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Have You Changed The Way You Tip?

I was talking with a friend of mine who said a woman had hurt his pride. He’s a server in a fancy pants restaurant and he actually enjoys his job. Recently one of his customers tipped 12 percent on a bill which included a $120 bottle of wine. The total bill was $242. She left $30 and made a point of telling the server  she “doesn’t tip on the cost of the wine anymore because you already make enough on the mark-up.” So, how about you? Do you tip on wine? Subtract the tax? Or tip of total amount. I’m a 20 percent minimum on the whole tab, but I used to wait tables. Go.

72 comments on “Have You Changed The Way You Tip?

  1. @ldascha
    If your boss stopped paying you, would you care if he told you not to show up to work?

    Do you feel entitled to your paycheck every two weeks?

  2. @louis
    Again, this is from the perspective of waitstaff. No matter how much the markup is on that steak or bottle of wine, do you not understand that service staff don’t get paid unless you tip? They don’t see a dime of that 3x markup. So from a waitstaff perspective, spending 2 + hours of your night on a table that can’t afford to tip or doesn’t believe in the system is a gigantic waste of time. I get it — I don’t love spending an extra ten or fifteen bucks when I go out to eat, but again, if the service was built in you are going to spend that much anyway, and if restaurants have to start paying servers hourly than your cost as a consumer is going up anyway. Lose, lose, lose. Just pay the 15-20 percent and be done with it.

  3. @ladyinred – Where did I say I didn’t tip? My base is 15% and I go up from there if the service is great. (However, I am *not* tipping on alcohol I don’t drink.)

  4. This is circular debate about a flawed system.

    Clearly there’s something wrong with fully tipping a server on an expensive bottle of wine. Especially when the server offered little or nothing in the selection process. However, more than likely, that server will have to tip out to the kitchen, bar staff and back waiters a percentage of his/her sales regardless of the tip. That’s just one of many flaws in the current $2.13 & tips way of doing things.

    I firmly believe that if a restauranteur would pay normal wages to waiters with the opportunities for raises and bonuses we would all benefit.

    Sure, menu prices would increase. Probably significantly. But probably not more than 20%.

    I am convinced that this would put more emphasis on the the restauranteur taking ownership in the education/training of the entire staff. Essentially, in the current system, the waiters are employees of the diners who feel obligated to tip them, regardless of the service/dining experience.

    A waiter’s focus would then be geared towards accumulating hours and tenure, to make more money. Hours and tenure (and raises and bonuses) could be rewards based off job performance.

    Sure, it may not be as lucrative for beginning waiters as it is now…but frankly, it shouldn’t be. Most waiters are rewarded handsomely for putting nothing into their trade. They’re happy to take your tip for the $150 bottle of wine you’re ordering, but probably don’t know much about the wine. They’re happy to regurgitate the fish of the day, but probably couldn’t tell you why Copper River salmon are as regarded as they are.

    And the restauranteurs don’t care because they don’t have to pay for service staff, they don’t have to pay to have extra staff or outside help in properly training/educating the service personnel, and most importantly, the restaurant is absolved of much of the blame regarding service issues.

    And if the diners were re-trained to include service as part of the restaurant’s responsibility and less of an individual’s, they could then decide only if they want to further reward an establishment with their hard earned dollars without the guilt associated with tipping.

    And if service was poor? Complain to a manager, accept any possible discounts and leave. Then the management staff can track down the real issue and punish accordingly.

    There’s much more to this, but I’ll leave it at that. I’m surprised that more restaurants don’t consider this approach.


  5. Okay, how about a thread around how much to tip a bartender. There have been some complete tools behind the bar (e.g. the Slip Inn) who think they are entitled to a 20% tip for beer or mixed drinks served at the bar. Usually only an issue for me if I’m buying for friends with a tab. I have no problem with 20% for service in a restaurant, but for bar service? I think not?

  6. Sorry, after reading the statement: “Most waiters are rewarded handsomely for putting nothing into their trade.”…I found it hard to care about the rest. At least until the parts about tipping out of guilt and accepting possible discounts.

    All just too funny. And too sad.

    To me the whole thing seems to boil down to a certain elitism – that people being waited on think they are better than the people waiting on them. So as a result, those overpaid, underworked “servers” should be damn glad to have the joy of refilling my water glass while trying not to step on my kid who have allowed to run wild throughout the restaurant.

    And I want a free appetizer because the steak I ate 3/4 of was a bit dry.

  7. Sammy, you’re missing the point. And if you didn’t read that defensively, you might have understood where I was coming from.

    And by the way, I came from the restaurant business. In a way, I’m still there. And I made a killing. Especially for someone with no higher education. And no prior training. I made a lot of money and I carved myself a career from my experience. And I’m not too proud to be able to see both sides of this argument.

    There is no doubt a serious skill in managing a full section of inconsiderate jerks on a busy Friday night in $20-$30 entree restaurant. At the same time though, it would be easier if it wasn’t a game of turning tables as fast as possible so a waiter can get more tips. We should all be able to recognize how there is a flaw in the fact that we would rather dissuade diners from coffee so we can get another turn.

    Hear me out…If that money didn’t matter to the waiter, then they could pace their section easier. Diners could sit, relax, reflect on how good their meal was. Sure, the restaurant might lose some dollars for the night, but more than likely they’ll have more loyal clientele. This is just one example of how the working-for-tips scenario is not desirable for the diner. The customer. The one paying. And spare us how you’re the exception. You may be, but you should also know I’m right about the vast majority.

    I’m not saying my idea is the best one, but it’s something to consider. It might take the diners vs waiters battle out of the equation.

  8. Cute + legs + body + nice + service = 33%

    Guys = 20% if great service

    Subtractions made where necessary

  9. Why would you not tip on a bar tab? If your drink is 4 or 5 bucks, leave a dollar or two per drink. Not too much out of your pocket, and believe me, bartenders know who tips and who doesn’t. You will get much, much better service, and if you are a regular who tips well even a round or two on the house.
    This whole idea of “they aren’t working hard enough to get my money” is such BS. Bartenders (and servers) don’t just take your order and bring you food. They come in early, set up the restaurant, clean, polish your glasses and silverware and often do a lot of other drudge work for 2.13 and hour before you even sit down, all so you can have a pleasant dining experience. Bartending is not at all glamourous; it’s not like the movie Cocktail where you’re just rolling in cash when you leave the building right at 2am. You are the first to get there and the last to leave, cutting fruit, juicing, stocking, cleaning (all BEFORE the shift) then dealing with entitled customers, drunk bachelorette parties who want SHOTS, LIKE NOW! having to decide if and when to cut someone off because if they get in a drunk driving accident you can be found at fault for overserving…geez, just leave the 20 percent. And if you think the bartender is an a-hole, go somewhere else. Problem solved.

  10. I think the standard should be a flat tip regardless of the cost of the bottle of wine. For example, a recent dinner at craft ended up being about $900 for 4 of us with $500 or so on wine, $200 or so on food and the remainder towards tip. If we had the same food and had iced tea instead of wine, the same effort would have to be put forth by the waitstaff. I would have no problem paying a flat fee of $10-15 dollars for a bottle of wine to be served. Let’s assume 5 glasses-at $2-3 dollars per glass, most bartenders would be happy with that tip. That being said, the waiter at craft “tipped” us on a couple bottles that were well priced and we definitely considered this in his tip. It is the extras that make the difference, regardless of the cost of a bottle of wine.

  11. I agree with Justin and would like to see a post about forced valet parking. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

    I don’t usually exclude alcohol from tips, but then we don’t drink $100+ bottles of wine, so the difference is negligible. Our standard tip is 15% and the current debate about whether 20% is the minimum acceptable gets me very annoyed. Prices of food have gone up, so tips have in turn gone up. What’s the rationale for thinking diners should tip 5% more? Service hasn’t improved 5%; if it had, people might have a point.

    I do like the suggestion of a flat tip per bottle of wine, not that it could ever be realistically implemented. Do servers do more work to pour a $300 bottle than a $30 bottle? I think not. So the debate is not out of place; I can definitely see the side of those arguing against a full tip on the price of wine, even though as I said, we don’t personally exclude wine from the total we tip on.

    I also think that servers who complain about being taxed on a percent of their sales as a reason for expecting a minimum tip, are on very thin ice unless they can look me in the eye and say they declare every dollar that goes into their pocket on their taxes. I have no issue with tipping and although I’d prefer a different system, I accept the one we have and we tip accordingly. But I would like to know that the people whose salaries I am paying are actually being responsible and honest citizens with that income. For those who are (and in my experience, you are rare), I salute you.

  12. I still think that if you are at Craft (like Kam – I’m not picking on Kam, just using as an example) and can afford to spend almost $1000 for a dinner, then waffling on how much tip a server “deserves” because you spent this or that much on a bottle of wine and they didn’t have to “work” any harder, is just being cheap.

  13. Wylie, by asking me if I feel entitled to my paycheck, you’ve just exposed the very flaw that a few people here are pointing out: tips should be just that—tips, not the “meat” of someone’s check.

    P.S. I am entitled to my paycheck because I work very hard for it. A server who doesn’t work very hard shouldn’t be entitled to 20 percent of my $150 tab just because it’s “standard”.

    P.P.S. Like I said in an earlier comment, I’m not just some idiot bystander either. I’m lucky to be exposed to the ins and outs of a very good (like I said, Michelin-starred) restaurant, where a lot of the servers make out like bandits for very minimal work.

  14. I have waited tables and bar-tended, and I tip 20% minimum, regardless of service (unless it’s really, really bad). Waiting on people for a living sucks, and just because your waiter doesn’t do a hot job one evening doesn’t mean you should tip them 10% or less. Sometimes waitstaff members just have off nights, or sometimes the people they’re waiting on are complete jerks.

    And if you are one of those people that think waiters put nothing into their trade, you’re probably also one of the jerks. Seriously, be nice.

  15. @Emily- most servers these days get paid with credit cards and have to tip out, so all that tip money is calculated into their paychecks, and thus could probably “look you in the eye” and tell you that it does indeed go to the IRS like it’s supposed to.

    @L. This is a blog about the realities here in Dallas, Texas. I’m not sure how many servers even at high end ones make upwards of $10 an hour and my S/O works at one, so I can tell you, that it’s just not a reality here in the Big D. Most of her servers cane make upwards of $500 a weekend night in tips and yes, that is the “meat” of their paychecks considering $3 an hour for a six hour shift isn’t going pay anyone’s bills.

    If you have a problem with the system, work to change that. I don’t like turn signal laws, but you what? I still have to pay the fine when I get pulled over for not using my turn signal.

  16. I once did it all but be a general manager…my guess is most commentors haven’t had fine dining across the pond…by that I mean service is included usually & very professional…over here…usually not so much…do you tip Uncle Sam when you pay your taxes? If a server does nothing more than pull the cork [or unscrew the cap], why is that deserving of 20% regardless of the cost of the bottle…jus sayin’…byo restaurants essential call that a corkage fee

  17. In France, a 15% service tip is included in the price (as well as the VAT). Then if people are satisfied with the service they usually leave a few Euros on the table.

    In Dallas, I usually leave 15%-18% for a good service and around 20%+ for a not everyday service.

  18. I tip 20% pretax and on any normal bottle of wine. If the service is good. I dont think they deserve tip on what uncle sam makes. And if I order an extremely nice bottle of wine I might do 18%… they didnt crush the grapes, they are doing the same service then if I had ordered a cheaper bottle so why should they make more? If it is terrible service 15% on food alone. It has to be bad and all the servers fault, like having to chase them down and or get up and get our own drinks because they ignore you for 30 min. I think 20% pretax is generous enough since we usually get an app, drinks, meal. Our bills are on the high side.

  19. I routinely leave about 20% on the total tab for good service because this is the system we have and I know that waiters are trying to make a living. Fair enough. However, the sense of entitlement and anger by waitstaff directed at the dining public everytime this topic is raised is fairly insulting. If you really hate the job and the tipping system as practiced by the average American, find something else to do.

  20. Most people don’t enjoy their jobs too much…and a lot of waitstaff are students, have a day job or lost their job and need to make cash immediately just to get by. Most are usually actively looking for another job. It’s not as easy as “find something else to do.” Sense of entitlement…what? That’s the way the system works…it sucks, yes, but as waiters aren’t paid a liveable wage by their employer than yes, I guess they are “entitled” to tips. You know, so they don’t end up on the street.

    Anyone who has to deal with the general public routinely knows how awful those jobs are…retail, customer service, etc. If your income was based on the whims of diners you might feel a bit differently.

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