Are You Tipping Correctly?

Giorgio D'Antonio

Tipping The Right Way

The content shown here has been reproduced from Readers Digest Magazine & Yahoo, with further commentary added in green.

I must preface, my father taught me to tip well. On the same token, I was taught in that a tip is earned and not mandatory.

While most of us agree that 20 percent (or close to it) is the standard amount to leave on a restaurant check, other tipping-related matters leave us scratching our heads. To settle these debates once and for all, Steve Dublanica, former server and author of the blog Waiter Rant and recent book Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity, weighs in on some hot-button issues.


On one hand: There’s no reason to tip on the tax. The restaurant doesn’t get to keep tax money. When gratuity is automatically included on a check for a large party, it’s added pretax.

On the other: When most servers total their sales at the end of the night, they include the tax in the amount. This “cash-out” amount determines how much they tip out to busboys, runners, and other staff members. By not tipping on tax, you’re stiffing them out of their fair share.

Steve’s verdict: “I like it when you do, but you don’t have to tip on the tax.”

I’m not a avid fan of tipping on tax; don’t tip on tax!  I’ll keep this article in mind when consuming noshes after noshes at Greek Islands in Chicagoland given their lineup of busboys, runners etc. As for automatic gratuity aka autograt, in some countries and for large parties of six or more an autograt is common; reputable eateries in the US will post their autograt policy on the menu or will inform patrons in some manner.

I find it subversively ridiculous when waiters add an autograt to the bill of a party of four to five or less and do so by choice i.e. to one party yet not to another.  Although, some may argue waiters are protecting themselves given their known surefire stereotypes i.e. Europeans with accents don’t tip well (as pertaining to the USA), foreigners don’t tip well, etc.  


On one hand: Twenty percent is way too much – it’s just a drink! The standard in most bars is $1 for each beverage or 10 percent, which generally adds up to $1. Bartenders are tipped out by other members of the staff, so they are walking away with plenty of money.

On the other: Bartenders do more work than servers because they’re the ones actually making the drinks, not the server. They deserve the full 20 percent.

Steve’s verdict: “[At the bar] you should leave 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of that drink, which may seem kind of ridiculous. But think of it this way: At the table, you’re paying 15 to 20 percent. Why does the bartender not get that money, but the waiter – who doesn’t make those drinks – does?”

I’m guilty of tipping my bar tender plenty on the first drink; it’s likely because I seek that extra kick in coming drinks.  When paying in cash one usually either tips plenty at the outset or one tips at the very end.  When waiting to tip at the end it’s best to give notice.  I find that a more than adequate tip on the first drink works best going forward. There are also those who tip per drink and rightfully so depending on how long one plans to stay.    


On one hand: Yes. They’re skilled workers and deserve tips just as much as other food-service employees.

On the other: Baristas make a decent hourly wage, unlike servers, and they don’t work for tips. Besides, what’s the point of tipping them if they don’t see you put the money in the jar?

Steve’s verdict: “I learned when I worked as a barista that if you get a cup of coffee and give us the change from buying that cup, we’re really grateful. But I’ve seen people order one of these frothy iced milk latte-type chemistry experiments – which can be more complicated to prepare than a martini – and then not tip. For baristas who make you one of these, tip a dollar.”

See also: 13 Things Your Barista Won’t Tell Youthe interesting ones are:

1) Starbucks’ Venti (20 oz) and Grande (16 oz) each contain two shots of espresso. The Venti just has more milk. So if it’s caffeine you’re after, size doesn’t matter.

tipping a barista

2) If a heart or a pinwheel design holds in the milk it means that the consistency of the foam is good and the shot was pulled well.  If you’re at a place that does foam artwork, and you don’t get a good picture, that means your drink is not well made.

3) Starbucks sends employees to barista school for two weeks, where they study the history of coffee, the entire coffee menu, and how to turn milk into velvety foam.


On one hand: Never. Even if your server really, really screws up, the tip money is being distributed to multiple employees of the restaurant. If you’re unhappy with your server, it’s not fair to penalize the busboy, bartender, food runners, and other employees who depend on this money to make their living.

On the other: It’s OK to leave a bad tip if you receive bad service. It’s your right as a customer, and it will send a message of displeasure to the restaurant.

Steve’s verdict: “I don’t suggest stiffing servers on the tip, because you are punishing all the other people connected to that food chain. I tell people to talk to the manager and say, ‘I had very poor service, but I’m leaving a tip anyway.'”

See also: 20 Secrets Your Waiter Won’t Tell You… the interesting secrets are: 

1) Now that I’ve worked in a restaurant, I never ask for lemon in a drink. Everybody touches them. Nobody washes them. We just peel the stickers off, cut them up, and throw them in your iced tea.
-Charity Ohlund, Kansas City waitress

2) Don’t order fish on Sunday or Monday. The fish deliveries are usually twice a week, so Tuesday through Friday are great days. Or ask the restaurant when they get theirs.
-Steve Dublanica

3) I’ve never seen anybody do anything to your food, but I have seen servers mess with your credit card. If a server doesn’t like you, he might try to embarrass you in front of your business associate or date by bringing your credit card back and saying, ‘Do you have another card? This one didn’t go through.’
-Charity Ohlund

4)  Some places buy salad dressings in one-gallon jars, then add a few ingredients, like a blue cheese crumble or fresh herbs, and call it homemade on the menu.
-Former waiter Jake Blanton, who spent ten years in restaurants in Virginia, North Carolina, and California

5) It’s much easier to be recognized as a regular on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays. Once you’re recognized as a regular, good things start to happen. You’ll find your wineglass gets filled without being put on your bill, or the chef might bring you a sample.
-Christopher Fehlinger

6) At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Especially watch out for the soup of the day. If it contains fish or if it’s some kind of ‘gumbo,’ it’s probably the stuff they’re trying to get rid of. 
-Kathy Kniss, who waited tables for ten years in Los Angeles


On one hand: Yes, in certain cases. Many tourists from other countries don’t understand the tipping protocol in the United States. Servers have a right to protect themselves.

On the other: It’s outrageous for a server to include the tip unless it’s a large group. Legally, servers don’t have the right to make the customer pay any gratuity.

Steve’s verdict: “If you were to include a service charge automatically, you would have to tell everyone who walks in that you’re adding a 20 percent service charge. I don’t support waiters deciding who they’re going to attach a tip to. That’s not their job – that’s management’s job – and they need to have a very well thought-out policy about why they’re doing that.”


– THINK TWICE ABOUT BEING RUDE TO YOUR WAITER. Many CEOs say the way a potential employee treats a waiter offers insight into that person’s character and ability to lead, according to an article in USA Today. And a 2005 survey of 2,500 members of It’s Just Lunch, a dating service for professionals, found that being rude to waiters ranked No. 1 as the worst in dining etiquette, at 52 percent, way ahead of blowing your nose at the table, at 35.

– When you say, “I’ll have the pasta Alfredo,” it tells me two things: You aren’t interested in trying new things, and you don’t eat out much. Restaurants put this dish on their menus because it’s “safe,” it sells, and it’s cheap to make. —JR

Random article on tipping your taxi driver, bellman,  doorman, cloakroom attendant, hotel maid, tour guide etc.

Courtesy of Readers Digest Magazine.

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