The Definitive Guide to Tipping at Any Restaurant in America
November 30, 2018 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Start by making your default 20 percent everywhere — yes, even there

It should be common knowledge that when dining out in America, you tip your server. Sure, tipping is inherently exploitative, but as long as tipped minimum wages exist, you don’t get to opt out.

posted by poffin boffin (164 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where I live there's no obligatory tipping. It's always appreciated if you leave something extra, but no there's no calculation or argument if you don't. Service is clearly included in the pricing. You get the added frisson of being able to actually award someone for service above and beyond the ordinary. It's nice.
posted by chavenet at 10:38 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Earliest version of this tumblr joke that I can find:

“no offense but a waiter could literally murder me and i’d still tip 20%”
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:43 AM on November 30 [13 favorites]


That ability exists in the US too. It’s tipping above 20%

One of the reasons our standing date night is half-price-burger Monday is that between discounts and occasional comps our tip can end up being like 40-50%.

There’s just such a huge difference in a few percentage points for the message you send about your valuation of another human’s effort... but it ends up being like a buck or two.
posted by supercres at 10:45 AM on November 30 [11 favorites]


So when you tip...

... and you always tip, and it's always 20% or more, and the higher your income is above median the higher above 20% you go...

... when you tip, you're not doing it as a prize for good service or whatever. You're doing it as a means of showing material support for the folks who make the motor run. Without any regard whatsoever of your estimation of how good you think they are at their jobs. You do it even if you think they're total crap at their jobs.

Basically, you're not evaluating and rewarding your neighbors, because sheesh it's not your place to do that. Instead, you're making solidarity with your neighbors.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:46 AM on November 30 [54 favorites]


And in cash.

/childofservers
posted by The Whelk at 10:46 AM on November 30 [28 favorites]


In the US, you are helping to provide the status with a living wage. While we all would like to live in a world where you don't have to think about that, we don't. Be a Mensch.
posted by evilDoug at 10:46 AM on November 30


So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

I swear if I live long enough the kids will all be tipping 100%.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:47 AM on November 30 [29 favorites]


i mean probably, if the annual median income stays the same for another 40 years despite the cost of living quadrupling.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:49 AM on November 30 [116 favorites]


Keith, there was a change in the minimum wage law some time ago to allow tipped employees to make a lower wage. For example, I am a pizza delivery driver and make $6.00 an hour. I've worked for as little as 3.25 an hour before.

If all of my customers tipped an extra dollar per delivery I would be able to make my student loan payments. A little bit makes a huge difference. Please remember too that some people don't tip. In my area it is about 20% of deliveries that cant/won't tip.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:58 AM on November 30 [27 favorites]


For anyone who feels like it's "too far" or too generous when compared to standards back in [whenever], I am curious how you handle other recent innovations and/or price increases?

I mean, my family had a landline phone that I am pretty sure didn't cost $100 a month when I was a kid, but I apparently adjusted just fine to paying $100 a month for my cell phone. I am clearly willing and able to figure out how to take advantage of Grubhub and other convenience services, so I can learn new processes and standards. And practically everywhere makes it easy to tip and does the math for me, so I don't even have to figure out what 20-30% is.
posted by Kpele at 11:02 AM on November 30 [23 favorites]


So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

In that same time menu prices (ie gross sales for owners) have risen, even though the percentage of that total spending going to employees has dropped. Increasing the tipped percentage is the only way (and admittedly a highly ineffective one at that) of making these jobs worth it for workers.

One thing ill say i take issue with is the not tipping on expensive bottles - if you have the cash to waste on overpriced fancy wine you really need to be sharing it with the folks pouring it (the cash, not the wine).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:03 AM on November 30 [8 favorites]


This is great, thanks for posting.

I was a scholarship student at an expensive college, and it amazed me then how many people entered the adult world not understanding how tipping works. I waitressed at a cafe while in school and just among people I knew who came in to eat, there was a clear divide between friends with money and friends who had to work. Every single person who had to work understood (and yes, in cash!), every one who didn't just...assumed they didn't have to, because we were friends. That group was pretty shocked to learn about the tipped minimum wage.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 11:05 AM on November 30 [4 favorites]


People think delivery fees go to the delivery person when in fact they are usually just extra fees charged by the restaurant.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:05 AM on November 30 [15 favorites]


Basically, you're not evaluating and rewarding your neighbors, because sheesh it's not your place to do that. Instead, you're making solidarity with your neighbors.

Yeah, this gets it exactly right. I feel like 20% covers just the provision of labor and product—anything else beyond that—especially helpful or obliging service, courtesies provided for being a regular, etc.—should dictate a percentage upwards from there.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:07 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Last 5 years? I have been quietly wanting to die every time my father tries to tip 15% (and then secretly leaving extra) for at least the last 15 or 20 years. Turns out you've been looking like a cheapskate for longer than you think.
posted by axiom at 11:08 AM on November 30 [46 favorites]


I swear if I live long enough the kids will all be tipping 100%

When I can? Hell yeah I tip 100%. I've waited tables at a fancy place and a barely above fast food place, and both sucked, and customers are monsters, and eating out less often so I can tip 40-100% is absolutely a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

Tipping 100% on a $20 check isn't that difficult for me once in awhile, but a tip like that could have buoyed me through a bad shift when I was waiting tables-- not even the amount, but the meaning behind the gesture. I account for those types of expenditures into my budget, because life is hard and servers are tired and why not help out when you can?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:15 AM on November 30 [42 favorites]


no Keith Talent, I too am 50 and its been 20% since I was a child because if there is one thing my dad taught me its: always tip 20%
posted by supermedusa at 11:15 AM on November 30 [37 favorites]


This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

And also, from a purely practical point of view, it's much less trouble to take 20% and round up to the next zero, than to try to figure out 15% to the penny.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:15 AM on November 30 [15 favorites]


I like to go out to eat, and good service is a significant part of a good meal. I tip 20% plus whatever it takes to get to a round figure, which often ends up being 25 or 30%. I figure serving in an upscale restaurant is a pretty good gig, as waiting goes, but it's still customer service. For every patron who notices when you check your tables on your rounds, and how you avoid "how is everything?" when they've just taken a bite, you certainly have those large groups where everybody is picky and nobody feels it's their responsibility to make sure the tip fits the ask.

If 20% makes the meal too expensive, then you just can't afford to eat there. That's not outrageous: you do it all the time with other stuff you buy. There are places I'd love to try (Vespertine in LA, I'm lookin' at you!) but I can't afford it. So rather than stiff the waitstaff, I don't go.
posted by spacewrench at 11:17 AM on November 30 [7 favorites]


Something I think about sometimes is when I was a server at Chili's and we had all you can eat fajitas, which were a lot of work! Because you have to keep running back and forth from the kitchen with extra tortillas and sour cream and stuff. And I remember one table I had was an older woman by herself. She was kind of petite and she ate SO MUCH. I was absolutely FLABBERGASTED at how much she ate, she just kept asking for more tortillas and beef and vegetables. It was astonishing that one fairly small person could eat so much, and it was a ton of work, and then she paid with exact change and left the restaurant which, because of tipping out bussers and the bartender, meant that it actually cost me money to serve her even though I'd have to spend a lot of time and money doing it.

And it kind of makes me mad but I also know that a lot of older people are on fixed incomes and have to be very careful about money so something like all you can eat fajitas can be a real boon to them (I don't know this woman so I have no idea if this was her situation, but it is SOMEONE's situation). It's really shitty that she didn't tip, but it's also shitty that we have a situation where some people are really struggling and in practice that shortfall is made up by other people, like servers, who are probably not making tons of money. It's shitty and unfair if you don't tip someone, and if you genuinely can't afford to then yeah, you kind of can't really afford to eat in restaurants, but on the other hand that's so shitty and it doesn't have to be like this, we could actually just take care of our citizens.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:17 AM on November 30 [50 favorites]


Yes, deal with the system as it is, but tipped wages are such baloney. Most customers don't understand when they tip through apps the company often is just docking what they'd pay out by that amount. The 'extra' doesn't actually go to the delivery person or some other frontline worker. It's just a trick so they can screw over the worker and the customer. Everything is becoming Spirit Airlines. Just include it all. Stop making peoples' welfare up to individual customers' arithmetic and whether they ordered wine or 'just water.'
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:18 AM on November 30 [14 favorites]


Well, as long as we're trying to drive a wedge between absolutely every possible faction in this country, sure why not, let's drive one between 15 and 20% tippers.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:20 AM on November 30 [43 favorites]


Surprised the article didn't cover take-out orders, something that has confused me in the past. I call ahead, then pick up my order and pay at the register, don't get service beyond that -- what's the consensus on tip amount?
posted by demonic winged headgear at 11:21 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


Tipping has never been a reward for service. That's just a by-your-bootstraps lie to keep broke folks infighting. It started out as a bribe, an ego boost, a Prohibition survival measure and a way to shunt newly freed slaves into a dependent servile class. Now it's a softcoded GoFundMe for exploited workers. When you think about it that way, you see why 20% in cash is the right thing to do. And that ought to come off the original price of your sit-down meal, before coupons, comps and happy hours. Drinks from coffee to cocktails get $1 per item or 20%... whichever is higher!

If you don't want to tip, support minimum wage laws for service workers. My home state Kansas pays servers $2.13 an hour. Employers have to supplement if they don't make enough in tips... but only up to a big ol' $7.25. That's BACKBREAKING underpaid labor. Plus, keep in mind servers can rarely work 40 hours a week. The job's hard on the body and employers won't give you those hours because they don't want to pay benefits. And shift work makes holding other jobs really difficult. So if you want to work more, you can't! Given the reality of the industry, the target hourly wage needs to be higher than $15/hr. But we gotta start somewhere.

Making your living wage dependent on the fickle kindness of strangers — who are trained culturally to withhold! — is abusive.
posted by fritillary at 11:23 AM on November 30 [54 favorites]


I'm 40 and was taught growing up that 15% was bare minimum bad service tipping, 20% baseline, and for anything particularly good you go on up from there.

One wrinkle I haven't fully figured out is whether to tip more if I'm eating alone. I'm taking up a table multiple people could have filled, though probably eating a bit faster. I err on the side of tipping extra but I'm not sure if that's a thing people do or just a weird rule my anxiety brain made up at some point. As weird fake anxiety rules go, though, I figure being overly generous to low paid serving staff isn't a bad one.
posted by Stacey at 11:23 AM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Huh, interesting. It looks like they're saying that you should tip 20% at places like Chipotle, where you get your own food and bus your own table. Is that right? It's literally never occurred to me to tip 20% at that kind of place.

This is probably my own money-related nuttiness, but I feel really awkward tipping at coffee places and other counters, where they can see you leaving the money in the jar. I still do it, but it just feels weird and ostentatious.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:24 AM on November 30 [8 favorites]


Servers at restaurants often have to tip out to the bar and bussers, like Mrs. Pterodactyl says. This number may be based on the server's total sales, not their actual tips. So if you don't tip enough or anything, the server has actually paid to wait on you.

Tipping 100% on a $20 check isn't that difficult for me once in awhile, but a tip like that could have buoyed me through a bad shift when I was waiting tables-- not even the amount, but the meaning behind the gesture.

My general policy is to try to tip generously because I have never looked at my bank balance at the end of the month and thought, "Gosh, I wish I had tipped $5 less at TGIFriday's last Wednesday, fuck," and I know that conversely the servers often feel like a fiendish thingy above.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:27 AM on November 30 [12 favorites]


I call ahead, then pick up my order and pay at the register, don't get service beyond that -- what's the consensus on tip amount?

A couple bucks, or 10% depending on the check? I never really understood those tips until a job where I sometimes worked the bar/takeout counter, and corralling the takeout orders really did create a lot of extra work when they came through.

It looks like they're saying that you should tip 20% at places like Chipotle, where you get your own food and bus your own table.

I think they meant stores where you order at the counter, take a tent card, and an employee brings your food to you and clears up your dishes when you leave. (But I would totally tip at a Chipotle, if given the option.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:29 AM on November 30 [1 favorite]


My general policy is to try to tip generously because I have never looked at my bank balance at the end of the month and thought, "Gosh, I wish I had tipped $5 less at TGIFriday's last Wednesday, fuck," and I know that conversely the servers often feel like a fiendish thingy above.

Yeah, that's the thing about it. If you genuinely don't have the money to leave a tip, that's fine. Although you probably aren't eating out that much. But most of the people I hear about fussing over whether they're "supposed" to do 15% or 20% are definitely not living so precariously that the 5% difference there is going to make or break them.

That being said, I visited Japan earlier this year, and being in a place where tipping just isn't a thing was so refreshing. It shouldn't be a thing. Tipped wages are bullshit.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:31 AM on November 30 [12 favorites]


In my area it is about 20% of deliveries that cant/won't tip.

Back when I used to be a delivery driver, everyone gave me a tip. Well, 99.9% or so. One time, someone who obviously had no money to spare asked me to wait a minute, rushed off into a back room, and came back with a case of 11 empty beer bottles to give me for a tip. I accepted it gratefully, not really knowing what else to do. To this day, having been on the receiving and giving ends of it often enough, I have uncomfortable feelings about tipping. I vote we abolish it immediately.
posted by sfenders at 11:32 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


I actually think the article is unclear about Chipotle (or Panera, which is another place where you order from a counter, pick up your food at a different counter, and bus your own table.) I thought that was what they meant by
It might feel different at the massive fast-casual chains where diners are served cafeteria-style, but even then, do 20 percent if you can stomach it. The people working there deserve it. [NB: Operators, if you are serving guests from an assembly line, please shift to a tip-free model.]
But maybe those are "serving guests from an assembly line" places that should be tip-free, rather than fast-casual chains where diners are served cafeteria-style?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:32 AM on November 30


I try to do 25% ish because most of the time I don't have any cash or enough cash and I hope the extra dollars make up for the plastic/app payment. I also honestly prefer to tap the Square/etc. tip buttons at cafes rather than dig out cash and stuff it in a tip jar - the latter feels slower and more showboat-y. if I'm also juggling a coat and hat and credit card and wallet and coffee, I feel like nobody wants to watch me fumble for bills.

it is ridiculous that random people's shyness and chronic inability to remember to go to the atm affects others' ability to make a living.
posted by bagel at 11:33 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


We moved up a tax bracket and we tip baseline 30 - 35% now. Whenever I tip 100% I do so in cash, with small bills, if possible. I spent years in food service. I judge people on how they tip and how they treat the people working.
posted by Ruki at 11:34 AM on November 30 [11 favorites]


How are things done nowadays in restaurants that makes cash preferable to leaving a tip on your card? I remember when I was serving (~10 years ago), I'd just have to tally up my credit card receipts for tips and then my shift manager would give me cash for whatever the amount was. Is that problematic and I didn't know it at the time, or have things changed?

I love to tip, but I hate carrying cash around. But I hate exploitative management most of all, so if it's necessary I will overwrite my hatred of cash.
posted by witchen at 11:34 AM on November 30 [5 favorites]


> So I'm 50 years old... This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

My forties are in the rear view mirror and I've tipped 20%+ since my 20s. Difference might be that I waited tables and know how hard the work is, how little money there is in it, and what a difference a good tip makes on the server.
posted by CheapB at 11:35 AM on November 30 [4 favorites]


I assume servers split tips with BOH, but don't know if that's universally or even usually true. I hope it is, because I enjoy watching a well-managed kitchen, and that work is as hard and skill-demanding as serving.
posted by spacewrench at 11:37 AM on November 30


From the vantage of every non ass-backwards country this thread is insane.

What should I tip if the workers are hidden behind a wall to obscure labor?
What should I tip if there's no waiter, but a busser comes after I leave?
What should I tip if the busser is a Roomba and the cook is a Rube Goldberg machine?
What should I tip when every single one of us from bell hop to neurosurgeon relents to the logic of #CareerFlexibility?
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:38 AM on November 30 [25 favorites]


Tipping sucks for everyone except restaurant-owners (who can pay their staff a pittance) and a certain sort of white guy (because the practice generally promotes a lot of sexist and racist behavior, and turns us all into worse human beings). But on the consumer side, I really wish we could all just add tipping AND tax on the sticker price so as not have to deal with the psychological stress of things costing "extra." It's a minor thing, but it's more pleasant for me to do activities when I'm not worried about tips. I guess the stress part is why I always do 20-25%. The math is easy, and it's seems like it's the percent we've agreed on, as a culture. (At least in 2018.)

I understand why cash is king for tipping, but my credit card and mobile pay are king for anything that costs more than $5. Obviously I still tip -- but it's gonna go on the card. I just think tipping is such a dumb system and we're keeping it to please a bunch of people who probably under-tip anyway. (And especially on the travel thing, come on. I would like to be able to go somewhere without having to plan out an entire day's worth of cash tips in advance. On a couple of trips, I've had to visit to a CVS just to break my emergency $100 bill into something small enough to tip hotel maids and Uber drivers.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:38 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


I always tip in cash, have for years, but as I have gotten older and started to have more retired people in my peer group, and become aware of how little some of them get from social security, I wonder if I am causing the servers to have a more penniless old age? If they declare the tips, would that not increase their wages in terms of their eventual social security benefits? Maybe the righteous thing to do, is to tip them via credit card, but up the percentage when I do, so they will take home the same at the end of the night.
posted by elizilla at 11:40 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


How are things done nowadays in restaurants that makes cash preferable to leaving a tip on your card?

it really just depends on the management at each individual restaurant and whether they are shitty or honest; it's not unheard of for bad managers to refuse to tip out on cards every night, or to skim off that amount, or fuck servers over in any number of other ways that people with petty power like to abuse those with less power than them.

and before we get to the usual chiming in of "but that's illegal and servers should report it!" we can give that a miss bc that's easy to say from the outside and not that easy at all when it's your actual job on the line.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:46 AM on November 30 [13 favorites]


God I hate tipping. I do it, but it's so unfair. I will always prefer to go to an establishment that pays all employees a good wage rather than accepting tips. I used to work at an Indian restaurant located in an area and at a time where Indian food was just not a thing many people ate. I'd go entire shifts with just two tables. My shift meals were damn amazing, so there was that at least. And the owner used to have pity on us and just give us cash on our way out the door on slow nights. I worked at a pizza joint in that same town and the number of people leaving a single dollar on a meal for four people was infuriating. At least the volume there was higher so I could kind of make up for it when that happened.

And for what it's worth, I'm in my mid-40s and it's been 15% minimum my whole life. Like, just assume that for the hour or so you are in a restaurant, you are the sole source of your server's pay and tip accordingly. Because often, you are. The hourly wage for servers in most states is at "I don't even count this as money, it's just kind of loose change" levels.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:46 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I am good about tipping but I wish it would just be standard practice to pay people living wages and mostly eliminate tipping. I've gone to the same drive through coffee place almost every day for the last 15 years, I always pay with CC, but I don't want to deal with adding the tip to the receipt so I tip in cash, which occupies a surprising amount of my brain space because I need to remember to have cash on me and if I don't have ones then I either need to remember to *pay* in cash so I can get some, or take up the cashier's time and effort to give me change, and if I don't have cash I feel bad - I'll make up for it the last time but I wonder if someone who you give a dollar to every day sees you didn't do it today and wonders if they did something wrong, or if they're one of the ones you don't like or something.

I love these people - I once went to an entirely different coffee shop across town and when I drove up someone handed me my usual order and I was like "what?" and she pointed to a guy across the shop who I guess had moved from my usual place to this one, and recognized me in line. (Lucky for them I have literally ordered the same thing every day for 15 years, there's not so much risk there)

(Aside from coffee tipping I literally don't use cash for anything except the occasional place that won't take cards)
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:46 AM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I was talking a few months ago with a man who had worked for SEIU and he mentioned the difficulty of organizing around tipping. For some workers it keeps them on the brink of existential peril. Others (he gave the example of people who work in the city's convention centers) are actually pulling down six figures through tips.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:49 AM on November 30 [4 favorites]


I get that it's nicer to get tips in cash, but that's just... it's just not realistic anymore, I don't think. If I even have cash, which is becoming more and more rare, it's probably going to be $20s at least (because that's what you get from the ATM—although there are ATMs that dispense $50s now!) and I'm unlikely to want to pay the whole tab with cash, and it seems weird to ask the server to break a $20 so you can tip them, and generally I'm not spending $100 at a time on food.

There has to be some better method of getting money directly to servers without passing it through the grubby restaurant-owners' hands, but also not rolling around with a roll of petty cash that looks like I'm a really low-rent drug dealer.

Maybe Venmo or something? I'd be happy to do that, personally. It's completely replaced cash for the only other use case I used to keep it around for, which was settling up group lunch orders with friends.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:50 AM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Keith Talent: So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

Keith, I'm 47--not that far behind you. I grew up in the Louisiana, and even took an etiquette class from a genuine Southern Belle in high school (thanks, mom).* I also waited tables at 18. In short, my bona fides can credibly be described as similar to yours.
  • I was taught 15% is the minimum standard, 20% for great service, and more still for exceptional service. This comes from my parents, the aforementioned Southern Belle, and my fellow servers.
  • Same Source: factor in the value of freebies into the tally.
  • When factoring in "exceptional" service (or even sub-par service), gauge what was in the server's control, and how the server handled that which was outside of their control. Don't ding the server for the kitchen's issues.
  • Tipped jobs, like wait staff, "always"** had lower minimum wage than other jobs. I don't recall the exact ratio, but it was significant (maybe half or two-thirds non-tipped minimum wage). Thing I'm unsure of: if that applies only to explicitly tipped roles, like wait staff, or other professions, like bakeries and coffee shops, where there is a tip jar.
  • It was expected you report your gratuities for tax purposes. At the restaurant I worked at, you either kept logs and reported exact, or assumed a percentage of your sales were tips.***
  • Cash>Credit Cards. While leaving just loose change, etc. on the bill for a meal was a bit of a dig, if they left 15-20% in bills plus whatever change was left from the bill if paying cash, I didn't mind. At the end of one summer, I had $100 in coins.
These days, I'm a 20%-ish tipper, as my world view has become increasingly worker-centric and socialist. I'll go a bit higher for great service and/or if it's a place I'm a regular at.

In any case, Mr. Talent, if you don't like tipping, work to fix wage laws. There should me one minimum wage, and it should be a livable one. Otherwise, use your own kitchen.

*My "thanks, mom" was a bit sarcastic, but really more genuine. Even if I don't, on a day-to-day basis follow every single thing I was taught, or have evolved with the times in the thirty-odd years since i took the class, it was a good baseline to have when encountering a variety of situations.
**I say "always," as that's how it was in 1989, and anyone I've talked to since reports that state of affairs. If you tell me in 1977, 1965, or 1952 it was different, I won't argue the point.
***I'm not sure if that was the official rule, or just a best or accepted practice
posted by MrGuilt at 11:52 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Maybe Venmo or something?

My hair salon does this now - they have a little card by the register listing the account names of the stylists so you can tip them directly through Venmo. It's the best.
posted by lalex at 11:57 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I avoid sit-down restaurants in large part because I hate tipping. I hate spending part of my meal thinking about how much I should tip, because even if 20% is the floor, I end up thinking maybe I should tip more because XYZ, and then I'm just as unhappy as if I were trying to figure out if I should tip 10% or 20%. So I tip 20% no matter how good/bad when I end up at a restaurant and just go to places without table service whenever I can. I also don't get delivery anymore because of this same issue.

I also feel bad that no one thinks about tipping, e.g., the grocery store clerk even though they are similarly hardworking and underappreciated.
posted by skewed at 11:57 AM on November 30 [5 favorites]


Much as I dislike tipping, if it keeps you people using cash maybe it's not so bad. Better 10-20% going to capriciously augment a service worker's wages than 3-5% going to the credit card oligopoly which you can be sure they'll raise to 8% once they've finished eliminating the competition.
posted by sfenders at 12:06 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I was a server, and tips are pure bullshit. They lead to all kinds of sexist/racist/ageist/degrading situations. I hate that there is no real sign of anyone fighting against it, just moralizing and back-patting around ever increasing percentages. I don't know what the solution is now that things have gone so far, but I fervently hope this absurd system (which doesn't exist in earnest anywhere else on the planet in my experience), somehow gets legislated out of existence within my lifetime.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:06 PM on November 30 [28 favorites]


When my sister got married, she took the wedding party to a hair salon where they gave me the worst up-do ever. Then the bill came and it was $100. I was startled at the cost and didn't have $100 on me, so I put it on the credit card. The woman collecting money asked me, "Do you want to add anything to this?" and I thought she meant, like, ridiculous hair products, so I said no. She gave me a look that could kill. I tipped the stylist $20 in cash, and only later did I realize the cashier thought I was going to stiff them. I'm not going to stiff the worker, regardless of how overpriced it was - even though I couldn't stand what they did and had to take my hair down before we even got to the church. But it confirmed my notion that I am just not meant to be a customer of fancy salons.
posted by elizilla at 12:09 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


if you don't like tipping, work to fix wage laws. There should me one minimum wage, and it should be a livable one.

It's already happened in a number of states. Seems like a west coast thing.

Whether it's a livable wage, well, that's a whole other kettle of worms. But it's the same for waiters as it is for cashiers or custodians.
posted by alexei at 12:14 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


I hate that there is no real sign of anyone fighting against it, just moralizing and back-patting around ever increasing percentages. I don't know what the solution is now that things have gone so far, but I fervently hope this absurd system (which doesn't exist in earnest anywhere else on the planet in my experience), somehow gets legislated out of existence within my lifetime.

A few places have made the tipped minimum wage the same as the standard minimum wage, and while, at least here in DC (for the brief time between when the referendum passed and when it was repealed by the DC Council), that was accompanied by everyone saying that no one was going to change their tipping behavior, it would at the very least make it more straightforward to open explicitly non-tipping restaurants where the staff are paid a fair wage that doesn't need to be supplemented by the whims of patrons.

That said, the instant capitulation of the political class in one of the most left-leaning cities in America on the issue doesn't exactly give a lot of hope for future efforts in that direction.
posted by Copronymus at 12:15 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile a Referendum to end D.C. tipped wages and get everyone on the same minimum wage passed, but was then struck down by the city council (isn’t electoral politics great?) followed by another proposal to repeal the repeal blocked by a bartender backed by the large food insurer lobbying group opposing the change,

All of this to avoid paying people even something like a living wage and avoid all his tipped wage harassment.

The food service industry is vile.
posted by The Whelk at 12:18 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


As everyone should know, the standard base tip is X% (Y amount more than you may have been taught Z years ago) before/after tax. In the case of business type B though, you should know, the standard base tip is X + X2% (use X + X3% instead if the service is especially good). But, in [some] cases of business type C, a flat amount of $D per menu item M is acceptable and you don't need to tip more than X%, whichever is less/greater. When food is delivered, a minimum of $D is normal (including/excluding any delivery fee), but X% is nice too.

Also, this guide applies to an additional service industry you haven't even suspected yet and its embarrassing you didn't already know that.
posted by worpet at 12:18 PM on November 30 [32 favorites]


Hello Europe here. It really boggles the mind that you are even talking about this. Labour without pay? No laws to forbid this? 325 million Americans are ok with this?
posted by ouke at 12:20 PM on November 30 [30 favorites]


Many, if not most, people these days don't carry cash, so I think that "cash only" tips just are not going to happen. I usually tip with my credit card because that's what I use to pay the bill. If I have cash, I'll use it, but I'm not going to make a last-minute trip to the ATM.

As far as Chipotle, Panera, etc. are concerned - the tips, at least where I am, go into a jar, presumably to be split among the staff at closing time or shift end, not like a sit-down restaurant where tips go to the server who waited on that table. So, I do tip, but not as much as I would at a sit-down restaurant, because there is less work.

I do tip 20% when I get takeout from my neighborhood pizza/pasta place, even if I'm picking it up because 1) someone has to prepare and package my food and 2) I'm a regular there.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:21 PM on November 30


> alexei:
"It's already happened in a number of states. Seems like a west coast thing."

I'll be honest; looking at that map, I don't really understand requiring a pre-tip full state minimum wage and keeping tips. There are many non-tipped minimum wage jobs. All it says to me is that the minimum wage is insufficient and the law hasn't addressed the consequent precariousness.

Just a partial solution to address employers stealing tips?
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:23 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


> ouke:
"Hello Europe here. It really boggles the mind that you are even talking about this. Labour without pay? No laws to forbid this? 325 million Americans are ok with this?"

Well, at least 1% of them are.
posted by chavenet at 12:24 PM on November 30 [19 favorites]


I waited tables for a few years, and cleaned latrine for a summer, and vastly preferred the latter. I made $2.35/hour in 1986. I believe that's still the going rate in some areas, 32 goddamn years later. This is bullshit with a capital shit.

However, until the revolution, the best reason to tip in cash and not on the CC is that your declared tips are part of your income and get taxed out of your pitiful check. I did and assume that most people do under-declare (the shit out of) the total tips collected.

Everything about this topic makes me angry - the exploitation of the workers, the shittiness of so many customers, the way that these things combine to make a server's life hell.

Finally, a story: in 1985, a family from upstate was at the NY State Fair for some reason, and Dad took 'em out to our (not very) fancy restaurant. I waited on those people hand and foot, they were charmed to death, and never had such a good meal. Dad grandly handed me $60 for a $55 check and said, "Keep the change!" I smiled and exited gracefully. I am sure he never tipped more than a buck in his life up to that point, and I just couldn't crush him.
posted by corvikate at 12:25 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Until my mid 30s I worked unskilled labor and envied my peers who made tips (minimum wage is not lower for tipped employees here). I tipped because I knew for from my friends in the service industry how much it matters.

Now I'm in a field where I can make an upper middle class salary with no formal education, and tipping well eases some of the nagging feeling of deep unfairness. An unfair situation that I benefit from. It's no replacement for activism, but it doesn't hurt.
posted by idiopath at 12:27 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


RI is working on raising the minimum wage to $15. It's currently $10.50. Legislation was proposed last year to get the tipped wage up to 2/3 minimum. I mean, yeah, it should be minimum, and it didn't pass, but people are working on it. (Women, in this case. Women are working on it.)
posted by Ruki at 12:27 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


A comment I often make when discussing the tip with my fellow diners at dinner is that I tip well because these people are probably working harder than I do. And if I have my act together, I tip in cash even if I'm paying by credit card.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:27 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Having finished the article... Hm. I didn't realize some folks think $5 was standard for delivery. I've been going with $4 in cash, more if the weather sucks.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:30 PM on November 30


Instead, you're making solidarity with your neighbors.

This is not what solidarity looks like. Providing beneficience is not solidarity, nor are individual actions like this that go towards individuals. Joining a union, paying your dues, and then threatening the server’s boss or creating a picket is showing solidarity. That worker has no idea whether you are trying to show solidarity or liked their hair color.

Now if you want to tip high and write “from one worker to another”, I take back my critique.
posted by corb at 12:35 PM on November 30 [12 favorites]


How do I tip at that fancy salad place beginning with Ch? We always order online and the expectation is that you just go to the holding shelf and grab your order. I have gone beyond even waving myself through 'hey, just picking up my order' because the staff are too busy to acknowledge it and it doesn't seem to be expected. There's no tip jar, nor is there a prompt in the app we use to order. Maybe Ch___ aren't very nice for doing it this way? I could get in line to pay, I guess. Anyway I'm going to ask them to at least consider installing a nice chic tip jar. It looks like it's either that or make aeroplane dollars and sail them over the counter.
posted by aesop at 12:35 PM on November 30


This is not what solidarity looks like. Providing beneficience is not solidarity, nor are individual actions like this that go towards individuals.

Yeah. Tip as you must, but the ending tipped labor as we know it and fighting for a living wage for all is important.

or

Ultimate etiquette tip: smash capitalism.
posted by mxdv at 12:44 PM on November 30 [7 favorites]


I'd like to see what happened if the owning class was expected to survive on the "gratuity" of others. Put a little more in my paycheck, and let me leave a small pile of cash on the ceo's desk if I think he earned it.
posted by idiopath at 12:45 PM on November 30 [11 favorites]


This is not what solidarity looks like.

This is absolutely what solidarity looks like. Solidarity in all forms, all the time. It's not just waiting for the day when the revolution happens and we need to help man the barricades, you know?
posted by Automocar at 12:51 PM on November 30 [7 favorites]


I'd like to see what happened if the owning class was expected to survive on the "gratuity" of others.

Exactly.

So many of these 'tipping tips' note that tipping is right because workers have to do their jobs and work hard. That's cool. Lots of people grind at their jobs, but you're not about to tip your dentist for giving you a filling.

Really, we have this awkward tipping arrangement because we systematically deny service workers a living wage. Have to make sure that employers can make out like bandits.

Tips are our meager, stupid penance for tolerating a rotten system.
posted by mxdv at 12:52 PM on November 30 [13 favorites]


If you can't afford to tip at least 20%, you can't afford to go out to eat.
posted by notsnot at 12:55 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


Seriously? Saying that giving workers more money isn’t solidarity? If anyone ever left me a 10% tip with a note saying “Don’t worry, comrade, I’m calling my Congressman to insist on a higher tipped wage bill!”, I’d chase them down in the goddamn parking lot.
posted by Etrigan at 12:56 PM on November 30 [12 favorites]


I'm amused by imagining the C-suite waiting to be tipped out by the CEO each pay period.
posted by idiopath at 12:57 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


If you can't afford to pay your workers a living wage without relying on tips, you can't afford to run a restaurant.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:57 PM on November 30 [47 favorites]


...and the "tipped minimum wage" ought to be abolished; until that time it should at *least* be pegged to the regular minimum wage. Two dollars and thirteen cents is from 1991, when the minimum wage was exactly twice that; in other words the tipped minimum wage as become more and more bullshit since that time.
posted by notsnot at 12:57 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


If you can't afford to tip at least 20%, you can't afford to go out to eat.

I mean, in theory I agree, but can any servers weigh in on this? Like, if the restaurant isn't busy, would you prefer a customer tipping 10% to no tip at all because that table remains empty?
posted by Automocar at 12:58 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


And no, this is not a sneaky way to justify a lousy tip when you're eating in a restaurant that's only half full
posted by Automocar at 12:59 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far.

I'm 60, and 20% has been the standard for a lot longer than five years. At least ten. I adjusted just fine. The math is easier.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:59 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Have to make sure that employers can make out like bandits.

To be fair, I don't think most restaurant owners are making out like bandits. Independent restaurants probably aren't, and individual franchise owners probably aren't. If there's anybody who's making bank in the food industry, it's franchisors. And they're making it on the backs of franchisees as well as the workers.
posted by spacewrench at 12:59 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I have seen plenty of elderly relatives bestow generous tips as a reward for servers being exceptionally servile and unfailingly friendly and let me tell you, it was not an act of solidarity
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:59 PM on November 30 [14 favorites]


Really, we have this awkward tipping arrangement because we systematically deny service workers a living wage. Have to make sure that employers can make out like bandits.

On the one hand, I agree in principle, but on the other hand, unless the restaurant you are eating at is part of a corporate conglomerate, running a restaurant is notoriously the path to razor thin margins and potential financial ruin?

I'm not tipping cashiers at Bank of America or getting a quick latte at Lehman Bros. Every restaurant I ever worked for ended up going out of business with the owners either filing for bankruptcy or coming close to it.

The banks lending money to restaurateurs are the ones running the most efficient cash extraction scams.

Like, if the restaurant isn't busy, would you prefer a customer tipping 10% to no tip at all because that table remains empty?

Empty table >>>>>>>>>10%. If anything, an empty restaurant means you should be tipping more, not less. Me doing the same amount of work for half the pay is not "oh well could be worse", it is actively worse.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:00 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


One thing I do when tipping cash, especially if I'm leaving cash on the table and paying at a central register, is write CASH in the tip line, mainly so an unethical cashier can't add a tip on my check, but also so the cashier knows I'm not stiffing the server. My mom was a waitress for a few years when I was growing up - so I was taught to tip well, always.
posted by COD at 1:02 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


When visiting my brother in the US, I was appalled at the way he treated wait staff. His excuse? "I tip them well." They had to acquiesce to his rudeness, his finger clicking, his arrogance and lack of good manners because they wanted his tips. He doesn't act like that in Australia because he can't buy subservience with tips. Wait staff in Australia ignore his finger-clicking and rudeness. He gets served more slowly. It's amazing to watch how his behaviour changes when wait-staff don't need to suck up to the guy in the suit with an expensive credit card.
posted by Thella at 1:06 PM on November 30 [34 favorites]


I'm not tipping cashiers at Bank of America or getting a quick latte at Lehman Bros. Every restaurant I ever worked for ended up going out of business with the owners either filing for bankruptcy or coming close to it.

I can't excuse giving business owners in high-failure, low-margin industries permission to exploit labor more than in safer, richer ones.

If your business can't pay people a living wage, maybe you don't need to have a business.

Tipped workers have higher poverty rates than non-tipped ones, and tipped workers in the food service industry have higher poverty rates than ones in other industries.

(Not to mention that female, black, and Latino servers receive worse tips than male or white ones.)

Like, yeah, I tip appropriately, but the system should be dismantled.

Here's a relevant post about DC's Initiative 77, which was killed by the city council at the behest of the restaurant industry.
posted by mxdv at 1:12 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


"I tip them well."

In my experience: this is rarely actually true.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:14 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I'm not tipping cashiers at Bank of America or getting a quick latte at Lehman Bros.

oh but you will, you will
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:14 PM on November 30


Sure, in a perfect world restaurant industry workers would be paid a living wage, not $3.25 and hour, but the current president should be enough to clue you into the fact that we don't live in that world. Vote for it when it's on the ballot, but in the meantime fucking tip. It's not hard.

Also don't do that thing where you make the credit card total come out to an even dollar amount by making the tip something bonkers like $8.68. Why do people do this? Your CC statement is never a round dollar amount, and even if it were you probably aren't paying it in cash. Meanwhile a server gets a stack of these things and has to add up a bunch of weirdo amounts.
posted by axiom at 1:19 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


Tipping is bullshit as a system, for sure. But in the US it's the one we've got. I am also 50, and while it seems like 15% was fairly standard in the 1980s, it was 20% by the time the mid-1990s had arrived. Not exactly sure what precipitated this change, except that it also seems like restaurant prices haven't grown nearly as much as the cost of living. Look at it this way: Let's imagine getting a $100 meal in 1990. Assuming a 15% tip, the server gets 15 bucks. $15 in 1990 dollars equates to an "unskilled wage value" of about $28 in 2015. That meal would have had to cost $186 in 2015 in order for the server to get the same economic value out of a 15% tip. I don't get the impression that restaurant prices increased by 86% between 1990 and 2015. On the other hand, the cost of the meal only has to go up by about 40% for the server to get the same economic value if the 2015 tip percentage is 20%.
posted by slkinsey at 1:20 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


I have seen plenty of elderly relatives bestow generous tips as a reward for servers being exceptionally servile and unfailingly friendly and let me tell you, it was not an act of solidarity

Yes, this is gross and is part of what stresses me out about tipping; if I have to decide how much the waitstaff earns for their labor, I am *unavoidably* going to make that decision based on factors that I really should not. I want to vomit at the idea that I will give two equally prompt and competent waitstaff different tips because of superficial characteristics that are none of my fucking business, but I would also be huge self-aggrandizing liar if I pretended that weren't true, and I'm willing to bet it's true of the vast majority of people, big tippers included.
posted by skewed at 1:21 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


superficial characteristics that are none of my fucking business

Yeah, I once gave a server a bigger tip because she had a black eye and I felt bad, but didn't feel like I should say anything. I don't think that was wrong, but you could reductio-ad-absurdum that to some dark places.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:28 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Sure, in a perfect world restaurant industry workers would be paid a living wage, not $3.25 and hour, but the current president should be enough to clue you into the fact that we don't live in that world. Vote for it when it's on the ballot, but in the meantime fucking tip. It's not hard.

Who's not tipping?

It's not just a Republican/Democratic issue. DC's Democratically controlled council and Democratic mayor killed Initiative 77. This is a place that voted 9:1 against Trump, as well as 55-45% for phasing out the minimum wage exception for tipped labor.

Maybe America just sucks. Maybe some of us like the power that tipping represents. IDK.

Tipping discussions always seem to play out like this. No one really loves it, but it sure as hell doesn't look like it's gonna go away in most places.
posted by mxdv at 1:32 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Also don't do that thing where you make the credit card total come out to an even dollar amount by making the tip something bonkers like $8.68. Why do people do this?

Two reasons, in my experience: 1, to show how smart they are, and 2, to not have to decide on an amount. I know a number of people who do this, and they tend to be smart people who don't like to make decisions.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:34 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


For customers who hate the practice of tipping and say things like "just raise the menu prices", there is a perfect solution: just tip 20% at sit-down restaurants regardless of service.

Good service? 20%. Bad service? 20%. Service so amazingly good it blew your socks off? 20% (though if you really want to do more nobody's going to mind).

This is just the same as pretending that tipping doesn't exist and the menu prices just got adjusted by 20%.
posted by splitpeasoup at 1:38 PM on November 30 [7 favorites]


Two reasons, in my experience: 1, to show how smart they are, and 2, to not have to decide on an amount. I know a number of people who do this, and they tend to be smart people who don't like to make decisions.

They arent smart enough to realize that tipping in whole dollars is actually easier?

Ive never heard a justification for this behavior articulated well enough to make me respect anyone who did it.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:38 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I do not adjust the dollar amounts like that but I am often tempted. It’s an entirely a compulsive, possibly autism-spectrum-y, behavior where some numbers are upsetting to me and others pleasant. I’d never adjust a tip downward, but sometimes if my whole-dollar tip lands on a number that makes me feel itchy under my skin, I am very tempted to roll it up to a more pleasant number.

I’m not quite compulsive enough to HAVE to do it, but someone out there probably is.
posted by Stacey at 1:44 PM on November 30 [13 favorites]


For customers who hate the practice of tipping and say things like "just raise the menu prices", there is a perfect solution: just tip 20% at sit-down restaurants regardless of service.
That doesn't address the systemic issues, though. Servers don't know that you're tipping the same no matter what, so they still have to behave as if you're going to decide your tip based on your feelings about them. And it doesn't change the fact that servers sometimes give worse service to people who are members of groups that are stereotyped as bad tippers, which includes women and black people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:47 PM on November 30 [11 favorites]


Well, I see this wedge is finely honed. Good work wedge drivers.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:48 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


I swear if I live long enough the kids will all be tipping 100%

I got a coupon in the mail for 1/2 off at the place I get my hair cut. Let me tell you, leaving the entire savings as a tip was WAY more satisfying than saving a few bucks on a haircut and an easy way to leave a nice tip without seeming like a show-off.
posted by straight at 1:55 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


i tip my wedge driver 25% if it's on the Wedgr app but 20% if it's in cash
posted by poffin boffin at 1:56 PM on November 30 [14 favorites]


I always tip 20%.

That said, I live in California, a state without a tipped minimum wage -- the minimum wage for servers is the same as the minimum wage for anyone else. Lots of people have argued in this thread about eliminating the tipped minimum wage as part of eliminating the tip system. But getting rid of the tipped minimum wage here has not produced *any* change as far as I can tell in the tip system.

I'm not going to be rude enough to stop tipping, but I don't understand why I'm supposed to tip servers who are making a real minimum wage.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:01 PM on November 30


> humboldt32:
"Well, I see this wedge is finely honed. Good work wedge drivers."

When the system is so utterly borked, it feels like progress to direct ire at some other impotent whose disagreement looks within reach. Maybe some waiter will get a few extra bucks out of it.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:05 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I'd like to hear more of the inside scoop on what the hell went on here in DC re: that initiative to raise the tipped minimum wage to match the standard minimum wage. I mean, I saw so much argument coming from (or supposedly coming from) regular-joe servers who were like 'no no please do not raise my minimum wage I insist'.

I went out to dinner with some people literally after we had just come from voting on that very issue, and the guy who seated us at the Indian restaurant ended up hanging around the table for a really long and uncomfortable time giving us a big talk about why we shouldn't vote for it. None of us mentioned we'd already voted on it, so he ended up seeming to assume he had convinced us. Why are you doing this, guy?
posted by theatro at 2:06 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I have never understood the system of tipping on a percentage.

I usually tip over 100% at Waffle House. I have left $20 for a $5 meal before. Those people are working hard. People at expensive restaurants don't appear to be working 40 times as hard. I tip 35% to 100% for a cheap haircut. I sometimes tip less than 20% at expensive places. I tip what I think is a reasonable amount, not the same thing for a very work intensive experience vs a place where I there is very little service. These rules seem bizarre and always have a weird preachy aspect to them.

I find the whole thing ridiculous and demeaning to all involved. I don't want to bestow my benevolence on the workers, I don't want them to have to judge what their tip means.
posted by bongo_x at 2:08 PM on November 30 [12 favorites]


Here's a relevant post about DC's Initiative 77, which was killed by the city council at the behest of the restaurant industry.

I actually live in DC and voted for Initiative 77 and then had my vote undemocratically erased by the craven city council, so trust me, I know. Maybe even better than you think! I'm not sure why you think the people advocating for higher tipping are somehow unaware of how broken the system is or how corrupt the restaurant industry is-- a lot of people who advocate for higher tipping became that way precisely because they know from experience exactly how broken the system is. Getting more money into the hands of tipped workers is one of the few things that helps them in the short run, while people work on organizing for the long run.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 2:08 PM on November 30


I am *down* with the working man/woman/non-binary. Just ask them. I wear jeans and Red Wings and have a Bernie! sticker and everything. I can also afford to tip 25-30% and do. But I also need some guidance around this because the ambiguity with tipping has gotten so bad as to leave me downright slightly uneasy when I eat out.

A couple years ago in Seattle we Did The Right Thing and passed a $15 minimum wage and there was all this talk about “you don’t need to and shouldn’t tip now.” Some restaurants posted signs (maybe from annoyed owners) but there was definitely some talk before the law passed about the unfairness of the tipping economy and for a while after the law people stopped tipping, or went back to 5-10% (because most of us Seattleites are terrified of appearing rude and leaving nothing).

Now that time has passed it feels like we are back to 20% minimum. Which is like great for workers, yay, but there’s still this question of etiquette and uncertainty at the end of a meal. I’m adding 20% when I sign, but every time I’m like “Am I still supposed to be doing this? I’m going to look like an ass if I ask and I might be a huge ass if I don’t. Better stay quiet and leave 20% to avoid a socially awkward interaction.”

After 20 years here, I’ve gone totally native.

And don’t get me started when we’re eating out near the city limits. “Now was that a city thing or a county thing?”
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:22 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I'd like to hear more of the inside scoop on what the hell went on here in DC re: that initiative to raise the tipped minimum wage to match the standard minimum wage. I mean, I saw so much argument coming from (or supposedly coming from) regular-joe servers who were like 'no no please do not raise my minimum wage I insist'.

Some of it was astroturfing-- some of the "regular joe servers" ended up being on the payroll of the restaurant associations, but they gave out a lot of interviews without being fact checked, and other actual regular servers and bartenders admitted that those interviews were persuasive without knowing the context.

Some of it was the inherent unscrupulousness of the industry itself-- so many people are paid under the table that restaurant owners threatened employees they would have to lay off all those employees if the law went into effect.

Also, a lot of restaurant owners said raising the base wage would mean getting rid of ALL tips, a threat many workers took seriously.

Some of it is that DC has a lot of food/bev institutions that allow servers and bartenders to make A LOT of money based on tipping, and they were persuaded that the passage of the law would hurt their bottom line. The 1% of servers and bartenders-- the ones who make a couple hundred (or a couple grand) a night from actual 1%-ers-- were a vocal force in saying they didn't want anything to change.

Some of it was that Initiative 77 was actually about more than food service, but that message got lost.

This writeup is helpful.

Also, some servers were threatened by their bosses if they were asked about it by customers or planned to vote Yes, and were instructed to tell customers to vote No. So they might have just been reciting the party line upon penalty of losing their jobs!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 2:22 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


groups that are stereotyped as bad tippers

Stereotypes often get that way for a reason, though. When my wife goes out with her girlfriends, she usually has to make up for a poor tip from the group (she's not even an ex-server herself, but apparently agrees with my tipping reasons enough to do it when I'm not around). And I've been making up bad tips for my mom (and otherwise apologizing for her bad customer behavior) for decades.
posted by spacewrench at 2:24 PM on November 30


Stereotypes often get that way for a reason, though.
This is probably not a phrase that you should ever utter in public.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:25 PM on November 30 [29 favorites]


Tipping is bullshit as a system, for sure. But in the US it's the one we've got. I am also 50, and while it seems like 15% was fairly standard in the 1980s, it was 20% by the time the mid-1990s had arrived.

Growing up my mom and sister worked in a nice kosher deli. IIRC, taxing tips was the Reagan administrations thing, so yeah, adding in another 5% to the baseline happened in the late 80's/early 90's.
posted by mikelieman at 2:26 PM on November 30


I'm not sure why you think the people advocating for higher tipping are somehow unaware of how broken the system is or how corrupt the restaurant industry is

If you want to end the tipping system, that's rad. If you don't, that's bad. Tipping well but working to end the system is probably a net good. I think we largely agree?

My disagreement is with folks who believe that tipping more is the end of the conversation--or worse, that it's a matter of etiquette instead of survival. It's similar to calling food banks _the_ solution to food insecurity rather than a bandaid.
posted by mxdv at 2:28 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why I'm supposed to tip servers who are making a real minimum wage.

Because CA minimum wage is still $11/hour and that still sucks?
posted by queensissy at 2:36 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Australia here. USians, your country is nuts, just pay people properly, it's so much simpler and it's better for society. You look like backward people.

Wouldn't it be possible for restaurants to individually up their wages, note that on their menu and make tipping optional? And couldn't any individual restaurant just do that because they wanted to without anything else in the world changing? Why don't some?
posted by deadwax at 2:43 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


I'm not going to be rude enough to stop tipping, but I don't understand why I'm supposed to tip servers who are making a real minimum wage.

Because they are still just making minimum wage? If you are talking about how this reconciles with efforts in places like CA to substantially raise the minimum wage, I do think we'll have to see how that plays out... when we get to the point that it is successful and widespread.
posted by atoxyl at 2:44 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


There was a trend a couple of years ago of upscale restaurants getting rid of tipping, but most of them ended up abandoning it, because they couldn't keep their best servers. It turns out that servers in upscale restaurants do pretty well in the tipping system, and they prefer to work at restaurants with tips than those that just pay a higher base wage. If there are people who get screwed in the current system, it's servers at chain and downscale restaurants, and those places aren't about to abandon tipping.

It's actually not clear to me that anyone would be better off in a minimum-wage, no tip system. Servers are required to earn at least the minimum wage. If their tips don't get them there, then the restaurant is supposed to make up the difference. They do better in places where it's standard minimum wage plus tips, but if it were standard minimum wage and no tips, most servers would earn less money.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:48 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't it be possible for restaurants to individually up their wages, note that on their menu and make tipping optional? And couldn't any individual restaurant just do that because they wanted to without anything else in the world changing? Why don't some?

Some do! It's not super common, though - I think one problem is that it makes your food look pricey, compared to the "sorta pay what you want, at the expense of the server" approach.
posted by atoxyl at 2:48 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


Thank you, a fiendish thingy, that is all very helpful! The whole situation with the initiative getting overturned was rage-making.
posted by theatro at 2:49 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


See, that's the thing: The wedge doesn't care what it's splitting.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:52 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


See this New Yorker article, The Limitations of American Restaurants’ No-Tipping Experiment. It talks about higher and lower-end restaurants that have tried it.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:53 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I just...

How do you even consume in a world where prices aren't marked? What is the point of a menu or a price tag if the number on it isn't the one you pay?

If going to a restaurant is an implicit, unspoken negotiation, then here's my tipping ethic - I'll pay what I feel like, and if I'm in a bad mood, I'll pay what the number on the menu is and deliberately only order low-margin stuff like entrees while I stuff my pockets with free bread, napkins, and ketchup packets. Maybe I can slip the kid in charge of Table 5A a few bills to conveniently "lose" some orders into the tupperware in my backpack, because those guys don't look like they'll tip that well anyway. If the floor manager catches me, I got a bennie or two for my boy not to question why I come in every week with a rolling suitcase and lots more tupperware at the same time Table 5A sends back 4 steaks that are too well-done every Thursday. By the way, they're both invited to my house parties every Thursday night, which is also conveniently the night Joey down at the liquor store "breaks" a few bottles of Blue Label, damn Joey you gotta be careful putting that stuff up on that shelf.

I mean it's a fuckin' free-for-all anyway so hey, capitalism and solidarity.
posted by saysthis at 2:58 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


Trying to fix tipping also gets into issues like the front-of-house/back-of-house divide - i.e. many cooks would be happy to see restaurant wages go up as a tradeoff for the elimination of tipping, while servers not so much.

(this is sort of a CA perspective though - in places that do have a lower minimum wage for tipped employees it's probably less clearcut)
posted by atoxyl at 2:59 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far.

I'm older than you. I have tipped 20% or more for most of my adult life because as a teenager, I was a waitress and therefore know it is a job that pays nothing and is hard AF.
posted by pangolin party at 3:02 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


The missus and I have both worked in food service* and we know the score. Someone here linked to the Eight Dollar Tip site and I made $8 my minimum tip, soon changing to $10 because why not? We have recently rethought our priorities, and now our minimum is $30, moving to 50% on meals above $60. I've been broke, and I know that the extra money means far more to the server than it does to us.


*If I were King of the World, everybody would be required to work in a shitty customer-facing job while they're young to build charactercompassion.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:08 PM on November 30 [11 favorites]


what %age is appropriate for tipping a cat declawer who needs to make their wage to pay back student loans ? ps their major was relitigating the 2016 primaries, as studied through david foster wallace's infinite jest.
$20, same as in town
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:13 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Found this on Twitter the other day:

@balcom_holly:
I just heard an interview with Drew Carey where he said his favorite part about being rich is the ability to wildly overtip. I've never heard a better definition of "rich" in my life.
@Nicole_Cliffe:
If you are Rich Rich and do not routinely have waitresses chase you out of the restaurant to make sure your massive tip isn’t a mistake, you should be ashamed of yourself!!!
@colbypitt:
I worked at a restaurant Drew Carey would come in a few days in a row every few months. You could sit him at a table in the bathroom and he would thank you. He would get a $15 sandwich and a tea, pay with CC and leave a $100 for the server.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:15 PM on November 30 [29 favorites]


So I'm 50 years old. When I was a young man, the standard was 10% with 15% for extraordinary service. Then we went to a universal 15%. This 20 % thing is in the last five years and is too far. (For a new old like me to adapt to.)

Federal minimum wage for servers was $2.13/hr in 1991, right around when I figure you were transition from 10%-15%.

Guess what the federal minimum wage is now? That's right! $2.13 per hour!!!
posted by thecjm at 3:18 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


What's the current etiquette on tipping with Square? I'm thinking of café type places where there are no servers and you bus yourself. I feel weird about it, mostly because it's not clear to me where that 20% is going.
posted by basalganglia at 3:20 PM on November 30


The Drew Carey thing seems real icky with his libertarianism, so I'll point to this Seinfeld and Sarah Jessica Parker bit.
I did find the conversation two celebrities have about how much to leave as a tip very illuminating. It was a $40 check, and Sarah Jessica Parker suggested a $10 tip (which is more than 20 percent).

Seinfeld, however, scoffed: Tipping rules are different for celebrities. “Everybody is going to ask [our waitress], ‘Oh my God, you waited on Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Jessica Parker, how much did they tip you?’ What do you want her to say? Ten dollars?”

Parker offered that $20 would be satisfactory, although in the end Seinfeld clearly tipped much bigger. “Gross. Garish. Vulgar,” Parker joked, at what was probably a hundred dollar bill. “No, it was lovely, and I am a sh*t.”
posted by supercres at 3:39 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


the third tweet suggests that Carey tips well regardless of service. why do his political beliefs make that icky?
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:42 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Uh because he probably thinks that any minimum wage is oppression and therefore his beneficence somehow takes the place of something that will actually have a positive impact on the 99.9% of servers that will never see him?
posted by supercres at 4:02 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I spent years waiting tables, so I tend to tip food service very well. The Eater guide seems pretty sensible for the US.

This said, my willingness to tip 20-30% is based on the assumption that the server is being paid tip minimum rather than a normal salary. I start to feel really uncomfortable with the idea that I should tip that same amount even when the server is making the same wage as all other workers.

It isn't that I'm not happy to tip, I am. And I know from my own experience that it's not a very pleasant job. However, I know when I'm in the US on vacation, I am constantly interacting with many many people with difficult and unpleasant jobs who do not get 20% from me. And often the best servers are presentable in ways that start to make me even more uncomfortable. You don't get to be front of house in even a medium grade restaurant unless you are conventional in appearance, reasonably well spoken, and physically able. Tipping high in that circumstance seems a capricious and problematic way to try to address the livability of the average wage.

Isn't there a middle ground between a runaway tipping culture and the destruction of capitalism?
posted by frumiousb at 4:08 PM on November 30 [11 favorites]


Isn't there a middle ground between a runaway tipping culture and the destruction of capitalism?
posted by frumiousb at 8:08 AM on December 1 [+] [!]


Ok, so I got snide in my last comment, and I sat down and had a think about why. Here's what I came up with:

The tipping system is broken, stupid, and demeaning for all involved. As a consumer, the ethical thing certainly is to tip more if you can afford it, and to advocate for minimum wage increases and such, but also, if you're spending time wondering how much is appropriate, your brainpower could and should also be spent sabotaging the system. So, what I'm suggesting is look for opportunities to bargain and go off-books. The whole game is rigged, so offer to waiters the opportunity to step outside it and define their own rules. The minimum wage is $2.13! Black market that shit!

Is that theft? Umm...did y'all see the Pentagon accounting post? Gratuities are taxed to fund that.

You know, just...what's the rational response to an irrational system? Go around it.
posted by saysthis at 4:14 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


I am constantly interacting with many many people with difficult and unpleasant jobs who do not get 20% from me.

I mean, that's kind of on you, no? If you really feel that bad about it I doubt that any of these other people would reject a tip.

Tipping high in that circumstance seems a capricious and problematic way to try to address the livability of the average wage.

You're not addressing the livability of the average wage, at least not in a general sense. You're recognizing that being a tipped worker often means not receiving a tip (or an undertip) and at least doing your part in the scheme. If you tip above 20% you can think of that as making up for some asshole who undertipped. You're not fighting a cultural war or whatever, you're just doing the decent thing in the admittedly suboptimal system we use. The perfect is the enemy of the good, here.
posted by axiom at 4:14 PM on November 30


I mean, that's kind of on you, no? If you really feel that bad about it I doubt that any of these other people would reject a tip.

That's a bit of a strange perspective. Do you walk around insisting on tipping-- say-- the cleaners in a grocery store you frequent regularly before you pay and leave? If you do, my hat's off to you, but I don't and I would argue most don't. But arguably those cleaners are paid worse than a server. I tip the street cleaners in Hong Kong, and the cleaners in my building and tend to leave tips for hotel cleaning staff but I'm still tipping the subset of workers who I see and notice and certainly not everyone I would ever interact with in an average day in the US.

You're not addressing the livability of the average wage, at least not in a general sense. You're recognizing that being a tipped worker often means not receiving a tip (or an undertip) and at least doing your part in the scheme.

I don't want to be snarky, but I wonder if you read what I wrote. I'm specifically talking about places where there is no such thing as a tip minimum and a server is paid the same thing as other workers. In those cases, the tips should be genuinely extra, should they not?
posted by frumiousb at 4:37 PM on November 30 [9 favorites]


So, what I'm suggesting is look for opportunities to bargain and go off-books. The whole game is rigged, so offer to waiters the opportunity to step outside it and define their own rules. The minimum wage is $2.13! Black market that shit!

I have had a horrifying vision of the gig economy evolving to the point where freelance waiters are a thing
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:39 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I'm specifically talking about places where there is no such thing as a tip minimum and a server is paid the same thing as other workers. In those cases, the tips should be genuinely extra, should they not?

Sure, if everyone is a perfectly rational actor I suppose that's true. But I tend to think that what you describe is not the actual sentiment of real people, who also have the background of our society's tipping culture influencing their outlook. You can write a note about your reasoning for not tipping being the fact that they already earn minimum wage on your checkout slip, and that may be defensible as a rationale, but they're still going to think you're an asshole for doing it, y'know? If you're fine with that, ok... nobody's gonna starve for want of your tip. They will complain about you behind your back to their coworkers, however. I can 100% guarantee that, some of my close friends are restaurant workers (I'm a former bartender myself) and I am telling you that I've never seen a gathering of 2 or more service industry people not include someone blowing off steam about a customer.
posted by axiom at 4:54 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


I have had a horrifying vision of the gig economy evolving to the point where freelance waiters are a thing
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:39 AM on December 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


I'll pay them $5 extra to turn down the volume, $15 extra to help me decide what I want.

I'll also cook for them if they come to my union meeting.
posted by saysthis at 5:19 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


okay but seriously we should all be more like saysthis.

don't think of the staff as servers. think of them as accomplices. and be a good accomplice yourself.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:21 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I have had a horrifying vision of the gig economy evolving to the point where freelance waiters are a thing

they prefer to be called actors, thespians if you're feeling fancy
posted by poffin boffin at 5:47 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


What about the guy who does your circumcisions? should you leave him a tip?

But... you already have?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:50 PM on November 30 [17 favorites]


In. se no one mentioned this. The government, at least in Utah, assumes that tipped employees make at least 15% in tips, and therefore tax them on 15% of their gross sales. This is no matter what they actually receive. If you tip over 15% cash is good, so tipped workers can catch up with their tax assessment, to even out the low, or no tippers.
posted by Oyéah at 5:52 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Most customers don't understand when they tip through apps the company often is just docking what they'd pay out by that amount.

I don't understand this. Like decreasing their wage by the amount of the tip? Is this really a thing that happens?
posted by jeoc at 6:20 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


If it is a way that management can steal money from the staff, it is a thing that happens.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:46 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I go out to eat alone pretty often. I tip 20% or $5, whichever is more.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:07 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


Sorta but not really; the way it works in most states is that there's the minimum wage, and then there's a lower minimum wage for tipped employees—but, and this is important—if you don't receive enough in tips to make the regular minimum wage, you can't (legally, anyway) be underpaid.

My guess is that the software starts out at the minimum wage and then reduces your effective hourly rate as you build up tips, until you hit the tipped-employee minimum, at which point your hourly takehome begins to increase.

E.g.: In NYC, minimum wage is $13/hr. But tipped employees can be paid as low as $8.65/hr, but only if they make at least $4.35/hr in tips (because $13 minus $8.65 is $4.35). As long as they are making more than $4.35/hr in tips, they're in the black. But if they don't make that, it's supposed to be on the employer to gross up their salary so that they're at the minimum. I don't know how often that actually happens in practice, but it seems like the sort of thing an accounting system would have built into it, and the safest way to do it would be to start everyone out at $13/hr and then decrease their rate as they make tips.

The lower minimum wage for tipped employees is, incidentally, 100% a handout to restaurants. Basically, restaurant owners are being allowed to steal—entirely legally—the first $4.35/hr in tips that each of their tipped employees make. And this, in turn, is why some shitty restaurants like to do "tip pooling", so that they can "share" tips among more staff—including non-customer-interacting kitchen staff and such. Tipped employees are cheaper employees, and if you can make everyone in your restaurant a tipped employee, and spread around enough tips so that each of them is getting the minimum, it's "free money" to the restaurant. And it comes out of money that customers probably think is going solely to their waiter.

I don't think that pressuring customers to tip in cash is going to fix or really even help this, though. Literally every single customer would have to tip in cash for the waiter to be able to avoid the restaurant seeing any tips which they could use to justify garnishing their base pay down to the tipped-employee level—it only takes one customer an hour to cover the difference even in NYC—so this is not something that can just be fixed by people behaving differently while dining out. It needs to be fixed through political pressure and action. Like, you know, most fucked-up things in our country.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:10 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


> jeoc:
"I don't understand this. Like decreasing their wage by the amount of the tip? Is this really a thing that happens?"

It depends on the company. There has been controversy that DoorDash presents a "guaranteed payment" for a delivery. If the guarantee is $5 and you tip $4 on the order through their app, the driver isn't making $9. They make $5 and DoorDash's burden is reduced to $1. The customer is subsidizing DoorDash.

As Kadin2048 writes, this is similar to the situation in restaurants.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:31 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Basically, everything is unethical. Most workers in the country are underpaid. We're about to wage a civil war between the 15% tippers and the 20% tippers. And won't someone please tip the janitors, because who the hell cares about getting skilled knowledge economy immigrants from Trump-approved countries to build the next trendy social media face recognition buttcoin adtech education platform for analyzing the mental health of summa cum laude Ivy League comparative literature graduates hoping to become gig-work dog tutors when there's shit all over the ground?
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:53 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Vincent 'Vinnie' Antonelli: It's not tipping I believe in. It's overtipping.

I overtip. I always have. I used to joke (like Cary Grant) that I had several bartenders to support. And I did. One of them moved away 12 years ago. I recently was invited (and attended) her wedding. It was a treat.

These people are my friends and part of my community. I generally frequent the same establishments, and I tip 50-80%. You know what? I never, never have to wait for a drink or a table. I love and reward good service and I am loyal to chefs and bartenders because I love to eat and drink. This is a simple thing. You get what you pay for, both with money and love.
posted by valkane at 9:03 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Re Initiative 77, I actually know a bunch of people in the service industry here in DC, and all of them, literally every single one, was opposed to 77. It was weird. The most common argument I heard against it was basically mentioned above: It turns out that servers in upscale restaurants do pretty well in the tipping system. Except we're not talking upscale; I don't have that kinda money.

The most articulate argument I heard against it was that it was poorly written and that it needed to be rewritten to better cover the variety of existing rules.

DC does already have a number of rules making it more progressive than most states when it comes to tipped workers and wages, and I really don't understand all the ins and outs here. I'm not gonna tell servers what's good for them, but I also suspect the group of people I know isn't necessarily a representative cross-section of tipped wage workers in the District. And that initiative did pass, and to see it overturned was really frustrating, whatever the excuse.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:51 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


How do you even consume in a world where prices aren't marked?

I have some shocking news for you about our health care system.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:25 PM on November 30 [19 favorites]


One of them moved away 12 years ago. I recently was invited (and attended) her wedding. It was a treat.

These people are my friends and part of my community. I generally frequent the same establishments, and I tip 50-80%. You know what? I never, never have to wait for a drink or a table. I love and reward good service and I am loyal to chefs and bartenders because I love to eat and drink. This is a simple thing. You get what you pay for, both with money and love.


So, I used to regularly frequent a bar. And I think I tipped decently. The bartenders knew me. No complaints about service or speed or anything.

But I found it rather unpleasant, and when I chatted with them, or if they did something for me that was a little extra, I always wondered whether they were doing it out of genuine interest or as an obligation.

I appreciate that we get what we pay for-- this is a capitalist system, after all-- but if I'm tipping to avoid waiting a minute or two for a drink, that's not something I want. I don't actually want to cut in front of someone who's been waiting longer. And paying for friendliness is even worse. Complimentary drinks? Sure, I appreciate them, but then it starts feeling like a casino: keep putting in the coins and sometimes you get a reward. It's just stressful all around.

I tip because it's an obligation. But if I can do it when the person's back is turned, when it might be ambiguous whether it's me or someone next to me, then I do that.
posted by alexei at 1:19 AM on December 1 [6 favorites]


I always tip at least 25% (more if the bill is < $20), and if I have to round, I round up.

Here's a secret that all good tippers know: At any place you visit regularly, you'll get excellent service. And you'll frequently find items that you ordered get left off the check somehow.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:20 PM on December 1 [2 favorites]


Tipping is such a weird way to negotiate service. I'm surprised nobody has figured out a way for people to signal their tipping level in advance. If any of this made sense it would be welcomed by both the waiters (who would know they're not going to be stiffed) and also the casual-but-generous diners who would now receive the benefits they theoretically deserve.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:52 PM on December 1 [1 favorite]


I'm 100% confident that everybody living here in tipping country knows that if you consistently tip especially well, you get better, faster, nicer service as well as comps, so I doubt there's any need to explain that. It's actually part of the problem with tipping culture--those generous tips go disproportionately to waitstaff who are younger, prettier, and whiter. Tipping isn't bad just because people often stiff their waitstaff, it also creates a really unhealthy power dynamic with customers.
posted by skewed at 2:05 PM on December 1 [7 favorites]


How are things done nowadays in restaurants that makes cash preferable to leaving a tip on your card? I remember when I was serving (~10 years ago), I'd just have to tally up my credit card receipts for tips and then my shift manager would give me cash for whatever the amount was. Is that problematic and I didn't know it at the time, or have things changed?

Cash gives more power to the server directly, honestly. I wish these was something to as easily acknowledge the washers , busters, and cooks whose work has less emotional labor but more pain and physical risk.
posted by eustatic at 2:35 PM on December 1


> I swear if I live long enough the kids will all be tipping 100%.

I did tip over 100% once at Applebee's, but I also left my phone number on that receipt.

He was really, really hot. What do you want from me. :P

Generally I tip around 20%-40%, depending on service and how the numbers round off. I have left two pennies before, as my dad taught me, when the waitress was just horrific. My husband makes me do tips when we're out together, mostly because he sucks at math, but also partly because when I met him he never tipped enough and I used to give him crap about it.

I have tried to convey to him and our boyfriend that tipped employees do not, in fact, get paid enough by restaurant management and that diners being generous with tips is factored into what their compensation will be at most places.
posted by tubedogg at 4:21 PM on December 1


I once tipped 100% for a meal because my dining companion passed out drunk at the beginning of the meal. The whole staff was real nice and accommodating about that. He was out cold for 45+ minutes. Funny story, he actually sprung awake on his own and stood up suddenly and the whole restaurant broke out in applause.
posted by mmascolino at 4:30 PM on December 1 [5 favorites]


alexei, I've been thinking about your comment a lot since I read it.

But I found it rather unpleasant, and when I chatted with them, or if they did something for me that was a little extra, I always wondered whether they were doing it out of genuine interest or as an obligation.

I don't think the level of customer service is an obligation. I think that people who are in tip-based jobs know what level of customer service to give that maximizes their tips. It's a symbiotic relationship where you want good service and they want good tips. Neither of you is guilty of anything.

I tip well but I also take an interest in them if they're someone I see on a regular basis. For bartenders (or cashiers - not always tips but I've definitely been given a lot of free stuff...) I ask them if it's their Friday. Do they have plans for the weekend? How sick are you of Christmas music? I feel that they treat me well because I tip them but also because I do my best to treat them well.
posted by bendy at 7:55 PM on December 1


The whole business around tipping is one of the reasons I avoid eating out like the plague. Unfortunately, I have a friend group whose main weekly get-together is a meal at a local diner. (Where, yes, I tip 20%; put the pitchforks down.) Otherwise, I can't remember the last time I've bought anything at a coffee shop, bakery, food truck, or delivery place.

It's absolutely bizarre to me that food-related companies in the U.S. get to fob part of their payroll off on me, and instead of being outraged that they're not paying their own employees people lecture me on how enthusiastic an accomplice in this nonsense I should feel obliged to be.

I'm also surprised that restaurants are okay with letting their employees have such divided loyalties. Like,

And you'll frequently find items that you ordered get left off the check somehow.

You understand you're receiving stolen goods there, right? Your waiter is selling you company property and pocketing the money.

I would say that they've probably factored it in and figured out that the wage theft outweighs the shrinkage, but I think a nontrivial fraction of restaurants are run by complete amateurs whom I shouldn't assume are capable of this analysis. (To be clear, I'm not saying we should feel bad for the man, only that the man is probably not getting as good a deal as he thinks.)
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:29 PM on December 1 [4 favorites]


Didn't think there'd be a time when "better than Drew Carey" included Seinfeld of all people, but here we are in the weirdest timeline.
posted by XtinaS at 4:08 AM on December 2


I generally tip 20% pretax. But I'll be damned if I'll tip more than 10% when I've received rotten service, that is, above and beyond rotten service. I will NOT encourage that - at all - ever, by leaving a "reward" for that. I remember decades ago when the Mad Magazine of my youth used to print up issues with gag stamp sheets. In one issue there was a stamp that said, regarding service at restaurants, "I looked for you all though the meal; Now you look for the tip." Sadly, or steadfastly, I still adhere to that standard when confronted with rotten service.
posted by WinstonJulia at 7:12 AM on December 2 [1 favorite]


and because of this american unwillingness to pay a fair wage and the subsequent indoctrination for the consumer to help out - other countries, where the servers are actually paid a fair living wage, are now beginning to ask for "tips" when the bill is presented because of the "we may be able to get away with this if tourists don't know how things are here and then establish it as the status quo.....". My concrete example is that for the past few years here in Copenhagen the credit/debit card handheld terminals in restaurants are all starting with "tip? yes/no". There is *no* reason for tipping here in DK.
posted by alchemist at 2:05 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody has figured out a way for people to signal their tipping level in advance.

You can do this in a bar if you are paying by the drink, e.g. at a cash bar at a function, or especially at an open bar. At most open bar events where I know I'm not driving home, I'll just start off by giving the bartender a $20 with my first order and go from there. Sometimes that pretty much eliminates the need to stand in line the rest of the evening, and you can get drinks for other people without awkwardly fishing around for bills. I honestly don't know why more people don't do this (except maybe they're not willing to admit that they're going to have $20 in tips worth of free drinks... nosce te ipsum. Also, water counts as a drink if someone has to pour it for you, cheapskates.)

The more common method, though, is just by being a repeat customer. Setting aside tourism, most people probably go to the same set of establishments repeatedly. Even when I've lived in big cities, after some initial experimentation I've always tended to find a half-dozen or so places that I go back to, and I think this is pretty typical behavior. (I did some quick Googling to see if there's any real research on this, and couldn't find any—if somebody has a good study it'd be pretty interesting what the mean/median numbers are.)

You don't have to go back to a place very many times and tip decently to develop a reputation as "that person who tips decently". Tipping culture creates a very obvious incentive for waitstaff to remember who tips well and who doesn't. Some restaurants are crappier than others in giving the staff the ability to reward customers for being not-shitty about tips, with chain restaurants being pretty bad, but there's always little things here and there that a good waiter or bartender can do, even if it's just remembering you.

I'm all for making sure that all jobs pay a living wage and plugging the shitty subminimum-wage-for-tipped-employees handout to restaurant owners, but I don't think this is going to make tipping culture go away. But it might make it more of a thing you do for extra service, either in return for or to encourage it, rather than a way of making sure other people don't starve.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:55 PM on December 3


You know what service makes it incredibly difficult to tip their delivery people? Uber Eats. You really have to dig for the option to give any kind of tip whatsoever. More evidence that Uber are a bunch of scumbags. It's Doordash from here on out for me.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:35 PM on December 3


Both mealeo and grubhub make it very easy to tip.
posted by mikelieman at 1:55 PM on December 3


I don't eat out much anymore (5 of the 6 decent restaurants in the area where I live are now empty storefronts) but I used to eat out with friends a lot back in the day. One thing that would always happen is that someone (not always the same person, but there were almost always someone) would break out a pen and paper and compute exactly what they thought the tip should be per person, down to the penny, and insist we each contribute that amount to the tip pool. Some even had pre-printed cards with tip amounts based on the food cost in their wallets, and would argue with each other about how much to put in.

And then I, the office-employed salaryman, would go and ruin his or her computations by just throwing in a $20, not caring that that was way more than what he/she thought the server should have gotten. On some occasions, he or she would go so far as to start returning money from the pool to the other diners until I asked him/her to stop, that really my contribution to the tip was intended to cover the mess and fuss that a half-dozen or more science fiction fans could incur during a multi-hour dinner. Taking up a large table for most of an evening, multiple orders at multiple times as people wandered in/out, many requests for more water, bread or utensils, that deserved more than just the 12.5% or whatever magical figure they were using just didn't compute with these people, who viewed their numbers as handed down by a vengeful God of Tipping who viewed tipping more or less than the holy number as a sin.

Going back a couple of generations, I also remember my rurual grandfather tipping a dollar on a six-person meal back in the 1980s, and my suburban mother's horrified reaction at such a meager offering.
posted by Blackanvil at 6:25 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


« Older Nora K. Jemisin wants to talk about cities   |   Lucky Beats Good Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.