Ahhhh, the Age-Old Tipping Debate
May 10th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I noticed on Facebook the other day that one of my friends joined a group called If you can’t afford a 20% tip, don’t go out to eat.

I think I’m going to start my own Facebook group, and I’m going to call it If You Expect Me to Tip You 20%, Don’t Take 20 Minutes to Bring Me My Bill Because You’re Too Busy Flirting with the Old Rich Dude at the Table Next to Me.

Or, better yet, I’ll call it If You Actually Expect a $55 Tip on a $275 Meal, You Sure as Hell Better Not Scowl When I Decline to Order Another of Your $17 Cocktails.

I still love you, restaurant industry.

18 Responses  
  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    May 10th, 201010:29 amat

    :P I’m somewhat in your camp. I will top 20% but I expect certain things. Anything below average service sill lessen that and anything above average service will increase that.

    The more things a waiter does right or wrong will change the amount of course. If the person acts like they just don’t even notice me or don’t want to be there then I will tip them as if they aren’t :P

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 10th, 20102:45 pmat

      I’m interested in when the standard went from 15% to 20% and why. Since I’m paying more for food these days, I’m paying more in tip, and I think I’m actually getting worse service at most places from these uninterested kids who think they should be moviestars. But I don’t want to come off like some bitter cheapskate.

      What I really like is that now that I’m so used to tipping huge amounts at uber-expensive NYC restaurants, when I go home to Ohio and am tipping on a $20 meal, leaving only $4 seems almost offensive. But it’s still 20%.

      Obviously I think you’re doing it the right way, but I have such a complex about being seen as a bad tipper. When my boyfriend tips 15% for terrible service, I think we’re going to be judged and remembered the next time we come in.

  • Kim writes:
    May 10th, 201012:06 pmat


    I approve both of the existing Facebook group, and the two imaginary ones that you coined … however, as a total judgy face who thinks she’s better than most people but ALSO ex-cocktail waitress, I’m going to have to side with the servers for the most part here and say that while bad serving is certainly no rarity, I think the prevalence of assholes willing to justify ANY reason to save a buck on the tip – particularly in higher end dining – is much more glaring. And they should stay home.

    It’s not your server’s job to suck your dick for you or tell you your hair is enviable, particularly since, if he/she did, the justification would in most cases probably just go the other way (e.g. “Our server was SO annoying, didn’t leave us alone! I couldn’t enjoy myself! Tip docked!)

    Obviously I don’t think you’re one of these, I just think there are a lot of people who are going to take a scowl and run too far with it in the interest of not tipping. I say scowl away, as long as you wait on me, and make sure I have everything I need. Blatant ignoring of customers is of course inexcusable.

    This does bring me to the question, though: What do you think makes a “good” server? In my experiences with friends in Boston (so, they’re way cheaper than my friends in NY), “Oh, she wasn’t THAT good,” is a pretty common explanation for why it’s okay if the tip is a fiver short, and I never find it anything shy of appalling. What was SUPPOSED to happen for that 20% to really by EARNED? They never seem to have an answer. So, you know, I clearly make up the difference myself every time and then refuse to dine with those friends again. My friends I can dine out with pool is evaporating rapidly.

    I mean, basically a server could drop my scalding food in my lap and I’d tip 20% even if the apology seemed insincere, so I’m biased. If you don’t want to tip after second degree burns, I’ll allow it. I TRY to see both sides, see.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 10th, 20103:16 pmat

      I do think non-tippers are assholes, but I also think it’s pretty assholish of restaurateurs to expect me to pay their servers a living wage. I guess I should figure out where that practice came from and why other countries don’t do it.

      Anyway, accepting that things are as they are, I never ever tip less than 15%, even for the worst service imagineable, and I absolutely despise people who force me to make up for their poor tip. I’m glad to hear you’re de-dinner-companioning these friends of yours.

      I demand interest. Even a simple “that’s a good choice” when I order, fake or not, will do. I should be asked how I’m enjoying the food, and when I say more than “it’s good”, and I always do, the server should say something more than “that’s good” back to me. Telling me about the food I’m being served is essential if I’m paying $40 for the plate. I basically just want to be engaged.

      Kamran and I went to Butter a few months ago and had the most over-the-top friendly server I’ve ever seen in my life. She was way too smiley, way too chatty, way too nod-y, way too everything. AND YET, I’d take her over the prettyboy at Métrazur who barely looked at us any day.

      I kind of want to say it’s a culture thing and that I like American servers better than any other kind because they know how to react to my Midwestern tendency to want to develop a relationship just for the night, but I appreciate the formal niceties of Indian and Asian servers, too.

      Maybe it’s just that I want to be liked and not be made to feel like a burden. I want to be treated like I’m spending $100, because I am.

      (Or Kamran is. I don’t know whether to say that an embarrass him or not say that and make him feel like I don’t appreciate him. Sorry either way, Kam!)

      Great comment, Kim.

  • thickcrust writes:
    May 10th, 20108:31 pmat

    Tipping at restaurants is the least of my complaints. It’s all the other people in New York who feel entitled to tips who drive me crazy. Pretty much anyone who has a job where they accept money from a customer expects a tip here.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 11th, 201011:36 amat

      I know we’ve talked about this before, but it still does kind of make me mad again now that you’ve mentioned it. I really just don’t mind slipping a dollar into the little plastic box at Boi Sandwich in Midtown, because they’re always super-friendly to me, and I feel like what I’m getting is always a deal, anyway.

      But you know who I do mind tipping? Cab drivers. Not only are they all horrible drivers who end up making me queasy, but they’re already overcharging me for the ride.

      Who do you hate most?

      • Kat writes:
        May 11th, 20103:51 pmat

        Cab drivers, inDEED. Especially when I lived in Astoria and would fly into LGA and have no good way to get back to my apartment from there other than a cab, and the cabbie would grumble about waiting in the cab line there to pick up a $10-15 fare. SUCK IT, CABBIE.

  • Bachelor Girl writes:
    May 11th, 201012:33 amat

    So is 20% the standard now? I usually tip 15% for average service and 20% (or higher) for excellent service.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 11th, 201011:38 amat

      Maybe not everywhere else, but it definitely is here. 20% is for normal service, 15% is for service so bad you start a blog just to talk about it, and 25% is for Tom Colicchio restaurants. Gross!

  • Kat writes:
    May 11th, 20108:30 amat

    I’m a 20% tipper – sometimes more – unless the service is really poor. I don’t even necessarily expect THAT much, just general courtesies that are part of being a server at a restaurant. (I think living in the Czech Republic for a semester gave me a much higher tolerance for poor service.)

    That being said, I am SO fed up with getting a signal of disdain when I don’t order a drink with my meal. I’m going to spend plenty on food and tip you well, and I DON’T DRINK, so stop copping an attitude, server!

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 11th, 20103:46 pmat

      That’s funny about your experiences overseas, because I think spending so many years in Ohio is what makes me expect super-friendly conversations with my server in which they recommend dishes based on my disdain for seafood, ask how my family’s doing, and slip an extra dessert onto my table at the end with a smile. But you’re right–I should be thankful people can speak the same language I do here and don’t serve me raw chicken for fun.

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has those cocktail-related experiences in restaurants. I basically just order one drink so I don’t look cheap, but I hardly ever actually want it. So good for you.

      • Kat writes:
        May 11th, 20104:05 pmat

        The Czechs are mostly notorious for ignoring you once you sit down, and waiting ages to bring the menu, food, and bill. So they’re worse than most!

        The cocktail thing is so lame, though. Alcohol makes me sick. Wouldn’t they rather I eat lots of food and have a pleasant experience?

  • chris writes:
    May 11th, 20108:51 amat

    I mean…I work at a Red Robin.
    …in Kentucky.

    And I love Kentucky. I do. But some of the people come in and complain about how our burgers cost an outrageous $10 and then also purchase one of our $9 appetizers and our $4 “freckled lemonades” (strawberry lemonades, bottomless, delicious, and a pain to make) and then leave me less than 10%. We have our regulars that do a good job taking care of us, but then on days like Mother’s Day where most of our guests are first timers, we make total crap.

    Left in tears on Mother’s Day: $500 in sales, made $50.

    So I guess the point is, yes, I understand that it’s waaaaaay annoying that I don’t make enough an hour that tipping is optional, but that’s the facts. And even when I forget your refill, I’m trying. Really. I understand that if I forget your refill often or take a while on the check, I cannot expect 20%. But for the love of GOD don’t leave me 10%. YOU CAN SEE THAT I AM BUSY. I AM NOT TRYING TO IGNORE YOU ON PURPOSE. Especially since the average family spends about $30 at Red Robin. $3? Really? The difference between a good tip and a terrible one is often less than $5, and it’s so frustrating that it was worth saving the $3 to send me a message that I’m doing a terrible job. Hard not to take it personally.

    Sorry to continue my rant, but big groups? Stop chugging your sodas and expecting me to refill them immediately. There are 10 of you. And, like, one of me. And I am CLEARLY doing the best I can, but docking my tip because you needed 8 Dr Peppers and I only brought 7, in addition to 7 Diets to the 9 other guys at your table, which I have memorized because you can’t tell one brown soda from another. Unfortunately, RR does NOT have an automatic 18% gratuity policy. And big groups take up my table, my time, your energy, and when they don’t tip. That’s my entire day.

    The worst part about all this is that my stepfather is a TERRIBLE tipper. My mother goes out to eat with him, lets him pay the check with his credit card, then leaves at least another 5 on the table. I wish my mother ate in my section.

    (Not sure why I used “you” when you made it clear you tip well. But I’m too tired to go back and fix it at this point.)

    (And also, sorry about being grouchy? Mother’s Day really kicked my little waitress ass. And it’s too soon for me to be over it. Your timing, Miss. YOUR TIMING.)

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 11th, 20104:33 pmat

      I love how you never update your own blog but write two posts’ worth of stuff in a comment in a mine. Thanks, dude.

      The servers I tip most are the ones who make it clear to me that they’re trying, even if they’re failing. A simple “I’m so sorry it took me 15 minutes to get your check” will do. But I’m glad you brought up the groups thing, because I’ve thought that the automatic gratuity was ridiculous in the past, but now I realize that’s only because my dinner club group always tips 20%, anyway. It’s terrible that there’s not a group tipping policy in place for you. Especially if you’re serving people who are complaining about $10 burgers that include UNLIMITED FRIES, am I right?

      I hear that all of the old people who eat at Bob Evans are also notoriously bad at tipping, which is hilarious, since everything at Bob Evans is $4.99. I end up leaving 100% tips there just because I know the lady next to me with her teeth on her pie plate is leaving $1.

      I’m pleased with my timing on this, actually. Bring on round 2!

  • kimz writes:
    May 11th, 201012:49 pmat

    So when I first saw the title of this post on your FB, I thought it was about cow-tipping. My bad.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      May 11th, 20104:34 pmat

      Good to see I haven’t lost touch with my roots in your mind. It’s a compliment, actually.

      Or I will take it as such, at least.

  • Alfagirl writes:
    May 12th, 20108:09 pmat

    “I’m interested in when the standard went from 15% to 20% and why.”

    I’m guessing it was the exact date you moved from Ohio to NYC. It is pretty standard practice to pay people more in NY than they would make doing the same job in another state. An exec assistant in NY can eventually end up making a 6 figure salary, but not so much in say, Nevada. But the federal gov’t (with the exception of a few cities) decides the minimum wage in this country.

    Someone else above mentioned this as well, but the way I look at it is unless you are at a really expensive restaurant, a bad tip and a good tip is the difference of maybe a few dollars. If I fork over a few extra bucks it makes a world of difference to the server who gets taxed on tips.

    I don’t mind giving a nice 15-20% tip on a $17 cocktail if it’s a damn good cocktail. What I can’t stand is going to a club and getting charged $17 when the bartender squirted soda into my glass by pressing a button and then pouring some shitty well liquor in there and setting it down wet and sticky. Usually paying that much for a drink at a nice place it takes a few minutes to prepare, and that to me is worth it.

    I have not paid a bill when a large part of it was due to a couple bottles of expensive wine though. I’m wondering if one of your readers knows the standard practice for that. I look at that as less work than a cocktail because they just open the bottle (which already has an insane markup) and pour it. When a dinner bill tops $1,000, but $500 is wine, what is the standard practice there? That’s when you really get into a big difference between 15 and 20%.

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