What is a good tip amount to leave an establishment? Is it ten percent? Twenty percent? More?
I realize that tipping is more-or-less an American thing based on feedback from others living abroad (but please weigh in if I’m wrong).
I used to be what most waiters (and waitresses) would consider a bad tipper: ten to twenty percent.
I’d figure that if my meal came out to ten dollars, then I’d leave about a buck or two.
However, in my quest to learn Spanish, I frequented several Mexican restaurants, and I would often leave a three to four dollar tip based upon how willing the waiter was to help me with my Spanish (call it a cheap Spanish lesson).
When I acquired a Panamanian roommate (who happens to be a waiter), he filled me in on what a proper tip amount really is.
A Side Story
I have lived in Huntsville, Alabama for about four years. During those four years, I have frequented a restaurant/bar called Bisons.
This is the same restaurant that I have walked out of a few times because the waitress waited longer than ten minutes to even acknowledge my presence.
However, after the advice of my roommate, I began leaving tips in the amount of forty percent or more.
Through chance, one of my friends became a waitress at Bisons. I was “informed” that since I was a good tipper, the waitresses there would fight (not literally) over serving me. I, as a customer, was not aware such a thing could/would take place.
Keep in mind that I’m a single guy. I don’t have two or more people at my table. I sit solo.
So to have waitresses fight over having me as a customer was a huge revelation.
I asked my friend, “Why would these waitresses fight over me?” And she responded, “Because you’re a good tipper.”
“Surely I couldn’t possibly tip better than a table with four people, right?”
She responded, “This morning I had four tables. I made ten dollars. When you showed up, I made that much in just one.”
And Yet Another Side Story
There are many restaurants I frequent in the Huntsville/Madison area. Not all are created equal.
However, I tend to leave higher tips based upon the personal service I receive.
I have frequented a restaurant regularly going on four years. However, nobody there knows my name and/or my order when I go there. Do I leave a good tip? Yes, the bare minimum. But only because I have given these people their chance.
When I go to another restaurant, and the people know what I drink, know what I eat, and know who I was with the last time, it leaves a lasting impression. Consequently, I leave a good tip.
One waiter smirked when he handed me a free drink, “You take care of me, I take care of you.” He was one of the guys I tipped well.
When Not to Leave a Tip
Bars are a common establishment where a tip is expected. The band needs to be paid, the bartenders need their due, and the waitresses are working hard.
Over Valentine’s day, a group of friends and I decided to head to downtown Huntsville to have a good time.
We ventured into a local night spot called The Jazz Factory.
I went to order a drink, started a tab, and went back to my table. My group of friends wanted to play pool, so I ventured back to the bar to grab some pool balls.
I was first in line at the bar. Nobody else was there except my friend Jonathan talking to one of the waitresses.
I waited. And waited. And waited.
Three pool tables were empty. But I was skipped twice, and both parties wanted pool tables.
I tried to get the bartender’s attention, and even complained to the waitress my friend was talking with.
What did I end up with? A crappy drink, and a pool table where the eight ball was missing.
Is it any wonder this place is going out of business? My roommate, which I will remind you is a waiter, walked out of the place because they were taking to long with the drink orders.
In this particular situation, I felt I was “forced” to leave absolutely no tip.
I hate leaving no tip. But I felt it was the best and most effective way to get the message across.
My Advice on Leaving Tips
Being a non-waiter, here is my advice on leaving tips.
Get rid of the ten-percent or twenty-percent mentality. If you have repeat business at a place where they absolutely give you personal service, leave what you feel is appropriate.
There have been times when my bill was only $7.00 (USD), but I left a fifteen dollar tip because I felt their service was exceptional.
There have been times when I have left a tip and the waiter/waitress stops me at the door and thanks me for my gratitude.
I’m not advocating “buying your way in” to a place with a tip. I’m just saying that if you are given service that is above and beyond, perhaps above and beyond is what you should leave.
And For Those That Refuse to Leave Tips
I can’t help but remember the scene in Reservoir Dogs where Steve Buscemi’s character (Mr. Pink) rants on why one should never leave tips.
From Reservoir Dogs: I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.
The sad reality is that many waiters/waitresses depend on tips to make a living. And for some, (especially in the current economic time) it is the only job they can get.
Sure the waiter/waitress can quit. And as far as their concerned, so can you from eating at their restaurant.
Opinion on Tipping?
I will admit that I’m not the ultimate authority on tipping. I’m sure there are those that work in the “tipping” industry that know the low down, so please weigh in via the comments.
And for those that frequent establishments that encourage tipping, what are your thoughts/techniques on leaving that something extra?