Eating out with Scrooge
March 13, 2009 1:31 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with friends who are terrible tippers when dining out?

I have always been a generous tipper, something I inherited from my father. I'm not saying this to brag about what a terrific person I am, I just inherently feel that good service deserves a reward and what's a couple dollars to me when it could be a nice pat on the back for the server? And while tipping started out as merely a pat on the back, nowadays it's how servers make their living - they survive on tips and it's no longer fair game to think of tips as optional. Since I started waitressing at a bar part-time while going to school, tipping fairly has become even more important to me.

The other night, I went out with a small group of friends and friends-of-friends. Some of the people in the group were very irritating and demanding. For example, they took forever to order, hemming and hawing while the waitress stood there politely waiting. The pub was packed and she was getting run off her feet, and these people paid no regard to the fact that they were wasting her time. Despite how incredibly busy she was, she managed to give us great service with a smile. When it came time to pay our bill of $90, we ended up with only a $9 tip - $6 of which was from *me,* while the other five people had so generously contributed the other $3. I pointed out the fact that we were "a bit short." One of my friends threw in some extra while the others pretended not to hear. I went home fuming.

This is certainly not the first time this has happened, either with that group or other groups of friends. Some people seem entirely unconcerned with making sure we have enough... are people really that terrible at math, or are they just playing dumb? I once went on a double date where my boyfriend and I tipped 20% and the other couple ATE our tip! They actually used our tip to help pay for their half of the bill... and the worst part - the girl in the couple is a waitress. And it was the other couple that chose the restaurant, so it wasn't a matter of us inviting them to a place they couldn't afford.

I get that many of my friends aren't sitting on piles of money, but I feel very strongly that if you're not prepared to leave a decent tip, you have no business walking into the restaurant in the first place. Lord knows I'm pretty darn broke these days, but I have never in my life shorted a server on a tip just because I didn't have enough, or was trying to save my pennies. If I couldn't afford to leave a decent tip, I went to McDonald's or served myself at home.

It has gotten to the point where I'm wary of going out in big groups, or of going out to dinner with certain people, because I know that my night will be ruined when the bill comes. It has caused me to think less of my friends. I view their behavior as tacky, selfish, stingy, and inconsiderate... and not just to our server, but also to the other people in our party who then have to make up the tip or swallow the embarrassment.

Is there any way to make people more aware of their poor tipping habits? Is there any way to call attention to it without antagonizing my dining companions? I know it's tacky to bring up matters of money, but then again so is leaving a dismal tip. Am I making way too much of this?
posted by keep it under cover to Human Relations (56 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're correct in leaning towards not going out in big groups or with certain people, and certainly not with "friends-of-friends". But maybe you could preempt the problem slightly by actually drawing attention to the fact that you like to tip good for good service. Sure you might come off as a bit of a smartass, but you also might wake people up to themselves, or merely guilt them into their fair share. When the bill comes make some noise. "I like to tip well for good service, this food was great and our waiter/waitress was excellent, I think he's/she's earned this x bucks. What do you guys think?"

Three possible outcomes from "you guys" include:

1) No, I don't think the service/food/atmosphere was good (subjective, hard to argue)
2) I think the service/food/atmosphere was good, but I am an asshole (and now everyone knows)
3) Hey, you're right, I'll throw some more in (huzzah!)
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:52 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only solutions I have found over 20 years of dining out:

a) Do not go to dinner with schlubs.

b) If you decide to eat with the schlubs, decide ahead of time to paying most or all of the tip--that their company is worth the extra it will cost you. (It is, isn't it? No? Hm.)

c) Ask for separate checks if (d) below doesn't apply.

d) Go out with a party large enough to invoke the automatic gratuity, or ask the wait person when it's time for the bill to "add a xx% gratuity to the bill, we're all bad at math here."

People who are crappy tippers are, generally speaking, kinda crappy people--and why would you want to hang out with crappy people? Especially as your dinner is going to be less than enjoyable--you know the bill will come at some point and you'll be dreading it the entire meal.

All of that said, there is almost nothing you can do or say to crappy tippers to make them leave a decent tip. It's just the type of people they are.
posted by maxwelton at 1:57 AM on March 13, 2009 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Couple of options.

One, try to become the "bank" and be the person to collect all the cash at the end of the meal. Then when collecting the money, you have to go down the line: you're not asking for money from the group. Instead, go one-by-one. "Bob, you had chicken and a coke," then wait until Bob has chipped in before going to the next person… "OK. Sarah, I think you had the salad.", etc. Don't just announce to the group, "Guys, like, I think we need some… uh… money." Pick someone that is a good tipper and start off with them, or start off with yourself. "OK, everyone, the bill is $xxx. I had pasta and wine, that's $15…" and then throw a couple of ones on top of it to set the precedent.

If you notice someone not putting in enough just say, "No, you haven't put in enough," if they try and short-change the staff. But then you have to pick a lower-bound target to get everyone to cooperate—say, 10%. And you have to be a lot more of a hard-ass about it if they try and balk. If you've got a strong personality (or you can fake it) the rest of the group will usually go along with you. Going person-to-person tends to work out better because people will naturally round up their meal price to "include" the tip, but they'll never round down. For example, if I had something that costs $4 and I'm with a group of people, I'll just throw in a $5 and be done with it. But I can't throw in a five if my meal was $6.

The other way to do it is to grossly over-tip and guilt your cheapskate friends into becoming better human beings. I have only gotten this to work a couple of times, however.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:58 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

IMO, you are not making way too much of this. I personally believe that a person's tipping habits often mirror the person's disposition towards other people in general (actively inconsiderate, or at best, infuriatingly unaware). As they say, the judge of a person is how they treat their inferiors.

The problem is that bringing it up to these people in a confrontational way will not make them change their ways, but will make them see you as someone who antagonizes them about shit that doesn't matter. Because here's the thing- they don't care about tipping well, or they would. Yes, there exist the scant few that are genuinely ignorant or bad at math or something that would be fixed this way, but largely, people are pretty set in their ways. The best thing you could do is bring up tipping in general (and by extension, your views on tipping) subtly, in conversation, which should at least get your side out there in a non-antagonizing way, and perhaps shed some light on why your friends are dicks to servers.

This post makes me glad that i'm lucky enough to have friends of whom a vast majority (75 or 80%) worked food service, and therefore treat servers very well. We're in such a majority among our group that once, an acquaintance that was brought along for dinner was actually openly admonished for being a poor tipper.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:01 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find Civil_disobedient's "being the bank" option works best.

keepitundercover raises an interesting point:
and while tipping started out as merely a pat on the back, nowadays it's how servers make their living

The law of unintended consequences at work. If tipping is enforced by those around you, then it is compulsory. I'd prefer that the restaurant paid their staff properly myself.
posted by devnull at 2:17 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I completely feel you on this one. I get embarrassed when my friends leave crappy tips, or no tip at all. What's unbelievable though is that the couple you went out with used your tip to pay for their food. That's just... I mean, they basically stole from you. In a situation like that, I think you definitely have a right to let them know you're irritated and that's unacceptable.

As for what you can do... Nowadays, I try to keep about ten one dollar bills on me if I'm going out to dinner with friends. That way if I see they're being cheap, I'll throw however many extra are needed on the pile when we leave. If they were as rude as to not leave a tip at all, or leave something pathetic like worse than 10%, I just don't go out with them anymore.

I wish there was a better solution but I haven't found one. People will make excuses and get defensive if you call them out on it. Rarely will they leave more money.
posted by Nattie at 2:31 AM on March 13, 2009

Make a big show of putting enough on top to make a decent tip. When someone calls you on it, say, "What - were you not going to leave her a fuckin' tip, after how much of her time we wasted?"

Some people will not be shamed by this. THey are not decent people.
posted by notsnot at 3:22 AM on March 13, 2009

I have a few friends who are absolutely awful tippers. Not only bad tippers, but also shortchange their share on group bills. After several instances (I'm a slow learner) of squirming and tactfully questioning and even in one case calling one friend out in a loud drunken argument for the whole bar/restaurant and other friends to hear, I've resolved to just ask for a separate check for my things and tip nicely for the waitress who bothers to go through the trouble to do it for me. There aren't very many good places to go out here, so it isn't worth the fuss or the distinction of being known as a jerk in these few places that I do enjoy.

Bad tippers come in all forms. Some make more money than you, some work/worked in the service industry, some are the nicest people you'd ever meet. But it isn't worth the headache to "play the bank" just to either wind up as the bad guy for asking people to pay their share or wind up getting shortchanged. If anybody asks about your separate check (which I've not been asked yet), just say that you "like to leave a good tip."
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 3:29 AM on March 13, 2009

You know, social pressure sometimes actually changes behavior. But it a case like yours, it has to be applied subtly and without confrontational tones!
So, find a way to show or imply to your friend(s) that it is a potent sign of high social status if someone tips well. You could, for example, tell them about your good relationship with your dad and mention, as an aside, that he also tips (or used to tip?) well ("Oh I love my dad, he's such a generous person! He loves giving gifts, and he always tips well and is nice to servers. And for my last birthday he gave me this great [whatever]. Yeah, he's really nice. I'm glad we have such a good relationship."). Sell tipping as an "emotional bonus" that makes people like people more, and lets the tipper appear in a better light. Or you could tell a story like this: "Hey, I've just gotten to know this really attractive guy/gal, wow, she/he's great, I love his/her jokes! I'm getting great vibes from him/her! I just love how generous and nice she/he is, she/he always tips X percent even though she/he's a poor student! Isn't that sweet? Awww! I'll meet him/her at gym class tomorrow, wow, I'm excited!"

The more subtly you do this, the better it will work. Do NOT say: "You know what, jerks? People who don't tip well are jerks." Only ever mention it as an aside, as a flourish to a more general story, not as the main point. This way, you help your friends to associate tipping with social value - and make them think about their own tipping habits. Do NOT start to tell these stories when you've just gotten the bill or when you're just angry at them for not tipping well. You shouldn't even mention the negative aspects of not tipping - otherwise, your friends will just get defensive.

(Those people actually stealing from your tip money to pay for their own food?Tell them your money was intended as a tip, not for paying their share. Normal, socially well-adjusted people should be hugely embarrassed if you point this out to them and try to avoid this in the future. If they don't, you can conclude they are jerks. Sadly, there is a constant 1-5% rate of jerks in every human population. As far as I know, there's nothing you can do about them apart from avoiding them.)
posted by The Toad at 3:44 AM on March 13, 2009

Just be honest. Speak out. Tell them like it is. Explain. Lay it out. Spell it out. Do the math with them.
posted by watercarrier at 4:10 AM on March 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

A $9 tip from a $90 bill? I'm not American, and perhaps it's different in the US, but I've always thought a 10% tip is perfectly adequate. Although it should be distributed more equally than $6 by you and $3 from everyone else put together.
posted by idiomatika at 4:13 AM on March 13, 2009

I didn't answer your question, did I? Silly me.

Basically - what watercarrier said. If the tip is lower than is customary, say so to your fellow diners.
posted by idiomatika at 4:18 AM on March 13, 2009

Idiomatika, no, a 10% tip is not considered adequate. Particularly if the diners were being demanding.

There are two issues: 1. going out with a group of people who don't cover their share, and 2. skinflint tippers.

You could ask the server for separate checks, but that is a PITA. Like suggestions above, you go over the check and do the math yourself. "Bob, you got the steak tacos and a beer, that's 24 bucks." Just add in the tip. Don't make it an option.

I have this issue with my sister, who has been in food service herself, and will put up a stink about leaving an extra two dollars for a tip. "My god, that's 20%!" And I say, "Don't be a cheap asshole." But that's my sister.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:33 AM on March 13, 2009

A $9 tip from a $90 bill? I'm not American, and perhaps it's different in the US, but I've always thought a 10% tip is perfectly adequate.

That's the thing: you're not American. Americans tip more generously than you Europeans. In America, a 10% tip in a restaurant with full table service is appropriate only if the service was particularly poor.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:37 AM on March 13, 2009

You could I dunno... go with the obvious route of (assuming they haven't been laid off of work) calling them out on it.

If I was in the same situation and I put in a generous portion and my FIVE other companions could only scrape together enough to make the tip shitty... I'd flat out call them on being cheap bastards and embarrass them into putting some more money on the table.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 5:19 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: Grab the bill and say, "Okay, if our bill is $90, then we need at least a $14 tip."
posted by ocherdraco at 5:35 AM on March 13, 2009 [7 favorites]

Mod note: comment removed - this is not a general question about tipping please don't turn this into a discussion about it, thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:40 AM on March 13, 2009

I agree with the "being the bank" strategy. Look at how much the tax was, look at how much the tip should be*, add it up, divide by the number of people in your group and round up to the nearest whole dollar. Then say, "Alright guys, everyone pitch in $x for tax and tip." Count the money at the end, if you're short, call people out on it. (If you have a good sense who in your group is the worst offender, start with them and ask them point blank how much money they put in. Then you can look at the bill and say "I don't think you put in enough, did you add the $x for tax and tip?")

*Going out with my friends, this usually involves getting a general consensus of how much we're going to tip ("20%? 25%?"). This might be helpful in getting your friends to learn that tipping 20% is standard.
posted by cosmic osmo at 5:49 AM on March 13, 2009

After I've given my portion of the bill (plus my 20% tip or whatever) into the pot, and I've seen that the end result tip is less than adequate, I'll actually make an effort to let the other diner see that I've thrown some more cash on the table. I'll usually make a comment like, "I've been a waitress and I have a thing about tipping well." That usually gives them pause and they end up coughing up more cash to reimburse me. It's happened on more than one occasion.

And if they don't come forth with more money, hey, it's karma, right?
posted by dancinglamb at 6:10 AM on March 13, 2009

" the other five people...I'm wary of going out in big groups..."

Most places will include a 20% gratuity in the bill for parties of 6 or more specifically to avoid the kind of problems you encountered. In large groups, try to make sure you go to places that have this policy. Such a vast majority of establishments do this, it's entirely possible your friends in large groups are simply assuming the tip was included in their portion of the bill when you divvied up the bottom line.

" boyfriend and I tipped 20% and the other couple ATE our tip!"

These people are just being assholes. Call them on it.

"I know it's tacky to bring up matters of money..."

AHA! I found your problem! Or at least, I found the problem that you're capable of addressing. Let's try: No. It is not tacky to bring up matters of money when you are performing a transaction. To think otherwise is to place yourself in a position to be scammed or taken advantage of, such as the situations you are complaining about.

"Uh, guys? I think you're short about $10 and the tip" is a totally and completely acceptable statement when a person -- in ignorance or with malice -- is ripping you off.
posted by majick at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Grab the bill and say, "Okay, if our bill is $90, then we need at least a $14 tip."

I agree with this, but $14 should read $20.

Might work, might not. Confronting a table of 7 people usually doesn't work well. I've had people run to the bathroom to avoid tossing in two more fucking dollars.

This has always been a problem for me. I tend to tip generously (grandma was a widowed waitress, raised five children on tips, blah blah blah). Leaving even a 15% tip on a table with 5-10 people makes me sad. I always assume I will have to throw another $10 on top of the tip so I can leave with a clear conscience. I just accept it and leave it at that.
posted by milarepa at 6:33 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some people seem entirely unconcerned with making sure we have enough... are people really that terrible at math, or are they just playing dumb?

Playing dumb. This is shitty. Not even covering their share without profuse apologies, promises to pay back or a quick run to the ATM? What. The. Fuck.

Stare 'em down until they pony up.

Tipping well enough is a separate issue. I'm a pretty good tipper, but even I don't routinely leave a 25% tip, especially if the total check is pretty sizable already. Consider picking your battles to just make sure that the server gets the full amount of the check plus about 18%.
posted by desuetude at 6:36 AM on March 13, 2009

This is really easy.

If you are tipping, tip well. If they are tipping, wait till they get up and slip an extra fiver (or whatever) onto the tip.

Your friends almost certainly know they are being cheap, and calling someone out on being a shitty tipper is really only appropriate if you are thinking about marrying them, so either shoulder the burden for the sake of your server, or stop going out with cheap bastards.
posted by shownomercy at 6:43 AM on March 13, 2009

If you can't handle how your friends tip, don't go out to dinner with those friends. Or get separate checks. Or resign yourself to making up the difference each time.

It's not up to you to social engineer their tipping behavior. If this issue can ruin your night, there's either something else that bugs you about these friends or you need to step way back and lighten up.
posted by KAS at 6:56 AM on March 13, 2009

I would recommend separate bills, if possible. That way you can segregate your good tip from the other bad ones, and ensure that nobody rides on the coattails of your generosity.

For a group bill, take the check and offer to do the math to split the bill+taxes+tip; then tell each person/couple that they owe $x.

People who are crappy tippers are, generally speaking, kinda crappy people

This is a dumb, incorrect statement. I know several crappy tippers who are among the nicest, most generous people there are. It's just that they feel that tipping 15-20% is rediculous; right or wrong, their opinion does not make them crappy people.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:13 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like the recommendation to ask the server to simply add 20% on top of the check (or whatever percent you decide on). In fact, explicitly agreeing on this with the others before asking the server for the check ensures nobody can play dumb here.

Here's my experience: the worst tipper was the guy who loved being 'the bank'. He'd get everyone's money first, and then see how much more he had to add to bring it up to the total needed. Since most people overpaid by at least a little bit, he would end up needing to add a good bit less than he owed, thus shortchanging the server out of the more generous tip they would have received if he'd paid his full share.
posted by Dragonness at 7:25 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: If you see that the tip is going to be light, try another tactic:

You: Gee, you guys are leaving only $3? Was there something wrong here that I didn't catch? Sally & John, you guys took an awfully long time to order . . . did the waitress get your food wrong? I'm only asking because I thought this was a good restaurant (it's one of my favorites/I was going to come here again). If there was enough of a problem that you'd tip like this, I think we should ask to see the manager. Let's see if he or she is around.

The key is to act concerned for their dining experience and to never let on that you think they're actually cheap-ass jerks. While it should not actually be your job to shame your friends into tipping appropriately, it beats always having to shell out the extra bucks for the 'pleasure' of their company.
posted by jaimystery at 7:28 AM on March 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm usually willing to throw in a couple extra singles above what the rest of the group does. If the tip is really low, calling people on it usually works. You have to be direct instead of tactful though. What really gets to me are the people who forget that they ordered drinks or an appetizer. I feel like I'm the only one who knows what his food costs before the bill hits the table.
posted by valadil at 7:34 AM on March 13, 2009

I've found that some poor tippers don't understand how little a server is making. Explaining some facts may be helpful.

Here's a chart of minimum wage for tip earners by state. In many states, a server is likely earning $2.13 per hour before tips (under $5,000/year). I understand this is in contrast with practices in some other countries, where a server is paid a more typical wage.
posted by samsm at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2009

Running the numbers - both what taxes and tip ought to be, AND what waitrons make (see samsm's link) tends to help. YOu'd be surprised how many people don't know that their server is only making 2.13/hr, with out their tips. So "We took up an hour of her you only think the service was worth 5 bucks an hour? Fo Reals?" helps.
posted by notsnot at 7:42 AM on March 13, 2009

Don't go out with people who tip bad.
Tell the bad tipper they need to pay more -- i.e. do the 'math' for them.
Make fun of them.

These all work, usually. Some people don't tip because they are jerks. These are people you need to stop hanging out with.
posted by chunking express at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really like the idea of agreeing on a percentage and asking the server to add it to the bill. I'm a little uncomfortable with separate checks. If I were in your shoes, I'd be asking myself, "What's my goal? To get the server the tip she deserves, or to make sure the server knows I'm not a jerk like my friends?" If it's the latter, separate checks works--the server knows _you_ appreciated him. But is still getting stiffed by the table as a whole. If it's the former, one of the strategies of discussing the tip together before the money starts flying seems like a useful, non-confrontational approach.
posted by not that girl at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2009

Definitely "be the bank." Calculate the tip, add it to the total, and then divide it by the number of diners and announce to the table that, "OK, the bill comes to $120, so each of you owes me $30."

This also comes down to how you allocate the payment of the bill itself. Do you all pay an even share, or do you each pay for what you've ordered. Because if you pass the check around and everyone chips in for his or her food and drink on the bill, most people will fail to account for tax or tip (or both). But if you do that, you will probably need to count up everything and have people chip in more. If you're the one handling the check and money, it's easier to do.

And yes, tell your dining companions that what's there for the tip is inadequate. "Hey, the bill is $90 with tax, but I only have $92 here. Let's all chip in an extra $2." Or, "we;re all putting in $6 for tip, right?"

And yes, there is a line you can cross over into being a bad banker and a jerk, but the bigger the group, the more forceful of a banker you will need to be.

(20% is standard? 20% is not unreasonable, but isn't it generous? I tend to calculate <15% for truly bad service, 15% for adequate service, doubling NY tax and rounding up (which comes to the 17-18% range) and 20% for truly great service. Is this now obsolete and uncouth?)
posted by andrewraff at 8:13 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: This isn't just about tipping. When you go out with a big group, especially when it includes people you don't know well, there's often someone who is going to try to leave the lowest possible amount, and regardless of how much the final tip is, they want the OTHER people in the party to make up the difference for their slight. They're not just trying to keep measly dollars from the waitress, who's a stranger--they're trying to eke measly dollars from their dining partners. Remember George Costanza? These are the low, weaselly people of the world. Don't eat dinner with them, once you've identified them.

They may also be bad tippers, as they are cheap people, and cheap people are often bad tippers, obviously. But there are the unabashed cheap people and then there are the cheap people who don't want to be caught as cheap. So they're more likely to try this the bigger the group, because it increases the likelihood of flying under the radar.

Most people I know expect me to work out the bill, because they know I can do it quickly. So first I check if gratuity is included. If it is, divide by the number of diners. If it's not, calculate the 20% and then divide by number of diners. Then divide the tax by the number of diners. Add the two and round up to the dollar. So then you have an amount you can tell people to add to their totals. So, example, 4 diners, $100 bill. Tax is $7. Tip should be about $20. So, you just say, "everyone, take a look, pay what your stuff cost plus $7." ($5 for tip, $2 for tax). Average would be $32 per person. Then you've got $128. $107 for the bill, $21 for the tip.

If you think someone might try to come up short, you can say "Bill, you and Paul each owe $30, Summer, you owe $35, Olivia, you owe $33." Just saying the amount out loud makes it harder for them to just throw a few bills and say that's about enough. It also helps people to not under- or overpay by accident. I personally have no qualms calling people out in a friendly way if they've come up short. If you think of it as starting from the assumption that they intended to pay the appropriate amount, then there shouldn't be tension. If you're friends, or even just friendly, it's not awkward. They could choose to make it awkward at that point, but you wouldn't be.

Most dinners, it'd be unlikely for there to be such a huge difference in each person's principle amount to justify not splitting tax and tip evenly for the sake of simplicity, if you ask me. If you're out drinking, and one person has had five Bombay martinis and another has had two generic rum and cokes, then it might get more complicated. But really--don't run a tab on drinks with people you don't trust.
posted by lampoil at 8:21 AM on March 13, 2009

(I also find that people are just grateful to not have to do the math themselves, which also eases tension).
posted by lampoil at 8:26 AM on March 13, 2009

Yes, be the bank, and add a 20% tip to the total. I do it like andrewraff does, splitting it up evenly ("I think we should leave $120, divided by ten people -- everyone give me $12"). If people ordered quite uneven quantities, you could try to do it person by person but then you have to figure out their share of tax and tip, which gets complicated.

For me, a much tougher situation is a one-on-one when it's the other person's turn to pay. Then I usually drop an extra bill or two onto the table just as we walk out.
posted by salvia at 8:30 AM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: I've had the same problem, and I decided that getting separate checks as often as possible was the solution. I pay the server what I feel he deserves, and while I may never know what my friends do, I suspect they'd be less stingy with the tip when they have the entire amount of their bill in front of them.

I also have come to realize that many people ARE bad enough at at math, or just uncaring enough, to pay less than they owe (sometimes less than their share BEFORE tip) on occasion. Making them pay their own check helps keep that in check. If someone tries to gave the server $8 to pay a $10 bill, the server will stop them. But if someone tries to pitch $8 into a pot when their share is $10, it might go unnoticed.
posted by Vorteks at 8:34 AM on March 13, 2009

@jaimystery I think that approach would annoy people instead of inviting them to tip more, it's not very subtle!
posted by devnull at 8:35 AM on March 13, 2009

I've worked for tips, but weirdly, that's not why poor tipping bugs me so much. It just seems really rude. They say you can tell what kind of a person someone is by how they treat their waiter, and I think it's true. If I'm with someone who undertips, I try to suggest "Oh, s/he was really nice - maybe we should add another dollar for tip." If that doesn't fly, I shrug it off and make a mental note that the next time I go back, I'll tip better.

'moonMan is not a very good tipper and it's been a point of contention. He's gotten better and I'll admit, one of the things that's helped in my crusade for leaving better tips is to give him a slightly inflated figure when he asks me what he *should* leave for tip. If I tell him to leave $5.50 on a tip that should be $5, he'll round it down and leave $5 - whereas if I had told him to leave $5, he would have left $4.

If the people you're hanging out with don't get that tips are seriously how wait-folk make their money, you can do your best to try and educate them a little - but really, don't push it too hard. It's not worth turning it into a "thing" with people whose company you otherwise enjoy. Really though, if they're good friends, talk to them about how this bugs you. If they're more casual friends... try to sneak a better tip in there and then let it go.

Also: on re-reading the thread - samsm is right, a lot of people don't understand that waiters don't make minimum wage. 'moonMan got a HELL OF A LOT better with tipping 20% (instead of bottom line 15% all the time) consistently once I explained that waiters make less than $3/hr. He honestly believed that tips were *on top of* a regular hourly wage. Getting that in the US, they're NOT, helped a lot in getting him to give better tips. He's still inclined to leave the minimum unless something was spectacularly awesome, but it's a vast improvement.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:38 AM on March 13, 2009

The absolute key is knowing who you are eating with. There are two types of group eaters-out: (1) the "I ate chicken and water and hardly touched the appetizer" type who wants to figure out their fair share and kick in only that amount, and (2) the "there's 5 of us so let's figure out bill +20% and split it 5 ways" type.

If you go out with (1)s, it will be difficult if not impossible to fully satisfy everyone when it comes time to do the math. People will add up their entree and drink but won't add the 8% tax on top of it before they figure their tip. And the guy who ordered the appetizer may not pony up for the whole thing because Jane and Ted ate half of it anyway. When that problem is compounded across all the diners, you will come up short and everyone will feel like they are having to kick in extra to cover someone who is cheap (even though it is that person himself, though he is unaware of it). It's a losing proposition.

If you go out with (2)s, all is right with the world. The only problem arises if you have someone who is ordering disproportionately to the rest of the table - either the "just water for me" person or the 4 glasses of really good wine person. Then the cheap eater(s) could resent the subsidy for the guy living it up. But if you agree on the way the meal will go beforehand that can be easily averted.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

That's the thing: you're not American. Americans tip more generously than you Europeans.

That is saying a significantly different statement than the actual situation - americans don't 'tip more generously, the system is just much more heavily waited on the tip being a proportion of the costs of the restaurant. The tip is a fundamental part of a server's salary in american culture, whereas in Europe and the UK, it is not. It's a different system. Not 'US people are more generous', but that you have to be in the US (as noted it is essentially compulsory) as the people serving don't make any money worth speaking of without it. For a truly equal look at the situation, imagine a (for instance) UK bill will have the 15% already included (but factored into every item on the menu, not as a line item). It's the extra 5% that is the 'tip' in European terms, not the whole 15-20%. This is one of the reasons american tourists are extraordinarily popular in Europe - they often just don't know this, think the place is extra expensive compared to back home and make the server a nice fat bonus...

Back to your situation: as a server, don't get angry. You have the ability to just explain (using the inside knowledge you must have) how much these people make an hour and why tips are so important to them. Explain the (ridiculous to a non-USian) system that YOU the customer are responsible for their basic wage. Perhaps some of your friends are too dumb to realise the fullest implications of it. If you tell them, and they still do it then they are arseholes. Why eat with them?
posted by Brockles at 9:20 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would try, "Okay, we need $X in tip, and we have $Y now," and keep sitting or standing, not moving, until someone(s) put in more money. If they are assholes who leave you standing there alone, then I wouldn't go to a restaurant with them again.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

This seems to be less about your friends than about your anger. You can honestly and rationally talk to your friends about how you feel. However, your friends may not be able to change but you may be able to stop passing judgement on them and end your frustration. If you want someone to have a tip that is your choice, and you can't force people to do anything. If you want friends, and to go out, and to give good tips (which I think are 3 pretty luxurious things to have, especially in this economy, a sign of a pretty good life) then you have control, you can make these choices for yourself (giving the tip you think the server deserves) and take responsibility. Recognizing that you do have control and choices and these are your feelings might help.

Disclosure: I've worked as a bartender, restaurant manager, had a father who gives insanely huge tips, was a 20% tipper but right now I can't afford more that 15%.
posted by scazza at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I'm dining with folks I know to be bad tippers, I just leave an extra fat tip. Of course, if you're eating with people who use your tip money to pay for their dinner, you're kind of screwed on that one. This has happened to me, and I had to go back and slip the waiter a real tip. I always get a split check when I dine with those folks now (and still leave a "compensatory" tip).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:48 AM on March 13, 2009

You're sensitive and they're not. Find nicer people to go out with.

Don't allow something as stupid as money (or worrying about who ate what- which I'm sure you don't do- I'm just saying) ruin a perfectly good evening.

If you think someone might try to come up short, you can say "Bill, you and Paul each owe $30, Summer, you owe $35, Olivia, you owe $33." Just saying the amount out loud makes it harder for them to just throw a few bills and say that's about enough. It also helps people to not under- or overpay by accident. I personally have no qualms calling people out in a friendly way if they've come up short.

Do not be this guy. This is just plain rude.
posted by Zambrano at 10:08 AM on March 13, 2009

just put your share on a card, write in your own tip, and let your friends deal with their own monies
posted by swbarrett at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do not be this guy. This is just plain rude.

It's really not. Not if you assume it was a mistake and not deliberate. If you're friendly enough with someone to share a meal with them, you're friendly enough to discuss who owes what at the end without it being weird. Seriously. What if you accidentally underpaid? You really wouldn't want your friend to say so? You'd want them to just pay the difference because it'd be less rude?

I'm not saying I've never silently overpaid to avoid the discussion once in a great while. It depends on the circumstances, of course. But there's no reason to do that time after time after time. The vast majority of the time, my dinner mates and I discuss our shares frankly without anyone thinking anyone was being rude. Because we're starting from adversarial positions in any way whatsoever.
posted by lampoil at 10:54 AM on March 13, 2009

Er, we're not starting from adversarial positions, is what I meant, of course.
posted by lampoil at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2009

I've also found that a lot of people look at the bill and think, $10 burger, $3 beer, 15% tip... completely forgetting the tax. So when you have a bunch of people doing that, you end up way short while pretty much everybody thinks they put in more than their share.
posted by advicepig at 11:09 AM on March 13, 2009

Separate checks. That's the easiest way to do it.

Look, perhaps it is embarrassing to have friends that don't leave what you think they should leave...but it's their issue and not yours. You are not responsible for them, nor are you responsible for the server.

Tip what you think is appropriate on *your* bill. Don't look at the other people's bill or do the math on their portion. Get your own check, and do what you think is appropriate. I usually tip 20%, just because the math is easier, but YMMV.

I really wish tipping would be abolished as a method by which servers are paid, rather than rewarded. Institutionalizing an additional 20% on top of the bill, just so restaurants don't have to pay their staff is obscene.

I have friends that tip absurdly high amounts, which I think is ridiculous, and I'll be damned if I'm tipping 40% unless the dinner came with a orgasm and a warm towel. I also have friends that seem to be incapable of tipping more than about 10%, and many of my European friends tip less than that, because their workers are actually PAID by their employers, unlike American servers.

See, the thing is, tips aren't a social barometer. Some people don't feel like they should have to subsidize the restaurant industry's refusal to fairly compensate their workers. Some people don't care if their servers hate them, love them, remember them at night. Some people have really high standards for service, and tip accordingly. Some people will throw 20% down even if the service sucked, there was hair in your water, and thumbprints on the steak.

Either way...not your problem. Get separate checks, and mellow the hell out about what other people are doing with their money.
posted by dejah420 at 11:41 AM on March 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Tipping poorly is one of my biggest pet peeves. If I'm ever on a first date with someone (guys take note! Girls really do pay attention to this stuff!) and he leaves a shatty tip (regardless if we are splitting the bill or he is paying), that is a DEALBREAKER. Anyone who treats wait staff like poo will probably treat YOU like poo eventually.

True story: Once I was dining with a group of friends and my significant other and I put in our share of the bill (whatever we owed plus 20% for our share of the tip). One of the guys in the group was aghast at our large tip (I remember him saying, "oh my god, you guys tipped way too much! She wasn't *that* great!) and he actually *took a chunk of the money that we had contributed and put it in his pocket.* My significant other and I were way too embarrassed for this guy to say anything, but we also never, ever went out with him again. Yikes.

In other words, I would suggest that you either be careful who you dine with, or be very upfront with your fellow diners when the bill comes, as others have said. When they start to argue with you that "20% is too much of a tip," call them out on their cheapskateness. Do people not realize that servers are paid waaay below minimum wage and they rely practically entirely on tips to survive??
posted by bacall423 at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: It's not your responsibility to tell them how much to tip. But eating your tip to pay their bill? That's disgusting.

Separate checks, credit cards or debit cards are all good ideas. If you don't want to draw attention to how cheap (you think) they are being, debit cards are usually done at the counter in relative privacy. If you do want to draw attention to it, then credit cards have the receipt lying out on the table.
posted by Gary at 3:00 PM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: Some of my closest, dearest, oldest friends are cheapskates when it comes to the bill.

Definitely be the banker. And don't be afraid to point out percentages. Also, remind the parties involved of the tax on the bill--all of these things are places where generally cheap people will "forget" that they owe money. Usually, I'll count up what's there and say something like, "There's only four dollars here. That's a 9% tip. Are you sure you guys don't want to leave her some more?" Always couch it in language that lets your dining partners pretend like they just forgot, because it's entirely possible (though unlikely) that they did.

I really wish tipping would be abolished as a method by which servers are paid, rather than rewarded. Institutionalizing an additional 20% on top of the bill, just so restaurants don't have to pay their staff is obscene.

If wishes were horses, dejah420 . . . it's really irrelevant whether you agree with the shady way that the restaurant business (legally) pays their workers. If you tip low, you're not stopping the waitrons from being exploited--and wait staff is taxed not only on their measly wage but on 15% of their sales. In other words, their tips. Assume that the tip is part of the price of the meal before you order. If you can't afford to pay it, don't order something so pricey--and certainly don't stick your friends with the bill. Some restaurants won't even split large checks--those are the cases where, without a doubt, what you're doing with your money can become someone else's problem.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:52 PM on March 13, 2009

Brockles - That is saying a significantly different statement than the actual situation - americans don't 'tip more generously, the system is just much more heavily waited on the tip being a proportion of the costs of the restaurant. The tip is a fundamental part of a server's salary in american culture, whereas in Europe and the UK, it is not. It's a different system. Not 'US people are more generous', but that you have to be in the US (as noted it is essentially compulsory) as the people serving don't make any money worth speaking of without it. For a truly equal look at the situation, imagine a (for instance) UK bill will have the 15% already included (but factored into every item on the menu, not as a line item). It's the extra 5% that is the 'tip' in European terms, not the whole 15-20%.

In other words, in America, customers tip more generously and the restaurants pay their employees less generously. In other countries, customers tip less generously and the restaurants pay their employers more generously. Both situations result in the employees making over minimum wage, but the source of the money is different; in America, it's calibrated based on the individual service experience. We have no disagreement here. I wasn't trying to make a judgment about which is better (there are pros and cons of both) -- I was just explaining the situation to a British person who was honestly confused.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:58 AM on March 14, 2009

In other words, in America, customers tip more generously and the restaurants pay their employees less generously.

The disagreement seems to be over the language - I can't see the first 10-15% of a tip as being 'generous' when the system dictates that you are obliged to provide that; that the system falls apart (in terms of a realistic wage for the server) unless this basic level is made. The extra amount is (in the more accurate sense of the word) the measure of how generous the customer is (to my mind). Paying someone a wage for doing a job has nothing at all to do with 'generous', to me. It was that element which is inaccurate, to my mind.

However, to get back on topic: As someone who has come from one (far better, to my mind) system to another, I think it is kind of related to the issue that cheap tippers tend to think of the whole tip as a representation of how much they liked what the server did - Even if the server was surly, irritable and annoying, if your food got to your table in a timely and accurate manner then at least 10% of the tip is warranted as they did actually do their job. Your food got to you, your drinks were filled etc. They did their job, just not necessarily as well as the customer would like.

The more people are aware that the server essentially gets bugger all without even a basic tip, and the more people raise that awareness, then the less chance (to my mind, and in this example) anyone can justify not tipping properly without actually being a deliberate arsehole or by making a genuine point (ie bad service).
posted by Brockles at 7:47 AM on March 14, 2009

This probably doesn't work for everyone, but in my geeky circles saying "oh hey I read this AskMe question about how to get people to not skip out on their share of the tip...." actually serves to start this conversation pretty well.
posted by jessamyn at 10:22 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

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