More on Tipping

by Jon Dulin · 15 comments

A few months ago I wrote a post asking if tipping is out of control. I was at a restaurant recently and realized I have more to say on this topic.

Tipping: Required Gratuity

While reading through the menu, I saw “parties of 6 or more will have 18% gratuity added to their check.” Why is this? What if the service is lousy? Can you deduct the 18% from the bill? I doubt you can. I get the idea behind it, that large parties are more work and that they usually take up extra seating that could have otherwise been used to seat other customers. But shouldn’t you work to earn the tip as opposed to just adding it on regardless? [Update, there is a new law that changes all of this.]

My Experience As A Tipper

When I was younger, a few of my friends would go to a diner to drink coffee and talk. We weren’t old enough to drink yet and didn’t want to hang out at each others house with their parents, so we opted for the diner. We would be there for hours. Coffee was $0.89 with free refills. At the end of the night (think 9pm to 1am, so roughly four hours), we would decide to leave.

Our bill most times was around $5. We would tip $10. Not because the menu said that parties of 4 or more will be assessed a 200% gratuity. But because the waitress was awesome. She knew us because we went so often. She knew I didn’t drink coffee and to bring me a soda. She knew that after the third cup, we would all want water and would bring it without us asking. In a nutshell, she earned that tip.

Now, if you are at a restaurant with a large party and the service is super slow and they get your orders wrong, what recourse do you have other than to not go there again? You could ask for the manager and try to get him to take the tip off the bill, but why should you even have to do that? Charge me for the food and the service. If it was horrible and I tip a small amount, then you know you need to improve one or both of the above.

Furthermore, why do we tip minimum wage workers? Is it because we “feel their pain” for making so little? Why do we tip the girl who writes on a pad of paper “cheeseburger, no onion, french fries, small coke” but the dude that carries 100 pounds of shingles up a tiny ladder and works in the blazing heat gets absolutely nothing? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? There is a pretty good chance the roofer will become disabled either on the job or years later from all of the manual labor than there is of the waitress burning her face with the oil from the deep fryer. I’m not saying it can’t happen, I’m just saying the odds are it won’t.

I just hope the economy picks back up quickly so that hopefully many of the tip jars that are all around go away. By the way, I am adding a PayPal button on this blog to make donations to me. There is no reason why, just because. Please leave a minimum of $2.00 per blog post read.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

Every person added to a table makes it a more difficult job for the waiter/waitress, trying to keep drink glasses full, food coming out promptly and at the same time, so I really have no problem with the tip being added in. The issue I’ve seen is that other tables with 2-4 people tend to find things slowing down when the waiter/waitress has a big table that it taking their time.

FYI, not sure why but the first time I typed this it said that I entered the wrong Captcha code and said to hit the back button and try again. Did that, but the comment box was empty, so I had to re-type. Might want a less complicated system or to check your settings to see why this didn’t keep the comment. I’d guess a lot of people would not bother re-typing if it happened.
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TB at BlueCollarWorkman November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

I definitely don’t like being forced into tips. And sometimes I might tip more, but since they decided to force me to tip 18% or whatever, I’m angry about that, so I won’t tip more!

I think the solution is for people to just get paid more. Pay people fairly and then they won’t need tips!
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John S @ Frugal Rules November 5, 2012 at 10:58 am

Good post. I could not agree more. I understand that large parties might require some specialized care, but does that warrant an automatic tip…I think not. We ran into this a few years ago as we took numerous family members out for a meal for some sort of celebration. The place we went always offered great service,but this night it was just terrible. We had to haggle with the manager as they added 18%. As the bill was several hundred dollars, that can be quite a tip. Thankfully they were willing to allow us to set the tip in the end.
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Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity November 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

I don’t see why we don’t just go to a standard minimum wage and forget about tipping completely. It’s probably some conspiracy to keep the service industry workers in check–if you perform poorly, you don’t get any extra tips. We don’t tip minimum wage workers, however. We are actually tipping below-minimum workers with the tips (possibly) bringing them up to the standard minimum.

The way I tip, there is a minimum that should be adhered to when dining out and that amount increases with better service. If they are just doing their job, then I stick to 15%, but that amount goes up the better my experience gets. You never know what may be going on in the server’s life or if their workday has been crappy (and no, not everyone can compartmentalize) or whatever, but to not at least give them the standard to get them up to minimum wage isn’t right in my book.
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moneysma November 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I agree – pay a minimum wage and forget about the tips. What other issues will you be running on in 2016?

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Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity November 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Ha! Don’t even get me started with what I would run on. I think it’s high time for career politicians to get the boot and get real people who live the common person’s life to serve those same common people.
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Gen Y Finance Journey November 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm

How timely. Just two days ago I went out with a large group and got atrocious service. Absolutely terrible. Fortunately it was a restaurant where they don’t include the gratuity for large parties, because if it were, we would have had a nice lengthy talk with the manager.

I’d like to think that waiters and waitresses always work their hardest to make the customer happy, but I do wonder if there’s a sense of complacency when they know their gratuity is going to be included in the bill. I love restaurants that print on the bill how much a 15%, 18%, and 20% gratuity would be and let the customer do what they will with that information. I think all restaurants should do that in place of including the gratuity in the total.
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moneysma November 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I vaguely remember a news story from a few years ago here where a group went out and didn’t like the service. They paid cash – the bill was paid, but they only paid the food/drink portion, not the tip that was included on the bill. The restaurant counted the money and stopped them before they left. The customers refused to pay the tip because of poor service so the restaurant called the cops. I can’t remember what happened from there. I’ll have to see if I can find the story to find out!

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Anne @ Unique Gifter November 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Ahhhh, tipping.
I also object to the large automatic tips for groups. Some friends who have waited tell me that they really appreciate those automatic tips, because 99% of the time they get very, very poor tips when the group is large.
Depending on where you live, wait staff usually only have to sell about $10 per hour (total, not per table), at a 10% tip, to be brought up to minimum wage. I usually drink that if I’m out, let alone food.

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Canadian Budget Binder November 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I agree with Eric about just having a standard minimum wage for those jobs. I don’t understand why we have to not only pay to eat in a restaurant but on top of it they want us to pay for a portion of the people they hire. Surely if you start a business it is the responsibility of the owner to make sure a fair wage is paid to their employees. What is so different of the workers at MacDonalds or TIm Horton’s who run their butts off all day? I think any job has the capacity to injure a worker if they don’t properly execute ergonomics in the workplace. No one is ever safe no matter what job or how difficult or easy. We tip if we are out, it’s the right thing to do if we get excellent service but I would rather see they be done with it all. We’d certainly go out to eat more often instead of getting take away from the exact same establishment where we don’t have to tip if we eat their food in the comfort of our own home.
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My Money Design November 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

That would be outstanding if we all paid (or got paid) $2 per post! I laugh a little bit when I see that too, but as a former server, I can sympathize. You’d think that after 2-3 hours of serving a huge party where everyone had steak, drinks, apps, etc, that you’d get a nice tip, right? Wrong – sometimes you’d get only a few dollars. You didn’t do anything wrong. It was just that when the party finally got the bill, it was probably more than they expected. So the last place they looked to squeeze was the little guy – the server. Although its annoying now that I’m on the other side, that 18% requirement came in handy more than once!
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moneysma November 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I can see how a big party can get surprised by the size of the bill. I never thought about that. In a way I guess it’s a good thing it’s there for when you do a good job to get the tip, but it also doesn’t give you incentive to do a good job because the tip will be there regardless.

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justin@thefrugalpath November 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

As someone who works in the food service industry I can tell you two things that would happen if you paid servers more money.
#1 service would get worse.
#2 Currently in my state, servers make $2.85 an hour. The rest of the wages are made up of tips. Servers went up to minimum wage then the costs would transfer to the price of the food.
I say tip how you want to tip. If a server does a poor job, then they don’t deserve to make as much money. But if you’re a regular and don’t tip very well, servers know it and you’ll probably get worse service.
And with big parties I ask if they want me to separate the checks because I usually make more money that way.
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Weasel November 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I’m not a big fan of tipping. Now, I do tip well, but I just don’t enjoy it. Honestly, I feel like all that I am doing is paying for people who don’t tip, which isn’t fair to me. If there is ever a new effort to just pay servers a decent wage and eliminate tipping, I will be all over it!
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David @ Bankruptcy Canada November 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Tipping is a perk for the restaurant workers. Yet, you have to look at their brand of service first. Tips are for deserving employees and not poor service. Well, big parties are different so tips can be a little bigger. But then again, look at the service that these servers provide.

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