Tip Etiquette, for those being tipped.
October 26, 2014 8:56 PM   Subscribe

About 8 months ago I asked a question about becoming a bartender on the fly, and the answers I received were fantastic, and really helped me become comfortable mixing drinks faster than I would have. But I have a few questions about something I didn't realize I would need help with: Tipping, or receiving tips.

I can find a lot of info on the etiquette of leaving tips, but not much on the etiquette of receiving them. I wish now I'd paid more attention to what happens to the tips after I leave them.

Depending on what part of the bar I work, I receive tips in different ways, so I have several different scenarios.

1. The drink is 5.50. The customer gives me 7.00. Of course, 99 percent of the time that's a tip. But I always feel strange not asking. Do I ask if the customer would like change? Or just assume its a tip and not offer change?

2. I give the customer 3 dollars change. He pockets 2, and puts 1 on the edge of the bar. Again, 99 percent of the time that dollar is a tip and will be left. But at what point do I take the dollar? Right away? When he orders another drink? When he leaves? This is actually my biggest question, as it happens all the time and in 8 months I still have no clue as to when I should take the tip and throw in in my jar.

3. At one station I make drinks to go, and their is a bowl for tips next to me. When I give 3 dollars in change and the customer takes 1 and tosses it in the jar, should I acknowledge the tip in any way? I already say "have a nice day" to everyone. But if I'm tipped is another "Thanks. I appreciate it" appropriate? Or should I not draw attention to it?

Those are the 3 basic situations I've encountered, but any tips on 'tips' are appreciated. I know I'm overthinking this, but I'd rather know what the common etiquette is in these situations.
posted by ratherbethedevil to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Answer to Q1 - always provide the change. It's up to the customer to leave a tip if they wish, pls don't assume ( and I suggest not asking, either ).

Q2 - When he leaves
Q3 - A discreet thank you.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:02 PM on October 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

Total agreement with seawallrunner, especially as regards #1. Never ask, always bring change. If the customer doesn't want to bother with it he'll say "keep the change."
posted by SLC Mom at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Give change

Take the dollar right away and say thank you

Say thank you
posted by J. Wilson at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

I'm not a bartender, but I go to bars a lot. I've pretty much always seem a bartender give me change (with as many singles as possible) and have me leave the tip. As far as taking whatever's on the bar, I've seen bartenders both grab it then and wait till I leave (usually it's the latter unless the bar is very busy). I don't particularly mind/care either way.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:08 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Former server here: I think it is rude to ask if the customer wants change and it is obviously rude to just assume the balance is meant for a tip. I suggest either bringing the change, or if you are busy and it would save time, say, "Great, I'll be right back with your change" at which point most people will indicate that you can keep it.

I would just leave the money on the table until the customer gets up, unless there is a reason not to.

A quick "thank you" when someone puts money in the tip jar is good, but if you have just thanked them you shouldn't thank them again. No need to be obsequious.
posted by girl flaneur at 9:14 PM on October 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I tended bar once, a lifetime ago. J. Wilson is right on. Bring change, take the tip right away, and say thanks.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 9:20 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not a bartender, but I sit across from them a lot. Always bring change. If you didn't bring me change, and assumed my change was a tip, I would specifically ask for the change so I could pocket it. It seems like most bartenders I experience don't pick up the tip immediately (especially if I am still sitting there). A lot of times the thanks is done by picking up the money and knocking the bar with your knuckles, maybe with a nod and smile, maybe without if it's busy.
posted by sacrifix at 9:24 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get you on the $5.50/$7 example -- unless the customer is paying with a $5 and a $2 bill, he must be handing you a $1 and that seems like a daft thing to do if he wants that $1 back. Make change anyway. The customer could be mistaken about the price or the amount he has paid. Or he may not be thinking clearly. Or you may not think clearly if you get in the habit of not making change. Another customer pays for a $4.50 drink with $5.50 -- same situation, right? No, that guy has a rational reason to pay that way even if he wants change. He doesn't want to carry four quarters.

These are all unlikely, but by making change, you can eliminate your chance of being in the wrong or causing offense.
posted by aws17576 at 9:26 PM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I work at a coffee shop and get tips, although the situation is a little different than most bars I've been to because I'm standing face to face with people through the entire payment process (usually), rather than having to walk away with their money.

1. Depends. If someone hands me an obviously extraneous dollar bill (e.g. a five and a one for a drink that costs $4.85), I tend to assume it's a tip, especially if they hand it to me and immediately walk away from the counter- if I would have to chase them down to give them their money, I assume it's a tip. I usually try to make some gesture communicating "is this for me/do you need your change?" if I'm not sure.

2. I don't see any reason why you can't take it immediately, or maybe wait a few seconds if it makes you uncomfortable. It's a tip, it's for you, it's your money. Do with it what you will.

3. I usually say thanks when people tip me, although I also have a fair number of people who don't tip me and I try not to make it too much of a thing either way (exception is when people have left me particularly generous tips, when I'll make more of an effort to say thank you). I don't want to seem like I'm monitoring the situation too closely, I guess, particularly when I'm picking up credit card receipts. I basically never want to communicate, even minutely, any sense of disappointment when people don't tip, and so I also don't get too effusive over tips.
posted by MadamM at 9:27 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Regarding #3: I always appreciate it when a server acknowledges that I put something in the jar, because that way I know that they saw me put it in the jar. Just "thanks" or a nod is plenty.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:31 PM on October 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh and I should say, I try never to straight up ask "Do you need your change?" because that seems super rude. Like maybe they did want to hand me an extra one just to immediately get it back, maybe that's fun for them. I don't know. I usually make eye contact and start to hand it back, sometimes starting to say "Do...?", and basically always they're either walked away and clearly the transaction is complete, or they say "Oh that's for you, thanks!" or similar.
posted by MadamM at 9:32 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

For Question 1:

I think it's rude to assume that the balance is a tip. "Do you want any change?", "Can I get any change for you?" or "Is the rest of it for me?" just seems rude and entitled.

I was a server at a high-end restaurant, and the servers and bartenders were trained to say: "Let me get you your change." An invitation. Let me, allow me. It didn't matter if the change was $10 or $1: "Let me get you your change". 9 times out of 10, the customer with hardly any change would reply, "No, it's all for you," or some variant of it.

Sure, you'll have that 10th time where there won't be a response and you'll have to bring their 50 cents (or whatever) in change. Just place that and their receipt in front of them, and leave the ball in their court.
posted by Xere at 10:18 PM on October 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

Give change

Take the dollar right away and say thank you

Say thank you

I agree with all that. And do you notice something about all those answers? They're all the simplest possible thing to do. Don't overthink it. There's not much room for complexity and nuance in this type of situation.
posted by John Cohen at 10:35 PM on October 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Always give change.

Take any tip left on the bar right away. You'd be surprised how many people steal tips off the bar.

Always say thank you.
posted by trip and a half at 10:57 PM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I answered your original question, happy to put in my tip here, as it were.

Bartending and serving is my career so I take this kind of thing seriously as it's my income, and yours.

Q1 - Change. This varies depending on the setting. If someone is sitting at the bar, knows the price of a drink, and leaves some dollar figure with a $1 on top, the excess is your tip. Examples - $3 beer, customer leaves 4 ones. The one is yours. $5.50 drink and the customer leaves a 5 and 2 ones, the $1.50 is yours. Even though this should be a rather obvious transaction, if I see what should be a blatant tip, I will usually say a rather pointed thank you, looking them in the eye, when collecting the money. This gets across the fact that I will be keeping the change. It also gives them a time to state that they would like change, if somehow they need 6 quarters or something.

If a customer ever leaves some denomination that does not have a one on top, I always get change without asking. $17 tab and customer leaves a $20? Change. $17 tab and a twenty with two ones? That would be a $5 tip. If a customer pays with something equating to coin change coming back I always return the coins. $5.50 drink and customer left $6? Two quarters immediately placed back in front of them. This does two things. One is let the customer know you're not just randomly pocketing quarters (this has happened to me as a customer a lot) and two, lets the customer know that the $.50 is a shitty tip, in an unspoken way.

Yes always getting change is nice, in theory, but if I hand you $6 on what I know to be a $5 drink and you hand me my one back, I'm going to think you're kind of an idiot, sorry.

However, if someone sits down, orders a drink and just sets out a $10, give the person their change. If they are at a table and have racked up a bill, get change, unless this goes back to the excess ones rule. $71 tab and the table puts $92 in cash in the check book? Don't bring change.

However, and I hate to admit this, you can, and should, bring change if someone really stiffs you. $71 tab and there is $73 in the check book? Bring back the $2 in ones and cheerfully let them know you're delivering their change unless you fucked up their service. If you did, just take the $2.

All that being said always give yourself the opportunity to be tipped well. Customer orders a $9 drink and pays with a $20? They're getting a $5 and six ones in change. That $71 tab and paying with a hundred? Either two tens, a five and 4 ones, or one ten, three fives and four ones. Don't give that person a $20, $5 and four ones, you're far more likely to get $9 tip than $20.

Q2 - Always take the tip right away. People will steal that money. Or they will get drunk and think they just left some extra cash lying around. When you take it, do the 'thank you while looking them in the eye' move. Be serious about it. Put it in your jar/pocket/personal checkbook whatever. But that money is now yours. Services rendered.

Q3 - Try to maneuver your departing conversation into one swift thank you, whether there is a tip or not. If there is a good tip, just intone a more, uh, genuine thank you to it. If there is some kind of long delay between drink and tip going in jar a simple smile, or quick, but real, 'thanks' works. 'Gentlemanly' nod of the head works as well.

As an un-asked for addendum - save your coin change. For months. You never know when this will come back to help you. It might seem like a pain in the ass to go home with $3-9 in change every shift, but if you throw all of that in a jar, or bag at home, it adds up rather fast. I've taken vacations on 4 months of change. Many banks will give you a hard time about taking a lot of change (BofA was the worst), wanting you to bring it in in rolls, but I've found when you bring in $3-400 in change, they will sort it for you, or send it to a central branch to be sorted. Don't bother with coin star when you have that much change.
posted by efalk at 12:25 AM on October 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

Q2 - Pick up the money! Speaking as a customer, it's weird for me to sit there for 20 minutes staring at the money and wonder if you even see it. Your picking up the money (with a head nod or saying thanks) completes the transaction and helps me get back to enjoying my conversation/book/game. Again, speaking as a customer, the sweet spot for picking up the money seems to be within 1-3 minutes -- too soon seems grabby, too late makes it seem like you're not on top of your game.
posted by mochapickle at 3:33 AM on October 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

FWIW, most servers/bartenders/etc. I encounter these days usually say something like "I'll be right back with your change." when I pay, which is a more polite (passive-aggressive?) version of "Do you want change?"
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Q1: If they are explicitly giving you an extra dollar, it's a tip. No one gives $6 for a $5 drink and wants the change back. If the change is more or less than a dollar, give it to them, because they might still want to tip a dollar.

Q2: Doesn't matter at all. I've seen bartenders do it immediately, sweep the bar every few minutes, or leave it for an hour until you leave.
posted by smackfu at 5:57 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

BTW, on question 2, the reason I, as the customer, want you to take the $1 that I put back there for you right away is because that way I know you got it and know it is from me.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:26 AM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

1) Always make change. The customer might not have heard you correctly say how much, and some people who might have been planning to tip get annoyed as your assumption. The *only* exception is if the customer says, "keep the change" as they give you the money. On preview: I like the "I'll be back with your change." I know when I've heard that a number of times I've clarified that it's for them.

2) Take it once it's pushed forward - make eye contact, smile and say thank you. I always felt weird if I put the money on their edge of the bar, but they didn't take it right away. "Did they not see it? What if someone else grabs it when their back is turned? What if it falls onto the floor? etc" and as such I end up watching the money (potentially making them nervous to take it) to make sure the appropriate person does end up with it. The customer taking their money, and pushing it towards your side of the bar is 100% unspoken "here's your tip."

3) A smile, eye contact and "Thank you."
posted by nobeagle at 8:12 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. Nope. Don't assume here; always make change and allow them to leave their tip. If they want to give you that as the tip, they'll usually wave you off or they'll tell you not to worry about it or something.

2. This doesn't matter. Whenever you want. In situations like this, as a customer, I really appreciate the tips to be cleared before I saddle up to the bar, but it really doesn't matter.

3. All you need here is some acknowledgment; depending on where you work and the tone of the customer, a nod can suffice, as can a 'Thanks.' It doesn't need to be a big deal. The only caveat here is that you might want to mentally note when someone leaves a particularly large tip; the mark for me is usually 100% of whatever they just ordered. You still don't need to make a deal out of it. This person has earned themselves a free drink on me the next time I serve them or their friends, because they're typically going to tip on free drinks, and they're just going to tip better in general the better I take care of them. The return is typically significantly more than the cost of that drink to me, and if they turn into a regular that can turn into some not so insignificant income. Granted, I worked at coffee shops, not bars, but this rule has served me well.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:35 AM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

If someone leaves $7 on a drink that's 5.50, definitely bring the change. They are certainly going to tip you some of it, but they may want to take the quarters back.

I also vote for taking the on-the-bar tip right away. I hate it when bartenders just leave them there, as people have said, it becomes my job to watch it and be sure you get it and know it's from me. It also means you'll make more money if this happens repeatedly over the course of a night; it's way too tempting to take back some of the pile, which looks huge, once someone's had a bunch of drinks. If you get a buck or two each time, they can pile up in your jar instead.
posted by bink at 11:21 AM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I only have an opinion on #1.

Best option: don't ask; just go ahead and make change and give it to the customer. If they want to leave all or part of the change as tip, they will do so.

Runner-up option (if you're busy, or know the customer well enough to feel comfortable asking): ask.

Don't assume anything.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:00 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers. It helps my confidence in these situations to see so many answers, especially when they come to basically the same conclusion.

To recap:

Question 1: Just to be clear (and I should have been clearer), if the drink is 6 bucks and I'm given a 10, I always bring the change back. My question, as a few surmised, is when I'm given 7 bucks for a 6 dollar drink. I've almost always simply said thank you and kept the change. I've never had a problem. And the few times I brought the change back, they've waved me away. But I still had a problem believing I was presumptuous to not offer the change back. Looks like I should get over that.

Question 2: Wow was I wrong about this one. I always thought I should wait until the customer left. That i was acting aggressive if I took it right away. Now I realize it's the exact opposite, and the customer wants me to take it right away. I had no idea.

Question 3: I figured out as much. But didn't know if there was some hidden etiquette where drawing attention to the tip was uncouth. Thanks again for clearing this up.
posted by ratherbethedevil at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2014

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