I recently read a post with an interesting theory on tipping. I like and respect the author of the post, Len Penzo, though I disagree with his opinion this time around. However, it was when I read the comments I wanted to scream and start punching people. Here is what you really need to understand about tipping and the service industry. [Warning, angry rant ahead]
Tipping is a Cultural Norm, and You are Part of the Culture
Whether you like it or not, if you live in the United States of America the average tipping amount when you visit a restaurant with a server that comes to your table, takes your order, and delivers your food has been 15% for a long time. Over the last decade, that has risen to 20%.
MSN recently declared that 20% is the new 15%. If you can’t even handle 15%, maybe you should move to Europe where the standard tip is 10% or not go to restaurants at all.
Don’t Say That Servers Should Get Another Job
In the United States tax code, minimum wage is lower for people with jobs that come with tips. If you are a waiter, bartender, valet, bell hop, exotic dancer, or any other tip based job, you are only going to get paid the minimum wage for tipped professions. That is how it works.
In Colorado, where I live, minimum wage is $7.64 per hour. For tipped employees, it is $4.62. Non-tipped employees have a minimum wage that is 65% higher than tipped employees.
You Can Tip Less for Bad Service, or Tip More for Good Service
If you go into a restaurant and your waiter ignores you or is rude to you, by all means tip less than 15%. I went to a restaurant a few years ago and ended up in a shouting match with the waiter. He got a quarter.
On the flip side, I went to a nice restaurant last month and had exceptional service and attention. That waiter got 25%.
Don’t hold up to a double standard and tip bad for poor service but not tip well for good service. If I have “average” service where I am happy with the wait staff but not blow away, I tip 20%.
All Problems are NOT Your Server’s Fault
Yes, sometimes a server takes too long to put in an order. Yes, sometimes a server takes too long to refill your drink. However, every problem is not their fault and you should realize that.
In my restaurant days, I remember apologizing to tables for food coming out slow, orders that were not followed correctly, and a slew of other problems. Yes, I did occasionally have a tough time keeping up on a busy night, but I never neglected my tables and always tried to keep my customers happy regardless of my mood or anything else.
Yet, twice (I remember both times) I had a bad tip when I busted my ass to make the customers happy. Don’t be those people.
Your Server Does Not Keep the Entire Tip
Despite what you may think, the server does not keep it all. We had to “tip out” to the bussers, bartenders, the guys in the back who arranged the food on the serving trays, and pay a flat fee for each shift we worked to the people who rolled the silverware into the napkins. These were not optional; they came out of our tips at the end of every single shift.
Your 20% tip quickly becomes a tip of less than 15%, and your 15% is less than 10. If you came in and left a 15% tip on a $40 check, to you it felt like leaving $6.00. For your server, that was a lot less.
Don’t Camp Out
I remember a dinner shift where I had two women order low price meals and water to drink. The bill came out to about $30. I don’t judge people for what they spend in restaurants. I am all about saving money, but then they sat.
The entire shift, that table did not turn over once. It was those two women. They left me 20%, but that $6.00 was not really $6 and I did not get another table there the whole night. In a restaurant where you are used to getting 3-5 turns per shift and the average table had a bill around $50-$60, that cost me about $45 in tips.
If you are going to spend the night at a table, at least order a few drinks and tip accordingly. I once had a 2 hour dinner at a restaurant while visiting with a friend and left an extra $10 because I was blocking the table.
Be Frugal, Save Money, But Don’t Be Cheap
Your tip is part of your dining experience. The average tip in the United States today is expected to be about 20%. 15% is a bit on the light side, but it happens and I won’t judge you (too bad) for it.
However, if you regularly leave tips below 15% when you didn’t get bad service, you are a cheap fucking bastard and should stop going to restaurants.
Image by ineffable_pulchritude/Flickr