UnderCover Waitress: The Art and Etiquette of Tipping, Guest Post

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Art and Etiquette of Tipping, Guest Post

Today's guest post is written by Trisha Jefford. Trisha Jefford is a self-proclaimed foodie, vegan and wine enthusiast who loves scouring the net for new ideas and trends in food creation and presentation. She currently writes and blogs for the website EZ Cater, a site that specializes in finding local catering or the perfect corporate caterer.

You’ve just finished an excellent meal as you take a sip of your always cold, always full glass of water, and reclining slightly in your chair you think to yourself, “this sure beats eating at home”! Just then your waitress comes by with the bill, thanks you for coming in, and says she’ll be ready to take the payment when you are. You look over the bill for accuracy and then pause at the line that says tip. For just a moment you realize, “I don’t know what to tip?”

If that sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. For many, this is probably a familiar experience, and if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation you’re more than likely well aware of the anxiety or discomfort associated with not knowing how much to tip. If that’s you, don’t worry. It’s okay to be unsure, but what isn’t okay is transferring, as a bad tip, your uncertainty about tipping to the waiter or waitress whose hard work has given you a flawless dining experience.

Tipping for many is a common experience, but strangely enough not one many of us take seriously enough to work at understanding. I am here to tell you that tipping doesn’t need to be a mystery. You don’t need to read a book, or hours of online opinions, to know the appropriate amount to tip. It’s actually quite simple. Here are a few things to keep in mind!

The Cheap, the Fair, and the Generous

There are three types of tippers in this world. The firs type is “the cheap”. They’re known to tip poorly (10% or less), or not at all, regardless of the service they receive. In fact, even when they receive excellent service they may not tip at all. These people start with the notion that the server has to earn their tip, and unless they go above and beyond the unreasonable expectation, they quickly snatch away any tip they would have left. These people are constantly looking for a reason to justify leaving no tip. To insure you’re not a member of “the cheap,” always leaves a tip!

The second type is “the fair”. They’re known to leave a decent tip (10%-20%) dependent on whether they receive good or excellent service. This type of person takes into consideration not only their waiter or waitress’s effort, but also their personal dignity. Nothing says “I don’t care about my reputation” better than leaving a poor tip and that’s something that sets “the fair” apart from “the cheap,” they actually care about their reputation. They pay attention to the server’s efforts and adjust their tip based on the quality of service they receive.

The third and final type of tipper is “the generous”. These tippers have fully adopted the mentality “go big or go home”. They tip well (20% +) all the time. Regardless of the service they receive they choose to be generous and consider tipping not only the right thing to do, but use it to maintain their reputation as an individual who holds generosity in high regard. These people care about their reputation, and the wellbeing of others. They can look past small mistakes or delays in service and realize that not everything is a server’s fault. These people do not punish a server for errors made in the kitchen.

Good Service Equals a Good Tip

This probably sounds like a no brainer but good service should always equate to a good tip. For some the expectation of good service is a little ridiculous. I’ve been out to eat with plenty of friends who thought the service was poor simply because their expectations were too high. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike poor service just like the next guy, but I see no reason to hold a server to a standard I myself wouldn’t be able to meet. In my mind when a waiter or waitress puts forth a reasonable effort to make sure my needs are met, there’s no reason I should leave a bad tip.
That being said, what defines a good or bad tip? For good service anything less than 15% is a bad tip. Generally speaking, when I receive good service, I leave 20%. If the service is poor I will leave 10%. This is reserved for instances where it is obvious to me that the restaurant staff do not care that I’ve chosen their establishment to eat at. They can do this in a number of ways but the most popular are taking unreasonably long periods of time to take my order, not checking to see if I need anything shortly after ordering, or throughout my meal. Having enough water to drink is a big part of my tip.

10% Makes a Big Difference

When visiting restaurants the tip you give has a larger impact on the server’s life, than your own. This is because there’s strength in numbers. To illustrate this fact let’s consider the following numbers. Assume each bill is $50 and the restaurant is located in a state that sets the minimum wage for servers at $3.15.

Server Income at 10%
·      $5 per table @ an average of eight tables = $40
·      Avg. hourly wage of $3.15 in a typical eight hour shift = $25.20
·      Total = $65.20
·      Per hour total = $8.15

Server Income at 15%
·      $7.5 per table @ an average of eight tables = $60
·      Avg. hourly wage of $3.15 in a typical eight hour shift = $25.20
·      Total = $85.20
·      Per hour total = $10.65

Server Income at 20%
·      $10 per table @ an average of eight tables = $80
·      Avg. hourly wage of $3.15 in a typical eight hour shift = $25.20
·      Total = $105.20
·      Per hour total = $13.15

Although the difference between a 10%, 15%, and a 20% tip may not seem that large, when collected from every table over the period of a typical eight hour shift, the difference can really add up. Imagine the impact earning a steady $10.65 per hour would have on a young server’s life compared to $8.15. After comparing the numbers it’s pretty easy to see how big of a deal leaving a good tip is. For a server your tip can literally mean the difference between scrapping by, and paying all of the bills.

Now that I’ve had my say, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?


  1. I always tip 20% give or take a few cents (I like to round to the nearest dollar).

    If my bill is $12.08, I tip $2.92 to make it an even $15.00. I realize that is more than 20%, but eventually, it evens out. Someone will lose out if I get a bill of $21.95 as opposed to $20.95, because in either case, I'll tip to round it up to $25.00.

    My OCD doesn't help. :)

    1. I often just fill in the total to a round number and let the wait staff do the math. But yes, I leave a good tip, I just get lazy about filling out the form.

  2. 20% is the new 15%.
    And so much easier to mulitply by 2 and divide by 10.

    Yes, you do tip on the tax, the drinks, the dessert, what were you thinking?

    My server would have to physically assault me to get less.

    I can go higher for something extraordinary. Large group, accomodation of a special request by me or dining companions, excellent recommendations from the restaurant's new offerings, etc.

    1. Of course you tip on drinks and dessert. Your order it, you tip on it. But I don't mind when people don't tip on the tax. I usually just look at the total bill and tip, but it is not bad etiquette to not tip on the tax.

  3. I go with 20%. It's above the standard, and from the figuring out in the head point of view, it's very easy math to do.


Please share your thoughts.