Are you a cheap tipper?

I’m sure this has been covered before, but I’m new, so bear with me.

I’m a waitress, and it always amazes me how often I get terrible tips despite customers raving about my excellent service.

I was under the impression that in North America, it is customary to give 15% for good service. For anything above good service, where the server goes to any extra trouble to please you, you tip above 15%, at your discretion.

Thing is, waiters and waitresses in North America generally make less than “minimum wage”, as the government expects their income to be filled in by the gratuities. And almost every restaurant has a “kickback” or “tipout” system where a percentage of the waiter’s SALES (at my restaurant, it is a heartstopping 4% --of my SALES…regardless of how much I’m tipped-- despite the fact that we have no bartender or busboy or hostess) But often, after serving a table for an hour or more, pouring their wine and splitting their check and dealing with all manner of rude behaviour, I find myself staring at an 8-11% tip at the end. If I’m lucky. Which, after the house gets their kickback, ends up being a whole lotta nothin.

Now, I’m aware that many people tip on the subtotal before tax, which is understandable, though I myself always tip on the total after tax (though that may be generosity based on my knowledge of how humiliting the business can be sometimes) but it still doesn’t answer for those people whose bill comes to $110.34 before tax and they leave me a whopping $120 and say magnanimously, “keep the change”.

It’s also well known in the service industry, at least where I’ve worked, that if a table is really nice to you and starts complimenting you on what a great server you are and what a wonderful time they’ve had, you better prepare yourself for a crappo tip. Because apparently compliments will pay my rent?

Is it that people don’t KNOW that the custom is 15%? Or is it just cheapness?

Welcome to the Straight Dope, Carlyjay.

You’d think this was a fairly mundane thread topic wouldn’t you? But it’s always a crazy ride. People have stronger opinions on tipping than they do on abortion or the War in Iraq. I have no idea why. I’m not trying to discourage you–it’s always interesting–I am just saying brace yourself, lassie.

Myself, I consider tipping a mitzvah and do so generously. But there are many other kind acts performed by others that I don’t do, so I figure it all balences out.

I routinely tip 'round 20%, simply because the math is easier. It’s got fuck-all to do with service; I think this notion that servers ought to have to fawn over me to earn their bread is nonsense. The problem could be solved by insisting that servers be paid a proper wage, but that’s a whole other issue…

Fair warning: you have stepped on a landmine. This topic has been discussed before, and it often gets somewhat heated. Be prepared.

Hubby and I are very generous tippers. We never leave less than twenty percent, and often it’s upwards of 40% if we were happy with our visit to the resturant. I figure it’s worth an extra few bucks to brighten someone’s day a bit. Waiting tables is a hard and thankless job. A waitperson who does a good job in spite of that deserves a little kindness. (I can afford a few extra dollars if I’m paying fifty bucks or more for a meal.) At Christmas, we always leave a “present” in our tip if they were nice.

We’ve actually gotten known for being good tippers (and for being nice) so when we go to a local resturant, we’re treated like royalty.

I’ve never tipped on the total before tax. It never occurred to me that this was even an option until someone pointed it out recently.
I usually tip 15%, rounded to the nearest even amount. I’ve worked in a restaurant before, and heard some stories about good and bad tippers.
If the server is good, they make an effort and I can tell they are on the ball, they get well beyond 15%. I reward good work and service…
I’ve never come across someone for whom I’ve not left a tip. I’ve left less than 15%, but rarely.

CarlyJay, if you are good server/waitress/waitperson, expect a good tip. If you are not, do not expect it to be garaunteed. To me, that’s it right there.

If only it were that easy.

I’m a great waitress, and as I said, I’m routinely told so by my customers. I’ve been promoted to management because I’m good at my job. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good you are, sometimes.

There are also certain things you notice when you’re in the job for awhile. For example, male servers often get tipped more than female servers in the places I’ve worked. I can’t figure out why, because it seems to have nothing to do with the quality of service; on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the worst server and 10 being the best, a male server at a rating of 6 or 7 would still be tipped more, on average, than a female server of 9 or 10. And I work in a nice semi-casual Italian place. (I imagine it might be different in a strip club or a sports bar, but I’m talking gender-neutral restaurant here)

Based solely on the responses so far, it seems that the majority of people on here understand the 15% custom and are generous with it. This makes sense to me; I also followed that tendency, even before I started waitressing. But why am I constantly seeing 8-11% despite people complimenting my service?

My restaurant isn’t in a “low-income” area or anything, either. If anything, it’s upper-middle to upper class.

I’m stumped. If everyone understands the “tip at least 15% for GOOD service” concept, then… what the beans?

Some stuff for consideration:

In the US, employers of workers who traditionally earn a great deal of their income in gratuities are allowed, by law, to pay the tipped workers as little as $2.13 per hour in wages, as long as their tips bring them up to the Federal minimum wage of $5.15.
(cite: US Department of Labor)

Waiters must report their earned tips to their employer and the IRS as taxable income. If the total amount of tips reported by a restaurant’s waitstaff is less than 8% of the restaurant’s food and drink sales, the employer must allocate the amount of the discrepancy among the waitstaff, which is treated as additional income on which they must pay taxes, even if they didn’t actually earn them (unless they can show meticulously-kept records indicating same). (cite: IRS)

Carlyjay I think that people that have lived on tips tend to tip beter.
Back when my kids were small, and I was just starting out working as a mechanic on a new car line money was real tight. There was a B list actor who would bring his car in for service. He always gave a $20 tip when you worked on his car (Tipping is not customary in the auto repair business) I can tell you there were times that $20 went to buy food for my kids.
I swore that when things got good, I would never be a lousy tipper. I tip 20% for lousy service and go up as needed. I also don’t stiff the waitstaff if the cook screwed up.
[funny story] It was snowing and I did not want to leave the hotel for dinner. When to the dining room and ordered. And waited, and waited. Waited so long the guy at the next table left. Long story short, the waiter got my meal comped due to the time involved. I told him he had to charge me for something, so I could put his tip on my credit card (traveling on business, meals have to go on the card).
He brought me a bill for a club soda, $1.50. I added a $20 tip and thanked him.[/FS] :smiley:

I know this may sound overly simplistic, but have you considered that a lot of folks may just be horrid at figuring percentages?

I say this because yesterday I had a salesperson in an upscale home furnishings place tell me he’d let me have a $68 dollar lamp on clearance for half price! Yep, he said I’d only have to pay $40. :confused:

I guess I will be the jerk and say this percentage thing is bullsnarf. 15 to 20 is reasonable, but lets get real.
If you carry a tray of fifteen dollar steaks to my table for a family of four or a tray of fifty dollar lobsters, what is the dif? Your tip went from around 15 dollars ,sodas and sides included, to 25 bucks. Was the tray any heavier? I fix computers for a living, should I charge more per hour for the owner of a four thousand dollar Alienware computer than the one who has a 500 dollar Dell? At the same time, I recognize the the whole game is rigged against the the service people, pay them next to nothing, and around here the norm for tips is cheap asses, you get the old folk taking a booth for hours, and just buying a cup of coffee! What really irritates me is I am getting closer to that age! And the owners load the waiters/waitresses up so badly they cannot give decent service. I see your point, but at the same time, perhaps you should look for a different job if that one is so bad.

Places that run $50/person hire a LOT more waiters, and so your service will be much better: they aren’t taking care of very many tables at a time, whereas the lady down at IHOP is covering many more tables, which means you get a lower level of service. The $50/plaace person doesn’t help as many people, so if he/she is making 20% of what they would be spending at IHOP, they will make much less money than the one at IHOP. Also, the person at the $50 place is probably more highly educated about the food–they can answer questions and make suggestions about a complex menu.

I’ll just say, I tip at 15% ish. If the server is rude, or young and dumb (young is not always dumb… by far, but a large percentage of bad service is by young kids who think they are above service… IMHO.) If the service is bad, I tip less (or nothing) if it is very good, I tip more. In my sexist experience, I tip a good woman server more than a guy.

Tax here is 8.25%. I just double the tax, which makes 16.5, which is more than enough for 95% of my transactions.

While some people have their own tipping philosophies, I think a lot of people just don’t know or don’t think about this. They see the tip as a reward for the service, which in part it is, and not the server’s primary source of income. If you think the server is getting paid and your tip is just a bonus, you’re more likely to skimp on a few bucks or withhold a greater amount if you’re not thrilled with the service. I try to tip well because I’ve worked in a restaurant. I wasn’t a waiter, but I saw what they went through.

Having been a server in a past life, I routinely Overtip. A server has to be a special kind of stupid/bad/inept to get a poor tip from me.

20% is standard for decent service from me. If service is poor, but still “okay”, 15%. If they are really pathetic, they’ll get a very small tip rather than no tip. (if you don’t tip, they may fool themselves into thinking you forgot, a small tip is pretty obvious).

But, if they’re that bad, I’ll generally have a word with the manager. When I eat out, my gripes, if any, are usually with the cooks/chef. And having been a server before, I KNOW which errors are caused by the chef rather than the server.

Two people eating and one of their orders is lukewarm and the other is molten lava? BAD timing on the part of the cook etc. And if I do complain to the manager, I make sure (as in telling him no less than three times), that he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that I think the server was JUST FINE and that I know that she had nothing to do with one dish being cold and the other hot off the presses, for example.

And she’ll still get a good tip.

Last but not least, I impress upon friends and family the importance of being kind to those who are handling your food!

Manda Jo, point taken. Everytime I open my mouth here I get a snootfull of better judgement delivered. If I keep it up long enough, I will learn enough to stop looking like an idiot. Thanks for the input.

I’m not great at math, so I don’t sweat percentages. When I eat out, it’s usually at lunch, and the tab is around $10 or so. I tip a couple bucks plus whatever coins I’d otherwise get. Waitstaff seem to think that’s pretty decent, because they are always glad to see me and I get very good service–then again, I live in a small town, and eat at the same restaurants on a repeat basis. Obviously, if I run up a bigger tab, I’ll approximate the math to leave a reasonable tip.

I also take care of the delivery guys–I do order pizza or something from Steak Out fairly often, and years ago, I used to be a driver, so I know how badly that job can suck.

Well, the problem there is that people like my husband like to eat out, too. But he doesn’t like to tip at ALL. He’ll try to tip less than 10%, so my daughter and I have to tell him how much to tip. His sister has been a waitress most of her life, and I’ve had her talk to him, but he just doesn’t believe in tips. And he wonders why he gets lousy service at his regular places. I think that he needs to wait tables for a few months.

I was a waitress for a week. I wasn’t good at it. I do tip pretty well, and will give out money for seasonal bonus, or because the waitress is pregnant, or stuff like that. The servers in my regular restaurants know me, and I get a glass of water and a bowl of lemons on my table as soon as I am seated. I don’t have to worry about getting my drink refilled, the servers take care of me. On the other hand, when my husband is with me, he has to swivel around and snap his fingers at the servers if he feels that he needs a refill. He’s just plain dense about some things.

Seems to me that I just have to weigh in on every tipping thread there is. That said, I’m not a great tipper.

My standard tip at a restaurant is %20, and on deliveries, I tip $2 plus the extra change. I consider that to be on the cheaper side. My tips do vary on service though, which IMO needs to be done more often.

Terrible servers need to be shown that they suck, and geat servers need to be shown that they are appreciated. That is the basis for the tipping system (insert skinflint rant about tipping being a neccesity).

I delivered a $50 order to a guy today. The lightning was so bad, that the police closed off the road that leads to his house because of downed trees. I had to find an alternate way. I got there (within the promised time) and he let me keep the .35 cents after I had given him the bills.

It was all I could do to not tell him to go f-himself. I had put in my 2 weeks notice a week ago. Maybe I should pay him a visit after I’ve officially quit. He even made his daughter handle the transaction, too much of a pu**y to do it himself.

He thinks he’s saving a dollar or two. He’s too stupid to realize that he’s creating a reputation that will probably delay his future orders, if only that.

Consciously deciding to anger people who are alone with your food on a regular basis is just not smart. I’d never tamper, but then I’m not everyone. If you can’t afford to tip, drive your lazy-ass to the store.

I’ve tipped everywhere from %2 for really crappy service, to %400 for great service (on a cheap bill albeit). The “Mr. Pink’s” will be along shortly. They live in a world of adequate to poor service, the rest of us get better.