Monday, May 14, 2012

To Tip Or Not To Tip: That Is The Question

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the lags and cold food of outrageous service, or to tip those only who have performed their duties well, and by doing so reward the deserving?

OK, flowery Shakespearean dialects aside, the question, of whether to tip, is one which I've devoted quite a bit of time to.  Honestly, I'm not a very fiscally liquid person.  Thus, I don't throw my money around willy nilly.   That being said, I recognize the fact that waiting tables is a very arduous job.

A server may wait on as many as ten tables per hour for eight hours.  If each table averages a party of four, a server can be responsible for remembering and delivering three hundred and twenty orders during a single shift; more if desserts are ordered separately.  A good server accomplishes this feat while maintaining a friendly smile and demeanor the entire time.

With this in mind, I make a point to tip servers who provide top notch service.  In my mind, they've earned that little something extra, usually between fifteen and twenty percent.  But, what happens when such a gratuity isn't extra?

According to a story by WCSH6 News, a Houston woman, and her party, were locked in the La  Fisherman restaurant after refusing to pay a 17% tip.  Because Jasmine Marks, and her four friends, found the wait staff to be rude, the party's drinks didn't get refilled, and they didn't receive their entire order, Marks refused to pay a 17% gratuity, which had been automatically added to the bill.  In response to her refusal, management locked the door and called the police.  Interestingly, because the policy of charging such a gratuity to parties of five or more was posted on the menu, the police made the patrons pay the tip before allowing them to leave.

I have to say, I have trouble with this.  Granted, when a policy is posted, and a customer orders food, the customer is agreeing to said policy.  Be that as it may, when a tip becomes an automatic charge, its no longer a reward for good service, but a contractual obligation.  Thus, the incentive to provide top notch friendly service is greatly diminished, if not eliminated completely.

My advice is to double check all policies before sitting at a table, or even making a reservation.  If they have such a policy, and you don't want to abide by it, either get them to waive it upfront, or eat somewhere else.  On the flip side though, when good service IS provided, tip as generously as is reasonable.  If you do, and you return to that restaurant one day, they'll be likely to remember, and you'll be one step ahead of the game.


  1. If a person can not afford to tip 20% then they should not be in a restaurant, ordering food from a waiter.NOW that does not necessarily mean that 20% is what you will tip. Not tipping is called a "Default of Services". It is not an option in the states, all servers must claim their 'tips' on their taxes and all servers earn from their employer about $3.75 an hour based on the FACT that they are entitled to be tipped. If a server does not do the job, then the percentage goes down. When the restaurant adds the tip AUTOMATICALLY for large parties it is because so many servers have not been tipped properly for large tables in the past. SHOULD Not be necessarily, unfortunately it is. The situation you mentioned was a situation where the customers should have asked for another server, not refuse to tip. They did not so they had the service they 'settled' for. When a person eats in a restaurant where servers wait on them, it IS a contractual obligation, otherwise the owners could not get away with paying less than minimum wage for the job. Gratuity starts AFTER 20%.

  2. I hate to disagree, but a tip is an extra reward given for good service, not an obligation upon sitting down, unless otherwise posted. Courtesy suggests tipping between %15 & %20 of the bill, but as a customer I'm under no obligation to pay for more than what I ordered. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either scamming you, or simply doesn't know what they're talking about.

  3. I was a server for Several Years and I had to pay Taxes on my tips. I also earned anywhere from 2.80 an hour to 3.75, depending on the year. The tip is PART of dining out, Gratuity is not the correct word for it any longer, just the word we continue to use. I'll give you an example. I had a table of 8 lovely people, they had an amazing dining experience, everything came together. Upon paying their bill, they left a 'gratuity' of $3.00. This was a GROSS default of services. The manager and I approached them to see if everything was to their liking because it sure did seem like it. They gave me and the restaurant RAVE reviews. Then the manger asked then why did you only tip 3 dollars. Well, it turns out that where they were from (and it was not the United States) that that would be a great tip. True indeed because where they are from, servers earn anywhere from 10 to 15 dollars and hour. It is not a Courtesy to tip 15 to 20 % in the US, It is part of the dining experience. I am not saying that terrible service should be treated the same. BUT trust me, Servers do not go into the business to make less than minimum wage just in the hopes you have the courtesy to tip them. In fact it is ABSURD that you would even suggest it.

  4. I hear what you're saying, and agree servers work hard. I'm simply saying there's no LEGAL OBLIGATION for the customer top pay for more than the food they ordered. Tipping is a social courtesy, unless otherwise posted, nothing more. That being said, diners who tip will receive better service in the long run.