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Tip your waitress! - Howard Tayler
Ramblings of a Happy Cartoonist
Tip your waitress!
Or waiter. Or sushi-chef.

I've only got anecdotal evidence supporting this, but the impression I get is that with tighter economic times people are eating out a little less, and tipping a LOT less. The restaurant managers I've spoken to (I know a few, yes) have said that average tips have dropped from around 18% to around 10%.

Sure, sure... a lot of us look at tipping as a way to reward excellent service, and will withhold a good tip from a lousy waiter or waitress. But that's not what's happening here. What's happening is that a lot of us don't want to give up eating out, so we're cutting back on our tips.

Two things:

1) Be the guy (or gal) who tips well. Start at 20% and round up. Factor that into your budgeting.

2) Crummy service? A low tip just says "I'm cheap." Unless the service is absolutely execrable, it's not really your job to discipline your server. Tip your server well, and then call the manager over and complain. If it was really that bad you'll probably come out further ahead than if you'd skimped on the tip. If not, well... you don't want to eat there again.

My friend Bob has a great policy when he eats out with a large group. He hands the unsuspecting server a $20 at the beginning of the ordering process and says "I want to make sure this is a great experience for everybody... including you." At the end of the meal he strongarms the rest of us into tipping a solid 20%. Funny thing... when Bob's around we ALWAYS have a great time at the restaurant.

But you don't have to go the extra mile. Just make sure you don't skimp. Waitresses and waiters are feeling the crunch at least as badly as the rest of us are.
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ccdesan From: ccdesan Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Outstanding post. I've always tipped around 20%, to the eternal annoyance of my former spouse, who came from a frugal family of frugal ,farmers. I could never get my point across.

I love Bob's policy, and think I'll start adopting it. That is truly a "black vote", if you get the metaphor. If you don't, it means you're doing something positive so that everyone wins. Thanks very much for this.
jecook From: jecook Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I've always been a good tipper, having had my early jobs in the food service industry, and working in an industry that's very much service oriented.

One of the groups I hang out with is generally a bit of a hassle when we descend upon a restaurant or three after a meeting. (I say three, because few places are able to accommodate the entire group of 20 with little notice, let along the entire group of up to 50 people!) We ask for separate checks, tend to be a bit rambunctious, and occasionally loud. So, we tend to tip very well, at least the group I'm with does.

I'll be certain to try out "Bob"'s tactics this week- Might be interesting to see what happens.
anton_p_nym From: anton_p_nym Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Me, I always start at 15% and work my way up on tips. It's worth it, especially when you become a regular customer... my pizza delivery times were impeccable until I gave up delivery pizza.

Very few times have I gone under; once because I was short on cash, and I apologised to the waitress and tipped more on my next trip. Only once because the food wasn't good and service was actively terrible, plus my waitress left me waiting nearly half an hour for the cheque... for that, I left two cents on the table and never returned to that restaurant. (I wasn't the only one to have trouble there, and the place closed not long afterwards.)

But those are the exceptions. In the main, I tip well and get great service.

-- Steve thinks that good tipping is even more effective in these lousy times... and, heck, tipping well can be fun too. (And it certainly helps out wait- and kitchen-staff, who aren't exactly flush.)
From: wizarth Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
As someone who isn't American, it's interesting to me to see the ingrained assumption of giving tips as the norm. How is it that the employers can get away with paying so little that the staff need "extra"? I assume the employers count the (assumed) tips against their wages.
maniakes From: maniakes Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
It's very common in many industries for a substantial portion of your pay to be in the form of a performance-based bonus. I view tipping as a variation of this, where the bonus is paid directly by the customers rather than filtering through management.

For most professions where tipping is customary, this makes a good deal of sense, since the customers have a better view of their server's performance than the managers do.
filkertom From: filkertom Date: November 3rd, 2009 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Very much agreed. Especially since it's, like, an extra 50¢ or $1 or $2 or $3. Sure, things are tight, but that little extra reaps benefits beyond the cash. You improve your reputation with that server and restaurant, you improve their mood so their service is better for the next few people, you directly stimulate the economy that much more, and nobody spits in your soup.
seawasp From: seawasp Date: November 3rd, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, that depends on the number of people, the paying, etc.

I have a family of 6 and may have other people with me. The last order I got from a restaurant was takeout, but reflected closely what might have been ordered, and was over $200, so that's over $40 in tips if it were a sit-down, not an extra $3.

klingonguy From: klingonguy Date: November 3rd, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree completely. And I like your friend Bob's idea. I'll have to give that a try some time.
wulfbyu From: wulfbyu Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like Bob's idea. Ever since I worked in pizza delivery, I've become a good tipper. Honestly, it really is only a small addition to your bill, and it SHOULD be factored in. It really bugs me when people say, "I wish I could tip well, but I just can't." Sorry, buddy, but if you can't afford to tip, then you can't afford to eat out. These people rely heavily on those tips. If your beef is with their employers not paying them enough, well, you're not hurting the employers by giving low tips. The workers are the ones who get hurt. Fight that battle on a different front.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always start at 20%, and then I either round up or down based on how fast they bring new drinks. :)

But it's always above 18%.

For me, 20% is the easiest to calculate. Just move the decimal place over by one and double it. I usually round to the quarter dollar.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: November 3rd, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
(BTW, I didn't really decrease my going out to eat, but I did shift to less expensive food choices. Instead of the $40+tip trip to Carinos, I get the $20 for 2 people pasta deal which ends up being about $32 after tip and drinks. Instead of $13 plates of Pollo Cazuela at Tequilas, I get the $9 combo plate, etc.)
goodluckfox From: goodluckfox Date: November 4th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Tip your Sonic Drive In Carhops!!!

I'm an attorney who loves to rollerskate so much (and, uh, I have a six-figure student loan) that I took a gig as a rollerskating carhop at my local Sonic drive in. These kids make two-something an hour, plus tips... and people treat the drive in like it's a massively parallel drive through, and don't tip. "It's fast food." is the thinking. Anyway, those kids really depend on the tips. Me, I'm more or less doing it for my health and for the fun of it.
xander_opal From: xander_opal Date: November 4th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wish I'd known that, the couple times I went to a Sonic. Y'all have done a good service with the reminder.
From: msde Date: November 4th, 2009 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
My wife and I can't agree on whether you calculate tip before or after tax. Fortunately it's not a big deal, as I start at around 15% post-tax rounded up for good service, and she starts somewhere around 20% pre-tax unless service is awful.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned cash yet. It's always best to tip cash, otherwise they might not even see the tip until the end of the month and/or not get the whole thing.
toast0 From: toast0 Date: November 4th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well.. not to break up your vague agreement with your wife... but i'm strongly for pre-tax.

After all, if (as is common in california), you have the same meal at the same chain with similar service at a restaurant down the street, the tax difference can be significant (i think i can get a 2% difference if i try hard). Does the server deserve a bigger tip because the city where you ate in has higher sales tax?

Also, less with the logic, what did the man do to help you get a good meal? :)

norroway From: norroway Date: November 4th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ever since I got laid off, I don't go out to eat nearly as much as I used to. I do grab takeout, though, which I never knew whether I should tip for or not. Nowadays, I try to add a bit of a tip to every takeout--I know how hard the last year has been for me, and it has to have been pretty hard for the people who work at my favorite restaurants, too, given how little business I've seen there when I drop in to pick up my food.
From: betsumei Date: November 4th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
20%? Yikes. A lot of places around here, if you're paying with a card, will prompt you 15%, 18%, or other (sometimes dropping the 18%). Then again, according to Wikipedia, tips are usually lower in Canada because of the higher minimum wages, and the reduced cost of things like healthcare. I don't know if that's true, or if we're just cheapskates, but 15% seems to be the default around here. I do know some people that don't tip, or don't tip very well (like, <5%). That always makes me kind of embarrassed to be out with them when I notice that :(
orchidcolors From: orchidcolors Date: November 16th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just wanted to point out that some places pool tips. If you're trying to send a message about a server's crappy service via his or her tip...and the place pools tips, then you're hurting all the servers because of one bad server.

If what they're doing in retail is any indication, servers are dealing with a ton more work than usual. I'll have to remember Bob's policy. :)

Edited at 2009-11-16 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: trumanj Date: December 28th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Why tip someone for a job I'm capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.
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