Last weekend B and I got home on Sunday evening, after a busy day running errands, going to the mall -- humdrum things -- and since we were tired and B didn't want to cook, the two of us went out to dinner. Just a local place around the corner from our house. Nothing fancy. Not much more than a neighborhood bar.
She had a chicken dish, and I ordered the salmon. We both had a glass of house red wine, and we shared a salad. We also shared a dessert, but no tea or coffee. The service was decent; nothing out of the ordinary. We were there for about an hour and a half.
The bill came to $81.49, which seemed like a lot for a modest meal at a neighborhood restaurant, but I didn't think much about it. I went to figure the tip. Let's see, 15 percent of 80 is $12. That seemed a little stingy. So $13? That's an odd number. So I marked down a $14 tip. I figured out later, that's a 17-percent tip, which is about what is expected these days. And for that, the waiter spent between five and ten minutes with us.
Then on Wednesday, I met two of my friends for breakfast. We do that every once in a while. We were meeting at 9:30 a.m. at a diner up on the commercial strip.
I got there a little early and ordered coffee from the very nice waitress. One friend showed up about five minutes later. The waitress came over and gave a big smile, and he also ordered coffee. Then the third friend arrived; the waitress came over again and took another coffee order. This friend had been held up, he said, because the main road was closed about a mile down the street.
"Oh yeah," the waitress chimed in. She'd been held up when she was getting to work, too, around 7 a.m. The road was still closed. Apparently, there was some kind of accident; no one knew exactly what it was; but my friend and the waitress talked about it for a minute or two, just because they were both curious.
When the waitress came back with the third coffee, she asked if we were ready to order. No not yet, we said. We needed time to look over the menu (like there's a lot to look over for breakfast).
She returned five minutes later, still smiling and friendly, and we finally ordered. She brought the food out in a timely fashion. It was all good; it was all hot. After we were done, the waitress cleared the table, gave us more coffee. The three of us sat around talking about our families, our vacations, TV programs, music, books, golf ... whatever.
In all, we were there for about an hour and a half, and the waitress refilled our coffee cups two or three more times. Finally, the bill came. It was $23-and-change. My friend and I each threw in a $10 bill; and the third friend went up to the cashier to pay. He came back and tossed a $5 bill onto the table for a tip.
"Wait," I said. "Come on, give the waitress another couple of dollars."
My friend looked at me. "Well, that's a five," he said. "Isn't that enough?"
My other friend added, "Yeah, sure. It's basically a 20-percent tip."
"No," I said. I must admit, I was thinking about that $14 tip I'd left for dinner the other night -- for what I thought was less service than what we'd gotten that morning. "Besides," I pointed out, "we each paid $10. If the bill was $23, and you tipped $5, then you only paid $8, so you should throw in another $2 anyway."
He looked at me again. I know he's no math major, and he looked genuinely puzzled. "Gee whiz," he said, "I've never been accused of under tipping." He laughed. "I usually over tip."
He was right about that. I'd seen him in action before. He tips the guy $2 just to carry his golf bag from his car to the clubhouse, a two-minute job. (I usually try to avoid that guy altogether, but when he does manage to grab my bag, I tip him $1.)
Anyway, my friend peeled off another dollar and dropped it on top of the $5 bill, shaking his head the whole time. He put his coat on and turned to leave.
I did the same. But as I stepped away from the table, without my two friends noticing, I reached into my pocket, pulled out another dollar and tossed it on the table.
So ultimately we left a $7 tip for a $23 bill, a 30-percent tip. But don't you think our waitress at the diner deserves the $7, even more than the waiter who got $14 for less time and less work?