Counterpoint: No, This Is How You Tip

Logan and I are of the mindset that you can actually never really tip too much for good service (Logan really loves leaving as much as possible), but we’re also open to showing other people’s honest viewpoints and experiences with money (see: Young, Privileged and Applying for Foodstamps). As a counterpoint to Cindy’s post today on overtipping, we give you our pal Matt Langer’s rules for tipping. Matt kindly gave me the thumbs up to publish his tweets here:


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Whit@twitter (#2,413)


wearitcounts (#772)

YES. to all of these.

Since reading all these posts on tipping, I came up with my own new hybrid way…

If you have a problem with your server, talk to them about it (nicely, calmly, politely, etc.). THEN if they’re a jerk or are terrible, you don’t have to tip well. But leaving a statement tip just makes YOU look like a jerk, and the server may never know that there was a problem.

I feel like that’s fair.

sockhopbop (#764)

I am down with all of these. But I truthfully did not know about 3a (tip on after-tax not pre-tax) — I’d heard the opposite! This may not have really made a difference most of the time, because I round up and often forget to look at pre-tax anyway, But is after-tax the standard?

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@sockhopbop Yeah, definitely after tax. Apparently Emily Post and the miserly gal who “doesn’t leave too much” think otherwise, but post-tax is what your server is expecting the tip percentage to come from.

Happy tipping!

sockhopbop (#764)

@aeroaeroaero Ahh okay great! Hurray tipping clarity.

Jon (#2,053)

Yes, yes, YES. Every one of these tweets is exactly right. The tipping after tax part is particularly important, since servers have to tip-out based on the total of their sales after tax, not before.

It seems like a lot of people that have never worked in the service industry don’t realize that tipping out exists, and therefore don’t realize that it costs the server money to serve a table.

(For example: if a server’s total sales (including tax) are $1000, they then pay the bartender $20 (2%), the busser $15-20(1.5-2%), and the house usually takes another $20 for replacing glassware and giving the kitchen guys some cash(2%). These percentages fluctuate from place to place, but I’d say 5-6% total tip-out is pretty standard. So that’s 6% that they’re giving away, regardless of how much they actually get tipped. In our example, that means that if they get tipped on average 15%, they make a total of $150 for the shift. Of that cash, they’ll actually walk out of the door with $90.

If you tip 15% on the BEFORE tax amount, then they’ll tip out on sales of $1000, but actually only receive tips on $800. So they’ll walk out of the door with $60.)

Oh, and I still believe you should leave a crappy tip if you receive terrible service. But you should never leave nothing at all, particularly if your bill is large.

tim@twitter (#2,428)

@Jon Haha, this is legal????

Jon (#2,053)

@tim@twitter Yup, I worked full-time as a server (and bartender) for a number of years, and I’ve had shifts where it actually cost me to come into work. And I’ve never given shitty service.

laluchita (#2,195)

@tim@twitter Actually it’s not legal! At least not the part about the house taking a cut of your tips. There have been a bunch of successful lawsuits about it, and I know that some Batali restaurants just settled over it:

Jon (#2,053)

@laluchita Wow. The lawsuits are interesting, I had no idea. It’s always been explained to me that a percentage of the house’s cut goes directly to the kitchen staff and the rest covers breakages (glassware, plates etc). But I’m sure that there’s many (many) restaurant owners/operators that’d just keep that money for themselves.

You’d have more serving staff kicking up a stink about it, but they’re not unionized and they’re seen as replaceable, so most folks just see it as the cost of doing business.

stimpsonjkatz (#2,445)

@Jon Where in the world do you live where sales tax is 25% (which is what the difference between $800 and $1000 would be)?? The highest in USA is less 10%, which means you would get tipped on $910 instead of $1000. Which, at 20% tip, would make a whopping $15-$20 difference in the end in your example…

tiemposbuenos (#2,425)

It’s kind of amazing to me that Americans treat the convoluted tipping system as something normal? Seriously, if you need this many rules and it’s this difficult to pay ‘correctly’, why not look to the countless other countries that 1. have restaurants, and 2. the waiters don’t earn a living through tips and yet still somehow manage to survive despite all the odds? An economy that is not based on tipping IS possible!

Katie@twitter (#2,427)

@tiemposbuenos I don’t know if you are aware of this, but in the US it is typical for waitstaff to be paid less than minimum wage, with the expectation being that tips will make up the difference. Being shorted on tips means trying to subsist on less than minimum wage for an already thankless and difficult job. So until these laws change, tipping should be a mandatory part of your dining experience.

City_Dater (#565)


Well, we’ll all just wait here while you go reform the entire service industry nationwide. In the meantime, it’s not “convoluted” to simply calculate 20% of the TOTAL bill and leave that amount, or more for exceptionally good service.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@City_Dater Calculating a tip isn’t convoluted, but the ettiquete/expectations of tipping in America is convoluted for people who don’t deal with it regularly. I’ve spent the majority of my life living within 20 miles of the US border, but it wasn’t until I moved to America that I learned that servers didn’t get minimum wage plus tips.

Rather than wait for @tiemposbuenos, an anonymous and presumably non-American interweb poster to single handedly reform America’s service industry, wouldn’t it be more effective to contact your local politicians to express concern about the system? Or create a petition? Or is it easier to make snarky comments at people not like you?

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Worker Parasite Hmmmm, this is part of American culture. When we travel out of America, we are expected to follow the rules of that country/culture. Why do we not expect the same from people who travel to America?

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@josefinastrummer Yes, but when you’re travelling to a foreign country do you look up tipping ettiquete? It’s not really a “rule” is it? Nobody makes you tip a certain amount (except for the restaurants that tack a gratutity onto the bill). I generally don’t read up about tipping, I’m more concerned with learning important phrases, how I’m going to navigate the place I’m going to be in, and things I should/shouldn’t do to avoid trouble with the authorities.

And I know this is a huge overgeneralization, but having lived in four countries and travelled to dozens more, it seems that few Americans attempt to conform with local culture. I know, I know, that doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s not just an American thing, and I’m sure EVERYONE on this site is very careful to never offend others when they’re abroad, but more often than not when I see someone not following a rule or custom they’ve got a US passport.

In a perfect world, yes, we’d all be aware of the customs and expectations in whichever area we found ourselves in, but that’s not always the case, and frankly, I’d rather someone knew the rules of the road or could speak a bit of the language before they knew what tipping expectations were. If they know that too, hey, that’s great!

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Worker Parasite Yes, I absolutely look up tipping etiquette when I travel to foreign countries or I find out from the hotel or person I am staying with immediately. If tipping is the norm in Denmark, I bet the server would rather have me know that then how to say “where is the bathroom?” properly.

I agree that a lot of Americans don’t respect other cultures when they travel. And those people are assholes. And the same goes for the foreigners traveling here who don’t bother learning about our culture. It drove me insane when British people refused to tip, especially when they see that everyone else is tipping and there is no language barrier.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@josefinastrummer Re. paying servers less than minimum wage and expecting tips to cover it being a part of American culture: I would like to point out, as nicely as possible, that you could make the same argument for universal healthcare. I.e. universal healthcare is not part of “American culture”, so why should it change?

I mean, we have other people in this section describing how they’d pay to work some evenings due to poor tipping. I think that this would be one aspect of American culture that would benefit a lot of low-wage workers if changed.

tiemposbuenos (#2,425)

@Katie@twitter Yes, it just all seems very backward. Calculate after tax, leave cash even when paying with credit, x percentage if service is good, x percentage if ok, etc etc. When in the US the tipping culture is intimidating and confusing. Tipping a dollar for a bartender opening a bottle of beer for you? A (Brazilian) friend of mine once joked that he was afraid he’d have to tip someone in the US just for smiling at him on the street.

I realize that the system as a whole necessitates the tips. Other systems do exist, though.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@josefinastrummer I think that’s great. It’s something I always think to look up before I go, but often end up trying to suss out once I’m there. If I’m unsure I tip what I’d normally tip at home, which seems to be more than expected in the places I’ve been thus far. Luckily the only place I’ve travelled to with higher tipping expectations than I’m used to is the US, and I’ve got that one figured out now. I get what you’re saying with your Denmark example (fantastic country btw, and they really do have the whole tipping thing sorted out well in my opinion), but from my perspective I’m more concerned about knowing how to ask where the bathroom is then what someone I will interact with once thinks of me. That’s not me trying to be a jerk, but me wanting to be sure that I have my needs met.

@Fig. 1, I think that’s a really valid point.

A bit off topic, but does anyone know of an area where tipping expectations are higher than they are in the US? I can’t think of one, though my travels have been limited to the Americas and Europe, and as I’ve established above, I’m a lazy jerk who will often tip more than expected not out of the goodness of my heart or because it’s what’s expected, but because I often don’t know any better, and it’s easy to not worry about overtipping when it’s on the company’s dime.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Fig. 1 That’s a very good point. All cultures have good and bad aspects to it, but until they change, we have to accept it. That’s why when people travel to the U.S. they should most definitely purchase travel insurance because if they end up in the hospital, they have to pay! And when Americans go to countries where women have to cover their heads, we have to do it, because of that law/culture. We might not like it and it might make us mad, but that’s how it is right now.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Worker Parasite Great points all around. I guess I take for granted that every country I have traveled to, also in the Americas and Europe, I have been able to communicate bathroom effectively. I think people can look up both common phrases and tipping rules! But one thing at a time, right?

And no, I cannot think of anywhere else that is as weird as the U.S. about tipping for food. I have heard that in some southeastern Asian countries, there are rules for bribes. There was a story on here about it, how the writer saved two dollars by refusing to pay a border bribe.

And I’m glad you like Denmark too! What a great place.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@josefinastrummer Hah! I must have missed that story about bribes! I think I had to bribe my way out of Russia once. In clearing customs on the way out of the country the border guard (the one Russian I met who spoke English the ENTIRE TIME I WAS THERE! And Russian 101 was USELESS for preparing to be there!) told me I had to pay him an “exit fee.” I was unaware of such a fee, and having had to get a visa to enter the country thought I was all set. It basically boiled down to ~$35 USD, which I gladly paid to avoid border troubles.

la_di_da (#1,425)

Also, if you have a coupon or a discount, which is more and more common these days, ALWAYS tip on the pre-discounted meal. This means they will hate you less for using a coupon.

Blondsak (#2,299)

Quick PSA: If you play blackjack or any other gambling card game, TIP YOUR DEALERS. We get paid the same wages as waiters/waitresses (at least in my home state), and just like them, tips are how we make our living. Just because you probably lost your money does not mean we don’t deserve tips for the service. That’s what the 50 cent chips are for!!!

A Former Blackjack Dealer

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@LO As another former blackjack dealer, yes, 1000 times yes!

Worst part of being a dealer was pooling tips. One night I pulled in 5 figures from one dude in the high limit room (he was playing the whole table and hot for a while). We were having a great time and he was tossing me $25 chips like they were pennies. Sadly all tips at that casino were pooled, so instead of ~$200 that week my tips were like $240.

Lily Rowan (#70)

Question! I’ve gotten into the habit of betting the tip, which (obviously) sometimes means I’m not actually tipping, because I lose the hand. Is that shitty? Should I just tip like a normal person? Winning the tip is so fun, though!!!

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@Lily Rowan I liked it when people bet the tip! It’s usually a small amount (like $1 or less), so if we lost (which happened more often than not) not the end of the world, and if we won, hey, WE won! It helped build good table rapport, and it made things less of a “players vs. the dealer” and more of a “players and the dealer vs. Gamblor” thing. Good rapport was key – personally I preferred a night with lower tips but good players instead of miserable players and good tips. But I was paid a bit above minimum wage and wasn’t relying to tip money to make ends meet, so YMMV.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Worker Parasite OK, good. I usually do $5, because it’s easy at a $5 table, and I TOTALLY believe in players and the dealer vs. the house, so really appreciate when the dealer is also into that. A good table is SO FUN.

Fuck, I love blackjack.

And of course I tip the dealer on my way off the table as well.

This is why I only go out to eat once or twice a month, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most foodie places in the country if not the world. I can’t afford to both feed myself and pay the salary of my waiter.

Mary's sister (#2,434)

@KathleenD@twitter You are kind and unselfish and a good egg. May all your dinners out be delicious, forever.

Is this a good place for me to mention how much I hate the kind of server who SITS DOWN AT YOUR TABLE while taking your order? I don’t know what it is, but it makes me so nervous.

Also nervous-making: the kind of server that refuses to write any of the table’s orders down and just does it all in their head.

It’s probably my crippling social anxiety.

@Reginal T. Squirge WHAT. I have never experienced this. (the sitting down thing) I’ve never even heard of that! Weird. Wweeeeeeeird.

Maybe it’s just a US thing? Happens at least 10% of the time.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Reginal T. Squirge Haha I don’t like this either. I respect servers, but we aren’t friends! I think it tends to happen at chains a lot, where the servers are encouraged to pretend you are BFFs with the customers. It’s so fake and embarrassing.
I don’t mind the memorizing the order though but I do understand.

Megano! (#124)

@redheaded&crazy I have when I was a kid, but I think we knew the waitress.
Also I’m sorry waitstaff, but I can only afford to go with giving you whatever I have leftover, which is terrible and will change if I ever have a steady income.

iffie (#1,911)

@Reginal T. Squirge This is a thing I’ve only witnessed in chain restaurants like a Bahama Breeze or something. I agree. It’s awful.

cherrispryte (#19)

@Reginal T. Squirge I can only remember that happening at this one restaurant in Disney World when I was 11? It was weird then.

Megano! (#124)

@cherrispryte Oh yeah it definitely happens at Disney World, especially at breakfast from my recollection

shannowhamo (#845)

@Reginal T. Squirge Yes! But like others have said, the sit-down is usually a chain restaurant thing, I’ve gotten it alot at Outback (which I will always defend and think is delicious for a chain, their coconut shrimp are next level.)

Jon (#2,053)

Also, no discussion on tipping is complete without Mr Pink adding his thoughts:

KimO (#2,021)

This pretty much mirrors my own tipping code, but something about this post really rubs me the wrong way. The sanctimonious tone is a big part of it.

The author of today’s other tipping post is getting dogged in the comments. People, she left 20%. I don’t see why some faceless server is more entitled to that $0.48 than the lady who wrote the post. We don’t know her life! I, for one, do not begrudge her that (admittedly joyless sounding) tap water lunch.

I really like that the Billfold is open to different people’s views on money. But I strongly prefer the posts and comments of people who are careful to say this is how *I* do it, as opposed to this is how *everyone* should do it.

Mary's sister (#2,434)

@KO I found the previous post much more sanctimonious, in tone as well as in content. I hate to resort to “Who would you rather have a beer with?” buuuut…

zou bisou (#1,637)

@KO I could not agree more.

(Or in wierd blog parlance: THIS. THIS THISSITY THIS.)

mof (#342)

@KO I also couldn’t agree more. That author researched tipping etiquette and wrote an interesting post. I was disturbed by the amount of anger in the comments.

Morbo (#1,236)

I take it he doesn’t live in a city where the all-inclusive sales tax is 11.75%, like Chicago.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Morbo I live in a part of Canada with 13-14% tax. It’s part of the food. I thought in Canada we were supposed to tip 15% minimum because our minimum wage for servers is higher (still lower than minimum, but higher than in US). So, home, 15, standard. If it’s very good service, more. In the US I tip more. That is also why I cook at home a lot.

I used to deliver pizza for a living and it would drive me crazy when people didn’t tip, or tipped me a couple bucks on a $40 order. At the end of the night I had to tip out 3% of my total SALES to the kitchen staff (which was fine, except they were paid more than I was and had health insurance, which I wasn’t offered). The restaurant presumed I was making at least 15% in tips on my sales, when it was really closer to 10%. Sometimes 7%. So, tip your pizza people. And you may think that when you pick up food from a restaurant you don’t need to tip, but those tips at the counter at usually split between the people at the register and the hosts/hostesses. These people are often making minimum wage and going home with even $10 in cash can make a big difference for them.
And if you’re a big company the makes mobile games and Facebook games and your name starts with a Z and you order $400 in pizza for your staff on Fridays, a $20 tip to the girl who just carried 20 5lb pizzas up three flights of stairs is not appropriate. That pizza girl will tell that story to everyone she knows, forever.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

I’m getting the sense that a lot of people believe that if you aren’t going to tip, you shouldn’t go to an establishment where tipping is the norm, and I understand that. But I want to play devil’s advocate for a minute:

Restaurants need revenue to stay open and the margins are often razor thin in the industry. If everyone who doesn’t tip stopped going to restaurants, yes, servers wouldn’t notice a significant decline in their incomes, but the restaurants would, which, if enough people stopped going, could cause the restaurant to close, leaving the servers without jobs.

I’m not saying it’s ok to not tip if that’s the norm, and the times it cost me money to serve a table of jerks always pissed me off, but when I was a server I’d rather have had those cheap jerks (though hopefully not too many) in my restaurant than spending their money elsewhere, as it helped keep my source of income alive.

littleoaks (#1,801)

@Worker Parasite But tipping poorly at restaurants and staying at home are not your only choices. If you budget $20 for a meal, don’t spend $19.50 on food and beverages and leave the change for your server. Go someplace that your 20 bucks will cover everything, including tax and a real tip.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@littleoaks I agree, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Some people are just jerks who won’t tip no matter how good the service, but a restaurant needs paying customers (whether they tip or not) to stay open. When I got stiffed on a table I served I’d be choked about it, but also viewed it as a cost of doing business as a server; like a corporation writing off bad debts. Thankfully those people were few and far between, and while I wasn’t happy to get no tip, I was happy that the restaurant got income which enabled it to stay open.

Just trying to look at the bright side of getting stuck with no tip. I’m not trying to say we should all go out and stop tipping.

mintyesq (#2,436)

@Worker Parasite I think about this as well, not only with respect to the restaurant industry, but also in other service industries like beauty (hair salons, spas etc.) I am an excellent tipper, so sometimes my stylists will disclose info to me about the poor tippers they deal with. I get it, I am sure it is frustrating to not get what you feel you have earned. But at the same time, if all those crappy tippers stopped getting their hair highlighted, the stylists might not have any customers to complain about at all.

cherrispryte (#19)

I am sure this is too insidery, but can I ask, did anyone warn the previous tipping advice columnist that she was going to get MAJOR amounts of grief? I mean, when Papa Bear’s showing up to call you out, it’s kind of a thing, right? I really like the diversity of opinion thing going on here, but jeez, did someone warn the columnist that assholes like me exist?

Mike Dang (#2)

@cherrispryte INSIDER KNOWLEDGE: You are not a jerk, and yes, when we have a sense that something may be contentious, we give fair warning.

SomeGayGuy (#278)

OH, one thing that a friend pointed out waaay back in the day that if any part of your meal is comped (because you know the owner, your parents know the owner, you have some snazzy promotional coupon), it’s good form to tip on the “retail” amount for everything that you got. So, like, my mom is tight with this family that owns a restaurant and if they gift me with a beer with dinner that would have cost $5 had I ordered it, I add $5 to the amount for calculating tip.

Oh and one last thing that I liked learning — if you do pay with a credit card but leave a cash tip, I always feel less douchey writing “cash” in the tip amount rather than leave it blank.

whizz_dumb (#151)

Yes, that is exactly how I figure out the tip: the 20%+round-up way. One exception is when I occasionally get an obvious hook-up/skimped-down bill. Then I either figure out or imagine what the difference from the actual price is and try to leave as big of a tip without going over the actual value, which would defeat the whole favor.

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