Here’s a Tip For You…

| May 26, 2010 | 10 Comments

Since the topic of “tipping” seemed to draw a lot of attention last week, I wanted to touch on that topic today. I did a bit of research regarding tipping in the United States and what it entailed. Sources say that 15-20% is the standard gratuity for a server, with 15% being the minimum and 20% or more for exceptional service.

Should all servers feel entitled to an average of 20%? Absolutely not! Servers need to work for that tip and should not expect it. Should they expect at least 15%? Yes. Do I feel entitled to and expect 20%? Yes. Why, you might ask? I am amazing at my job. I work very hard to ensure the best customer service to all of my tables while paying fine attention to details to ensure an above-par dining experience. I try to relate to every single person in my section and I make my tables feel that they are the most important table in the room. I do this because I am an over-achiever and this is my livelihood.

From the customer’s perspective, it is pretty obvious which servers are working hard and which servers are hardly working. Unfortunately, from what I have noticed over many years in the service industry, most of the time the customer already knows how much they’re going to tip before they even get to the restaurant. I try to bank on the fact that there are still customers out there that will tip me based on the quality of service they receive and not a preconceived notion on what a server should be making.

I read somewhere that crazy Oprah told her viewers that a good way to save money in this economy was to start tipping your server 10%. Here’s my advice: you should plan on tipping 20% to your server, assuming that you will be receiving exceptional service. That way, you are prepared. If your service is just mediocre, tip 15-18% but be fair, not cheap. You know what, Oprah? Another great way to save money in this economy… go to the grocery store and make your own dinner! The economy is rough for all of us, why is it okay to tip us nearly HALF of what our norm is? Oprah, you have no idea what it’s like “in today’s economy” when you’re bitching to your assistants from your Maui estate for Evian and Maryland crab cakes. We’re trying to make a living in this economy too, and that’s not going to happen when we’re only making 10%.

So here is some advice I have about tipping:

  • Giving me a verbal tip (i.e. telling me how great I am), although flattering, does not pay the bills when you then proceed to leave me 15%.
  • If part of your check is paid with cash and the rest with a credit card, please make sure you tip your server on the total amount of the bill and not just the amount you placed on the card. You’d be shocked how many people do this, leaving the server with 10% or less.
  • Read the menu carefully and ask any questions before you order. If you have a peanut allergy and you order peanut butter cheesecake, it is not your server’s fault that you had a reaction. Their tip should not be diminished because of your mistake.
  • But, if your server knows you have a peanut allergy and they serve you peanuts, you are allowed to tip less. I never advocate “stiffing” anyone, but leaving a smaller tip will definitely get the point across. Make sure it is the server’s fault and not the kitchen’s or the food runner’s though.
  • If the kitchen is backed up or they mess up your order, that is not the server’s fault and their tip should not be reflective of that.
  • If you receive a discount for any reason, you should tip on the amount the bill was before the discount was taken.
  • Educate your teens on proper tipping practices. Just last night I had two teenage girls leave me a $2 tip on a $25 check… not cool.
  • If you are with a party where the host is known to be a terrible tipper, there is no shame in slipping your server a few dollars on your way to the bathroom to thank them for the great service. It will be greatly appreciated.
  • If you don’t feel that your server was attentive or gave you proper service, tell a manager before you leave. In order for us to give you the best service possible, we need to know where our weak links are.
  • Large parties demand a lot more work than smaller parties and most restaurants will add on an automatic 18% to your bill. If your server goes over and beyond your expectations, it’s okay to add on a few extra dollars. They earned it.
  • Do not take into consideration the age, race or attractiveness of your server. Their tip should be based on the quality of service they provide and not how big their boobs are.

I’m actually very curious about the average consumer and their tipping practices, so I’m asking you, my fellow readers, to conduct a poll. At some point today ask three of your friends, co-workers, whomever, this simple question:

If you go out to eat and your bill is $100, what would you leave as a tip?

My assumption is that they will all most likely say $18 or $20. I doubt that any of them will say “depends on the quality of service”.

Feel free to post any “findings” below as a comment  or visit my page on Facebook.

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Category: LIFE IN THE AREA, OPINION

About the Author ()

I graduated with an Art degree from a small liberal arts college, did a bit of traveling and moved to Annapolis from Baltimore about seven years ago. I currently manage a well-known Annapolis restaurant, serve and bartend. I live downtown and I like sunsets and long walks on the beach :)