Gratuity Not Included

It's interesting that BTQ should post about tipping (based on a SMP post about tipping.) I had started a post about tipping about a week ago, but never finished it, because, well, that's how my life has been recently.

What happened to get me thinking about tipping was that I went out after work with a group of co-workers. The bill came, and everyone threw down the amount of cash they thought appropriate, based on what they had ordered. (Presumably, everyone factored tax and tip into their contribution.) One guy said, "Does anyone mind if I just take the cash and put it on my card? I didn't get a chance to get cash..." No one objected, and he put the bill on his card.

As we walked out of the restaurant, one of my co-workers asked me to wait for her, and she slipped back in the restaurant. When she came back out, I asked her, "Did you forget something?"

"No," she said, "I noticed that [the credit card paying co-worker] left a crappy tip. I just went and left an extra ten dollars. We go there a lot, and I don't want them to hate us." I offered to give her a few extra dollars, but she refused it.

And, if you think about it, assuming that everyone factored a fair tax and tip into their contribution, that means that the guy who paid the total probably got away with paying less than his fair share, and pocketed everyone else's tax and tip contribution.

Anyway, I later got into a conversation about tipping with the co-worker who snuck back in to leave more money. She said that because she had worked her way through college as a waitress, she was always sympathetic to service workers, and always leaves a good tip.

"And now," she said, "they'll take me to the front of the line everytime I walk into Starbucks because they know I'm a good tipper." (What exactly makes you a good tipper at Starbucks? How much is a good tip on a $4 coffee? What does that make your daily morning total?)

So, Starbucks. Hmmm. While I consider myself a good tipper, I obviously don't get the whole tipping-at-Starbucks thing. While I certainly don't leave "the customary 20%" I'll drop some spare change in the jar now and then.

But, why tip at Starbucks? Does it have something to do with food and beverage service, because it reminds of a restaurant? I've also noticed a tip jar at our little local ice cream shop, but I always kind of assumed it was because they're all high school girls working there. And I'll stick in a dollar now and then, but I'm not calculating 20% of my cone. But why don't we tip at McDonald's? What's the difference?

Why not tip at the pharmacy? And what about the other places where we don't tip?

I worked in high school as a hostess in a restaurant that was in a hotel. Foreign guests would sometimes tip me when I showed them to their table. I usually told them that they didn't need to. (But once in a while, I'll admit, I'd just pocket it without saying anything.) We just don't tip hostesses. (Although, the waitstaff was expected to tip the hostesses a portion of their tips at the end of the night. And, if they didn't, guess who didn't get as many tables the next night.)

I had another friend who asked me whether I ever tip fitting room attendants. No, it had never even occurred to me. But, why not? In some places, we tip restroom attendants.

So, while Milbarge wants to know how we went from a customary 15% to a customary 20%, what I want to know is, why do we tip where we do, and not at other places? Why tip at the car wash, but not at the dry cleaner? Is it just because they have a jar out?

In which case, I totally need to carry a little jar around the courthouse with me.


  1. Never worked as a waitress or waiter, but I've had friends who did. Plus, both my parents raised me to be a good tipper. So as long as the service is good, I'll tip 20%. If the service is fair or just OK, 15%. (If I'm with my kid and he's made a mess, I'll tip more than 20%.) A few times (like maybe 5 times in my life) I've left less than 15%, when the service was really horrible (but I'm always careful not to blame the servers for kitchen issues).

    But I don't tip at Starbucks, unless I'm ordering a particularly huge or complicated order. Same with the ice cream parlor (there's a tip jar there).

  2. our regulars tip us because of the experience, not because of the coffee. we get to know their drinks, make them to perfection, chat about their day/children/plans for the weekend, and are genuinely interested in their lives.

    we don't expect tips. if we notice someone throw a buck in the jar, we make a point to remember them.

    people don't tip us because we do our job - they tip us for the experience we give them.

  3. In Miami Beach, almost every restaurant check includes a 15% tip. It's like a tax, just added on at the bottom, before they write the total in much bigger numbers. Even if the table only has one or two people.

    I guess I have mixed feelings about that. Tips are supposed to be voluntary, right? But waitstaff are paid below minimum wage, so if foreign tourists don't tip 15%, the staff loses out a lot.

    I usually end up giving about 2-3 dollars more anyway.

  4. I had a totally evil cab driver the other night who tried to haggle with me over the tip!! I'll have to post about it sometime..I was so angry.

    And yes, I have waited tables, so I too am a generous tipper. But I don't tip when someone is rude. There's no excuse for that.

    That guy at the dinner with you totally did an unconscionable thing, pocketing everyone's money like that.

  5. I've only stiffed a waiter once, and it was an awful dinner experience. Some of it was his fault (never coming back to check, making us ask two other waiters to bring our check after being there a total of three hours when we were there for burgers), and some of it was other people's, sort of - wrong food, not cooked to order, etc. So we stiffed him. It was a group of us, and I can't remember if we had the automatic "large party" gratuitity but he felt we hadn't given him enough regardless, and followed us out to the parking lot to confront us over it. And he still expected us to dig out our wallets and give him more money!

    That's why I try to tie tips to service, although I used to be a pizza delivery driver, so I tend to be more generous to them, just because.

  6. Isn't part of the tipping custom derived from the fact that in most states waitstaff make less than minimum wage? Maybe the ice cream parlor girls are just trying to work the "food service = tipping" angle. And sometimes at a busy Starbucks in the morning, the servers deserve tips for dealing with our cranky pre-coffee selves.

    Your tip jar idea in court isn't bad- we once had a client in the clinic who tried to tip our lead attorney in cigarettes and a bottle of vodka. In open court. It was sweet, sort of.

  7. TIPS=to insure personal service. This is, theoretically why waitstaff make less than minimum, but others use the fact that they don't make minimum to excuse their not tipping. Go figure.

  8. as a waiter, in multiple restaurants in multiple states, I never made more than 2.37 an hour. which, of course, is less than half of an already abominable minimum wage.

    one real problem I always had:
    people coming in for lunch, buying something extremely inexpensive, such as a $4 bowl of soup and a water, and then leaving 15% or less, under the logic that either:
    a) they only tip 15%, or
    b) the waiter did not do much work.

    If you are goiing to come in and take up someone's table, and you are willing to spend money to go out to eat (you could always bring your own lunch to work, if you do not have the money), leave a couple of dollars, no matter how small the bill. In no situation should anyone leave less than a $2 or so tip, no matter how small the bill, if the service was at least decent. (and on that note, it could get really awkward to have what some people would consider "excellent" service to a one-top).

  9. Usually when a group of people get together and one person pays the bill and the rest pay cash to that person, the cash collection always seems to come up short. At least that's been my experience, especially with groups of 6 or more. The person that left a small tip may have been short changed himself.
    I got my philosophy of tipping from Steve Martin in "My Blue Heaven" when he said it's not tipping that I believe in it's overtipping. I will over tip my bartender because I know I am going to see him again and he will give me special treatment. If you want good service at a restaurant that you will be returning to again, overtip. If it's a place that gave you good service but you won't be returning again, there is no reason to overtip. I will not normally tip the people that have a jar next to their register. Usually those people get paid to just ring up your order and take your money. Most of these places with a tip jar shouldn't have one. The tip jar has turned into something to take spare change away from the homeless people that sit outside.

  10. In Japan there is no tipping. People try to do a good job, because of a tradition of honer and a culture of shame. But the service industry tends to pay a better wage.
    The problem with tipping in the U.S. seems to be that tipping is no longer an indication of the customer's appreciation of service, so much as it is an expected payment for services rendered. Which is why the IRS taxes a perentage of a waiter's sales.
    If tipping were not a part of our traditional culture, I doubt there is a marketing firm in the world that could bring it into existance today.
    Tipping also should not be suffering from an infaltionary trend, given that it is already a percentage of consumption. It makes me wonder, are we tipping more because the service is so good, or to make ourselves feel better?

  11. Thanks Blondie for posting this, because it reminded me. I had a client who actually tried to tip me!

    The guy was really nice, so polite. He was one of the typical allegedly undocumented immigrants who got caught driving without a license. Surprise surprise, some of these poor people can't get a license, so everytime they get caught violating the traffic laws, boom, face a criminal charge.

    The facts of the case weren't good, and the guy was heading towards 30 days in jail. I made some arguments and he got probation with a short amount of time, in part because he had cash to pay some fines, but mostly because I had a good judge who listened to all the facts and made a good decision. Lots of judges just think (suspected) undocumented = straight jail. Sometimes they are right, but there are always exceptions.

    At the end the guy kept trying to give me cash! I'm like 'no no no.' Same thing with a DUI I won with another potentially undocumented immigrant. I wil always tell people that I am free, I can't take anything from them, but if they want to do something for me, they should do something for their family and be thankful for them, because it is the family that most offen suffers when people commit crimes. When I have extremely unsympathetic clients, I try to focus on the family to movitate me. But usually everybody has something good in them, even asshole waiters!

  12. What about hairdressers and spa staff? Apparently, we're supposed to tip them, but if they're not getting paid adequately, where the heck is my $60 for a fifteen minute service going?

  13. Several of my friends are professional pilots. A lot of them feel that passengers on the small regional airline jets should tip the copilot, because he or she is making a very tiny salary, sometimes as low as $1,000 a month.

    People who charter business jet aircraft often tip their pilots.

    I'm told $50-$100 to each pilot is common.

  14. I never leave a bad tip unless the service is horrendous. I had to explain to my boyfriend, when we met, that 20% is for good service and he shouldn't always just figure 15%.

    Still, I go to a no-tip salon and I love it. Services are a bit more but there is no pressure. If my eyebrow waxer doesn't do that great of a job one month I tell her and don't feel that I need to express my opinions monitarily and risk a real eyebrow rip out the next month. It's refreshing.

  15. I've never heard of not tipping a hairdresser... when did this start? I'm asking because my $40 cut and $80 dye are coming up in a few weeks... I usually pay the $120 + $25 tip... assuming it was customary. My hairdresser always does an excellent job and I enjoy going there, so at this point, I'll keep paying the same, but I'm wondering if this is high/low???

  16. As a hairstylist, I am shocked to hear of such things as 'no-tip' salons!

    I have to admit that my 'over-tippers' get my best service of all my clients... though I must add to that statement that my really good tippers tend to also be really good people. The clients who are obnoxious usually aren't the good tippers. Life would be so much nicer if they were, but instead, stylists everywhere are in back rooms plotting how to break up with pain-in-the-a$$ clients (who aren't great tippers).

  17. Oh, and to 'rebeccafrog'... where is your $60 for 15 minutes going? Well, the salon owner typically takes just under half of that, and then there is taxes... stylists may see about $25 in their check.

    I highly recommend tipping stylists well and forking over even more at Holiday time (trust me...)

  18. I waited tables for 3 years, made $2.25, just like a lot of other people posting on here. It's sad, isn't it, that what originally started out as a token of appreciation for quality service (which, as Anonymous helpfully pointed out is the case in Japan, shouldn't we just expect that?) is now a fully expected means of income for members of the service industry? Now there's no meaning at all in it unless you (a) tip nothing, which means you are contributing to that person's making below minimum wage, or (b) give an extravagant amount of money in the hopes that "they'll remember me next time I come in."

    I think we should develop alternate forms of showing appreciation. How about a nice friendly pat on the ass? I know I would have been more than appreciative of that from my lady customers. But seriously, if you really appreciate someone's service, one of the nicest things you can do to express that is to tell his or her manager how much you enjoyed the visit. THAT makes you memorable, AND makes that person's day a whole lot better than an extra couple of bucks above 20%.

  19. I think if more people knew that servers and hairdressers are making 2.85 an hour, they would tip more. Essentially, the restaurant gets to take the price of labor out of the meal.

    I was a waiter for a while, but I had to stop - every day I stayed I was a little more disgusted at my fellow human beings, and how they can treat people.

  20. Actually, tipping began as something people did BEFORE their 'service' began. The word stands for (To Insure Promptness) and was handed over prior to ordering food, getting your hair done, etc.

    Now, not only is it considered part of the service industries' income, but, in my opinion, just a custom; a way of showing off good manners and class. It is the equivalent in my book to saying thank you (but in a grown up and classy way). Plus, whether this is how it should be or not, the clients who tip me really well can ALWAYS get in at the shop, they can get me to stay late, come early, or even take my 1:40 commute to see them for an appointment on my day off (if it is an emergency, like preparing to enter the hospital for an extended stay -- which recently happened, mind you).

    When we hairdressers get clients that don't tip, we assume one or both of these two things either(A), they haven't been brought up with manners and they are ignorant to how the world works, or (B) they are just jerks.

    Either way, they aren't going to get our 'top' service. I personally rely on tips to cover my gas money and the occasional lunch out with co-workers. Since I am paid strictly commission on my services, I have no clue how much my check with be each pay period... tipping eases the burden of budgeting for the day-to-day expenses and I appreciate them more than I do my 'real' check because they have come straight from my clients, and not because they HAVE to.

    Sometimes it isn't money they give; I have had barters as well... people have cleaned a salon I used to own as a tip, I have gotten meals cooked for me and brought in to the shop, one client used to bring a Diet Coke and a Milky Way dark every visit, another still takes me to dinner at her restaurant after her cut and color each month. To top it off, from one client, I received a pair of Manolo Blahnik (of course, I can't remember how to spell it!) heels as a wedding present last year. It is hard work being a part waitress, a part salesperson, a creative stylist, and therapist all while standing all day long -- that is what hairstylists do. Tips help immeasurably in warding off burn-out.

  21. Disclaimer: in my previous post, I said that tipping began as 'to insure promptness'. I should say that 'some say' this, because I am sure there are others who disagree with the possible origin.

    I stand by everything else.

  22. I would guess that it means "hat tip."

  23. Blonde Justice
    "But, why tip at Starbucks? Does it have something to do with food and beverage service, because it reminds of a restaurant?"

    The times I feel you should tip at Starbucks would be something like ordering a frappuccino, where the *AMOUNT OF WORK* is JUST LIKE A BARTENDER WOULD DO. SO WHAT if it's NOT ALCOHOL, it's MORE WORK flipping a cap off a beer and STUPID people tip for that unbelieveable, which I DON'T. I feel if I would get a black coffee at Starbucks, THAT would be just like McDonald's, therefore, NO ONE should tip for just for a black coffee I feel, but if they are making your coffee for you whether it's putting creamers and/or sugars in for you or making a frappuccino, THAT SHOULD be tipped for UNLESS they screw up your order. Like if you said in drive-thru I would like Mocha Frappuccino and you get some other kind handed to you, NO, I feel you shouldn't leave ANYTHING for them screwing up your order UNLESS they would give a discount for your inconvience.

    "But why don't we tip at McDonald's?"

    Honestly, I WISH I could tip at fast food place besides Sonic Drive-in, because I get sometimes MUCH BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE than some bars even. I go up to a bar and the bartender is more worried about chatting than serving or the bartender is taking a shot of alcohol or smoking behind the bar instead of serving you or the bartender does the going out of order thing when I've ordered a mixed drink, but the bartender grabs a beer for someone that ordered AFTER I did. Basically, I get MORE RESPECT sometimes at McDonald's unbelievably so. It's SAD that people that work for tips DON'T have RESPECT for the customer. Like normally I leave a buck a mixed drink at a bar or more, but sometimes I have stiffed due to lack of RESPECT with the bartender worrying about eating or drinking on the job instead of serving you like they are SUPPOSED to be doing. I worked at a donut shop and I started out a minimum wage plus tips. I IMMEDIATELY STOPPED chatting or eating or stocking milks or the ice bin to *SERVE* the public. The customer should be TOP PRIORITY, otherwise, HOW can ANYONE expect a tip for making someone wait longer just to chit-chat or to eat? That's SELFISH on the worker's part. We didn't get ANY breaks on a 8 hour shift, so sometimes I'd eat on the clock, but I wouldn't always be able to eat my food hot, because *CUSTOMERS CAME FIRST*.

    Sometimes, my food would sit and get cold, but it was my choice not to eat a huge meal before my shift not to get hungry. It was hard not to eat something on the 2p.m.-10p.m. shift, because I had breakfast and lunch, but didn't have a way to eat dinner or I'd have a late breakfast with no lunch before my shift. My point is, I made the *CUSTOMER* TOP PRIORITY over *MY OWN* wants. So I just WISH I could tip at McDonald's because those people sometimes actually *DESERVE* a tip for getting my order as soon as I come in and getting it correct. Sure, I've had bad service at a fast food place before with getting my order wrong twice sometimes, but I usually get the cashier to take my order as soon as I walk up, NOT having to wait for the cashier to finish chit-chatting or finish eating or drinking or just plain playing around. I feel ANY customer that walks in should be like a king or queen walking in and EVERYONE STOPS what they are doing to SERVE YOU. THAT type of service SHOULD be tipped, which sometimes I get service like that at McDonald's, but not places that people usually tip like bars. It's SAD and very PATHETIC.

  24. I think I tend to overtip but I'm sick of it all. I just wish I lived in a world where you saw a price on a menu or a sign and that's what you paid. I just want to enjoy my coffee not do math. And really, I hardly equate pouring a cup of coffee to waiting on a table.