Discounts · Quality · Restaurants · Service

If and When to Tip. How Much?

By Gerald Craig

There is no real consensus on this, but there is certainly a big debate on the right thing to do. There are several scenarios for tipping. Read below for some tips on whether you should tip, and how much. There are many things to consider when deciding on tips.

Food service workers often work for less than minimum wage. States have individual laws regarding exemptions from minimum wage. Even those that work for minimum wage are in a job that is often thankless and fraught with trouble, stress,  and hassles. Just imagine an overbearing manager, diners that complain about so much, hungry people getting grumpy, upset diners when the restaurant runs out of the special of the day, and drunks that start to get belligerent.

Not only that, but in some venues, they share their tips with other staff. The host for finding them a good tipper, the busboy for getting their table turnovers faster, the sommelier for up-selling wine, bartender for mixed drinks, barmaid for serving the drinks, and the expediter for checking their orders before they go out and putting their order together for them. By the time they are done, your $10 tip is now half that amount or less for them.

Why is it your problem that they chose to have a job where they have all these problems? Because you chose to dine or drink there. When you choose a place to eat or drink, you need to consider all things. This includes price of the food, atmosphere, required attire, whether they take reservations, menu selections, and the best time of day or night to be there or get discounts. Tipping is part of this process.

Think of this as your total source for information on tipping etiquette. I will cover suggestions and ways to do the right thing. Of course, you can choose not to follow my advice, and follow your own technique, but there is a reason you are reading this. Read the rest of this and see if it agrees with your own practices.

How much should you tip?

There are several ways to figure this, but there is a steady formula. The old amount was a flat 10% which was easy to figure. Just take the last number off the bill, and that is the amount of tip. A check for $18.57 would have a tip of $1.85 by that calculation. In the meantime, the percentage has gone up. Customary is 15%. The easiest way to calculate this is to double the sales tax. Most places get at least 7 1/2% so doubling that amount would give you a base amount for taxes.

You could also figure the 10% formula and add half again. For instance, that $18.57 check would be $1.85 plus $.93 (half of 1.85) for a total of $2.78. You can see doubling tax is easier. How about if you get very good service? Double the $1.85 to $3.70 for 20%. Of course, you can round up so the first one would be $3 and the last one $4. If you have exceptional service or are dining in a high end venue, you may tip as much as 25%.

To make things even easier, round everything up. You don’t have to be exact. Round up the $18.57 to $19.00 for $1.90 (see how easy?) then round up to $2.00. That makes it easier to figure 15% because now you take $2.00 and add $1.00 to it for a tip of $3.00. For 20% double it for $4.00. Can you see how you end up with the same amount as the more involved method above? Now tipping can be so easy.

Better yet, just download an app to your smart phone. I have one on my phone, but rarely use it. I only use it when I want to make my total amount even. For instance, on $18.57 with a tip of $2.78 (15%) total would be $21.35, but I might want to round up my total to $22.00 so I can track purchases. Not everyone makes sure their totals are on the dollar, so if anyone uses your card without knowing it, you can find it on your statement easily.

Using my Tip N Split app for that same check, if I want my check to come out to $22.00, I add a tip of $3.43 at a total of 18.47%. That took me less than a minute to figure out with no thought or calculation involved. If that check was shared by 3 people, each would pay $7.33. I got all that from my app, which makes it easy to deal with groups, which many students do. Of course, that assumes each one shared evenly, such as buying appetizers at happy hour or sharing a big bowl of fries.

What about a tip jar?

Coffee shops or sandwich shops or anyplace where you order food at a register usually have a tip jar at the register. Why tip them when they don’t do much? For one thing, they have to be pleasant with you, they have to provide customer service, answer questions you may have about the menu selections. They split the jar between them. Maybe drop a buck in the jar, or at least the coins so they know you appreciate them. I suggest the dollar at least, if not more.

What about at a buffet or self service?

Self serve buffets and Chinese restaurants do not usually provide full service, but they do have staff that comes around to pick up your used dishes, and might even offer to get refills for you so you can continue eating. Of course, they do not have to, but if they do and give you that extra service, you should offer them something.

I usually leave at least a buck or two per person at my table. That is the standard feeling among the pundits. If they went out of their way in service, I leave a little extra. It is my way of showing my appreciation for a job that is difficult and tiring. If you are attending a catered event, it is not usual to leave any tip.

Fast food restaurants, too?

This is purely up to you . It is not customary because they already work for minimum wage at most venues. They are usually either school kids or college students, or retirees just biding their time to make some money. Just do them a favor and bus your table. Take your tray and garbage and deposit it in the trash cans. I see people leave loads of trash all the time and it just isn’t respectful. Yes, they are paid for that, but they are a lot like you. They have a job to do, but they are also human beings deserving respect.

Just have respect for them

Of course, tipping is up to you, but remember that these are some hard working people that have families to support and bills to pay. They deserve to be treated with respect and get tips for service. Just think how you would want to be treated. Even on a budget, you can still tip a little. Keep in mind that no tip or a short tip says they did a bad job. They take it personally and feel like they did something wrong. If you can’t afford to leave a tip, at least let them know. They deserve to know it wasn’t because they did something wrong.



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