Tip Well or Eat Spit

 

Tipping, like pulling out chairs and tastefully wearing pantaloons, is a bit of a lost art for most people in the world.

Some have a valid excuse: maybe it’s not common practice in their country, or they consistently get such horrendous service that they are actively trying to put every restaurant they go to out of business.

For the majority of lackluster tippers, however, it’s more an issue of worldview and a lack of perspective that are the root causes of their penny-pincherness.

This is really a shame for everyone involved. Not only is proactive and generous tipping good for the person receiving the tip, but it’s also VERY good for the person leaving it.

Consider this: when you tip well, you are telling, nay, voting with your money that the person who has served you is doing their job and doing it well. It’s a up-front compliment to someone you don’t know (or barely know, depending on how personable you both were while you were being served) and there are few people in the world who don’t appreciate a good compliment, and fewer still that won’t subconsciously reciprocate with better service, positive vibes and a smile.

Unless the service is just horrible, give 20% minimum, and 25% or even 30% if it’s really great. If the bill is small, round up. An extra 30- or 40-cents extra on a 3-dollar check are not going to kill you, but it will make the tip that much larger, percent-wise.

‘But Colin,’ you’re very likely mumbling under your breath (as if I can hear you), ‘these people are already being paid. I’ll give them 10% if they do a really good job, but otherwise why should I have to pay their salary when I’m not employing them?’

That’s a really good point. Why should the customer have to cover the cost of employing a sever at a restaurant, a barista at a coffeeshop, or a massage therapist at a spa? You’re already paying for the product or service…why should you have to pay more?

The fact of the matter is this: these people are paid very little for what they do. So little, in fact, that if they didn’t have tips, most wouldn’t be able to make a living off of what they get paid (when I waited tables for a semester in college, I made a whole $2.19 per hour plus tips. Many servers that I’ve spoken to about this can’t believe I was paid so much!).

Needless to say, if people can’t make a living wage off a profession, that profession will very quickly cease to exist. With the way things currently operate in most restaurants and coffeeshops (etc), the overhead is such that the restaurant couldn’t stay in business long if they had to pay full salaries to all of their serving staff in addition to paying for the building, food, cooks, and all of the other hard costs that go into such an establishment. It’s not ideal, but it’s a reality, and one that we all have to deal with.

One alternative, of course, is only spending your money at places that pay full wages to their employees, but that’s a mixed bag as well, since those kinds of establishments are few and far between, and the servers there tend to make a lot less overall (and therefore don’t always provide the same level of service).

You could also just complain about it and philosophically decide that you’re against tipping, declaring war on the practice and not doing it. The only results you’ll see from this is 1) lots of irate servers, 2) a few extras bucks in your pocket, and 3) probably lots of spit in your food if you ever go back to the same place more than once.

This is a situation where we run into a conflict of philosophy versus practical reality. When I lived in Missouri in high school, I didn’t philosophically agree with everything that Wal-Mart did, but they had run every other comparable company out of business in the area, so my options were to go without or buy from Wal-Mart. If I wanted to be very ivory tower about it all I could have stuck to my guns and lived accordingly, but I prefer to enjoy life, and there are some battles that are either not worth fighting, or not worth fighting NOW. Maybe someday the planets will align and we’ll be able to adjust or remove the practice of tipping, replacing it with something much better for everyone, but right now I don’t know what that would be, and we don’t have a movement large and influential enough to make that change even if I did.

So for now, be sure to tip well. You’ll be making someone’s day, establishing yourself as a good customer (and one that deserves special attention) wherever you go, building a positive rapport with service industry folk (who may have connections! or end up being friends! or at the very least won’t spit in your food!), and you’ll be in a great position to use the establishment as a home base of sorts for business meetings, daily coffee breaks or even just hanging out. Everyone needs to just hang out sometimes.

27 comments

  1. No matter how poor I’ve ever been, I never skimp on the tip. I know all too well what it’s like to bust your buns to exhaustion for 12+ hours straight, only to realize when count your pay at the end of the night that you’ve wasted precious moments of your life you can never reclaim.

    I have a tough time convincing my relatives, and others who have never worked in the industry, how important it is to tip well. I tell them all sorts of true stories about what life is like as a server, including what can sometimes happen to your food if you consistently refuse to tip fairly. But somehow, it rarely clicks.

  2. No matter how poor I’ve ever been, I never skimp on the tip. I know all too well what it’s like to bust your buns to exhaustion for 12+ hours straight, only to realize when count your pay at the end of the night that you’ve wasted precious moments of your life you can never reclaim.

    I have a tough time convincing my relatives, and others who have never worked in the industry, how important it is to tip well. I tell them all sorts of true stories about what life is like as a server, including what can sometimes happen to your food if you consistently refuse to tip fairly. But somehow, it rarely clicks.

  3. I have to agree with both you and Crystal in regards to the importance of tipping because the waitstaff is so commonly underpaid. But to play devil’s advocate, and to spin off the point you brought up about your tip being your vote, it is also important to recognize that tipping is “to insure prompt service.” I almost never tip under 20%. Even if the service is terrible, as a customer you never know what else is going on the restaurant. You do, however, deserve good service. Just don’t tip poorly to tip poorly.

    Another point that people who have never worked in the industry wouldn’t be aware of is that the quality of your food is almost never in the server’s control. Tip on their service, not on the quality of the meal.

  4. I have to agree with both you and Crystal in regards to the importance of tipping because the waitstaff is so commonly underpaid. But to play devil’s advocate, and to spin off the point you brought up about your tip being your vote, it is also important to recognize that tipping is “to insure prompt service.” I almost never tip under 20%. Even if the service is terrible, as a customer you never know what else is going on the restaurant. You do, however, deserve good service. Just don’t tip poorly to tip poorly.

    Another point that people who have never worked in the industry wouldn’t be aware of is that the quality of your food is almost never in the server’s control. Tip on their service, not on the quality of the meal.

  5. This is stupid customs. When I go to a restaurant, I expect a) to get food b) to be served the food. Both in a decent manner. The price should reflect both. Why would I tip the waiter but not the cook? It doesn’t make sense. My tip: don’t tip.

  6. This is stupid customs. When I go to a restaurant, I expect a) to get food b) to be served the food. Both in a decent manner. The price should reflect both. Why would I tip the waiter but not the cook? It doesn’t make sense. My tip: don’t tip.

  7. Since I am currently a server in a restaurant… I have to say I love this post!!

    The difference of a few dollars really does make a good or bad tip. And, the couple dollars aren’t only the money value, but telling your server that you appreciate their good service. Well, okay. Maybe it is just the monetary value. ;)

    I think how someone tips tells a lot about the person… it’s a reflection on how generous your attitude is towards others.

    Thanks for this post!

    Karen

  8. Since I am currently a server in a restaurant… I have to say I love this post!!

    The difference of a few dollars really does make a good or bad tip. And, the couple dollars aren’t only the money value, but telling your server that you appreciate their good service. Well, okay. Maybe it is just the monetary value. ;)

    I think how someone tips tells a lot about the person… it’s a reflection on how generous your attitude is towards others.

    Thanks for this post!

    Karen

  9. @Crystal: yeah, it’s something that just doesn’t register with some people, especially if they haven’t worked for tips before. It’s the worst feeling in the world to go home after a long day of work, only to realize you spent more on gas to get there than you made the entire day. Not cool.

    @Kristin: VERY good point. Most people (myself included, some of the time), tend to blame the entire restaurant experience on the waitstaff. This is, of course, not fair because while they may influence your non-food-related response to the restaurant, they don’t have any say on how the food is cooked, if it comes out late (unless they’re slacking and take their time getting it to you, but you can usually tell if that’s the case), and how many tables they have (it’s no fun when your server is late taking orders, late with food, etc, but what can they do if they’re the only one that came to work that day?).

    @fubek: I agree with you in theory, but as I said in the article, in this case adhering to theory over practical reality doesn’t hurt the establishment, just the server, who has no say in how they are paid.

    @Karen: I’ve personally made lots of friends just by generally tipping a bit better than everyone else. The implied difference between tipping someone $2.20 and $3 on an $11 check is enormous (20% compared to 28%), even though the actual monetary investment is so small. Why not round up, get an immediate good response from the server and know that you can go back there and have an ally on the staff? It’s a good investment, I say!

  10. @Crystal: yeah, it’s something that just doesn’t register with some people, especially if they haven’t worked for tips before. It’s the worst feeling in the world to go home after a long day of work, only to realize you spent more on gas to get there than you made the entire day. Not cool.

    @Kristin: VERY good point. Most people (myself included, some of the time), tend to blame the entire restaurant experience on the waitstaff. This is, of course, not fair because while they may influence your non-food-related response to the restaurant, they don’t have any say on how the food is cooked, if it comes out late (unless they’re slacking and take their time getting it to you, but you can usually tell if that’s the case), and how many tables they have (it’s no fun when your server is late taking orders, late with food, etc, but what can they do if they’re the only one that came to work that day?).

    @fubek: I agree with you in theory, but as I said in the article, in this case adhering to theory over practical reality doesn’t hurt the establishment, just the server, who has no say in how they are paid.

    @Karen: I’ve personally made lots of friends just by generally tipping a bit better than everyone else. The implied difference between tipping someone $2.20 and $3 on an $11 check is enormous (20% compared to 28%), even though the actual monetary investment is so small. Why not round up, get an immediate good response from the server and know that you can go back there and have an ally on the staff? It’s a good investment, I say!

  11. Yes, for the moment.. i am still delivering pizza.
    if you are a regular tipper.. we know it.. and we will most certainly try and deliver your pizza before anyone else. A non-tipper will no doubt be the last on the list. If you are on the edge of our delivery area.. and you have continued to stiff me many times over.. do not be surprised if that 2 liter you ordered happens to explode when you open it… and that weird taste on your pizza? well… its not there for everyone.. and only saved for the most habitual of non-tippers

  12. Yes, for the moment.. i am still delivering pizza.
    if you are a regular tipper.. we know it.. and we will most certainly try and deliver your pizza before anyone else. A non-tipper will no doubt be the last on the list. If you are on the edge of our delivery area.. and you have continued to stiff me many times over.. do not be surprised if that 2 liter you ordered happens to explode when you open it… and that weird taste on your pizza? well… its not there for everyone.. and only saved for the most habitual of non-tippers

  13. I do like tipping well if I go there a lot but if the service and service is nothing special then I’m not inclined to give much.

    I don’t see the argument that the industry would fall down if we stopped tipping. There are many places that tipping is very uncommon or even looked down upon and yet the cafe and restaurant business is still very present so I think they would adapt quick enough.

  14. I do like tipping well if I go there a lot but if the service and service is nothing special then I’m not inclined to give much.

    I don’t see the argument that the industry would fall down if we stopped tipping. There are many places that tipping is very uncommon or even looked down upon and yet the cafe and restaurant business is still very present so I think they would adapt quick enough.

  15. I’m with you 100% on this one. I never leave below 20%, even with bad service. Maybe I’m just too nice :-) But apparently you are too.

  16. I’m with you 100% on this one. I never leave below 20%, even with bad service. Maybe I’m just too nice :-) But apparently you are too.

  17. I’ve always been a generous tipper. My rule is 20% or above, unless the service is horrible, and then the server still gets 15% minimum. My only problem is when I eat with other people and they aren’t as generous on the tipping. Any thoughts on that? Should I call them out? Compensate?

  18. I’ve always been a generous tipper. My rule is 20% or above, unless the service is horrible, and then the server still gets 15% minimum. My only problem is when I eat with other people and they aren’t as generous on the tipping. Any thoughts on that? Should I call them out? Compensate?

  19. I used to work at Starbucks. Unlike most, this one was within a Kroger grocery store. Tipping wasn’t allowed. They though that since they were so generous in giving us $5/hour that we shouldn’t be able to get anything extra.

    It was pretty crappy, but at least I didn’t have to deal with people not tipping. That probably would have gotten me quite a bit more irate.

    I think this is a good habit to pick up. When I’m out I always give at least a 20% tip and encourage the others to do the same. People with jobs like that deserve more, deserve to be respected and deserve to be appreciated because there’s a huge chance they don’t even want to be there. I know how that is.

  20. I used to work at Starbucks. Unlike most, this one was within a Kroger grocery store. Tipping wasn’t allowed. They though that since they were so generous in giving us $5/hour that we shouldn’t be able to get anything extra.

    It was pretty crappy, but at least I didn’t have to deal with people not tipping. That probably would have gotten me quite a bit more irate.

    I think this is a good habit to pick up. When I’m out I always give at least a 20% tip and encourage the others to do the same. People with jobs like that deserve more, deserve to be respected and deserve to be appreciated because there’s a huge chance they don’t even want to be there. I know how that is.

  21. I live in the Netherlands and when I’m abroad I’ll adapt to other cultures (including tipping).

    In my opinion paying people ridiculously low wages is a problem. Paying people an agreeable minimum wage is superior to relying on tipping.

    Another thing: paying people that give you service a compliment or just being friendly and courteous in return is worth more (in my eyes) than any percentage. People are also motivated more by friendliness than money.

  22. I live in the Netherlands and when I’m abroad I’ll adapt to other cultures (including tipping).

    In my opinion paying people ridiculously low wages is a problem. Paying people an agreeable minimum wage is superior to relying on tipping.

    Another thing: paying people that give you service a compliment or just being friendly and courteous in return is worth more (in my eyes) than any percentage. People are also motivated more by friendliness than money.

  23. Its only really America and a handfull of other countries (a few in South America) where tipping is expected. I don't understand why Americans can't pay there service staff well. As an outsider (Im Australian and tipping isn't common and can sometimes be considered rude), I just don't understand the entire tipping culture.

  24. As a “career waitress” right now, I must say – come to my restaurant! I will serve you, you sexy tipper, you. Very few people actually tip well now: 15% is common. At Applebee’s I was lucky to get 10%. I know most people think by not tipping they don’t do any harm, but a big tip is taken as a compliment, a small tip hurts my heart. I feel like I suck at my job, I did something wrong, etc. Even when I have a great table, amazing conversation and connection, they’ll walk out leaving me a “verbal tip” and 15% … and I’m all… great you think I’m amazing at my menial job, and how the hell do I pay my phone bill?!

    My unfavorite is when some ass breaks out a calculator to figure out EXACTLY 15 percent, but then, when that ridiculous number is discovered, he can’t properly perform addition, and tips me even less than the small tip he intended.

    Sigh. You’ve hit a soft spot, Colin.

  25. I know I’m about a year late on this conversation but it’s an interesting issue.

    I have always been a staunch tipper and I get really irritated when the people I’m with don’t tip. I’ll tip even when the service is bad — maybe the cranky server will lighten up a bit.

    But there is a lot of moralizing about tipping, and I think we often forget that tipping is a cultural custom that can be very different from place to place. I’ve heard many servers make scathing remarks about people who don’t tip (or tip “only” 10-15%) when they do not realize that American culture does not define what is right and wrong in everyone’s eyes, particularly in other countries.

    In Canada and the US tipping is so entrenched in our culture that restaurant owners are able to get away with paying insultingly low wages for difficult work. They put the onus instead on their customer, and if the customers dare to pay only what they’re billed, they are reviled. Servers accept these pitiful wages because they too are willing to impose a moral expectation on their customers to make up the difference in tips. This is a pretty ridiculous arrangement if you aren’t used to it, and many foreigners aren’t.

    If we want to make a moral argument about tipping, then clearly the employers should be charging for the service *and* the food, and paying their servers what they’re worth. It is the penny-pinching employers who have cleverly made this once-optional custom into a moral obligation for their customer. That way they can pay their servers shit.

    I will always tip in the US and Canada, but I think it is sometimes inappropriate in other countries. Everyone likes to receive a tip, but it is a bit presumptuous to impose an American custom somewhere else, and particularly to disparage people for not doing the same thing. I wish servers would give people the benefit of the doubt when they don’t tip.

    Any server who spits in food for any reason should be fired.

  26. Tipping was very foreign for me when I was in America. In Australia, I really take for granted that I was paid $21 minimum, 25 on weekends for working at a buffet. I’m not sure how much the owners profit but how can the wages be so legally small?
    I thought 15% was the expected amount in America and that’s how much we gave when we were over there. I’m very surprised that it can be an insult to some. Still learning and probably not returning to those restaurants in the fear of spit…

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