Tipping Etiquette #1 – The Eateries
Posted on April 21, 2012
I consider myself blessed to be a resident of the United States of America. When it comes to tipping however; the blessings sometimes become blurry. Due to the vast array of venues and circumstances tipping can apply to, I’m going to break up the subject matter into bite-sized pieces. Sometimes I just crack myself up.
In some countries, tipping is considered “bad form”. In others, it is considered optional and others still, prohibited or insulting. Those rules would certainly make life just a little bit easier for us to follow in the U.S.A. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Fiji, Samoa, Georgia (the country) or Singapore. Here in America, tipping is confusing in part because it is expected for most services. It is socially obligatory with few clear cut rules.
While we are able to govern ourselves ably at McDonald’s (no tip territory), we find it more difficult to navigate the service waters elsewhere. With that stated, let me provide you with some small tips (pun intended).
Let’s start with the wait staff. Since many of us (at least myself) don’t often frequent establishments that provide restroom attendants offering perfume spritzes and linen hand towels, the wait staff is an easy, generic first subject.
Wait staff : Mediocre to great – are typically tipped 15-20% of the bill; 20% saved for great service.
Your wait staff will more than likely be splitting the tip you left with the busboy and other behind-the-scenes staff people. Please keep that in mind with your calculation. WARNING: Make sure you check your bill; some establishments add an automatic percentage for you. Read the fine print!
Critics abound with varying opinions on whether bad service warrants a tip at all. Let me state for the record that a tip of 10% is expected for bad service. Don’t shoot the messenger if you disagree. Of course I have a story for you. Decide for yourself after you read the following:
My BFF (Best Friend Forever) and I went to a local restaurant for dinner recently. She smartly scored a Groupon for an establishment trying to increase it’s following. The restaurant had been receiving great culinary reviews. CULINARY meaning the food was spectacular. We were seated after 20 minutes of waiting at the front podium. No one was in line. No one was in the restaurant. No one. The waitress tossed the menus on the table without a word and left. We waited. We flagged her down after 25 more minutes to order. No one was in the restaurant. No one. Longer story short, we ate (yes, the food was fantastic), we paid, we left. As we were making our way to the car, the waitress stormed out of the restaurant and threw the paid bill at us ranting in 4-letter expletives about her tip. We tipped her 10%. YIKES. Point: We need to be gracious and forgiving. We all work hard and in today’s financial climate, some struggle more than others. We don’t know the individual human story. I felt 10% was EXTREMELY gracious. Too bad the waitress felt differently. I’m pretty sure I saw a gun holster in her apron.
Buffets: Please leave 10% for the soul who has to clean your table with the 6 plates per person you left because you obeyed the sign that stated “Take a clean plate each time”.
Coffee Houses & Other Establishments with Tip Jars: Those tip jars are there for a reason. I realize you just dropped $6 for a double caramel decaf latte. If you can drop that kind of dough for a cup of coffee, drop a few coins in the jar. While tipping in a jar marked up with a Sharpie is optional, consider these folks make little more than minimum wage and put up with our ridiculous orders.
Posh Places: You are celebrating! You’ve just received your tax return and want to stick-it-to-the-man with a $200 dinner. Good for you! In addition to the tipping advice for your wait staff outlined above, there is a whole host of additional characters that may deserve your tipping attention.
- Wine Steward aka: Sommelier: 10-15% of the bottle cost OR a minimum of $3 per bottle. That jug comes to you via expert recommendation. We are going to assume that your Sommelier has to un-cork your jug rather than twist off the cap.
- Coat Room Attendant: $1 per coat
- Rest Room Attendant: 25-50 cents for the hand towel. $1 to help you remove the carbonnara sauce stain on your tie or the spritz of cologne.
- Parking Attendant: Two buckaroo minimum regardless if your vehicle is a Porsche Carrera with a 454 engine or 1982 rust bucket. Of course, this guy had WAY more fun hot rodding your Porsche to the front door. I guess you could consider that part of the tip.
- Maitre’D: The power player of the restaurant has just seated you at the best table in the house. Your dining next to kings, celebrities and other human royalty. Depending on the establishment, a $20 bill may be in order. If your choice of restaurant is less than Michelin quality, $5-$10 is acceptable. While you may feel a bit like a Mafioso, please hand your tip over inconspicuously. It’s so much fun to do!
Gift Certificates, Groupons & Coupons: ALWAYS tip on what the original amount would have been without your discount.
I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking that my BFF and I tipped on the discounted Groupon amount which subsequently started the waitress tirade attack. You, my friend would of assumed incorrectly. Can you possibly imagine the scene if we had? I think there never would of been a faux pas blog, just a memorial marker in the parking lot with a chalk outline.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for tipping post #2!