Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping

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(That’s two exclamation points in one announcement, and there are zero in the text of the entire post below. I want you to think long and hard about that.)

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Tipping is not about generosity. Tipping isn’t about gratitude for good service. And tipping certainly isn’t about doing what’s right and fair for your fellow man.

Tipping is about making sure you don’t mess up what you’re supposed to do.

In my case, the story goes like this:

In college, I was a waiter at a weird restaurant called Fire and Ice. This is the front page of their website:
 
fire and ice
 
That sad guy in the back is one of the waiters. He’s sad because he gets no salary and relies on tips like every other waiter, but people undertip him because at this restaurant they get their own food so they think he’s not a real waiter even though he has to bring them all their drinks and side dishes and give them a full tour of the restaurant and how it works like a clown and then bus the table because they have no busboys at the restaurant and just when the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful middle aged women who are mean to him, that’s what also happens.

Bad life experiences aside, the larger point here is that I came out of my time as a waiter as a really good tipper, like all people who have ever worked in a job that involves tipping. And friends of mine would sometimes notice this and say sentences like, “Tim is a really good tipper.” My ego took a liking to these sentences, and now, ten years later, I’ve positioned myself right in the “good but not ridiculously good tipper” category.

So anytime a tipping situation arises, all I’m thinking is, “What would a good but not ridiculously good tipper do here?”

Sometimes I know exactly what the answer to that question is, and things run smoothly. But other times, I find myself in the dreaded Ambiguous Tipping Situation.[1]This whole post might sound somewhat psychotic to someone not from the US. At some point, the US decided that customers, not employers, should pay the salaries of service employees, and it’s been this bizarre mess of a system ever since. This whole post refers to tipping in the US. [← Try clicking on the 1—very excited about this new capability.]

Ambiguous Tipping Situations can lead to a variety of disasters:

1) The Inadvertent Undertip

Bar 1

 

Bar 3

 

Bar 4
 
2) The Inadvertent Overtip

Delivery 1

Delivery 2

Delivery 3
 
3) The “Shit Am I Supposed To Tip Or Not?” Horror Moment

 

Matzo 1

 

Matzo 2

 

Matzo 3

 

Matzo 4

Matzo 5

 

Matzo 6

 

Matzo 7

 

Matzo 8
 
I don’t want to live this way anymore. So this week, I decided to do something about it.

I put on my Weird But Earnest Guy Doing a Survey About Something hat and hit the streets, interviewing 123 people working in New York jobs that involve tipping. My interviews included waiters, bartenders, baristas, manicurists, barbers, busboys, bellmen, valets, doormen, cab drivers, restaurant delivery people, and even some people who don’t get tipped but I’m not sure why, like acupuncturists and dental hygienists.[2]I’m still not sure why, nor are they. I covered a bunch of different areas in New York, including SoHo, the Lower East Side, Harlem, the Upper East Side, and the Financial District, and tried to capture a wide range, from the fanciest places to the diviest.

About 10% of the interviews ended after seven seconds when people were displeased by my presence and I’d slowly back out of the room, but for the most part, people were happy to talk to me about tipping—how much they received, how often, how it varied among customer demographics, how large a portion of their income tipping made up, etc.—and it turns out that service industry workers have a lot to say on the topic.

I supplemented my findings with the help of a bunch of readers who wrote to us with detailed information about their own experiences, and with a large amount of research, especially from the website of Wm. Michael Lynn, a leading tipping expert.

Okay so I know stuff about this now. Here’s the situation—

Here’s What You Need To Know Before You Tip Someone:
 
The Stats

The most critical step in avoiding Ambiguous Tipping Situations is just knowing what you’re supposed to do. I took all the stats that seem to have a broad consensus on them[3]My specific interviews came from Manhattan, but my research showed that the below info is pretty accurate in most places across the US. and put them into this table:

Tipping Statistics

This table nicely fills in key gaps in my previous knowledge. The basic idea with the low/average/high tipping levels used above is that if you’re in the average range, you’re fine and forgotten. If you’re in the low or high range, you’re noticed and remembered. And service workers have memories like elephants.
 
What Tipping Well (Or Not Well) Means For Your Budget

Since tipping is such a large part of life, it seems like we should stop to actually understand what being a low, average, or high tipper means for our budget.

Looking at it simply, you can do some quick math and figure out one portion of your budget. For example, maybe you think you have 100 restaurant meals a year at about $25/meal—so according to the above chart, being a low, average, and high restaurant tipper all year will cost you $350 (14% tips), $450 (18% tips), and $550 (22% tips) a year. So in this example, it costs a low tipper $100/year to become an average tipper and an average tipper $100/year to become a high tipper.

I got a little more comprehensive, and came up with three rough profiles: Low Spender, Mid Spender, and High Spender. These vary both in the frequency of times they go to a restaurant or bar or hotel, etc., and the fanciness of the services they go to—i.e. High Spender goes to fancy restaurants and does so often, and Low Spender goes out to eat less often and goes to cheaper places.[4]More details here. I did this to cover the extremes and the middle—you’re probably somewhere in between.

Tipping Budgets
Other Factors That Should Influence Specific Tipping Decisions

One thing my interviews made clear is that there’s this whole group of situation-related factors that service industry workers think are super relevant to the amount you should tip—it’s just that customers never got the memo. Most customers have their standard tip amount in mind and don’t really think about it much beyond that. Here’s what service workers want you to stop not considering when you tip them:

Time matters. Sometimes a bartender cracks open eight bottles of beer, which takes 12 seconds, and sometimes she makes eight multi-ingredient cocktails with olives and a whole umbrella scene on each, which takes four minutes, and those two orders should not be tipped equally, even though they might cost the same amount. Along the same lines—

Effort matters. Food delivery guys are undertipped—they’re like a waiter except your table is on the other side of the city. $2 really isn’t a sufficient tip (and one delivery guy I talked to said 20% of people tip nothing)—$3 or $4 is much better. And when it’s storming outside? The delivery guys I talked to all said the tips don’t change in bad weather—that’s not logical. Likewise, while tipping on takeout orders is nice but not necessary, one restaurant manager complained to me about Citibank ordering 35 lunches to go every week, which takes a long time for some waiter to package (with the soup wrapped carefully, coffees rubber-banded, dressings and condiments put in side containers), and never tipping. Effort matters, and that deserves a tip.

Their salary matters. It might not make sense that in the US, we’ve somewhat arbitrarily deemed certain professions as “tipped professions” whereby the customers are in charge of paying the professional’s salary, instead of their employer—but that’s the way it is. And as such, you have some real responsibility when being served by a tipped professional that you don’t have when being served by someone else.

It’s nice to give a coffee barista a tip, but you’re not a horrible person if you don’t because at least they’re getting paid without you. Waiters and bartenders, on the other hand, receive somewhere between $2 and $5/hour (usually closer to $2), and this part of their check usually goes entirely to taxes. Your tips are literally their only income. They also have to “tip out” the other staff, so when you tip a waiter you’re also tipping the busboy, bartender, and others. For these reasons, it’s never acceptable to tip under 15%, even if you hate the service. The way to handle terrible service is to complain to the manager like you would in a non-tipping situation—you’re not allowed to stiff on the tip and make them work for free.

Service matters. It seems silly to put this in because it seems obvious, and yet, Michael Lynn’s research shows that the amount people tip barely correlates at all to the quality of service they receive.[5]Luckily, Lynn’s research also shows that service workers think service quality does correlate to tip amount, so the incentive system still works. So while stiffing isn’t okay, it’s good to have a range in mind, not a set percentage, since good service should be tipped better than bad service.
 
11 Other Interesting Findings and Facts:

1) Different demographics absolutely do tip differently

“Do any demographics of people—age, gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, profession—tend to tip differently than others?” ran away with the “Most Uncomfortable Question to Ask or Answer” award during my interviews, but it yielded some pretty interesting info. I only took seriously a viewpoint I heard at least three times, and in this post, I’m only including those viewpoints that were backed up by my online research and Lynn’s statistical studies.

Here’s the overview, which is a visualization of the results of Lynn’s polling of over 1,000 waiters.[6]Source (p. 16,17) Below, each category of customer is placed at their average rating over the 1,000+ waiter surveys in the study:

Who Tips the Best?
 
Fascinating and awkward. Throughout my interviews, I heard a lot of opinions reinforcing what’s on that chart and almost none that contradicted it. The easiest one for people to focus on was foreigners being bad tippers, because A) it’s not really a demographic so it’s less awkward, and B) people could blame it on them “not knowing,” if they didn’t want to be mean. Others, though, scoffed at that, saying, “Oh they know…” As far as foreigners go, the French have the worst reputation.

People also consistently said that those who act “entitled” or “fussy” or “like the world’s out to get them” are usually terrible tippers.

On the good-tipping side, people who are vacationing or drunk (or both) tip well, as do “regulars” who get to know the staff, and of course, the group of people everyone agrees are the best tippers are those who also work in the service industry (which, frankly, creeped me out by the end—they’re pretty cultish and weird about how they feel about tipping each other well).

2) Here are six proven ways for waiters to increase their tips:

Of course those things work. Humans are simple.

3) A few different people said that when a tip is low, they assume the customer is cheap or hurting for money, but when it’s high, they assume it’s because they did a great job serving the customer or because they’re likable (not that the customer is generous).

4) When a guy tips an attractive female an exorbitant amount, it doesn’t make her think he’s rich or generous or a big shot—it makes her think he’s trying to impress her. Very transparent and ineffective, but she’s pleased to have the extra money.

5) Don’t put a zero in the tip box if it’s a situation when you’re not tipping—it apparently comes off as mean and unnecessary. Just leave it blank and write in the total.

6) According to valets and bellmen, when people hand them a tip, they almost always do the “double fold” where they fold the bills in half twice and hand it to them with the numbers facing down so the amount of the tip is hidden. However, when someone’s giving a really great tip, they usually hand them the bills unfolded and with the amount showing.

7) Some notes about other tipping professions I didn’t mention above:

  • Apparently no one tips flight attendants, and if you do, you’ll probably receive free drinks thereafter.
  • Golf caddies say that golfers tip better when they play better, but they always tip the best when it’s happening in front of clients.
  • Tattoo artists expect $10-20 on a $100 job and $40-60 on a $400 job, but they get nothing from 30% of people.
  • massage therapist expects a $15-20 tip and receives one 95% of the time—about half of a massage therapist’s income is tips.
  • A whitewater rafting guide said he always got the best tips after a raft flipped over or something happened where people felt in danger.
  • Strippers not only usually receive no salary, they often receive a negative salary—i.e. they need to pay the club a fee in order to work there.

8) According to Lynn, tips in the US add up to $40 billion each year. This is more than double NASA’s budget.

9) The US is the most tip-crazed country in the world, but there’s a wide variety of tipping customs in other countries. Tipping expert Magnus Thor Torfason’s research shows that 31 service professions involve tipping in the US. That number is 27 in Canada, 27 in India, 15 in the Netherlands, 5-10 throughout Scandinavia, 4 in Japan, and 0 in Iceland.

10) The amount of tipping in a country tends to correlate with the amount of corruption in the country.[10]Magnus Thor Torfason – Here’s a Tip: Prosocial Gratuities Are Linked to Corruption This is true even after controlling for factors like national GDP and crime levels. The theory is that the same norms that encourage tipping end up leaking over into other forms of exchange. The US doesn’t contribute to this general correlation, with relatively low corruption levels.

11) Celebrities should tip well, because the person they tip will tell everyone they know about it forever, and everyone they tell will tell everyone they know about it forever.

For example: A friend of mine served Arnold Schwarzenegger and his family at a fancy lunch place in Santa Monica called Cafe Montana. Since he was the governor, they comped him the meal. And he left a $5 bill as the tip. I’ve told that story to a lot of people.

  • Celebrities known to tip well (these are the names that come up again and again in articles about this): Johnny Depp, Charles Barkley, David Letterman, Bill Murray, Charlie Sheen, Drew Barrymore
  • Celebrities known to tip badly: Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, LeBron James, Heidi Klum, Bill Cosby, Madonna, Barbara Streisand, Rachael Ray, Sean Penn, Usher

I’ll finish off by saying that digging into this all week has made it pretty clear that it’s bad to be a bad tipper. Don’t be a bad tipper. As far as average vs. high, that’s a personal choice and just a matter of where you want to dedicate whatever charity dollars you have to give to the world. There’s no shame in being an average tipper and saving the generosity for other places, but I’d argue that the $200 or $500 or $1,500/year it takes (depending on your level of spending) to become a high tipper is a pretty good use of charity money. Every dollar means a ton in the world of tips.

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589 comments - jump to comment field »

    • wobster109

      I agree completely. Tipping is all unspoken rules and customs — it’s putting the responsibility on customers without ever telling them how to do it. And it encourages stereotyping. I’ve definitely felt ignored or rushed by staff who assume I’ll be a bad tipper.

      • Anonymous

        Tips stands for to ensure proper service. If ur server made 7$ an hour like the staff at mcdonalds, where is the incentive to be pleasant or clean up after ur kids, or hurry for you or fill ur soda BeFORE u ask or bring u a soup spoon before ur soup arrives or ketchup WITH ur fries before u ask for it? Where is the incentive to go that extra mile? When the tip is unknown the server will put up w grouchy rude guests and over demanding ppl. U go to mcdonalds and get ur own drinks and salt and sauces and napkins for no tip! Why should someone do it for u for less money? Or the same for that matter? If you want service, u have to pay for it. Also, if the 20 tipped employees who make 2$ am hour now suddenly have to be paid 12$ that’s 10$ more an hour… 20 employees by 8 hour shifts (bc yes they have to be paid for the hours of set up and breakdown and to stand around wIting for u to come in..) that’s 1600$ a NIGHT that the owner will have to make up for inYOUR cost of food. Talk about a price increase to the consumer! At least this way, u get better service.

        • Matt the F&B Guy for > 15 years

          This is absolutely correct. Go to Europe and see what kind of service you get. I don’t mean high end places where you pay for good service, I mean regular places; mom and pop greasy spoons. You will get, almost universally mediocre-to-bad service (by American standards). In my experience, non-tipped servers/bartenders/etc. will only ever do the minimum amount they have to do to keep from getting fired. Think about it: unless you are passionately in love with your job, why would you? Serving (without tips) is a dirty, stressful, intense, and thankless job to say nothing of the hostility and violence that sometimes/often happens in the kitchen. Very, very few people are passionate about it enough to do it for free.

          In response to Jason: No one is entitled to a job. Would you let a rubbish doctor deliver your baby because he or she really wants to be a doctor and make good money, regardless of skill? The same applies to serving. If someone is a bad server, they shouldn’t serve and move on to something he or she is good at. Good looks have very little to do with it. Being attractive makes it easier but, when serving, looks will only carry you through the first few minutes of your encounter with a guest. After that , it’s all up to your skill at predicting and satisfying your guest’s needs and desires, and doing it in a pleasant and personable way. It’s a skill that some people are naturally good at it, but it is still just a skill and can be learned and perfected if you’re tough enough to make it that far in a restaurant.

          • McDuff

            Seriously tho: you’re an entitled American ass.

            Minimum wage barely covers living expenses in the west. If you expect service employees to not only do whatever menial labour they’re required to keep their part of the economy going, but also to try to emotionally coddle your need to be liked, you’d sure as hell better be prepared to pay them more than a subsistence wage for that.

            • Kip

              Exactly you’re taking about the service you get from someone who is making less than the cost of living. Of course they don’t give a shit they’re trapped in the depressing position of choosing between food and rent.

          • JN

            Conversely, Japan pretty much has a no-tip culture (I’d love to know what the 4 occupations that get tips there), yet the service there is amazing.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah. Like when I go to the doctor I have to tip to get decent service.

          Oh wait, they’re properly paid so they just give proper service automatically. What a concept.

          People who think waitstaff should be underpaid and live on customer handouts are true misers.

          • bluegiant

            Last time I went to the doc (pediatrician for my 2 year old), I waited nearly 45 minutes past my appointment, he had to check the record to remember our names, and forgot to check his blood pressure. But that didn’t stop him from telling us that his blood pressure seemed fine. Can you really tell me a good experience you’ve had at the Doctor’s office?

            • nope

              My kids’ doctor is amazing. He plays with them, explains what he’s doing, jokes with them, and keeps me informed. If you have to wait that long for your doctor to be not decent, then find a different one. Any idiot with a sphygmanometer can take your bp.

          • Joel

            Ignorant shite. People that work in the service industry for a long time, do it BECAUSE of the tips. You are a moron. I know bartenders that make 6 figures USD. You want to pay them what? $15per/hr? $20pr/hr? That’s not even close to what they can make from tips.

            Your entire premise is flawed. Tips are motivators for good service. Sure you get stiffed on occasion but more often than not you make MORE in a tipped job then other comparably skilled positions.

          • Fug

            Yeah. It has to be a myth because this would be improper use of the word “insure.” The correct word would be “ensure.”

      • Anonymous

        I’m pretty sure you felt ignored or rushed because the place you were in was very busy, and you assume the staff was assuming.

        • Joel

          so what? This isn’t socialism. Who says everyone should get paid the same? If you don’t like your job, go find something different.

          • 109

            I don’t know what part of the world you’re living in, but here, we believe everyone is equal. Everyone (even people you consider ugly) deserve the same pay for the same work.

    • Giorgio

      Totally Agree.
      I think the true reason is psychological: you purchase depending of the price you see in the menu. Then it’s too late to regret that 30% of Tax + Tip.

    • chizza

      Well, because restaurants operate on this thing called a “budget”. If they can get the customer to pay part of their labor costs, of course they will do this.

      Now, if you’d like a restaurant to run a “no tip” policy, the prices if your food will go up accordingly. And I’m sure you’d find a way to complain about that, despite receiving exactly what you are asking for.

      Most restaurants would like their labor cost to be in the 30% range of sales. If you get up to 40%, your restaurant is likely not making a dime (literally). Now, if you paid servers to work for a non-tip wage… you would have to pay them about 3x more than you do today.

      If your labor costs are, for simplicity, $1000 for a day.. and that labor cost today is 30% of sales… then your sales are $3333. On that $3333 you make 20% as profit (this is generous)… that’s $666 (apocalypse, oh noes!) a day. Let’s say that paying your tipped employees full wage bumped up your labor costs to $1400 a day, your labor cost is now 42% of your sales. Your profit just went from $666 (apocalypse, oh noes!) to $266 a day. You are now earning 40% of what you were previously earning in profits.

      Now, lets say you want to increase prices to account for that lost profitability and pass on the price to the consumer. You would need to increase prices by 12% to get that $400 back. Your $20 steak just went up to $22.50. But, as we all know… higher prices means less people buy from you, so you are probably actually losing sales due to price increase.. not gaining that $400. This is a complicated problem, obviously.

      Do I think the model could work if a restaurant was absolutely up front about the fact that food costs more because they don’t accept tips? Absolutely. But it’s not as simple as saying “why can’t you just pay your employees”. most consumers anchor on the menu price and basically forget about tipping until it comes up… they don’t do the math in their head. It’s a psychological phenomenon that has been studied on the topic of pricing strategy. People, stupidly, would be more likely to buy a $20 steak then tip $5 at the end than they would to buy a $23 steak with no tip, because they always forget about the tip.

      • Jim

        Ok, if prices go up 10-12% because these hospitality companies decide to actually PAY their employees a fair wage like every other business does, I will take that 10-12% increase over the 18-20% tip ANY DAY – meaning that all consumers get to save 8% of their hard-earned cash. I don’t see a problem here chizza….

        • Steve

          Doesn’t anybody find it disturbing that we live in a culture where people are somewhat deceived about what they’re spending? The whole concept of pricing strategy is unethical. I’m not saying it’s the fault of the business, but rather all of us.

          • Cameron

            Agreed. I have the same problem with all of the assorted charges and fees for airline tickets, rental cars, and so forth. It is irritating when there’s a price listed on a restaurant menu, brochure, somebody’s website or wherever, and then I end up paying more than the advertised price. Not that I begrudge leaving a few extra dollars for the hardworking waiter, but why can’t the prices just be transparent in the first place? It feels like somebody’s trying to trick us or something.

          • Raphael

            I would take some time to look up the JCPenney Effect. When this company got a new CEO, he wanted to change how business worked. He wanted to stop deceiving the customers and let them know exactly what they were getting. Instead of something being priced at 24.99, it would be priced at 25. Instead of something being perpetually on sale, sales would only come into play when prices were actually being reduced. There was also a no-questions-asked return policy. Naturally this is strictly better for the customer. It also failed monumentally. The largest reason for this failure is that these new changes didn’t feel good for the customer. When you buy a 40 dollar polo shirt, you are pretty satisfied since it wasn’t too expensive, but it wasn’t so cheap that you would doubt it’s quality. However, when you buy a 75 dollar polo shirt for 40 dollars, you think that you got a nice shirt for a sweet price. The same thing applies in the tipping industry. While people could get paid a reasonable hourly wage, that doesn’t feel as good as making 20 dollars an hour because you are a good waiter or waitress. Although it is strictly better to get paid an hourly wage since there is a lot more stability, there would no longer be an incentive to work hard, since as long as you are doing well enough to not get fired, you will be getting the same amount of money as if you went above and beyond.

            • Cassie

              Very Very well said. I remember when JC Penney did that. There was a HUGE uproar in the coupon community because “JC Penney no longer took coupons”. And it did fail big time.
              Jewel Osco recently did away with their Preferred Card. It’s not the ONLY reason I stopped shopping there, but previously, I did like to look and see how much I “saved” by shopping preferred prices, even knowing any old Joe Schmo on the street could get the same price by claiming they forgot their card. It is absolutely about “feel good” psychology.
              I will even go so far as to say that even when we spend more per week than normal on our grocery bill, If I save 40% as opposed to 20-30, I’m elated. Stacking coupons and deals is a fun (and I suppose sometimes dangerous) challenge!

            • tk

              This is 100% baloney. First of all, JCP and restaurants do not operate under the same purchasing economics. Buying a product like a t-shirt and buying an *experience* like eating out have very different values and are evaluated differently by consumers.

              Second, TIPS DO NOT IMPROVE PERFORMANCE. If this were true, the US would be famous throughout the world for it’s utterly fantastic and amazing service, yet reality couldn’t be more different. Service industry workers see tips as a RIGHT because they have to – it’s quite literally their salary. It’s not some performance bonus to be obtained, it’s “Im working, pay me.” They expect tips just like you expect your paycheck and for exactly the same reasons. They’re not crazy, but the environment they have to work in IS crazy.

              The way tips work in the US good service is ACTUALLY penalized. Reality is 99% of people tip, and most of those tip around 10-15% regardless of service quality. In order to maximize income, servers take on as many tables as possible and spend as little time as possible with each table.

              Read this : http://jayporter.com/dispatches/observations-from-a-tipless-restaurant-part-1-overview/ – it’s a series of articles by a restaurant owner who operated two successful restaurants: one where tipping happened as normal and one where tipping was not allowed. He dives into the real social and economic impacts tipping has on the staff of a restaurant. It’s brilliant.

        • Travis

          You’d be missing out on one major aspect of the model: incentive.

          Tips serve as a form of incentive to the avg server. Work harder, get paid more. If a business paid out a fair wage for servers, they’d be hard pressed to incentivize with further compensation, like raises.

          What I’m surprised to hear nobody mention is that this is a purely American job…can’t be outsourced. And furthermore, it’s a very humble American job. Serving. Being in the service of others. I think it’s a beautiful thing, and am absolutely in favor of it’s ability to transition members of our society from one station to the next.

          • Rizzo

            Doesn’t this whole article state that tip and level of service do not have a direct relationship? If poor service = complaint to manager and then good service = complement to the manager then isn’t your tip unchanged? or is it what we thought it was the whole time, good service = high tip and bad service = poor tip. It seems like this article indirectly states good service = whatever you were going to tip for any service and poor service = complaint to manager.

          • Loic

            have big breasts, get payed more, shure, quality of service!
            In europe we tip too, but the waiter gets his salary from his emloyer. Still IF service is deemed very good, we give a supplementary tip. This is incentive what you éractice in the US is modern slavery.

          • LE

            TK didn’t *miss* incentives. He simply did not state it because it does not apply. Now, there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t agree with this based on their personal experience, but what many people forget is this is not based on personal experience, it’s based on fact. And fact is that tips do not provide an incentive large enough to matter economically. To be clear, I recognize that tips do create incentive for people to worker harder if they think that will get them higher tips, but it doesn’t actually matter in an economic model because in the scheme of things tips being an incentive does not make enough of a difference for that to be considered as a pro to tips. The reason for this, as TK said, is that most servers expect tips, or see them as their right– and they should because it’s basically their salary. But because of this tips do not provide this big incentive factor. As Kaylon Honeycutt (above) explained, a service industry with a business model that doesn’t allow tips WILL NOT work at this moment. But that isn’t to say it is impossible. We know it is possible from Europe (regardless of what you think of their service or whatever you’re going to say- it works). Most Americans do not like service from foreign countries’ restaurants because they aren’t used to it, but in those countries the “leave me alone” type of service is what they like– especially in Western Europe and def. France– I’ve traveled to 33 different countries and assessed this in each place so I’m not pulling this out of my ass. Furthermore, if the US were to adopt that European/Asian model, Kaylon is absolutely right, menu prices would go up. You would be paying for your plate of pasta and the service that goes into it. For example, if the pasta was $10, it would then become a few dollars more (depending on the restaurant ie diner vs. fancy restaurant). This would give the servers their hourly salary and the customer would no longer be responsible for providing that salary. Of course, the customer could tip if the server was really great or if they wanted to… maybe people would still tip but the expectation would be gone. Although the server might be making less per hour, it provides them with a steady wage and the customer (we are all customers at some point) will be paying for precisely what they are getting, which is proper business. In terms of the counter argument about “incentives”, if there are no tips and the server does not perform the way they should, then the manager should warn or fire them— just like every other business. For example, let’s say you work at IBM and they say if you meet x number by the year end you will get a $100,000 bonus, that is a huge incentive and will definitely make you work hard, but if you were given that same order without the incentive the company would STILL expect you to meet the number and perform the same. So all workers should be held to this standard of “doing your best because that’s your job”. However, I don’t even need to make that argument because the whole incentive factor doesn’t actually make a difference economically. But for the people who are going to say “you’re wrong! incentives are real!”, let me make this really clear for you: no one is saying they aren’t real, the point is they matter around .001%.
            Hope this made sense and wasn’t too rambled.

          • Anonymous

            If you wanted people to “transition from one station to the next” you’d make sure they got paid properly at each station.

            What you want is an underclass.

            You are also naive. There’s nothing beautiful about slopping crap pancakes on to somebody’s Denny’s plate while their 3 year old pours syrup all over the table and you are stuck with no tip because Mommy and Daddy are cheapskates.

        • Anonymous

          You say you would, but more than likely, you, or at the very least the majority of people saying they would, would not.

          Personally I prefer tipping culture. Jobs that don’t allow tips prevent me as a customer from giving anything for extra effort. I was a good worker when I worked retail, and several times I had to turn down tips. I LIKE being able to give a normal amount of 15-18% as a tip and then giving more if I feel service was excellent, and I see this reflected in some of the restaurants around here giving extra effort. You just don’t see the same thing in some other countries. I will take that over homogeny.

          I have also had many friends in the food service industry, and at least the majority of them like it as well, because, despite what people here are complaining about, even “ugly” people can get better than average tips by doing a great job. What we SHOULD be doing is more like this. Educating people on what to do, and encouraging people to be personally generous. Not forcing generosity. And the term “non charistmatic” is just a euphemism for people that should perhaps work in a different field. I myself have been working Customer service for 8 years now. Being fairly charmismatic helps me. If I were not charistmatic at all, I would lose my job. At my current job I get performance bonuses that come from doing my job better, one aspect of which is my ability to be charismatic over the phone and resolve customer problems quicker. I get extra bonus for a job well done.

          • Anonymous

            See, it’s not all or nothing when it comes to tips. Using Europe as an example, you would still give a tip for good service, you just wouldn’t be obliged to tip a bad or mediocre service. This is not an argument for removing tips altogether, just for removing the tips as the main (or only) source of income for service personnel.

            Oh, and you say “I LIKE being able to give a normal amount of 15-18% as a tip… I will take that over homogeny.” If there is a normal amount that is expected to be given by default, how is that not homogeneous?

        • Joel

          but your service level will go down. Good service is given in expectation of a good tip. It’s payment for services rendered.

      • tk

        “restaurants operate on this thing called a ‘budget’…” – wow aren’t you just snarky. EVERY BUSINESS RUNS ON A BUDGET.

        Look, I get it – restaurants are very difficult to run at a profit. Restaurant owners often say it’s more a labor of love than anything else. But this DOES NOT give a restaurant the right to pay it’s employees poorly or to exploit their servers.

        You say that people are more likely to come in to a restaurant that promises a $20 steak and then be socially coerced into paying a $5 tip than they are to go somewhere with a $23 steak and no tip. This may be true, but really think about what you’re saying here: you’re saying it’s OK to take the server’s salary hostage in order to lure in a customer. And if the customer doesn’t tip? You win, the server loses. This is exploitation, period.

        Restaurant owners aren’t villains, they really aren’t. They are following the law and doing everything they can get away with to lower their costs and increase profits. That’s what good businesses do. The real problem is the laws are flawed, and restaurant owners have to be willing to cease their “legal” exploitation of servers in order to promote a healthier society.

      • Adam

        Thankyou for the detailed response, good analysis.

        But im from the UK and it works here – you leave a smallish tip if you think you had good service. It’s not have tips or have no tips, its more like to tip is for GOOD service, not to build up the wages of the service people. And also I feel a business should be responsible enough to look after its employees, and not force them to live off the gratitude of customers.

        If you Americans are happy with the system, then great! Congrats. But the rest of the world thinks its stupid, and you’ll never convince me personally otherwise. Sorry.

      • Anonymous

        Tips are are far lesser part of waiters salary in many areas of the Pacific Northwest than back east. Restaurants can still make money while paying service employees a salary if the culture accepts that.
        I reckon.

      • Anonymous

        Everything is on a budget. Restaurants are no different. Customary tipping is a strictly cultural thing. Unfortunately, we’ve written our laws in such a way as to encourage the practice. Restaurants could easily afford to raise their prices and pay their waitstaff a living wage. The reason more don’t is because it’s difficult and convoluted to do so, as we’re heavily entrenched as a tip-culture.

        Personally, I’d rather all the prices go up and to take such wanton power over the server’s wages out of the customer’s hands.

      • server

        Exactly. The suggestion of paying servers minimum wage is what really irritates me. Some of the comments from patrons who wish they could avoid paying for service is irritating. Restaurant dining is too over priced? Then take your business elsewhere and cook your own meals.

      • JamesB007156

        Lol where the heck do u come up with this stuff?

        Tell me how restaurants like Pollo Tropical are able to have SERVERS who get paid hourly with a no-tip company policy with food costing the SAME as any other restaurant of their caliber. Their MEALS run an average of $7/8 and they pay their servers $8.00/hr here in GA. So why would u say a no-tip company/policy would have customers paying 3x more???

          • Anonymous

            Consider the Federal standard minimum wage and Florida minimum wage is $7.25 and $7.93 an hour respectively.
            Then consider that the “Federal Minimum Wage Rate for Tipped Workers” is $2.13 an hour, defined as “Earning more than $30 in tips per month.” Also consider Florida’s “Tipped Wage” is $4.91 an hour.

            Sorry, but I think you’re wrong and when you compare the facts, $8 an hour before factoring in tips is pretty damn awesome.

      • Anonymous

        You spent a long time writing this post. So, there’s that. Unfortunately, it’s still kind of silly.

        Look, places *all over the world* manage to pay wait staff a living wage and yet still have vibrant, moderately inexpensive food. You may have heard of France, for instance. All the math you’re doing doesn’t change the fact that restaurants in many countries have roughly similar prices to restaurants in the U.S. For roughly similar meals and with roughly similar inputs. Without forcing customers to pay their labor costs. And yet somehow all these restaurants manage to make their owners money. How can it be?

        But the real kicker–what’s missing in both your post and the original–is the question of hiring and firing power. If I can’t choose who to hire and fire, why should I be stuck with the bill for somebody else’s bad choices?

      • catdeville

        chizza, I call B/S. Several states do not permit a “tip credit” exemption to their minimum wage laws. In these states restaurant owners *must* pay their wait staff a *real* wage, and a tip is what it is supposed to be… a gratuity. Those restaurants stay in business just fine paying their employees a fair wage. The idea that *any* business can’t stay in business if they pay a fair wage is b/s. If *some* businesses can do so and be successful, *all* businesses could do so and be successful. They don’t because the owners are greedy and our exploitation e laws allow them to get away with it in many states. If you want the customer to pay your service employees wages, you don’t do so on a voluntary basis. You do like other countries do… You call it a service charge, dictate the amount and make it mandatory.

      • Anonymous

        Um, I live in California where the minimum wage for servers is the same as for everyone else. If it works here, why not everywhere else?

      • Tina

        @ Chizza, but only because (!) work is only (!) 30% in that budget, ALL places are able to pay higher rents than they would normally be able to pay for their places. This increases the average market rent overall. If ALL places had to pay the minimum wage as a baseline, places of similar size and reputation had the same costs for that, which means that they both could pay less for rent when competing for deals with the owners – this would mean that, yes, now wages would now be 50% of your overhead cost, but rent would now probably only go down from 50% to 35% or so. Also the oveall costs matter much less, when your competitor has the same costs. And if you charge 10 Dollars more per main course, but at the same time all prices in the neighbourhood go upaccordingly, becaue all have to pay their staff more, people would not be tempted to go to a cheaper competitor.

      • Ricardiac

        If you consider that Restaurant Owners are organized and have representation at the state level to influence regulations and servers do not.. it is no wonder that restaurant owners already get to claim the “tipped wage” as part of income and are allowed a salary deduction. The amount varies state by state but the net effect is that servers can work from anywhere from $3+ to $5_ /hr which in most cases covers their withholding and taxes (but not always). When the last minimum wage increase went into effect a few years ago, the deduction amount allowed for restaurant owners in NC increased by more than the amount that the minimum wage increased (yes.. net pay reduction to servers)…

      • Justsome guy

        Restaurants have KILLER margins once their fixed costs get covered.

        On the other hand, most service industry workers in the food and beverage industry (bartenders and servers) make quite good money in tips, but always the first to whine about that One rare customer who did not tip them well.
        The point is, their rant is not heard by the bad tippers.

    • Rick

      Agree 100%. Businesses should pay waiters because they represent the business. This is just their sorry way of being greedy!!!

    • Anonymous

      Maybe you should try running a cafe and find out what it costs to run it, plus having to match the employees, ssi, medicare, etc… every quarter. With the price of propane and meat constantly rising, there seems to be no end for the places to even pay the owners. You also, have to consider all the taxes, workman’s comp, and liability insurance we pay every month just to keep the place open. I actually pay my employees over $5.00 an hour and I live in a town with less than 300 people.

    • Brandon

      It used to be the rule that service employees made the standard minimum wage + tips. What happened over time is that government saw they were making out like bandits and made laws exempting service employees of the standard minimum wage and making a new one for them. Tipping was around before the service employees were paid just enough to cover taxes. Didn’t change a thing.

    • ~E

      Agreed. If a business can’t afford to sell a product or service to pay expenses (which include employment paychecks), they need to change their practices or close up shop. Especially if they are unwilling to pay their employees fairly.

      I know at least with restaurants the employer is ‘supposed to’ pay them actual min wage if the staff doesn’t’ make it in tips ; so they are not ever supposed to go home with server min wage of $2.50 or whatever it is, but rather the normal min wage for everyone, which I’m not sure what it is now since I’ve been out of work for some time. Unfortunately some employers scam their employees, but just saying waitstaff is NOT supposed to suffer legally and if they are being scammed they need to educate themselves on their rights and maybe bring a lawsuit against their employer. Just, research their options and rights you know?

      It’s great many people feel sympathetic towards underpaid/scammed workers (I certainly do), but tipping them out of guilt or sympathy (especially if the service was terrible) is NOT going to help the overall situation. That just allows restaurants and other businesses to get away with taking advantage of them. And just enforces for servers/waitstaff that ‘it is what it is’ and that they need to feel completely dependent on individual customers to make ends meet. As opposed to looking to their employer to pay them and for financial security like the rest of us (in jobs where tipping isn’t the norm/expected.)

      Frankly, that can make some people nasty and have this sense of entitlement attitude, unfairly blaming customers for their financial situation. (I know people in the serving industry, and some of them do have these kinds of attitudes, some don’t or at least not as bad.) I GET being upset if you went the extra mile for someone -tips are ok as long as they are truly earned by really adding to the customer’s dining experience- but if all you did was what you were HIRED to do, take orders , bring out food, bus , etc and didn’t really interact with the customer or anything what makes you think you did something special?

      I want ‘tipped’ workers to be treated fairly. Many are great and DO want to make the customer’s experience enjoyable. They really earn tips if one chooses to do so. But they shouldn’t feel they have to rely on tips to make ends meet, or get this attitude that the customer is the one who is supposed to write their paycheck. That really burns me up . And this all is coming from someone who still DOES tip, but wants the tip to actually MEAN something, that the staff did an exceptional job and I want to show my appreciation.

      The way ‘tipping culture’ is now, yes it’s pretty stupid and unfair to the customers, treats us like we’re the employers who should be paying the workers directly out of pocket as opposes to the restaurant who then pays it’s employee’s paychecks. I’ve heard it can be unfair to employees to , like cooks who don’t get a cut of tips (and who thinks to tip them specifically?) as well as for other reasons.

      Expected tipping, this view that tips are mandatory needs to STOP. Society needs to stand up and say “ENOUGH, we need a new system.” I’m trying to do my part. I look for petitions regarding tipping to sign, and check out articles like this one-though frankly I didn’t even finish it because I found it laughable.(“Even if service sucks, do not go below 15%” If service sucks the server/staff did NOT earn their tip, what law says I need to pay them for NOT adding to my dining experience? Seems like most of the people interviewed have that entitlement attitude).

      But at least I can read articals like this to understand the ‘pro tipping’ side, and post repsonses that hopefully make people think and help to facilitate middle ground, changes that would satisfy everyone. Let employees see that I and others aren’t trying to be jerks or cheap, but we want respect just like they do. And pressuring us to tip no matter the service, acting like it’s law is NOT respectful, and society and individuals need to knock it off. Honestly I think tipped professions should be allowed to receive them, but for the RIGHT reasons on TOP of their normal paycheck. Which should at least be min wage. Though I have been mostly focusing on the food industry with my comments as that is what I am most familiar with. Other professions like hairdressers -and strippers it sounds like- may be a bit different , perhaps some are commission based or considered self employed and just renting space. Those may be situations that need to be addressed differently.

      Really, I think we need to either completely get rid of tipping and be ok paying higher prices for things -which we should have been doing in the first place- or keep tipping as an OPTION and treat it as such. Get away from the obligatory view and treat it like a way to show your appreciation for service. And start making the option to tip mainstream in other professions too so we don’t have these 2 separate tipping and non tipping industry groups.

  1. Dylan

    Oh god… 17-20% is average in the States? I guess I have been doing it wrong every time I go down….. In Canada 15% is an acceptable average tip to my knowledge….

    I have to say though, I have never through about tipping my Tattoo artist… maybe I shouldn’t go to the same one now next time….

    • Alex

      15% is completely acceptable in Canada but then again waiters and waitresses make minimum wage or at least the reduced wage for “liquor servers” (I think in Ontario this is around $9/hour in contrast to the $10.25 general minimum wage, which will be $11 in a few months).
      I was shocked to find out some waiters in the States make $2 an hour. I thought this meant they rely on tips to survive (which this article would also suggest??), but according to Wikipedia the US Labor Standards Act expectation is that “wages plus tips total no less than $7.25 per hour. The employer must pay the difference if total income does not add up to $7.25 per hour.”
      So now I’m wondering does this actually happen..?
      Most restaurants should be more than capable of affording to pay their servers.

      • Nikki

        Yes, this is the “rule” but it is almost never enforced. My employer bases it off of an average for the pay period. So if you worked 70 hours in that pay period and your tips were say, 420 dollars, that would be an average of 6 dollars an hour, putting your total at over the 7.25 mark. So technically, I could make less than that for two weeks, have one good night and I would not be eligible for increased wages.

        • Anonymous

          Everyone else gets paid weekly. As long as your hourly wage works out, who cares if you make it in 1 day or 5?

      • Anonymous

        As someone who has worked in the US service industry for years, I can tell you, we are not compensated if our wages equal less than $7.25 an hour, and nobody polices that legality. In fact, in every restaurant I’ve ever worked in, we were instructed NOT to declare any tips, and leave it up to the payroll manager to “estimate” our individual tipshares, presumably so the establishment could meet legal minimums and circumvent the IRS.

        • None

          This is a wink and a nod arrangement. Servers don’t want tax to be taken out of their tips, and management doesn’t want to foot the bill for any underage, so they agree to declare a nominal amount which is above $7.25, but by as little as possible. On a very slow night, you *can* do poorly, but in even an average restaurant you should be clearing $5/hr in tips unless you’re sitting around.

          (I used to be a bartender)

      • Cassie

        Yeah that’s the “rule”. That does not happen.

        Also good to know for people who have never been in the industry:
        There are busy (holidays!) and slow times (summer) in the restaurant industry. Many things can effect how slow or busy we are on any given night. (Is it graduation season? We might get banquets and parties booked, but regular service is slow because everyone else is attending graduation parties instead of eating out.) Management does their best to staff accordingly.
        However sometimes there are unexpectedly slow nights, and a server will be sent home after 2 hours with no tables. In Illinois the server wage is just under $5/hour. So we will make less than $10 for doing nothing. Hooray you might think! Not quite. We are in the job to make money, and $10 does not pay the bills. Heck, it probably barely pays for the food we end up ordering for dinner, since we didn’t plan anything at home, since we were planning on working. And I think most of us understand that the restaurant has a very slim profit margin. If we were faithfully paid those wages every time we were sent home or didn’t make minimum wage, the restaurant might close, hence ending our job. None of us want the place we earn money to close (this is probably safe to say across the board, even in non-service industries. Everyone hates layoffs.) so we are not going to be pushy about it.

        OH guess what else? Sometimes when you’re at a party at a restaurant, there may be a ‘gratuity’ charge, but that is not all going to the waitstaff. Tip regardless, ask if you need to, and remember you reap what you sow ;)

  2. Neil

    “even if service sucks, never go below 15%”

    this makes no sense to me. i used to work as a waiter and worked hard to earn my tip. these days, i tip 20% for average service and more for good service and above. but if i feel like a waiter sucked and did a shitty job, i’ll make it a point to tip lower, say around 10%. i definitely don’t want to reinforce the idea that he can be a shit waiter and still make the same amount as a guy working hard at his job.

    • az

      i’d like to add that sometimes the “bad service” isn’t the fault of the server. if the restaurant is out of the food you want or if the cook sucks, don’t punish the server. :(

      • L

        Yes, but for me it’s about how the server responds to whatever happens, since he or she is the only person I’m actually interacting with. If I order something and the cook makes it wrong, does the server come to my table to apologize let me know there’ll be a delay while it is remade? Or do I sit there checking my watch wondering what’s making it take so long because the server never acknowledges something went wrong, even when they finally do bring the food?

        There are also times when the bad service IS the server’s fault but I still leave a good/higher than usual tip because they handle it well in the end.

      • Dave

        Same can be said about the server… If the service is terrible but the food is delicious, maybe one should go throw the cook $5 instead of the server?

    • Rich

      Yes. I was going to make the same point. If service flat out sucks, 15% does not send that message to the server. The tip is “for service”. If you didn’t receive any, don’t pay for it. But for decent to good service, do tip 20% and tip more for service that goes beyond.

  3. Clint

    I’m still wondering how much I owe the guy that drives the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport. Do I tip him? How much? Does it matter that I rarely have to have his assistance with bags?

    And how about the guy that details my car? What do I owe him?

    • Geraldine

      Oh gosh this also confuses me, travelling in America from the no tip culture of New Zealand is SO stressful, and just when we have spent all our cash there is this airport shuttle guy! Reading this post and the comments is making me re-live the low level of constant anxiety that the US tipping culture causes whenever I visit.

  4. Frank

    Every time I meet somebody who used to be a waiter, I ask him or her: “when you received a low tip, did you infer (a) something must have been unsatisfactory about the service I gave, let me think how to improve in the future; or (b) that guy was really cheap?” Without exception, the answer is (b)

    So now if I receive bad service, I may or may not leave a low tip, but I always try to leave a written note explaining why the service was bad (or, if *really* bad, I give the note to the manager). The waiter may still not internalize the message, but at least it’s clear.

    • Victoria

      This is kind of hurtful. Being a waitress is like acting, and personally I had to wait tables after getting a phone call about a death in the family. It’s hard to find hand delivering privileged people cooked food and act really happy about it when you’re mulling over funeral details, etc. Just a reminder, waitstaff are people too- heavily influenced by emotions and life events. So be mindful. Most of the time, we know if our service is shitty.

      • Todd

        True professionals leave their personal lives at the door when they arrive at their job. Don’t expect anyone to be fine with crap service because you are having a bad day.

        • J

          Um, whoah, Todd, this woman is referring to a death in the family, not simply a ‘bad day.’

          This is a major life event.

          Personally, I’d rather give shit service and feel than be a stone cold asshole.

          Have some humanity dude.

          Victoria, I’m on your side lady. It’s the emotionally challenged that make life a shit fest for all of us who are human inside.

          Fuck, I’m glad I am an artist–and good.

          These people make my critics look like kittens.

        • Anonymous

          I agree. I have to go to work and do my job properly no matter what is going on in my life. Why do waiters/waitresses feel like they are exempt from the rules? Nobody is entitled to pay if they ate not doing their job.

      • wobster109

        Sorry Victoria, Todd is correct. People understand and will be sympathetic if you need to take a few days off. But just like you shouldn’t work when you have a cold, you also shouldn’t work when you’re emotionally unable to do the job.

        For example, if you were a plumber, you still have to fix people’s plumbing correctly, even if you’re personally upset.

        • Dak

          The plumber example is a terrible comparison. They are already paid by the hour and usually are their own boss unless it’s an apprenticeship.Also, if it’s an emergency then plumbers can charge DOUBLE.
          Waiters are scheduled on weekly shifts and when these things happen they may or may not get a day off if people are not willing to pick up their shift. Also, her case was she got the phone call DURING her shift. Also, we are the middle man. If the food comes out improper, we have to take the heat for it. If it takes too long, we take the heat for it. If it wasn’t the same as last time, we take the heat for it. If there is a hair lodged in the food, we take the heat for it. I remember memorizing the amount of food and portions that are on a plate and having to correct it at the window several times. Check on the customers and seeing if their drink are great,(which can be annoying when you have what I call “camel” customers) sometimes filling up other tables drinks on the way back.
          Plumbers usually don’t have customers breathing down their necks while they work or have to put on a cheery face. Or have to clean up after you. (Some I’ve dealt with left pieces of pipe on the ground and didn’t dispose of it.)
          If you don’t mind not getting refills , me just dropping off the food and taking a second drink order to charge, Not taking care in removing the things you don’t want on your food in the system by modifying your tickets and backing up the other server, not coming in and prepping the station and re-stocking 30 minutes before opening, cleaning up after you and your children, and most of all, not giving you a wonderful outing: Then I’m all for it.

      • Crystal

        Anyone with a job has to deal with their personal life and work, its life, but yes true professionals keep it separate, I’m in sales and when I have a shitty day I still kiss my clients ass because sales is based on relationships and hey I don’t get tipped for it! I work straight commission, my employer doesn’t pay my salary either, so what’s the difference? I’ll tip for good service no problem, they deserve it, we get it, but if the waiter has a bad day provides poor customer service well the tip most likely will reflect the performance. Its not because people are black, white, Jewish, Christian, single women sitting together or whatever other offensive/biasd examples were listed in that bizarre article. Tips should be based on merit.

      • Anonymous

        So, if you make a deposit at the bank and the teller has personal issues she is excused from properly making you deposit because of this? She is only human.

  5. Mike

    “Don’t put a zero or a zero with a dash in the tip box if it’s a situation when you’re not tipping—it comes off as mean and unnecessary. Just leave the line blank.”

    ALWAYS put something on that line.Typically this line will be blank if you’re A) just not tipping, or B) if the gratuity is included in the check. Assuming option A, the server can easily write in a tip, modify the total you wrote down and that’s that. When the final total posts to your bank days later, you probably won’t remember what you actually left them, so they win.

    Assuming option B, where the gratuity is included, servers can do the same thing as above and get what’s referred to as a “double-tip”. Chances are that only a fraction of people would notice a few dollars extra a few days later, and I’ve seen plenty who are willing to take the risk.

    Just my $0.02, great post though as always :)

    • Mike

      Probably should have mentioned I spent 6 years working in a restaurant through college, and I’ve seen this happen plenty of times…

      • Cassie

        Wow, Mike…. That is unbelievable to me. But it is proof that every establishment is run differently. We are super sensitive about tips where I work. You do not mention the tip to customers, you do not talk to them about tip out, you do not tell them when the house is actually taking a percentage of the gratuity (banquets only), you do not complain or ask the customer why they didn’t tip you.

        I have lost count of how many times – by a combination of server ERROR, not because someone was being greedy, and the new credit card laws in IL – there has been a wrong tip entered which is irreversible. IF the customer is still there, we will talk to them immediately, but if they’ve already left, we end up getting a nasty phone call.
        Now, we are told to go super slow when finalizing our receipts, because if we accidentally bump an extra 0, the managers have no way to fix it, and if the customer calls and complains about bank fees, we are responsible for paying them. NOT the restaurant.

    • Tim Ryan

      I guess what the author was saying here is that it’s completely unnecessary because no one would actually do that and it feels hurtful to someone that you would suspect them of that. Also, the kind of person that leaves a zero dollar tip is probably the MOST likely person to be checking their bank account every day and noticing if someone added a buck or two. I don’t have any statistics to back that up but it seems intuitive enough.

      • Mike

        You’re right – The person who isn’t leaving a tip would probably be checking just for spite. They would be likely to check a few days later. I think the more likely scenario is the one where the bill has gratuity.

        Another point with double tipping, which happens OFTEN is when the gratuity is included and the customers don’t notice and add another tip themselves. I’ve seen servers make $200 on ONE TABLE from this. Depending on how the customers were “behaving” would often dictate whether or not the server would let them know of their mistake…

    • Dude

      I agree. I like to leave a cash tip on the table and usually write “Table” on the tip line to ensure no one can fill it in for me.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed. I do the same thing and either leave money on the table or hand the money to my server and I write the word Cash on the tip line on my credit card receipt.

  6. Tim Ryan

    “The US doesn’t contribute to this general correlation, with relatively low corruption levels.”

    I have a problem when I read statements like this, and they get passed around a lot. I don’t think it’s fair to compare corruption in the US with other countries. Even though corruption in government happens in a very different and mostly legal way here, it doesn’t mean that the political process is any less corrupt.

    The simple and pretty universal acknowledgement in this country that, to get a large government contract, a company will have to make a good number of completely legal campaign contributions is a sign of how normalized corruption in our political process has become. Sure, you can’t bribe your way out of a speeding ticket here but… that almost seems harmless by comparison.

    • Brian

      Yup. Just because the “bribe” is regulated doesn’t make it any less corrupt. There’s something almost democratic about bribing your way out of a speeding ticket (it’s transparent and anyone can do it) rather than having to hire lobbyists and lawyers and fill out all kinds of federal forms to buy access to elected officials. Saying the US has “relatively low corruption levels” seems like a semantic pirouette to me.

  7. Brian

    Loved this post. Tipping is a topic I’ve always been self conscious about. I always err on the side of high tipping and/or tipping at all (in times when it’s unclear whether you should tip). The times that really vex me are the ones when it’s unclear whether you should tip. The reason these bother me so much is that I almost feel as if I’m coming off like I think I’m a big shot or something if I shoot a guy a couple bucks who doesn’t expect a tip, and I’ve seen some people even react that way. Like if an employee at Home Depot helps me carry out some lumber to my car, is it appropriate for me to give him five bucks even though he’s clearly getting paid? Seems just as appropriate as tipping a bellhop, if not moreso (lumber is heavy, luggage generally has wheels or the bellhop has a cart). I’ve had some people in these situations be very grateful, and others look at me as if to say “fuck off man, I don’t need your five bucks.” Did you run across anything like this in your research?

    • Znap!

      Oh yeah, totally forgot about that. Tipping or not tipping can make everyone so awkward when you’re not sure if it’s appropriate. Like Steven’s Egypt situation below – giving someone money to thank him or her for doing you a favour can definitely be seen as a big insult.

  8. wobster109

    Is the tipping spectrum chart accurate? The data comes from polling waiters rather than from looking at actual tips. Meaning it could be reflecting the wait staff’s biases or stereotypes. I’d like to see a chart from actual tips and see how well it matches up.

    • Viliphied

      Even if it is accurate, a waiter’s biases could easily alter the tip amount because they act differently when expecting a small/large tip. Maybe it’s not that black people are bad tippers as much as they generally receive worse service.

      • wobster109

        Thanks, that is definitely a factor too. Even taking that into account, the spectrum chart cannot possibly be accurate to reality. A vast majority of customers will be either male or female, so it absolutely can’t be right that they are BOTH above average?

        • Pwuhlmeyer Winery

          Uhm, Wobster. I’m curious: if the vast majority of customers are male and female, what new and undiscovered gender make up the slim minority of other customers? HAR! I’m just busting your chops.

          • wobster109

            People who identify as both or neither, people born hermaphrodites (born with both sets of genitals), people who are in transition and identify differently depending on context. They are all real people with feelings, and it’s unfair and hurtful to treat them as if they didn’t exist.

            • Pwuhlmeyer Winery

              Wobster, your acute sensitivity is inspiring, but at the end of the day, there is no third gender in the human species. It’s male or female. If one is blessed with the genitals of both genders, more power to them, but I am sure that each one identifies more with one sex than the other.

              I once served a hermaphrodite. He identified as a male. Nice guy. Haven’t served a eunuch yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

        • J

          Erm,…no, not a factor.

          The baseline average is determined by percentile, not gender. Based on your argument, if you look at it correctly, both men and women tip above *average percent for any given demographic (gender is used as a demographic here-and, yes, correctly)* This is actually good news. When people are put into a demographic based on gender, we tip higher. yay.

          But really, think of it this way if you need to: if you have a group of twenty people and more than one demographic, it is likely some will fall into more than one. So you do the math.

          All the statistics are saying is that when differentiated by gender men and women tip above the static, i.e., designated percentile used to compare the average amount of money paid via each demographic. Not so hard.

          Look, this guy has done more research on this than we could in our sleep.

          Be grateful this is free, buy a shirt, and tip your delivery man.

          • wobster109

            A person can definitely fall into several buckets, but men and women (just those two buckets) will make up almost 100% of customers. If a subset of groups makes up nearly 100% of everyone, that means men+women is almost identical to the whole population. The average of those two groups should be the same as the population average.

            For example, let’s say you work at a company where everyone is a programmer or a manager. The average company income is, let’s say $100,000. If the average manager income is $120,000 and the average programmer income is $101,000 then you’ve done something wrong. Even if a programmer can also be female, Christian, Hispanic, elderly, lesbian, and on a date.

            I was a math major. :)

      • Server

        No, black people generally are bad tippers.

        From my personal experience, here is a more detailed synopsis of the “black people as tippers” scenario (I am 30/m white):

        1 in 10 will leave nothing
        7 in 10 will tip poorly
        1 in 10 will tip well to above average
        1 in 10 will tip an exorbitant amount of money

        The best tips I have ever gotten in my entire life have been from black males.
        The worst tips I have ever gotten in my entire life have been from black males.

        Just adding to the conversation.

    • your tired server

      It is definitely accurate; chiming in as a server. I make it a point to never treat anyone differently, and there have been times when I felt like a complete asshole because I expected a shit tip (still treating them well) and got a great one.

      Story:
      I live down south and had a super redneck table of two men, asking prices, counting money, just generally everything you don’t want from a table (besides that they were nice). I still gave them great service, but I had mentally resigned myself to a bad tip or no tip. Surprise, they’d budgeted enough to each leave me $5 on their low bills, I think in the $10-12 range. I felt like shit.

      Then it got worse: they had left a bag on the table and I rushed out to catch them (the least I could do to ease my guilty conscience) and they were very grateful and said how nice I was. I swear I almost screamed YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A MONSTER I AM I DON’T DESERVE YOUR KINDNESS.

      In addition, there are stereotypes that I now know having served for a few years that I had no reason to even consider before, like that families are bad tippers. They are. Consistently. I am shocked to get a decent tip and especially so for a great tip. I made a woman’s fussy baby stop crying and still got 12%. I mean, come on! That’s got to be worth 25%!

      A server can 90% of the time read you before you order your drink, but, the way I see it, I’m at work, I’m here to work, and I have nothing to lose by treating you well, and I’m sure I’m not the only one with this mindset! Even if I assume I’m getting a bad tip, why guarantee it? Who knows how many times I’ve convinced a bad tipper to leave more by providing great service.

    • R

      Plus, how in the world does a waiter “know” someone’s religion? Unless they are very obvious about being a specific religion, there’s not actually any way to know. I could spend an entire meal in a restaurant with a very attentive waitstaff and I would leave with them having no clue what my religion is.

    • Evadedave

      I’ve been serving for over 20 years in low end & fine dining situations… The chart is ridiculously accurate. So is the comment about the “fussy” or “entitled”. It’s not 100%, but the nicer, more intelligent guests usually tip better. Those who purposely run you to death, or treat you like you’re garbage usually tip from 0-8% for amazing service.
      Another fun side note the post didn’t bring up… don’t “verbal tip” unless you’re ready to back it up with 20-30% or more. Usually the guests telling you that you were the best server they’ve ever had will leave you your worst percentage of the night. Guests who make jokes about the impending tip are even worse.

  9. Lisa O

    When I have crumby service, I still tip but I leave a note about why was dissatisfied. Yes that’s anal. It’s that I don’t want to be brushed off as a cheapie if I tip low – and why not teach the service to watch water levels, bring napkins with salsa and act like you care to help these people who are in your section ?

  10. Steven Lowell

    Dear Wait But Why,
    I want to throw one at you. I was in Egypt back in 1997 for a business trip. It was 115 degrees, and the hotel bellhop brought my luggage up to my room anyway. Being a waiter at the time, I respected his effort and tipped him 5 USD.

    And he looked at me like he wanted to kill me. I am not kidding. I really thought I would meet my maker in Cairo, Egypt at the Wyndham Hotel.

    I asked someone at the Wyndham, “What did I do to upset him?”. I was told my “5 dollars could feed his family for 2 days”, and he took my large tip as an insult, as if I was mocking him. I was somehow stating I believed he could not take care of his family with his own pay.

    Yikes…I was just showing some love for the poor guy carrying my bags in 115 degree heat!!!

    • Pete Fumberger from Pattaya

      I gather he wasn’t so outraged and about to go jihad on your ignorant goober arse to hand the $5 back.
      I’ve spent 4 years in the States over 37 years (my first visit was Hawaii in 1977 on an Australian warship) and slowly became a tipper, albeit reluctantly because I have always been against very low wages, and the tipping culture came in I believe during Kennedy’s tenure, so it is now very ingrained. I realise the staff at restaurants have no choice with the disgusting wages.
      I love buffets, and a $1 or $2 for a $4.95 CCs buffet is nothing. Same with Home Town Buffet and others, and what about at Vegas, buffets of varying prices, and I’d always eat at the lesser end of the strip, the Stratosphere or Circus Circus (still great buffets, but probably without fancy seafood like up at Wynn’s, where I woud never go). Tipping became the norm for me.
      Over in Pattaya I get massages for 100 baht, and tip 100 baht. The girls are ever so grateful, and that would make up for those who are virgins in Pattaya who don’t tip. I don’t agree with it, but the girs, and boys, are quite vocal at times with these Cheap Charlie’s.
      For those interested 100 baht is $3.10 approximately, for an hour long massage. An oil massage costs 200 baht.
      I don’t tip for takeaway foods, though from what I read I probably should. Or tip the bus driver from Kennedy Airport into the city. I just hated the fact that, no matter how it was written, it was like a demand for a tip.
      As for when a tip is added to the bill, that is a no-no, and I won’t tolerate it.

    • wobster109

      Wow, the bellhop really should have known it was a cultural different rather than an insult. I spent some time in Hungary, where it is considered rude to leave the tip money on the table the way we do in the US. It’s something I didn’t know to think about! When dealing with foreigners, best not to take anything as an insult. Chances are they don’t mean to insult anyone.

  11. Daemous

    Hey! You forgot two important quandaries! They can shift your or their perception of being a good tipper to being a bad tipper or vice-versa.

    If you order a bottle of $40 wine and your meals came to $60, do you tip on $100, or do you tip on $60 plus a few dollars (less than $8) for the wine? (And of course note that wine is usually marked-up 300% in restaurants and taxed.)

    Do you tip on the pre-tax amount or post-tax amount?

    • toes

      I’m a server at a fine dining restaurant. We sell bottles that range from $40-$400. With the amount of time that goes in to learning about/tasting the wine, stocking the wine, polishing the glassware, helping diners decide on a bottle, and presenting the wine (decanting, pouring, etc.), you should tip on the total ($100) amount. The tip you leave goes to the waiter and their support staff.

      Tip on the post-tax amount. Again, the tip doesn’t only go to your waiter, it also goes to the support staff. I tip out at least 35% of my tips every shift (wait assists, hosts, bar, kitchen, food runners). Bottom line: If pinching pennies is a huge concern, don’t dine out.

      • Anonymous

        Bottom line: If you don’t want to be dependent on the whims of the general public, don’t do a job dependent on tips for the majority of the income.

      • Gregory

        Here’s what I don’t get. If you tip 20 percent on a $100 bottle of wine that the waiter has to uncork and carry to the table, but which doesn’t really require anything else, then for about a minute’s work, he gets $20. If you tip 20 percent on a complicated cocktail that costs $5, it might take the staff quite some time to do it, but you only tip $1 even though it took far more work than uncorking the wine bottle and carrying it to a table. That never seemed fair to me. The second person did a lot more work than the first person, but he gets only 5 percent of the tip that the first person got.

        • Dave

          Or a 40$ meal that took a chef 20 minutes, years of school and training and a day of prep? They get paid shit too.

  12. Cazbah

    That thing about foreigners not knowing? It’s really true. I’m British, travel to the US a lot, and have an American husband, and I really didn’t know. I’d asked a lot of American friends for guidance on tipping and all I ever managed to extract was that I should ‘double the tax’ on restaurant checks in New York, and not be too terrified by the higher end of the range of automatic tip suggestions in cabs. But that’s a small part of the story, obviously. In particular, I did not know that waiters and bartenders earn *no* other meaningful income except for tips. In Europe tips are a top-up on (admittedly still low) salaries. I did a lot of waitressing years ago and you simply never counted on tips at all except as a nice minor surprise. Your post should be printed and handed out to everyone going through customs on entry to the US.

    • LC

      This is so true. I am Australian and have traveled to the U.S. on a couple of occasions. I am now cringing, thinking back on all the times I may have inadvertently under-tipped on the advice of US friends and fellow travelers, thinking I was doing right by the people who were serving me.

      I am still surprised by what types of service require tips. Wait staff is an obvious one, but the first time I went to the States, I didn’t realise that I would have to tip the person who gave me a manicure. It’s not something foreigners do to be asshats, it’s just really hard to get your head around if it’s not a cultural norm.

      Great post and good knowledge to be armed with for the next visit Stateside.

  13. Tommy

    The more I learn about tipping, the more I think that it is a broken system. If the wait staff is counting on tips to make a living, then we simply need to make it a mandatory charge on the check and include it in the total. Generous folks can still add on an extra amount. Most restaurants already do it that when it’s a party of 5/6 or more, we just need to do that for all party sizes.

    • TrueDee

      Tommy, to add more confusion to the broken system. States have different laws regarding tipping. It’s actually very confusing. Some laws are enforced (by the establishment) and others aren’t, but it’s always beneficial to the house. A mandatory charge or a service charge becomes (in certain states) property of the establishment and they have full control of it. Some places let you keep all of it but I’ve also had to “tip out” the house on those service charges at 25%. Then, I’d have to tip out other employees, essentially only walking away with 60% of the added “gratuity.” Most service industry people prefer NOT to have added gratuity. People tend to tip more for great service when tip is not added and prevents lazy workers from equal payment for less work. Also, if gratuity is added and payment is made by American Express, they do not allow their card holders to tip extra.

  14. Louise McCullagh

    I’m going to New York (from England) this August (30th birthday woohoo) and I am so confused about tipping. We very rarely tip in this country. In my life time I’ve tipped a few hairdressers and the waiting staff in a VERY posh restaurant, once! but other than that, I’ve never done it.
    I dated a guy from New York, briefly, last year; we went to a local pub and he left some money on the bar once we’d got our drinks; the bar tender and I looked equally perplexed, we just don’t do that here. (Well at least not in my nearly-30 years experience)
    In going to study this post and hope I don’t offend any Americans by under tipping during my visit
    :/

  15. Pingback: Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping | What I'm Reading

  16. Neil

    what really confuses me is tipping at hotels outside the US, especially hotels with a lot of US clientele. i feel like a lot of the employees at these hotels have come to expect tip, especially from US English speaking guests. maybe i’m just being paranoid or self-conscious.

  17. Joachim S

    The Chinese have got it right – no tipping anywhere at any time.

    The American tipping system is a demeaning absurdity.

    /Joachim

  18. newton

    I’m born and raised American and tipping has always been something I really never liked about American culture. Pay your employees and make tipping actually optional, not optional but you’re an asshole if you don’t kind of optional. I get anxious everytime I see a line for tip on my receipt somewhere I’m not sure if I should tip. I’ve been to fast-food burger joints where my receipt will leave a line for tip but you pay at the counter and pick your food up at the counter. Then I’ve been to fast food chains such as Whataburger where you aren’t expected to tip, but the company requires their employees to bring the food to sitting customers anyway.

    It’s confusing and anxiety inducing.

  19. Znap!

    Well put why everything about tipping is faulty and totally random. It’s such a weird system. I would’ve loved to find out how it came into being in the first place, and how some professions were left in the (below?) minimum wage category and others are paid a normal salary. What happened in the States that didn’t happen in Europe, for example?

    I live in the Netherlands and have worked as bartender and waiter for years. I understand tipping, but I too do not tip when the service is abominable. Living in Amsterdam, that is more rule than exception, unfortunately… friendly and professional service is almost non-existent.

  20. Robbert

    The tipping culture in the US. keeps surprising me! Here in the Netherlands, I would consider a 15% tip rather generous, reserved for very good service. What is the philosophy behind paying waiters very little and having them rely on tips, shouldn’t they be paid a decent amount and be given tips for above-average (or even a little better?) service? They receive the same incentive, only from their bosses and customers, not just customers. Works a lot better when for example you would get sick as a waiter right?

    …although the word “culture” does not really combine well with rational philosophies ;)

  21. Dijou

    Being that your survey was from Manhattan, it excludes one very important and very common tipping situation here in Los Angeles: the guy who dries your car off after it’s been run through the car wash. I never know what is appropriate to tip those guys :-(

  22. Jikasnida

    My big, still unanswered, question about restaurant tipping: how to handle a big alcohol bill or expensive bottle of wine? Tipping 18% on a bottle of wine seems crazy but I usually just do 18% of the full bill total. I know some other people tip on the pre-tax amount excluding alcohol.

    Is that kosher or is my server just going to think I’m a huge jerk as 18% pre-tax and booze could be 13% of the total bill?

    • Wait But Why
      Wait But Why

      Jikasnida- I left this out of the post because I could not get a consensus answer on whether to fully tip on the alcohol or not. Some people said yes, definitely. Others said you should tip on 50% of the alcohol. But no one said to exclude alcohol altogether.

    • Anonymous

      Pretty confusing about how to deal with a bottle of wine. My rule is to tip 10% on the wine and normal 20+% on the food. If you’re not in the mood to do the math, then maybe tip on the short side of 20% on the overall bill. But hard to see why you would tip 5 times as much for a waiter to open and pour a $200 bottle as opposed to a $40 bottle.

    • Cassie

      Oh my gosh. PLease don’t refrain from tipping on alcohol. In most places you have to tip out to the bartender – a % of the liquor sales go back to the bartender for pouring them. So if you do not tip on alcohol, you could be royally screwing the server, who might now end up with nothing
      Let’s say, for example, you just want to have a late night snack and enjoy a bottle of wine with a friend. So you order a $10 appetizer and a $90 bottle of wine (Yes this seems a little weird, but I’m doing it for math’s sake). Total bill is $100.
      If you do not tip on alcohol at ALL, and tip WELL (20%), you would leave $2.
      Let’s say for example you tip 3% of your bar sales back to the bartender. That means on a $90 bottle of wine, you are tipping the bartender $2.70. In this scenario, IF YOU DO NOT TIP ON THE ALCOHOL, THE SERVER ENDS UP OWING MONEY!!!!!!
      Even if you tip on 50% of the alcohol plus food, and assuming again you tip 20%, your tip would be around $10 – minus tipout to the bartender, the server ends up making $7.30. That is ridiculously low for a table who sits for 2 hours taking up a table that could’ve generated $20-40 in tips on a table who is eating a full meal and tipping off the whole bill.

    • mstrpete

      You split the difference nicely; tip on the total after tax, especially since we servers are liable for the taxes on our sales. Tipping on the pre-tax total or excluding the wine makes you look like some sort of tool.

    • TrueDee

      Please make note, servers have to tip out bartenders. It’s usually a percentage of total alcohol sales or even net sales. If your total bill is $150 and you bought a $100 bottle of wine and tip 18% pre-tax and booze that amounts to about $7, give or take (depending on tax amounts). That is only about a 5% tip on the total bill. After tipping out the bartender, busboys, and hosts they’ll probably walk away with about $5. And if you’re drinking a bottle of wine, you’re also “holding” the table longer, decreasing turn over rate, causing them to lose out on more tips.

      Can someone please explain the logic behind tipping on 50% of the alcohol? Are you tipping 20% on 50% (so 10% of total alcohol) of the alcohol or leaving a 50% tip on the alcohol? For the former, as a server, you have to tip out the bartender on total sales not 50% of sales. You are also serving 100% of the alcohol not 50%. For the later, that seems to be an extremely generous tip :)

  23. Brian

    Personally, I would rather have the restaurant owner raise the price of my burger 18% and just pay the employee more. I would still have the option to tip on top of that for great service, but it should not be expected (I loved traveling around Europe where servers did not expect tips, and they still did a great job, but I imagine they are paid a good wage). I heard of some higher-end restaurants in New York and California that are trying this.

    I am somewhat of a contrarian, but I think we have become such a tipping culture due to our laws, which incentivizes this behavior.

    a) Minimum wage for service employees is $2.13, and it hasn’t been bumpted up in over 20 years!! What’s up with that? Raise this amount to minimum wage to $7+ and see what naturally happens. Over time, restaurants make it known that tips aren’t expected (as it’s included in the price of the food), and tips would be reduced as people realize they don’t need to supplement the server’s income anymore.
    b) As long as the minimum wage remains low for tipped employees, employers have absolutely NO incentive to pay their employees more than the minimum (especially since Americans have excepted tipping as the norm). Paying employees more would mean the businesses would have to pay more social security and medicare taxes (bad for the business), whereas income through tips puts the responsibility on the employee to pay the tips income taxes (good for the business, but back for the employee).

    • Znap!

      Seriously, minimum wage is $2.13? That sounds ridiculously low. But then again, I understand that many people need multiple full-time jobs just to make barely enough money, so that makes sense then. But still, only two dollars? Third-world country, eh?

        • Znap!

          Isn’t the whole idea of having minimum wage so that it applies to work in general, not just to certain specific professions? At least that’s what minimum wage means over here.

          • Ken

            Technically the wage+tips of a service employee MUST be at least the standard minimum wage, or else their employer is supposed to make up the difference. The $2.13 is the minimum they have to pay no matter how much the employee makes in tips (so employees can’t just work 100% for tips, legally).

            Practically though many employers don’t obey the labor laws and many employees don’t know what they’re entitled to.

      • Evadedave

        A couple years ago, North Carolina raised the server minimum wage to $3.13/hour. The restaurant owners banded together and got it repealed under the banner of, “this will put most restaurants out of business”.

    • Tim Ryan

      Well, there’s just a general lack of standing up for consumer rights in the US in general. Another example: sales tax. In the US, the consumer has to mentally add on sales tax to everything they buy. In Europe, it’s called “Value Added Tax” and it’s part of the price. American businesses lobbied hard to make sure sales tax was added at the register and the reason is because it makes the item look cheaper than it is, leading to more units purchased. (Same reason things cost $1.99 instead of $2.00)

    • Entitlement delusion

      So thinking about this… how did this become all about percentages anyway? this is the part that gets me. so if the server is serving 300-500$ of food/alcohol an hr, do they really feel they are entitled to a untaxed 50-75$/hr wage? or even if they have to tip out 30 % to other support staff, 30-50$/hr? lets get this straight.. uneducated labor is paying better than (more than double) people spending years in post-secondary education amassing student loans? Restaurants should pay their employees a living wage, and tips should be a good service bonus.

      • ~E

        Totally agree with you. Tips are supposed to be a personal ‘thank you’ you give to your server. They should be paid a fair wage to begin with and get over this trying to blame us for their financial problems. We aren’t their boss, we are not ‘screwing them over’, as some like to say, their employer and society is and that’s why the whole industry needs to change. Tipped workers need to stand up for themselves and help spread change.

        Yes some people aren’t being nice or civil if they purposely make their server jump through hoops and then don’t tip to show their appreciation. But there are always going to be people like that and you deal or switch jobs. That’s life. Still not law to tip so people need to stop acting like it is.

  24. Meghan

    I’ve always tipped 20% when getting tattoos in the US. Now I’m living in London. I got some work done a few weeks ago and almost had a heart attack trying to decide whether to tip the chick or not and whether she’d be secretly furious at me if I didn’t

  25. guest

    I’m sorry but how exactly do these surveyed waiters know whether their patrons are Christian? Unless Christians have some kind of easily identifiable feature (they don’t) that category shouldn’t even be on the spectrum.

      • guest

        Soooo the category of “Chrsitians” should really just be “people who came in to eat on a Sunday afternoon”.

        • Anonymous

          You really have no way of judging that now do you. Instead of being butthurt why don’t you just do what you can to change the stereo type when you see(do) it. I have to admit my first reaction to that was also to be defensive, but then I just thought about it and we’ve all seen “those christians” that are pretty identifiable in restaurants

    • Anonymous

      Yes to church crowd, ministers who bring the congregation to brunch every Sunday especially, plus those “have you found jesus” cards that are left in lieu of a tip often.

    • Andy

      Spoken like somebody who doesn’t work in a restaurant. Go ahead and google “Sundays Are The Worst” for a nice long list of easily identifiable behaviors.

    • Former waitress

      When I was waiting tables, in the Bible Belt, I would often be left, Christian pamphlets instead of a tip. I knew those people were Christians.

  26. Suzanne

    We have groceries delivered to our home, and I don’t see anything in your list that would seem to apply to this. We pay a pretty substantial “delivery charge” (that goes to the grocer, not the driver) that is $7 to $10, depending on the size of delivery. But they make it pretty clear (including a “space” on the order sign off sheet) that the drivers also expect to be tipped. I typically give another $7 to the driver, because they do a lot of carrying and managing of items — but I also figure they are already pretty well paid. Did your research give you any clue about this kind of situation? I feel like $7 is overtipping, but also worry that I’ve set a precedent over the past couple of years, and if I start tipping less, the drivers will take it as a slap in the face — when they really do a very good job.

  27. Josh

    As ever an intresting and funny post but the other intresting facts bit sounds like a bad bar joke..”So, a teenage, foreign, coupon using, black, christian walks into a restaurant…”
    I don’t get it, how do waiting staff know if someone is gay or not? if someone is Jewish or not? if someone is Christian or not? what defines a white/black/asian person? a foreigner? e.t.c. All that part of your research does is tell you that people who recieve tips stereotype their customers.

    • R

      The powers of observation.
      Cross necklace? Christian.
      Star of David? Jewish.
      Unfamiliar accent? Foreign.
      People of same sex engaging in courting or couple like behavior? Gay.
      Ethnicity? Fully functioning eyeballs generally clear that up… I’m unclear as to how that’s even a question.
      We are not all exactly the same and stereotyping isn’t a dirty word.

        • Bob

          Terrible reply.

          This assumes that ALL Christians wear cross necklaces.
          That ALL Jews wear a star of David.
          That ALL homosexual couples will be discernibly on a date compared to 2 people of the same gender sharing a meal.

          I’m sure you know, or at least have met people that fit in 1 category but not the other.

          • Vanessa

            Your logic is backwards. Josh asked how a wait staff knows which “category” a customer falls into, and “R” responded with several examples. The survey responses *could be* based on the employees’ REASONABLE assumptions that…
            Those who wear cross necklaces are Christians
            Those who wear a star of David are Jewish
            Two men or women engaged in romantic behavior are gay.
            They are not assuming that ALL Christians wear cross necklaces, but that ALL people wearing cross necklaces are Christians (again, a reasonable assumption). Thus, if an employee keeps noticing that people wearing cross necklaces leave low tips, as opposed to high tips, he/she will assume that Christians are more likely to tip below average… this isn’t rocket science. It’s the process of logical deduction.

          • Anonymous

            No, you’re just a contrarian and on the Internet. I didn’t say it was THE defining characteristic I said it was a quick way to figure it out.

    • mstrpete

      We spend our working lives watching other people dine, and listening to their conversations while doing so. It doesn’t take terribly long to pick up on things. Also, some American Christians have developed the unfortunate habit of leaving a little gospel tract with (or in lieu of) a gratuity.

  28. Fudd

    Man this frustrates me coming from another country (Australia)

    My want to go visit the US gets lowered every time i read about the tipping over there…

    Not only that, waiters over here now expect a tip, even though they get a wage.. All cause the US has tipping..

    URGH!

    • Aussie

      I know right?
      It’s such bullshit that we are becoming more and more Americanised here in Aus.
      Our minimum wage is $16.37 per hour, why the fvck do we have to tip these people in a country where the government helps you so much?

      • Dak

        When i was a waiter, we had to write down our tips and the 2.38 wage we had would all be eaten up. Usually we would get about 4-5 dollars a week in checks. if we were great, 20-30 bucks if it was a bad week. (there were days i was making about 15-20 dollars a day and working close to 40 hours a week. It was terrible. then again, we got closed down because business was failing and the owners didn’t pay their taxes and used it as a write off.)

    • KJK

      Your desire to come to the US is mitigated because of the tip culture? Sounds like you’re not having much fun here, then, if that’s really the main reason. What a shame. Why don’t you save the money on airfare and just stay in Australia if you’re not interested in experiencing a culture different from your own?

      • Anon

        No need to be snide about this. Tipping culture is ridiculously pervasive in US culture that it can be a very stressful situation when you have to be constantly self-conscious about whether to tip or not. Imagine yourself in Japan without knowing a word of Japanese. If you’re constantly trying not to offend people and follow local custom, it seriously cuts into your mindset and the time you have to relax on a vacation. You may still want to visit Japan because it’s an interesting country, but you won’t do it as often because it’s tougher to have a good time.

        • Sean

          Have to agree with Anon. I am an American who has lived in Europe for twenty years now, and it is striking how my emotional reaction to tipping has changed over the years. I went from the early years joking that I loved dining out in Europe — I’d give a great tip by European standards, and feel like I was getting off cheap :-) — to the point where I really resent tipping when I now visit the US.

          On business trips I usually don’t have any of the local currency, paying everything with credit cards. But for the US I have to hunt down dollars and always have the correct denominations handy. Also, I have lost my “feel” for the practice, and there is a certain stress related to worrying you are getting things wrong (by the way, you table is nice but not great for travelers — what about taxis, and the guy who drives the airport shuttle?).

          It’s not going to change, of course, but the exceptions to minimum wage in the US are a lousy deal all round.

      • Katie

        I’ve travelled to the US a lot and every time is backed up by a low level anxiety of getting the tipping wrong. In my home country of NZ I hardly ever carry cash, but in the US you have to scramble to get some bills before even leaving the airport because you start encountering possible tipping scenarios straight away. Also it gives the impression that one is simply bleeding money, I just feel so awkward giving someone money, it is like the most awkward situation ever having to palm a sweaty note into someones hand instead of just being able to say “thanks!” with a smile. And food is just as expensive as in other countries that have no tipping, so it just sucks on all accounts.

  29. Danielle

    To add to ‘guests’ comment, ANY of those categories that imply a waiter knows the personal details of a patron are suspect. Also suspect? The fact that this isn’t based on WATCHING AND ANALYZING TIPS, but just people ‘remembering’ and writing down their responses.

    People can be conditioned to believe a certain thing about particular demographics or groups and regurgitate it as needed. This is opinion based, not fact-based, research at best.

  30. Natalie

    I think it would be worth noting that this ‘man on the street’ survey was done in NY… where prices and tip expectancy are a bit higher. A 15% tip is still perfectly acceptable in most of the US. And, yes, I am a server.

  31. Jessica

    How much are you supposed to tip at a restaurant where you order and pay up front at the cash register, then a server brings your meal to the table afterwards?

    • Anon

      I’m no expert, but I would say none. In all of the cases where I’ve paid first, there seemed to be no expectation to tip.

    • Mingal

      I wanted to know the same thing. Usually I don’t tip, but then went to a gyro place that was family-owned (no other employees). They did make everything to order, and I have a soft spot for mom-and-pop businesses, so I did tip.

  32. Hannes

    I grew up in Western Germany and my parents used to tip other people doing services at our home, like movers and plumbers or gardeners. Situations where we – as tenants of the house – where neither the employers nor necessarily the customers of the service workers. I’m not sure wether this is still customary. I sometimes do it but you’d think that craftspeople are paid a living wage – and if not, I don’t know if it’s my job to fix that or if they’d even like being tipped.
    With movers, I’d say you can’t not tip them when they’re done lugging your household from one third-floor apartment into another one.

  33. David

    What about tipping at the Sonic Drive-In? It’s a fast food place, but someone brings the food to my car window. I always pay with my check card before I ever even see an employee. When the carhop brings the food I feel awkward, but I still don’t tip, because I never carry cash and I just bought a $2 hamburger. Not my fault they don’t have a drive-thru…right?

    This sounds like a Dear Abby letter.

    • Aurora

      Actually they also live off of tips. They get paid below minimum wage and they get compensated by the business for whatever they don’t make in tips. My fiance was a car-hop for a long time there and sometimes he had good days and sometimes he had bad. He worked non-stop almost everyday. Sometimes his checks would come out to be only 200 dollars. We are lucky now he has been promoted to manager because he worked so hard. But before it was hard living off of both of our salaries because I work in a tip industry as well.

  34. Mary

    When I was in Washington DC, I asked all my cab drivers who their favorite politician was and three said Bob Dole, because he always tipped cabs $50.00. A nice legacy.

  35. 3rd tax! Pay your employees, every other company does!

    Tipping should be banned in North America and considered disrespectful like it is in Europe.

    These service companies need to pay their employees a fair wage like every other business does. It is not the consumers’ responsibility to pay for their operating expense.

    Besides, we all pay income tax and goods tax, and tipping is essentially a 3rd tax… how is that fair for you to tell people what to do with their hard-earned cash?

    Also, extremely rude that you posted names of “poor tipping” celebrities as if you can ruin their name.

  36. Fernanda

    Well, if it wasn’t for this article, I think I would spend another number of years without knowing this about tipping in the US! So not everyone in the world automatically “knows” that some professions receive no formal sallary there (it sounds very crazy to me, I’m brazilian and in here tipping is a courtesy and not that often). Of course I never went to the US and I suppose I’d learn it pretty fast once there =d All I know is that now the obsession with tips in american sitcoms makes more sense to me. I really had no idea.

  37. Kathy

    Thought it was interesting that Christians were the only religious group on the Tipping Spectrum. What about Muslims, Hindus, etc.? And how would you even know? I’m sure it’s obvious with some people, but I bet it would be hard to tell what religious affiliation most people have in a service situation.

      • Evadedave

        Many Christians leave little prayer cards as tips. One of which looks like a folded $100 bill, but on the inside explains why Jesus is better than money.
        That nauseating gesture is pretty easy to identify.

        • boso

          You must me kidding me. You MUST be kidding me. Is this really true? Cause I will stop being a christian immediately if it is.

            • boso

              ok, so please realize this pathetic behaviour does not exist in other countries :| Christians in NL might like to leave pamphlets in the train but that’s all there is to it.

    • Andy

      Must have something to do with like 80% of the US population self-identifying as Christian. “Sundays Are The Worst” – read and learn.

  38. Dolly

    It simply isn’t true that if you tip nothing, then the waiter makes no money: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/002.htm

    Federal law states “If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.”

    So if a waiter doesn’t make a single cent in tips, he or she will still get paid at least the federal minimum wage — and I don’t see any reason why a waiter should expect more — after all, I don’t think waiters are so much more skilled or educated than other minimum wage workers.

    • Tommy

      Yeah, but a few people not tipping is not going to make the waiter/waitresses overall tipping compensation to go low enough for this law to apply. So, if you as an individual decides not to tip, the waiter/waitress is not made whole elsewhere and you basically forced the person to work for you for free.

      I hate the system too and think that the appropriate tip amount should just be added to the price of the check, but to leave no tip in the meantime before a legal/cultural change is trying to take advantage of the situation however you justify it.

    • Dak

      Well, we give you refills, take your orders and specific instructions on how you want something, have to put those instructions in and back up other servers, make sure the meal comes out correct, memorize a certain system or method for when we take orders, know exactly what’s on each dish for if any questions arise we can answer them in an efficient and articulate way or fix them at the window, fix any problems that arise during the meal, check up on you periodically, and clean up after you, We also have side work to do that does not include cleaning your table and refills. (most of the time) That include but are not limited too: Rolling Silverware, Making salads, Checking the tables salt, pepper, sugar, and condiments, Refilling any condiments that may come with a meal, cleaning up the server areas, restocking the soda machine, and cleaning any machinery (tea, coffee, soda fountain, hot chocolate machine). Now, I take a lot of pride in my work, and the system is the way it is. Not tipping because you think the restaurant will pick up the cost is a TERRIBLE idea.

    • Matt

      That is completely inaccurate. If you decide not to leave your server a tip in the US, not only do they not make any money, but in most cases you probably cost them money. In most establishments, servers are tipping out to bus boys, bartenders, expos, etc. I worked for years in a fine dining establishment, which I assure you is a skilled profession. If a certain table left no tip, it would literally cost me money to provide their service since I would tip out based on my total sales.

      That being said, I never worried about that when I was working. Could it be frustrating? Sure. But in reality it all balances out in the long run. Some people tip incredibly well, others don’t tip at all. Its not really something you can control. But as a consumer in this culture, you should know, that anything less than a 5% tip will usually mean that your server lost money working on your particular table. Anything less than 10%, and they basically did it for free.

  39. Pingback: Tipping: let’s not | defiant dolly

  40. LMB

    The two states that I have lived in long-term, Alaska and Oregon, don’t have waitress wage– tipped employees earn the same wage as untipped employees so whatever the states minimum wage is (7.55/hr in Alaska and 9.10/hr in Oregon). I usually tip around 15% for average service, 10% for bad service, and 20-25% for good service. I think it is strange that the popular consensus is that a 20%+ tip should be standard in all states, even those where tipped workers are earning the same as untipped workers.

    • Anonymous

      Same in California! We made minimum wage plus tips, so waiters are already starting at $9+/hour.

      I would certainly say that NYC is not a representative population at all. People already pay far too much for goods and services there as compared to most other places in the US. Maybe it’s their state that needs to consider revising the waiter wage laws. That’s what seems unfair to me.

    • Anonymous

      Well I’m assuming that the cost of living there is higher? Out west and up north it usually is. Down in the South (North Carolina is where I live) we are paid 2.13 which is actually the federal wage and it’s because cost of living down here is cheaper.

  41. Harri

    This is all so confusing to me as an Aussie. In our culture, we generally don’t tip. In a restaurant/cafe we might leave a couple of dollars at the end. Many cafes/bars have a glass jar at the cashier for tips, which you can either contribute to or not. Tipping is usually the norm in fancy/expensive restaurants though, especially if they give good service.
    But then again, employees are paid much better here.

    • Mrgreat

      It is not confusing. They make virtually nothing for a wage, don’t go into a service environment if you don’t want to tip.

  42. Amberlynn Lane

    I’ve heard you’re supposed to leave a tip for the service staff at hotels… but how much for that?
    Also, when I went to Italy you tipped to use the toilet. I thought, if ANYONE truly DESERVES a tip it’s the folks who have to clean the bathroom!

    • MA

      As a former housekeeper in a hotel, I completely agree with you! Housekeepers are doing some grunt level work, and if you make any unusual or gross messes, you should most definitely leave a tip!

      The breakdown:
      -If you get violently ill or soak the bed with period blood, leave a good tip (anywhere from 10 dollars and up–if it’s really bad then two or more people may get called upon to help the assigned housekeeper, so that tip might end up getting split 2, 3, or 4 ways). If you have something contagious, leave a note so that the person cleaning can take extra precautions. Also, call the housekeeping service asap if you do something in your bed–if we don’t take fast action, the bed may get ruined. ALSO, no one wants you to sleep in that!

      -If you have small children and they make a huge mess (cracker crumbs in the carpet, sticky fingers on everything, you know the drill), the housekeeper will definitely spend a lot more time on your room than the hotel has alloted for it and will have to double time some of her other rooms, so leave at least 5 dollars or more.

      -If you have a lot of extras in your room (roll away beds, cribs, room service tables), leave two or three bucks for the heavy lifting (rollaways = death! Upright, they can be very unsturdy.)

      -If you have lots of extra requests for your housekeeper, leave a tip appropriate to the type of request

      -If you’re a normal customer who doesn’t have any of these issues, then one or two dollars after a night’s stay is a nice bonus but not expected.

      -Also, a final tip: many hotels have rooms that are serviced by different people each day. If you want your tip to be fairly distributed over a week’s stay, I’d suggest leaving a dollar or two each day if you’re feeling generous. Also, leaving a dollar each day has the added bonus of letting the housekeeper know that you care; in return, she’ll most likely give you better service when cleaning your room.

  43. Nicole - Johannesburg, South Africa

    Hi

    I was astonished when I was in the states that the average tip was 20% of the meal. Here, it is 10%, but we have a bigger overall tipping burden because unemployment and poverty are so high. Jobs have been created that don’t exist elsewhere. These jobs are usually so poorly paid that tipping becomes part of your social responsibility.
    We also tip the following people:
    The petrol pump attendant, no-one in SA fills up their own tank. That’s a job for someone.
    The person who washes your car, no-one in SA washes their own car. That’s a job for someone.
    The person who pushes your trolley to the car and unloads your groceries into the trunk. – no-one in SA does this themselves. That’s a job for someone.
    The person who washes your hair at the hairdresser – this is a separate person to the hairdresser, who you don’t tip.
    The person who guards your car when you park it anywhere who then directs you in and out of the parking bay, even if you are quite capable of doing it yourself. This isn’t a real job, but the tips could feed a family for a day.

    • Katie

      Ah this explains so much, when travelling to poorer countries I am always confused about all these extra people doing jobs. E.g. in Bali where they have men waiting in uniform around the luggage conveyors at the airport who pick up your bags and put them on your trolley. Totally disconcerting and uncomfortable, I thought they were so shady but now I understand that it might actually be some sort of job creation scheme and almost like charity. Seems a waste of resources to create jobs where none are needed instead of supporting proper industry and development though.

  44. AP

    As an Australian who lived in Canada for the last year, I’d like to add my 2c about tipping.

    In short, it’s a terrible system, but one that is so embedded in the North American culture that it will never go away.

    As one of the poorly-tipping foreigners mentioned in the article, I’ve grown up in an environment where tax is included in every marked price and tipping is not the norm. In a typical bar/restaurant here, a beer will cost $7 and a burger $15. That same burger and beer in Canada would be around $5/$12. From personal experience I came to see that while some places allowed me to eat for cheaper after tax and tip, in the long run I am spending less for the equivalent now that I’m back in Australia – a place fearfully labelled as really expensive. This is a surface level assumption, but after a few weeks living here the folly of that belief will become apparent.

    Wages for wait staff here go upwards from $20 to $30 an hour, with more for public holidays and weekends. The work is desirable as staff are genuinely looked after by management and there are no stressful “didn’t get enough tip” moments. Service remains VERY genuine. When in North America, I noticed an obvious insincerity and sucking up behavior that was thanks to servers desperately fishing for tips. I initially found it laughable when that kind of attitude was lauded as great service (“making me feel welcome”), but for some with no means of comparison I can now understand it. Order food in Japan and Scotland and you’ll begin to realise.

    And still, restaurants continue to make a TON of profit. This is because the real income source is ALCOHOL. Restauranteurs who are unable to understand this are doomed to fail, and patrons who fail to understand are doomed to a booze fuelled bankruptcy. Markups are exorbitant (especially on cocktails), and when you sell it skillfully the takings are incredible.

    So the bottom line is that restaurants that bleat about their business being a costly labour of love are clutching at straws. It’s their only defense for having to come in line with just laws and regulations.

    When I found myself in a difficult financial situation in Canada (minimum wage and living from paycheck to paycheck), I began to find eating out a huge stress, so stopped going. People who say that those who can’t afford to tip shouldn’t be eating out are being poisonously elitist. I knew that these waiters were on wages much higher than mine, and it made me resent them. Back home I was a professional, but in a foreign country I was not so easily employable as my temporary residency status was questioned.

    I had a range of dead-end minimum wage NON-TIPPING jobs but then one involved a large service component!

    A mall kiosk that sold artistic lamps made of recycled plastic. The great thing about this product is we would construct it for the customers using the plastic pieces. Any pattern, brightness, colour combination etc could be created – from a pure white orb to a rainbow diamond.

    Many customers were indecisive in choosing their lamp design – asking for advice and recommendations. Just as a sommelier would with wine, I began acting as an interior designer, attempting to match their room layout with the most suitable kind of lamp. Once a decision was made, it would take 5-10 minutes for me to personally construct the lamp by hand. Many customers would order more than one, and I was forced to juggle many people simultaneously.

    After two hectic days of this I noticed that the customers were delighted with the idea and my efforts in building the lamp for them. Many even thought it was my concept and business. I then realised that the absent manager had a 500% markup on each item – my minimum wage labour felt criminal.

    So I had a lightbulb moment – and placed a tip jar visibly on the workstation. 10 whole work days later, after having made countless lamps and met many happy customers, I’m sure you could guess how many tips I made?

    $8 – from 3 separate customers. One overtipped ($5) and one non-tipper even blurted, “you should get paid more for doing this” after spending 45 minutes with me. Many asked boldly for large discounts. After this I went to a bar and paid a girl $1 for bringing me a glass of fermented liquid with her arm. It was infuriating.

    With not enough money to pay rent, I left Ottawa searching for a professional role in Vancouver. After cooling down about this experience with “cheap” customers I realised that it wasn’t their fault. Tipping is a social construct that is grounded in people from a very young age. It is a “known fact”.

    When you go to a restaurant, you pay 15% to 20% extra. When you go to a store, you beg for discounts. That’s just the way it is.

    This experiment proved that it’s all a social brainwashing, and how easily societies can be influenced by “THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS” thinking. My lamp customers were just not conditioned to pay me extra for the work I did for them. They were unable to think critically and empathise due to their world view, so I can’t view them as bad people.

    Hence the danger in a society that involves tipping. In one instance, the top 20% have instutionalised a system to allow them to get richer. There are myriad other ways this is being done in 2014, but that’s just the way it is, so we persist.

    • chvb

      You poor bugger. Welcome back.
      Things are more expensive in Australia on the ticket, but as you say it includes EVERYTHING, and the service staff do a (generally) great job because they’re (generally) paid to.
      It makes going out for a drink or a meal a lot easier too; no pesky drunk-math to attempt at 2am..

    • Server

      I read your whole post, and it went from poor to awesome. I like how at the end of your story, you reached the point of awakening. That’s what made it truly good.

    • Alex

      Having visited Aus for two months last year I can say the quality of service was some of the best I’ve experienced on the planet, all of which felt genuine and unforced, unlike any time I’ve been to the US.

      I get the strong sense that a lot of Americans – in general, and on this thread particularly – genuinely believe that their social programming is the most correct, and their service standard the most exemplary – and that it says something of foreigners’ character – not merely their own social programming – that they tip differently. Which in turn suggests to me that either they haven’t travelled to Australia or their cognitive biases primed them to perceive more flaws with the service than they would at home.

  45. Celine

    Is tipping something new in the US? I mean the the part of it that involves the service employee not getting paid by the employers themselves but rather by the customers they serve.

    What was done before this? How do you even get someone to work in your restaurant, for example, if they know they’re not getting paid at all and have to rely on the customers? Do these employee at least get some allowance or meals in exchange for a job that might pay nothing?

    It must be horrible to be a student who wants to earn a bit of money during their holidays and decided to become a waiter.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, it’s awesome. Need a little extra money for the holidays? Pick up an extra shift and walk away with a stack of cash in your pocket that same day. Waiting for a paycheck once every two weeks, now that’s horrible. ;)

      I’ve been in a salaried position for two years after waiting tables and tending bar for 15 years and still miss that instant gratification of fresh wads of cash at the end of every day. I enjoy my lifestyle much more now, you lose very little blood/sweat/tears sitting at a desk as compared to the physical and mental toll waiting tables can take on you…It is hard work, that is the truth.

      Would I go back? I’d prefer not to, but it is my skill set and I’ll probably have to some day. Did I make more more money waiting tables than I do now as a salaried manager of catering and marketing? Twice as much on a slow day. Did I happen to mention that I have a college degree? Welcome to America.

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  47. naath

    As part of the “foreigner” demographic… I honestly didn’t know the whole range of people who expect (and live off) tips in the US.

    Here in the UK I’d expect to tip about 10%-13% to the waitstaff in a restaurant; but otherwise virtually nothing, perhaps loose change in a cafe or coffee place. I think it’s hard to get my head around “I have to pay the bartender separately because them getting paid is not included in the price of the drink”; also clearly Americans carry around more low-but-not-trivial denomination currency with them than I do to get all these tips right (my wallet normally contains plastic money, twenty quid notes, and a virtually worthless assortment of coins; the five pound note which would be the right denomination for many tipping situations is a rare beastie since ATMs don’t usually have them).

  48. Pingback: To Tip or Not To Tip? | My Lens

  49. Robbie MacQuack

    Very interesting post, as usual. I especially liked how you mixed the statistical data with your own interview findings.

    I personally enjoy giving a good tip – especially if the service was good. However, essentially being obliged to tip, as one is in the US, only adds unnecessary anxiety to the situation on the part of the customer and equally unnecessary insecurity on the part of the service employee.

    Hard-working people in service-jobs should have a decent wage guaranteed, on top of which customers can honor their contribution to the service product they consume. No tipping is equally strange to me as obligatory tipping, both cultures take away a lot of the freedom of using money as a social currency these kinds of situations offer. And that, I find, is the beauty of tipping – it makes monetary exchange more than just buying and selling at market-determined prices, not unlike another, otherwise very different cultural phenomenon, which is widely enjoyed around the world – heckling.

  50. Kate B

    So if paying tip-only-income job people a real or living wage in Europe and elsewhere doesn’t bankrupt the establishments, why would it here? We pay FAR less in taxes and ingredients/supplies are 20% (or more) LESS in cost than Europe. I love how GOP’ers trot out the “bankrupt the job-creators” trope every time people make the slightest peep about paying people for their time/effort (unless it’s themselves, then the sky is the limit.)

  51. Kirsi

    5-10 in Scandinavia is a gross lie. All Nordic countries require by law to add all service charges to the bill, and all occupations are salary based. If you tip, you tip for actual good service, but it is not mandatory as in the States. The same goes for many other European countries, and even though we watch a lot of American movies and might have some inkling of the tipping culture, we have absolutely no idea who we should tip and how much is a fair amount.

  52. RJ Spain

    Foreigners really don’t know. Most live in countries where waiting tables is a real job, with a real salary and benefits, not a get by job until something better comes up AND in Europe gratuity is always added. In Spain, the price varies from sandwich at the bar, to sandwich at the table, to sandwich outside on the sidewalk table. A tip is usually rounding off the bill unless it is a large dinner party at a fancy pantsy place. . So truly, foreigners can’t imagine that they have to tip 20%. However, they love American customers traveling to Europe– who don’t know about the “gratuity is already added” thing and even if they do, they feel way too guilty not to leave a tip.

  53. Kristin

    I love Wait But Why for the in-depth exploration of really interesting/relevant topics but I think what truly keeps me coming back for more is the writer’s very comforting, accessible writing style. I’m not sure how else to put it — reading Wait But Why is the equivalent of wearing my comfiest, most worn in sweatpants and eating a McDonalds Happy Meal (which I only eat when I’m seriously sick or traveling in a foreign country) while watching back to back episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

  54. Jamie Berry

    If US restaurant prices were 20% less expensive than their counterparts in other cities, then nobody would have a problem tipping the waiting staff. But they’re not: US restaurants are, at every price level, about the same prices as the same place in London, Paris, or Tokyo. In these three cities the norm would be 10%, 12.5% and 0% respectively. Tipping is an insult in Japan, and the country is a better place for it.

  55. Fast Food wins in US

    I used to travel a lot to US on business.

    I found the whole tipping system and service staff behavior so disgusting that I ended up eating most of my meals at places where I did not need to tip, such as Subway, McDonlands, etc…

    Recently I have been driving a taxi here in Finland as a temporary job. I have been surprised how little people from US tip. I have had plenty of American customers. I expected them to tip me because they expect me to tip them when I am in their country. But actually they tip more rarely than Finnish people! Suckers.

  56. hhg

    Well, I’ve heard the arguments and traveled the world. Ever get used to being an ok tipper and then travel somewhere and offend them because you’re handing them a tip at all? Yeah, this is largely an american thing, and no – I tip based solely on the service I receive. If I’m ignored, you look bothered that I decided to patronize your establishment or are slow because you’re over in the booth on the other side of the restaurant with all the other servers talking about how much the job sucks; sorry no tip – and I don’t feel bad. I refuse to take on the responsibility of payroll accountant and employer because I decide I want to eat some lunch. A gratuity is supposed to be a gift without claim or demand – however this entire article is a shaming campaign to state that it’s actually demanded.

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  58. gnome

    I currently live in Sweden where restaurants are very expensive, but the people who work in them get paid better and act like they have a sense of dignity. What I might contest in this article is the supposed lack of corruption in the US. If someone can spend unlimited amounts of money to get a particular candidate elected, how is the American system not corrupted? What is the difference between paying for an election campaign and purchasing your congressional vote?

  59. Terr

    I am totally confused about when and how to tip as a foreigner. If service deserve a tip, please just add it on the bill. I didn’t see the sense of extra time and thinking about this. Why can’t I just get a bill that clearly shows how much I should pay? Is it very hard?

  60. Moe

    If I get a $20 Haircut I give the barber $10 – you are saying that is crazy high? $5 seems very cheap to me but you say it makes one a high tipper.

    • Birdish

      I struggle with the opposite–on a teachers salary, for a woman to get a hair cut and color is $200+ for an hour’s work. I then need to add another $50+? I do it, but it hurts…

      • Katie

        Your stylist will hate me for saying this, but unless you go to a real froo-froo place, you’re over-tipping. I double-checked with a stylist friend, and she said if $200 worth of services took 1 hour she’d be happy with $30-35. BUT, if you tip $50 she’d cancel another client to accommodate you in the future.

  61. Angela

    Brilliant post as usual, and once again renews my love for your WBW. For further insight into tipping in the US and how a tipless system could work, read Jay Porter’s wonderful blog. He wrote a series of posts containing some great (and rather insidious) observations, as well as exploring the efficacy and morality of the tipping system:
    http://jayporter.com/dispatches/observations-from-a-tipless-restaurant-part-1-overview/
    Enjoy!
    P.S So pleased about your store: Can’t wait to get an IG Monkey Tee! Do you ship internationally?

  62. Elise

    Great article and comments! Would be interesting to hear opinions on tipping in the music scene, particularly here in NYC. I feel that so many people don’t understand that bands are often unpaid at venues, and the reason behind dreaded cover charges etc.

  63. Raquel

    As a New Zealander, thinking about tipping makes me panic. When I was in the US briefly (stopover), I had no idea whether I should tip the barista, or how much. Last year in India, my partner ordered room service, and to escape the awkward exchange, I fled to the bathroom. Turns out my partner forgot to tip, and the guy just stood there awkwardly for a while. Cringe.

    I think if I ever went to the US for a longer period of time, I would nervously over-compensate by tipping anything that moves.

    • Katie

      Fellow NZer and tipping also makes me so panicky and nervous and I find so many tipping situations cringe worthy. Must be a kiwi aversion to handing over money for service. 1) I’m not sure what to do so there is uncertainty and 2) the whole handing over money thing just seems offensive – it’s easy when you just calculate 15% on a bill and write it down with your credit card, but handing over a few dollar bills to hotel people or room service just feels weirdly like handing them charity, which seems offensive considering they are working….

  64. Taylor

    As a college student, I don’t eat out much or indulge in tipped services very often, and I try and leave as best a tip I can afford. As a barista who works in a grocery store and can therefore not accept tips, I can say that while I’d love a tip, I don’t feel at all like my job deserves any. Although I have only ever lived in WA and OR my entire life, both states of which pay tipped employees the full state minimum wage in full. That being said, I don’t feel too terrible if I can’t afford a great tip or giving a bad one for poor service. I know it’s not like that in other states but as far as I’m aware, they’re getting paid the same amount I do regardless of whether they’re tipped or not.

    • Fernanda

      Another foreigner (Brazil, where service is often included and servers receive sallaries) trying to understand the world of tipping: why a barista at a grocery store can’t accept tips? Is that another unspoken rule?

      • Angela

        Fernanda – that’s almost always a company policy, where the employer forbids the employees from accepting tips because he’s using a “no tipping necessary” policy to attract customers, because it’s cheaper for them. It’s most common at grocery stores, but also at some other retail stores. (It used to be fairly standard in parts of the U.S. to tip the person who bagged your groceries, carried them out to your car, and loaded them for you; this service seems both less often offered and much less often tipped than it was 20 years ago, however.)

  65. Audie's Mum

    Great post and discussion. Like the other foreigners in this convo I reckon the US tipping culture is entirely fucked up norm and if you think it’s not, try it in your own job. Say you’re an accountant or a bureaucrat. Easy:
    1. Volunteer to have little/no regular salary and benefits
    2. Try and do your job ‘better’ because now you have to be stupidly obsequious to feed your family all the time, and have no assurance that you’ll get the ‘expected’ tip because nobody bloody knows what’s appropriate/someone else fucked something up/you might be dealing with difficult people/your customer is poor themselves/add any random reason.

    Yeah I thought not. And it’s a classless society? No way. Only people too poor to risk objecting have to put up with this.

    Also like another Australian commenter I find it extremely creepy when waiters introduce themselves and – for fucks sake- unobtrusive physical touching??? I’m here to eat, not to make friends. It’s intrusive and fake and worst of all, totally and utterly degrading to the server.

    One more reason it would be a nightmare to be American. I don’t mean to be insulting, not at all, it just freaks me out and in would be totally disturbing to live in a country that allows this and has no social safety net worth speaking of as well. You guys do realise that the rest of the developed world has that sort of thing as basically a given? Since, like, mid last century? Get with the program and pay people decently, take care of your own people.

    • J

      A’s mum,

      Can’t say that I disagree and I find that really sad. When I read it like that, I think perhaps it is a creepy state of affairs isn’t it.

      Here is my experience: When I travelled abroud my experience was much different than here in the states.

      No one put up with my self-centered attitudes about being served at the expense of dignity of others. No one treated me like I had more rights to respect than them because I was a paying customer. No one treated me real special while maniacally smiling at me and asking if I’m okay. I was expected to promptly order when the server came and not treat them like google search. Then I had to be patient while my food was being cooked. I was not superior to them in this interaction and no one cared to make me feel otherwise. Why give up being treated as falsely special? *cue facetiousness*

      There’s a difference between being professional and being made into somebody’s bitch. Nothing boils my blood to see service industry people mistreated. And, yes, I’ve been on both ends.

      The trick in the states to realistically circumvent this, A’s mum? Local business owner–and be damn good. They call the shots.

      My favorite haunt is a local restraunt. During my last visit, the waitress (and myself) made no point to hide our eye rolls and impatience at a culturally insensitive woman who was taking a millenium to order while yacking her head off about all the ‘differences in the
      food.’

      The waitress didn’t soothe the agitated (albeit inappropriate) cries regarding out of stock items, etc. These restuarant owners allowed themselves to act like real human beings.

      And you know what my reply was when asked how everything was?

      “Perfect”

      Why? Because my curry and safron rice were a million orgasms topped with heaven.

      And before anyone (not referring to or expecting this from A’s mom) gives me shit about my spelling/grammar and percieved education level, know this: I am a highly educated adult with a life long learning disability who is very tired.

      Good day to you all.

      And, A’s mom, good thoughts; glad I read them.

  66. Disappointed

    I came here hoping to get some advice on the “yearly” or irregular tip group; my mailman (he is a male mailman, so I can still call him mailman); the ups driver; the garbage collector. No advice to be found. How does everyone deal with the yearly thing and (maybe the most important question) when do you do the yearly tips? I wanted to do them middle of December, but my ups driver had a helper (who hadn’t been with him bringing us amazon boxes all year round; driver earned his tip, temp guy didn’t earn it (as much)), my mailman went on vacation, as did my garbage driver. How much should I tip and when should I tip it? Movers are another great question, as are heavy item (appliances, that sort of thing) delivery folks, installation folks, etc… What to do, what to do??

  67. Anthony

    My girlfriend and I visited the US recently and this whole tipping palaver confused us no end.

    While in NYC we went to the diner next to our hotel and bought a couple of turkey burgers with some orange juice. The bill came (obscenely) to $40. We tipped the waiter 10% which we thought was customary and he proceeded to lay into us for being cheap.

    The diner was always busy. So, to make a very conservative estimate – lets say on average this waiter waited 5 tables an hour and every table spent $40. If everyone tipped this man 20% ($8), that would mean he would be on $40 an hour from tips alone.

    I don’t understand this. My girlfriend is a teacher and I am an IT professional. Neither of us earn anything close to $40 an hour. So, how is it fair that a man who brings plates of food to tables should earn this amount?

    • Scubasteve

      Your hourly estimate is wrong. You do not factor in the non-peak times that you weren’t in the restaurant. There are usually hours where the waiter is doing other work, which does not involve customers and tips, Parties need to be set up, buffets need to be set up and cleaned up. Most restaurants have an off-season, where there are hours standing around. All of this is at 3 bucks an hour. Also, your server doesn’t get your whole tip if there was alcohol involved or if there are other people who clean and reset tables. Buss staff and hostesses who bus are paid by the waitstaff.

  68. Jeff Schultz

    I’m not sure your overall research is statistically valid. You have a small sample size and only cover one very specific area. To be a valid study, with statistics you would need a larger sample size of all categories and cover a larger geographic area. Its an interesting topic that needs additional research.

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  70. Brittany

    AAA drivers/roadside assistant folks should also be tipped! They often make only commission, no salary. So, the work they do for you and what you give them is about all they get, and trust me when I say they are ALWAYS forgotten!! I try to tell everyone I can. Tipping them is the nicest thing that you can add to your list!!!!

  71. Nate

    If the service is bad I leave a low or no tip. That’s just the way it is, but I usually won’t go back to that restaurant either. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the waiters fault or not. The restaurant is judged as a whole, and if there’s a problem it’s the waiters job to take it to the appropriate person. If it doesn’t get fixed then the waiter should quit and find a better place to work at. If all the waiters are quitting then that would force change. Almost ALL the time that I receive bad service on any level, the waiter’s service is also bad. This is why no tip is warranted. In exceptional cases the food might be bad or such and great waiters bend over backwards to make it better. For those people I give high tips.

  72. piper.

    i’ve always wondered about tipping in situations like moving – do you tip the guy who helps you haul your bed up two flights of stairs, even though he quoted you a price for the job? and if so, what’s the appropriate %? does this % change if you’re using help you found on a peer-to-peer site like craigslist or if you’re using a “professional”?

    also, what about housekeeping service in a hotel? my dad always leave a few bucks for the maid service when he travels (or he brings something random from our hometown to share), but i’ve always felt like that was sort of creepy and odd.

    • Tina

      We tip the housekeeper — we leave $5 or so each day, usually with a note saying it’s for housekeeping (after having them not touch it when it’s unlabeled). I only found out a few years ago that you’re supposed to do this.

  73. Alex

    I don’t get it. You’re never supposed to “tip under 15%, even if you hate the service”, but “service quality does correlate to tip amount, so the incentive system still works.” If we all uphold the rule that 15% is a minimum, what incentive does a waiter have to do anything more than the bare minimum to get you not to talk to the manager?

    • Kip

      The bare minimum is still way less then the cost of living for an average waiter. 15% is not what we want it’s just enough to keep us from paying to serve you. The incentive is we are trying to make more than that so we try to be awesome.

  74. Davis

    There have been a few successful restaurant operations that were either employee owned or with employee profit sharing after a person had been working there for a time. When a worker either shares in ownership or has a vested interest in a business, everyone wins. Unfortunately, the restaurant business tends to be a high risk venture with lots of stress and mistreatment of employees.

  75. Justyn

    Tips are only necessary because restaurant owners love to pay servers only $2.13/hr aka slave labor wages. If it’s a slow day and you’re serving, you may very well only have one table and leave with chump change. Most owners don’t even feed their employees. The owners could pay more than 2/hr if they choose. Most restaurant owners are greedy, always wanting to do minimal work and make the money off everyone else. Another thing worth noting..how many restaurant owners that you know actually worked from the ground up with their money to open their place? Only restaurant owners I have known are pompous, fake, arrogant people who inherited the business from family or their money is completely shady. Thankfully I no longer work in the industry and I couldn’t miss it less. Servers are one of the most underappreciated groups of workers there are. Yes some people tip well, but it doesn’t make up for the bullshit that pervades the industry.

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  77. Jeff

    So lets say you’re in Oregon, where state minimum wage or higher is required for all employees. It’s $9.10. Do you still tip them as if they were only making $2.13? Only 7 of 50 states actually follow the practice of allowing tipped employees to make at least state minimum wage. http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm

    • EDub

      Ooo, thanks for this info! I live in San Francisco, so now I know that servers get California minimum wage before tips, and in this city they get mandated employer healthcare. I now go back to feeling totally fine tipping below 15% if the service is shitty. Plus if they’re a terrible waiter and I don’t tip them maybe they’re more likely to find a different job and let a good waiter start working there…

      • Josh

        Ooo, you live in San Francisco! So you know that renting a studio here costs 2500 a month now, and that the cost of living requires someone to make well above minimum wage, yet you’re here gloating about how this new-found knowledge will allow you to screw someone over. Did you ever bother to think that we have an inordinate amount of tourists from Europe who come here and undertip already? When the bubble pops and you have to move back to your parent’s basement in Nebraska because you no longer have that tony tech job, you might be waiting tables yourself.

  78. Willo

    I deliver pizzas in a poor town. Aside from being annoyed by being called the pizza guy, I’m a girl (or food delivery guy hint hint) Non tippers are the worst and they happen frequently. Yesterday I took a total of 32 deliveries and had about seven people with non tips. We really don’t count the change as a tip. I agree 2-3 is average tip but most people who want us to think of them as a good tipper usually give five. I usually lump 4′s in with average as do most people I work with. We really appreciate the $5 or more tippers because they help average out the non tippers and the 4′s really only help bring up the 2′s and 1′s. Tipping also for pizza is dependent on # of pizzas where you have to go and what all is involved with the delivery. Tips should go up accordingly based on amount of effort. Time is rarely the delivery person’s fault and you should only reduce tip if it is clear that they are late because of their own fault. Lastly, the weather. I’ve delivered in snow tornado watches and flash floods. My experience is tips do change but typically for the worse. The primary reason is because people who order regularly are less inclined to in bad weather (you regulars get to know you as people and don’t like getting you out of the house) and people who don’t order regularly end up ordering because “omg weather” and many of them don’t know to tip. I have had times where the weather gets so bad people end up feeling sorry for you and tips go back up but they are rare and typically happen when people are forced to stop traveling and hit the hotels. Also keep in mind that with delivery we do all our own car maintenance and pay for gas with the delivery fee. It is not a tip. It helps pay for the oil change a month I need and the two sets of brakes I need each year.

  79. Joe

    Fascinating article.

    As an Englishmen, I find some of the stuff in here absolutely batty though. You should always tip, even if the service is bad? I’m sorry, but no.

    Whenever I got to the US, I try my best, although I don’t like feeling ‘forced’ to meet the 15%, but I try to tip more than I would in the UK, where the expectations are different.

    But if I got bad service? No chance. Not happening. I can understand if someone did the bare minimum, they’re still doing their jobs, but if I had a negative experience, like f**k am I also tipping the person who contributed to that negative experience.

    • Server

      I’m fine with this if I personally gave you bad service. But if your steak is medium well instead of medium rare, f**k you too, that’s literally not my fault. That being said, I will bust my ass to have a medium rare steak on your table as soon as I possibly can, and you probably aren’t going to pay for your steak at all. But please, for the love of god, still tip.

  80. Jules

    So I am an average to above-average tipper, and for great service I will go well above-and-beyond the norm. However, for bad service, I will also adjust my tip accordingly. I disagree with your comment that if you leave nothing you should just leave the space blank… I put in a zero so that a) they know I didn’t just forget, that I was actually displeased enough to leave nothing and b) they cannot fill it in with whatever they like. It isn’t that difficult to doctor the total, and trust me, it happens.

    Similarly, if I leave cash rather than fill in the tip on the credit card receipt, I will write in zero in the tip space and note “cash on table” or some similar sentiment on the receipt. I’m not leaving that blank only to regret it later.

  81. Jerkstore

    And don’t forget to tip your dealers when you’re gambling. They usually make minimum wage and despite all of your convictions that the dealer is trying to screw you, he/she is in fact rooting for you to win. Because when you win, you’re in a good mood, and you should spread the wealth.

  82. Anon

    Your silly little pop-outs failed. They were in the way of the text and I had to go into dev-tools and delete them all to read your article.

    You should rethink those things.

  83. Anon

    You hit on one of my pet-peeves in your tipping stats image. The “pre-assessed tip”.

    Those are just as disgusting for the customer as the slashed zeros on the receipts are for the employees. It is like a slap in the face. You must be a poor tipper, so we will add a tip for you.

    Because of that insult, if there is a pre-assessed tip”, then not one penny more than the pre-assessed tip is left. And guess what, normally, my normal tip amount would have, in fact, been higher than the pre-assessed tip.

    So, for all you restaurant workers out there, talk to your managers. The pre-assessed tips on the reciepts are costing you direct money.

    • Server

      For every one of you, there are ten incompetent fools that need those numbers staring them directly in the face.

      NET POSITIVE!

  84. Former Hairstylist

    As a former hairstylist you should always tip someone who doesn’t make minimum wage. I remember being at work for over 80 hours in a two week period, and making about $300 with tips. At my highest point I was making about $400 a week with my tips. Its a shame how many cheap people are out there. I finally came to the conclusion I would never be able to make a living doing hair, and now at the age of 33 I’m going back to school. I stopped doing hair, and now get 11/hr plus bonuses, and commision for a job the doesn’t require an education. Messed up!

  85. Gregory

    I have a question – there’s a cafe by me that I visit often. Customers place orders at the counter and can buy beverages there, but the staff brings the meal out to the table when it’s done. There’s a tip jar on the counter which has nothing larger than singles usually, but the receipt also has a place to add a tip? Is it typical to do so in such cases? It’s not a full-service restaurant, because you don’t order at your table and have them bring you drinks to your table, but they do bring your meal to your table.

    Also, I’ve noticed that even when I add a tip over the phone while ordering a delivery, there is still a line to add a tip on the receipt? I never do because I’ve already tipped. This is ok, right? I always figured the tip line is just there because they used preformatted receipts.

  86. Gregory

    I have a question, and your site didn’t take my comment last time so I’m writing it again. There’s a cafe by my school where you order at a counter, and then they bring your food out to you. All drinks are bottled beverages that you get from a cooler and pay for at the counter. There is a tip jar where some people leave singles and some people leave nothing. There is also a tip line on the receipt. Should you leave a tip? The presence of a tip line might indicate it’s customary, but maybe not (see next paragraph.)

    On that subject, there’s one delivery restaurant I order from a lot where you can leave a tip on the phone when you order. I do so, but then the receipt still has a tip line printed, even though the listed total includes the tip I left when I ordered. Is it acceptable not to tip again, even though there is a tip line? Surely it is, which makes me think it’s preformatted, and perhaps the same is true of the cafe’s receipts as well.

  87. Linda

    The one tip situation that has always confused me is bathroom attendants. How much is appropriate? Does the amount vary by services rendered? Sometimes they hand you a towel to dry your hands after washing. Other times, attendants just sit there.

  88. Aaa

    Restaurants should pay wait staff a living wage. It would increase costs to do so but let’s be real here other countries have restaurants. I live here and tip here. Would much prefer to pay more for my food and then tip based on level of service I receive.

  89. Lisa

    This is great. I would like to see a few more categories on this. What about the person who washes your hair at the salon? What about housekeeping at hotels? What about other seasonal people like the garbage man, postal worker, etc.?

    Baristas are hard because if I’m paying cash, no problem, but if I’m paying by credit card there often isn’t a way to add a tip on the receipt like you can do in a restaurant. It turns out I’d been undertipping bellboys but overtipping valets. Hmm.

    • Cait

      Yes! Just got furniture delivered and then was told (to my embarrassment) that I should have tipped. I’ve also wondered recently about moving guys and plumbers. I always tip movers but never know how much to give, especially when more guys show up than I was expecting. And my self-employed plumber turned down a tip recently.

  90. Dio

    “you’re not allowed to stiff on the tip and make them work for free.” <– Sorry but that never happens due to minimum wage laws. If they don't make up to minimum wage with tips (Which they basically always do) then their employer is required to make sure they are getting at least minimum wage. If not they are violating state and federal employment laws and can get the fuck sued out of them.

    • Natalie

      You do know min. wage for waiters is as low as $2, and gets fully taken for their taxes, right? They literally get $0 weekly, completely legally.

  91. Housekeeper

    I work in the hotel industry. Housekeepers have a job that is 10X harder than anybody else in the hotel. The reason the bellmen, waitstaff and valets are “tipped” is because there is real contact between the guest and service employee. Housekeepers are often overlooked because the best housekeepers aren’t seen.
    In an average hotel, normally $2 per day is appreciated, $5 upon checkout. Leave the tip on your pillow so that the housekeeper knows it’s a tip – they don’t want to be accused of stealing. If you over-tip, you may end up with exceptional service, extra amenities, linens will be replaced more often, etc. Housekeeping is a really physical job and often they aren’t promised a full work-week. If the rooms aren’t sold, they don’t work. And if you leave a mess to clean up, tip well.
    If you don’t tip, they won’t be offended, but you should still pick your own underwear up off the floor.

  92. karen

    I work in fine dining and when people don’t tip I still need to tip people out. That is something I don’t think a lot of people know and is frustrating. For every $100 I ring in I tip out $5 dollors to the bar,food runners (people that bring you your food if your server doesn’t), and bussers REGAURDLESS. So there are time people skip out on a tip,undertip(5-10% or sometimes less due to sticker shock of the bill or being a hot shot and picking up the tab), don’t sign the credit card slip or take the signed one with them… And I still need to tip my fellow coworkers out and that sucks. I don’t pay childcare and come into work to serve you for free or even worse put me in the negative. Just thought of make people aware. OR if were going above abd beyond for you and you use a corporate card and can only leave 15% and arnt paying a dime out of your pocket it wouldn’t kill you to leave and extra 10 or so out of your own wallet since you are drinking and earring for free …. Just saying

  93. Anonymous

    Smokers? How did smokers even get to be a category? You can’t smoke in most restaurants, when are they identified as such?. And why are they so high up in the chain?

  94. James

    I live in Japan. Do you know what the best thing about Japan is? WE DON”T TIP EVER.

    It is time for the western society to start paying ALL employees a livable wage and to eradicate TIP culture. In the states going out to restaurants with friends who nitpick over the tip instead of just throwing in something close enough on the upper side. It’s a PITA and needs to be eradicated. Then when you get crap service your friends still want to tip because they feel bad for the server. It’s absolutely stupid.

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  96. Robyn

    Tipping is about American businesses dumping their responsibilities (to pay their employees) on the consumers. It’s all about the greed of the business owner.

    Tipping is not a custom in other countries, and the service is usually better.

    You hire someone, YOU pay them.

  97. Always a good tipper

    We, as tourists in the US, always leave at least 10%. 15% when we’re really happy with the service.
    Rarely we get treated pretty bad- probably because the waiter senses we’re the “bad kind of foreigners”, and expects no tip at all. At such situations, we leave exactly the same tip as if we were treated okay.
    Our reasoning is that we’re educating an idiot here, and you should never save on education.

    I remember one waiter in a NYC jazz club who needed more than an hour to bring us the first drinks and needed two reminders. Then he avoided our table for the rest of the evening.
    We ended up giving him a 10% tip and also complaining to the manager about his hostility.

  98. Leigh

    I don’t understand tipping cab drivers. Aren’t I already paying them to drive me somewhere? Why am I tipping them for the service for which I just paid them?

    I don’t live somewhere with cabs, so maybe I just don’t understand it. It’s an honest curiosity, so if anyone wants to explain it to me, that’s great…I just really don’t get it. It’s not like a waiter, whom I am not paying directly with the cost of the food. Or a bellboy or whatever when I pay hotel costs. But I AM paying a cab driver directly, directly for a service he just provided me.

  99. Wes Wilson

    I disagree about the part where you shouldn’t put a line through a zero tip… if you don’t put anything there, sometimes it leaves some ambiguity as to your intentions… I’ve held up blank receipts looking for impressions to see if someone treated it like carbon paper or something… hoping there was a tip that just hadn’t been properly input. If you have zero tip, put a line or a zero.

  100. Demede

    People asking about how to spot a member of any particular religion:
    I’ve been a sever in Utah for almost 8 years, I can spot a table of Mormons from a mile away. Most servers here can. Mormons are infamously awful tippers, 10% is the normal MAXIMUM. Mormons are tithed 10% of their income by their religion, so they don’t feel like they should tip you more than that. They often have more then 3 kids, and tend to use a lot of coupons. It isn’t well known that you should tip off of what you would have paid before the coupon was applied. They don’t drink, so no alcohol sales to bring up what is already a low check average.

    Is pre-assessing a table for tips dick move? Yes, but I’ll happily be a dick that walks away with $10 from the sweet gay couple on a date, then the nice guy that got stiffed from the lady with five kids.

  101. Natalie

    Woah, I don’t care what ANY service member thinks, NEVER, EVER, EVERRR leave the tip line BLANK! There are dishonest people out there, and I have been scammed for tip money, which is FRAUD but happens a lot! I’ve spoken to friends it also happened to. One friend realized on her bank statement, they had added a $60 tip to her $20 check!! If you don’t catch it on your statement, you’ll easily get scammed for tip money this way.

    ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS write “CASH” covering the entire tip line with the word, and tip cash. It’s not offensive and covers your own butt!!!

  102. Jenn

    You forgot all about DJ’s!!! I work as a wedding DJ and my tips are over half of my income. I try to believe that when I don’t get a tip that they just don’t know but truth is, some people are cheap.

  103. Eliza

    This article is sexist and racist, which negates any research of value you may have done. I’ll give you one example, though there are many: “just when the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful middle aged women who are mean to him.” This is in your intro, and immediately put me off the rest of the article. Why does it matter that they are women? Oh, boo hoo for him! And the chart of “1000 servers” generalizing groups like “women” and “gay men” and other marginalized groups. Hmm… how many bets that they most of those 1000 were straight, white men themselves? I’d love to see that info.

    • topkek

      the fact is that women are getting tipped much, much higher than any straight white man is, that’s your female privilege. enjoy it.

      • wobster109

        Seriously? You’re telling me to become a server to be treated fairly? Maybe not everyone wants to be a server (and there’s nothing wrong with servers), but I’m a programmer, and I can’t believe your response to the wage gap is “why don’t you go become a server then”.

    • wobster109

      I agree with you. It sucks that the manager is mean and powerful, but what does being middle-aged and female have to do with it?

      I also think it’s unfair to take a survey of what servers say and treat that as truth. Because confirmation bias colors what we remember. I always tip well, 20% at least, and I hate waiting longer than the next table and having my orders mixed up because the server doesn’t think I’m worth the attention.

  104. Big Spender

    It’s inaccurate to make a blanket statement that tipped employees only make a couple dollars an hour. There are several states where tipped and non-tipped employees are treated the same, as far as minimum wages are concerned. You should distinguish that in your post; if anything, people should be more aware of states that do pay only a few dollars, so they can be extra vigilant about tipping properly. And they should know which states compensate their employees more, so customers don’t feel guilted in to supplementing wages when there is legitimately poor service.

  105. Beatbox

    ALWAYS draw a line or something in the “tip” section. It prevents the person from filling in their own. I’ve had tips added. Also, take all your receipts.

  106. Ms Gael

    My husband and I find that inexpensive, local restaurants usually have much better service than more expensive chains, so we tip a much higher percentage. The server has to work just as hard to serve a $6 meal as a $25 meal. We have a standard dollar amount that we won’t go below for full table service, but don’t tip as much for a buffet where all they did was bring beverages.

  107. Jesse

    I generally tip 20% – but I far prefer vacationing in those European countries where tipping is not expected in restaurants. The food costs a bit more, I don’t have to worry about figuring out the math, and I can feel reasonably certain that my waiter is being paid fairly for their work.

    Tipping is a rather obnoxious custom, in my opinion. We should do away with it and insist that workers be paid fairly by their employers.

  108. chef jman

    This is a joke to me to think I’m supposed to feel bad about a server needing to be paid more for mixing a cocktail that needs an olive or slice of fruit. Lol the extra ten seconds is worth a dollar somehow? In Minnesota where i am a chef, servers get minimum 7.50 plus tips, which comes to at least thirty dollars an hour. I however get 10.50 an hour and no tip for my almost twenty years experience cooking. The amount of effort put into each plate i make is way more than any drink a bartender can make or anything in general a server does. Plus what i do is a skill. Restaurants are successful because of good food that is made promptly which servers have nothing to do with. What about dishwashers? They make minimum wage, get zero tips and if you ask me, are more important and work harder than servers. What about the kitchen staff? Out of sight out of mind?

  109. chef jman

    This is a joke to me to think I’m supposed to feel bad about a server needing to be paid more for mixing a cocktail that needs an olive or slice of fruit. In Minnesota where i am a chef, servers get minimum 7.50 plus tips, which comes to at least thirty dollars an hour. I however get 10.50 an hour and no tip for my almost twenty years experience cooking. The amount of effort put into each plate i make is way more than any drink a bartender can make or anything in general a server does. Plus what i do is a skill. Restaurants are successful because of good food that is made promptly which servers have nothing to do with. What about the kitchen staff? Out of sight out of mind?

  110. server

    I do not see the expectation of a tip as the result of a flawed system. As a server I can say that I would much rather be compensated by tips than minimum wage. If servers were paid minimum wage, you would receive the same level of ‘service’ that you get at Mcdonalds. The tip pays for the service, the check amount goes towards the establishment. Servers thrive on the hustle of multitasking and charming their way through the night and watching their instant reward pour in. I think the people suggesting that the companies employing the servers pay their employees more to equal minimum wage have never worked in a restaurant before. It is a highly demanding job. No it is not rocket science but it requires skills in; sales, customer service, good hygiene and charm, multitaskingx10. I also suspect that none of you have tried to raise families or live off of minimum wage, it isn’t possible without additional government assistance. Stop complaining that when you make the choice to leave your home and be served with a hospital all inclusive wait/kitchen staff, you are held to a simple social responsibility. If restaurants paid servers 17% on all of the tables the servers waited on they would go out of business. You wouldn’t have the luxury of going out to eat at all. Thank you for paying average or above average to compensate for this ‘flaw’ but in this country minimum wage will not afford you with good service at all. I’m not knocking fast food restaurants or fast food workers but there’s a reason that the single mother getting by without gov assistance raising kids and paying her way through college does not work at a minimum wage paying job. It just is not possible. You aren’t being robbed of an opportunity, you are paying for service. If you would rather have that cost added to your bill, you wouldn’t have the option to tip according to service at all.

    Finally, people who want to be justified in tipping below the expected value for bad service: 1 if your service was bad you should complain. 2 please ask yourselves why your service was bad? Could it have been related to the kitchen staff? The long wait? The fact that your drink was not to your liking? or you didn’t like the food you ordered? Did you happen to notice how many tables your server had in comparison to others?

    I find that the nights where things that have gone badly were related to things outside of the control of the servers. An example: bad snow storm where half of the wait staff or kitchen didn’t show up to work and the servers were forced to do their best with an overload of tables. On nights like this I find that people’s compassionate and socially responsible nature, or the lack of it shines through the most. Some people will tip low for receiving slower or less than perfect service, others will tip more. Those tipping more have recognized the fact that the server is doing their best and still providing adequate service with the chaos going on behind the scenes.

    It sounds like a lot of you are looking for someone to blame or to feel like model citizens for tipping in spite of a flawed system. Thank you for affording this country an occupation. For having the opportunity to avoid food shopping, setting the table, cooking, providing a temporary and unique atmosphere, serving yourself food and expertly mixed alcoholic beverages and countless refills, and cleaning up after yourselves. For this you’re welcome, but yes you you are also expected to tip. Sorry, not sorry.

  111. Jeff from Iowa

    I have always been told that if you tip via credit card they have to show all that for taxes. so I try to tip cash if good service and on credit card of bad (just me) but was told that if you pay cash for tip and credit card for service to draw a line thought the tip portion of the slip so someone can not add a tip later, (not the server any one handling the slip).

  112. Kelly Smith

    I am an acupuncturist, and I am not confused as to why I don’t accept tips. It’s because I provide medical care, I take insurance, I make a pretty decent living and I am NOT in the service industry. I have patients, just like a doctor or a therapist or a dentist, you wouldn’t tip any of them, why would you tip me? It’s also a matter of parity within the medical model. If we accepted tips, it would lessen, somehow, the seriousness of what we do. Licensed acupuncturists have not only a master’s degree, but we also pass several national board exams, this work requires lots of education and lots of time. So next time you go to your NCCAOM licensed acupunk, don’t worry about it. She will be charging you according to her bottom line (which she took a long time outlining in her business model) and won’t be offended by no tip! :)

    • Allissa

      I follow the same theory as a massage therapist. My ‘no gratuity’ is an great word-of-mouth talking point and has made me very popular in my community. And not because I’m cheaper, I’m the highest price around.

      Clients love that I respect and treat massage as a regular part of their wellness plan, not a luxury. And consequently, they do too.

  113. Anonymous

    Tipping isn’t about gratitude for good service. Is incorrect, because that is the whole deal. Th biggest douche bag in this story is the boss saying the person deserves a bigger tip, because if really cared he would actually pay them himself instead of using loop wholes in laws that should not exists in the first place to under pay the person in the first place. It is the company’s responsibility to pay them. The law should be ratified, to force them to pay the true minimum wage. Bottom line if they don’t like the pay they should get in a different line of work. Not tipping is not cheating them it is firing them for a bad job. Do think any boss in the world will keep you around for not working. They wont, so you should not expect a tip if you didn’t do the job.

  114. jsemleslie

    As someone who was a waiter for five years in the US, and who has lived, traveled and worked in Europe for several years, I have a few comments to make.

    1. TIPPING CULTURE: I’m not a particular fan of our tipping culture here in the US, but it’s not going to change any time soon, so please don’t punish your server for your opinions. It’s just something that’s ‘done’ here. If you feel VERY strongly about, get politically involved. Just accept that it’s part of your meal, etc. I don’t particularly like having to buy ’rounds’ in the UK and Ireland (it stresses me out because I don’t want to miss mine), but i deal with it when I’m there.

    2. BAD SERVICE: Of course, there is bad service out there. Most waiters know bad service when they see it, and are very picky. However, if you think your waiter is bad and you’re planning on stiffing them or leaving a low tip for it, please look around you first. How busy is it? Is your server being monopolized by the 15-top in the corner? Did you just not like the food (nothing to do with the waiter)? Are you eating at an ‘off’ time of day (a lot of people think you get better service because it’s not very busy, but oftentimes it’s shift change and the restaurants are on skeleton crew, making things take LONGER)?

    3. HOW RESTAURANTS MAKE MONEY IN PLACES WITH A LIVING WAGE: Well, for one, they have fewer waiters! At an average large chain restaurant, waiters will have 3-4 tables in their section. This allows them to give the ‘US-style’ service that many customers here are accustomed to. Whether or not you like that type of service is immaterial here–the fact is many people do and expect it. Quite a few people go to restaurants and want all their needs met and want to be out of there in 45 minutes. Raising servers’ wages will be the end of this, as restaurants will just give them sections of ten tables or more, and the service will get more ‘European’, wherein the server just takes an order, brings it to you, and brings the check when asked, and that’s pretty much it. Once again–I’m not making a value judgment (I actually prefer the more hands-off approach). I’m just stating how it will be, and the majority of middle Americans would not be happy with that anywhere apart from a diner.

    Which brings me to…

    4. TIME SPENT MATTERS: A rule that is NOT mentioned: Tipping should also be based on the amount of time spent at a table, especially if you’re not buying anything else. Every waiter has had those customers who order, finish their food or drink, and then sit there ALL EVENING without ordering anything more, and then tip their 15-20%. If that’s the case, they should either order more, or should tip 15-20% PER HOUR. Why? Because they’re taking up a table in that waiter’s section and preventing them from making money (not to mention taking money from the restaurant as well). Imagine this scenario: You work at someplace like Chili’s and you have a 4-table section. On a busy night, your average table has a bill of $40 and they leave you an average of $7 on that. During your 6-8-hour shift, you might expect to have your section full for for three hours, so at 4 tables per hour (ish), you could make $80+. Now, imagine you had a table show up at 7 pm, and they ordered 3 dinners, which are about $10 each at Chilis, and 3 iced teas ($2 each). That’s pretty typical. With tax, that’s about your $40 average.. However, this table is having a great conversation (which we don’t begrudge them) and stays put until 10 pm! They have free refills on their drink, and don’t want dessert, and when they leave, they tip their 17%. Congratulations, waiter! You’ve just made $7 when you could have made $21 by turning that table more quickly!

    5. THE GRAPHIC: Sorry for those of you who are offended by the graphic, but in my experience, it holds up quite well in 85% of cases. It’s not just about tipping, either. After a while, I could look at customers walking in and predict with scary accuracy what they were going to order, how they were going to behave, and how much they were going to tip. Now, one could say that waiters’ attitude may encourage the latter two (self-fulfilling prophecy), but the ordering is much less affected by that. It’s sad, but we are all products of our own culture in one way or another, and it comes out in various social situations. I tried to treat everyone the same and do my best, but just as in any job, some days were better than others.

    6. ALCOHOL SALES AND THE BOTTOM LINE: Finally, I want to address the Aussie’s comment about alcohol sales being the real money-maker at restaurants. Yes, that’s true–IF you have significant alcohol sales. The US does not have as much of a drinking culture as many other parts of the world There are vast swathes of the land that are ‘dry’–i.e. no alcohol sales allowed. In other places, many people simply do not drink, or don’t drink at restaurants. Wine isn’t very popular outside of big cities, and beer is for a backyard barbecue or sports events. We are a very puritanical culture–ordering alcohol with your meal on anything other than a weekend would be seen in many places as alcoholism.

    I personally adore good beer–but I drink at home or in a pub. The only time I’ll have alcohol with my meal is when I’m on vacation–with my European friends.

  115. Laura

    I absolutely hate when servers sit down to take my order or to chat with me. I came alone to zone out, not make small talk, so that doesn’t increase my tip at all.

    • Kip

      Have you ever told them that? They can’t read your mind and are jut trying to pay their rent on the pennies people hand them.

  116. Derek Lau

    Tips for Pickup orders ? Really ? The Restaurant that complains about Citibank ordering 35 lunches every week ? If you’re going to complain – you don’t deserve the business – I’m sure the other restaurant up the street would gladly add 35 lunch orders to their sales for the week.

    For those saying that 15% used to be acceptable and now 20% is the new norm because the hourly rate didn’t increase – think about this…… the cost of the MEAL has increased – so the pay has gone up. For example – if a dinner cost 100.00 for a group in 1990 – a 15% tip would be $15.00 That same meal might cost $150.00 now so the tip would be increased to $22.50 (at 15%) – so the wages have increased.

    Personally I tip 20% or 10% – it’s pass fail for me – you have to really screw up not to get 20% – but people should still be able to tip 15% for “average” service and not feel ashamed about it.

  117. bli

    “As far as foreigners go, the French have the worst reputation.”

    As a French, I’m not surprized. In France, employees are paid by employers, and they seem to do their job, sometimes even with a smile. As a custommer, you may tip if you’re generous or especially happy with the service, and we call that “pour boire”, litterally “to have a drink”. I guess the original idea was to thank the employee by offering him/her a glass of wine. This of course isn’t necessarilly meant to be spent on drinking, but the idea behing this term is that this is extra money. Not at all the bulk of the income of the employee. The thought that the employee’s income depends on the random good will of the custommer instead of a contractually defined amount makes me quite uncomfortable. It puts the employee in a precarious situation that reminds me of that of a beggar.
    I’ve been once in the US, and I was at least on one occasion irritated by the behaviour of the waiter, that came to our table every five minutes, interrupting the conversation asking if everything was ok. I suspect this was an effect of the tipping culture.

  118. Mrgreat

    I don’t like ordering beverages, but calculate the 20% on what the bill would be if I had, it is just as time consuming to bring and refill water as Pepsi

  119. cheapguy

    Tipping a bartender who spent 285 seconds of their life (oh no!) $5 is giving them almost $1/minute. That would be $60/hr not counting what they’re already paid to begin with.

    “Since tipping is such a big part of life..”
    It’s not a part of my life, I’m not paying the employees of a company for them, if their pay is shit it’s their own goddamn fault for putting up with it.

    “it’s been a bizarre mess ever since.”
    Then petition and strike and riot to change it, It’s a horrible system and the only people involved who like it that way are the rich fucks who own you anyway.

    As it turns out I need to pay bills and rent too, and it took me a long time to get a job that was half decent so I can afford things like going out for a nice dinner. I worked briefly in the service industry and while tips are nice, I always thought that the people who gave them must’ve been rich or stupid to be paying an optional fee.

    • TrueDee

      Except that bartenders aren’t getting $5 every tip and definitely not walking out with $60/hr. What they’re already paid with is about $2-$3/hr, which most of it goes towards taxes.

      You’re also failing to realize some people don’t tip. Even if you have a good night, it balances out the bad nights. Most bartenders don’t have the luxury of only working the busy days. You have to pay your dues and pick up slow shifts, too. You also pool tips and have tip outs. It doesn’t just begin and end with taking your order and giving you the drink. They open the bar (cutting fruit, stocking the bar, setting up bar, juicing, etc.), clean, some are their own dishwashers, close the bar (putting away fruits, stocking bar, closing down bar, taking out trash, mop, etc.)

      We all need to pay bills and rent, too. The service industry isn’t a bad job. It actually is pretty decent. Our qualms with non tippers is that you’re essentially wasting our time and costing us money. Tipping is for the service your server supplies. What you pay for the meal is for the establishment. Servers provide a service, not tipping is like stealing from us. You don’t have to be rich to tip. Just like you budget which restaurants to dine out, you can easily budget the tip.

  120. Susan

    I am from the UK and generally tip 20% to waiters but only $1 a bag for bellmen etc etc …. I never never knew that waiters were so low paid. That is horrible. I will certainly try to tip more in future when on holiday. I can honestly say it is ignorance of peoples situation that I then tip low. Here in UK people get a lot more money for salary, though not necessarily high, and waiters get tipped 10% regularly and that is acceptable. I think it is very bad that the US government make the guest pay the salary.

  121. Key

    I’d like to know where all these “stats” came from. What I thought were sources, where just redirects to another part of your site. Smells like bullshit.

  122. Chloe

    It is wrong that we have to tip because it is almost compulsory. Someone does a job and they should get paid enough to do that job. We can then tip them if we feel they have given us a better than expected service. Not a normal, what is expected one. I do tip and will continue to do so as not their fault they don’t get paid enough. It is all wrong and as an earlier poster said, service people should go on strike and take action to make the law change. If it means the cost of a meal or other services has to go up to enable the employer to pay his employees a fair wage – then so be it.

    But people should not be so mean as to not tip what is expected simply because they object to the USA system.

  123. Daniel

    5) Don’t put a zero or a zero with a dash in the tip box if it’s a situation when you’re not tipping—it comes off as mean and unnecessary. Just leave the line blank.

    I disagree with this one as my father has had a waiter write a large tip in even though he left a cash tip that he only found out about when checking his bank account.

    On the other hand, what do you think it would it take to get employers to start paying actual salaries. How do we show that we want it to change?

    • Boodle

      Exactly. I’ve heard people say this happened to them. I had something similar happen once back around 2001-2002, where someone gave them an extra $5-6 on top of the 18-20% tip I’d already given them for delivering Domino’s pizza. I think that they’d turned it from a $3-4 tip into a $10-12 tip. I tried calling and complaining, but the shift manager just blew me off and basically said that I was lying. (I seem to remember hearing about that place later on, and I think that I wasn’t the only person who they did this to and that apparently they’d cleaned house with all of their employees from that time period.)

      But essentially, don’t put it down as a blank. That just invites unscrupulous waiters (or whomever is ringing up the check, which isn’t always the same person) to add in whatever they wanted. If I have a tip in cash, I’ll write “tip in cash” and write a zero by the words- that way there’s no way that they could try to scam a larger tip. And makes them aware that the tip is on the table and that if it’s not there, they might want to try questioning the busboy over the lack of any said tip.

  124. Allissa

    Regarding “A massage therapist expects a $15-20 tip and receives one 95% of the time—about half of a massage therapist’s income is tips.”

    This is factually incorrect. The majority of massage therapists in the US are sole practitioners, not employees. (http://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html) (I am one of those sole practitoners)

    In general a sole practitioner will net 60-85% of the full price of the massage. Tips are awesome, but not 50% of their income.

    There are situations in which it is weird to tip a massage therapist. One does not tip their physical therapist or chiropractor, it is not necessary to tip a massage therapist who owns the business and is treating you often for a medical-related issue.

    And though you say it’s an antiquated notion, it really isn’t necessary to tip an owner who provides services.

    That said, there is an awful lot of gray area here, and sometimes you just aren’t sure if your therapist is an employee, contractor, or the owner. Many of us HATE the awkward tipping dynamic and simply have a “no gratuity” policy. (Instead my prices are exactly what I feel I should be paid according to my skill and experience.)

    If you are clearly at a business where employees are providing massage, it is absolutely customary (and appreciated) to tip, about 15-20%. If you get a really phenomenal massage, be sure to write a great review online, or even just tell the manager/owner on your way out. (and tell your friends!)

    If you’re not certain what to do, but don’t want to over-tip if not really necessary, just ask. “I’m not entirely certain of the protocol here and I know it can vary, may I tip you?” The answer will help you figure out what’s appropriate.

  125. rs

    i’ve worked in retail for 6 years. i still don’t understand why people would never tip someone working at a store. we do just as much work getting you your clothes ready as those in the food industry get you your food. and then we clean up after you too when you throw clothes around and on the floor. not trying to make an argument. i just don’t see the point in tipping people for doing their jobs. tips are extra. as in you felt someone go and of the extra amount of work for you so you are paying them for it. but this happens in retail too all the time. but no one would ever even think of it. i just don’t see why it isn’t considered in more professions than just the food industry.

    • Clothing Wench

      I used to work retail in college. I never got tipped. I actually think depending on the type of store you spend more time helping a customer than a server.

      This is why I scoff when people complain about tipping. Even if you get a 10-15% tip that is way more than a retail employee will ever get.

  126. Sweet D

    I have worked in the service industry for almost twenty years. Working in several restaurants and with many people, I always suggest to leave a zero on the tip line and put the total in. You can leave the line blank and put the total in; however, I knew of some people that would write in a tip and change the total. A three can easily become an eight. A four could become a nine. See where I am going with this. A couple of servers did this for almost a year before they got caught. So I say even if you are not going to tip still put a zero on the tip line.

  127. DamonE

    I’m unclear as to why there is a question about tipping on alcohol. Please forgive me as I read a lot of replies, got through a few responses to that question, then just skipped down to reply because it frustrated me so much. If you are going out for a dining experience in America, you tip on the total amount of the bill.

  128. Jennifer

    It’s horrible how ignorant some people are to this subject. It is not the waiter’s fault if they don’t get paid an hourly wage, it’s like that in every restaurant so he/she should not suffer from your negligence. They try their hardest to make your dining experience a pleasant one and frankly if you just don’t feel like tipping tjen why botyer going out to eat. These people live off of tips so you not tipping equals them getting less of an income.

  129. Mike

    “Sit at the table” for a better tip? I’ve had a few female servers squat down at my level at the table and that’s fine. But sit at my table? No freaking’ way.

  130. Pingback: Bits to Read – April 7th 2014 | Healthy Nibbles & Bits

  131. Boodle

    I’m a little irritated with some of the comments saying “if you can’t tip then you shouldn’t be eating in a restaurant”. I’ve known some people who really, REALLY couldn’t afford to tip more because they literally don’t have any more money. My family grew up fairly poor and eating out was a big, big luxury that happened maybe once or twice a year- if that. If we went out more than that, it was usually as part of a group where we were being treated to food. Otherwise we just didn’t eat out or we didn’t go to anyplace more glamorous than a McDonald’s- and even that was a rare thing.

    Sometimes people will go in and tip lower than 20% because they just can’t afford it. There’s really something wrong with the way the world is run if someone essentially says that you can’t go and eat at TGI Friday’s if you can’t afford to pay the $6 tip for a $30 meal and can only do about $4-5. Those people could always avoid the restaurant entirely… and thus keep the place from getting any money whatsoever. And a lot of people do this because they’re made to feel ashamed for being poor and trying so hard to save up the funds to pay an extremely large tip. I know that I tend to eat out less now because I don’t want people to judge me because I can’t afford a huge tip.

    This is probably why many places are reporting that fewer people are going out to eat each year. I really think that we need to just switch from the tipping system to where the employees get an actual minimum wage. It’d take a while to iron out the kinks, but essentially it’d be going from people paying $30 for food and a $6 tip to just paying $36 in total for the food as a whole, without the tip. Theoretically they’d still be paying the same amount.

    • Juris

      Actually, you would most likely end up spending less than $36, as the increase in the price of the meal will increase by less than 20%. You see, servers don’t want minimum wage because the truth of the matter is that servers actually make more money (non-tippers and all) than people working on minimum wage. And while serving is a laborious job, it is also routine, and doesn’t require much critical thinking. Another position that is highly routine is that of stock clerk. Depending on your employer, stock clerk positions are usually much much more laborious than server jobs (I have had both experiences). Although, both require a relatively small amount of critical thinking, stock clerking involves a bit more decision making in terms of creating a display. And both jobs are based on service. Without stock clerks, everyone would have to sift through pallets and piles of items in order to do their grocery shopping. And to note, I am no longer a server or stock clerk. I wised up.

      Anyway, long story short, to all the servers out there. Most of us working class get screwed over. It’s how things happen to be. Just be glad you aren’t a stock clerk. Whining isn’t going to help you, and getting frustrated doesn’t raise your stature by even one iota. Steve Buscemi’s character, Mr. Pink, was thinking realistically when he said, “Learn how to type.” (instead of the tiny violin playing, do something about it)

      And for the record, I wish the system was different, but it’s not going to change for the better until we unite together against those who control our money and our lives. Until then, it’s only going to get worse. It’s going to get to the point where a lot more of us lower class workers and our children will starve to death. Oh, and whomever you may think is to blame for our economic troubles, you’re probably right.

  132. Does it matter?

    As far as corruption goes, the US has a very high level of “Legal” Corruption which is corruption that is legal under US law such as promising a job or offering campaign contributions in order to get laws and regulations that work in their favor. When that was factored in Transparency International actually ranked the US as the most corrupt modern country and put the US pretty close to China in terms of overall corruption.

  133. Kristin (again)

    So, a few years back I was living in NYC and moved with my roommate from an apartment on 49th to an apartment on 43rd (both on the west side). My roomie was in Italy on moving day (I know…) so I had to oversee this whole mess on my own.

    It was a HOT summer day. About 6 movers worked from 10:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. … They did a great job (had to take apart an entire armoire to get it out of the first place, and basically re-build it in my new bedroom). The total came to $435 and they happily took some of our leftovers (rug, old microwave and couch); I also provided them with a case of bottled water. I tipped just over 25% on the total — about $110. Normally I would keep the tip around 20% but $85 seemed like nothing to split between 6 sweaty guys, so I figured I’d be “generous”…

    Anyway, I gave the “head mover” the tip and he was like… “That’s it? We need to split this between 6 people!” And I was like “Dude… It’s more than 20%. I don’t know what you want from me.” He left without too much trouble, but it was certainly intimidating (picture a 5’2, 100 lbs, 25-year-old female all alone up against 6 massive, thug-looking, tatted up body builders). Anyway, that was puzzling to me because they did a great job and I wanted to reward them but I agree that $100 split 6 ways is like, nothing for four hours of hard labor….

    • Joaquin

      We recently moved from one side of a Brooklyn neighborhood to the other. It took four movers about four hours to do the job (we have a fair amount of stuff and a narrow hallway in our new place that proved tricky). At the end of the job I handed over what I thought was a generous tip: $160 on top of a $450 moving bill (about 35%). The guy counted it twice and asked, “That’s it?” Always a surprise when you think you’re already on the “good tipper” side of things. So I added another $40 to make it a $200 tip ($50 per mover). In the end my tip was nearly half as much as the moving bill itself. Seems like a lot, but another moving company that I dealt with some years back suggested a range of $12-$18 per mover per hour for tips. I’m guessing that’s on the generous side of things, but still, I think movers expect (and deserve) tips that are a very large percentage of the overall bill.

      • Grandmaster Flush

        You got hustled.
        Those movers probably say “That’s it?” regardless of the amount, knowing that some people will automatically give them more money in response.
        $20 per man for the day is pretty good, more than that is overtipping unless there was some kind of very unusual situation they had to deal with.
        You were already paying about $28 per man hour at the base rate, which seems pretty high for an in-town move that you packed yourself.

  134. Woodsmoke Mike

    Thanks for a great summary of a part of our economy clouded in emotion and other nonsense. I do wish to add a note about performers. I sing in a hotel lounge every week and make the most erratic tips. Sometimes I find a $50 in the jar at the end of the night and other times not even enough for a bag of peanuts on the way home. The hotel gives me a $100 check at the end of the night, so tips are not the main part of my income there. But if you are in a place with live music and no cover, you might consider how much that means to you to have someone with years of training and experience playing your requests and doing their best to make you feel loved and at home while you have a few drinks with friends. And just a fyi: If I hear what sounds like 37 cents clink on the bottom of the jar I am grateful, but I have to think you are not very skilled in being compassionate.

  135. Heather

    I don’t see it on here so I would like to include that anywhere someone has a tip hat out and it says gratuity’s appreciated a tip is a kind gesture. My wages depend on tips – I drive a tour bus – and without tips I would not survive. Plain simple truth, not that anyone will read this.

  136. Juris

    First, may I say you forgot musicians. We have tip jars, but we also negotiate our pay, so we don’t expect tips, but we do appreciate them. And while overhead speaker systems are nice (and a bit creepy if you think about it), having a real musician play for you is a whole different experience. To reiterate: Tip if you’d like, but we do appreciate it.

    Second, for those who speak of incentive for tips, this is total bologna (boloney for those who don’t know how to spell “bologna”) This is not where “incentive” lives. The incentive is in how much the employer is paying, not how much the customer may or may not pay. If you are running a restaurant, and you pay your servers a decent wage that is stable and better than average tips, and you allow voluntary tips, you are going to get the best servers competing to work at your establishment, and that will also promote patronage.
    Though, admittedly this situation works much better in a land not rife with blatant corruption where the average patron has more disposable income. AKA The United States of America.

  137. Ron J

    This all just boils down to corporate greed. I’ve been on both sides of this. As a kid through college I worked many service places. There is a reason the turn over is so high. These aren’t jobs you do for life. They are not meant to be a bread winning career. If you think so you are greatly mistaken. I delivered pizzas, flipped hamburgers, served families feasts and took what I got and never questioned it. It wasn’t something serious. I knew this wasn’t for me for life. The only thing I was pissed about was that I didn’t earn minimum wage from the employers themselves. That’s all that needs to happen. Pay minimum wage. Pay for experience. Pay for the quality employee you get or not. Nothing should be expected. That’s such an American thing. Everyone feels entitled and expects the world to just come to them. You have to earn it. Plan and simple. Do good, and good will come. But expecting to stay in the food service industry and complaining about it is asinine. I can’t believe how long this has been going on and nothing ever changes. Put the pressure on the customer before the owners. Big business in gets away with too much here. Little to know taxes and forcing the customer to pay for your help. I tip. Maybe not on the high end, but I don’t agree with it. I do go above and beyond to call out great service. I’ve asked for a manager to highlight a great server. I’ve written letters to companies outlining great service on something or someone. I’ve rant and raved in blogs and sites like this. But I never feel obligated to pay for poor food, service or just because. We need to rethink and rework this to make it work for all involved. Fair pay from the employer. Good service from the server. Or let it all fail.

  138. Ron J

    I just don’t get how it’s any different than any other customer service job. If I want to buy or do something from an establishment, I will pay for it, whatever they ask as long as I think it’s a good deal. If it’s too much, I’ll go somewhere else. Paying what someone suggests extra just because that what you are supposed to do is ridiculous. Nothing is deserved, it’s earned. This includes the cheap o establishments that get away with not paying a decent wage. This is something that should go to the high courts of America, but it won’t. Why, because corporations run America. It’s been that way for a long time and don’t see it changing anytime soon. This problem is much deeper than someone thinking they are owed 15-20$ just because.

  139. Bev Barnett

    I’d love to see you do the same thing with regard to musicians! So many people assume that the bar, coffeehouse, etc. is paying the pianist, guitarist or jazz combo in the corner. Its often not true – or if it is, its not a lot. A good set of guitar strings can cost more than $20, and a lot of pro guitarists change them for every gig. If there is a tip jar out – it means tips are gratefully accepted. How much to tip? I do think in the case of musicians it depends on how much you enjoy the music. Granted, there is a big differential between professional musicians and hobbyists or those first starting out, setting up in the corner of the local coffee shop – but if you hear something you want to encourage, then please support it!

  140. Mike R

    Also left out that now the IRS has all but done away with any auto gratuity on checks, so next time you go out and assume the tip is included….. Just ask so you do not inadvertently not tip your server.

  141. Scott

    There are only two genders. Men and women. One is listed as above average at tipping and the other as average. That is impossible and points to a flaw in asking people how certain groups tip. Memories are faulty and influenced by pre-existing perceptions.

    • Tommy

      Sure, that’s a valid point, but I think the poll results are still valuable form a directional/comparison standpoint. With your example, I think we can say with quite a bit of certainty that on average, males are better tippers than females. Do you dispute that?

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  144. anonymousb

    There are many states you can feel sorry for tipped employees, NYC and California are not the place. They make far more then the federal minimum wage for tipped employees. Try working in Texas where you make 2.13 an hour plus tips.

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  148. Trace

    This article is extremely misleading and I am a waiter at a fine dining restaurant in Toronto. I also worked in many restaurants and hotels in the last 14 years.
    Good tip in a restaurant is anything above 10% and 15% or more is dope! Although we do receive 20% or more sometimes, it’s not expected at all. 10% or more for good service is all that is needed.

    Waiters in Canada are also getting paid good hourly salary on average. I never worked for less than minimum wage.
    When I worked as a bartender at a hotel, I was getting $17.20/h + tips. At another hotel as waiters we were receiving hourly wage of $14.
    My hourly restaurant wages for the past 14 years ranged from $7.50-14/h + tips.
    As bartender I was getting between $8-17.20+ tips with around 11/h+tips as average.

    My father works as RMT(Registered massage therapist) not the sleazy massage parlors that make money on sex favors but a real massage clinic with registered therapists.

    Canadian average wages for a RMT specialist is around $28/h. My father with 25 years of experience gets $45/h and charges $80/h when he works from home. Only 5% of all his clients give him tips

    I guess my question is, why are you writing an article on things you are completely not familiar with??

    • Tommy

      His post is based on US tipping standards (see note number 1). He probably should have made that point more obvious.

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  151. Kristen

    “if you can’t afford to tip, don’t eat out”. How ridiculous! How about, if you can’t afford to be a waiter…do something else?
    Great opportunity: Long hours, must be able to work with difficult people, long periods of standing and walking, $2.35 to start, added incentive – tips (aka:must depend on the kindness of strangers to make a wage.)
    I could just see myself applying for this job. *gigantic eye roll*
    The interview would probably go something like this:
    Restaurant Manager- ‘I think you are a great fit for the position but we can’t exactly pay you. The diners at the restaurant are usually more than generous; I’m sure you’ll make enough to survive’
    Me: ‘Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!’ as I walk out of the place that wants me to take a job that doesn’t pay me outright.

    I’m glad I live in a Country that pays all employees, at least, minimum wage.

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  153. Rationale Human

    All tipping is BS. We are essentially guilted into it because it usually accompanies a fun event for the customer. Think about it, tipping is expected only at places where you enjoy yourself. Not places where better service matters. It makes more sense to tip a doctor than a waiter. You don’t tip for good service. Good service means you return to the establishment. The only beneficiary of the tipping system is the bar/restaurant owner because they get to pay their employees shite and have the customers make up the difference.

  154. Penny

    I don’t tip because myself & a lot of other people don’t or never did get tipped in our jobs. I think the restaurant & other business owners should pay a decent salary, they charge plenty for the meals.

  155. Katie

    Restaurants may have to make up the difference if a server makes less than minimum wage, but they’re careful not to let that happen. If you have 3 tables an hour you’re pretty much guaranteed minimum wage. The problem is when the rush is over the manager starts “cutting” servers to make sure everyone on the floor has 3 tables. I’ve worked 90 minute lunch shifts where I left with $15. The first ones cut are the ones coming back for the dinner shift. So you order your 1/2 price lunch, and now you’re up $10 for the day. You hang out with the other double-shifters for a couple hours in the break room (most of us didn’t have cars) and hope for a $100 dinner shift. Usually you end up with $60 because “doubles” are the first cut again, and if it’s after 10:00 you’ve missed the last bus and you’re taking a $15 cab ride home. So while not on the clock the whole time, you’ve been there 11 hours for $55. So why do it? The tips. We left with cash every day instead of waiting 2 weeks for a paycheck, and every once in a while you’d have a $200 day. I would never ever have worked that job for a $12/ hr bi-weekly check. I have to wonder,in these non-tipping countries, if the dining culture is different with regard to consistently having customers all day. I just can’t see workg a 90 minute or 3 hour shift without the possibility of a big pay-off.

  156. Eric

    I wish we’d move toward a UK model. The problem is inherent in this graph; the more we make this our cultural norm, the less employers can pay their employees, and the more important it is to people to get everyone to tip, so we can pay them even less, and it’s an endless chain. I usually tip 10% for poor service, 15% for average and 20% for good service in the food service industry, but it heavily influences me not to go out to eat if I can avoid it.

    In addition, I will go out of my way to eat somewhere that pays REAL minimum wage, even if that is McDonalds, when in a situation to. I flat out refuse to buy any drinks; neither soda nor alcohol, because I find the markup abhorrent and inexcusable.

    I will not tip for haircuts or massages, and I don’t utilize any of the other services or take cabs. I would prefer to just get charged up front for a given good or service, so I can choose whether or not I want to spend that much before consenting. One day, I hope we move toward this model where people are paid a living wage, and tips are welcomed but entirely optional.

    It’s unfortunate that the only way I know how to protest this system is to not use anyone’s services when I can help it, or upset their expectations. What are my other options?

  157. Tina

    I have worked as a bartender and at a retail store. As I live in Washington, tipped professions make the same as minimum wage which is over $9 an hour. I will say this, I worked harder and got yelled at more when I worked at the store. Not only is it not culture to tip these workers, it was store policy that I could not accept any if it was offered. That is ridiculous, as a bartender I made drinks and had conversations with my customers, I lived comfortably even though I was attending University. At the retail store, I had to be constantly available for customers (helped some for more than an hour), got harped on for metrics (had to have good ones to even get hours), busted my back stocking and carrying out items for customers, listened to screaming babies, overly hormonal pregnant women, people that couldn’t read ads correctly and took it out on me. I have been screamed at on the phone, yelled at for other people’s mistakes, and have cleaned up pee off of the floor and after children because the parents could not be bothered to watch them (worked at a toy store). Effectively I was a babysitter, I much preferred bartending as far as the amount of effort was concerned. I am not against tipping, I always tip well because I know what a difference it can make (as a bartender I generally received at least 30% tips). However I also do not think it should be restricted to certain professions. All these restaurant owners whine about paying the cost of their labor but Washington has gotten along just fine, we still restaurants. Every worker should receive minimum wage and tipping should be an extra gesture beyond that, it should not be reserved for those professions deemed to involve direct service. As a sales associate at the store, I had to do many different jobs. As for not tipping cashiers, sure they’re just charging you but they are also the face of the company. They get yelled at by many customers and they have to stand in one spot for hours. They have to try to answer questions without leaving their post and get yelled at by customers if they don’t show them the way yet get yelled at by bosses if they leave. It is the perception of these jobs that is the issue, especially since cashiers and floor associates have arguably more customer service to do with more customers (especially since customers expect you to know everything about every product which is not easy when baby items and toys are involved).

  158. Anonymous

    What a terrible article. I’m still not sure upon which factor you are claiming tips should be based. Additionally, California restaurant owners are required to pay the state minimum wage of $8.00 an hour, and dining prices are still comparable to other states. Tipping should certainly be based on the service recieved, although I do agree that anyone who doesn’t tip at least 10% has no business dining out UNLESS the service was so atrocious that the only alternative would have been to beat that server publicly in front of all the other servers (I’ve had service like that). Anytime I sit down at a restaurant I expect to leave a 20% tip and if I leave lower it means you failed at your job. You’d be surprised HOW MANY TIMES I’ve sat staring at a plate of delicious-looking food wishing I had silverware. Some people will never tip and those people have a special place in hell alongside the terrible servers. Lest you forget: you are a servant. You literally wait on people hand and foot. If you don’t like it or if it’s not paying out, I dare you to get an 8-5 office job or a job in retail where you can deal with the exact same crappy customers for zero tips and no appreciation.

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  160. anonymous

    I just want to add a group not mentioned that people often forget. Tip your housekeepers at hotels. They work hard, get paid poorly, and a tip will not only make their day but also make them want to go the extra mile for you. Believe me, I worked that job for a while. Seriously.

  161. Me

    I completely agree with all those hailing from states that mandate at least minimum wage for “tipped” service employees. I am also from California where servers here make 8 or maybe 9 dollars an hour now MINIMUM for what they do. Since I am currently a full-time student, I have actually recently been finding it difficult to rationalize tipping servers at all. I used to work for Apple retail where we did everything for our customers. Not only were we expected to solve every technological issue brought to us, but we also had to STUDY the products and provide EXPERT knowledge as a retail employee either educating customers on how to use ANY of their technological products or by using our knowledge to repair their products. Not to mention, we did all of the restocking, cleaned the ENTIRE store at the end of the day, and had to smile and apologize to angry, screaming customers when an item was out of stock or if their technological hardware had malfunctioned due to their OWN mishandling. So as an Apple employee who would sometimes save customers hundreds of dollars by offering my own knowledge that I spent countless hours acquiring, we were NOT allowed to accept tips. These workers make pretty darn close to minimum wage depending on your area and they have the same needs as restaurant servers do including taking heat from angry customers and then some. With this experience behind me, I can’t justify tipping when I am currently struggling myself, possibly even more than these servers are…and no, I’m not going to NOT go to a restaurant just because I prefer to not tip.

  162. dukedan1

    So I think it’s funny how most of you are complaining about the stereotypes, the unfairness of minimum wage, the lack of respect for the American way of tipping, the poor job done on the surveying, or the simple cross cultural misinterpretations on foreign television,(my personal favorite, being that they gave an argument, then returned with the truth of their lack of traveling out of their own area) but give credit to the writer, who is a writer. Paid by someone other than those of us writing comments. He worked in a restaurant one time. Granted, it was before markets crashed, economic downfalls and a whole generation of imbeciles came into the work force who went to college, then had nothing to do with their degrees, who then turned to the service industry, (because really,we hire anyone who can perform tasks slightly more civilized than monkeys) and felt they could do nothing and still make money. So the focus on this should be work ethic, not what to tip. Those of us who have been in the industry for years, and I’m talking 10+, understand there are always the people who are outside of any stereotype, and those who are exhibiting the truth of said stereotype. A server can always apply him or herself to a more to quality restaurant. Or take on a management position. Or apply for another job in another industry altogether. I’ve served, bartended, managed, cooked, owned, co owned, front of house and back of house alike, and those of us who strive, take it in stride. I’m a licensed art therapist, but I find bartending and managing a restaurant to be much more enjoyable than to have case work on a five year old who’s mother was shot and raped by her father in front of her, drawing me pictures and explaining to me how she feels, not to mention more beneficial financially. So every time some patron comes to me to talk about problems, or what’s going on in their life, has no idea of my background in therapy, and it doesn’t matter, but my attention and demeanor towards their plight, or conversation, and/or simple want to just not have to deal with a meal at their own home creates an atmosphere of humanity. Otherwise, we’d all stay indoors. If you’ve read this in its entirety, just ask yourself, wait, but why? And then go out and do something.

  163. there_there

    Very interesting and helpful article, thank you.
    As a non-US citizen, the meaning and culture of tips in the US has now become a lot clearer to me.

    Every time I visited the US, I became nervous as a tipping situation would come up. Am I supposed to tip here? How much do I tip? Do I tip now or later? Will they be angry if I tip this much? Or that much? Being judged about the tip is not a relaxing experience. It also makes the friendliness of service more ambiguous; you don’t know if the person is genuinely being friendly or just wants more tip. The more they make an effort, the more it makes the situation uncomfortable; it just seems fake. On the other hand, it is quite shocking for me to find out that such large portions of salary depend on the tips alone…as much as 100%!?

    If it were up to me, I would just prefer that prices were higher and fixed, so that I would not have to worry about it (especially in restaurants).
    In Japan, where I live, this system is no obstacle for excellent service. I agree that in Europe service can be crappy in some cases, but nearly all my own experiences were excellent. In such cases, I tip accordingly (“european tipping”).

    Indeed the meaning of a tip is quite different in the US as compared to European countries. For the latter, you may not expect a tip if you served extremely badly, whereas in the former, you are expected to tip a minimal amount. These are important differences that have become part of the local culture. So, we must think beyond the word “tip” and consider this local culture.
    Thank you for the very nice article! (do I tip now…?)

  164. Pingback: Not sure how much you should tip when in the USA | Travel247.ie Blog

  165. Sunny

    The whole tipping cycle in the US is out of control. Why is it the responsibility of the customer to supplement the servers’ wages? The minimum wage should take care of that; why are restaurants being allowed to pay people $2-$5 per hour? Increase the prices on your menu if you really need customers to be paying for your staff and put an end to all the ambiguity surrounding tipping!

    It’s also not fair to all the other people in the world who are simply doing their job well and not expecting to be tipped. So why are some professions “tipping” professions? Do cashiers at the drug store get tipped? Do pharmacists get tipped? Does the guy stocking the grocery shelf get tipped? Do you tip your bus driver? Do you tip the retail store girls for folding the clothes and bringing you the right sizes? Do you tip the worker in the factory who somewhere along the way helped to make/assemble the object you are currently using? They are all “serving” you, in one way or another…so where do you draw the line?

    It’s become a chicken-egg problem now, and the % that people are expected to tip is growing increasingly out of control, further exacerbating this cycle. If you stopped and thought about this objectively, to pay 20-35% on top of your bill for ONLY the service portion is kind of outrageous.

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  167. Kay

    The only problem I have with this is with the takeout section. Not all restaurants have servers fill takeout orders. A lot of places have employees dedicated exclusively to that job, such as myself. There is so much more time and effort put into making sure you have everything you need in an order than people realize, especially when every extra sauce is portioned out by hand. To make that the only job where it’s fine not to tip is bothersome.

  168. Eurotrashgirl

    Instead of writing about how inadequate the tipping system is, why don’t you lobby law makers to do away with the tipped minimum wage? That way, it is the employers responsibility to pay their employees, not the costumers.

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  170. rajia

    I have nothing against tips, as long as they’re an extra on top of their actual pay, (not ~$2) Raising the minimum wage would force restaurant owners to pay their workers a fair wage (~$2 is not a fair wage).
    When I go to a restaurant, I pay for the food, not the waiter’s wage. I’m not responsible for my waiter’s salary, the restaurant owner is. Tip should be a tip, and not be 80-100% of their wage.

  171. Soprano

    Going from “the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean, icky middle aged women who are mean to him, ” (in the e-mail) to “the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful middle aged women who are mean to him” (in the article at the link) is an improvement. Better would be “the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful people who are mean to him” — assuming that the server’s problem is that the managers are mean and powerful, not that they are “icky” (however one defines that quality), or “middle aged,” (problem with parents, or older people in general) or “women” (unless the server has a problem with being supervised by women, in which case there is a different problem altogether). Most people who write essays compose them from their own personal perspective, but it is good for writers who have a wide audience to consider other perspectives when writing descriptive prose. Often, the way descriptions are stated can reflect multiple perspectives without losing humor or directness. The change in the sentence at the beginning of this comment shows that you are attempting to engage in that self-editing process (whether someone brought that to your attention is irrelevant) and that you have a little farther to go. Allow me to encourage you to continue to improve in this area. (Usually, you do very well — this seems like an aberration to me.)

  172. Confused

    On restaurant delivery, what’s the protocol on tipping when the restaurant advertises “free delivery?”

  173. Jill

    Did you guys know that in several states, waiters still have to make minimum wage before tips? I just found this out. So in Washington State for instance, waiters already make $9+/hour… and then you’re still expected to give good tips. I’ve never had a problem giving good tips because I knew that waiters made like $3/hr (which I still think is dumb, but it’s the way it is).. so I’m floored to find out that’s not true.

    So whoever said restaurants “can’t” pay minimum wage is just wrong. In several states they have to. And lo and behold, restaurants still exist in those states. Here’s the info:

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm

  174. SEATTLEguy

    Does this all still hold true in states (like Washington), where everyone has to get minimum wage? They make $9+ an hour before tips. The average waiter in Seattle makes $35/hr. I still tip 20%, but it seems a little less important in our city. Granted, the price of going out is a lot higher here than in other cities…

  175. Amber

    I see nothing about tipping the car wash person. General information is that they are paid low as well and told to clock out if there is no business (told to clock out but wait around instead of being sent home). I forgot cash to tip the first time I took my car in. (I used to wash it myself) I am confused about how much to tip, usually just hand them a few dollars and toss in an extra if I ask for something specific that is completed to satisfaction.
    I also am confused about wash and fold. These people deal with my (and my children’s) nasty clothing, is it appropriate to tip. How much? I know they make a regular wage. I feel terrible when I cannot afford a tip. The service itself is almost double the cost of washing it yourself but I just can’t spend 3 hours of my precious weekend time with 3 young boys at the laundry. The stress, whining, and physical exertion are to much.

  176. WTF?

    So, because bartenders make $2-$5 an hour, you have to tip, but NEW FLASH, you’re average barista makes about $7.50 an hour. That’s not a living wage. YES we DO depend on your tips and you are a huge ass if you don’t.

  177. Server!

    And that is why I love living in Oregon. We get minimum wage ($9.10/hour) + tips. When I was working at Shari’s, I averaged about $16/hr. The bad tippers and amazing tippers balanced each other out, and I always made good money.

  178. Anonymous

    As a former server I am always surprised at the lack of simple service basics when I go out. If servers would just keep the re-fillable beverages full and walk by the table occasionally to check on our party without having to interrupt (people will look up as you near the table if they need something, it’s an easy way to save time without being intrusive), I would gladly be a huge overtipper. I don’t think that’s asking too much. I met a very good tipper once who said he used to place a stack of $5′s on the table when he was seated and each time he had to ask/call the server over, he would take one back. That is what service means. Guests should never have to ask for anything. Anticipate.

  179. AXM

    It’s also customary to tip your postal carrier around the holidays. Don’t forget the person who brings your mail every day.

    • Anonymous

      This is something that should go away all together. There is nothing in the mail these days I ever want to see anyway. Just bills and junk mail. The postal carrier is a thing of the past. We should cut that out all together and save a fortune. Or at least, make it a once a week thing. I don’t need this everyday.

    • Anonymous

      No, it’s not. The post office actual has policies prohibiting mail carriers from accepting cash tips, and other gifts must be shared with the office.

  180. ElJay

    Sorry, I know waiting tables is really, really hard and lots of people are jerks but if I’m being a patient and accommodating customer and you act like you just don’t care, I won’t be rewarding that with a tip.

  181. wobster109

    A note to servers – hassling customers for tips is not cool. I was at a restaurant-and-bar with a group, and we paid our $65 bill with $70 in cash. We were still talking and planned to leave tip on the table when we were done. The server started hassling us! Walking by our table and loudly saying snide things about us. It ruined what had been good service, but it wasn’t good anymore after that! It also lost business for the restaurant. I never went back.

  182. Anonymous

    It shouldn’t be the customer’s job to subsidize poor wages through tips. I would rather pay a higher product price so that the employees are paid well, than have to give a shitty waiter a good tip just because it’s socially expected. Tell me why in Europe it’s not a thing to tip? It’s because the employees are paid well, and service is still great. That’s another thing to keep in mind before bashing foreigners. In America, we’re still doing the foolish thing and rewarding mediocrity with cash. In other countries, consumers know they don’t have to take part in such bullshit.

  183. Anonymous

    I worked as a waitress for a few years (and as a caterer/server/bartender for many years). I actually found as a waitress/server that the worst tips I got were from other servers. They were the ones who would keep me hanging out until they finished (after coming in 2 minutes before closing) and then leave a $1 for 3 people. Now, I was not the best server in the world, but hey that’s a pretty crappy way to treat a fellow server. On the other hand, I found that people in laboring jobs, more often tip well, though not always. It seemed like there was a split between “you work for a living, here’s a fair tip” and “you don’t work as hard as me, I’m keeping my money.” I have to say, over all, I was not encouraged by the “generosity” of my fellow human beings when I was a server.

  184. Anonymous

    P.S. to those who say Servers are servants. They are not. This is not the eighteenth century where you are born to a class and are stuck there. Waitstaff deserve the same respect as everybody else. Just because people don’t show you respect in your job does not give you the right to disrespect others. And there is a difference between bad service, and someone who is new, or not properly trained. Show a little patience and kindness to others for a moment.

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  186. TDL

    TIPS are about service. period. Average service = average tip. Great service = great tip. Poor service = no tip. If you are slow, rude, the food is horrible and the communication between all parties is lacking in order for me to get average service, you shouldn’t expect a tip. You should expect the manger to be alerted and perhaps you’ll try harder with the next customer to recover those earnings.

  187. Grandmaster Flush

    Most restaurant service workers end up making more money with a tipping system than they would from a higher hourly wage system without tipping. Although it is also more stressful and less predictable income.
    The typical restaurant server wage would probably be in the $10-20 range, with a small number of very high-end restaurants paying considerably more, and some quick-service restaurants in low cost areas paying somewhat less. This is based on a comparison with other jobs that do not require specialized skills, education, or exposure to danger and hardship.
    Take a look at the back of house staff. In most restaurants, few if any of the kitchen staff are making over $15/hour. If everyone were on the same wage system, there is no way that a waiter is going to get paid much more than a good line cook.
    While all servers love to complain about working for tips, the reality is that most end up earning considerably more than what they would make under an hourly wage system.

  188. Aurora Levins Morales

    As a disabled person, I tip the airport workers who push my wheelchair. I do it because almost all of them are immigrants which means it’s likely poorly paid work, because service ranges very widely, from extremely helpful to abusive and I hope tipping well will encourage better treatment overall. At the sane time, it’s a kind of travel surcharge for disabled people, and many of us can’t afford it. People who provide this service should be trained properly and paid well, and the cost shouldn’t fall on those least able to pay. I’d really love to know how much other disabled people tip. I give more when it’s a long way, or I get a lot of help with bags, security, etc. or just extra thoughtful and friendly help. I usually don’t tip for being pushed only from the gate onto the plane. For curb to gate, including checkin and security, I usually give $7-10. I’ve given as much as $20. I live on a fixed income and it really adds up on longer trips with plane changes.

  189. KT

    Nice article but the line about tip >15% even if the service sucks is a little off putting. The idea of ‘tipping’ is based on service. Street performers do not get paid to sit on the street otherwise they’d be bums and make much less, they’re tipped for playing to their audience. Everyone has a bad night so that’s understandable but expecting something for nothing is unacceptable. If I do a poor job at my work, I don’t get raises, and I may even get fired.. Let’s keep in perspective that the job is to serve and the compensation is based on performance otherwise it’s charity and I can find better causes.

    • OrionT

      Agreed.

      If the service sucks, I may leave 10%, perhaps with a note saying ‘thanks for ruining my lunch.’

  190. Dom

    As a Brit, it seems crazy to me that so many people are underpaid and that reliance on tips is so heavy, even if service is terrible. In the UK, typically we’d usually only tip in a restaurant, and standard is 10%. It seems backwards to us Brits to tip someone who gives bad service – everyone has bad days, but surely if your salary relies on tips, why would you chance it by giving bad service?

    To give some perspective as a ‘foreigner’, (although I do have US family and friends so I am aware of the tipping culture, but not fully versed), if I don’t tip in a bar or somewhere that would be unusual for me to tip in at home, it’s because I’ve forgotten. I’m not trying to be a douchebag, it’s just a foreign concept to me (pun intended). Plus also, the table above is so ridiculous, it’s nigh on impossible for someone not native to the US to remember how much to tip and to whom.

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  192. Anonymous

    I now only eat at restaurants where they automatically include 18-20% gratuity on the bill. Like most rational people, I’d rather pay a flat and pre-determined price for my food/service and have the company deal with paying its employees. If you can’t pay your employees your business model is wrong. It’s not “raising prices” it’s charging customers a price that allows you to stay open and pay your employees.

  193. Sam

    When I have money, I usually tip well >30% , I receive warm smile which i can feel from the bartender…when I dont have money, I tip about 10%….i receive sarcastic smile….thats the only thing…

    There is nothing wrong with Tip cultured Business…..

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  195. Donatella

    This is the tip of the iceberg. I am very comfortable with all the categories you mention. The real confusion comes with tradespeople. I never tip trade professionals: i.e. plumbers, electricians, painters or contractors of any kind (they get enough money!) Sometimes the guys who work for them go the extra mile and I might give them something. But a lot of other services I always tip: like the guy who cleans carpets or some lower level services. Movers are kind of unbelievable. They expect a lot, but with stuff like that, I tend to tip but be very conservative, i.e. give them something but a nice tip only if they do a nice job. Some people go nuts with tipping – tipping everyone for everything. It’s a pain.

  196. Anonymous

    Tipping is outdated. Employers need to pay a decent wage and work the cost into the price. For those that feel that this will impact service, I disagree. If an employee does a poor job waiting tables and making the customers happy, fire them and hire someone that will take pride in their job. That easy.

  197. OrionT

    LOL. Funny article.

    If your service sucks, the only tip you’ll get is a helpful note saying ‘Choose a different career.’

    You’re welcome.

  198. lisa

    If my server sits at my table or kneels down, they get no tip and a complaint to the manager, if they flirt with me or my husband they get a complaint, if they touch my kids they get a complaint. if they do their job they get tipped average, but the kitchen gets tipped well,after all they did all the real work.

  199. Tamara

    I agree with everything except for the fact that if you get bad service from a waiter you should still tip no less than 15%. Why would I pay someone for service when it’s below standard or down right BAD SERVICE. To me tipping they 15% is encouraging their bad service and saying it’s ok to suck at you job.

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  201. Becky

    I start out with a 25% tip in mind. but if my water glass gets empty **ding** 5% deduction. If the server does not check back after delivering food **ding** 5% deduction. If the server doesn’t smile or make eye contact **ding** 5% deduction. If the server takes my husbands order first and delivers his food first **ding** 5% deduction. I am not a bitch. I am probably one of the nicest most courteous people out there, but if you ruin my dining experience with shitty service, then you will get a shitty tip. Bottom line. Also…. If you make me pay for my food at a counter and deliver it. No tip. I am not going to tip before I have received service. I rarely carry cash. If the owner can’t trust us to pay after a meal, then I can trust that his employees are going to give decent service.

  202. Jon

    From the first example, “The Inadvertent Undertip” — 285 seconds of bar-tending work for a $5 tip works out to $5/(285/60/60) = $63.13/hour, assuming you’re working at a busy bar and have a steady stream of customers. Assuming a standard 2000 hour work-year (40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year), that would be a pre-tax salary of $126,260/year.

    If $126,260/year qualifies as “under-tipped”, then we should all be so lucky as to work in the service industry.

    • Anonymous

      Did you really just assume that a bartender has a stream of customers so steady that he/she can sustain 40 hours/week and 50 weeks per year at the $63 / hour rate?…Wow

      • Anonymous

        Seems like he’s saying that $5 for less than 5 minutes of work should not be considered ‘the inadvertent undertip’.

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  204. Janet

    I am not a fan of tipping in general. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t feel I “need to pay” for someones actions they are already paid to do. I do have a system though and it doesn’t include a “handout”. Here is what I do. I start out with $5 for a basic meal out, not the high dollar break the bank meal, but an average dinner out for 2. If the service is really great, I add to it up to $10. If it’s terrible, I subtract down to $2. If they are really incredible, I’ll call attention to them and give praise to the manager as well. If super bad, the same applies. I have no problem letting corp know either way as well. I also am a Yelper. I will let others know what I think and why a place is good or bad. I usually give a place a couple visits before I review just to make sure it all averages out. But as this story pointed out, leaving a tip even if for bad service, you’ve got to be kidding.

    • Anon

      It’s more of a reward/prize for doing good. It by no means is you the customer paying the server for a job they already get paid to do.

  205. Anonymous

    I know we’ve talked about this before, but I still have to ask this because it still baffles me.

    Why doesn’t someone do something about this? If servers have to rely on tips to live, there is something wrong here.

    Seriously.

    Used to be, tips were for people who deserved them. Now it’s demanded.

    As a customer, I should not shoulder the burden of your pay. I am not your employer. If I tip, it’s because you did an awesome job compared to your fellow employees, and will come back often. If I don’t tip, I most likely won’t come back, and neither will the people I hang around.

    I shop with my wallet. I give my money to places I enjoy, and the waiters and waitresses I enjoy.

    A tip should not be mandatory. I am not your employer. Nor is the guy sitting next to me, or the couple across the room.

  206. Anonymous

    While in the rest of the world tipping is considered to be a reward to an individual for his hard work, only on this side of the ocean something this ridiculous could be easily transferred to the consumer while the restaurant owners are laughing all the way. Not to mention, mandatory tipping has been ingrained into the so called ‘culture’. Well played Sir!!!!
    Establishment : 1 , Public and workers : 0

  207. boso

    So there actually is a box on the receit where you can write down the amount of money for the tip if you pay by card or something? How does that work?

    And has someone ever tried to change the US minimum wage / tip system? A political party or something?

    (this is the first time on WBW that the commentsection was more interesting than the post itself, learning about different cultures!)

    • Anon

      Boso, it’s funny you should ask, because that’s something that’s being bitterly fought right now in the US. One party is trying to raise minimum wage to require what’s called a “living wage,” while the other is fighting that on the grounds that the government shouldn’t interfere with business practices.

      • boso

        so there ís minimum wage, it’s just so low that you can’t actually pay food and rent with it? But I thought the US was a normal country, where people had rights and stuff. Interfering with business practices has a limit, but fair minimum wage is on the absolute bottom of that scale. It’s what distinguishes “developed” countries of countries like Ethiopia.

        I don’t understand, how is this possible in the US?

        • Matt

          minimum wage just makes it illegal to hire someone who produces less than that wage. A business simply deletes (or doesn’t hire) anybody who cannot work hard and fast enough to be a greater value than the current minimum wage (which right now is 7 something an hour). Here is oen of about a million sources out there that say that min wage = bad http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/03/02/youth-unemployment-shows-the-effects-of-a-minimum-wage-that-is-too-high/

          So typically what happens with a higher minimum wage is a decrease in youth employment (especially in poor neighborhoods) and an increase in automation investment. Also, increases in healthcare cost do this as well. Any time we increase the cost of a good – we decrease the amount that good is purchased – in this case, the good is unskilled labor and the purchasers are employers.

          Your notion of what ‘rights’ are is completely backwards. Rights include property rights – and the right to make a contract with anybody – not the right to a living wage. You don’t have a right to something that somebody else provides. The minimum wage is an infringement on people’s freedoms because it makes it illegal to create a contract with someone for a low wage – even if the services they provide are of low value.

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  209. Steve

    I agree with the articles below. Tipping is an AWFUL custom that needs to go away. Of course the people in power, the owners, will fight tooth and nail to keep tipping because it makes the patron pay their employee’s wages.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/07/abolish_tipping_it_s_bad_for_servers_customers_and_restaurants.html

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/08/tipless_restaurants_the_linkery_s_owner_explains_why_abolishing_tipping.html

  210. Tbone

    How can woman be average and men be above average? That would mean that all men and women together — in other words, everybody — would be a bit above average. The entire population together has to work out to average, or it doesn’t make any sense.

  211. Lee

    For the record:
    It’s amazing to me that I didn’t see musicians on the list of those deserving to be tipped.
    Most musicians play for 3 to 4 hours for Crap pay, and are the least tipped.
    As for the rest, I totally agree. If you can’t tip or can’t afford to tip you should stay home.
    This is how these people support themselves or their families.

    Consider adding musicians to the list of those deserving tips as well. :)

  212. Anon

    Do things like teacher gifts count as tips? You’re not supposed to give money, but you should give a gift of some kind before winter break and the end of the year. I’ve seen people give anything from a $5 Dunkin Donuts card to a designer scarf to a bottle of maple syrup to a literal apple, but not giving something is a little rude. On the other hand, cash is rude too, so maybe it doesn’t qualify as a tip. It’s definitely in appreciation of services rendered for low salary, though…

  213. CJ

    For the record, in San Francisco, waitstaff are paid the city’s minimum wage, not the $2-5/hour that most cities/states pay for this position. With that in mind, why should we have to give such high tips here? If they’re already making $10.74 an hour (which might go up to $15/hour), plus they get tips on top of that, and in half the restaurants in the city there’s another 4% thrown on the bill for Healthy SF fees (and why do customers have to pay health insurance for the restaurant’s employees? I often lower my tip by that amount – I’d rather they just raise the prices of the food than shove it in my face that they are making me pay for their employee’s health costs), why should we then have to tip 15-20% to be “average”? Look – I worked in the industry, and I tip 18-20% most of the time anyway, but sometimes will tip only that 15% (or less) if service sucked. I have no intention of leaving a good or generous tip, or any tip at all, if the people sucked at their job because I know they are making way more than that $2-5/hour some places pay. Waitstaff in SF really have it made, in my opinion, and I’d happily go back into the bar or restaurant business if I could – I’d probably make more than I do now as a receptionist. I’m certain that most waitstaff in SF make more than I do as it is, and having worked in the field and loving it, I’d jump at the chance. On the rare times when I can afford to go out and have a nice meal, I want great service. Prices here for nice restaurants is quite high, and I expect to get service that matches. (For instance, when I go to House of Prime Rib, I almost always tip 20%+. That usually is the only time I eat out that month.)

    • Joel

      Minimum wage ($10.74) x Full Time Hours per year (2040) = $20889.60 per year.
      Before taxes.
      Can you live on that in San Francisco? Not a chance.
      Not too many places in the US that you can make end meet on such a wage.
      Nice try though.

  214. JJ

    The reason why one isn’t expected to tip the owner of a hair salon (or similar service business) is because they set their own prices. If they want to make more, they charge more. This is still true and not “antiquated.”

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  216. Anon

    This is the most bullshit article I’ve ever read. Restaurants are a business that pay minimum wage and tell their waiters that the rest of your salary will come from customers. So now there’s this absurd tipping culture being forced upon customers where IT IS OUR JOB and what we MUST DO RIGHT or we are a horrible person if we don’t do what our employee refuses to do. Pay us waiters well. Well guess what. Maybe you waiters should learn from other countries about EXCELLENT service where tipping is not the norm. I went to Pakistan (third world country) and when I dined in a nice restaurant, my fork fell under the table and the waiter ALL the way across from the room (somehow saw it with his hawk eye vision) and rushed to me with a new fork before I could even react. I was shocked and impressed at this superb service and this is what every waiter should strive for. I grew up in California and a waiter has never done that and gave another fork until I got the attention of the waiter and asked personally. Why? Well obviously because that’s just not what they do. I always tip over 15% and if the service is not great, I speak to the manager and will always write a review on yelp about their service. tipping well does not improve service, it shows gratitude and thanks them for excellent service.
    Always write 0 in the tip section because if not they will sometimes write it in for you and you’ll almost always forget to check your statement. I have a friend who checks every line on his bank statement and has caught this many times. So no it is not “mean and hurtful” to ignore your right to write this down and avoid being overcharged w/o your knowledge.

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  222. hmph

    No way in hades am I tipping 20% for “shitty service.” What are you thinking?! I never deduct from a tip for anything that is out of the server’s control, but I can’t reward someone for being crap at their job. If a person sucks at being a waiter or waitress there should be some way for them to find that out.

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  224. Joel

    I can’t believe some of the ignorant ass comments about “Restaurants should just pay their staffs a working wage!”

    Tips are payment for services rendered. There is potential to make a lot of money in service industry tipped positions, particularly if you are a low skilled worker. Why would you want to limit the earning potential of these people and reduce the service levels? dumbasses

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  226. Maxwell

    This is the first and only Wait But Why post to disappoint me. Encouraging this automatic tipping thing in the US is really encouraging inequality and a “lord and servant” mentality. I live in New Zealand now where tipping is almost nonexistent and service at restaurants and bars is fine. I happen to be one of those people who doesn’t want his ass kissed at a restaurant and really only expects the waiter to take the order, deliver the food, and process the payment. It may be true that in many parts of the US waiters rely on tips for their salary, but supporting that system out of charity is wrong. Why would we not vote with our dollars in this one arena?

    I will allow that in certain types of bars and restaurants the service is really a show. I’m thinking fancy date places and cool bars where you talk to the bartender, or anywhere you are a regular. That’s a different situation.

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  231. T-Top

    It is not up to the hungry customer to just hand over a stack of cash because you asked someone what they wanted to eat and took it to them.

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  233. Brittany

    I don’t think I need to tip a dollar for every cheap beer I order. Bartenders do not need to “make” a beer. I will tip a dollar after I’ve purchased a couple beers.

    I also don’t agree with tipping well those who deliver. There is typically a $2-$5 delivery fee to aid in this. A couple dollars are all that should be required for a pizza delivery.

  234. Jack

    I thought this post was going to be a lot longer until I realized over 80% of the page was comments. Emotions and opinions run high with this. And he does a good job at explaining why.

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  239. Brook Monroe

    There’s some flawed logic here, and it starts in the first pop-up (did you read it?); “At some point, the US decided that customers, not employers, should pay the salaries of service employees….” It’s echoed in a later comment: “Restaurants are a business that pay minimum wage and tell their waiters that the rest of your salary will come from customers.”

    Everyone’s salary comes from the customers. There’s no magic pile of money that pays the managers, the cooks, and the folks that wash the dishes that’s separate from the money that pays the servers. The only difference is whether the employer handles the money before it goes to the server (and everyone else).

    The correct statement is “your total salary will be directly determined by the customers.”

    So, if you’re waiting tables and not making enough money, I see three possible avenues of remedy, separately or in combination:

    1) You need to do a better job at waiting tables;
    2) You need to work at a better establishment;
    3) You need to get a better job (not waiting tables).

    Whether we like it or not, in the US, we’re paid on the basis of performance, not need. If you aren’t getting what you need to sustain yourself, then you either get better at it, or you move on to some other form of labor to which you’re more suited. It’s not a difficult concept. It might be difficult in practice as things stand currently, but without a correct understanding of how things work, it’s hard to make the right decision. (Point of order: the right decision is rarely made by raging emotion.)

    “But I like waiting tables!” you might protest. “It’s what I really want to do!”

    Fine–accept the consequences of that decision. Follow my remedy steps 1 and 2 above, and understand that the odds that you’ll have a six-figure income–or even a high five-figure income–are fairly low. Only you can decide what works best for you. Just don’t expect me to tip 18% if you do a really terrible job of serving my meal.

  240. LeAnn

    I don’t mind a bit to tip, and generally fall in the average range or above average if I have great service. There is one thing that waiters/waitresses do that absolutely infuriates me. If I pay in cash, and they automatically “keep the change” (as in the actual quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies), without me saying to do so, and they just assume that I will be giving it to them, it enrages me. I will actually write on my receipt that they kept my change instead of leaving them the tip I had planned to leave. That is my single biggest pet peeve.

  241. max

    Sigh. Seemed like an interesting read but I never got past the second sentence… which was the biggest run-on sentence I’ve read in a long time:

    “He’s sad because he gets no salary and relies on tips like every other waiter, but people undertip him because at this restaurant they get their own food so they think he’s not a real waiter even though he has to bring them all their drinks and side dishes and give them a full tour of the restaurant and how it works like a clown and then bus the table because they have no busboys at the restaurant and just when the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful middle aged women who are mean to him, that’s what also happens.”

  242. Michikohime

    Something is lacking in the “Tipping Spectrum” : the income of the people that are in it. Yes, I get that tips are important, but I feel like saying to someone : “hey, even though you’ve save some money to go have a meal somewhere/get your hair cut/whatever, you need to pay the tip of the amount of this much”.

    I feel the pain of waiters and how customers can be really demanding and not tip well, it’s terribly frustrating. But I feel that, in some case, being demanding goes both ways, it depends who you have in front of you. In my mind, we would be a lot better if tips were included and then, if you get horrible service quality, you just complain to the manager and that’s that. Because even though tips are somewhat a token of appreciation of the quality in the mind of many, it’s still money. And having the “responsability” to be the “employer” of someone who relies on tips is a burden that you have to balance with your budget and the amount of money already spent to get the thing you’ve come to get.

  243. Michikohime

    Not to say that women usually make less money than men, same goes for teenager and elders vs middle age adults…

  244. Ell

    I’ll have to disagree with #5. The last time I left a tip line blank, the delivery guy penned in a 35% tip for himself, which was then charged to the card I used to pay for my meal.

  245. Pursuit99

    Lots of comments here and I hope this one isn’t lost as a result – maybe you could see your way clear to mentioning this in some other column: chambermaids are the unsung heroes (heroines – since they are almost always female) of the service industry. They have the yuckiest task, are the ones most likely to be supporting a family and have little chance of getting better jobs due to poor English skills (I’m stereotyping, of course, but with good reason). It’s easy to ignore the obligation (or opportunity, if you will) because you’ve up and gone from your room when they arrive each day. The up side for the weary traveler is often finding some special little treat left by the maid at the end of each day when you return to your hotel. I feel certain a tip for these lovely folks is the right thing to do and is desperately appreciated.

    • Anonymous

      If you work in an office building, there’s probably also a cleaning person who empties your trash and does some general cleaning around your workspace. Much of your comment applies to those people also. Would you tip them too?

  246. One23

    You’re right, Pursuit99, it’s a thankless and invisible job. Leave a tip, especially if you’re staying for more than one consecutive evening.

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  248. Kathie

    I’m going to assume you spoke mostly with Starbucks baristas or something on a similar level. But regardless, tip your baristas. It takes more work for a barista to serve you a cup of coffee than a bartender to serve you a beer. Baristas actually make the coffee they are serving you, bartenders just pour the beer that someone else made. Not to say that a bartender doesn’t deserve to be tipped for pouring a beer, but baristas deserve to be tipped for brewing and pouring coffee. In specialty coffee (simply and bluntly put, better than Starbucks. Think Applebee’s cocktails vs. Specialty “mixologist” cocktails) there is a lot of education and care that goes in to training your baristas and a lot of skill that they put into making each beverage. Seriously, your barista deserves a tip, and if they don’t, find a new cafe to go to with baristas that do.

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  250. David Kaye

    Well maybe in SOME states waiters and bartenders make less than minimum wage, but not in California or any other civilized state I can think of. If a waiter or bartender works for $2 to $5 an hour that’s THEIR fault, not mine.

  251. Peter

    Lots of comments on this one.

    The problem is that customers see different value in service, and some customers don’t see any value in service at all. We live in the land of Walmart, patronized by a clientele who would rather have cheap product than pay their neighbors who might formerly have worked in a local store a living wage — why is it surprising that customers at a resto, or in a cab might to tip as generously as the employee themselves might value their contribution to society.

    And the fact that some people CHOOSE to stay in tipped jobs because they make our very well in tips only speaks to the fact that if you DO a good job you are rewarded. And if you do a lousy job, then you’re gonna starve.

    • Sherman

      I’m a valet at a five star hotel, it is typical to tip on the way out however, you are generally being helped by two different people so tipping on the way in is not frowned upon.

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  254. Anonymous

    Some of your spending profiles seem to include some high numbers. 100 restaurant meals and 100 takeout meals? Do none of you cook?

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  257. Remi

    Interesting. For the foreigners (especially the French, as I'm French), it is in my opinion a lack of knowledge. Basically, in France, tipping is just curtousy, mostly to say "thanks" or "good job": tips are just extra money. I saw a totally different side when I arrived here in the UK, where tipping is really important. And also, I had NO idea about this "waiters etc. paid by customers" thing in the US. Anyway, just wanted to share this. ;) 

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  261. David Jess

    Give every waiter a little card with 5%, 10%, 15%, or 20% circled. Have it say, “To the Owner or Manager: The service was very good. Please pay the following “tip” from your revenues to my waitstaff for their excellent service.

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  269. Chris

    I wonder were groupon customers fall on the tipping spectrum. I suspect very low ( high expectations + entitlement + desire to save money = no or low tip).

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  271. Jean

    I really don’t consider wait staff as performing a “service.” A service is something someone does for me that I could do for myself but choose not to. If a restaurant doesn’t have the facility for me to order directly and pick-up my food, the wait staff is then part of the operation of the facility and is now an employee and should be paid accordingly. That said, because I am lazy, I generally just quickly calculate 10% of the total including taxes, double it and round up. If service is extraordinary, I add another 10%. While it doesn’t make sense to me, I recognize it is what it is. I do have a hard time when people claim their business can’t support paying employees a decent wage. Perhaps they need a different business model or shouldn’t be in business at all. If you provide a superior product, people will generally pay the difference if you are in the right market.

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  277. Jim GJ

    There is no mention in your article about the single dining customer, so here’s my 2 cents: Wait staff in restaurant and bars almost always offer poor to non-existent service when I am by myself. I consider myself a generous tipper, and far from being an obnoxious customer, I think perhaps sometimes I become invisible. Do I give off serious loser vibes? Great! At last, someone a person in the food service industry can look down on! But if they think I will tip lousy because I’m alone, their behavior guarantees a lousy tip. Seat me by the kitchen, then see how well you can ignore me during your 50 trips past my table! I got no problem stiffing someone who blatantly ignores me. Look, I know that the return on investment for a single diner is pretty low, but a little attention might get you a reasonable two person tip from this loser.

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  279. Winchupuata

    I live and work in the US and as such I observe the customs of the land, so I tip everywhere, but I can tell you that I absolutely hate it. I hate the whole tipping system, it’s insane and irrational.

    How it works in the rest of the world:

    Cost = 50 units of money
    What you end up paying = 50 units

    How it works in the US:

    Cost = 50 units of money
    What you end up paying = Cost + taxes + tips = something like 65 units of money

    Basically in the US you can end up paying up to 30% more on the advertised cost, so be aware and be careful with that.

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  281. Boobs

    As an Australian, this is pretty irrelevant to me (tipping is virtually unheard of here), but interesting nonetheless.
    And I must say, in 2 years working as a waitress/barista, I only got tipped twice. But they were the most amazing tips ever. One regular came in, didn’t even buy anything, and gave me an envelope with $50 and a Christmas card in it. Another came in, we got to chatting while I was cleaning the floor near his table, and a day later he came back and left an electric keyboard on the table for me (I’m counting that as a tip).

    But generally tips are not expected here. Waiters and waitresses (depending on the business) usually get around $15-19/h.

  282. Boobs

    Also, you get an incredible amount of spambot comments on here. Is there something you can do about that? Maybe have a reporting system where users can rate to hide spam comments or have a captcha to comment?
    I feel bad for you. I f*cking HATE spambots.

  283. Charity

    When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!

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  285. specialsymbol

    #10 is a really swell observation. At least here in Germany tipping has vastly increased over the past 15 years. Now you could say this is because Germany mimics America’s way of life (mostly by watching US TV productions), but on the other hand there has been a huge increase over the past 15 years of “perceived” corruption.

    People read about it in the papers, see it on TV – politicians, justice, state attorneys, high members of the administration treating rich and influental persons better than the rest and being rewarded afterwards with better positions or with great jobs.

    As I said, it’s mostly legal. You can’t prevent someone making decisions “in the name of the people” and later starting a job at the company that profited most of your decisions. In fact in the media it’s praised as a logical step to secure “experience”.

    The laws are made by those who profit from that system, so it’s no surprise it’s not deemed illegal. But most people think it actually is nothing else than corruption. I think the situation applies to almost all western countries. Think about it.

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