst:

    If you think that tips are expected, then I don’t know how you can say that they’re not required. If I don’t pay, you get pissed. That seems to me to be a requirement (especially if you’re going to DO something as a result of my not tipping you).

    When I go out to eat at a place with table service, I plan to tip – at least 15%, usually 20% and sometimes even more. But it’s my plan also that I’m going to receive a certain quality of service.

    All I’m arguing above is that if the quality level isn’t reached, I shouldn’t have to pay a tip. So yes, if you’re such a quality server, my absence from your restaurant is going to take away from your take-home pay because you would’ve received a tip from me.

    My lacking desire to go out to a table-service place, however, is becoming stronger as a direct result of seeing the attitudes of your fellow servers who believe that their behavior shouldn’t have any impact on receipt of a tip.

  105. jg:

    Expected means that there’s an expectation of getting paid for the services that I have provided. Required implies a legal requirement. A substantial difference.

    If I don’t provide acceptable service, then, of course, you can modify your tip. But there are degrees. Should you withhold your entire tip because your water glass got below halfway for 5 minutes? Should you tip me 13% because I was rude, it took 45 minutes to get your entree after your salad and I didn’t care that I forgot to bring you your side vegetable?

    Try using some common sense.

    If I’m a quality server, then I should EXPECT a tip from you, correct?

    If you want to give up your prime New York strip or your 4 course meal expertly prepared by a top-flight kitchen and delivered personally by someone who is trained in the imperfect art of serving the public, that’s your choice. You won’t find those options in self-service restaurants.

    My mom had an expression for this – “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”.

    I am willing to be judged by my service. I EXPECT to be judged by my service. I also EXPECT to be paid for my service. If I am somehow lacking, then I expect to be compensated appropriately, which means adjusting the tip downward in a measured, proportional amount. If I provide average, neutral, no fault service, then I don’t expect more than 15%. If I provide engaged, proactive, appropriate to the occasion service, then I expect to get more than 15%. That’s the way the service system has been set up in this country since before you or I was born.

    If you are a bad tipper, will I miss you because, “Well, $20 on $200 after getting my best efforts is better than nothing” – well, no. there’s something to be said for pride in my job and an expectation that I’m compensated for the quality of my work (because I’m like most people in this country). I’ll give up your business and your shitty tip in a heartbeat.

    And it’s YOU who’ll be eating in a brightly lit plastic dining room after standing in line for a bag of burgers, fries and chocolate chip cookies wrapped in plastic and baked three months ago and stabilized by god knows what chemicals.

    And I’ll be continuing to ply my trade to those who appreciate the personal service that I provide.

    “So You Want To Be A Waiter” blog

  106. “My lacking desire to go out to a table-service place, however, is becoming stronger as a direct result of seeing the attitudes of your fellow servers who believe that their behavior shouldn’t have any impact on receipt of a tip”.

    PS, I don’t know any servers who believe this. I’m not sure if there’s any such expression of this philosophy in this thread. Yes, there might be some servers who spout off on the ‘net, but there are plenty of goober guests who make statements like “You don’t have to tip on alcohol” or believe that tips is an acronym for “To insure prompt service” (which has been discredited time and time again). I don’t extrapolate this as some sort of guest philosophy. If I did, I’d probably threaten to leave the business that I’ve worked in for over 15 years (sort of like you did as a dining customer).

    But I’m not THAT stupid.

  107. I am a Chef turn Server…not for the obvious reason that we make more money out front, but for the fact that I want my own restaurant one day and think it would be crazy not to know both sides of what I am getting into!

    One thing that I have learned is that with Great Service usually comes Great Tips! We should accept that fact and be willing to take the really good with the really bad! It all evens out! I have a blast going to work…and I get paid to go!

  108. I’m a bartender at a very high end establishment in florida… People know 3 things when you come to my bar. 1) You will have a blast 2) we put on one hell of a show and 3) If you tip shitty, you will get more than called out on it. I’m a flair bartender and if I go through a routine for a few guests, and they do the traditional (2 or 3 bucks) for the drink, you will be asked to leave. If you then decide to become a prick, you will be hurting when you are escorted out. My supervisor is basically the coolest man ever. He is a firm believer in “yes we are offering a service, but people WILL abide by our rules.” Unlike regular bartenders, it took me a long time to perfect two crafts, mixology and flair. None of which are by any way shape or form simple. So as a professional I expect a higher tip ratio. 20% is garbage, unless the guests themselves are a treat for me. I have a comedian who comes in after shows and instead of a cash tip, he keeps me entertained while i’m entertaining, which inturn adds to my show. And the show only gets better with green backs.

  109. At my restaurant, the only change I’ve noticed in tip percentage concerning the economy is that more people are tipping on the sub-total. Note that this is not a complaint, just an observation. The tax rate is hiked up in the French Quarter to near 10%. I’m certainly not insulted if you don’t want to tip me on the sales tax. Our receipts actually print out several percentages based on the sub-total. I highly recommend this for restaurants with frequent foreign guests. It’s a non-rude way to suggest an appropriate tip.

  110. As a relatively new server (8 months), I have educated my own family on “proper tipping etiquette” for my state. Different generations have grown up with different percentages as I have experienced. My grandparents would leave 15% for good service. I prefer 20+% when I know that I have done an excellent job, but I do like to be tipped on my performance level. It is not expected, but should be appropriate compensation for my efforts. I make $3.65/ hr and after taxes take home about $2/ hr.
    I am a college student and serving allows flexibility with hours and days. A different job would not allow me to work the hours that I do at the restaurant. If I could find a job that would allow flexibility with hours and making the same amount of money I would most likely switch to that job. Honestly, very few people would like to see the price of meals increase to allow servers to make minimum wage. Tipping is a necessary evil. Service would not be the same without it.(Yes, I understand that people work hard without being tipped. It’s human nature to work harder for the possibility of a reward/tip however.)
    My restaurant has added many new “discounted” meals and offers coupons on top of promotions. My tips have declined since people tip on the total after the reductions. I do rely on this $ for food and school. Tip your waiter on what they deserve. The less than 10% are really discouraging. If everyone did that, there would be a lot less servers. No one could live off of that resulting in less restaurants. *Please, tip more for special requests that are fulfilled, if you hold the table longer than necessary, or if you are staying past or close to closing time! A small tip is better than no tip. But a generous tip allows us to live life at a comfortable level.

  111. I did read recently where Suze Orman said that, so I wonder if that’s how the rumor got started.

    I’ve never worked for tips and in general I consider myself a good tipper. There have only been twice where I either didn’t leave a tip or purposely left a bad tip, and that was when the waitress was extremely rude to me and my friends. We were young at the time, and if it happened today, I would complain to the manager (and possibly still not tip). We sat down, and the waitress immediately said “We have a policy that everyone has to order something. You can’t just sit here and not eat.” (We all had every intention of ordering….. that’s why we were at a restaurant.) At one point during our meal, one friend passed another friend something (I think it was a plate of fries that she didn’t want to finish) and inadvertantly knocked over a glass of water. We asked for more napkins and the waitress said “You guys shouldn’t be fooling around. Now look what happened.” So, servers, the moral of the story is if you want to scold your patrons for a slight accident and in general treat them with condescension like they’re annoying you, don’t expect good tips. But in general, I tip between 20 and 25%. Even if the service is slow or not the best, I figure there are things going on that I might not know about (kitchen problems, short staff, etc.) so I don’t take it out on the waitstaff.

  112. @ Kim (post 107)

    Try to understand that with fewer customers, the restaurant makes less money with which to pay employees. This means that a lot of restaurants are cutting shifts and working with a smaller number of floor staff than the ideal.

    At my restaurant, we were already woefully understaffed, and they recently cut one shift from everybody. This means that sometimes there may only be ONE server and ONE bartender. Then we just pray we don’t get slammed. While myself and some other employees thrive on this (just me = WAY more money), most servers have a hard time time dealing with a lot of customers at once. So don’t think it’s that servers don’t care; they may just be overworked.

  113. The lagging economy is exactly why it’s not okay to leave a 10% tip! Waiters need to eat too!

    BTW I just finished your book and loved it!!

  114. I did not have a chance to read all the replies, although I read quite a few. Some people are tipping less due to a recession, while some are timpping more. My thought is that 15% is no longer even in the amount that should be tipped. Most mainstream restaurants added gratuity for parties is now at 18%. The low end of tipping (at least in high cost of living areas) is now around 18%. That shoud be the base line.

    The biggest petpeeves regarding tipping are as follows: I will tip you more if… (Do NOT threaten me!)
    Always bring cash with you. If your friend picks up the tab enjoy the good fortune and leave extra cash. (Most of my regulars tip really well. Sometimes they will come in with friends and picks up the tab and then tips crappy. It sucks! Example: Family of six ends up as a party of 11, friend leaves $16 on $120. The regulars would have left $16 on a $60 check.)
    If you keep the table extra long, leave extra money. I can’t get anyone else in if you are there, my money has decreased.
    When you are out by yourself, remember to tip. You are still taking up my table that could hold four people, tip accordingly. (My personal minimum is $5)
    Don’t screw with my tip if the kitchen screwed up. 90% of the time it is not my fault.
    If you don’t have the money to leave me a tip, don’t come to the restaurant.
    Non-money related: I charge $150 an hour for my day job. I am well educated, and probably smarter then you. I wait tables for fun, extra money and stay busy. Do not treat me like I have a 5th grade education or that I am your servant.
    If you are rude to me, I will not necessarily be nice to you
    If you are waiting for more in your party do not be suprised if I do not ask for your order while you are waiting.
    If you want good food and good service, get off your phone. I can not ensure you are getting what you want when I can not ask you.

  115. Okay, Oprah may not have said exactly those words, but if you read a feature in her latest article on tipping in O magazine, she refers to baristas as “counter employees” whose services do not warrant tipping. As a barista currently, I couldn’t disagree more. Simply because we stand behind a counter and our interactions take place for only around 5 minutes doesn’t mean I am not working my butt off to make sure you get your coffee on time so you won’t be a total cranky pants when you get to work. TIP YOUR BARISTAS the same as you would a bartender.

  116. i have noticed a decrease in tips at the tables, as well as more takeout orders of 4 or more meals, and a new’ish trend in at least my restaurant is christians are leaving jesus pamphlets in lieu of a tip. considering we’re in the US and not some random country in africa or south america worshiping rocks and sticks, says that we’re likely some version of christian/catholic and therefore have jesus in some capacity already, and that means the pamphlets are merely subterfuge to disguise the cheapskates slinking out the door. i can add one little caveat to this: one customer was offended when i read the cover of one of these pamphlets aloud “what would jesus do” and replied.. well jesus would’ve actually left a tip. made me laugh at least

  117. Many people who work many “average” jobs get paid an hourly wage. Often minimum wage. When a waiter waits on me, they are spending about ten minutes on me, total. THEREFOR:

    Wage for an hour: $8.00
    Waiter makes: $2.00 an hour
    Waiter needs: $6.00 more an hour

    You are only spending ten minutes on me (out of your hour’s worth of work). As stated, you need to make $6 for that hour.

    I only owe you a dollar.

    ONE dollar.

    Because that’s what MANY other people make.
    You are NOT entitled. I do NOT have to tip you AT ALL.

    Why the HELL are waitstaff complaining about the tips they received? You RECEIVED A TIP. I apologize it wasn’t enough for you.

  118. I respect JG very much, and I hope he knows he is supported.

    [Especially for his correct grammar, which seems to be quite a problem (mysteriously).]

  119. I also work a job that is based completely on tips.
    I am a stripper. Which means while you are working a job (hard- but not that hard), I am naked. I do very physical work, dancing. It IS very intense. And, as stated, I’m naked.
    There are times when, gasp, I don’t get tipped. Often. Often often often. HOWEVER. I do not mind, because I DO make ENOUGH MONEY FOR MY EFFORT. If someone doesn’t tip me all the time, of if I miss out on 10 consecutive tips, I don’t get absolutely outrageous with them. i don’t even mind- it doesn’t bother me even a little. BECAUSE, when I go home after a six hour shift, I HAVE made at least minimum wage.
    Which is all I’m asking for.
    Really, I’ve never felt like I’ve been “stiffed” and I never judge customers, because I DID make money.
    And as a waiter, you ARE making money. So don’t be such completely horrible people to those who don’t tip. You’re still making money. And if you don’t like it, DON’T work there. I don’t get paid even $2 an hour- I PAY to come in to work. Even if we have no customers all night, I owe the bar and the DJ because i was there and had the opportunity to work. And if I didn’t like it, or if i wasn’t making money, “I”!!!! would leave and get a different job.

    As a waiter, you are neither concerned for your safety or implementing some invaluable, rare service. You aren’t doing ridiculously physical work, you’re not in the military, you aren’t saving lives, you didn’t get some elaborate special training (like college), you aren’t in a situation where you might get killed or kidnapped, you don’t have any kind of emergencies. You always know what you’ll be doing when you come in to work. You aren’t a fire fighter or cop or doctor.

    And I DON’T OWE YOU 20% just because you say I do, and you SAY it’s 20%.

  120. As a stripper, you dance naked in front of a room full of people for two songs (approximately 8 minutes), and the “expected” tip is a dollar from whoever wants to give you one.

    And you’re requiring a minimum of $5.00 for any ind of a meal service?

    No.

  121. I’m nineteen. I’m a kid. I want to eat out at a restaurant I like because I like the food. I don’t have to tip you. I am a kid. I don’t have to tip you. I have a life, too, and I work for money, too, and I am paying bills and trying to get ahead, too. I’m not responsible for your bills. If the restaurant made it part of the meal or made me pay it at all, I’d pay it. But I’m not voluntarily giving you my money just so you can bitch that it wasn’t enough. You judged that I wasn’t going to tip anyway. Also, I would do everything for myself if I could. I’d get my own drink, etc. Just because I like the food at a restaurant doesn’t mean I owe you money.

  122. This is so amazing…it seems like everyone on here is a wonderful tipper or works at a “high end” place…EVERYONE…imagine that

  123. I’m really upset by the number of people who don’t tip with the mantra “don’t like it? get another job!”

    Many of us are single moms, or students, or working our first job, are juggling multiple jobs, caring for sick family members during the day or laid off because of the economy. It’s so easy for you to just tell us to find another job. GET A CLUE! Many times, WE CAN’T! Life has pushed us into these circumstances through no desire of our own. Your disdain for the good service we provide is a slap in the face on top of the already difficult existence we are leading.

    If the service sucks? Great! Don’t leave a tip! I totally get it. But don’t expect us to unionize and change over 150 years of American culture when we’ve already go so much on our plate. The service industry is on the bottom of the food chain in this economy, and we possess neither the skill set, the time nor the resources to make the changes you suggest-AND NOT TIPPING US IS NOT BRINGING US ANY CLOSER TO THE RESOURCES, LEISURE TIME OR EXPENSIVE EDUCATION WE WOULD REQUIRE TO MAKE THOSE CHANGES. I hope you can live with yourselves each morning, because you’re cold and heartless.

  124. Reading the comments where people say “don’t go out to eat if you cannot afford to tip 20%” makes me want to go out to eat and NOT tip at ALL. The entitlement from people is ridiculous. I am not your employer. The restaurant owner is. If you are not making enough money in your job, take it up with them… not the customer.

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