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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