Let’s talk about tipping. It’s one of the few debates in our society that crosses political lines. Something we all wrestle with, whether we’re eating at Noma 2.0 or using Postmates. A hot-button issue that has spanned generations.
And as we enter into this conversation, I want you to know that I hear you and I love you and that also, I am right and you are wrong. Definitively. Because look, I’m about to tell you to mostly err on the side of tipping more. And that may feel frustrating. Know that ultimately I want you to want to tip well because you want to be kind. I want you to think, “Sure, I’ll put down an extra three dollars, this lady seems like a decent human being who is just trying to pay rent on a condemned apartment over a garage filled with mice and the faint smell of burning paint from a minor fire in her bathroom.” But I accept and recognize that you may say, “Who cares! She chose to be a waitress” or, “She chose to study acting so now she has to be a waitress!”
But even if you hold the former philosophy over the latter, tipping can be confusing. So we’re going to help. To walk you through this so both your server and your date will be totally impressed by how generous and awesome you are. Or at the very least not turned off by how un-awesome you are. It’s a start.
Here are the dos and don’ts of tipping without being a total jerk:
DO tip at least 20 percent on meals.
Oh shit. This bill must be wrong. 150 dollars? But you didn’t drink six mojitos. That’s so much mint. Way too much mint. Seriously, who in their right mind drinks six mojitos? (You scroll through your phone. See yourself with each mojito, grinning, like a real idiot). Huh. So maybe you did. Well..that’s troubling.
Wow. Wowwwww, you are going to have to calm down from this with another mojito.
Why you need to just suck it up and pay 20% even if the bill is high or your waiter was terrible:
If you’ve ever been out with a server you might notice that they tip other servers well. Like insanely well. Waiters and waitresses that I know tip 20, 25, or 30 percent on any bill (and, look, I’m a good tipper but I don’t regularly tip 30 percent. I’m poor, fam). For people who have never been in the service industry that might seem baffling. Isn’t 15 percent sufficient?
Here’s my question back: If your service industry friend is tipping that much, do you think it’s because they’re very rich? Do you think they’re like, “I inherited millions of dollars but I just want to do the meaningful work of serving fish tacos and endless margaritas on Tuesdays!”?
Because while being a server can be a career that is enjoyable and fulfilling, employees in this industry are absolutely doing it because it is a job and they need money. No one has ever said, “I wait tables for the art of it more than anything.” I promise no one ever in the history of the universe has said that and you can absolutely @ me about it.
So, if your service industry friends are always tipping 20 percent at least, that’s because it’s the right thing to do. I promise, your server is not making as much money as you think. Is 15 percent fine? I guess. But truly, truly know that you are determining your server’s salary and it’s tricky to deny them a customary tip. After all, their employer is allowed to shrink their hourly wage on the basis of the expectation of a tip. That’s the system we’re in.
Run for office if you don’t like it. Change some laws. I believe you can fly. I believe you can touch the sky. But until then, we’re sorta all stuck.
DON’T ever tell a server to take cash off and put the rest on the card.
You went out with three of your nearest and dearest. Most of you pay with cards, but one of your friends just brought a handful of cash because they’re either a time-traveler from 1947 or definitely dealing drugs. Hell, maybe both. It’s probably both. Katie’s a time-traveling, drug-dealing witch and that’s what makes her so goddamn lovable. And, you know, she always has such good drugs.
Why you should either all pay on credit cards or all in cash:
I want to be clear about this. I have actual nightmares about someone saying, “Just take the cash off and put the rest on the card!” If Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House was just someone saying that over and over, it would be too much for me. TOO SCARY.
Here’s the deal: If one of your party has cash and nothing else, they should give the cash to one of you. That person can then pay for both of you and tip. Does that sound a little complicated? Sure. But so is the alternative which is that the server takes the cash off. Then, the remaining card payers figure out the tip on the original bill and split that. Can I tell you how often people do that and you don’t get screwed on the tip? Never.
I promise you will ALWAYS give the server a heart attack when you try to do this. And no matter how many copies of the original receipt they print out and put on top of the other ones with so many circles in pen around the original bill amount that they now have carpal tunnel, they will still be filled with terror. Don’t do it, man.
DO tip on every drink at the bar if you’re paying as you go, or 15-20 percent of the bar bill at the end.
It’s just like a beer right? How hard is it to pour a beer? Why should you tip!? And it’s just like a cocktail, right? How hard is it to pour a couple of liquors into a glass with mixers and drops of a rare flower? How hard is it really to go every week into the depths of the Amazon — to places no human has ever stepped foot — and find one flower that contains within it an elixir of youth and ultimate happiness, pick it, and helicopter it back to the bar to put in my mimosa? I mean, Jesus. Anyone could do that!
Why you should tip your bartender well:
Okay. Here’s the general rule: One to two dollars a drink in cash if you’re paying drink by drink. 15-20 percent on the final bill if you do a tab. And you know, if someone is making you complicated cocktails all night — tip more. It’s common sense. And even if you only have one drink, but you’re sitting in a busy bar in a seat all night and no one else can sit down….tip more. You have every right to sit there all night like a gargoyle of Notre Dame — glowering at all who dare lean over you so they can order a round of Stellas for their bachelorette party — but if you are taking real-estate that would make the server or bartender more money for an unreasonable amount of time, you should tip accordingly.
DO Call friends out for being crappy tippers.
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You went out with a bunch of super cool friends. You look down, and Greg tipped 8 percent on his portion. And then threw a pile of used bandaids on the counter and walked out.
Why you should call Greg out:
Let’s explain this one with a teleplay:
“Oh, Greg,” you start out, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. “I think you made a mistake with the tip.”
“Nah,” Greg says. Greg has taken off his shirt and is doing an arm work out with free weights. You do not know where he was keeping those the whole meal.
“But Greg,” you say. “Your bad tipping means the rest of us will have to pay extra money to compensate! That’s not very nice.”
“Nah,” Greg says. He does several more arm reps.
“Greg,” you plead. “This is ridiculous. We dined communally so now your tip represents me too!”
“Nah, bro,” Greg says. “I gotta save that money for all the ladies I go out with.”
He does not. End scene.
DON’T stiff your delivery driver when the weather is terrible.
Wow, this blizzard is crazy. So glad you left work early. Can you imagine driving in this? You’d be taking your life in your hands! Wow. Anyway, let’s order Thai food. It’s too cold to cook and it’s time to be cozy!
Why you should tip the person who delivered your food (with more face icicles than Jack at the end of The Shining):
Is it pouring rain or snowing or there’s a sharknado brewing? Yeah. It sucks to go out in that….and someone is doing it for you. You have to tip based on the danger and the discomfort your driver is going through as well as the definite level of convenience.
So, normally 20 percent of the bill isn’t necessary for delivery. Go with 3-5 dollars on a pizza or single item and 5-7 dollars on a larger, harder-to-carry order. BUT DOUBLE THAT IF THERE IS INCLEMENT WEATHER. The delivery driver is literally putting their life (or at the very least discomfort) on the line to bring you your General Tso’s chicken. And that deserves at least an extra fiver.
DO tip even if you didn’t get anything at a sit-down restaurant.
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You already ate! You’re just stopping by for 3-70 hours to chat with friends and plot to overthrow the government. You only had one nacho. And came up with one treasonous murder plot. At best.
Why you should throw some money down:
Did someone bring you water? Tip. Was there a place set for you that you put just a bit of appetizer on? Tip. Are you literally sitting in a seat for more than ten minutes? TIP.
Look. I get that this seems unfair, you’re not even getting anything. However, understand that a lot of the time the host is keeping track of the number of diners per table. If she/he gives someone a four-top, they may give the next four top to someone else. And so, you sitting there does cost your server money in tips they would have gotten. Your table isn’t being counted as a three top.
So yeah, you didn’t buy anything, but that kind of makes it worse? A dollar or two on the table is polite even if all they did was set down a water.
DON’T feel like you need to tip as much on to-go orders.
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F**K, I read this article on UPROXX and this terrible writer told me I need to tip a ton of money all the time on everything now, and I don’t know what to do. Do I tip 20 percent on to-go orders? 30 percent? Do I just give them my car? I should give them my car right? And my first child. Like if I drop off my first child so they can sell it on the black market, will that be enough to make her leave me alone.
Why it’s okay to just tip a couple of dollars:
So, yes, it’s takeout. But the host or a server took your order, bagged up your food, put in utensils, and checked the order etc. It takes extra time in their day. So you should tip, but 20 percent isn’t necessary!! There should absolutely be a difference between sit down service and grabbing and going. Rule of thumb — 2-5 dollars is polite, but you should do more if it’s a huge, complicated order (like picking up 15 sandwiches for the office. Because, look, someone had to check all the sandwiches and write what’s on them in sharpie and make sure everything was done correctly).
In that case, you should tip 10-15 percent of the order. Although, side note: If your company is paying tip 25% and call it a day.
DO tip on the full cost of the meal before coupons, happy hour discounts, and comps.
Your favorite happy hour joint has $2 PBRs and it’s time to get LIT.
Why you need to tip on the whole bill:
Your server is not doing any less work running back and forth for drinks and food than they would at normal prices. The restaurant is willing to take a loss (or less of a profit to get you in the door) but that doesn’t benefit your server much. Tip as if the bill was what it would normally be. This goes triple if your server comped you something.
DON’T leave pennies or nickles on the table.
There’s something about a penny meaning good service and a nickel meaning….not. I don’t know. I don’t live in the 1930’s, waitressing my way through the Great Depression. I don’t know what any of it means.
Why you should save your pennies to get that Applebee’s gift certificate at Coinstar:
Yeah. Um. I don’t want a shiny g**d*mn penny to tell me I did a good job. You know what would tell me I did a good job? A twenty-five percent tip. Or like, you saying the words, “Thank you. We had a great time tonight, you did a good job. Here’s a twenty-five percent tip.”
And honestly, I’d rather get less of a tip and not deal with the 17 nickels you fished out of your pocket and threw on the table for a little “something extra”. Where do you think we are putting that change that you saved from the very first piggy bank you ever got? I’ve literally not been able to keep an apron up because it was so heavy with coins that it kept slipping. And if I go to the cash register to count out enough change to exchange it all for one or two dollars, it is genuinely such a waste of my time. So round up (or down if you must) and save your change for the gumball machine on your way out or to put in a pillow case for use in your monthly fight club. Please.
DO tip more on holidays.
Why cook when you can pay for someone else to do it, right? And why clean up Aunt Sharon’s vomit either? You can pay people for that! You can pay for anything. Free market, baby!
Why you should tip your child’s college fund:
It sucks to work a holiday. I mean if you want to be with your family or day drink on a boat, chances are your server would rather be doing that too. “But people are happier on holidays!” you say. “They must tip so generously!” Hahahhahahaa. Nope. You know what people are on most holidays? Tired. And tapped out financially. And so sick of Aunt Sharon getting too drunk and vomiting.
And sure, Valentine’s Day and NYE are usually great money makers, but they’re also insanely stressful. Because it’s packed and people have extra high expectations that their night will be flawless and fun. On Valentines Day, I have to go into the back every hour and say, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry” over and over again while acknowledging love is probably not real and the prefix option wasn’t a great deal. So. Please, tip well when your server is awesome on a holiday.
Especially on Mother’s Day when your server is running around ragged at brunch to get free refills of iced tea to everyone and ten million children’s meals. Mother’s day at a restaurant is a Hell from which no one ever escapes. Be kind.
DO remember that your server has to tip out other employees.
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My server SUCKED. Or. I don’t believe in tipping.
What you need to understand:
Servers tip out other staff at the end of the night based on total sales. Usually, this involves at least the bussers and bartenders, but sometimes also, kitchen staff. So that means even if you don’t tip, they pay a tip from your sales to other people for their help. If you don’t tip and we get screwed, it doesn’t matter. The support staff still did the work. They still cleaned up your table.
This isn’t just us being nice. Often this tip out is a mandatory restaurant policy. And, even when it’s mandatory, we often throw in extra for the staff because we know that they are dependent on this amount to make a living. And we are kind. So just remember, you are literally asking the waiter to lose money on your bill if you don’t tip at all. You don’t tip and we still have to tip out on a percentage of your bill which means we have now paid for the privilege of touching a fork that was in your mouth. Lucky us.
DON’T feel pressured to tip on premade items at a counter service.
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You order a blueberry muffin at your local coffee shop and after they hand it to you, they turn an ipad around. Would you like to tip 20%? 30%? Give a pint of your blood?
For places like fast-casual dining restaurants where no one is bringing you your meal or coffee shops (where you can assume employees are making above minimum wage) you don’t have to tip. It’s nice to tip a dollar or two, especially if they’re, say, making you a crazy latte with a lifelike portrait of your own face drawn delicately into the foam, but it’s up to you.
If you’re feeling weird about putting ‘no tip’ on the iPad of shame, think maybe about why. Do you come to this coffee shop a lot? If so, maybe a dollar goes toward the camaraderie of a staff who always makes you feel welcome and warms your scones just right.
But if not, look, most likely the dirty look you think the employee is giving you for tipping a small amount (or not at all) is probably in your head. All of it might be in your head. The employee’s look, the actual employee, the coffee shop, this entire world. Maybe all of this is a simulation in the matrix so…none of it is real? I guess do whatever you want.
DO work to change the system if you don’t like it.
I know, ultimately NO ONE CAN TELL YOU WHAT TO DO AND TIPPING IS TERRIBLE BECAUSE PEOPLE SHOULD EARN A LIVING WAGE AND, ALSO, IF THEY WANTED A LIVING WAGE THEY SHOULD DO A BETTER JOB.
Jokes aside — there are tons of great arguments against tipping. Because, the thing is, it’s a way for restaurants to pass the work of paying their employees onto you while they keep more profit! That’s not really cool. And on top of that, in no other industry are you allowed to dock someone’s pay because you didn’t like how they did their job, right? So, maybe it would be better if the cost of the tip was in the price of the food and people were just paid a living wage. Yeah! We should take a stand!
Sure, but taking a stand should be done in changing the laws or supporting restaurants that try to change the system. Not tipping an individual server and ruining their night doesn’t make you a trailblazing maverick, it just makes you a jerk. If you’re so morally against tipping — well, you can’t eat in restaurants that have it anymore. Cook at home. Get takeout. Go only to establishments that pay over minimum wage and where tipping is just a bonus. You can do all of that, but what you can’t do is just screw your server over. We. Live. In. A. Society. And in this particular society (at this moment in time) we tip. You don’t like it. Change it. On a legal level. Otherwise. 20 percent, friends. 20 percent.