Friday, January 16, 2009

A Poll on Tipping

There's one thing I truly loved about my study abroad time in Spain, our trip to Greece, and generally being in Europe: you don't really have to worry about tipping. You don't have to sit and do math after a few glasses of wine, which I bet most of us have been in that moment where we have to have a friend or significant other check to make sure we did it right. Then there's the ever awkward moment when you're with friends or another couple who don't tip the same as you, whether that be they tip more, or they demand on tipping a certain percent that you think is too little. And do you tip on carryout orders?

A few months back in one of my Bon Appetit magazines, there was a small article specifically on this. It got me thinking about how our parents tip probably has an impact on how we tip. Personally, I've always been someone to tip between 18-20%. My feeling has always been, is that 1-5% REALLY going to make that much of a difference in my life? In the grand scheme of things, probably not, and I bet it would benefit the server a lot more than it would hurt me. So I make sure I tip well. Also, I'm sure that the majority of us have at some point worked as a server, bartender, or other service oriented industry. I was a bartender during the summers. And yes I can say I had bad nights or where I'd mess up an order. But honestly, 90% of the time I wasn't as on top of things, it was because we were short on people, or my employer hadn't hired enough bartenders for the amount of customers coming in. So this leads me to say that when I get bad service, or service is slow, I try to give the server the benefit of the doubt in that maybe someone called in sick and our server is working 2 sections - I would hate to be in that position, because I've been there and it's a terrible feeling.

Only once in a blue moon will I leave 15% - and that's if I'm very unhappy with something.

What are your thoughts on tipping? How much do you think is appropriate? Do you tip when you get carryout (we do normally, only 10% - hey, someone has to pack and make the food still)? How do you work through the awkward moment with friends/another couple?

Here's the article:

Dear BA Foodist,
Can you set me straight on tipping? I was once told that 20 percent is for great service, 15 percent for bad. Unless a waiter's gone overboard, I'm an 18 percenter, but I was recently accused of being stingy. Am I wrong, or wasn't 10 percent considered fair not too long ago? Give me a tip I can use.—Tipper G., Albuquerque

Dear Tipper G.,
Ah, the great tipping conundrum. You are not alone. At a meal's end, I often find myself staring at the blank lines of a credit-card receipt, concerned that the effects of too much wine and food will impair my basic algebra skills. (That's what a spouse is for: making sure it all adds up correctly.) Still, I think I can help.

The Foodist waited tables many years ago at a small, well-regarded spot in Brooklyn. (Incidentally, one evening he waited on a major food critic who later gave the restaurant a one-star review. The critic liked the food but described the service as "friendly but very slow and fumbling." Oh, well: If you can't serve 'em, join 'em.) Waiting tables is a job everyone should be forced to do at least once, if only to learn that it's not okay to snap your fingers when you want something, and also to find out what it's like to eke out a living on tips.
It's disappointing to receive anything less than 20 percent of the total bill. Most waiters at today's better restaurants expect that much for average service, and even more if they do it with a smile. So unless you're planning never to go to the same restaurant twice, the days of 10 percent tips—and even 15 percent tips—are long gone.

The BA Foodist's Tipping Rules

RULE NO. 1: Unless the server is rude, condescending, and/or completely absent, tip between 18 and 20 percent.

RULE NO. 2: Never tip on tax. Tip based on the subtotal. And if you're calculating your tip simply by doubling the tax, stop it—you're being cheap.

RULE NO. 3: Unless you drink like Dean Martin or have a taste for expensive wines (i.e., $40 or more, depending on your budget), it's best to include booze when calculating a tip. Bartenders expect a dollar tip per drink (which is usually about 20 percent of the drink's price), and it's no different with waiters.

RULE NO. 4: Never turn a blind eye when others are tipping—especially if they're unfamiliar with our tipping culture (i.e., Europeans). If you think your tablemate is lowballing the service, it's best to hand the waiter a few bills on the way out.

RULE NO. 5: If a few dollars here and there really matter that much to your bank account, perhaps you shouldn't be going out to eat in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I'm kind of torn with the whole tipping thing.

    - I don't mimic my parents and their tipping method. They are notoriously bad tippers. I have, on several occassions, thrown the water a few dollars on the way out (out of my parents' sight) because the tips are THAT bad. But they're old and they're from a different generation.

    - I generally tip 20% however I've heard different tipping rules from a number of people I know that have worked a number of years as servers/bartenders.

    - I had no idea about the alcohol! I've always just tipped 20% on the total bill (including the tax).

    - I've never tipped for carry out but now feel a little guilty...

    - I have left crap tips for crap service. I don't think that just because someone is a server, they are entitled to 20% right out of the gate. I'm a great customer (not demanding or rude) so I don't appreciate crap service and won't pay for it.


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