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The complexities of US tipping culture
May 30, 2014 2:30 PM   Subscribe

A completely unscientific survey on tipping in the US service industry.
posted by chainsofreedom (180 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok but he is wrong about Fresh Direct, if you live in a walk-up and they are carrying heavy stuff for you in many boxes then $5 is a shit tip.
posted by elizardbits at 2:33 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I am confused about how the waiters surveyed about the tipping habits of various groups were aware of their customers' religious backgrounds or sexual orientations?
posted by lalex at 2:39 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Yeah that's obviously just creepy bias in most cases unless your restaurant is kosher or has an after church special, I guess.
posted by elizardbits at 2:41 PM on May 30


Wow I didn't realize that tipping 20%-ish for takeout was way more than average. I thought it was standard.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:42 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Also, in California waitstaff make the normal minimum wage - $8/ hour. I know this is true for a minority of states, and most states allow waitstaff to be paid waaaaay less. It's interesting to me that the standard tip is roughly similar (as far as I know) in states that require higher pay for waitstaff; clearly waiting tables is more lucrative in some states than in others.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:46 PM on May 30


It's a measure of solidarity. Pouring a coffee doesn't necessarily deserve a $1 tip, but we're both human and it's a moment of kindness that can be passed from one to another, and I'd argue the actual act of tipping - a shared moment of egalitarianism - is often worth more than what you happen to be tipping to begin with.
posted by four panels at 2:47 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


Wow I didn't realize that tipping 20%-ish for takeout was way more than average. I thought it was standard.

Is this your way of telling us how much you tip for takeout?

Because 15% seems standard at a restaurant. Why would more be considered standard for takeout?
posted by hal_c_on at 2:47 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I thought that nowadays 20% was standard in restaurants in the US. That's what I tip anyway. Possibly because I find it easier to calculate than 10%.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:49 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


It's hard to know the religion of most customers who tip decently. I'm sure that group includes a lot of people who consider themselves religious.

But a subset of people who tip poorly or not at all seem to go out of their way to let you know what their religion is. And some of their co-religionists will call them out for it.
posted by maudlin at 2:51 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


The religion of a tipper will rarely be apparent, unless they make an ass of themselves.
posted by ckape at 2:55 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I thought that 20%ish was standard at restaurants (at least around here), and people tipped the same for takeout. I do tend to round up for dine-in and round down for takeout.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:56 PM on May 30


I hate going to the fancy grocery store, and realizing after I checked out that they absolutely insist on carrying your groceries to your car and expect a tip for it. Seriously, just let me carry my groceries myself. It's super unpleasant.

I wish she didn't imply Jews are bad tippers. This completely ruined any sympathy or interest I had in the article.
posted by miyabo at 2:56 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Insult on top of penury.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:56 PM on May 30


Yeah that's obviously just creepy bias in most cases unless your restaurant is kosher or has an after church special, I guess.

I figured it was based on just the obvious cases - people wearing yarmulkes, the evangelicals who leave prayer cards on the check, etc.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:57 PM on May 30


"5% is not gratitude, mister. It's an invitation to an ass-kicking."

(Sally from 3rd Rock from the Sun explains tipping.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:57 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of people just follow the rule "no waiter, no tip."
posted by smackfu at 2:58 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately with the minority races, it doesn't matter how hard you try or how good of service you give them. Most (not all) of them will still leave you $5 on $150.

The 6th reference in the article is the actual survey conducted. Towards the end there is a place that the survey takers commented in freeform.

It is filled with shit like that. So take that into consideration when you're wondering about the validity of this survey to actually provide insight on tipping vs. it's validity to provide us with details on the stereotype of restaurant staff.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:00 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


This article based on a "survey" just seems like bullshit the more I look into it. It is all made up.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:03 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Here is a picture of two receipts I got during the same shift at work one time. I present this as evidence that tipped jobs are total utter bullshit.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:09 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


I thought that nowadays 20% was standard in restaurants in the US. That's what I tip anyway. Possibly because I find it easier to calculate than 10%.

De-rail, but really? I always go 10%. (move the decimal), double, and then round up. How do you calculate it?

Genuinely interested.
posted by graphnerd at 3:11 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


Perhaps what is meant is that the subset of Christians who pray before eating tend to tip poorly. Are there other groups which say "grace" in such a conspicuous way? I am religion ignorant and honestly do not know.
posted by GrumpyDan at 3:12 PM on May 30


I am a proud "low tipper." Actually, I prefer not to tip at all, so I avoid situations where I have to tip. In Canada everything is pretty expensive, and the quality (especially for food) is pretty low. And I don't have much money.

And I while I always tip when social convention dictates that I should, I do hate tipping when there is poor food, or poor service (service is really bad!), or both. But I am compelled to tip anyway, which is why I avoid situations where I have to tip.

So, I have saved money by not eating out and have lost weight to boot!

Except for coffee shops. I always try to leave a tip.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:13 PM on May 30


The moral of the thread, already, is that nobody has any god damned idea.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:13 PM on May 30 [12 favorites]


Not tipping for bad food is wildly illogical, as the server has nothing to do with the preparation. If anything you should complain about not paying for the bad food and not arbitrarily kill the messenger, as it were.
posted by elizardbits at 3:17 PM on May 30 [31 favorites]


If you've ever worked in a service industry or have a loved one who has then you basically go into the high tipper category automatically. 20% is basically a given for most industries with some like stylists-massage therapists 25%+.

Basically I follow the rule that if you can't afford to tip then you shouldn't eat out (or at least not at a sit-down restaurant). If you undertip you are basically stealing from the server (yes I know that technically the restaurant is underpaying) because the only way that food is so cheap (relatively) is because 20% of the cost is effectively reduced due to the tipping custom.
posted by vuron at 3:19 PM on May 30 [21 favorites]


I was about to say there's a huge example of tip creep, but then remembered he's asking the people who depend on the money, so of course there's going to be biased. What I learned and saw growing up was not to go below 10% unless it was egregious, 15% was standard, and 20% was good.

I definitely had no idea on restaurant delivery though. I've been overtipping for years.
posted by corb at 3:20 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


If you have bad food then address it with the manager who will a lot of the time just comp you some percentage of it at least if it's competently run. Making the wait-staff suffer because the restaurant deliver to your expectations is a classless move.

In the case of a server actually giving bad service that is legitimately their fault (instead of a kitchen being deep in the weeds) then saying something to a manager is also probably warranted. But still tip. But in general bad service is typically a self correcting problem.
posted by vuron at 3:23 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I've never understood why your tip is supposed to be a percentage of the bill. Why is the attractive 25 year old server at a fancy restaurant entitled to three or four times the tip as a 50 year old server at the diner who has been doing this her whole life?
posted by geegollygosh at 3:25 PM on May 30 [20 favorites]


I thought that nowadays 20% was standard in restaurants in the US. That's what I tip anyway. Possibly because I find it easier to calculate than 10%.

De-rail, but really? I always go 10%. (move the decimal), double, and then round up. How do you calculate it?

Genuinely interested.
posted by graphnerd at 6:11 PM on May 30 [+] [!]

Heh, that's cause it's a typo. I meant to say that 20% is easier to calculate than 15%.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:27 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


> It's a measure of solidarity.

Agreed, four panels.

What's so agonizing about the topic is that back in the mid-90's, greedy restaurant owners (and their ilk amongst the other tipped industries) noticed the stacks of greenbacks their employees were taking home above & beyond the outrageously decadent minimum wage they were already being paid. That these fat cats successfully lobbied to introduce a "tipped employee minimum wage" was only the first strike in this ridiculous story.

As mentioned in the article, many tipped employees at restaurants include such persons as hosts & buspeople. This should hopefully seem somewhat shocking as folk rarely (I'm being generous.. it's probably more accurate to say "never") tip their host or busperson. One leaves a tip for the server & that's that. & yet, the restaurant forces the server to "tip out" a portion of their tips to these other employees each evening, making the fuzzy math work.

Think about that for a second.

Not only are your expected-to-be-tipped bartenders & servers underpaid, but so are non-tipped buspeeps & hosts. The only people in many restaurants making a living wage without a tipped source are the cooks & the management. Due to the mandatory nature of "tip outs," it's possible (and indeed has happened) that a server might have to tip out more money to their support staff than they made in tips.

Naturally, "the market" will insist that there were no restaurants prior to 1996 when restaurants were simultaneously willed into existence & given the right to pay their employees $2.13/hr so long as they earned more than $30 in tips per week. Also, obviously, there remain no restaurants in states where tipped minimum wages are higher or *gasp* equal to minimum wage. The fact that people are capable of being shamed into directly paying the salaries of their tipped waitpersons is pretty much God's way of saying that this is how it *should* be.

Something that used to be a kind expression of gratitude & human brotherhood has now become a nebulous obligation that confuses & incenses swaths of people on both sides of the dinner check.

Thankfully though, on account of all the money pocketed by the job-creating restaurant industry, they're at least able to pay for things like paid leave & health insurance.

/hahahaha

True story: When I worked for the Cheesecake Factory (a massive corporation with stores in locations where tipped wages were decidedly not the $2.13 an hour I was making), not only did I have neither (paid leave or health insurance for the folks playing along), I was scolded for picking up an extra shift that'd put me over 40 hours. After all, time & a half for those couple of extra hours would be 75% of the actual minimum wage at the time; who can afford that?

So that's the short of why we're where we are & there's even a heart-warming anecdote thrown in to boot. I loathe the fact that a tip is no longer a "tip." I'm sorry that my server is paid pretty much nothing. I'm sorry that I would be a monster to tip less than 20%. I'm sorry that no one with the power to do anything about it cares. I'm sorry that people who might have eaten at a restaurant prior to 1996 might mistakenly believe that servers make a living all on their own & that tips are just "tips." I'm sorry that the service industry has created an adversarial relationship between the server & guest. I'm sorry that like so many other "problems" the solution is easy, obvious, & no one has the political will to do it.

Ideally, you'd go to a restaurant, pay the price of the meal that would meet the bottom line necessary to pay everyone in the restaurant a fair wage, & tip whatever you damned well please. It's not rocket science.

Anecdote 2: there's a bar & grill a stone's throw from my apartment run as a co-op. Every item on the menu has the tax included & because every employee is paid a fair wage, tipping is specifically disallowed. 1. They are ALWAYS busy. 2. Their food is AMAZING. 3. There's pretty much no turnover. 4. The sense of relief I feel *every* time I pay the bill & don't have to work out a fair tip is indicative of how stressful the current situation is in every other instance. (And not because math is hard. Double the amount & move the decimal point. At least, that's how I do it, graphnerd)
posted by narwhal at 3:28 PM on May 30 [60 favorites]


A recent episode of Judge John Hodgman on tipping, specifically for hotel housekeeping, but the discussion is wide-ranging.

Bailiff Jesse Thorne makes a wonderful point. If you are a person who feels that the minimum wage should be higher, and that people should make a living wage, tipping is one of the few opportunities you have to directly increase the wage of someone who performs a service for you.
posted by BrashTech at 3:29 PM on May 30 [16 favorites]


Not tipping is weird to me. I tip 20% by default here in California even though its one of the few states where waitstaff etc are actually paid something vaguely resembling a living wage. In most places not tipping would be the same as not really paying a fair price for a product you purchase and consume. Legal theft in a way.

Also, when tipping you're not just tipping your waiter. My understanding is that in many places tips are collected and then shared between all so that those who don't get to directly interact with the customers also get something.

The article hid this in a small "[1]" pop-up but I think it's relevant to why tipping is so important at least in the US and places like it (emphasis mine):
"This whole post might sound somewhat psychotic to someone not from the US. At some point, the US decided that customers, not employers, should pay the salaries of service employees, and it’s been this bizarre mess of a system ever since. This whole post refers to tipping in the US."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:29 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


Hairy Lobster: "Legal theft in a way."

Where the weakest links in the chain are forced to make up for the difference by providing essentially free labor.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:31 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Basically I follow the rule that if you can't afford to tip pay your employees a fair wage so they don't have to rely on the manners of strangers then you shouldn't eat out own a restaurant (or at least not at a sit-down restaurant).

FTFY.

If you undertip you are basically stealing from the server (yes I know that technically the restaurant is underpaying) because the only way that food is so cheap (relatively) is because 20% of the cost is effectively reduced due to the tipping custom.

Wouldn't it be easier if the food was 20% more! and you got to keep that 20%? Restaurants don't do that because they know it will make for fewer customers. They get away by not paying the service staff.

I don't understand why people give a pass to the employer. Is it not their responsibility to pay their workers adequately? $2.31 is some straight up bullshit. What's basically happening is that restauarant owners are recouping and profiting from all investments in the business (including the labor of their service team), but then it becomes the service team's JOB to score their own paycheck from a customer who isn't legally bound to give ANY money.

Lawyers go to school to learn about the law. They provide a service. Notice that they don't have a voluntary system to collect money for their service. This is why they get paid.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:32 PM on May 30 [29 favorites]


I just wanted to second what narwhal said. I'd rather just play a flat fee than "decide" for myself/be guilted into paying some extra weird fee or else I'm an asshole. Sigh.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:34 PM on May 30


Yes, so if you can't be bothered to tip, you should take it out on the employer/restaurant owner BY NOT EATING THERE, not by eating there and then refusing to pay the lowest fucking people in the pecking order.

If you are doing otherwise don't delude yourself that you are somehow standing up for what is right. You're just being cheap and smug about it.
posted by elizardbits at 3:35 PM on May 30 [42 favorites]


Why is the attractive 25 year old server at a fancy restaurant entitled to three or four times the tip as a 50 year old server at the diner who has been doing this her whole life?

There are huge differences in the number of tables that a waitress will have in a diner v. in fine dining, so (at least in theory) if you're waiting tables in a diner you're (hopefully) getting 20% tips on a lot of smaller bills as opposed to getting 20% tips on only a few larger bills.

The best is if you're working at a place with high prices and nice/polite clientele, *but* that also allows you a lot of tables/customers and longer shifts. Which is why I prefer cocktail!
posted by rue72 at 3:36 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Five dollars is my standard base for "you showed up at my house." fee.

I tip my barber lusciously well cause he is soley responsible for my adorable boyish locks and regularly has a knife to my throat. Plus I get free whiskey.

My building has no one "doorman" and a ludicrously large number of salaried staff so everyone just gets 40 at Christmas.

My mom, the ex waitress and bartender, would rather see me in jail, for multiple cannibal crimes, then not tip at least 20%, no matter what, and in cash.
posted by The Whelk at 3:37 PM on May 30 [18 favorites]


Unless you go out of your way to be mean to me (happened maybe like twice in the entire history of my being waited on), you're getting 20%. If I'm a regular, 25+ (seriously - this pays for itself tenfold over the years. You don't need power or lots of money to get VIP treatment. You just need to be a kind regular somewhere and always tip generously. I've easily gotten back that extra 5 or 10 % in free beers and leeway at my local pub over the years plus I feel good about myself).

I think the one that irks me is that if you're at a strip club, I realize you don't have to tip $1 per song if you aren't sitting at the stage...but come on. It's not cool to sit at table staring three feet away and be like, hey, I'm not at the stage so I don't have to tip. Don't be a douche! It isn't hard!
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:37 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


Oh god yes always tip in cash if possible. Less chance of shitty owners/managers pocketing it/refusing to hand it over.
posted by elizardbits at 3:38 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


The first act when workers took power in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War was to abolish the tip.
posted by graymouser at 3:38 PM on May 30 [20 favorites]


Yes, so if you can't be bothered to tip, you should take it out on the employer/restaurant owner BY NOT EATING THERE, not by eating there and then refusing to pay the lowest fucking people in the pecking order.

100%

But this isn't how it works. People will just be cheap and get outta paying whatever they can. Nurses wouldn't be paid shit if they relied upon tips to make their wages.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:38 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


The only thing that I'm tipping is my fedoraaaa
posted by hellojed at 3:39 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


I always give $5 for delivery, but now I feel kind of bad because I never even considered doing 20% for it. Sometimes that's more than 20% (I'm tired and got a pizza) but sometimes that's less (I ordered Chinese for my parents and grandma). Are we supposed to always do 20% or $5, whichever is greater? Is $5 for a meal over $25 insulting? (Any delivery people in the thread?).
posted by rue72 at 3:41 PM on May 30


Do people tip at stores like Specialties, which are like high-end fast food places? What about food trucks? I generally tip $1 regardless of the food I'm getting, unless they have a 10% option on an app. I also tipped $1 at Subway when I used to eat there.
posted by halifix at 3:41 PM on May 30


What has never made sense to me, is the idea that you tip to ensure good service.

The tip comes after the service. So you have no way whatsoever to alter the service you get -you cannot choose, for instance, 'just average, thanks' and pay your 15%, any more than you can effectively indicate 'special night out, please spoil us' and opt to do so by paying more. The tip after the service is completely useless, as an exchange.
posted by Dashy at 3:42 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Food trucks are a tip jar barista situation.

Overtipping the red caps at Penn Station gets your luggage put on and a nice window seat saved for you.

Bellhops/etc, usually just five or ten unless they're lugging heavy luggage.

I accidentally tried to tip a cop once.
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


What has never made sense to me, is the idea that you tip to ensure good service.

Do you ever go to the same place more than once?
posted by graymouser at 3:44 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I tip $5-6 for restaurant delivery and more if it is shitty weather. The night of the appalling ice storm in early april I tipped the poor miserable bareburger dude like 12 bucks because it was so fucking unbelievably, almost comically vile outside and I really fucking appreciated that burger.
posted by elizardbits at 3:45 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I accidentally tried to tip a cop once.

How did you not go to jail? Or did you?
posted by hal_c_on at 3:46 PM on May 30


If you have bad food then address it with the manager who will a lot of the time just comp you...

Agreed. In many restaurants the staffing is split between front (service) and back (kitchen). They might even have two separate managers. When something goes wrong, ask yourself if it seems to be a front- or back-of-the-house problem. If your steak is overcooked, punishing your server makes about as much sense as punishing the hostess. Moreover, if you direct your complaint to the manager, then you'll likely receive a discount larger than whatever amount you'd have docked the tip.

Having said that, I do think these conversations tend to go too far the other way in implying you can never go below 15–20 percent. If your server is inattentive, absent, or just generally sucks, then go right ahead and reduce their tip. No, a tip is not reserved for exceptional service; but if your service is exceptionally bad, then the tip is exactly where you should reflect that.
posted by cribcage at 3:47 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


How did you not go to jail? Or did you?

The central park traffic cops are models of incorruptible virtue
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


> My mom, the ex waitress and bartender, would rather see me in jail, for multiple cannibal crimes, then not tip at least 20%, no matter what, and in cash.

Great point, The Whelk.

Thanks to ubiquitous computing, all tips via card are automatically captured & logged against an employee for the day/week. Depending on how the accounting software works, a server will be responsible for taxes according to "claimed" tips.

Typically, servers don't claim 100% of their tips. I find no fault in being dishonest about your tipped wages when you're being cheated out of a real salary. Unfortunately, those credit card tips are automatically claimed since there's a paper trail of someone giving you some plastic money.

& remember, kids. Even though the server was tipped $15, the server didn't actually *make* $15 because a portion of that will be tipped out to the bartender, another portion will go to the host, & a third portion will go to the busboy. Maybe that oh-so-generous 15.3% tip you left will actually amount to $11 or $12. But I digress..

Depending on how much a server has "claimed" the taxes owed in a given pay period might be so much that $2.13/hr *literally* doesn't cover his/her taxes. So our fortunate friend is simultaneously going into debt with Uncle Sam & the paltry paycheck he or she would normally get (maybe $50) is a printed $0.00. Hilariously worth less than the paper upon which it's printed.

Cash tips help immensely as they allow the server to better manage his/her tax profile (& obviously prevent outright theft by unscrupulous management as elizardbits mentioned).
posted by narwhal at 3:49 PM on May 30 [7 favorites]


I do hate tipping when there is poor food

Never, ever punish FOH for BOH problems. If anything, FOH can be your ally when output coming out of the kitchen is below expectations.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:54 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you can tip badly IF YOU NEVER RETURN. Everyone knows who the good tippers and the bad tippers are once they've shown their true colors, and they'll tell each other.

People who come in over and over and refuse to tip get under my skin because I think they're acting so entitled. There was this one couple where I used to work who would withhold the tip because they thought they could get away with it, and eventually nobody ever wanted to seat or serve them so they'd always end up in the cocktail area that had free seating during the day. Eventually, they tried to keep getting away with stiffing and acting rude by threatening to talk to the manager and then getting into it with *him.*

There are also the people who preemptively act like jerks in order to get their food comped, and if they have nothing to actually complain about, they'd complain about really vague problems with the service (I had one party rack up a bill and then ask for the manager and demand comped food because I seemed "unfriendly").

Then there are the drunk people who want to pretend that you're not there because you're getting paid. The men usually get violent with other men or are so dazed and out of it that you can just kind of direct them to pay their bill and ignore their continued orders and then send them on their way (ie, to the cops or on a walk down the street) and/or withhold the tip from female servers to see if they're being nice just for the money (yes I am, please pay me!). The drunk women I usually try to palm off on the male servers, because that's generally who they want to see when they're in their cups. I had this one woman who really wanted the male floor manager at her beck and call while she was getting majorly drunk, she'd had a bit of a crush on him for a while. Finally, he told me to cut her off, and made me do it myself, to her face (instead of just vaguely not serving her more wine). When I did it, she started screaming at me and demanded that the floor manager come over and basically tried to have some weird catfight with me through him. Poor thing, she was actually a nice lady. But needless to say, I didn't get much of a tip from her humongous wine bill.
posted by rue72 at 3:55 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Also, I realize that "oh-so-generous" might be interpreted as insensitive to someone who genuinely believes that by rounding *up* from 15% vs. down, they're doing the right thing. And that person *is* doing the right thing. Thank you. I only mean to contextualize the reality of the situation & to help explain *why* tipping norms have migrated toward 20-25% & why servers feel entitled to those figures & slighted by anything less.

Obviously, as many other people have correctly indicated, the problem isn't with the waitstaff or the guest, it's with the industry that has created such antagonism by cheating people out of fair wages.

posted by narwhal at 3:57 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I hate tipping culture, from both ends - from my end, I often wind up simultaneously worrying that I'm giving them a ridiculously small tip and worrying that I'm giving them a ridiculously large tip; from their end, jeez, people having jobs should have salaries that enable them to live in a modicum of comfort without needing to worry about whether their customers are jerks or not.

But if I look at it logically, I think that I'm a very good tipper, and the numbers on this page confirm that belief. But the "Low Tippers Give" numbers make me think that perhaps there has been percentagewise tip inflation over the years? It says low tippers give waiters less than 17%. When I was growing up, I was taught that 15% was the "standard" tip, and 20% was the tip to give for particularly excellent service. And I'm certain this wasn't just from my parents - it was very standard, even to the point of a math teacher in middle school teaching us the trick "divide by ten, divide that in half, add them together" specifically so we would know how much to tip.

Also, one of my Facebook friends is a waitress, who occasionally complains about certain customers. Most of the time these complaints are descriptions of people who are being unambiguously jerky, but every once in a while there's something like "THANKS FOR THE LESS THAN 20% TIP, ASSHOLE!"

Now, 20% would be a low tip from me, but like I said I was taught that 20% was exceptional. But she seems to view it as not exceptional, not decent, not even merely sub-par, but indicative that the tipper is an asshole? It surprises me whenever I see this sort of thing.

Am I correct that there has been tip inflation? Or did I just grow up in some weird bubble where the sub-par 15% was for some strange reason considered normal?
posted by Flunkie at 3:59 PM on May 30 [11 favorites]


Tipping culture is one of the reasons I will probably not return to the States.
posted by snwod at 4:00 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Do you ever go to the same place more than once?

Of course. But a) I don't fancy myself a recognizable celebrity, amongst the hundreds of people a server sees over a week, let alone a month, and b) turnover. We just don't see the same servers, even at the same places, that often. Together, these effects mean that the probability of us going to the same place and having the same server, who knows and recognizes us, is actually quite low. Thus, tips just don't serve the purpose of 'ensuring good service', the vast vast majority of the time.
posted by Dashy at 4:03 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


As a Swede I find this talk of tipping left and right very disturbing. Only time I tip is at restaurants but I frequent them so infrequently that I tip everything from 10-20%* because of guilt and my inability to perform rudimentary arithmetic operations.


* 10% is the standard in Sweden but people frequently pay less because wages are fairly decent and most people pay using credit/debit card.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:03 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


What I hate is the ever escalating percentage. When I first started going to restaurants, 15 percent was a generous tip. Then it became 18 percent or you are ripping off the waiter. And now 20 percent is being promoted as the new normal, and no doubt 25 percent is coming down the pipeline. Frankly, very seldom do I get service that justifies 20 percent of the bill going to the waitstaff, as opposed to the cook. The waitstaff don't actually add much to my experience; they can take away a lot in terms of not turning up to take my order or letting my food sit until it gets could, but they don't *add* much. I'd rather they just get a decent salary, I pay for my food accordingly, and they do their job, and maybe I give a little extra when they go above and beyond in terms of having to make multiple runs to our table or whatever.
posted by tavella at 4:04 PM on May 30 [13 favorites]


Flunkie- there has absolutely been tip inflation, but I think it's been driven by "market" forces.

1. Tipped wages weren't introduced until 1996, so prior to that, servers made more & relied less on tips.

2. When federal tipped wages were introduced in 1996, they were 50% of standard minimum wage: $4.25 v. $2.13. Although standard minimum wage increased to $4.75 at the same time.

3. Since then minimum wage has increased multiple times to its current value of $7.25. Tipped minimum wages remain $2.13.

So. Yeah, tip inflation is a thing, but reasons. :)

Reference:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/coverage.htm
posted by narwhal at 4:06 PM on May 30 [25 favorites]


Am I correct that there has been tip inflation?

You are. Google suggests there's disagreement as to exactly when this happened, but yes. Fifteen has gone from being everybody's standard to being some people's lowball.
posted by cribcage at 4:06 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I tip 20% all the time, regardless of service, because I'm lazy and my passive-aggressive approach to restaurant problems is to just avoid a problem restaurant in the future.

But at the same time, I recognize that tipping is, in a way, like "rescuing" a puppy from a puppy mill-- in aggregate, it simply encourages the very system that creates the injustice in the first place. If everybody starts paying a higher percentage of tip, restaurant owners will just take note and pay the servers less base wages (or argue that, because of tips, there is no need for them to increase wages to keep up with inflation), so the net effect is not that servers get paid more, but rather that their pay becomes increasingly subject to the volatile whims of customers' tipping.
posted by Pyry at 4:07 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Since then minimum wage has increased multiple times to its current value of $7.25. Tipped minimum wages remain $2.13.

That's a difference of $5.12. $5.12 is 15% of $34.13.

I'd say that $12 is pretty much the minimum bill for the kind of restaurant where you'd leave a tip. Sure, you might be able to get it down to ~$8 by getting the special + water, but most patrons will wind up with at least a $12 bill.

That means that three customers every hour (not three tables, three customers) tipping 15% will get you up to minimum wage.

And if you can't pull in that much, your employer is legally obligated to make up the difference anyway.
posted by Hatashran at 4:12 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


This doesn't address buffets. What is the correct amount to tip when you go to a buffet?
posted by spacewaitress at 4:14 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


(On preview, we are also not the memorable customers in the bad sense, as in Rue's comment. We are perfectly average, polite, forgettable customers, who tip well, but only because service is a hard, hard job - not under any pretense that tipping will 'ensure good service'.)
posted by Dashy at 4:16 PM on May 30


Oh and when you're in any kind of shuttle van situation (hotel or what-have-you) and the driver loads/unloads your bag, I tip $1 per bag. Is that standard, or is that too cheap?
posted by spacewaitress at 4:20 PM on May 30


That means that three customers every hour (not three tables, three customers) tipping 15% will get you up to minimum wage.

Minimum wage is not some princely reward.

As multiple people have explained up thread, typically servers don't get to keep all of the tips, as they're split with other staff.
posted by PMdixon at 4:25 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


RE: buffets. I regularly go to a chain buffet (Sweet Tomatoes) and there isn't a tipping expectation there. However, to my chagrin, I ran a (not too in-depth) google search on the topic and it appears that many people *do* believe that you should tip in a buffet context.

Once in a blue moon I'll see someone leave a couple of dollars at their table, but the expectation at a buffet is you paid for everything up front, once, at the register. It's partly why I like buffets so much!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:26 PM on May 30


Meant to add: the tricky buffet-tipping answer probably varies regionally.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:27 PM on May 30


Hatashran, you're math is correct, but I think you're missing a few items.

1. No one waits tables to make minimum wage. If you just want to make minimum wage, there are far less stressful ways to do so. 15% was not the gold standard in order to ensure minimum wage.

2. 3 or less guests an hour nets minimum wage *if* you don't have to tip out. Since I've worked for restaurants where "tip out" can be as much as 3-5% of a check, a 15% tip is only 10% in my pocket.

3. Yes, the employer would have to make up the difference between the tipped wage & minimum wage, but again, no one is waiting tables to make minimum wage. A single good night will offset days of slow hours where you haven't waited on a *single* table. That means that thanks to an unfair wage system, an effective $10-12/hour can be reduced to $7-8 when averaged out over the week. And since that's more than minimum wage, my own tips are mitigating my wage theft, not the restaurant.

Perhaps, if tipped minimum wage increased with inflation, if "tipping out" were disallowed (that is, only truly "tipped" employees can be paid tipped employee wages), and if the minimum wage guaranteed by the restaurant on an hourly (rather than daily or weekly basis) 15% would have remained an acceptable tip.
posted by narwhal at 4:28 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Basically I follow the rule that if you can't afford to tip then you shouldn't eat out
I look at it this way...really what is 15% vs 18% vs 20% vs 25%????

People who don't tip are utter scum. Period. It is just a few extra bucks that WILL make a HUGE impact on the one serving you. About 1/4 or more stiff the server so you are paying forward some bad karma left by others...

If you have never been in a situation where 10 dollars at the end of the night would make the difference between paying rent and being homeless...then you'd cough up the extra few bucks.
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:28 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


What has never made sense to me, is the idea that you tip to ensure good service.

Do you ever go to the same place more than once?


This implies wait staff lack the professionalism to do the job.
I really prefer the experience overseas - no tipping, just the bill, the prices already include all applicable taxes, the staff are paid like professionals, treated like professionals, and act like professionals.
Tipping culture in the USA is toxic for everyone involved. :-(
posted by anonymisc at 4:29 PM on May 30 [18 favorites]


Wouldn't it be easier if the food was 20% more! and you got to keep that 20%?

Yes, it would. A lot of things in life would be easier if they were fundamentally different than they are.

When somebody opens a restaurant that operates that way, you should give it lots of patronage and encourage all your friends to do the same so the model will catch on.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:31 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


BUT..Tipping culture in the USA (however TOXIC you think it is) ..is the culture of our country...geez...don't freaking cop out by this "Oh it is so better elsewhere..." crap...If you are eating in the USA, it is the way we do it...so don't try and make a statement by basically stealing from the person serving you
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:34 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


(Does any Mefite work at Souplantation/Sweet Tomaotes? Perhaps they could chime in ...)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:34 PM on May 30


Shockingbluamp, speaking of being uncharitable, perhaps you could not leap straight to assuming the worst of people?

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - St Ambrose
"These Romans are crazy" - Obelisk

Those statements don't conflict. ;)
posted by anonymisc at 4:39 PM on May 30 [7 favorites]


People who don't tip are utter scum. Period. It is just a few extra bucks that WILL make a HUGE impact on the one serving you. About 1/4 or more stiff the server so you are paying forward some bad karma left by others...

I used to be a server at a Chili's (lucky me!) and for a while we had these all-you-can-eat Fajitas. I once had a table with an elderly woman who got just that. She was fairly rude and VERY demanding, and she ate a LOT so it was a ton of work because I had to keep running back getting extra meat and sour cream and tortillas and everything, and she left zero tip. I wanted to run after her and be like "that meal is included in the nightly totals that are used to calculate my tip out, so serving you actually cost me money. You were unnecessarily rude and I have just paid to bring you stuff."

The thing is, she probably doesn't have a lot of money; she was old enough that I'd be shocked if she were still working and she probably had to watch her money pretty carefully. I think the all-you-can-eat fajitas were actually a fantastic deal because she could eat for the whole day on that one price and leave full. The problem is, they weren't actually as cheap as the price indicates, because I HAD TO PAY TO BRING HER FOOD. The price on the menu is not the actual cost of the meal she had. That is an effed up system, where Chili's gets her money and I have to spend my own money for the honor of bringing her tortillas.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:39 PM on May 30 [29 favorites]


Once in a blue moon I'll see someone leave a couple of dollars at their table, but the expectation at a buffet is you paid for everything up front, once, at the register. It's partly why I like buffets so much!

My husband and I go to lunch buffets often. We usually tip $3 or 10%-15% of the bill (I figure, the server still has to take our drink order as well as clear away plates during the course of the meal). I guess we'll carry on!
posted by spacewaitress at 4:44 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


As if to-tip-or-not-to-tip and the % aren't enough to consider, two other "rules" I've been told:
1) Tip on the pre-tax amount, not the total [20% of (total - tax)]
2) Tip on the food component only at restaurants [20% of (total - tax - drinks)]

Of course, if the tip receiver isn't playing by the same rules, those are going to move a "High Tipper" into "Average" or "Low" pretty quickly.
posted by Chipeaux at 4:46 PM on May 30


. . . why on EARTH would you not tip on drinks?! Tip on drinks!! Drinks are a pain in the ass no matter what the circumstances!
posted by KathrynT at 4:48 PM on May 30 [24 favorites]


Everything you need to know about tipping can be summed up in two movie scenes:

Reservoir Dogs and My Blue Heaven. Sadly, the latter quotes don't appear to be on youtube.
posted by Muddler at 4:52 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I think reporting the results of a survey that the subjective evaluation by group of food-service workers regarding how diners of various religions, ethnicity, race, national origin and sexual orientations tip without pointing out that the answers likely reflect the biases of the (91% white) respondents is irresponsible.

I'm not sure how to describe reporting them with the headline Different demographics absolutely do tip differently

I also had to laugh at the restaurant manager who complained to me about Citibank ordering 35 lunches to go every week, which takes a long time for some waiter to package (with the soup wrapped carefully, coffees rubber-banded, dressings and condiments put in side containers), and never tipping.

The manager wasn't going to pay his employees a living wage, but he thought it was a damn shame when his customers followed his lead.

My impression (born out by the same survey I've been trashing, but that's not the first place I've seen it) is that most servers prefer working in places with voluntary tipping to those which charge an established percentage as a servivce fee. The preference isn't overwhelming, but it is substantial. If servers have more faith in their customers than their employers determining their wage, it's alright by me.

I'd be interested in learning how tipping for meals through Seamless and other web-based take out ordering is affected by the fact that diners are deciding on their tip before getting the service. And if most people opt to tip that way or still give the delivery person cash upon delivery.
posted by layceepee at 4:55 PM on May 30


Absolutely tip on drinks.

"Tip out" to barstaff on drinks is often times a direct percentage of drink sales.

And tip on the largest total you see on the bill, period.

If that means the tax & total, then yes, tip on tax. If that's the figure prior to your coupon or comp, tip on that.

Again, these rules may be "new" but they're a direct response to the toxic environment the restaurant has created. If you don't like it, raise a stink with the people in power; don't cheat the poor person trying to make ends meet who depends on your cooperation.
posted by narwhal at 4:55 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I hear you KathrynT (and narwhal on preview). As someone new to the tipping culture, I've asked dozens of people for guidance, and rarely get the same responses, or responses grounded in solid logic/rationale. I was just sharing two of the stranger suggestions - not advocating them.
posted by Chipeaux at 4:57 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Wow, I always assumed that tip-outs were based on, you know, actual tips. Not magical make-believe fairy tips.
posted by ckape at 4:57 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


This topic got to me. Sorry for the rants and all but some things hit home more than others.

Servers in the US are screwed so many ways.

In the majority of establishments, where there are servers and the bill is brought to the table, A "Dine and dash" is paid 100% by the server. If so many happen to one server, he/ she is pinned as being careless and will be fired.

Tips stolen from a table after a diner has left is considered the servers problem. This happen a lot.
(Give the server the tip in cash (IN HER/ HIS hand)
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:57 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Wait... shit, you're supposed to tip at takeaways? Where you just walk in, pick up your food, pay and leave?
posted by indubitable at 5:04 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


A "Dine and dash" is paid 100% by the server.

Guy a couple years below me in college told a story of dine and dashing from this Japanese place. Waiter chased him down and he had the privilege of taking a light beating and paying for it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:06 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


four panels: It's a measure of solidarity. Pouring a coffee doesn't necessarily deserve a $1 tip, but we're both human and it's a moment of kindness that can be passed from one to another, and I'd argue the actual act of tipping - a shared moment of egalitarianism - is often worth more than what you happen to be tipping to begin with.

This is kind of frustrating for people who work in low-paying jobs that aren't customer-facing. You'll show the barista kindness because you have to deal with them personally, but then you'll ignore the adjunct instructor that's teaching your kids. Or whatever.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:13 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


One of the many reasons I enjoy using Uber is that it takes payment and tipping out of the interaction (it's handled automatically, and at a flat % tip). I never realized how much I hated this part of taxis until it was gone. Maybe a similar innovation to payment at bars, restaurants, etc will remove the complexity and/or discretionary fleecing of service staff?
posted by Chipeaux at 5:15 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


When I make it to the US, I will be in a constant state of anxiety or minor panic thinking about all this tipping bullshit.

I'd probably prefer to pay the waiting staff to take a break and serve myself rather than deal with the fucking disaster that the whole thing is.
posted by knapah at 5:17 PM on May 30 [14 favorites]


I was a server/bartender for many years and I hate tipping culture. Mainly because I think everyone should be paid a living wage which is non-negotiable. Having people make most if not all of their salary from tips puts them at the mercy of the public who make completely arbitrary decisions on whether or not you "deserve" it. And believe me, it is arbitrary. If someone thinks: you looked at them wrong, didn't smile enough, didn't fawn enough over their kids, hated their food, thought the restaurant was too loud, thought you didn't tell enough jokes or you didn't do whatever monkey song-and-dance performance that they believe constitutes "good service", well there goes your tip. And there is just no way of knowing what the fuck some people want or like from a server, because everyone is different and I'm not a mindreader.

I was fortunate to always work at restaurants that catered to the kind of demographics that understood the service industry and tipping and were generally decent. But I think tipping in general gives a lot of people a weird sense of entitlement and power that they can wield over a person who is in a subordinate position and essentially powerless. How often do you hear people talking about the level of service they received and whether or not it deserved the extra $5 or whatever that would pop it up to a reasonable tip? That happens all the time. I mean, you just finished a dinner at a huge restaurant with marble columns and portions the size of a car with enough leftovers for a week that cost less than it would had you bought all that stuff at the supermarket and made it yourself, you know? Unless your server called you an asshole to your face and dumped a drink on your head on purpose, you got good service. Because a tip is the cost of eating out. If you hate tipping, then let's just have all the restaurants pay servers, bartenders, bussers, etc. about 4x more than they are now and they can increase the price of the food accordingly. I would prefer they do this than continue to make service workers grovel to everyone just so they can pay their rent.

but I’d argue that the $200 or $500 or $1,500/year it takes (depending on your level of spending) to become a high tipper is a pretty good use of charity money. Every dollar means a ton in the world of tips.


I am a person who would like a much stronger social safety net in this country and a much larger redistribution of wealth. Since that seems to be something that is not going to happen anytime soon via government implementation, I kind of consider tipping to be the way we can do that. I make a decent salary and I redistribute it little by little through tips (amongst other things). It's not ideal because it's not applied equally as well as being arbitrary and dependent on individuals and their personal beliefs (and there's a lot of entitled assholes out there), but it's the best we have right now.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:17 PM on May 30 [23 favorites]


No one waits tables to make minimum wage.

No sarcasm intended, nobody works [lots of jobs] to make [what they make]. That reality sucks but it's not any kind of rationale for anything. Your expectations are your prerogative. The world will spin, and if those expectation weren't grounded in reality, you'll be disappointed.

The justification for tipping doesn't have to do with being a benevolent humanitarian. You took the job, you live with its risks. The justification for tipping is, as was the underlying point of the discussion, that it's cultural. Tipping is how it works. Like shaking hands, or taking off your sunglasses in church, or shutting up in a movie theater. These are the rules and, just like the servers who must live with the risks of the job they took, you play by them or else you don't eat out.

I will be in a constant state of anxiety or minor panic thinking about all this tipping bullshit.

Mostly it's simple. If you sit down and someone serves you, then you tip. Other cultures have their own societal pressures and taboos that outsiders have to learn. I'm told that an American college student planning to study in France should know that you never, ever attend class wearing something like sweats (or "pajamas"). Here, it's maybe not encouraged but certainly doesn't raise eyebrows.

But yeah, it's not always simple. Takeaways. Buffets. Take-outs where someone runs the food out to your car. Outside Boston there's a totally rockin' halal place where you order at a counter and set your own table, but the owners bring your food over. Is that "serving"? At the high end of the spectrum, many Michelin restaurants have a gratuity included in the price, but there's an extra line on the check to add more. Do you? How much?

It's like figuring out where to place your silverware when you're finished eating. Depending which etiquette book you consult, you'll get a different answer. Therefore the answer is, there's not always an answer. You try to be a respectful and attentive consumer, and you tailor your behavior, and you'll probably make a few mistakes but get most things right.
posted by cribcage at 5:22 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Sushi Yasuda is one New York restaurant that has eliminated tipping and pays their staff a salary with health insurance and other professional benefits, rather than expecting them to live off tips. I hope this practice catches on at other businesses. This also eliminates the scenario some posters described above, where the waitstaff have to "tip out" other staff and effectively earn negative money if somebody leaves no tip. When you travel to other countries where waitstaff are paid like other service professionals you wouldn't tip like nurses or dental hygienists, the US tipping culture seems bizarre in comparison.

But even if restaurants did away with tipping and paid their staff respectable salaries, I think we (as a society) would have a hard time doing away with tipping, mainly because (wealthy) people like the idea of being able to pay to flaunt the rules. Tipping has always struck me as symptomatic of wealth inequality, where the wealthy can grease palms to obtain better service, jump to the front of the queue, get a better hotel room, get free drinks, etc. Eventually everyone else catches on and tipping becomes a requirement for normal service. Then the bosses catch on and use it as an excuse to pay workers a pittance since they'll be tipped anyway, while the total cost to the customer remains the same. Then the wealthy start tipping even more to get better service than the rest. And the cycle continues. The only ones who ultimately benefit from a tipping system are the wealthy (who can always pay for better service) and the business owners (who can pay their workers less).
posted by pravit at 5:24 PM on May 30 [23 favorites]


Mostly it's simple. If you sit down and someone serves you, then you tip

That's the easy part though, but for most of my life tipping 10% is pretty generous. If I then tip 15% in the US, I'd feel like I'm being ripped off and fucking over the server at the same time.

It's easy to know that you should tip, it's a major source of unease for me to think about how much I should tip or whether I tipped too little.
posted by knapah at 5:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


i learned 15% in restaurants from my long-deceased parents. i retain sufficient cognition to move the decimal point one space to the left to make x, then take half of that and add it to x and round up to the next dollar for the tip. several decades ago, there was some kind of a cultural shift in dining toward 20%, but i didn't endorse it. when i lose the aforesaid cognition, i will probably have to stop eating out.

fast food restaurant where i carry the chow from the counter to the table, 0% tip.
posted by bruce at 5:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


bruce: "several decades ago, there was some kind of a cultural shift in dining toward 20%, but i didn't endorse it."

Cultural or because the pittance paid to restaurant workers in most states didn't really keep up with inflation?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:34 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I saw some guy on Reddit got this instead of a tip.
posted by birdherder at 5:34 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Cash tips help immensely as they allow the server to better manage his/her tax profile (& obviously prevent outright theft by unscrupulous management as elizardbits mentioned).

Great, so now I have to also feel bad because I tip via plastic all the time to save me the hassle of a) figuring out the proper math, b) making sure I have the right change for said math, and c) having to worry about whether I have enough cash on me that day or not.

Obviously I don't blame servers for this, but goddammit, I already feel awkward enough about tipping culture without having to introduce yet another way to get fucked unintentionally for not following the proper custom. Seriously, I once asked the owner of a barbershop (who was actually very nice about it) if she took offense if people tipped her, just because I was tired of living in mortal fear of offending the person who cut my hair because I didn't realize they owned the place when I gave them a tip.
posted by chrominance at 5:36 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


I sometimes go out to eat with people who, if the restaurant adds in a tip to the bill, insist that we leave the exact amount charged, down to the penny. This always embarrasses me. I mean, I understand not leaving significantly more than indicated if the tip is included in the total, but this insistence that if the bill is $39.83, we leave a twenty, a ten, a five, four ones, three quarters, a nickel, and three pennies instead of just leaving two twenties always strikes me as absurdly passive-aggressive and assholish. And I'm not even sure who it's intended to be assholish towards, or why -- who are they getting back at, and for what perceived slight? Or they're just trying to make some point that eludes me, or take a stand against... something? It baffles me and embarrasses me.

Does anyone here have experience on the other side of that? That is, you are or were on the wait staff at places that add the tip to the bill? If so, am I correct in viewing this as jerky, or am I off base and it's basically normal?
posted by Flunkie at 5:37 PM on May 30


hairy lobster, the pittance paid to me for my labor hasn't kept up with inflation either.
posted by bruce at 5:38 PM on May 30


I was a server/bartender for many years and I hate tipping culture.

Tipping is bullshit but so is getting paid 165k/year for developing web apps.

Overtipping is abused by shitty managers and restaurant owners, but it's still a connection between two people - the server and the patron - both of whom happen to be alive at the same time and in the very same proximity at the very same time. Millions before us and millions will come after us, but here we are together for this brief time.

Tipping well is simple, easy, and should be done without hesitation or feeling internally harangued. The struggle to make it in a fucked system is much greater than the coin-rubbing of a diner's internal concerns, and frankly to even consider stiffing a server is borderline sociopathic.

Tip well and be thankful, we are here for such a very short time.

----


"I’ve been searching Gods all my life, now I know them. There is a meaning to life. There are things worth believing in. There are things worth being passionate about.

"All of this plays a part in trying to give a positive sense of something to believe in. A positive crusade of thought, of meditation, of emotion – that you can use to advance humanity tremendously – and that excises deliberately the God of War.

"When you find the Gods inside yourself, you’ll find the God of war and he will be one of the most powerful passions in you. You have to freeze him in his own private hell and make your positive Gods the Gods that take you over.

"And by the Gods that take you over, I mean you have to find those passions that are so much more powerful in you than anything you’ve been allowed to express in your life – and making those things the things that you work on – not putting off until you’re 40 or 50. The things you feel passionate about at the age of 15 and 16, and going directly to those things and trying to implement them when you’re 20.

"Pass go, forget the 200 dollars, go directly to Park Place and put your life there, on the line, with all the emotion, power and passion and insight in you.

"And fuck the God of war."

-- Howard Bloom
posted by four panels at 5:42 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


When I make it to the US, I will be in a constant state of anxiety or minor panic thinking about all this tipping bullshit.

It's part of the experience. For everybody.

And let's stop with the euphemism. Tipping is not a culture; it's a racket.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:44 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


bruce: " the pittance paid to me for my labor hasn't kept up with inflation either."

This is true for most wages but I don't see why that makes it OK to tip less if all it amounts to is taking advantage of those least responsible for the problem.

It's been mentioned before and it's my approach as well: if I can't afford to tip at least 20% on the expected total of the check then I can't afford to eat there and I won't. When I look at prices on the menu and it's pricey enough to warrant budget considerations I'll mentally add rough estimates of tax and tip before ordering.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:44 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


narwhal: Cash tips help immensely as they allow the server to better manage his/her tax profile

I.e. lie on their taxes. Which is bad for everyone else, and not necessary if they are actually poor (as they'll get nearly all of it back in refunds anyway).
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:44 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


I tip well at restaurants and other places where the staff make less than minimum wage. It’s only fair. I also tip well at bars for the selfish reason that it gets me stronger drinks and better service. That said… fuck the word “barista” and tipping at places where they pay a decent wage + benefits to pour goddamned coffee (and use the word “barista”).
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 5:45 PM on May 30


it's a major source of unease for me to think about how much I should tip or whether I tipped too little.

People argue vociferously about whether 15 or 20 percent is "the rule," but I have never heard anyone but the most outlying radicals—whom you'll find on the Internet, I grant you—argue in favor of anything higher or lower. And within that 15–20 percent range, it doesn't make all that much difference. Reasonable servers aren't going to think you're a grudge-warranting cheapskate if you leave 15 percent, if only because their last table probably stiffed them. Likewise nobody is going to think you're Daddy Warbucks if you leave 20 percent, because they probably have a regular customer who tips them 30 percent. So...15 or 20. Pick one, or flip a coin.

We Americans love to kick this issue around, but ignore us. It's far simpler than we make it sound.
posted by cribcage at 5:46 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


A few things about tipping grind my gears (coming from someone who is not in the industry but most of the people I socialize are):

1) Sometimes the cooks (on salary) are making less than the wait staff. This is probably more likely at higher end restaurants where the tips are bigger due to larger checks. Cooks are almost never part of the "tip out" - though I have heard of a few places that do it.. So, bottom line, in some cases, the guy cooking your dinner in the 110f degree kitchen standing over an open flame sweating his balls off for an 8hr shift is getting shafted while the wait staff enjoys the climate controlled dining room, and then sometimes get paid more for the pleasure.

2) I get the under-reporting of tips but it really gets my goat - in the same way that many cash businesses allow for the owner to essentially steal from themselves and reduce their tax liability.. We have a system, I don't like paying taxes any more than the next guy, but jeez, pay your fair share. If you're such a poor wait person then you won't be paying much tax anyway!

3) If you do under-report your tips and make waiting a large portion of your career, you're reducing your FICA taxes and therefore you will make less Social Security when/if you retire - this is probably a bad thing because as a poor wait person, you likely have little to no retirement savings.*

Finally, any time that I have paid the entire bill for large parties (say 8 people or more) I usually make a point to throw a $5 to the busboy/waterboy or anyone else who interacted with the table, in addition to the normal tip to the waiter.

* I've never done the SS math to see how much under reporting would ultimately change your SS, but it certainly will change it to some degree.
posted by mbatch at 5:50 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Coming from a non-tipping country I squarely sit in the "wish we could just pay people a living wage with no tip expected" category. That said I think I've erred on the side of over-tipping (or maybe not if 20% is the new baseline!)

But the thing that really bugs me even more then tipping, is having almost all prices displayed ex-tax. I know the US has state, local, city rates that apply and vary widely which makes incl.tax prices harder to display, but I really miss living somewhere where the price is...well...the price. Not the price plus some arbitrary amount plus tip based on the pre-tax amount.

It's like some sort of unnecessary surprise maths quiz at the end of each meal.....like if your waiter is traveling westbound at 10mph with a bowl of soup which is cooling at 2 degrees F per minute, and the wine you are drinking is from out of state but was relabeled locally, and the carbon emissions from the candle on your table are offset through a tax credit for replanting of pine trees in Senegal, how much is the tip for the Valet if they only scratched your car on the passenger side?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 5:51 PM on May 30 [19 favorites]


Side note about tip math... at least in California it's fairly easy to figure out a 20% tip since tax is reasonably close to 10% and it's printed on the check/receipt. I always just round up the tax to the next full dollar and then double it. That's my baseline to which I may add if it seems appropriate.

E.g.:

tax on check: $2.57
base tip: $6 (2 x $3)

Luckily my maths are so powerful I can even do this while drunk.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:53 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Because it bears repeating, I don't begrudge the worst tipper, even a multiple offender who knows better & simply doesn't care.

Ultimately, as I've come to understand it, serving is one of the best jobs available to a reasonably fit, quick-witted individual who otherwise might have no marketable skills or education. If you can hoist a tray full of entrees and endure a fast-paced, bustling environment, you can make more money serving than you might make anywhere else. You don't need a degree, just some smarts & a bit of hustle.

I have known *many* people who, for one reason or another, fell out of the "standard" system wherein a person gets some degree, lands comfortably in a mid-level job, and then rides promotions, cost of living raises, job transfers, & the occasional company change through retirement. These people, nevertheless, are hard-working parents with mortgages & responsibilities just as economically taxing as anyone "on-track" might face. Waiting is one of a *very* few number of jobs I can number that has such a low bar of entry & the capability of truly sustaining a somewhat "normal" middle-class life.

I imagine that just as previously middle-class jobs (like factory work, meat packing, clerking, retail, etc.) have declined into minimum wage hells that require a second source of income for anyone truly trying to make ends meet, perhaps the service industry is in the throes of its own death.

If tipped wages remain insubstantial, if the cost of living continues to rise, & if the only mechanism to balance out tipped employees' take home pay are ever-rising tip percentages, there will come a time when people simply refuse to believe that some ungodly high 50% tip is the fair amount to pay their server. And when this ceiling is reached & we all finally agree that 35% is fair & it shall always & ever be fair, then the service industry will stop supporting the legion of good folk who depend on it.

I don't know where those factory workers, meat packers, & clerks went. Maybe some of them went into waiting? I'm not sure where our waitstaff will go.

But I don't begrudge the worst tipper.

I begrudge the people we put in power who are systemically dismantling these industries at the behest of the "job creators" who demand an ever-larger slice of the pie.

Instead of bemoaning tip creep, rail against wealth creep.

And honestly, if you want to know how much to tip, just ask your server. Do it every time for a week or a month or a year until you think you've got it. Just ask them point blank: "based on my bill, how much should I tip you?" Because that's all that matters, ultimately. How much does this person who just spent a little of their life meeting your needs think their time was worth. I've waited tables in wing shops through fine-ish dining, locally owned & corporate, & if I ever feel like I don't know how much to tip anyone, I just ask.

====

& on preview, cribcage:

Here's how I see it: Servers are making less money faster than people are learning to adjust their tip habits. Obviously, as you say, waiting is a somewhat high risk/high reward job & the occasional bad tip (or even poor week) will be part of it. My argument about not wanting to make minimum wage is that the trend of inflation & artificially low food costs are making waiting a high risk/low reward job. My larger concern is expressed more completely above as I genuinely wonder where people will go when this bastion of living wages for the "uneducated" falls. Hell, it's not even the uneducated as many of my waiting cohorts had college degrees & relied on waiting to make ends meet until a position finally opened up in their field.

And I'll preemptively say that I disagree with jobs for jobs sake & think it's ludicrous to prop up an industry just because people rely on the jobs it creates. However, I think it's pretty obvious that people like going out to eat & like having their meals cooked for them & having a waiter at their beck & call. So, given this demand in the market, why can't the people who perform this job be paid a fair & living wage above and beyond whatever any fickle guest might decide to leave as a tip. As others & I have mentioned up-thread, restaurants are proving that this is a perfectly viable business model. "But we could make even MORE money if you let us gut the wages of our industry's lowest paid workers" is not a justifiable excuse.

& Mitrovarr:

That's absolutely preposterous. The tiny amount of money that would be owed by a tipped employee according to our onerous taxation scheme that taxes people living at the poverty line while barely taxing its richest individuals & corporations is beyond negligible or defensible. Are you truly arguing that an individual who loses the gross majority of their $2.13/hr paycheck to taxes isn't paying enough?
posted by narwhal at 5:53 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


narwhal: Are you truly arguing that an individual who loses the gross majority of their $2.13/hr paycheck to taxes isn't paying enough?

Yes. Because that 2.13/hr is a tiny fraction of their actual income, and you know it.

I've been three kinds of biologist, a graphics artist, a grad student, and an adjunct instructor, and in all of those jobs the servers were doing better than me. Probably at least twice as well. As you say yourself, it pays pretty well. So why should they get to cheat on their taxes when all the other poor people don't? If you are actually poor, income taxes are really minor (I know because I am), and it wouldn't make any meaningful difference. But most of the servers I know aren't actually poor because serving doesn't actually pay badly. At least not for a lot of people.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:00 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


hairy lobster, 15% tips keep up with inflation because restaurant tabs go up with inflation. the move from 15% to 20% represented to me a surprise 33% hike OVER the already existing inflation. i will be cool with surprise 33% hikes in voluntary expenditures when you start paying me for commenting on metafilter.
posted by bruce at 6:05 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Tipping also benefits the wealthy as a status marker they can use to shame those who cannot afford to tip as much as them. If 20% is a normal tip now, the wealthy can always say "I tip 30%, isn't that the norm?" "Oh, you mean you don't tip your [insert service job]?" At what point does "you tip too much" become "I tip too little?" Does society collectively adjust its tipping to compensate for inflation, or does it just correlate with rising wealth? It would be interesting to see average historical tipping rates over time, if such data existed.

I still haven't figured out how tipping works when you are paying the owner of a business directly - like a restaurant owner who cooks and serves diners themselves. I always tip anyway (because we are culturally expected to tip in restaurants), but it is odd I tip them and don't tip other business owners who run businesses where tipping is not culturally expected. For example, if you go to an independent bookstore, and the owner spends some time recommending books for you, do you slip them an extra $5 as they ring you up? If I were the owner I would personally find it insulting.
posted by pravit at 6:06 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I know the US has state, local, city rates that apply and vary widely which makes incl.tax prices harder to display


Nah, this is just complete bullshit and yet another way to trick and fuck consumers by hiding true costs. As if in the modern world with all our technical and logistical abilities designing a system where labels reflect local tax rates is simply beyond any company's capability. They could easily do it, they just don't.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:17 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


Mitrovarr: As a server, I considered it a good week to make around $12/hour, including my $2.13/hour. At 40 hours a week, that's a whopping $24,900. Assuming I had 52 good weeks & 40 hour shifts every week. I say "I lived well," because it's better than the $15,600 I'd make at a minimum wage gig. Between student loan payments, rent, utilities, groceries, and various other "essential" expenses, I wasn't living any sort of luxurious lifestyle & a $25 check at the end of the week could be immensely helpful vs. a $0 check. Getting that $25 back at the end of the year would have presumed a lifestyle far more comfortable & less day-to-day than the reality of that salary.

And I also lived well insofar as the job is incredibly flexible. I was empowered to do a lot of really cool (cheap) things because I didn't have a 9-to-5. My days were often free to go to parks & whatnot. But I was not living "well" by any true appreciation of wealth. $25k is a living wage, but not much more.

The tax burden of this nation should *not* be placed on people making so little money & I refuse to buy into this belief. Should the law be changed rather than people in need break the law? Of course. But should an unjust law be upheld in the face of a pragmatic mechanism to put food on a table & care for oneself? No.

I now make a fair & comfortable living wage & I happily pay my share of taxes. I would happily pay more should the tax code be adjusted to relieve the people at this bottom end of the spectrum. I believe taxes are good & cheating on taxes is bad. But taxing the poor is worse & I will defend the choices of a young mother or an indebted grad student or anyone else who decides to get clever with their taxes in order to make ends meet.
posted by narwhal at 6:21 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I hate tipping culture too, and I'd rather eat at a restaurant where the staff don't have to make up wages in tips. There's the obvious reason that waitstaff and other restaurant workers deserve a living wage, but there's also tip anxiety, tip creep, and tip etiquette creep.

By that latter, I mean - it's not enough to tip 20%, it has to be cash! Pressed into the server's hand! I don't always carry a lot of cash with me and I certainly do NOT intend on grabbing a stranger's hand to press money into it. I happily tip 20% at a sit-down restaurant, but it's going to be in plastic if plastic is what I have on me. Or in cash on the table. Tipping yes; tying myself into knots, no. I do live in California, so it probably doesn't matter as much.

(And I've never tipped apartment building maintenance people; I didn't know you were supposed to tip salaried workers in a non-doorman, non-luxury apartment building. Oops?)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:28 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


narwhal: As a server, I considered it a good week to make around $12/hour, including my $2.13/hour. At 40 hours a week, that's a whopping $24,900.

Well... that's not as much as I expected. But that's still more than I made as the graphics artist, the grad student, the adjunct instructor, and two of the four kinds of biologist (forgot one). And I didn't get to cheat on my taxes.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:31 PM on May 30


another thing that's always bothered me about tipping: the mavis versus ashley conundrum.

mavis is in her 60s, below the poverty line, she works in a roadside diner. i go in there, burger, salad and a chocolate milk shake. she does the work of bringing these things to me. tab is $12. 15% rounded up means she gets a two dollar tip.

ashley is a fine-toned young thing waitressing at chez moolah. she brings me a salad, a nice plate of scallops and two patron silver margaritas. the tab is $78, and she gets a $12 tip. did ashley really do six times the work of mavis, and who needs the money more?

we need some kind of graduation in tipping. i'm leading the way here. mavis gets a $5 tip. the exact scenario i described in the third paragraph happened wednesday, except that ashley was an outstanding young black male service professional who is always outwardly happy to see me, and he got a $12 tip. i am available for restaurant recs through memail for people visiting northern curry/southern coos counties, oregon.
posted by bruce at 6:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


bruce: I'm unable to find anything definitive, but I'm pretty sure the cost of food at restaurants is artificially lower than it should be. The best I could do was find the cost of a 22 oz porterhouse at Outback Steakhouse is currently $24.99 while back in 2000 (when I worked there), I think it was only 20 oz for $21.99 (I might be wrong). Given inflation, $21.99 would be $30.27, now. Of course you're also getting more steak, so maybe the price would be higher. Regardless, 15% on $30 would be $4.50 vs. 20% on $25 which'd be $5. Of course, $2.13/hr then would be worth $2.93/hr, now..
posted by narwhal at 6:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Does anyone here have experience on the other side of that? That is, you are or were on the wait staff at places that add the tip to the bill? If so, am I correct in viewing this as jerky, or am I off base and it's basically normal?

IME even in countries where tipping is nonstandard that is viewed as odd at best and douchey at worst. When I am with people who unfortunately behave that way I just leave extra money as a tip on my own and ignore their whiny outcry.
posted by elizardbits at 6:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Rose M. Banks, if it makes you feel better, I've been both a super and a waitress (also at the same time!) and I still always tip 20-25% but will use credit or debit if that's how I'm paying the rest of the bill (everyone has to declare *something* so I don't think it's a big deal), I don't wait to press it into anybody's hand because then I feel like I'm just weirdly hogging the table or making more work for the server when she thinks she's already done serving me for the meal, and even though I got lots of nice gifts/food during the year as a building super I didn't actually get any extra tips at Xmas or New Year's (my boss did give Christmas Bonuses, though).
posted by rue72 at 6:32 PM on May 30


Also, bruce, a lot of diner waiters/waitresses serve far more tables simultaneously. Many restaurants limit a server to 3 or 4 tables during the busiest times of a shift. A server at a diner might wait on 12 parties or more at a time. Obviously, "tip everyone well" is the take away. But I don't think Mavis vs. Ashley is necessarily unfair. Ashley might make more per table but have far fewer tables than the old pro Mavis.

Obviously, if Ashley is hot & bubbly enough, she'll punch above her weight thanks to sexism & the like, but that's another story.
posted by narwhal at 6:37 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I would happily pay more should the tax code be adjusted to relieve the people at this bottom end of the spectrum.

I don't think any individual's behavior should be the focus of this cultural discussion, but you do want to be careful switching between what servers should do versus what an individual in a subsequent financial circumstance "would" do. More pointedly, there are many ways an individual can give more to his or her community. If a person think his or her taxes should be higher, figure out what that amount is and find a way to pay it. Volunteer that amount of time. Donate it to charity.

You want to respect every opinion, of course. But it's problematic enough to suggest people who are not in fact destitute should cheat on their taxes, without compounding it by suggesting the more affluent should owe more but oh, the rules. The more persuasive argument, to the extent there is one, is that the system we have in place assumes some degree of cheating, just like retail clothing prices factor-in some degree of shrinkage. Of course, most people don't use that cost as justification to steal the occasional shirt.
posted by cribcage at 6:50 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr- sure, you didn't get to cheat on your taxes, but you also didn't have a job where people arbitrarily paid you whatever they felt. & all the jobs you listed require *some* sort of professional training. To my earlier point, the appeal of the service industry is precisely that you can make a (barely) living wage without it. I don't think it's exactly accurate to think of minuscule tax manipulation as some sweet deal those high-falutin' servers get. It's simply a means to an end. For instance, though I may have met my $12/hr quota last week, this week, business might be extraordinarily slow. If I only make $20 or $30 over the 40 hours I work, a $50 check at the end of the week could help me get by. But since my taxes were duly paid according to my baller week previously, the $0 check just pours salt in the wound.

Obviously, once people start saying that poor people should just man up & pay their taxes, it's not hard to start saying that they should also have enough money put aside to buffer them should a bad week come around. I should hope it's fairly well known that the working poor often have a nearly empty bank accounts and only a few bucks in their wallet at any given point. These tiny amounts of money- a $40 week & a $50 paycheck are sometimes very meaningful figures for a server's finances. If rent is due at the end of the month, I might be $50 short in one case or squeak by in another.

If you've made similar amounts of money yourself, you know how challenging it can be. But the one difference is that your salary, even if lower, was constant. The volatility of a server's income is hardly justification for cheating taxes (I agree that ideally taxes are just and can/should be paid), but given an unfair circumstance, I think it's a fair response. I think a server needs the $50 to pay rent far more than the US Fed needs to sit on it for a year. And why are we willing to let mega-corps defer tax payments for 10 years on foreign income (as one tiny example of the egregiously unfair tax system in defense) but shame servers for not pulling their weight?
posted by narwhal at 7:02 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


So, calculating a 20% tip is really easy, presuming basic addition skills. Just move the decimal point one digit to the left and multiply by two! For example:

Bill   : $43.25
10%: $4.325, round it up to $4.33 if you'd like.
20%: 2 x $4.33 = $8.66

Ta-da!
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:03 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


cribcage: I absolutely agree that a Robin Hood-style, "steal from the taxman" isn't justified just because the circumstances are unfair. I'm saying that I don't find much value in glossing the unfair wages servers are paid and the antagonistic tipping system that has arisen in its place in order to assert shock & disdain that servers might occasionally under-report tips.

I expressed my desire to pay more taxes to put my money where my mouth is and say that now that I'm on the other side of this wealth divide, my opinion hasn't changed. Just as I felt like I should pay less when I was poor, I feel like I should pay more now that I can.

Unfortunately, determining the amount of money I should be paying & giving it to charity doesn't ease the burden of the working poor who continue to take on the unfair tax burden assigned to them despite my charitable donations. Changing the tax code would & that's what I advocate. Shift responsibility away from the poor & put it on those of us who can afford it.
posted by narwhal at 7:10 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Or perhaps they could pay wait staff decent wages and eliminate tips? I don't tip the guy that does my taxes.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:32 PM on May 30


And if you can't pull in that much, your employer is legally obligated to make up the difference anyway.

And asking for it is a great way to get fired for something completely unrelated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:44 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


In the early 2000s I waitressed for a summer at a chain restaurant off an interstate. The manager explained that my $2.40/hr was very generous, since it was much more than the minimum tipped employees wage of $2.13. Then they subtracted $0.36/hr for the cost of my one free meal per shift, bringing my wage down to $2.04. On top of that, once it got to the end of your shift and there were no tables left to wait on, they take you off the serving floor (taking away your ability to earn tips) and make you roll silverware until your shift ended. I was 20 and didn't know better. On a good day (a Saturday or Sunday especially) I could make $50 or $60. Mondays and Tuesdays were dead, I would often make less than $30 for an 8-hour shift. Didn't matter as long as it averaged out to minimum wage, I wouldn't get any extra to make up for those days I hardly earned anything.

So yeah, tip your servers.

And if there is a movement to get away from tipping culture and towards a fair minimum wage for everyone, I absolutely welcome it. Until then, tip your servers.
posted by matcha action at 7:50 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


If you've never worked a service industry job where you depended on tips to pay your bills, your half-thought-out ideas of what it should or shouldn't be like, or how to fix it, are worth precisely nothing in my mind. It's like mansplaining, but different. Just, no, shut up.
posted by axiom at 7:59 PM on May 30 [11 favorites]


birdherder I saw some guy on Reddit got this instead of a tip.

Charming. Maybe it was the same guy as from this Ask.
posted by mlis at 8:11 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Strippers not only usually receive no salary, they often receive a negative salary—i.e. they need to pay the club a fee in order to work there.

Stripper here! So thrilled to be included in this article, even in passing, because society usually forgets us when the discussion of tips comes up. Strip clubs vary drastically from state laws to city ordinances to club rules to regional customs, but here is my experience.

——————————
There are four basic kinds of strip club tips:

At the stage. Almost exclusively $1 bills, of course. (If you want to get a stripper's attention, tip in bigger bills onstage.) The amount per customer varies. A good/average customer will tip around $10 per song.

Dancers typically make exponentially more onstage during night shifts. Night shifts are more crowded, and the crowd is often younger. Younger people who are less familiar with clubs will often be more interested in seeing a show than buying lap dances.

I've never met anyone who sits at the stage and doesn't tip anything. But I have met thousands (yes, thousands!) of customers who sit on the main floor, watch the stage, and don't tip or buy dances or VIP sessions from any of the dancers. Grrrrr.

Some dancers have told me that they don't bother to work on their pole skills because they don't think it increases their overall money. But when I suggest that theory to dancers who are seriously talented on the pole, they laugh because they make bank on the stage. To that end, I've been working hard the last six months to improve my pole skills. My average stage earnings have doubled, even though I still have a ton to learn.

After a basic (non-"VIP") lap dance. I would say that about half of the customers tip. Songs are $25 each. If the person gets five songs or more ($125), they almost always tip, usually at least $20.

But if they buy four songs ($100) or under, they usually only tip in instances where they're not breaking bills. So four songs is $100 and I get five $20's or a $100 bill. No tip! But three songs is $75 and they will give me four $20's ($80, so a $5 tip), or two songs is $50 and they give me three $20's ($60, so a $10 tip). The cynic in me thinks that it is less awkward and less of a hassle to give me a $5 tip than to ask me to break that last bill.

After a VIP session. I usually receive a $100 tip for a half-hour ($300) and, interesting, the same for a full hour ($450). Once in a while I will receive no tip, which I almost always attribute to lack of familiarity with strip club customs rather than being unhappy with the session. (Read into that what you like.) But I never receive a proportionally small tip, like $20. If they're gonna tip on a VIP session, it will be $100.

Just for talking. People who do this usually give at least $50 and most of the time $100. It doesn't happen every shift, but at least once a week. And then we go back to the dressing room and say, "This awesome guy gave me a hundred just to talk to him!"
——————————

I wouldn't say that it is hugely common to receive a negative salary, but it certainly happens on occasion because there are a ton of people who treat strip clubs like a bar.

And that's one of my peeves about the industry. When you have a fantastic day, it's because you worked your ass off. When you have a terrible day, it's because of things beyond your control—such as customers who came into a strip club and decided not to spend money on the strippers.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 8:13 PM on May 30 [14 favorites]


Then they subtracted $0.36/hr for the cost of my one free meal per shift,

Isn't this illegal?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:47 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I've been three kinds of biologist, a graphics artist, a grad student, and an adjunct instructor, and in all of those jobs the servers were doing better than me.

You got a shitty paycheck, but it was a regular check. This is a completely different beast than what someone who might have one good night one week and jack shit the next is dealing with. It requires a different set of survival skills. A different mindset. Your rent is still due every month regardless of someone's whim or crazy internal arithmetic for how much you 'deserve'. That's a much different problem than just being plain ole fucking broke and budgeting accordingly.
posted by bradbane at 8:54 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


> Isn't this illegal?

Heh.

I waited tables in a state with a mandatory 15 minute break per 4 hours of work clause. Now, my reading of the law (because of course I demanded to see the law) was such that it was mandatory for a 15 minute break opportunity to be offered & that as a rational adult I could choose whether to take them up on that mandatory offer. The restaurant believed that it was absolutely carved in stone that a break should & would be taken per 4 hours, meaning that on an 8+ hour shift, I had a choice:

I could work straight through to the end of my shift, clock out for half an hour, clock back in for 15 minutes, & then clock out and go home.

-or-

I could find someone to take my tables for a period of a half hour (which would effectively cost me the money I would have made during that half hour as the tips would go to that server as a trade for watching my station).

No one ever took option 2, which meant that instead of finally going home at 12:30a when my work was done, I was *supposed* to clock out for half an hour, clock back in at 1a for 15 minutes, & then clock out & leave.

Fuck that.

Until the day I quit, I was "reminded" by management that I neglected to take my break the night before and that as such they had to just "give" me a 30 minute break earlier in the shift in order to appear as though they were obeying the law. I often wondered how come, if they were just "adjusting" my hours for me, they couldn't adjust my clock out time to 15 minutes early & then tack on those stolen 15 minutes half an hour later?

HI-larious.

But completely unsurprising to any of us that have worked in this industry.
posted by narwhal at 9:02 PM on May 30 [7 favorites]


As for the talk about "controlling tax profiles" and other euphemisms, claim all your income and pay your fecking tax. There are worse scoundrels out there, but it looks really shitty to complain about cheap people not tipping well, and then refuse to pay one's share for basic government services. We get it, you're not paid well. Almost no one is. It's not OK to cheat and no rationalization is going to make it OK. Pay your tax.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:04 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


narwhal, that kind of behavior is common in businesses which have been previously nailed for violating those laws. I remember working at Wal-Mart around 02 or 03 and getting yelled at for coming back from a break a couple of minutes early.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:04 PM on May 30


In Canada I've always tipped 15%, but I noticed in the last few years when paying wiht the wireless handheld credit card machines, the "default tip" was set at 18% at a lot of places. I still changed it to 15%, but I do have one friend who makes a point of telling everyone that she tips 20%. Seriously, she brings it up all the time. Weird. I have a real problem with the tipping on drinks - why should the waiter get a larger tip for opening a n expensive bottle of wine vs a cheap bottle of wine? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, now I'm in HK and it's generally a "no tipping" culture, but many restaurants/bars add an automatic 10% service charge to the bill, which I guess I prefer.
posted by modernnomad at 9:06 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


As for the talk about "controlling tax profiles" and other euphemisms, claim all your income and pay your fecking tax.

I've never worked in a restaurant so I don't really have a horse in the tipping race, but I wasn't necessarily defending tax evasion in my previous comment. When individuals do this, it's not because they don't want to pay taxes, it's survival. Maybe you make $12/hr average but if you're below average on the week rent is due your landlord isn't going to want to hear about how you're sure you'll have a big night next Friday.

Living like this involves a certain amount of precarity that is beyond your control that I think is hard to comprehend for people who have never been in that situation. The amount people make working a minimum wage job is definitely an equal outrage, but people who depend on tips to pay their rent have an additional problem: they don't know how much money will be in their bank account next week.

I freelance and someone upthread said it best for me: our system sucks but tipping is solidarity.
posted by bradbane at 9:38 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


always pay your restaurant tabs in cash.

1. the server doesn't get to see your card, with the numbers on the front and back which could enable him/her to order sex toys off the internet in your account.

2. the server gets first control over the money, which enhances his/her position against a house which just might be exploiting him/her.

3. the public and private surveillance sectors are cheated of the opportunity to record where you go, what you eat, how much you spend.

the tax implications for other people are none of my concern, i just want tasty chow and strong drink, stat.
posted by bruce at 9:43 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


a shared moment of egalitarianism

The way I perceive it inequality and servility are baked in; your only options are Good Master or Bad.
posted by Segundus at 9:47 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


1. the server doesn't get to see your card, with the numbers on the front and back which could enable him/her to order sex toys off the internet in your account.


I gotta say in 15 or so years of paying in restaurants with credit cards, this has never ever happened to me. And even if it did, surely it would be covered by your credit card's fraud policy.
posted by modernnomad at 10:12 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


One of the many reasons I enjoy using Uber is that it takes payment and tipping out of the interaction (it's handled automatically, and at a flat % tip).

If only it was that simple.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:29 PM on May 30


fast food restaurant where i carry the chow from the counter to the table, 0% tip.

Yeah, I don't get why a server/wait person gets tipped yet a fast food worker doesn't. True, the fast food worker doesn't bring the food out to you, but they take your order on a Jetsonian console and then scurry back into a hot metal crawl space wedged between giant industrial machinery full of tubes and levers to extract edible material, all in a matter of a few short minutes (as dictated by phone book sized process management manuals). The food is already so dirt cheap, that a 15% tip would add at most another dollar to a meal typically.

Up to now, it's just been conformity that's prevented me from tipping fast food workers. But it bothers me that some jobs tip while others don't.
posted by FJT at 11:40 PM on May 30


Yes, so if you can't be bothered to tip, you should take it out on the employer/restaurant owner BY NOT EATING THERE, not by eating there and then refusing to pay the lowest fucking people in the pecking order.

If you are doing otherwise don't delude yourself that you are somehow standing up for what is right. You're just being cheap and smug about it.


o my god i can't even.

ok so i know a guy. sort of a libertarian douchewaffle nerd type. he can seem like an ok guy, until he opens his mouth about certain things. He's a manager at a retail store that will not hire anyone who doesn't do, essentially, an unpaid internship for them for a 3 or 4 day weekend and thinks that's totally reasonable.

He never tips, and he thinks he's making some grand political statement and sending a message by doing this. I've seriously flipped out on him about this, and gotten like vein bulging out of forehead mad trying to make the exact point you just made.

Some people are seriously like, completely unwilling to get it. It's not that they just don't get it, they're not even willing or capable.

Until the day I quit, I was "reminded" by management that I neglected to take my break the night before and that as such they had to just "give" me a 30 minute break earlier in the shift in order to appear as though they were obeying the law. I often wondered how come, if they were just "adjusting" my hours for me, they couldn't adjust my clock out time to 15 minutes early & then tack on those stolen 15 minutes half an hour later?

HRNGGGG. i worked at a place for two years, with a couple month break in the middle that did this sort of tomfoolery. towards the end, they started just doing the thing mcdonalds has been in the news for recently and straight up changing my time sheets so that i got less hours. Good times!


I.e. lie on their taxes. Which is bad for everyone else, and not necessary if they are actually poor (as they'll get nearly all of it back in refunds anyway).

I know a lot of people have replied to this, but honestly... fuck the people being really judgmental.

You are literally doing the same thing as people who drive 60mph in the passing lane to "prevent speeding". You think you're making the world a better place, but you're not.

If you're getting tips in cash, and keeping track... then you'll probably end up with a tax bill at the end of the year if you're getting any decent amount. Seeing as how they weren't withheld. As a lump sum, this is something a lot of people can't deal with, and something that can also really drag you down and possibly drown you as a payment plan setup.

I think a lot of people are really overestimating how bougie even real minimum wage+tips in the places that still do that is. It generally averages out to i'd bet like $20 an hour, and no one works full time anymore. $1500 a month ish is so balling i know, wow.

lets say you make $80 a shift, and get 5 shifts a week. That's ~19k a year. actual takehome on ~30 hours a week minimum wage is not going to add up to another 20k, it's going to be closer to 10. so in a really great scenario assuming you basically have no bad nights, you're making around 30k. in reality it would probably be less.

The fallacy of "good money" here is that it's some kind of illicit and covetous non taxed income...or...something. I don't even know. I'm just tired of the "service industry people have it better than you think!" circlejerk, which i saw starting to pop up here.
posted by emptythought at 11:51 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


fuck the people being really judgmental.

I don't think we do this here. Dial MeTa back about a year and I'm sure I saw something about this.
posted by cribcage at 12:10 AM on May 31


Yeah, well, perhaps I'd be a little less judgmental of people dodging taxes if people's unwillingness to pay taxes wasn't directly responsible for the decline in science funding, which is likely why I can't find a decent job. Maybe paying your taxes is how you tip people in the sciences.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:14 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


I generally agree with the Ashley vs. Mavis thing. I started out my restaurant career at a mid-range trendy place and moved up from there to a fine dining steak and lobster place. I never worked in a diner-type place but I know lots of people who did and my experience was that as I moved up the chain in restaurants, the work got much easier and I was making more in tips. At the steakhouse we had bussers and food runners, so basically all I had to do was take orders and get drinks. I could probably make upwards of $1000/week for maybe 30-35 hrs work during my time there in the fall and through the holiday season. But the months after that? Dead. So the good money I was making during our busy season would generally average out into a lower overall wage over time. And unless you're lucky enough to work at a place that stays relatively busy all year round, in all kinds of weather, you're not going to make a consistently good wage. I also had zero benefits, no sick time, insurance, nothing. The money I made was almost all tips. Even when I was working full time as a server, my paycheck (every two weeks) probably averaged around $70. This is despite the fact that I always made the minimum wage because I don't think my state has that tipped-employees-are-exempt-from-minimum-wage rule.

So I wouldn't say that servers make a lot of money. They can, but it is wildly inconsistent due to seasonal and other factors and wildly inconsistent depending on where you work. The ones working at diners aren't making good money, I can guarantee you that, even if they do have twelve tables. I know a ton of servers and none of them are living a lifestyle of a highly paid person - in fact, most of them work second jobs. Except one guy I know, who works at one of the most expensive places in the city, which also happens to be very trendy and always packed pretty much year round, and it's been that way for years. He's a career server and he makes pretty decent money, as well as getting health insurance through his job (rare).

Also, wrt tipping on a credit card vs. cash - I don't think that anyone is saying that someone is a bad person if they tip on a card (at least it doesn't seem that way to me), I think that people mention it in threads like this because a lot of people aren't aware of why tipping in cash is generally better. I always preferred cash tips but people (including me) tip on cards all the time and I would never sweat it as a server. So I don't think anyone should stress out about it.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:19 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I hate tipping. It's fine in restaurants, where the rules are relatively clear, but everywhere else? It's endlessly confusing for no reason, and I hate it. Just tell me the fucking price of the haircut/ furniture delivery/ tattoo/ whatever and I will pay it, but I hate agonizing over when and how and how much I should tip.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:34 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


I am a pizza delivery driver in the southwest usa. I work in a locally owned pizza place near a college campus. Our pizzas are $5 to $ 10 dollars more than the national chains but they are really good and made with fresh ingredients unlike the competition. I hope to average $3 a delivery everyday in order to pay my bills and have a little bit of spending cash. I only make $6.50 an hour and have to pay for fuel plus insurance (higher than liability only because without a car i am out of a job), and wear and tear. None of the delivery fee, ours is only 1.50, goes to me. The problem is that most college kids are bad tippers amd this is especially so at the end of the semester when they are running out of funds. So, this is my formula for tipping delivery drivers.

1. Decide if you want to be an okay tipper or a good tipper. Okay means a three dollar base, good means 4. Hey, you cleary dont want to/cant come down tothe store to pickup, so it has to be worth something to you.
2. Tip $2for every pie and $1 for every other item (salad, sandwich, beverage etc) but not below your base (see #1).
3. Raining? Add a buck or two. More for other inclement weather. It is more hazardous to us to deliver in bad weather.
4. After ten pm? Add a buck. Double that after midnight.
5. is the store more than a few miles away? Add accordingly.
6. Outside the delivery zone? We are being nice, add at least a buck.
7. Hard to get to address? I think you know the answer by now.

there are many reasons for the rules that I use. First, pizza delivery drivers face road and safety hazards on their way to bring you food you couldnt be arsed to leave your house for. Second, i have to tip out a pizza maker, line cook and order taker. Thers are a bunch more but I have to go to sleep so Ican go deliver pizza to college kids for a wage that makes me one blown headgasket away from the poor house
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:13 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Dear Obama, please:

1. Dissolve the NSA
2. Eliminate tipping

There, now America is fixed.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 2:40 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Obviously, if Ashley is hot & bubbly enough, she'll punch above her weight thanks to sexism & the like, but that's another story.

I think it's part of the same story - the one where the restaurant industry has completely separated compensation from work done, which looks like the entire point of the tipping racket. Instead of paying people a set per-hour wage, or even a rate based on something industry-specific like meals served, they have set up this system where workers are paid an insultingly tiny wage and left to the whims of a largely clueless public for the main part of their income. It is evil and wrong, and it should end.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:16 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Tipped wages weren't introduced until 1996, so prior to that, servers made more & relied less on tips.

This is a thing I definitely will need to think about. I knew servers made less than minimum wage, but had never really associated it with a specific time period. By 1996 I had already absorbed all tipping lessons and was well on my way to happy tipping, and I honestly haven't changed since. I've been getting irritated and frustrated at tip creep, which I assumed was driven by servers. This is a lot of food for thought.
posted by corb at 5:17 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Unless your server called you an asshole to your face and dumped a drink on your head on purpose, you got good service.

This expectation is a problem. I think there are reasonable rules of good service. If you have to sit for two minutes with your hand up trying to signal your server, you are not getting good service. If your drinks have been empty for so long that you are chewing your ice out of sheer thirst, you are not getting good service. If your waiter brings you the wrong food, you are not getting good service.

A good/average customer will tip around $10 per song.


As a lady who sometimes gets dragged out to strip clubs by her infantry friends, can you explain this a little? I always see people tipping in $1 bills, and it usually seemed to follow the "at least $1 per song, add an extra $1 whenever they do something cool on the pole or if you want them to come over to you." Is this an industry standard? Is it a known industry standard? How do people figure this out?
posted by corb at 5:32 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


1. the server doesn't get to see your card, with the numbers on the front and back which could enable him/her to order sex toys off the internet in your account.

I travel a lot for work (indeed, I am on the road right now) and almost universally pay for meals and taxis and such on the company credit card rather than pay cash and submit expense reports and wait for a cheque. In the last decade, this card has passed into the hands of at least a thousand servers and hostesses and clerks and cabbies in a dozen countries. The number of times it has been used for fraudulent purposes by someone is lower than the number of times the card has flown out of my hand and vanished into the Pacific due to strong winds on a ferry (zero versus one).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:03 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Relevant Slate article about no-tip restaurants.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:10 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Are there any unions for waitstaff? Because negotiating pay with your customers rather than your employer is much more difficult as you have no power in the customer relationship beyond the ridiculously elaborate system outlined above.

I'm a bit surprised in 100+ comments no one has mentioned the possibility of organised labour to address inadequate wages. Is it completely unfeasible?
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:35 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


fuck the people being really judgmental.

The linguistic equivalent of one of those infinity mirrors.
posted by achrise at 7:20 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


Is it completely unfeasible?

... Probably?
posted by PMdixon at 7:45 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Also, wrt tipping on a credit card vs. cash - I don't think that anyone is saying that someone is a bad person if they tip on a card (at least it doesn't seem that way to me), I think that people mention it in threads like this because a lot of people aren't aware of why tipping in cash is generally better.

Yeah, exactly. I just want the server to go home that very same night with some cash in their hand. This may or may not happen if you tip on a card. If NO ONE tips in cash, it is possible that they will walk out of a hard shift with nothing in their hand. IF YOU ARE ABLE to do so, I think it's a good thing to do. That's it. Assuming you have tipped like a decent human being your server will be happy for the money either way.
posted by elizardbits at 8:22 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Eh, we have Walmart paying below living wages to its employees and we atleast get a dog & pony show from the Congress. The service sector seems to be grossly condoned by various legislative acts in pretty much doing the same. Ugh. Hopefully the fast food strikes and various other recent actions will bring about some change....
posted by asra at 8:52 AM on May 31


Right now I am waiting for my lunch in front of a sign that reads "[Business] pays its employees well to provide outstanding service to customers. Tipping is not necessary. Any tips received will be donated to a designated charity."

It doesn't hurt that they have good sandwiches, but that sign definitely makes me happier about spending money here instead of one of the other restaurants in town.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:58 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Seattle is very close to upping our minimum wage to $15 and it will be interesting to see if this has any widespread effect on the average % tipped in local restaurants. Personally I'm not sure if it will change my habits, as I see my usual 20% not just as a easy means of wealth distribution but also hopefully making up for those demanding, condencending customers that are usually also lousy tippers. I don't go to restaurants to have my ego stroked so it's seldom that I notice something "wrong" with the service; on the rare occasion the waitperson is blatently ignoring their basic job functions, I bring it to their attention as politely as possible, and their response and behavior from that point forward determines where the tip falls in the 10-20% range. I've only felt compelled to do this 2-3 times in the last 10 years, which is probably mostly due to where I choose to eat.

As a data point, I worked a minimum wage + tips job for 3 years (chauffeur) and there were many weeks that an extra $20 bill in my pocket meant groceries and a gallon or two of gas for the weekend. Of the friends I've polled, how well they tip usually correlates to whether they've ever had to work for tips themselves, regardless of current level of income.
posted by bizwank at 9:14 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Tipping is yet another way where the majority of basically decent humans subsidize a small number of psychopathic individuals who want all their services provided at slave labor wages.

It should be abolished and I hate it - even though I'm generally a heavy tipper (and no, I've never worked for tips).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:27 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Service design tip: Put a special marker on the forehead for those professions who need to be tipped. Color-coded for expected percentage. Or abolish the system.
posted by Free word order! at 11:53 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Yes, we should get rid of tipping.

No, I don't understand why people think that they shouldn't tip just because they don't like the current system of pay. Because it isn't codified in law, but merely a social custom, you're free to disregard it?

No, I don't understand why people don't understand basic concepts such as waitstaff making less than minimum wage nor that they must tip out.

No, I don't understand why you pay someone 20% of your bill to walk back and forth a few times, but less to get in their car and drive to you.

Here's an easy way to decide how much you should pay the person who is going to deliver your food. Say to your SO/roommate/friend next to you, "hey, I'll pay you $5 to get up, drive/walk/bike to the pizza place and pick up our food" and if they say "nah, that's not worth five bucks, I'd rather sit here", then keep increasing the amount in the proposal until you figure out how much you'd be willing to get up and get your own food is worth. Then give that to the delivery person.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:00 PM on May 31


I don't understand why you pay someone 20% of your bill to walk back and forth a few times, but less to get in their car and drive to you.

In a restaurant, a server's job requires more than merely walking back and forth. You have to take customers' orders, which often involves answering their questions and knowing the menu and ingredients. Then you convey those orders to the kitchen including any adjustments, substitutions, or special requests. (The kitchen staff may or may not speak English.) If the kitchen screws up, that's their mistake, but if you are busing your own table then it's your job to notice that screw-up and get it fixed before the plate leaves the kitchen.

Meanwhile your attention needs to be on the table. Do they need drink refills? Have they spilled something? Do they need an extra fork, or a late appetizer? Are the appetizers prepared to their satisfaction? Are the entrees? If they're nearly finished, would they like to see a dessert menu? Have they set down a credit card for you to run? If they have already paid and are just sitting there, do they need anything else?

Take the first paragraph and multiply it by two, because in addition to dealing with the kitchen, you have to deal with the bar. Then take both paragraphs and multiply by three, four, or five, depending how many tables are in your section.

I'm sorry but that's no comparison to the pizza delivery guy.
posted by cribcage at 12:53 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


emptythought, does your friend do this? Cuz the only thing worst than thinking you're making a statement by not tipping is to actually carry these around with you to better add insult to injury.
posted by sfkiddo at 1:33 PM on May 31


This expectation is a problem. I think there are reasonable rules of good service.

Your reasonable rules for good service will be totally different from someone else's. It's a totally subjective thing. One table might think good service means constant attention (which generally happens at the expense of other tables who are waiting for me) and the next table thinks good service is when I leave them alone other than taking their order and bringing their stuff. There's no way of telling. So if one table asks me if I would mind please making them some bleu cheese stuffed olives for their drink and of course it happens to be at the busiest part of a dinner shift, I'll still say yes, because that's what they want. Which means I have to run to the other end of a very large restaurant into the cooler in the kitchen to find where the bleu cheese is kept and then bring it all the way back to the other side to where the bar is and olives are kept. Then I'll sit there for a minute or two and hand stuff bleu cheese into a bunch of olives for my table. Meanwhile, you're chewing on your ice because all your water is gone and probably all the other four of my tables need something as well. So now I haven't lived up to your standard of service because your water was gone and you probably had your arm up forever trying to find me and I was nowhere to be seen and there, I lose a part of or all of my tip. That's a true story and I have a million others like that.

I am now a salaried worker. I'm good at what I do but like everyone, I've made a mistake before. Sometimes I actually get grief from someone (a client or someone I work alongside) over something they've perceived I've done wrong (but I haven't), or they're just unhappy with me for whatever reason, even though I'm doing my job the way I'm supposed to and am expected to. So should they then have the power to say - "you haven't lived up to my standards of how you should be - I am docking you two days pay!". I mean, that's crazy, right? I get paid even if someone is unhappy (rightly or wrongly) with some aspect of how I do my job. Even if I make a mistake. Why should service workers be any different? If they showed up and are doing their work, they should get paid, even if they maybe make a mistake. Because they're there, and they're doing their job as well as they can. I agree that it sucks that the burden of paying certain workers has been passed to the customers rather than being on the employer, like it is with everything else, but that's how it is.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:37 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


What I hate is the ever escalating percentage.

Everything else that depends on labor—education, healthcare, etc.—as an input has gotten steadily more expensive over time. Restaurant meals haven't increased as much as they should, because the labor component has been steadily shifted over from the menu price towards tips.

So consider the increasing percentage as just one more part of inflation.

In a better system the menu price would just be 20% higher and that would be that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:38 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I've always maintained that I should be the supreme ruler of England as there are so many problems I'd be able to solve with the dual virtues of common sense and not-being-a-corrupt-cronyistic-dickbag. After reading this though, I've realised I should be in charge of America, as there is at least one more low hanging fruit that I'd be qualified to deal with.
posted by Ned G at 4:56 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Another view on tipping.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:15 PM on May 31


Why does it say that $5 is an "undertip" for a bartender who spends "285 seconds" making drinks? 285 seconds is less than 5 minutes. So that's more than a dollar a minute. That's very high-paying work even if the employer pays nothing.
posted by John Cohen at 5:10 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


That his spectrum of tippers did not include senior citizens made the whole thing strange.

Senior citizens are the main support group of restaurants here in Florida. By orders of magnitude.
posted by notreally at 10:14 AM on June 1


I'm sorry but that's no comparison to the pizza delivery guy.

First, the pizza delivery guy does more than deliver pizzas. During downtime they do busywork that's easy to put down at a moment's notice like fold boxes, make dough, make sauce, or take out the trash.

Second, pizza delivery cars are usually just a personal car with a magnetic sign on top. Though companies do pay drivers a mileage reimbursement, it often doesn't cover both gas AND wear on the car.

And third, pizza delivery can be a dangerous job. Drivers can get robbed, mugged, or even assaulted or kidnapped. Not to mention just the usual dangers in the US when driving at night or in inclement weather.
posted by FJT at 10:42 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Your reasonable rules for good service will be totally different from someone else's.

Not totally different, no. There is some subjectivity built into this topic, for sure. But it's not a completely moving target. There are lots of books on the subject. Companies have training manuals. Read a couple and you'll see they disagree about some fine points and they might use different procedures, but there are absolutely broad strokes that everybody agrees on far beyond simply, "don't call people assholes or dump drinks on their heads." I agree the subjectivity can be problematic, but hyperbole undermines the objection.

First, the pizza delivery guy does more than deliver pizzas.

Sure. I didn't suggest otherwise. But you're straying pretty far off-topic. The night cashier at a gas station has a dangerous job. Do you tip him?
posted by cribcage at 10:53 AM on June 1


Sure. I didn't suggest otherwise. But you're straying pretty far off-topic. The night cashier at a gas station has a dangerous job. Do you tip him?

I don't think it's off topic at all, and you brought up another couple of points I was thinking of, having to do with who gets tipped and comparing employees with one another.

1) As alluded to by non-tipping country/custom people, the jobs that tip and don't tip are totally arbitrary. You tip delivery drivers, but not the postal carrier or FedEx. It's justified because the latter group are both paid more than the former group (and the carrier is a government employee, who cannot receive cash). You might tip a barista, but probably not the butcher or baker, and certainly not the McD's worker that serves coffee, meat, and bread. Yet the McD's worker is most likely to make less than a barista, a butcher, and a baker. The justifications made about why certain industries deserve tipping and those that don't receive tipping are just post-rationalizations of a broken system. Even when you come down to jobs that are very much alike, there exist completely different rules for tipping. Why do you tip train attendants and not flight attendants? Why do you tip maids, but not yard workers?

And restaurants themselves are making things more complicated. In addition to the buffet example mentioned upthread, what do you do with the rapid growth of fast casual places that may or may not bring your food to the table, have someone fill your drinks during a meal, serve alcohol, and clear your table? Not to mention the brief deer-in-the-headlights moment I have every time I go to a new place and pay for my meal first and see the "Tip:___________" line on the receipt.

2) Every time a discussion on tipping starts, whether online or offline, it becomes both/either a crappy job olympics and/or a "Who-deserves-to-be-tipped!?"-style reality show. Workers in different and same industries are compared to one another, pitting labor against labor. Also, we as the customer are expected to know the intricacies and compensation of dozens of jobs with probably hundreds if not thousands of variations of each. And we take these considerations and give a final rating in the form of a price signal. Who came up with this system? I'm a customer, I'm not a mini-HR/payroll/performance evaluation department. It's ridiculous, and that's not even getting into going out to eat as a group and dealing with people who short on tip.
posted by FJT at 12:30 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


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