Question about tipping etiquette

I’m very silly about ordering in restaurants, and being a picky vegetarian who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on himself, I end up ordering very cheap and strange things, like an appetizer only, or the cheapest thing on the menu with water to drink.

For example, at the Quarry House in Silver Spring on Mondays, they have half-price burgers, so I ended up getting my whole dinner (with no beer for me) for $3.25. Now, when this happens, I have a tendency to tip on the order of 100%. In this case, $7.00, which is still pretty good for the great burgers they have there.

How do waiters and waitresses feel about this sort of behavior? Would they rather I spend $20 and tip 15% and get the same tip? I guess they probably don’t care…

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5 Responses

  1. Not a waiter (or waitress), but I have this come up all the time when I am in bars watching soccer matches. I usually don’t like to order anything big, so I end up getting a small salad or a bowl of soup and a Diet Coke…and then I sit there for 2 hours watching the match. I always leave a massive tip, but I wonder how the wait staff feels having had to serve me such cheap fare for such a long time.

  2. Just make it worth the server’s while to serve you, that’s all. Tip like you ordered a full meal and the server can’t complain.

    Personally, when I’m serving, I think about the minimum someone would have to give me for me to do all the things they’ve asked of me, and I get irked if the person tips below that amount (which is a notion, not a figure).

    As Danny suggests, the time you sit at a table is also important. If it’s busy and there are people waiting, you are screwing a server over if you linger past the time when you’ve finished. Her table is her money-making venue; she can’t make more money until you get up. But if it’s not busy, or if it’s a bar where people can walk up and get drinks and go away, the time you spend sitting there isn’t so crucial.

    FYI, some restaurants — particularly chains — focus on a server’s average cover (average spent per customer). If the average person spends $10 at Quarry House, a check of $3.25 is a doozy. Management want servers to upsell to raise their average covers and might rag on a server with a low average cover. Sometimes they’ll have contests where the person with the highest average cover wins something (free food, getting out of sidework, etc.).

    But really, that’s not your concern. Management can suck it if all you want to order is a burger.

  3. Wow, you’re much more generous than I am. I pretty much always tip in the 15-20 percent range, regardless of how expensive or cheap of a meal I order or how long I sit there.

    My basic rule is that for service that is decent but nothing special, I tip 15 percent on the pre-tax amount. For good service, I tip 15 percent on the post-tax amount, and then round it up a bit. For excellent service, I tip 20% on the post-tax amount. For bad service, I tip around 10%. For horrible service, I wouldn’t leave a tip, but I’ve never actually done this. Some of the main determinants in my mind of the quality of the service is a good attitude, a good ability to describe menu items and make recommendations, getting my order right, and being prompt without rushing me, and keeping my water glass full.

    The whole tipping system seems weird to me. I would rather just have restaurants pay servers better and then not have to tip them. I always have a small part of me saying, “just don’t leave a tip. It’s legal. Unless you’re planning to come back, it’s against your rational self interest to leave a tip.” To combat this tendency, I try to tip according to fairly regular rules so that I don’t think about it excessively.

    It really gets on my nerves that you’re supposed to tip at bars because, hey, all they do is pull out a beer and give it to you. How is that a high level of service? I can see tipping for a well-prepared mixed drink, but I don’t understand tipping for beer, which already has a fairly ridiculous markup. Yeah, basically I don’t understand the whole idea of bars. But I tip around 15% at bars anyway, because it’s customary to do so.

  4. Norman, I always tipped 15% until I had a job and some money, and then I always tipped 20% basically, no matter what, until very recently. Lately I tip between 15 and 30% based on service (and in one case, how much the server reminded me of Esther :P)

    Danny and Esther, I sometimes do bar trivia and board games at restaurants and stuff and I tend to sit at the table for a long time when these things happen, but I think that’s expected. I hope it doesn’t deny the waitstaff anything they could otherwise be getting.

  5. I always tip 15% rounded up to the next dollar, or maybe a little more, BUT I usually do not tip on take out or when it is not a service restaurant (you order at the counter and they call your name, Subway, etc.). Bad Etiquette?

    Totally with Norman. I’d rather the first 15% was included in the bill and if it was really horrible service you could just talk to the manager. Tipping punishes the generous, economically speaking.

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