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A Rant About How Tipping Has Gotten Out Of Control

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Tipping. Everyone has their own opinions about the practice.

You normally don’t hear much arguing about it unless you’ve come across someone who believes that tipping is stupid.

So, what set me off about tipping?

The other night I was at one of our favorite restaurants.

It isn’t the cheapest place, but it’s on the beach so we expect to pay a bit more than a typical chain restaurant.

The shock came when we got our bill.

Restaurants Suggest Tipping Amounts

I’m sure you’ve caught on to the recent trend of restaurants printing suggested tips on the receipts.

Generally, they calculate how much your tip should be if you want to tip 15%, 18% or 20%. I think that’s fair because that’s the range I normally tip in.

In my mind, I feel I should tip 15% if service is average, 18% if service is great and 20% if I didn’t have to think or ask about anything, such as needing a refill because my glass was empty.

Fifteen percent for just doing the basics of your job seems pretty fair to me. After all, I’ve been a server before and know that some people tip even less than that.

Not All Suggested Tips Are Equal

This time we got our bill and saw three suggested tip amounts at the bottom, but something didn’t look right.

The tips were called Good, Great and Excellent, which is in line with my normal tipping practices.

However, they didn’t list the percentages associated with each category and that fact had me suspicious almost immediately.

I took out my phone and did some quick calculations and found out that Good was 18%, Great was 20% and Excellent was 22%.

Who tips 22%? And why does this restaurant feel I need to tip 22%, not the standard 20%, for great service?

Before we get into the argument, let’s first discuss what I actually tipped. Needless to say, I didn’t tip 22%.  In fact, the service wasn’t that great either. I’d call it OK, not even good.

Just so everyone doesn’t think I’m cheap and stiffed the guy, I tipped the server just a tiny bit less than 18% because it was a nice even round number.

Now, let’s get to the fun part.

Why Do Servers Feel They Deserve Higher Percentages Now?

News flash. As waitstaff, you aren’t entitled to a tip if you don’t do a good job.

It is part of your pay, but it is part of your pay for doing your job and doing it at least halfway decently. It is an incentive and you need to work for it.

I have no problem tipping the standard 15% to 20% for service that isn’t awful.

In fact, I’ve only stiffed servers two or three times in my life and the stories from those encounters would shock most people.

The problem is, servers these days keep thinking they need larger and larger tips. Twenty percent isn’t a great tip anymore, it seems.

I’ve heard servers complain if they don’t receive at least 20% for their tip. That’s absurd.

Why do servers think they deserve tips in excess of 20%? They say that things are getting more expensive and they need to make more money.

Unfortunately, most don’t realize the flaw in their logic. As things get more expensive, the meals at their restaurants also get more expensive.

They are already getting a bigger tip. After all, 20% of $20 is more than 20% of $10.

Others Think Tipping In America Is Ridiculous

While I agree that tipping is out of control and I do wish it wasn’t a thing, it is something that we must live with.

Unfortunately, people from other countries may think tipping in America is ridiculous because they aren’t used to our customs. When these people refuse to tip, it hurts the servers and everyone that gets a share of tips.

I do wish that everyone was paid their fair rate and we didn’t have to worry about tipping, but I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So, while you may think tipping in America is ridiculous, don’t stiff your server. If you can’t afford to tip or don’t agree with tipping, eat somewhere where tipping isn’t normal.

Tips For Servers That Want To Make More Money

I have a tip for servers who want to make more money in tips.

Instead of continuing to work at the restaurant you’ve been working at for years, go out and get a job that pays more. 

I’m not saying you should stop serving. Just consider the following ways to earn more.

Do you genuinely like serving? That’s great. Keep with it. Just find a way to increase the dollar amount of your tables’ checks by selling them more food. That way, your 20% will be worth even more.

Want to know an even bigger secret that will make you more money?

Instead of working at Applebee’s for the foreseeable future, try your best to increase your serving skills.

Once you’re an excellent server, go get a job at a nicer, more expensive restaurant. The bills will be larger there and your tips will be too.

Want to read even more about tipping? We have another article about the topic that explores concepts like why does everyone want a tip. Check it out here:

So, what’s your take on tipping? Do you think we should be tipping more than 20% on a regular basis these days? Why does everyone want a tip? Has tipping gotten out of control? Or am I just cheap? Let me know down in the comments.

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Tim Johnson

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Tipping is absolutely out of control. As restaurant meals for an entree and pop/coffee hit $20 a person for an average quality meal and lets face it the average person doesn't eat alone so that's $40 for lunch. There is no way in hell I am going to tip 20% or $8 for a 45 min lunch especially when the waiter/waitress has probably 6-8 tables, thats up to $64 tax free (because we all know they don't claim it on their taxes that is just a fact). I am inclined to tip MAX 10% and that is only because its in our culture, I might even tip a flat $2-3

Now I was in a cab in Boston recently and headed to the airport. The terminal gave me tip options starting at 15%. 15% or $6 and all the guy did was drive and help with the luggage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I begrudgingly gave him the 15% because he deserved something, but next time I will hit the no tip button

I looked back as to when I worked min wage jobs in my youth. None paid tips with the exception of a short term job I worked as a valet (most people never tipped btw) and me and my friends did just fine, we could live, have a social life and do just fine. News flash if you want to make more money get an education and get a better job don't complain that the customer didn't leave you 20% for doing your job

For those people who tip 20% congratulations. I often tell people I know who bragged about their heavy tips and then I asked them did you tip the Fedex or UPS driver for dropping off your package? What about the mailman for a great year of service at Christmas time? The guy who mows your lawn? The guy who cleans your windows? The gas jockey who fills up your car at the gas station? The person who bags your groceries at the grocery store? The staff at McDonalds, Subway etc who got your food? Why not I asked I thought you were a big tipper!!!!!!

MarkinTex

Friday 13th of September 2019

I worked my way through college waiting tables in the mid 90s when it was 15%. I was glad to get 15% tips because I could make way more money than folding jeans at the Gap, which is pretty much the only other job someone in their late teens, early 20s without a college degree and who needed flexible work hours could get. Because I had experience on how hard waiting tables can be, I became a very generous (or so I thought) tipper, always tipping 20% after tax.

But then I ran into all the articles, blogs, etc. written by everyone from famed restaurant critics like Jonathan Gold to Wordpress blogs by unknown servers insisting that 20% after tax is the bare minimum, anything less than you're a cheapskate. Their reasoning for this was specious ("inflation!") and overall, their rants came across as entitled. I read servers ranting about how they DESERVE 20% every time, while at the same time railing against servers who make them work a little harder by asking for substitutions, or even recommendations on entrees. It all made me feel taken for granted as a customer, ill-used even. So I went back to paying 15% pretax for average service.

The inflation argument? As Lance already touched on, menu prices go up with inflation, therefore, if your tip is a percentage of the menu price, your tip already goes up with inflation, so there is no need to adjust tipping percent.

Pretax vs posttax? You're not doing any work related to the tax, so you don't deserve any compensation for it.

Waiters who demand 20% yet are put out when you say "how's the sea bass" or ask for a recommendation, or are lazy and say "everything is good here"? They justify it by saying "do you really expect me to know what your taste is" or "do you really expect me to badmouth one of my employer's products?" That's a BS copout. No, I don't expect you to know what my taste is, or badmouth a product, but I do expect you to have a decent grasp of which menu items were well-received by your previous guests, and which weren't so well received. One of the restaurants I worked at had beef fajitas and buffalo fajitas. The buffalo fajitas didn't taste different from the beef fajitas, but were tougher, stringier, and cost more, you were paying for the novelty. When my customers asked about them (and sometimes when they didn't), I steered them away from the buffalo fajitas, towards the regular. We also had a catfish enchilada. It was just a bad entree, made with frozen catfish and often tasted fishy. If anyone ordered that, I would say "if you're in the mood for seafood, might I suggest the fish tacos instead?" that were made with better fish and tasted better, for around the same price. I almost always got a very nice tip when I made these suggestions, because the customers recognized I was being straight with them and going out of my way to make sure they had the best food they could.

In my view, people who do what I used to do, automatically tip 20%, are contributing to the problem, and aren't being helpful to people in service industries long-term. We are just enabling restaurant owners to continue to shirk their responsibility to pay their employees a consistent reasonable wage, foisting it on the whim of the customers' generosity. If we scale back our tips, restaurant owners will have to start paying more for decent employees, and maybe will just raise their menu prices to cover it. I would gladly pay $21 even for an entree and not deal with the $17.99 plus tip game (and while we're at it, let's do away with the childish $*.99 psychological pricing gimmick and just put whole dollar amounts on the menu like a lot of better restaurants do anyway). Incorporate an extra 15% into the cost of each entree, and let people who think their waiter did an extra-special job throw in a few extra dollars, turning tips back into the gratuities they are supposed to be, rather than the service fee they've become. 15% would be more than adequate, because nobody would be able to stiff a waiter with a bad or no tip. How much of that extra 5% you 20% tippers give is getting eaten up offsetting the true cheapskates who tip little to nothing?

MarkinTex

Friday 13th of September 2019

Another way tipping actually hurts waiters: Female employees have to suck it up and smile at customers who sexually harass them so they will still get a decent tip. Get rid of tipping and female waiters can give these jerks the cold shoulder.

April

Monday 19th of August 2019

I am considering going back to a 10 percent tip on anything that exceeds a 7.00 tip at 18 percent. When a server can earn 20.00 tip on a 100.00 meal times 4 tables per hour, that's insane money. How many people who have master degrees make that kind of hourly pay? With meals costing more today, it just doesn't make financial sense. I believe a tip of 3.50 to 7.00 is fair for their work for 1-3 people at a table. Higher end restaurants would equate to double that amount. Just my little personal opinion. Things have gotten so far out of control! I am not biting into it anymore. I prefer to have a little in reserves. Forget these tip jars too as they are paid a decent wage already. Ridiculous if you ask me. Former server & delivery driver myself. Delivery drivers deserve a 20 percent tip at minimum because they foot the maintenance of car, insurance and gas... hello people? Think about it. Why give a server 20 to 25 percent and a delivery driver 2.00 who only gets 1.00 to deliver your food?

Helpyourself

Saturday 25th of May 2019

In my lifetime, tipping has increased from 10% to 15% to 20%, and now some waiters expect 25%. Over the same period, the average cost of the meal has doubled or tripled. Why should the waiter expect an increase in tip percentage every few years, even though through inflation, the price of the dinner is increasing (and therefore the amount of the tip). I know in California, the minimum wage for servers is now $15 per hour, yet waiters still expect a 20% tip. What's up with that? I've been a waiter in the past, and honestly I felt like I was overpaid through tips for the work I did. Since then I've moved on to higher-paying work that isn't gratuity based. It's always bothered me that restaurant Waiters expect a 20% tip, while the McDonald's employee who brings you your food doesn't expect any at all. Most annoying of all , is the new trend of a splash screen where you're asked to select a tip amount (or no tip) when paying by credit card , after being handed a cup of coffee or a sandwich at Subway . I vote that we do away with the Tipping system altogether, and pay people a living wage.

Ellen

Sunday 8th of September 2019

I have only tipped a counter worker three or four times when I order and pickup my own food. I really don't believe in tipping counter employees because they are at the counter making a cup of coffee, etc. and handing it to you. They are not doing the extra work like when you are at a sit-down restaurant like Applebee's. I remember going to the Waffle House and there was a sign in the window that said Hiring Cook $12.00-$13.00 hour. After I got my food and ate. I went up to counter to pay my bill and noticed a sign that said takeout orders will include 10% tip to pay the cook. I felt kind of perturbed by that after seeing the help wanted sign for $12-$13/hour, which for where I live, that is nothing to sneeze at. I even thought to myself, Okay, I just won't get takeout there.

Kathy

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

Don’t leave any tips for anyone. Employers are responsible for paying wages, not customers. I am always amazed how people blindly do what they are told to do. The Restaurant Owners Association lobbied Congress to get out of paying their employees minimum wage. This is how little they value their employees. Why was there no complaints? Why do employees and customers accept this with no questions or complaints? The business owners laugh all the way to the bank. Profit margins are very high on a lot of the drinks and food items being served. Many establishments could well afford to pay their employees. As long as customers pay wages, the employers never will.

Angelique

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

Exactly. Tipped employees are upset with the wrong people. Ask why your employer isn’t paying fair wages!