Did I leave a good tip?
January 5, 2006 10:43 AM   Subscribe

TipFilter: Did I leave the right amount for a tip?

This has been eating at me for a long time: last year for our anniversary, my fiance and I went to our favorite restaurant in town, as we had a $100 gift certificate to the place, and had eaten there often enough to earn a free $50 bottle of wine (you earn/save points based on how much cash you drop there). At the time, we were basically broke - I had ten dollars to my name the next day, and the only reason we could eat there in the first place was the gift certificates. We're regulars, and have a regular waitress who we know and like.

Our bill, after all discounts, came to 23 cents, and I left a 40 dollar tip, which I thought was pretty generous - that's a 26% tip, and we're pretty laid-back customers.

But since our dinner there, the waitress gave us the big cold shoulder for three months until she moved out of town for graduate school.

I try to tip appropriately, but did I tip enough in this case? Obviously our waitress could not know we were spending close to our last dollars on her, but would you have tipped more, or avoided going until you could tip more?
posted by rocketman to Human Relations (44 answers total)
 
So you left $40 on what would normally be a $150 bill? You did right, go in peace.
posted by junesix at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006


Speaking as a former waitress, I think you did exactly the right thing -- you left an appropriate tip (indeed, a generous one!) based on what the cost of the meal/wine would have been without discounts. I'm baffled as to why she'd she'd have a problem with $40 on (what would have been) a ~$150 tab.
posted by scody at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


26% seems incredibly gracious, considering that the standard is 15%.

A 17,391% tip seems even more gracious ($40.00 divided into $0.23).

Given solely what you've said, I have no idea what the heck her problem was. Any dinner conversation of a controversial nature she might have overheard and taken insult to — i.e., perhaps she was a neocon fundie and you were discussing liberal politics, or perhaps she learned you were Yankee fans and she's sworn to hate anyone who doesn't support the Mets?
posted by WCityMike at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006


What Junesix said.
posted by Makebusy7 at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd say that's generous. How much do you normally tip there?
posted by amarynth at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2006


yes, you did exactly the right thing.

One time, we had a major snafu with a restaurant where they had written on the bill that the tip was included (large party), but the owner (who had waited on us) forgot to include it. He chased after us in the parking lot, and we gave him a tip, but it was horribly embarrassing (since we were taking a friend out for her birthday). We never went back to that place again.

Perhaps something like that happened, where they miscalculated the bill and she got stiffed? Either way, unless she said something to you, there's no way for you to know.
posted by j at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2006


I've found that waitstaff can be moody folk. It's a crappy job. FWIW, your tip seems appropriate.
posted by selfnoise at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2006


I know it varies from country to country, but in Brazil the standard tip in restaurants is 10% of the bill. We usually go above it for very small bills (a cup of coffee costs around half a dollar, and when you want to tip the person serving the coffee you will end up leaving the change you just received, usually coins ammounting to 20% to 50% of what you paid) or service above and beyond the expected. A 40 dollars tip on a "virtual" (since you actually wouldn't eat there if you didn't have the freebies) 150 dollars bill seems very generous.
posted by nkyad at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2006


I waited tables for three years and bartended for six. Your tip was fine.
posted by mds35 at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2006


Where you there for more than four hours? Did you call her to the table every five minutes? Did she slip you an extra half-dozen deserts that your gift certificate didn't cover? If the answers to these questions is no, then you did the right thing.

Sometimes, wait staff perform extraordinary services for customers. In those special circumstances extravagant tipping is indeed called for. You seem the type of person who would have no trouble recognizing these extraordinary circumstances and acting accordingly when the time comes.

Maybe she was just making her inevitable departure for grad school easier by cutting emotional ties.
posted by oddman at 11:01 AM on January 5, 2006


Who knows what her deal was.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2006


Over my lifetime I've accumulated about eight years' restaurant work. This tip was more than appropriate -- it's actually generous. Many people don't even know that they should tip on the cost of the meal before discounts/gift certificates/freebies. You knew that and you did; so whatever the problem was, it wasn't your tip. Hard to say what her problem might have been.
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on January 5, 2006


I've found that waitstaff can be moody folk.

As can any folk.

You don't need to worry about this. There's not explanation as to why she would act this way. Are you sure it was about the tip?

If every customer tipped like you I might still be serving tables.
posted by justgary at 11:06 AM on January 5, 2006


Your tip was spectacular. The only reason I can think of that your server was cold to you afterwards is that maybe she assumed that, in being so generous, you were assuming that she is excessively poor or some such judgement. Which is, of course, completely absurd (especially given your disclosed financial status at the time), but as others have pointed out servers are frequently moody and bizarre, and unforunately some are frequently ungrateful.
posted by baphomet at 11:06 AM on January 5, 2006


Your "bill" was $100. The wine was a gift to a loyal customer. Your tip totalled 40% of the bill.

A waitress who gets a 40% tip, a $40 tip to boot, has no place to get upset over it. A 20% tip for good service is quite fine. In fact, it's more than adequate at a ritzy place. The waitress who brings out your food and $20 check is working just as hard as the one that brings food and a $100 check. We just feel inclined to tip the second one more.

I'd almost wonder if she felt patronized from overtipping, although that's rather unlikely. Anniversaries often mean large tips, which is exactly your situation. Either that, or you said something that struck a personal nerve, something you had no idea about.

You're not at fault in the least, and your waitress was unreasonable.
posted by Saydur at 11:06 AM on January 5, 2006


If you tipped cash, maybe it got stolen after you left by another customer or server. If that happened, your server may have just assumed you didn't leave a tip since your bill was essentially $0.

I can't think of any other explanation except she maybe just had other stuff going on that put her in a bad mood.
posted by brain_drain at 11:07 AM on January 5, 2006


Caveat and sidetrack: Saydur, a $100 check costs more because more stuff was sold to the table. That extra stuff requires extra work to arrive there. Perhaps a round of appetizers were ordered, meaning the server had to preset the table and then bus it when done. Perhaps a few extra rounds of drinks were ordered, meaning extra trips to the bar (and a higher bar tipout). If a bottle of wine was ordered, the wine glasses had to be polished and the bottle properly serviced. So yes, while a server dropping a $20 check should be working hard, a server dropping a $100 check worked a lot harder for that table.
posted by baphomet at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2006


I waitressed for four years. One does expect a larger tip when the customer's getting hefty discounts or freebees. And that's what you did. Assuming you're not leaving anything out, that sounds like just the right tip--not too big, not too small. I think you can rest easy. It was probably either a misunderstanding or she was moody for another, unrelated reason.

Now if I'm in a situation where I'm going to a restaurant I CAN afford with the expectation to pay full price, and the staff spontaneously gives me a big discount or freebee, I like to leave the waitress the difference from what I would have paid.
posted by lampoil at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2006


Every girl I have overtipped I have slept with, so I don't know. Ever read Less Than Zero?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2006


Let's see.. you are regulars who tipped $40 to your favorite waitress, who then gave you the cold shoulder for three months?

You definitely tipped the wrong amount. You should have tipped $0.
posted by rajbot at 11:13 AM on January 5, 2006


a $100 check costs more because more stuff was sold to the table. That extra stuff requires extra work to arrive there

Neither of those statements are necessarily true. A couple hours at Denny's with constant coffee refills and several stacks of pancakes is more work and more stuff than a single entree that might cost twice as much at an upscale place.

And your tip sounds good to me, too, rocketman.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 11:16 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd almost wonder if she felt patronized from overtipping, although that's rather unlikely.

That is unlikely. The money is the main reason people choose waiting tables over other gigs. The only time a very large tip feels at all weird is if it's accompanied by some sense that the tipper is trying to buy your sexual attention. That's gross (but I still always accepted that money; it's their tough shit for being such a caveman). However, even that explanation wouldn't apply because you were obviously with your SO and it's doubtful the waitress would have misread that.

The theft thing is a possibility. It's rare, but I've known it to happen a couple of times.
posted by Miko at 11:17 AM on January 5, 2006


I second there is no telling what happened. I have waited tables at places where we had problems with buss people stealing cash tips, it could happen.

On a second note, I still wait tables in addition to my "normal" job and I routinely average about 25-30%. I guess its because I work in a bar with mostly regulars. If one of my regulars came in and usually tipped me very well, then got a free meal, I would expect a larger than average tip, but I would not be offended at a "typical" tip, certainly not enough to give someone the cold sholder.

That was quite a run-on. :)
posted by stormygrey at 11:21 AM on January 5, 2006


Maybe she mis-read or mis-remembered your bill as being for more. Or maybe she found out her mom died.
posted by Four Flavors at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2006


You're the kind of customer that waitresses hate, you cheapskate. I hope you rot in debtor's prison with all the other poor lowlifes, you ingrate.

Oh, wait. Scratch that. Not supposed to use wisecracks, so here comes the answer to your query:

You did good. More than good. I'm surprised you even have to ask, actually. I'm sure the waitress in question had other issues, don't be so paranoid. :)
posted by Merdryn at 12:05 PM on January 5, 2006


You tipped more than I would have (15-20%, depending on average to good), although I don't know what extras you asked for. I'd guess that the tip was lost or stolen, that she overheard something, or that she had some sort of major issue in her life. Maybe that's why she was moving.
posted by acoutu at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2006


He chased after us in the parking lot, and we gave him a tip, but it was horribly embarrassing (since we were taking a friend out for her birthday). We never went back to that place again.

I really struggle to "get" the whole tip thing in the US when I'm there. Tips are given as a courtesy for good service, they're not a requirement, they're not legally mandated, and no-one should feel any shame if they, for whatever reason, can not give one at some point. It's good to give tips, but by no means necessary. If the industry really thinks it is necessary, they should increase their rates.

I would be far more unimpressed at someone demanding a tip than they'd ever be at me.
posted by wackybrit at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2006


i've waited at semi-nice japanese restaurant before and if a regular tipped me 40 bucks on what would have been 150-dollar check, i'd love the customer.
waiters survive on tips you know... (and this is why we want you to be wasted so you tip us more)
posted by grafholic at 12:35 PM on January 5, 2006


Tips are given as a courtesy for good service, they're not a requirement, they're not legally mandated,

Saying "please" and "thank you" when appropriate are not a requirement and are not legally mandated either. It's not a matter of being required; it's a matter of tips being customary in the US.

and no-one should feel any shame if they, for whatever reason, can not give one at some point.

Yes, they should. Just because one can, legally, not leave a tip does not mean that one should, nor does it mean there is no shame in not leaving a tip. Anyone who goes into a restaurant with at-table service should be prepared to leave a tip. It's fine to not leave one then if service is subpar, but one should be ready to leave a tip when one first goes into the restaurant.

It's legal to not leave a tip, but to do so--in the absence of any reason--marks one as a jerk. There are a thousand other legal ways to be a jerk too, but I'm betting you don't engage in more than a handful of those.

It's good to give tips, but by no means necessary.

Legally necessary, no. But it goes farther than just being "good," it's customary, with all that that implies.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2006


To take this on a different tangent, I've heard that it's acceptable to tip wine at a lower rate. Like you don't need to tip 20% on a $100 bottle of wine and that 10% will do. True?
posted by smackfu at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2006


Smackfu: Not at my bar! ;)

Another thing to keep in mind most places now have worked out some kind of deal with the IRS that requries each server to claim a certain percentage of their sales. Notice that this makes no distinction between alchohol and other items. Some places have agreed to claim , say, 18% of total sales after tax and tipout, at others I claimed 15% of cash sales and the precise amount of the credit tips.
posted by stormygrey at 1:09 PM on January 5, 2006


(I think you tipped fine)

DevilsAdvocate brings up an interesting point. If the service is terrible (and that is, terrible for things that the server can control vs. the kitchen) then I will leave a small tip, and notify the manager on the way out why I left a small tip.
posted by TeamBilly at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2006


Wackybrit: No tips aren't required, but as pretty much every restaurant-goer in the U.S. knows, wait-staff are paid an incredibly paltry hourly wage, and depend on tips to make their cash. We're talking less than 2.00 and hour in many cases. Those tips are their wages.
posted by dead_ at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2006


wackybrit -- I would add that, if tipping were not customary here, restuarants would be required to change their wage system. They'd have to conform to standard hourly-wage-worker pay requirements and would have to pay (at least basic) benefits and take out taxes. They'd be taking a loss on the hours that servers work that the house is not taking in any revenue -- set-up and breakdown -- because the same wage would have to apply over the course of an entire shift. They'd need to pay for more hours spent bookkeeping, and they'd have to get into wage wars with competitive restuarants, driving up wages in hot restuarant cities. Restuarant prices would rise about 25% on average, -- until they approached what one pays for a restuarant meal in, say, Britain. Hey - wait just a minute!

Yeah -- I am going to have to restrain myself from continuing, because I get quite passionate on the subject of tipping. It's just how we work it; and it provides a wonderful incentive for people with good skills and intelligence to work in restaurants where they'll make good money.
posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2006


Wackybrit: No tips aren't required, but as pretty much every restaurant-goer in the U.S. knows, wait-staff are paid an incredibly paltry hourly wage, and depend on tips to make their cash. We're talking less than 2.00 and hour in many cases. Those tips are their wages.

Agreed. I made less than $2/hour cocktail waitressing 10 years ago, and my boyfriend's a bartender and he doesn't get too much more than that hourly himself -- yes, in 2006. Yes, in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. That's right: two dollars an hour. An eight-hour shift earns him 16 bucks in wages -- before taxes. The whole point is that because tipping is so utterly customary (if not downright ubiquitous), it's expected that waitstaff/bartneder live off their tips.

And this isn't just a general social expectation -- as stormygray points out, the IRS can even deduct taxes from that (paltry) hourly wage based on a waiter's presumed tips. So say you don't tip on a $100 tab; the IRS may still presume that the waiter got $18 out of you, and will deduct taxes accordingly. So by not leaving a tip, you've actually increased his tax burden. See why we get pretty pissy about it here?

If you don't like tipping, though, feel free not to go to any restaurants or bars the next time you're in the states. ;)
posted by scody at 1:51 PM on January 5, 2006


See, the problem is that your waitress wasn't a waitress, she was a graduate student.
posted by fixedgear at 1:51 PM on January 5, 2006


To sum up, this had to have been a case of theft, as anything over 20% is considered extremely generous. (Back in the day 15% was standard, and percentages aren't supposed to be subject to inflation.)

Chalk it up to your standard passive-aggressive conclusion jumper.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2006


I join in the chorus of "You did fine; who knows what her deal was?" A stolen tip is all I can think of.

One does expect a larger tip when the customer's getting hefty discounts or freebees.

Huh? You mean larger than if the bill had been the same but the customer was paying it? I don't get it.

I really struggle to "get" the whole tip thing in the US when I'm there.


Who asked you? But congratulations on derailing the thread; there's nothing like yet another "tips are deserved! no they're dumb!" thread just like the 10,000 we've had already.
posted by languagehat at 1:57 PM on January 5, 2006


"One does expect a larger tip when the customer's getting hefty discounts or freebees."

Huh? You mean larger than if the bill had been the same but the customer was paying it? I don't get it.


I think this is right if the server is responsible for providing said discounts or freebies -- the classic example is a bartender who comps you drinks. It's appropriate to wink and give a little extra tip in such circumstances (e.g. 25% instead of 15% on the free drink). But where, as here, the discount has nothing to do with the server, I agree that there's no reason to tip higher than if the customer had paid in full, although it's certainly a nice thing to do.
posted by brain_drain at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2006


One does expect a larger tip when the customer's getting hefty discounts or freebees.

Huh? You mean larger than if the bill had been the same but the customer was paying it? I don't get it.


Well--not "expect" as in I'd be shocked or pissed if they left 20% of the would-be bill. But yes. Many here implied that 26% was overly generous or too much and that's certainly not the case--a little bit more than customary is right in these situations. I look at it this way--in this case, for instance, he paid $40.23--had he not gotten the discount, he would have paid $190. Cutting the waitress in on a little bit of your savings, when you get savings, is part of being what I would consider a "good tipper". The fact that it's probably not the waitress herself who's responsible for getting you the discount isn't really relevant. It's not only good karma and a nice thing to do--it's a compliment to the manager that you respect and appreciate his staff.

So few people are actually good tippers, so "expect" may not be the right word.
posted by lampoil at 2:21 PM on January 5, 2006


One does expect a larger tip when the customer's getting hefty discounts or freebees.

Huh? You mean larger than if the bill had been the same but the customer was paying it? I don't get it.


When I served I didn't expect it. But as a customer I do tip bigger if I got a discount. I still save money, and it makes up for deadbeats like wackybrit.

And wackybrit, you don't have to tip. But if you lived in the US and had a favorite restaurant and didn't tip, you'd eventually wish you had.
posted by justgary at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2006


Wow, thanks for all the answers!

Just to let you know, I paid with a credit card, so there's almost no chance her tip was stolen. Probably she just had other issues going on, and was preoccupied with moving across the country.

We normally tip well (20% or more) for good service, and it's how she came to be our regular waitress - we got along well, and she was an excellent server. The only other thing I can think of is that perhaps our generosity in the past set her up to think she would get even more when we didn't have to pay for the meal. Alas, I wish it had been so.
posted by rocketman at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2006


Perhaps she thought she might have gotten away without sharing or paying taxes on the $40 tip if only you hadn't paid a 23cent bill with your credit card? That's just conjecture, there's nothing wrong with the tip itself, but the procedure was perhaps a bit odd.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2006


Most waiters/waitresses I've met prefer credit card tips because people tend to tip heavier with plastic than with cash.

And there's a special room in hell for you non-tipper-on-principle folks. It's right across the hall from the I-didn't-have-the-money-to-tip-but-I-went-out-anyway crowd.
posted by wheat at 1:24 PM on January 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


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