Why you should tip 25 percent

The shameful state of the salaries of restaurant workers, who often earn a poverty-level $2.13 an hour before gratuities, is a topic that’s hotter than the biscuits in Paula Deen’s kitchen these days.

But while politicians argue about the minimum wage and lobbyists push to keep workers’ salaries artificially low, I have an unconventional recipe for righting this obvious wrong: Tip more.

Yes, some industry-watchers believe it’s time to freeze the tipping tradition. Withhold your gratuity and a fundamentally flawed and unfair system will crumble, they say. They’ll get no disagreement on the flawed and unfair part from me, but unless the cost of the gratuity is baked into menu prices, pulling your tips will just hurt the people it’s trying to help.

The number to aim for: 25%.

Paying a quarter in gratuity for every dollar you spend on a restaurant meal makes sense when you understand the economics of the restaurant business and your place in the food chain. It also makes sense when you talk with its best-known critics.

The poster child du jour for the no-tipping future is Sushi Yasuda, a traditional Japanese restaurant in midtown Manhattan, which cut gratuities this spring. Instead of soliciting tips from its guests, it raised menu prices to cover servers’ salaries. But Scott Rosenberg, the restaurant’s owner, concedes that when he eats elsewhere, “I always tip at least 25%.”

He says he’d like to see others follow his lead, but so far only one other restaurant he knows of, an Austin brew pub called Black Star Co-Op, has banned tips. There’s a reason other restaurants haven’t jumped on board this sushi boat: A Cornell University study finds that higher menu prices would drive customers away. Maybe price-sensitive patrons like the illusion that their entree is cheaper than it actually is.

Most servers support the tipping economy, which doled out $40 billion in gratuities last year. They’re not exactly thrilled at the thought of losing their “bonuses,” some of which are effectively untaxed.

“The vast majority of servers like the tipping system because it affords them a greater income than they could get from comparable, untipped work in terms of skills and education,” says Cornell Professor Mike Lynn, a leading expert on tipping.

Some patrons understand it takes more than rhetoric to reform the system, and in the meantime, they’re also overtipping. Amanda Huber, an office manager for a consulting company in Morrisville, N.C., is a former server and knows from experience how much a waitress depends on a reasonable tip to make ends meet.

“The hourly rate for most waitpeople will not even pay their taxes,” she says. “So they get a zero paycheck most of the time, before tips.”

By the way, if you’re reading this, here’s another compelling reason to tip above and beyond: Chances are, you’re a frequent traveler and you eat in a restaurant more than the average American, which is about five times a week. People turn to you for tips on tipping. Your attitudes toward gratuities can affect many restaurant guests and countless restaurant employees.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to tip 25% is understanding the economics of the restaurant business. Almost four in 10 restaurant industry workers earn at or below the federal minimum wage, even after factoring in tips, according to a study by the Aspen Institute. As a result, servers experience almost three times the poverty rate of the workforce as a whole and rely on food stamps at nearly double the rate of the general population.

Sure, in a perfect world, all restaurant prices would cover the true cost of the meal, including your server’s salary. The abhorrent practice of forcing workers to rely on gratuities to earn a living has no place in 21st-century America. Just because restaurant owners can legally pay below-subsistence wages, and because their employees let them, doesn’t make it right.

A workforce that doesn’t have to stare poverty in the face every day would be better able to organize itself, educate consumers and push for meaningful change to America’s messed-up tipping culture.

Assuming, of course, servers want to end a warped tradition that keeps them in poverty and allows restaurants to misrepresent their menu prices. I hope they do.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Sunnykm

    In California restaurant workers make the minimum wage. There isn’t a “sub minimum” wage for them

  • Justin

    Two fundamental flaws in your article Mr. Elliott:

    1) Tips are earned based upon level of service and aren’t an automatic given.
    2) If a server makes below minimum wage, the restaurant DOES have to make up the difference.

    Department of Labor:

    “If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.”

    FYI, In much of Europe, tips are the exception and not the rule. Patrons tipping are considered generous and server salaries are compensable to the living wage. I didn’t notice eating out to be much higher (Euro Price), if overlooking the ABYSMAL Dollar –> Euro exchange rate.

  • BillCCC

    I usually tip 15% but will tip more if the service is superior. I would only agree to having the gratuity automatically added if I could believe that I would receive a comparable level of service for my money.

    “The hourly rate for most waitpeople will not even pay their taxes,” I am a little confused by this statement. Do minimum wage earners get taxed at greater than 100%?

  • Nick Knight

    It would just cause more people not to eat out or choose more fast food like options. Wages need to be liveable period. Not likely in right wing third world America.

  • oceankitten

    i began my working carrier in food service, so i have always been a generous tipper…when warranted. however, if the service is so terrible that i’ll never return to that restaurant, i do tip less. it’s not automatic, it’s service based, but i also do not hold kitchen issues against the server, either. i have to admit, the few times i’ve been to places where tipping is built into the price of the entree, i’ve been a little disconcerted to be told not to add any extra.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    I do not go to many restaurants knowing the charge, one way or another is inflated.

  • Fishplate

    The standard tip is 15%. Anything more reflects exceptional service. 25% is very generous. I generally leave 18% to 20%.

    Think about it…three tables an hour, average bill $20, they get $9 in tips for just taking notes and carrying plates. That’s $11.13 an hour – not bad for entry-level work. If you’re any good at it, you will graduate to busier places with higher average bills, and so you will make more.

    Having said that – do you tip anyone else based on the level of service they provide? Do you worry about anyone else’s employer depending on you to pay the wage that they won’t?

    And finally, here’s a link to a series of articles describing one restaurant owner’s experience in not allowing tipping in his restaurant. I find it a pretty compelling argument for including service staff pay in the bill.


  • MarkieA

    A couple of things. If you go to a restaurant where the service is so horrid that you will never return, you still tip? Why? Secondly, I’ve never been to a restaurant where the staff or manager told me that I could not tip above the built-in tip. Now, as a matter of principle, I do not add to it, but that’s because I resent having the tip presented as a “mandatory” item. I’ve told a few waiters/waitresses that they would have gotten a bigger tip if the “mandatory” tip wasn’t presented on the bill. I suggest that they let their manager know this, but, it’s not the management that gets hurt by this, I guess.

    I’ve always been against the tipping environment, although I do tip rather well, I believe; just not 25%. I’ve been overseas a few times and have not noticed that the service was any worse there because the wait staff is not working for tips. In fact, I’d say that, overall, the service has been better. Counter-intuitive, I think, but, that’s been my experience.

  • Ribit

    You must live in a democrat controlled city. Those are typically like third-world countries.

  • Fishplate

    Dunno what happened to my original post, maybe the link in it got it disappeared. Anyhow, search for The Linkery in San Diego. Owner Jay Porter was very successful in eliminating tipping, and has a series of articles on his blog describing the experience.

  • Fishplate
  • Cathy_Disqus

    Tips are fully taxable, and the restaurant is required to include them when calculating withholding. if a minimum wage employee makes 80% of her income in cash tips, and 20% in salary, then that 20% may not be enough to cover the taxes owed, so the withholding effectively reduces the check amount to $0.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    They went out of business earlier this summer.

  • Pegtoo

    “The vast majority of servers like the tipping system because it affords them a greater income than they could get from comparable, untipped work in terms of skills and education,…”

    If they’re happy, I’m happy. 15% plus or minus as warranted. As the price of the meal goes up, so does the tip – simply by doing the SAME math.

  • MarkKelling

    The foreign workers know they will be fired if they don’t provide the level of service expected of them and that there are many people waiting to take their jobs. That, combined with a decent wage that exceeds our minimum wage and the belief that these jobs are a career not just a job to work until something better comes along, makes them more willing to provide that level of service to everyone.

    EDIT: By “foreign workers” I meant those working in the foreign countries, not those coming to the US to work.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Yeah, and everywhere except California and Oregon, servers are paid less than minimum wage. So in 10% of states, your argument is correct, but in 90%, the sub minimum wage still applies.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I look at tipping as an opportunity to show my generosity to those who have taken care of me. If a server is friendly, attentive, and prompt, I am more than happy to tip 20% or more. Honestly, it’s been a year or more since I’ve received truly bad service, and I eat out frequently, like 4 times a week or so. It makes me feel good to help those who are less fortunate than myself. I have waited tables before, so I know the joy of waiting on others hand and foot while being berated for things that are totally out of your control (food takes too long, doesn’t taste right, you charge extra for more sauce, etc.)

    I can say that the people I know personally who advocate for abolishing tipping are the same people who look for reasons to stiff a server. Food not prepared right? Tip automatically goes down to 10%, no matter how much the server tries to rectify it. These people are nothing but cheap, and are often too dimwitted to realize that if tipping is abolished, menu prices will go up substantially. Then again, these people are often embarrassing to go out to eat with, so all in all it might be a good thing :) (joking)

  • Nick Knight

    Actually I live in Boston. You might not have noticed but we are at the top of almost every positive indicator. You have us confused with the republican south.

  • jherrmannmt

    I live in a small Montana town and eat out a lot. I tip 30% except when served by owners or owners’ family. I have close friend who own a popular pizza restaurant bar
    and have done very, very, very well as owners but pay minimum wage. Even with decent tipping, their all-part-time help do not earn enough to support themselves without government help. One single mother of two little kids takes home about about $175 a week. The owners say if they raised prices they would lose business, and

    already some people come out and have water with their pizzas.

    I don’t think the solution for this area is to stop tipping.

  • bodega3

    If you tip 25% will we get a better quality of server? The other night my companion for dinner was called buddy. as in ‘Here you go buddy’, dude, as in ‘No problem dude’. These after having to ask a second time for our dirinks.

  • http://phoenixjustice.blogspot.com/ Phoenix Justice

    I am so tired of tip inflation. Every day it seems there are calls for patrons to hand out an even higher percentage to service employees. It used to be 10%, then it went to 15%, then 17.5%, then to 20% and now the calls are for 25%. Where will it stop? When will patrons stop subsidizing the payrolls of restaurants and other members of the service industry who refuse to pay their employees a livable wage?

    The base amount I tip is 15% for basic service, with 20% and higher for really good or excellent service. I do tip less than 15% for less than basic service. Quality of food and/or drinks I deal directly with management about.

    Tips are supposed to be optional, but shouldn’t be to make up for an employer’s desire to keep their employee costs low.

  • NakinaAce

    You should stick to the travel issues. You are so far off base here as to be laughable. The economics of this are far more complicated than the scenario you laid out. I am speaking as someone who has been a bartender and a server as well someone rather better off than most these days. Don’t blame the restaurant industry for all the evils of the gratuity system. I could go on and on but let’s say this, most restaurants operate on such razor thin margins that if it wasn’t for non-paid family help and low paid servers they wouldn’t be in business. Many, many servers are young people trying to earn money for education, or simply to get some work experience and this system serves a very useful purpose. If you had to pay a living wage to servers most restaurants might as well just shut their doors right now. You sound too much like ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and not enough like ‘Main Street’ for me.

  • MarkKelling

    Nope, sorry, you are misinformed.

    The US Department of Labor requires restaurants to make up the shortfall when an employee’s income including tips does not equal at least the minimum wage. So no wait staff anywhere in the US actually makes $2.13 an hour.

  • polexia_rogue

    i will reply to this since you are the only one who brought up this point

    “1) Tips are earned based upon level of service and aren’t an automatic given.”

    although i tip well when someone gives great services, if someone is just an a-hole, it is perfectly ok to leave no tip. (even if they chase you in to the parking lot demanding a tip.)

  • TonyA_says

    There is no tipping in Japan, period! It is a disgrace. Don’t ever attempt to do it.
    When we go there, we have to take some time to shop here (in USA) for small gifts first.
    That makes everyone’s sense of appreciation more genuine since you put an effort behind it.

    But back to the main topic. It is time to reform restaurant pay. The government should pass law that makes restaurant workers earn a decent wage. After all, I believe we live in a decent country. This whole BS about paying only for good service is just an excuse to pay below poverty wages.

  • TonyA_says

    We visit a small, owner-run Chinese restaurant called New Shanghai Cafe near the Wilton – Norwalk border in Connecticut. The food is excellent. The husband cooks and the wife serves and answers the phone (for take out orders). Their young girl sits down in one of the tables to do her school work :)
    Even if there are no other workers, I still give them at least 20% tip because I appreciate their good service to our local community.

  • http://www.orlandolocal.com William Beem

    I don’t go out to dinner with the objective of saving some starving server. I tip for service because it’s customary, but I’m not going to continue raising the level of my tip to benefit greedy restaurant owners and servers who can’t refill my glass when it’s empty. Their salary isn’t my problem to solve.

  • MarkKelling

    “some people come out and have water with their pizzas.”

    So? They are still coming out and having pizza thereby providing income for those working in the pizza place. The dollar or two they would spend for a soda or other drink should not significantly impact the tip.

    Have you thought that maybe, just maybe, some people cannot drink anything else the restaurant serves except the water? I am one of them. I can’t have sugary drinks, I’m allergic to most artificial sweeteners, can’t have caffeine, and since I am the designated driver for the group I can’t have anything with alcohol in it. So what is left except water?

  • MarkKelling

    Bummer. I had them on my list to visit next time I was in their neighborhood.

    It always makes me sad when a good restaurant that I liked goes out of business.

  • dave3029

    If I’m reading the articles right, he “eliminated’ tipping by adding 18% to all guest checks. That’s not eliminating tipping, that’s a forced gratuity. And if California is one of the states (as others have indicated) that pays all servers minimum wage anyway, what the hell was the purpose of that?

  • jim6555

    Many restaurants in my city charge $2.49 or more for soft drinks. That’s probably a 90%+ mark-up for them. If they want me to order a soft drink, keep the price reasonable and I’ll do so. Otherwise, its water for me.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Oh, look at you! Quoting laws must mean you know what you are talking about, right? Because, I mean, just because it’s the law must mean that’s what is always practiced?

    The way that scummy restaurant managers get around this is by averaging out the pay over a week or two’s time.

    A typical serving shift lasts 5-6 hours. So, for example, if a server is waiting on a table of 20 and they decide to be oh-so-generous and leave $20 on a $1,000 bill (yeah I’ve seen it happen), that table is the bulk of a server’s business for the night and even with a couple other tables, that server may very well make less than $7.25 an hour after tipouts are taken into account. Yet, if the pay for the week averages out to at least $7.25, managers don’t have to reimburse their employees. Also, if you actually asked anyone who actually works in a restaurant, they will tell you it is common practice to be required to show up before the shift starts without clocking in to do pre-shift work. I am currently involved in a class action lawsuit against Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and others) because they required employees to do non tip earning activities (cleaning the restaurant, cleaning parts of the kitchen, rolling silverware) while still only paying $2.13 an hour.

    But hey, don’t let any of that stop you from stiffing a waiter because they take an extra 30 seconds to bring you your 5th Sprite refill. Just continue to believe that restaurants make sure that their employees are fairly compensated, and all will be alright.

  • http://www.nomadwallet.com/ Deia @ Nomad Wallet

    Elliott, I couldn’t agree more that the system needs to change. It’s crazy that earning less than $3 an hour is considered fair by the lawmakers. No other country has this warped system. I, for one, would prefer to see menu prices reflect the actual and all-inclusive cost of eating out, rather than forgetting it until the bill arrives.

    There’s just no reason for the tipping system. All it does is pit the servers against the customers, when it should be the restaurant owners who have to make sure they pay their workers fair wages.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    If service is really really bad (and by that I don’t mean that I had to wait an extra 2 minutes for my iced tea, or to remind a server to bring me my side of butter when they are juggling 10 tables), I do still leave a tip, although it would hover around 10%. The reasoning behind this is that the IRS automatically assumes that servers are going to make a tip based on their sales, and assess taxes accordingly. In addition, due to tipouts, if a server sells alcohol and that table doesn’t tip, the server still has to pay the bartender, since tipouts are often based on sales, not actual tips.

    So even if I get bad service, in my mind, there is NEVER, EVER a situation where a server should have to pay out of their own pocket to wait on me hand and foot. That’s just me, though.

  • AH

    ” The reasoning behind this is that the IRS automatically assumes that
    servers are going to make a tip based on their sales, and assess taxes
    admittedly, it’s been over 30 years since i’ve waited tables, but that was one of the major reasons why i left the food service industry.
    all too often, i was the “go to” person when the kitchen staff was short handed, or they needed someone to work the cash register, or do prep work or act as hostess, or any number of reasons which kept me from actually working the floor and being able to earn tips. yet, because my job description and pay were based on my being a waitress, the IRS “assumed” that i was making tips even when i wasn’t. (the managers took advantage of my abilities and wanted me to be a de facto assistant manager on a waitress’s pay. i really enjoyed what i did, but wish i’d been compensated for the extra responsibilities.)

  • Fishplate

    It’s a service charge that can be shared among all the service personnel, while leaving menu prices competitive with other restaurants. And did you note that any additional tips were refused?

  • http://www.ebog.me/ ebog

    Indeed, the tip is very sensitive at present. The restaurant staff is looking forward to this because indeed their earnings are not very good and almost tip is a subsidiary wages they can get.

  • omgstfualready

    Agreed tipping is a way to get people in the door with lower prices and at times at the expense of the server if someone doesn’t tip. I typically tip 20%, rounded up. Frankly the math is easy so it works for me. If the price of my meal was increased 30% to give the staff a living wage, okay by me. I’m used to Europe and the no tipping in most places unless service is really quite outstanding. And because they make a living wage they often make it a career and service is often delightful because people are there because they like their job.

    And to those that are concerned that without a tip you’ll get bad service and you cannot ‘vote’ with your tip. Explain how you ‘vote’ in other service oriented retail businesses that don’t tip. Yes they likely are commission based but you pay your price and vow to not go back and blast them on social media. Why would a restaurant be different?

    Lastly, there was a man in Kansas who did not get a tip because the customer didn’t like that the server didn’t live their life in accordance with the customer’s point of view. That’s insane. The customer didn’t ask for a new section, he took the great service but decided to berate the server instead.

    This seems to be a fairly random way to do business.

  • omgstfualready

    Did you work in a metropolitan area with many tourists? If so I’d be surprised because tourists don’t understand we tip. Someone in Missouri won’t have the same issues as someone in NY or Florida. If people were paid a proper wage they wouldn’t all see restaurants as a temporary stop on the way to something better. It would be their job because they enjoy it and live from their earnings.

  • omgstfualready

    ? I like water.

  • strizis

    Boy, lot of rhetoric on this subject. 1st of all most tipped employees make well above minimum wage. The servers in my restaurant, which is a small family style restaurant average at least 20%, day in, and day out. Plus in Florida they get paid $4.77 an hour. If anyone deserves more money, it is the back of the house employees, and employees of fast food restaurants, who make from minimum wage to maybe $12.00 – $13.00 an hour.

  • Bill___A

    Seems to me that it is an issue between the employees and the restaurant, not the customers and anyone. Good luck with the class action suit.

  • Bill___A

    I’ve been shaking my head on this one ever since I first saw it.
    Yeah, the way to fix a problem is to make it worse.
    Make them pay their workers fairly like everyone else. Other businesses have to put the cost of labor into their prices, and so should the hospitality industry. Lawmakers are the facilitators by making exceptions to encourage it.
    I’ll tell you one way to fix this problem and that would be to stop tipping. Everyone would be forced to pay their workers properly or go out of business.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Ok, but as long as the server total amounts are proper, what does it matter how its split between check and cash? The statement seems designed to mislead.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And to those that are concerned that without a tip you’ll get bad service and you cannot ‘vote’ with your tip. Explain how you ‘vote’ in other service oriented retail businesses that don’t tip.

    Its the difference between service and personal service. Service (e.g. an oil change) is fairly standard and doesn’t have personal interaction. Personal service, e.g. servers, housekeeping, etc., can be performed at different levels and the experience varies. Today, at a restaurant, the server was extra pleasant, extra attentive, and we rewarded him accordingly.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    Oh yes, it’s definitely misleading. I was just explaining why restaurant workers frequently say this.

    The thing is, this wouldn’t change if their hourly rates were raised. The restaurants’ prices would go up to cover the increased worker pay; patrons would then be calculating tips on higher value checks, so tip amounts would also go up; and taxes would go up because the employees are earning more. If the taxes go up, especially if the worker ends up in a higher tax bracket, the withholding still reduces the portion of the wage that’s paid by check to $0.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t care for the tone of your posting.

    I have never “stiffed” any waiter. I routinely tip 30% at restaurants I go to regularly and at least 20% at other restaurants – and I tip in cash so the restaurant can’t hold it back like many do when tips are put on a credit card. I have also worked in restaurants back before the guaranteed minimum was law so I know what it means to get only a dollar on a $100 table and wonder how I’m going to afford to get to work for the next week because I didn’t even make enough to afford the bus ride home. My mother’s family ran a white table cloth restaurant for 40 years where I worked my summers just so they didn’t have to pay an extra dishwasher, but they always paid their employees a fair wage that was much higher than standard even in the days before the guaranteed minimum.

    I don’t doubt that many restaurant owners play games with the law when they calculate the effective pay rate. They assume a minimal tip amount even if the customers at that restaurant don’t tip at that level. Working off the clock is also a violation of federal law. You can choose to not work there. Or you can sue them as you apparently have done. I hope you have success in your lawsuit and it improves the lives of those who choose to work in restaurants.

  • Miami510

    Thoughts with no conclusion

    An essential part of remedying an unjust situation is to focus on the essence of the problem. Often the origin of “TIPS” is forgotten: To Insure Prompt Service.

    Most restaurant service falls in the middle of a normal distribution curve; with better service at one less frequent end, and superb service, seen less frequently at the other end. If
    this were accurate, which I’ll come to in a moment, 50% of tips would be 15%, 25%
    would be 20%+, and 25% would be less than 15%. In pointing this out, I’m not attempting to be accurate as to the exact amounts and percentages, but to point out that very bad service and excellent service are found less frequently than found in the middle.

    Prompt service in not entirely under the control of the wait staff. A slow kitchen, poorly
    prepared foods are just two of the items that effect service and therefore tipping that are the fault of the unseen kitchen.

    I live in Miami, a city with a large visiting population who often come from countries where a gratuity is always part of the cost of the meal… and I don’t mean automatically added to the meal. As a result of many not tipping situations, many restaurants add 1 5 or 18% to all checks.

    Let’s get back to the culprit or the essence of the problem. Good service is the responsibility of the owner/manager. Owners have taken advantage of custom to push a large percentage of the
    cost of labor to the customer, thereby keeping the menu prices low. Consider for a moment if you are ready to buy an automobile and the car dealer hands you the invoice with a salesperson
    service charge of $200. You would probably walk out in protest.

    So the essence of the problem with restaurant tipping is management forcing the diner, by either compulsion or custom to an additional fee.

    Personally, I prefer the automatic additional fee on all checks. Some restaurants will have an
    additional statement when announcing the “18% will be added to all checks,” to the effect that the diner can raise or lower the amount if the service is poorer or better.” I find that last
    statement an admission of fault on the part of management. Shouldn’t all service be the best?

    I’m often amused by learned tactics used by wait staff to give the illusion of good service… and these have been tested and proven. “Is everything alright?” Often asked in the most perfunctory way, and I’m additionally amused when they don’t even wait for an answer, but walk away
    having uttered what they’ve been instructed to say. Another study I read showed a test of two
    identical gendered and acting waitresses; one stunningly beautiful and the other… just the opposite. The beauty made significantly more in tips.

  • MarkieA

    Now I’m confused. I think the point of raising the salary – to minimum wage or more – is to cut out tips altogether. Yes, the food prices would go up, but the tip amount would go to zero. Theoretically, this would be a wash.

  • MarkieA

    No matter what, I guess, some people have to turn everything into a political “US versus THEM” argument.

  • MarkieA

    How are menu prices competitive when you have a mandatory 18% increase? A customer still has to pay it, regardless of what it’s called.

  • MarkieA

    And the Tip Jars that are showing up more and more. Really? I’m supposed to tip you for taking my order? I’m supposed to tip you for having my carry out ready? Most often, I see these things at places – not just restaurants, either – where they employ a majority of young, mostly teenage workers. I’m assuming that they’re making minimum wage since they’re not wait staff and I empathize with all of the increased costs of gas, food, rent, etc. that today’s young folks have to deal with. But, when I go to a store to conduct business, I don’t expect or appreciate the hand-out mentality that these tip jars imply. Do your job. You’re getting paid for the service you’re supposed to be providing. If you don’t think you’re getting paid enough, impress your boss by going above and beyond and maybe you’ll get a raise. If that doesn’t work, find another job.

  • Fishplate

    The numbers on the menu are the same. The research shows almost everyone pays the standard tip. Thus, it costs the same no matter which restaurant you go to.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I think it is an issue between the employees, restaurants, and the legislature, although customers should not be ignorant when eating out. I was mainly replying to the notion that just because a law is there that is what must go on in practice, which isn’t true.

  • omgstfualready

    When I go to Macy’s I get extraordinary service and it is quite personal. I don’t tip. If my flight attendant is, well, not attendant to my requests (assumed reasonable) do I not tip? Should flight attendants be paid less than minimum wage and we tip as customers? Should hotel housekeeping not be paid minimum wage and rely on tips from overnight guests? Bell boys? Your own housekeeper? I can’t even try to fathom my housekeeper telling me their boss is not paying them more than a few dollars an hour. Restaurants are the outliers in personal service. Just because something has always been a certain way doesn’t mean it makes sense.

  • omgstfualready

    I also feel as if this industry is looked down upon as if anyone can do that job. Who can’t take an order and bring back food. You know what, I cannot do it and if I tried I could not do it well. It takes a very special personality to do that job well.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    I live in a state where restaurant workers already earn the regular minimum wage, and we still have tipping.

  • DavidYoung2

    In Europe, many restaurants add a 10% ‘service fee’ in lieu of a tip, so most people just leave the change (if the bill is euro 58,00 they’ll leave 60,00).

    Look, the real issue is that what was once seen as a ‘starter’ job in low- to mid- level restaurants has morphed into longer-term employment because of the bad economy. So these aren’t just college kids picking up spending money but people trying to support themselves. Since it’s fair and reasonable that hard working Americans shouldn’t have to rely on welfare, to whom does the responsibility fall to make up the shortfall. The employer / restaurant (higher wages) or the patron receiving the benefits of their labor (higher tips)?

  • mizmoose

    I can’t believe people still believe the “to insure prompt service” nonsense.


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    When you eat at a restaurant it always results in a monetary transaction. Not so at Macys. Plus, there is a loose relationship between the amount paid and the amount of work performed. Not so with the flight attendant, housekeeping, etc.

    That’s the reasoning behind tips. Less than min wage is a diff story.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s undoubtedly true. Salaries, like everything else, follow supply and demand curves. How easy is it to obtain employees?

  • emanon256

    Water is my favorite non-alcoholic beverage :)

  • emanon256


  • bodega3

    Most don’t get paid above minimum wage. They may earn more that minimum wage with their tips. There is a difference.

  • OzJohnno

    Perhaps you should realise that your minimum wage is one of the lowest in the modern world. In Australia the minimum wage is $16.37 per hour for full time work or $20.30 per hour for casual employment. Australians are considered by the majority of Americans to be lousy tippers and it is because we believe in a fair pay for a fair days work that many of us are loath to supplement a worker who is being paid like an employee of the early 20th century. If you want to help then instead of tipping 25% lobby for workers to have their pay increased and stop them from becoming beggars for tips.

  • BMG4ME

    I was amazed when I moved here from the USA that 15% was considered the minimum, coming from a country where wages are lower and the usually accepted rate was 10%.

    I do have sympathy for people whose wages are too low. If the problem is because the restaurants are not charging enough to cover the cost of the meal and a decent wage then we should tip more, in the same way that it’s perfectly fair for an airline to charge fees in order to compensate for the expectation by some customers that airlines should fly at a loss in order to serve their travel whims.

    If the reason is that the restaurant is charging enough to cover a decent wage but chooses not to then of course the customer shouldn’t be expected to compensate for the greed of the owner.

  • omgstfualready

    Each visit from my housekeeper is a monetary transaction (he isn’t coming because I’m so nice he wants to clean my house because he’s bored, though that would be lovely). He comes in, I pay him the same amount every time. No tip. Sometimes there is more work to be done and he runs long, sometimes less and he’s out early. Holiday time I do give him a monetary present. But each visit is a set amount for the work done.

    I just don’t see how restaurants are allowed to do this. Such a hard job, on your feet all night, dealing with who knows what kind of clientele that they (usually) cannot turn away. I think we agree they need a living wage commensurate with their efforts and then we can decide if tipping is needed.

  • omgstfualready

    If salaries for restaurant servers were forced to be a living wage the employer would be much more likely to fire the bad ones ensuring his/her business was giving quality product front and back of house.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I misspoke. I meant housekeeping. As in the hotel housekeeper. As far as restaurants are concerned, their employees are entitled to minimum wage. Beyond that, the law does not determine “worth”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Perhaps. But why give servers special treatment. Why not raise the minimum wage for everyone to a living wage and deal with the consequences.

  • Bill___A

    I’m not ignorant, but at the same time, I don’t think I should have to pay for the shortcomings of the owners. In fact, I’m quite well informed, and I can tell you that even in higher cost countries, where tipping isn’t typically done, the food prices aren’t all that different, so someone is putting a lot of money in their pocket. Although the cheapo food places, I can see how there isn’t a lot of money there, it is difficult to imagine that in the steakhouses and top end restaurants where the prices are quite high, there isn’t enough money to pay their staff.

  • Lindabator

    But GOOD ones? That’s the key!

  • Ben

    “when they are juggling 10 tables”

    I tip based on service regardless of how many tables the server is working. I do this for two reasons:
    1. I’m tipping on service provided to *me*, not how much work the server is doing overall. If they’re working more tables, there are more people tipping, so it should work out even if each tip is smaller.
    2. Some servers, knowing that most people will tip about the same regardless of the quality of service, take on more tables than they can handle. I don’t want to reward that.

  • Ben

    I don’t think that’s the point. Servers like to say “I get paid less than minimum wage” to encourage/justify tipping, but they’d still expect a tip if they were earning minimum wage.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    One of the ways that managers rip off waiters is to demand they do non-waiter work: bussing tables, preparing those fancy napkin arrangements, etc. cut into the time they’re supposed to be pleasing customers to earn tips. At an UNOs restaurant, they wanted my wife to do that kind of work for an hour at base pay for 2 bucks. My wife quit. The manager was furious because he was short-staffed but in a market economy, he should have hired more workers and treated them better (that Unos went out of business and was replaced a year later with some other restaurant.)

    Bottom line is that places that treat workers well and give them opportunities to earn retain smarter workers. The bad places retrain the dumber workers, quite frankly: either they work hard and don’t know any better (the ideal worker by management standard) or they aren’t that good and don’t think they can go anywhere else.

    My wife’s friend got a job at McCormick and Schmidts. She makes big money because the tip percent is based upon the bill so for the same labor as working at Unos, she cleans up PLUS she probably does less bussing work.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I guess I tend to have a bit more understanding. If a server is juggling a million things at once, I can understand waiting a bit longer for my drink, or having to gently remind them to bring extra sauce, napkins, etc. It’s just easier when you have been in their shoes.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Apologies for the tone. You were 100% right about that.

    I do get frustrated when people expect absolute perfection when eating out, and then take it out on the server when things don’t go their way. I had it happen to me as a server all the time. When I worked in an upscale steakhouse, we did a lot of bachelor parties, and I lost count of the number of times people would get impatient when the drinks took longer than 3 minutes. Um, hello, there are 13 of you and the service bartender has other drinks to make as well.

    My post was meant to illustrate that the way the laws are set up, it is highly disadvantageous to the server. Quite frankly, the guaranteed minimum doesn’t mean crap, as managers will always find a way around it. Yes, I don’t HAVE to work there, but the sad truth is that these practices are pretty universal in the restaurant industry.

    The tipping system isn’t fair. To anyone. However, the way it is setup now is that the patron is responsible for part of the server’s compensation. Not tipping, or looking for any reason not to tip, does nothing to fix the system and only punishes those who already have the law and management working against them.

  • Bill___A

    The problem is that most places don’t keep the menu prices low.

  • dave3029

    This still makes no sense to me. If the personnel are then splitting the 18% service charge AND are already making minimum wage, I ask again – – what’s the purpose?

    If anyone went to a competing restaurant, the food prices would be the same (based on your previous comment), the staff still made minimum wage, and the diners chose to tip whatever they wished without having ANYTHING forced on them. I’d choose the competitors. Forcing a mandatory fee – – whatever you choose to call it – – removes one of the items still under the diner’s control away from them. Choosing whether to tip or not and how much should depend on the quality of service, especially if the server is already being paid minimum wage.

  • Fishplate

    It should be, but it rarely is. Almost everybody tips the same amount.

  • Miami510

    I’ve read every one of the postings so far and have come to
    two conclusions:

    Not many people are happy with tipping, evidenced by the
    large number of replies.

    I believe that the European system is best. No tipping… the cost of service is included
    in the price of the food.

    Can we change? Probably not to the European system. I do believe that adding a percentage for service is better than the system we have now. Example: “A tip of 18% will be added to all bills for
    service. Please feel free to increase or decrease that amount if you feel the service warranted it.”

    If the service is really bad, I’d vote with my feet and not return to the restaurant… of course I’d tell the management why.

  • ywqtieupo

    We’re talking about PERCENTAGES, which already adjust higher when the cost of meals goes up. There’s no reason the tipping PERCENTAGE should be increasing over time. In another decade, will pretentious “tipping etiquette” d0uchebags insist that a 50% tip is appropriate?

  • ywqtieupo

    The fact that restaurant staff take your money ON BEHALF OF THE BUSINESS has nothing to do with it.

  • ywqtieupo

    “I tip 30%”

    Because you’re an |d|ot.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Nope. Not at all