WWYD: Cheap Friends

In this installment of “What Would You Do,” discovering that your friends are cheap. Here’s K.

I’m 23, and have a lot of really cheap friends. Not necessarily poor friends, but cheap friends. We live in New York City and all have jobs, but because this is an expensive home (and said friends don’t budget/save), a lot of the people I hang out with are living paycheck to paycheck. This is fine! I don’t judge: we’re young, this is the time if any to be fiscally irresponsible. Here’s the thing though, whenever we go out for dinner or drinks a lot of my friends only leave a 5 or 10 percent tip. No reflection of the service, they just think that amount is sufficient given the balance of their personal bank accounts. You would think that if my friends couldn’t afford the full service of a sit down meal they would suggest other plans, but I feel like the worst offenders are the ones always wanting to go out for these types of meals. As someone who has worked in the service industry I feel terrible about this behavior/habit, so have been compensating by tipping 30 percent or more. Is this unnecessary on my part? I don’t feel like this is a serious enough offense to necessitate an intervention on the cheap friends (though I have sarcastically admonished them before). But maybe I should say something? — K.

Yes, please say something. I’d give these friends the benefit of the doubt that they don’t understand how the U.S. service industry works and why tips are so important. As someone who has worked in the service industry, you’re in a prime position to explain it to them. It’s literally your money you’re putting on the line here by overcompensating for them.

It doesn’t need to be an “intervention”—which sounds super serious—just another typical discussion friends have over dinner. In grad school, I went to dinner with a bunch of fellow broke colleagues, and at the end of dinner one of them grabbed the bill and collected money from us. When he discovered that the tip would amount to something around 17 percent, he said, “everyone should put in another dollar, and we should be good,” and then told a lot of amazing/horrifying stories about being stiffed as a waiter, and that at his restaurant, tips were everything because his wages were less than $3 an hour. No one complained, and we were all entertained.

If I were in your situation, I would try to do the same thing my friend did. It doesn’t have to be a big speech, or a big, scary bully pulpit. But do say something.


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



21 Comments / Post A Comment

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

5-10%?! Are they not American and therefore don’t know about tipping here? Personally, that would be the only excuse for regularly tipping so low.

Personally, I consider tipping habits to be in the same category as how someone treats wait staff – if a person’s rude to wait staff or regularly tips poorly, then it’s an indication of that person’s character. Hate to say this, but maybe it’s time to find new friends.

GREAT SCOTT! Yeah, your friends’ behavior is not okay. As a general rule, if you are unable to tip properly, you shouldn’t be going out to dinner in the first place.

Lily Rowan (#70)

“if you can’t tell the truth to your friends why are you friends?”

YES. Now is the time to start either training your friends or finding new friends.

SnarlFurillo (#2,538)

Okay, what about tipping on drinks at bars? I always tip the greater of $1/drink or 10%, but I recently learned that some of my friends don’t tip at all on drinks.

Also, tipping 5% for a table-service meal is tacky. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@SnarlFurillo yes! A friend told me that she went out for a super expensive dinner, and then didn’t have enough to tip. I was like, go somewhere cheaper, tip better.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

Oh good, more debate about tipping; Imma go get some popcorn!

I wouldn’t overcompensate for them, but I think the approach Mike’s suggesting is good. The only time I do overcompensate for someone else’s tipping is when I’m out for a meal with my grandfather. 80 year old European man, very well off financially, but refuses to tip for anything. He always picks up the bill, and I always find a way to sneak the waiter a tip without him knowing because I am not having another discussion about tipping with him – they always end with us calling each other assholes.

The difference between a crappy tip and a good tip and a great tip is often no more than a couple of bucks. A couple of bucks won’t break me. So when I find myself wondering if what I’m leaving is sufficient, I just toss in an extra buck or two. Explain that to your friends. Leaving a good tip feels great, too, worth an extra dollar.

I think people also don’t realize that servers are taxed on their salary AND on a certain percentage of their sales, say, 10%. This is a way of taxing their tips without requiring the server to actually keep track of the exact amount of cash tips they receive. So if someone stiffs you, you actually wind up losing money, whatever your tax rate would be on 10% of their bill.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

Please tell your friends, as it’s possible they are just young and ignorant. If they act like assholes and blow you off, you know that they’re no longer people you need to hang out with. But I think there is a good chance they’ll get embarrassed and fix their behavior, and YOU will have done the world a service.

ThatJenn (#916)

Yes. This.

I also just tip higher myself when going out with people I know aren’t good tippers. (Not this egregious, but I have a friend who basically never ever ever tips above 15% no matter how great the service is, sometimes ending up at more like 12-14% if it’s a rounder number and the service was only OK, and I always always tip higher than 20%, often higher than 25%, when with her, because she is also very demanding of servers’ time and sits longer than expected at tables and does not believe that the latter means you should tip more.)

Megano! (#124)

I am a terrible tipper, but I DON’T have a job. I also don’t eat at sit down restaurants very often. I try to tip as much as I can, as often as I can.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Megano! Realtalk: Don’t go if you can’t leave a good tip. Not as often as you can — every single time.

Megano! (#124)

@aetataureate I always do at sit downs. It’s more fast food places where it might get a little dicey. But still, that is pretty fucked up, saying if I can’t pay someone else’s wages because I don’t even have a job at all I don’t have the right to go to a restaurant ever. :/

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Megano! Going to a restaurant is not a right, it’s a thing you pay for. If you can’t afford it, that’s unfortunate, but you can’t give yourself a discount at someone else’s expense and without that person’s permission. How is that NOT fucked up?

@Megano! Wait, you tip at fast food places?

olivia (#1,618)

@Megano! A tip is part of the cost of going out to eat. Would you go out to eat if you could only afford to pay $8 for your $10 entree? No? Then don’t go out to eat if you can’t afford to tip.

I don’t understand the “I’m too broke to tip” argument. (This is a general statement, not just directed at you.) A tip is not that much more money. If your meal is $15 after taxes, it would be $18 with a 20% tip. If you’re so broke that $3 is going to make or break you, you shouldn’t be eating out.

Megano! (#124)

@olivia I realized over the holidays that I do tip 15%, I just can’t afford to tip more than that.
Also I dunno if it is a Canadian thing, but I go to a lot of little fast food places that have tip cups, and even sometimes the bigger chains have tip cups out, and that is where I do not always have anything to tip, because I rarely carry cash or change.
I still think tipping is bullshit though and restaurants should pay waitstaff a living wage.

Is this a good place to ask about US tipping rules? I’ll be going to Miami in February, and was wondering if there are different regional amounts that one should tip, what you should tip on apart from cabs, dinner, drinks etc. I feel like looking at travel guides isn’t as helpful as it purports to be, and I don’t want to be the Brit who stiffs people.

Sean Lai (#559)

@Stephanie Boland@twitter It’s 20% on dinner (15% is the absolute bottom of the barrel minimum, but I think these days 20% is more customary). I usually do $1 per drink at a bar, but I only get beer not cocktails. I have no idea for a cab, I usually aim for 15-20%. A buck or two will be OK for tipping a bellman who helps you with your luggage if your hotel has one.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Stephanie Boland@twitter A lot of people will appreciate this! I always enjoyed waiting on British people because they had interesting things to talk about. But the not tipping thing drove me crazy!
A lot of cabs let you pay with a credit card and have an option to add a tip. Always round up so if you do need change, the cabbie isn’t giving you actual coins.
Coffee shops will always have a tip jar out. It’s cool if you have a dollar to throw in but don’t feel obligated to do so. Those employees SHOULD be making at least minimum wage, whereas waitstaff generally is not and needs the tips.
Have fun!

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I swear to God that it sometimes feels like 30% of the posts on this site (and about 98% of the posts from the point of view of people who work in blue-collar or service-industry jobs) are about restaurants or bars and/or tipping.

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