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“Nationals October 2019

Here’s a Tip For You…

| May 26, 2010, 04:22 PM | 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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About the Author - The Bar Bitch

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 :)

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Comments (10)

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  1. Fred Shubbie® says:

    Here’s some advice I have about getting tipped. Don’t expect anything and anything will be appreciated !! I can’t help but think of that tipping scene from Reservoir Dogs when I here the whoas of the waitress. I would put a link for the scene here but the language is a bit colorful.

  2. EOA Staff says:

    Shubbie…I would agree with you BUT—in the USA we are now conditioned to tip everywhere. Ever been to a Starbucks without a tip jar? The issue is that the restaurants were able pay employees less than minimum wages with the argument that they will make it up in tips.

  3. Springs1 says:

    “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%.”

    While I agree, if the server is that great you should be willing to pay at LEAST 20%, possibly more(me and my husband have tipped 25%-30% before for really wonderful service), but you do seem ungrateful for 15%, because at least it is an average tip and it’s not something like 10% or less.

    Appreciate what you do receive and quit complaining about what you don’t receive. Customers don’t have to tip at all unless automatic gratuity or a service charge is added, so just think about that you are lucky to receive ANY amount of money which is not required by LAW to tip.

    You seem ENTITLED instead of GRATEFUL. I really hate the servers of today they think they are ENTITLED to a certain amount. Not everyone tips 20%. We do for good service, but not everyone does when they have good service.

    “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 they are backed up I agree it’s NOT the server’s fault. Now, if they mess up my order and my server brings me my food with VERY OBVIOUS things wrong with it, THAT IS THEIR FAULT. A good example would be if a customer would say they wanted bbq sauce “ON THE SIDE” and “NO bbq sauce on the ribs”, then their server would bring out the ribs with bbq sauce all over the ribs. While it’s not the server’s fault the kitchen staff did that, that doesn’t mean their server has to bring it out obviously wrong like that.

    “If you receive a discount for any reason, you should tip on the amount the bill was before the discount was taken.”

    I disagree on certain levels:

    1. If my server messed up such as rung up the entirely wrong entrée and I get a discount, I definitely will not base my tip on BEFORE the discount, because MY SERVER messed up my entire meal.

    2. If it’s a small discount such as $4 off 2 entrées, I feel it’s VERY FAIR to tip on AFTER the discounted amount, because when the prices go higher, we tip HIGHER on those HIGHER prices, so when the prices go lower due to a coupon($2 off each entrée), it’s only fair that we get to tip on the lowered price since we tip always when the prices go up due to inflation. It shouldn’t always be about the server’s money, what about the CUSTOMER’S MONEY? Quit just thinking about YOU and think about other people’s money as well. It’s FAIR the way I am saying it.

    I agree on certain levels:

    1. If the item is FREE, that means the server served you food with a ZERO price, so you should pay BEFORE the discounted amount ONLY if the service was GOOD though, NOT if it was bad.

    2. If it’s a LARGE discount such as $20(A MISTAKE NOT YOUR SERVER’S FAULT OR A COUPON), you should go BEFORE the discounted amount ONLY if the service was good due to your server served this food basically for nothing if you don’t.

    3. If you entire meal is comped due to something that isn’t the server’s fault such as a last visit was bad, but this one is wonderful, you should tip BETTER than 20% since you are getting the entire meal for free, you should tip 25% at the very least of the original bill.

    “Make sure it is the server’s fault and not the kitchen’s or the food runner’s though.”

    If something is the food runner’s fault it is 100% FAIR to take off the tip. That PERSON SERVED US, which is what PEOPLE TIP ON “THEIR SERVICE”, NOT just because their server did or didn’t do something in their service.

    Think about it from a customer’s point of view. If another server brings you your food wrong, that DOES AFFECT your service. For example, I recently just had another server that brought out an open-faced burger that was missing my bacon I added to the burger and pickles(which I said I didn’t want). Does that mean I should tip well based on that my food was wrong just because MY SERVER didn’t do it? OF COURSE NOT, then NO ONE WILL EVER LEARN. I reported the ENTIRE situation to a manager, so they will have TEAM WORK and asked him if he could make some type of incentive to get the order right to the table since those other servers that run the food aren’t making the tip to give a care. I told him they didn’t have any incentive and he said something like “They have job tomorrow is their incentive.” For them though, that’s not good enough since they are only concerned with their tables and not anyone else’s. It sounds like he is going to do something such as give something for free for those that work as a team. It AFFECTED MY SERVICE, so I have EVERY RIGHT to tip based on MY SERVICE. The person that ran the appetizer didn’t have my ranch and chipotle bacon dressing. My server could have brought that out ahead of time to have prevented those from being missing. Condiments are something the server has 100% control over being wrong.

    Is it the customer’s fault that you can’t take away some of their tip that they should be making bringing you that food? Usually it’s servers that run each other’s food and not food runners. If the particular restaurant does have food runner, usually they get tipped out based on SALES, NOT out of tips. How is that fair? It’s NOT!! It’s not the customer’s problem the system isn’t fair. The person bringing you food should get a part of the tip and if the messed up, their parts of their tip should get penalized, but it’s not like that. IS THAT THE CUSTOMER’S ISSUE? NO, IT’S NOT!!

    I understand it punished the wrong person, but for the appetizer it didn’t. It’s not fair I should have to tip well if my service sucked even if MY SERVER didn’t bring me my food OBVIOUSLY wrong.

    “Read the menu carefully and ask any questions before you order.”

    I do, but I am finding more and more that sometimes I know the menu BETTER than the staff members, for real.

    “we need to know where our weak links are.”

    Customers shouldn’t have to tell you most things. A lot of times the server knows what they did wrong. I will agree that some people take off for things that others don’t, so if it’s something like that, you should tell the manager or even next time tell your server that this is how you want your service to be instead of expecting it a certain way.

  4. Fred Shubbie says:

    If a server wants a tip it should take responsibility for the entire experience. yet bar dog seems to want to divide up areas for which hse should and should not be penalized. Guess what BB ? I don’t really care about the areas of responsibility, you are the face of the place and therefore you are responsible for the whole darn thing and I will tip you accordingly. Oh well, too bad for you huh ? If anyone is deserving of a tip it is the man who is cooking my food, he is the skilled craftsman, and he will respond well to my tip if only I could grease his palms with my monetary thanks.

    I find the demanding attitude of servers like BB to be counter-productive and feel as though if they have inclination to instruct the lowly public how to properly calculate a tip they may be self-loathing and incomplete and looking to demean the source of their income in order to feel superior. Remember that server from Maria’s that likened himself to a food broker ? Where is he now that Maria’s is out of business ?

    …and Springs1, you have a blog already. could you be a bit less verbose please ?

  5. EOA Staff says:

    Here is a general comment and I would like Shubbie and Springs opinion. It happened last night. Bar was exceptionally crowded–poor management decision, they should have known. So the bartender is working as best as he can. Waiting on the bar itself and the tables surrounding the bar. Think TGI Fridays type place.

    Admittedly, the service was somewhat slow, getting the bartender’s attention was challenging at some point. While he tried to put on a good face, it was not working too well and he came across as mad and pissed off.

    At the end of the night, a large party (9 people) of regulars were upset at the “slipping” of the service. They tipped him about 10%.

    Question 1. Was the 10% appropriate?

    Follow up. After he processed the check, he sarcastically came back and said thanks for the 10% tip?

    Question 2. What do you do now?

  6. The Bar Bitch says:

    A little sexist are we Shubbie? Our head chef is a woman, don’t go assuming all great chefs are men…

    Springs, I make $3.68 an hour because it is a “tipped” position. You, as a customer, are expected to tip. What you tip is up to you, but as a server I DO expect and feel entitled to a tip.

    You guys keep focusing on scenarios where your something goes wrong. I do admit, you make some fantastic points, but what if everything is perfect? For me, only a small percentage of the time are mistakes made at all during your dining experience. So what tip should I expect from the diner at that point?

    EOA Staff- the bartender should not have been punished, but the party should have talked to a manager/owner and gotten a discount. It is their fault ultimately that not enough staff was scheduled.

  7. Fred Shubbie says:

    Well John, if that supercilious beer jockey were to say that to me I would say ? one of a few things depending on my mood : ” WOW, you can do math in your head really fast, why are you pouring liquids for a living ? ” You are welcome” ” F*** you ” ” should have stayed in school, I read somewhere that college graduates make more money” and if I was serious like Bar Bitch I would say , ” can I see the manager please ? ” or if the redneck in me was sleeping that day I would not say anything and write Corporate ( who would surely kiss my butt and send me an apology and a gift certificate so I would return.) I tend to write letters and get monetary apologies.

    A server must always maintain a subservient attitude, no matter how busy they are or how incompetent the management may be.

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  9. Taylor says:

    I think that with regards to kids tipping, that responsibility lies with their parents. My dad taught me how to tip properly at a very young age, so I feel very comfortable tipping. Teens frequent restaurants more than you think, and it should be up to parents to teach their son/daughter how to tip adequately and appropriately.

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