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Is it ever appropriate not to tip?

Before going to the DC PF blogger get-together last night, I took the time to figure out how much I wanted to spend. $10 seemed like a reasonable amount, since we had some money in our Misc fund. Then, instead of buying $10 worth of food, I first computed how much of it should go towards the tip.

I came up with $3, which is a bit high for a $7 purchase (42%), but I figured that it’d be a busy time and I know waitresses can normally use it.

This led me to ponder whether it’s ever appropriate not to tip. I tend to think that one should tip at least 15%-20% 99.9% of the time. And most of the time it should be towards 20%.

It’s probably because I’ve lived with waitresses. Many make less than $3 per hour and rely on tips to get them even to minimum wage (or above). Plus, they have to split tips with the busboy .

I also know that if the food takes a long time coming, it’s often not the waitress’s fault and one shouldn’t penalize her.

If a waitress is very rude, completely ignores you, etc, (and there isn’t an apparently good reason for her neglect, like a full restaurant or she’s the only one on staff) then I can see leaving a smaller tip. Perhaps no tip. But it’d have to be really bad for me not to leave anything.

And for goodness sake, don’t leave a tract. Well…I’ll amend that. Feel free to leave a tract, if you leave a good tip. Your waitress will not want your religion if it leads you to stiff her. Believe me, you’ll be a horrible “witness.” But if you leave a huge tip and a tract, you’re being a great witness about how generous people of your faith are and she might actually care. (I could write a whole post about how I feel about tracts, but if you want to leave them it’s your business.)

Is not having the money an excuse not to tip? NO! says Lynnae at Being Frugal. Her rule of thumb: “If you can’t afford to leave a tip, you can’t afford to eat at that restaurant.”

In the end, I ended up tipping 111% because I ordered something for $4.50, my soda was free (which I hadn’t counted on) and I felt generous, so I just gave her the $10. I think the only other time I’ve been so generous was when I accidentally tipped a pizza guy with a $20 thinking it was a $5. He was trying to make change and I said “No, keep it.” He got this funny look but said “Ok.” Oh well. He was an immigrant and looked old enough to be a father. I’m sure he could use it.

What are your rules about tipping? Have you ever tipped 100%? Or felt justified in leaving no tip at all?

Edit: I just wanted to add that the waitress kept my glass filled with the free ginger ale. So she wasn’t even a sucky one, probably why I was even more inclined to just leave the $10.

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plonkee October 26, 2007 at 11:46 am

Tipping is very cultural. I’m considered a big tipper in my social circle (in the UK) because I tip 10% minimum. But then waiters and waitresses have the same minimum wage as everyone else. The most I’ve ever tipped was 40% on a tattoo – I didn’t have any change and I liked the artist.

I’d think it was pretty funny if I was a waitress and someone left me a tract, I tend to treat them like junkmail leaflets – see if there’s any inadvertent humour and then throw them in the bin.

Mrs. Micah October 26, 2007 at 11:56 am

If you enjoy the inadvertant humor in tracts, this guy: does dissections of the infamous Chick tracts. I’m not an atheist like he is, so sometimes I disagree with him, but on the whole I find his dissections fun. Chick is, himself, a bit nutty.

gildedbutterfly October 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm

I never, ever, EVER tip less than 20%. I can’t say I’ve ever tipped 111% either, though. πŸ™‚

Like you, I’ve known too many waitresses to ever not tip.

Pinyo October 26, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Even when the service was completely lousy, I couldn’t bring myself to tip anything less than $15. May be it’s because I am married to an ex-waitress (and used to be a busboy) and know how little them make in form of hourly wage.

Mrs. Micah October 26, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I think spending time with waitresses really helps shape one’s viewpoint, especially with the comments on here. You hear about the sucky customers, the bad tips, and then the people who made their day or at least helped them break even. I definitely want to be the latter. πŸ™‚

Looby October 26, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Mmm, I would have said it’s never ok to not tip except just yesterday I left a St*rb*cks without leaving a tip, because the staff got my order wrong and were rude and lets face it a cup of tea should not be a challenge. I also have massively over tipped by accident: I told a taxi driver to keep the change on a £2 journey from a £20 note, I was a student at the time and it was gutting. Usually though I stick to the upper end of 15-20% Unless I’m back in the UK where tipping is very different.

FinanceAndFat October 26, 2007 at 5:59 pm

I’ve left a big tip after poor service on occasion. I figured maybe the server was having a horrible day and maybe my big tip would make it better. Or they would feel guilty about giving me poor service and that would be my revenge. πŸ™‚

I’ve also left tips of $0.25. I heard that was the way to say that the service was horrible and I didn’t FORGET to leave a tip. That is a last resort measure, something I’ve done two times that I can think of.

As a pizza delivery person about ten years ago I received tips from $0.00 to $100.00. No one seems to follow a set rule with pizza delivery, but I always tip them very well.

Carrie October 26, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Followed your trackback from Lynnae’s site! Great post! As a former waitress in the states, where you DON’T make minimum wage I get very very crabby about people NOT tipping because they didn’t have enough money :O There are PLENTY of fast food joints that do NOT require tips that you can go to for a meal. Get out of my restaurant!! Anyway, I wanted to give my 20% on when I’ve left shoddy tips vs. great ones. My favorite story is actually more about my hubby than me. We went to Ponderosa (a buffet style restaurant where you can order steaks that are brought to your table and they bring your drinks to your table as well…so a LITTLE more upscale than a typical buffet) and we watched a few people leave a dollar on their tables as they left after enjoying their steaks and multiple cups of coffee or cola. The waitress was awesome, she was older and busting her butt. I loved her…she kept my mountain dew filled without me even having to think that it was almost empty!!! So my husband walks up to her after we’d finished eating and hands her a tip, I have NO IDEA how much he’s giving her. She says thanks and goes off on her way, never looking at it. Well, as we are leaving the MANAGER catches us and says, “Did you just give soandso a 50 dollar tip?” My husband nods and the manager procedes to explain that she is a recently divorced mom of 3 kids and her son was going the next day for his driver’s test and she wasn’t sure she’d have the money for him to get his license…anyone care to guess how much he’d need? 50 bucks…yeah..God is Good…

Pamela October 26, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Hubby and I generally tip in the 15-20% range at restaurants. We will tip more if the service was exceptional and less if it was poor (related to the waitress her/himself and not to something s/he had no control over). I can recall one time where hubby left a very small (twenty-five cents?) tip. We had gone out for my birthday and we were one of two people in the restaurant. There were at least two waitresses. It took a long time for the waitress to come take our orders. After she brought our food back (hubby’s wasn’t cooked thoroughly), she didn’t come back for a good half-hour. Instead of waiting on us, she was visiting with the customer’s at another table. I think we ended up spending around two hours at the restaurant – most of which was spent waiting for the waitress.

A month or so ago, I got my haircut. My mom had paid for it ahead of time and had also left a tip, but I wanted to leave a tip, too, because I really liked the service I received and the haircut I got. I had two bills in my pocket – a $1 and a $10. I would have preferred to leave a tip somewhere between those two amounts, but I didn’t have change and didn’t want to ask for any. I handed the gal my tip at the end, thanked her for her service, and went on my merry way. I emptied my pockets when I got home and hubby said, “Are you sure you tipped her as much as you thought you did? You still have the $10 bill.” I felt terrible. She’d done a wonderful job with my haircut, was friendly and personable, and I’d left her a $1 tip. I called her up and left a message telling her that I hadn’t meant to leave her a $1 tip and that I really did appreciate her work.

mrsmicah October 26, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Your story, Pamela, makes me think of something that happened to us recently. Some friends were visiting and took us out to dessert at a local diner. We had cake and left. Because they had a baby, we were fussing over him and none of us remembered the tip.

After we got home, we all felt really bad. So the next day, Mr. Micah and I took a special trip over there and tipped her $5. It was about 35% tip, but the extra for feeling so bad about having this nice girl think we stiffed here. Couple points in her favor–she was quite helpful and attentive, she was also 18 or so and everyone but me was 27 (and the baby, I guess). So it was like taking hard-earned money from a kid.

Since your mom tipped her, the phone call was really thoughtful…not that you owed her anything but it’s a nice gesture. πŸ™‚

JLP October 26, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Why is the new norm 20% for tipping? The price of eating out has risen, so a server who gets 15% is getting a bigger dollar amount. I think 20% is great for “above the call of duty” service.

Personally, I wouldn’t be against leaving NO TIP if the service was horrible. I understand that certain things are out of the server’s hands so I would try to exercise sound judgement.

All that said, I remember reading a story one time about two guys who were in a restaurant and the waitress was rude, rude, rude. Even so, they both decided to leave her a really nice tip. After they paid their bill and were walking out to their car, the waitress came running out of the restaurant after them. She was crying and told them how she had had a horrible day and that their tip made her day.

It’s definitely something to think about.

Susy October 26, 2007 at 10:31 pm

DH and I always share a meal and drink water so we always tip as if we got 2 meals. Our usual tip is about 40%-100%. I don’t believe that frugality should extend to tipping. I believe in being generous when tipping. I always try to think what I would appreciate receiving if I were doing the job.

In our jobs we occasionally receive tips even though it’s not the usual. I must say getting a note with $300 in it at the end of the evening is really really nice!!! It certainly makes our day and year!

Michelle October 27, 2007 at 2:09 am

I’m a generous tipper. 20% is generally my minimum, and it can go much higher then that. I’ve worked in retail, and while we didn’t get tips, I learned a lot about the hell that is dealing with the general public – so I always try to extend a little extra gratitude for people who bear with it via my tips. And it’s kind of link random gifting – leave a fat tip, walk out, hopefully make their day.


JW Thornhill October 27, 2007 at 5:43 am

I have always made it a habit to tip regardless of the service. But, on occasion I will tip more than other times if the service is exceptionally good.

Laura October 27, 2007 at 7:22 am

I tip 15% foe decent to bad service. Exceptional service is from 25-35%. On the rare occasion it’s bad, I’ll talk to the manager. I haven’t had to do that in a long time.

Fabulously Broke October 27, 2007 at 7:45 am

Normally, since I eat out on company dime, I tip at least 15%. But in general, I don’t like eating out too often.

I have tipped 0 before, and sometimes only $1, but it was because the service was really godawful and I couldn’t bring myself to leave even a dollar with how rude he was being. He ignored us for 15 minutes while we could plainly see that he was chatting with someone else about his girlfriend in front of us, and he never refilled any of our glasses, and ignored us the entire night.

But I have NEVER tipped nothing for food being late. It isn’t their fault at all, and if I can see she’s the only one in the busy restaurant, I cut her slack.. a lot of slack, and I leave her a more than generous tip to make up for others that would probably leave nothing, without taking into consideration the situation.

It varies, but my average has been 15%, although I wish restaurants would just pay them minimum wage so that tipping isn’t mandatory for the patrons…

It’s not my money per se, but it’s the principle that waiters/waitresses expect a tip even when they are awful, that gets to me. I wish I could tip the chefs and the busboys in the back instead of just the waiter/waitress because I know the chefs and busboys in the back really deserve it for running around and making my food.

Fabulously Broke October 27, 2007 at 7:46 am

*correction to my last paragraph note* I meant tip the chefs/busboys if the waiter/waitress was awful, instead of resorting to leave $1 or nothing…

Lynnae @ Being Frugal October 27, 2007 at 10:00 am

Thanks for the link!

I obviously agree that you should always tip. I usually try to tip in the 15-20% range, closer to 20% if the service is good.

I used to be a waitress for the lunch shift at a sports bar when I was in college. My worst story was a guy who came in, and he was really high maintenance. It was OK, though, because it was a slow day, so I could get him whatever he wanted quickly. I was pretty peeved when he didn’t leave a tip at all. I bent over backwards for him. That’s just rude.

mbhunter October 29, 2007 at 1:20 am

I usually tip between 15% and 20% — rarely below 15% unless the service is really lousy.

I’ve been in situations where the initial server really falls down on the job but someone steps in to fix it. One time this happened another member of the party left a lousy tip anyway, and that isn’t right.

But then again, some customers won’t be satisfied regardless.

Swamproot October 29, 2007 at 5:22 pm

A long time ago, I did just about everything there was to do in a restaurant, but I still think a tip is earned and if a waiter isn’t working as hard as I used to, then I will not be leaving 15%. If they are exceptional it will be more like 20 or 25, but I can’t stand a slacker.

I also agree with another poster that you should leave something, however small, so that they know you didn’t just forget it.

I know all about the bad things that can happen and the bad days a person can have, and the bad tippers one has to serve in that profession. But on the average it is equivalent to piecework and you get a return equal to the quality that you put into your work, at least for the place you work at. More work places should be so incentivized.

Which is why I can’t stand a place (at least to work at) that pools tips collectively. The good ones are penalized and the bad ones are propped up.

upset waitress October 29, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Every time you don’t tip a kitten dies

Brip Blap October 29, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Always tip something. I have stiffed waiters/waitresses once or twice in my life, but every time I have told them why – rudeness or complete inattention. But I never just get up and leave while stiffing someone. I am usually a 20% tipper. I have accidentally left huge tips in the past, and I’m an even BIGGER tipper now that we have a very energetic and vocal 1.5 year old in tow – if the server puts up with Little Buddy I show a little extra appreciation!

I do get annoyed that in the US servers get paid less than minimum wage. Bump it up to minimum wage and then reduce tipping to 10%. JLP, 20% is still not a huge amount of money if you’re making $2 per hour – it’s been 15% since I was a kid and so if it bumps up 5% once in my almost-40-year-lifetime I think it’s more or less reasonable.

Carrie, I loved your story! That’s a nice thought for me to finish my day on πŸ™‚

Kris October 30, 2007 at 12:34 pm

Great post, Mrs. Micah! Being a former food worker, I tip 18% standard and 20%+ for really good service.

What’s strange, and I wonder if anyone else found/finds this to be true – senior citizens were generally either my very worst tippers or my very best tippers. Very few left an in-between amount, and the other servers I worked with had pretty much the same experience. Does this happen all over?

anon November 19, 2007 at 8:20 am

I normally tip 15-18%.

Once, I visited a family owned restaraunt where a teenage girl was serving the whole restaraunt and the rest of the waitresses were chatting with customers or with each other in the kitchen. The service was slow, but the girl was so upset it looked like she was about to cry or else just walk out. It was obvious that they were making her do all the work but making her share her tips with them. My husband walked up to her on the way out, slipped her $10 (about an 80% tip) and whispered for her to not share it.

One Christmas Eve we also gave a very big tip because it seemed the waitress could go home as soon as everyone left but as soon as the restaraunt was almost empty, another group would come in.

On the other hand, we were at a chain restaraunt on our honeymoon. We ordered an appetizer and 2 entrees. We waited about 45 minutes and then she finally brought both out at the same time. The appetizer was already cold and the rest of our food got cold while we ate the appetizer. She never came back to check on us or refill our drinks and AFTER ANOTHER 90 MINUTES, she still had not come back even to bring the check. The restaraunt was almost completely empty. We were so angry that we almost walked out without paying at all, but we walked up to the register, paid our bill and mentioned our horrible service to the manager. Obviously we didn’t tip her anything.

I totally agree that 15% is standard, and I know that they depend on their tips. But I think that tipping when the service is inexcusibly bad just encourages more bad service. If they miss out on money that they are depending on, it sends a message that that kind of service is unacceptable.

Meg from All About Appearances February 9, 2008 at 9:43 pm

I have only very rarely not given a tip. A server has to be downright rude to me or the people I’m with. I remember one such occasion well.

I was with a small group of friends in a small diner. The only other people there were the waitress and a small group of men smoking in the far corner. The waitress and the men were all senior citizens and I wouldn’t be surprised if the waitress was a friend of theirs since she seemed to give them excellent service.

On the other hand, we had a hard time getting her over to our side to refill our drinks since she was busy talking to her friends. When she did come over, it was to tell us in a nasty tone, “Lower your voices. No one wants to hear y’all talk.” Granted, one of my friends had bust into hysterical laughter for a moment earlier, but the group was far from noisy. Plus, everyone had been very civil with the waitress despite the poor service.

Had we not already received our food, I think we would have walked out right then and there. As it was, we just agreed to leave no tip.

My husband was once told by a server, “Well, if you wanted steak, you shouldn’t have come to an Italian restaurant.” That was at the local Olive Garden where my husband had to send a steak back because it was burnt and full of grizzle. We still gave him a small tip, but the service at that place was so poor that finally we stopped going at all.

cybele February 10, 2008 at 11:51 am

A friend of mine used to stack quarters by her plate at the beginning of her meal, representing a tip. Each time a waiter/waitress was rude or did something irritating/ignored her, she’d remove a quarter. Some of them quickly figured out what was going on, some never did. It was an embarrassing thing for me, though, as I always tip…we don’t stay in touch much.

Apropos tipping 100%, we did that once. We’d eaten at a fancy restaurant where the chef was a friend of a friend. When the bill came it showed a 50% “friendship” rebate. So we left the 50% “savings” = 100% of our bill for the waiters.

dhh March 17, 2008 at 4:17 am

Usually 15-20% is appropriate, and certainly 20+ is appropriate if you’re a “needy” kind of customer — the one that has special requests for most of your meal, need your water refilled 4 times, send the soda back twice because it just doesn’t “taste right”, etc. Couple other things I try to keep in mind:
1) If service is so bad that I think a tip is out of the question, it’s my duty to talk to the manager. If I walk out without leaving a tip, the server may assume I forgot, or at least will not let anybody know why he/she got stiffed. If I talk to the manager, at least things may improve in the future.
2) I will usually always leave at least 10%, even with poor service. Servers are taxed on a lower rate (8%) of sales, so if you don’t tip, it’s actually money out of their pocket because the assumption is that you did. At 10%, I will still tell the manager why.
3) If I use a coupon or get a special deal (even the posted “daily special,” I tip on full price. The fact that the manager decided to make steak and eggs $6.99 that day instead of $10.99 doesn’t change the amount of work the server has to do.

m September 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I was a waitress so I’m 99.9% generous with tipping. Even if the service is bad I’ll at least give 15%, and even that’s a stretch since I know first hand that slow service is rarely the waitresses fault (i.e. – don’t shoot the messenger).

The only time I have not tipped was when a cab driver blatantly tried to take advantage of me. I lived in downtown San Francisco right in the heart of the “touristy” area. I hailed a cab a block from my apartment since I was meeting visiting family a Fisherman’s Wharf (one of the biggest tourist attractions). Having taken that route many times I knew perfectly well that you just go straight up the street. However, I noticed him taking me in the complete opposite direction. I kept my mouth shut for a bit, giving him the benefit of the doubt. When it was obvious he was doing a major detour I chimed in and asked what direction we were taking. Knowing this was a huge circle I told him “just out of curiosity, why didn’t you go up X street back there?”. He insisted it was the right way, I defended my statement, then he got mad and yelled at me “how would you know?!”. I told him “because I live right where you picked me up”. He got huffy realizing I called him out. A $10 cab right ended up costing me $16. I paid him the exact amount telling him the extra cost for the joyride would’ve been his tip.

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