Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Much Should You Tip?

     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?



DJan said...

Absolutely. I often think about the cost of wine at a dinner making it much more expensive, so I tip less than I do for breakfast. I would have done exactly as you did. Plus you got great service. :-)

Anonymous said...

In my experience, it seems that (in general) men get tipped better than women, who tend to operate at the lower end of the food chain. Thank you for proving that not all men act that way. You made my day!
Just another woman

Anonymous said...

You're looking at all of this wrong. $96 for a dinner for 2. $30 for a full breakfast, with unlimited coffee for 3 grown men?
And you're arguing over the tip?

Anyone who goes out for a simple dinner in a local, neighborhood restaurant and spends almost one hundred bucks is a bit off their rocker.

When my SO and I have had a hard day and go out for a quick bite, I'm the one who orders the salmon, SO orders a chicken dish, we both have decaf and a dessert. With tip, we have never spent more than $27. We have these great meals at our local diner!

Big shots. Arguing over a $3 or $4 dollar tip. I had to hold myself back from laughing at the stupidity.

Tom Sightings said...

Anon. -- Yeah, it's all wrong; that's kinda my point. Where's your local diner? I'm goin' there for my next meal out!

Janette said...

I am likely to leave a smaller percent at a more expensive place where there is little prep and little water service. I that've been known to leave a tip that is the same as the meal for a hard working waitress at a breakfast cafe.
This's tarted when I learned my nephew made over $70,000 work at a steak house while my niece made $30,000 at a breakfast spot. Same hours, different price of the food.

Janette said...

Sorry for the typos. My iPad drives me nuts.

Anonymous said...

Because my kids and grandkids have worked as food servers, I always leave big tips if we run the server ragged, which it seems your party did. Best to leave a large tip if the server was also cheerful. Dianne

Anonymous said...

Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, NY

They do have other diners but this is their main one. Right across the road from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) so most of the wait staff are the students. Awesome! Make the trip!
Diners rule. Good home cooked food, good service and decent prices.

I tip based on service and quality of food, not the price tag. Nothing is guaranteed. My SO and I have also been known to secretly pick up the tab of other diners we see struggling to pay their bill. We tell the waitress not to let the people know. It's a special thing SO and I like to do for others. It's doable for us because diner food is affordable.

Anonymous said...

Here's a better link, complete with food photos and inside shots:

Dick Klade said...

Just returned from a long lunch at a sports bar. Circumstances forced a single waitress to serve a packed house. When a diner remarked that she would make big money for her extra effort, she said she doubted that because customers were angry about unavoidable delays. People in my group gave her extra big tips, which I thought were well deserved.

Tom Sightings said...

Eveready Diner, Hyde Park, NY. It's going on my Bucket List. Janette, I'm going to adopt your approach to diner tipping -- and I'm telling my friends, too! Meantime, I agree with you, Dick, nobody should blame the wait staff for problems in the kitchen.

Douglas said...

Tipping is a problem, true. I generally leave a 20% tip in nice restaurants (like our local steakhouse) and a little more at the diner we meet at on Tuesdays with some friends. At the latter, I leave $5 even though the tab is often less than $25. My mother was a big tipper... it came from the only waitress job she ever had (she lasted only half a shift), waiters and waitresses work very hard.

rosaria williams said...

Waiters make a living from tips; yes, indeed, drop in at least a 20%. Most of them can't afford the meal they are serving.

Stephen Hayes said...

I generally tip fifteen percent, twenty if the service is excellent. Mrs. C. tips more than I do because she's a more generous person than I am, contrary to what is said about females being bad tippers.

Arkansas Patti said...

I worked for tips while in college so I tend to over tip. I think you got really great service the second time and it should be rewarded. Well done.

Majorinsight said...

Food for thought : We have all seen the percentage charts on tipping. A lot of places have minimum tip according to the number of people being served. Most of us believe good tip should equal good service or vice/versa.A rabbi once told me about a waitress that gave terrible service and his first thought was to think and be like most of us think. He thought on it while he was still there finishing his meal and decided to hand her a twenty dollar bill for his meal costing around $32.00. I asked for his logic in such a decision...he said when he gave it to her personally as he started to leave he told her that this was for service he was expecting to receive at this fine establishment and smiled and left pleasantly and was spoken in a way that was NOT sarcastic. He told me the chef was excellent their and the waitress would improve with encouragement instead of going to the manager...possibly causing her to give even the next customer worse service. The rabbi's experiment with this waitress over the next few encounters was exceptional...she realized the tip was not deserved and his smile and coming back to her area to be served again by her was a chance for her to say...thanks for encouragement on my worst day ! When the rabbi comes in for his steak dinner she greets him by name...though he never told her his name...she looked at his credit card and remembered it and about the has been around the estimated amount from tip charts...but, occasionally a little more on days when it seems to merit a little encouragement!