Foreign Policy

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 12/1/2010

I love getting thoughtful emails from readers with questions, feedback, suggestions and stories. I received the following email a few days ago, and it raises an interesting question.

I read your blog all the time. It is a refreshing take on what we all talk about on a daily basis and truth be told, we all just want to be heard!

I was working last night (teaming with another server) and we had a table of 7 ladies, not originally from America, although they spoke pretty good English.  Their bill was $590.11 and when they paid (cash) they left $600. Yup, $9.89, a 2% tip.  Luckily, I work at a very popular restaurant in Boston and honestly although these kinds of tips truly hurt, we make great money, so what can you do? I am extremely grateful for the business we receive from all of our guests, and my level of service will never waiver based on any preconceived notions or stereotypes. It’s not in my DNA to provide less than professional service to everyone.

My question to you and your readers is this – How viable is the “Foreign customers don’t tip” mantra in 2010?  My reality is that most of the lower-tipping or non-tipping guests are from outside of America. Most people have instant access to all types of information, and that includes the customs of the countries we visit. If I went to London, I would already know how popular soccer is and would not ask to change the TV channel to baseball.  I would also know the custom for tipping at a restaurant in London to respect local protocol.

Whether it is a frame of mind from their country of origin or a lack of understanding, I (and many of the people in the restaurant biz) believe that the days of “They don’t know to tip 15% or more” should be over.  There’s too much information readily available online to use ignorance as an excuse for poor or no gratuity for great service (poor gratuity for poor service is another story).  Most people with a cell phone have the ability to research any subject, especially if they are traveling – Wouldn’t you want to know as much as possible about the area you are going to visit?

I am interested to hear what other restaurant professionals and your readers have to say about guests from other countries and how they tip.

Part of being a responsible guest in another country includes understanding the customs and cultural norms, and it’s also part of both the challenge and excitement of traveling internationally. So yes, international visitors should know the tipping protocol in American restaurants. Similarly, when Americans travel abroad, it’s incumbent on us to extend the same courtesies and respect for local customs and culture.

For the record, most Massachusetts restaurant servers make $2.63/hour. Hourly wages vary by restaurant and state. And yes, some do charge an automatic gratuity for large parties.

So what do you think?

What are your experiences when serving or dining with out-of-country guests or when visiting other countries?

Are the, “We didn’t know. We’re not from here.” excuses still viable when visiting other countries?

Please keep your comments respectful, inclusive and civil or they will be edited. Thank you.

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66 Responses to “Foreign Policy”

  1. alex gregg says:

    My personal belief is that the “we didn’t know” excuse is a cop-out. These people absolutely know, they are affluent enough to make the trip here, it stands to reason that they are intelligent enough to have researched our customs, and have then made a conscience and financial decision to ignore our customs based on the idea that they will never have to look at you or me again. Yes it is deplorable, but so are our respective states encouraging establishments to pay us so poorly (it is 2.13 here in Texas), leaving us long term professionals in continuous hot water with the I.R.S. The only solution I can forsee is unionization and discretionary auto-gratuity on anyone who you think may tip less than 20%, which by the way is the current standard, not the 15% of the seventies and eighties.

  2. Kat says:

    If that kid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_P._Fay) vacationing in Singapore could get publicly caned for not knowing (and breaking) local law, we should be able to provide suitable punishment for foreign under-tippers. Unfortunately, tipping is a custom and not a law. I think that rather than disparaging people who consciously or unconsciously ignore local customs, we should move for a living wage here in MA. For a state where the minimum wage is $0.75 above federal, for us to only make $2.63 an hour is an affront. Luckily, we’re not in agriculture: they only make $1.60 an hour.

  3. Justin says:

    Whenever I travel outside of the country I read at least one guide book specific to where I’m going. These books always have some kind of “local customs” section which explains tipping for restaurants, taxis, bars, etc. I think there is no excuse for being oblivious, especially considering how often I see international tourists carrying these books around.

  4. Chris says:

    I work in a very small country with a very good mix of customers that are from all over the world. I serve people from about 35-45 different countries on a regular basis. From my experience they all “know” what they should tip, they choose not to. I witness the selfish attitude of europeans just basically not care about the comfort of anyone around them. And there are some good ones, it’s just theres so many more that give them a bad name.

  5. Suzanne Harnish says:

    Further, to the server who spoke about the table of foreign American women, I wonder if his or her professional attitude would remain the same, if they returned the next evening? I would have a hard time giving them the same kind of service as I did previously.
    I was once a server in a seafood restaurant on the waterfront in Boston. I had a table of 9 German tourist. Who enjoyed their meals with no complaints. The bill was $500. One gentleman decided he would pay the entire bill.
    When I picked up the check there was no grat on it. I then went to the owner who then went to the table to see what was wrong with the service. The gentleman replied nothing, everything was wonderful. The owner asked if they understood that it is customary to leave a 15-20% grat.
    He asked if he had to leave a tip and owner replied again it is the custom in America. Once again the foreigner asked if he had to tip and the owner reiterated no it is the custom however. As the tourist left the building never to return I’m sure!
    Lucky for me the owner was a wonderful man and gave me $100 out of his pocket.
    So yes, they know that we tip in America and don’t care.
    Canadian friend of a friend said he doesn’t tip cause he doesn’t have to.
    Thank God there are nice people out there!

  6. Zoltan says:

    I personally believe that this is not just a non-american guest problem.
    I live and work in Hungary and experience such problems on daily bases with my American guests. I do not make more than 8% on average.
    When I worked in London, England I had an American lady asking me if I could help her because she is from the States and first time in Europe so she does not know what to eat! Ignorant people are everywhere.

    Good advice though to make them feel a bit ashamed, embarased.
    I usually- while working in London- ask them if anything was wrong with the service when someone did not tip. When they said no everything was exelent I usually brought up the tipping issue. Some did understand and tipped me some not, but this is life:)))

  7. nana says:

    That’s so hilarious! I was whining about the poor-tipping foreigners I had at today’s lunch! 3 top- $38.00 tab left a $3 tip. 4 top- $67.00 tab left a 7.00 tip.
    And even though I’m glad they tipped at all, the worst of it was their attitudes toward me- the one that says “you are an invisible servant.” The attitude that says, “every trip you make to the table is an annoying interruption of MY valuable time”.

    So maybe Europeans don’t expect the same relationship with their servers that we Americans do? They don’t view servers as personal attendants so much as gofers?
    And I think it’s very important to remember that they really don’t believe they should have to pay our salaries.
    There are only a handful of states that pay federal minimum wage to servers rather than the server minimum wage!

  8. Frederick says:

    As has been mentioned elsewhere in this blog, how a person treats the professional who is serving them is an indicator of their true social class, sometimes the ONLY reliable indicator. This doctrine extends across all countries and all cultures. Contrary to the image projected by the media, not every visitor to our country is a suave, sophisticated, educated, and classy individual. England has its ‘chavs’, Germany has its prolls, and Spain has its picaras.

    You can rest assured that any visitor to the United States is fully aware of our practice of discretionary tipping. It is possible that in the case mentioned in this article, the foreign ladies assumed the gratuity was built-in due to the large size of the party, since this is also a widespread custom here.

  9. David says:

    Not only is it not acceptable, it’s theft. I spent many years in the restaurant biz, but am now an attorney, so I do not use “theft” lightly. Consider this, if you went to the doctor for treatment and said, “I’ll pay for the supplies you used, but I don’t like your bedside manner, so I’m not going to pay your fees,” you’d get sued for the bad debt. Same thing if you hire someone to come over to cut your grass and then try to just pay them for the cost of the gas. If you did it repeatedly with a preconceived notion that you were not going to pay for the service, it’s criminal. As an attorney, I might occasionally cut someone a break, but generally, if they don’t pay for my time, they get fired as clients.
    With the occasional small tab, it’s not worth the trouble to complain, but at some point the manager has a duty to his employees to at least make an inquiry to see if there was some problem (real or perceived) with the service. If done properly, it should just come off like concern and not an accusation.

  10. Chris says:

    I think it is a cop-out for all the reasons previously noted.

    @Suzanne Harnish: I had a scenario similar to the one you outline happen to me. I was waiting tables at an upscale restaurant in my hometown (a busy MN summer resort town). I had my section reserved to handle a party of 12. That meant my tables sat empty once we got within the 1 hour mark of the reservation. The party was 3 families (2 kids each) from Canada. They hadn’t checked the menu in advance and we ended up doing all sorts of subs to make the kids happy. They were a friendly group and they let me know how much they enjoyed my service. At the end of the meal, they asked for the check to be split 3 ways. The best tip I got of the 3 was 10%. The other two were approx 5%. At the time I was pretty annoyed (to say the least) because I lost money on the tip and for the period in which my tables sat empty.

    They came back the next summer and ended up in my section again. I recognized them when they were waiting to be seated (don’t know how…guess I was more annoyed than I thought). Oddly enough, knowing going in that I was going to get the shaft made it easier to serve them well. Since my section was again taken by their party I focused on engaging them in fun conversation when appropriate and tried hard to make them happy again. My take on it was that my tip could only go up. I can’t say for sure that I would have been as happy or attentive had I been waiting on other tables who knew how to tip though, but in that specific instance it was a more enjoyable night than you would think. My positive vibe rubbed off and they had a good time too. My tip didn’t get much better (they split checks again) but it definitely could have been worse.

  11. Scott Powell says:

    One has to have the curiosity and desire to want to learn different customs and the ‘heart’ to behave accordingly. While there is abundant information available, availing oneself of it isn’t compulsory. Many visitors to the US come from countries where most service is included and mandatory (France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland), the Japanese from a culture where there is no tipping at all and it’s assumed that it’s the same here. Or, perhaps, that they are immune from local custom because they’re on vacation. From behaving well as well.

    The German in Suzanne Hamish’s story is unfortunate. He was put on the spot and turned macho. Never give a German an option!

    The American abroad is not the same as he or she is here. I consider myself a generous tipper but in London, one of the most expensive food cities on earth, I found myself wondering aloud once whether it would be OK to deduct the 17% VAT from a check, excuse me, bill before calculating the gratuity, as I would do with the tax here. That was in 2001 at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle and I was advised by a friend not to. Is that advice available on-line?

    A local story – Bobcat Bite is a family-owned, small but well-known hamburger place about 10 miles from downtown Santa Fe. The Sterns of Roadfood fame recently organized a culinary tour of New Mexico that included a visit by 30 people to Bobcat. The restaurant opened early to accommodate them. Stern left a $1 per person tip.

    What does that say?

  12. Eric says:

    I have to say, as a British person, sometimes when American tourists come over here and try to tip us it puts us in an awkward position. I don’t mind tipping if the service in a restaurant is good, nor if the food was good, but I think someone ought to start drawing lines in the “tipping culture” when we get American tourists tipping RETAIL workers for good service. Just saying.

  13. guy in the vi's says:

    As a long time server and bartender who’s now a manager I advise all of my waiters/bartenders to press that auto-gratuity button if you even get the feeling that the party (6 or more) will leave a tip under 15-18%. the risk isn’t worth it for big tabs.

  14. Chris says:

    It’s no excuse. There is too much info out there. I make a point of catering and customizing my service to guests from here and abroad to the way they would like to be served. I have learned practices of other countriesso to provide such service. All I ask is that the customs of tipping be honored.

    Tangent Note — It doesn’t help that high profile media folks like the “reporters” on Good Morning America and the infamous Oprah have told people that, becasue of economic hard times, it is acceptable to tip only 10%. I pray none of them EVER set foot in my bar.

  15. Marcel says:

    Being a European, now longtime US resident, I can say that it is not as easy as “read up on it, and you should know! “. Besides the confusion of when, where, how much to tip, there is a very strong conditioning as to what is right. I made the mistake of not tipping when I came to the states first, just because it seemed so utterly wrong to me, at a visceral level. Now, after many years of soaking in the Amercan tipping culture, I have trouble not tipping (as much) when abroad, which is just as much a faux pas. Not tipping now seems utterly wrong to me, again on a very personal level. It takes a deliberate effort to overcome those instincts.
    Really, to make it easier for everyone, a note on the menu and/or bill that says “tipping 15% for service is expected in the USA”, could make a big difference. It is much easier to follow clearly stated rules, than vague unstated ones, and if someone deliberately tries to stiff you, you only have to point at the note to make your point. (and this won’t piss of (semi) natives, like it would if the service were just added)

  16. alister says:

    As a Brit who has travelled a lot in the US, I’d like to share my experiences/thoughts. We’re not used to tipping everyone. plus we’re unsure of how much to tip, and for what. Now at a restaurant, we know it’s 15-20% or is it 18%? Is 15% bad service and 20% good?

    Back home it’s 10% but if the bill was 87 we’d give a straight 100 or if it was 92 we’d still often give a straight 100. So the German should have given either 650 or 700 – it depends on what I’ve ordered, should a $200 bottle of wine generate a bigger tip than a $40 one?

    One thing to be aware of though, we foreigners often leave cash but pay by card – I was at one place, one of our party was paying the bill at the desk using his card; he put 0.00 in tip, as he had cash in his hand to give as tip, before he could hand over the cash the waiter starts laying into him about no tip/working for free. Guess where the cash went, straight back in the wallet.

  17. Jack says:

    Eric, please remember that not all Americans are the same. Many of us positively HATE the practice of tipping. We feel the price of the food should be the price we pay, that all restaurant employees should get decent wages (above minimum wage) and most of all, that we should not have to bribe restaurant employees (or anyone else) to get good service. Now, personally, I don’t eat at high class restaurants (I also hate pretentiousness, so that whole “atmosphere” thing really turns me off) but it really gets me that even low class buffets (where you get your own food!) sometimes put up signs requesting that people tip (I freely ignore those – I get my own food and I’d be happy to get my plates and water too, rather than wait for some probably-underpaid person to bring them). But here is the thing, since I don’t tip but am made to feel guilty about it even at places that are on about the same par as a fast food joint, my response was to stop going out, except on very rare occasions. I can get some delicious microwavable meals in the frozen food section of my local supermarket, and I don’t get withering looks from anyone for not leaving a tip.

    So I think when you read this board, you should realize that there are two problems that exist. One is that many restaurant owners are cheap bastards that have somehow gotten government to exempt them from minimum wage laws. This is just wrong, but it’s not something within my control (if enough people thought like I do and stopped eating out, maybe that would change). The other problem is self-absorbed servers who see the customer as the problem rather than the real problem: Their cheap bosses. If all the servers would unionize and demand minimum wage, with the understanding that tipping can be eliminated (or become truly optional, as it once was and should be again), and also use their political clout (that they would have if they’d unionize) to repeal the exemptions to minimum wage laws for restaurant employees, then they wouldn’t feel so cheated when someone (who perhaps is in much worse financial circumstances than they realize) declines to tip.

    And before someone makes a snarky comment about me living alone and not having a social life, that is absolutely the case (and I like it that way). I can’t afford a social life, but also, I hate being around people who willingly perpetuate an unjust system. Maybe the thing that will force restaurant employees to get off their butts and do some collective bargaining, instead of acting like a bunch of spoiled teenagers, is if customers start refusing to tip en masse. I’ll bet no self-respecting server would work for two bucks an hour, no matter how bad the employment situation
    is. In my opinion a restaurant that pays that much is no better than a sweatshop in a third-world country, so why would you work there? In short, why are you blaming the wrong people (the customers rather than your cheap bosses) for this problem?

    BY THE WAY – I used to go eat about once a week at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. At times I went alone and at times I went with other members of my family, and none of us ever even thought of leaving a tip. My late mother saw another customer doing it once, and just couldn’t understand why someone would do that in a place where they had to serve themselves. Well, one day the restaurant put out a sign in the entrance, that said something like this “Servers/Bussers Wanted. Wage (about $2 an hour, don’t recall the exact amount) PLUS TIPS). The PLUS TIPS was highlighted and underlined. As a customer, I knew who that sign was directed at, and it sure wasn’t potential employees. I also noticed that day that the crowd was visibly thinner than it had been the last time I had visited (this had once been the top-performing restaurant in the state for that chain). I stopped going there and within a year or so the restaurant shut down, never to reopen. I’m sure they lost quite a few customers because of that sign. So, restaurant owners should realize that customers do not appreciate being coerced or guilted into tipping, and just pay their employees a decent wage.

  18. Emily Plunkett says:

    This is probably going to end up being an apology of sorts, but I’m Canadian, so I’m more than happy to do it when I can. :)

    Exactly one year ago this week, I actually dined in a pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (I think it might have been called Asgard). I know I didn’t order much, and I don’t know how much I tipped, all I know is that it couldn’t have been the customary 15% of my total bill. It’s extremely rare for me to be able to afford the full 15%, because the chances of me being able to afford to eat out to begin with is extremely low, and the trip I took last year was only possible because I have a friend in Waltham, and Greyhound offers extremely reasonable ticket prices for Stateside travel. (It may have taken 14 hours, but at $52 one way to Boston from Ottawa, I think I may be sold for life!)

    Bottom line is, just know that not all Canadians refuse to tip because we know we don’t have to – some of us try to do the best we can because we know that you’re doing the best you can!

  19. Leighann says:

    I am in complete agreement with the comment above referencing the availability of information on accepted practices and social norms in foreign countries. It leaves little tolerance for situations like this one. About to embark on a trip to London and Paris (for the first time) I find myself spending a good deal of time researching these things, learning basic French and studying transit maps so that I am not considered to be among the ‘ignorant tourists’ that seem to proliferating the traveling world today. It’s unacceptable, even more so when it takes someone’s livelihood into consideration.

  20. The problem with David’s argument is that there is no theft going on. You are told on the menu what the cost is for the food. There is no charge for the table or the service, that’s part of the food cost. And why the markup on food is so much, that’s the only way restaurants make money.

    Frankly, the examples you used just don’t make sense. You’re told ahead of time what the doctor’s fees are and what it will cost to cut the grass. It’s true that if you just don’t pay what you agreed to pay you’d get sued. But that is no way the same as not tipping.

  21. Patti says:

    As much as this conversation makes me want to write many points that have been addressed by comments made, I will stick to the main issue– except for one thing. The comment by Chris and the families that came back the next year, just made me smile. Chris, by serving them well and focusing on having a good time, you are a true server and a professional one at that! The reasons why we choose or chose this profession and life style are not all about money! Good for you, you deserve to be commended!

    I worked for over 25 years in the States as a waitress and absolutely loved it. Now I am back in Canada and had the thought that I worked in the wrong country! ;-) The minimum here is anywhere from 8 to 10 dollars an hour, plus tips! Sure in the past Canadians tipped 5-10% here, and brought that mind set with them when they traveled, but the tipping percentage is going up here, and I can’t say about when they travel as I am here now.

    I agree with those above who mention the fact that there are so many resources to let people know the customs of any given country, so really there is no excuse. I could say that it goes back to educating people or explaining the customs but as some of the comments about illustrate, that doesn’t even solve the problem. Or it could be the fact that they are on vacation and they know they will never see you again. There are a variety of “reasons”. I have the answer and it seems a tad bit too easy but here it is. THE GOLDEN RULE. I know, I know that’s a Pollyanna response, but it would work. If we all had the heart (said above) to learn and follow customs, it would be fine. If we followed the Golden Rule, we would have the heart! Or maybe we just need to make it mandatory for everyone to work in a restaurant for at least a month as their first job, and then they would understand. Until those things happen, we just have to be like ducks and let it roll off our backs while we love our jobs and do the best we can! Peace out!

  22. Alex says:

    I think ignorance is a reason, but not an excuse.

    Speaking as a foreigner here – I tried to make myself aware of the tipping situation because I spend a lot of time in restaurants. The tipping culture simply doesn’t exist in my country. It is a culture that happens to use terms we’re familiar with, like ‘gratuity’, so while the language is the same the meaning is not. It’s easy, given background, to assume it’s entirely optional. I found that many of my US friends couldn’t concieve that I might not understand it wasn’t since it was so natural to them.

    When we do seek information, what’s on the internet is conflicting at best (it even conflicts with what US friends told me once there). I’ve been told everything from 15% – 25% standard and also that it varies by state. I had no idea that I had to tip the guy who brings in my bag to the hotel, the taxi guy, the maid or how much – I asked a concierge. I moved states and the rules changed. From what I gather there’s a degree of personal choice involved, depending on the not-so-transparent server-patron relationship (quality of service).

    The other barrier to our education seems to be that it’s considered impolite for a server to educate someone (someone able to clarify that one?).

    So if we foreigners don’t tip it’s not always because we’re cheap (and some of us really are pretty cheap, I’ll grant). Some just aren’t aware of how important it is to a server’s income. Some aren’t diligent in learning about it (but if we weren’t forgiving of travelling faux pas, the world would suck). Some are also just jerks ;)

    In summary, we’re often ignorant but not always by design. If we’re being jerks, just treat us like regular cheap jerks ;)

  23. Sid Vithmad says:

    @Emily Plunkett: Emily, you wrote: “It’s extremely rare for me to be able to afford the full 15%, because the chances of me being able to afford to eat out to begin with is extremely low.”
    1) If you cannot afford to tip properly, DO NOT EAT OUT.
    2) 15% is not a “full” tip, it is the bare minimum for competent service. A “full” tip, for good service, is 20%.
    3) Servers in Massachusetts make $2.63 an hour. We depend on being tipped adequately.
    4) If you “cannot afford” to tip properly, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO EAT OUT, SO DON’T DO IT!

    (Inflammatory comments edited from this post.)

  24. Eleanor says:

    I am a resident and citizen of another Country but was a US resident for several years, and I totally agree with #15-Marcel’s comment.

  25. Alex says:

    I visited the US last year and was a bit jostled to learn that tipping was mandatory while attempting to pay my bill. Being from Asia I plainly didn’t know that; I do my due diligence before visiting another country but how can you anticipate mandatory tipping when you’ve been living in a system that advocates voluntary tipping or views tipping as an insult? It just doesn’t come to mind.

    So anyway with a look of concern I asked my waitress “Is your boss mistreating you”?

    Long story short, big embarrassment for me…big big embarrassment.

  26. Manny says:

    I almost always tip. But a tip is bonus for a job well done – for great service or great food.
    If the restaurant owner can’t or will not pay the staff a good enough salary then it is time to look for another job.

  27. MC Slim JB says:

    As an American, I probably should hold my tongue, as we are some of the ugliest tourists on the planet, most of us not bothering to learn anything about the local culture when we go abroad, not even a few words of greeting and thanks. I tend to keep my distance from my countrymen overseas: they’re just too embarrassing and rude, a bunch of ill-bred louts.

    But just as we have no excuse, no one visiting here has any excuse for flouting local customs, especially regarding tipping, which frankly isn’t complicated. I suspect there’s plenty of visiting tourists who know exactly what they should be doing and lean on feigned ignorance as an excuse. It’s loathsome.

  28. Suzanne Harnish says:

    My Reply to Emily Plunkett is; then do not eat at a pub if you can’t tip accordingly. Eat at Mcdonalds, you don’t have to tip there!!

  29. Ed says:

    This whole “foreigns” subject is quite personal in my case because working on a high end steakhouse with a good amount of business around, we do have a lot of out-of-country guests that are in business in the US. They do decide to take the whole office and guests to a nice place like my restaurant where the average guest expends between $ 85 / $ 100 and when we bring the bill they just choose to ignore the fact that they expend $ 1,000 and they think that 5 to 8 percent is a quite favor that they’re doing to us…
    Having other guests on the table that are local and know the whole tipping issue and decide to not “get involved” during the payment of the bill piss me off a lot but what get in my nerves is the fact that I do work for a corporate owned place that decide not include gratuity on large parties so at this point we’re on our own when comes down to getting robbed by foreigns…
    Corporate business don’t want to “hurt the guest feelings” and can terminate servers anytime regarding to tipping issues so at the end of the day is “screw the waiter” and tomorrow is a new day…

  30. As an American married to a European, I am ultra-sensitive to researching the norms of places that we visit abroad. Someone mentioned above about Americans being some of the ugliest tourists on the planet, and after many trips being painted with that stereotype, the only cause being my passport, I go above and beyond to respect and adhere to local customs even when that means NOT tipping, which feels so wrong.
    I do agree that in the US it can become confusing when you get to hair stylists, salon staff, etc., so when in doubt I tip 20% for good service/assistance and hope that it makes that person feel appreciated.

  31. Chris says:

    The tipping situation is always tricky:

    1. A tip is not mandated. It seems that the service is industry is always trying to push up the “standard tip” from 15% to 20% now despite the fact that server’s wages with respect to minimum wage haven’t changed significantly. Many salaried professions pay less than minimum wage, that’s reality. If service is adequate (meaning promptly coming to the table, providing helpful suggestions, food comes out as ordered (yes I expect the server to check), prompt refills, etc.), a tip is appropriate and the level should not be determine by a group of servers but by the individual. If service is not adequate, it is perfectly reasonable for the diner to give the server no tip or < 10%. If the service exceeds expectations, tip at your discretion.

    2. If your restaurant has an autogratuity policy and lists it on the menu, great, go ahead and enforce it. Don't be on of those servers who tries to auto-grat a party of 6 when your policy is 8 or 10. That's going to piss off a diner who notices and if it's me, lead to a no tip. It's offensive.

    3. Foreigners may know the customs but it doesn't mean they have to embrace them. If something is not in your wheelhouse you shouldn't be forced to change just to get a meal out when you're on vacation.

  32. Chris says:

    Ed:

    Your complaint rings hollow. The steakhouse you work for is making 1000 bucks off these guys, why would they complain. You agreed to work for the wages designated, your decision. Plus, if you do get an 8% tip on 1000 dinner that amounts to 80 dollars, which over 3-4 hours is 20 dollars an hour +. Can’t see how that is so bad considering you might have other tables you are covering. I understand that not all of that tip goes to you but still it’s not as bad as you make it seem.

  33. Big Paulie says:

    I’m with the school of thought that foreigners who’re here and dining in mainstream restaurants are savvy enough to know what’s going on, and if they under-tip are merely pretending not to know how to play the game. They’re just cheap.

    That being said, I’ve served some foreigners who really have trouble with the language who’re doing their best to mentally convert currencies and therefore grossly over-tip; I tell them that they have and they’re always grateful for the information, occasionally leaving the entirety of the large gratuity for the staff, anyway.

    I wonder if cheap tippers actually have any sort of conscience, or if they just blot it out. The stereotype of nurses and realtors being poor tippers is absolutely true. Do these people actually repeat-visit restaurants they’ve stiffed? Yes. And they expect to be served just like the guy who leaves $50 on a $27 tab. Personally, I let ‘em wait; some leave, some wait it out and suffer the small drinks, poor service and lack of attention.

    On the other hand, there are those of us, usually in a service industry, who leave a very large gratuity wherever we go, whether we’ll return or not. The look on a person’s face is worth it! I’m very grateful for the fabulous life I have today, and to “pay it forward” is to spread it around. And, frankly, there’re few things as nice as returning to a restaurant where you’ve tipped well and therefore the kind of attentive, personal service that’s provided only to “high rollers.”

    I don’t drink alcohol any more ’cause of my health; sometimes servers react visibly when I say “no” to the question “are you having anything to drink?” The reality is, a server is not going to spend the time on my table that he or she would spend on a table with a $50 cocktail bill and a $250 bottle of wine. One way I get around this when traveling to other cities is to order a soda at the bar while I peruse the menu, and tip the bartender heavily (at least a $20). This has never failed to get me a good seat with a great service — and no pressure to buy booze, either.

    Sure, tipping is voluntary and there’s no rule that one *must* tip except when there’s an auto-grat that applies to an entire class of party size. But I wonder what kind of other behaviors cheap tippers engage in. Near us, there’s a vegetable stand operated by an older couple and purchasers can weigh their tomatoes and squash and then pay on the honor system — in a little locked box. I wonder if the same folks who’ll stiff a server would steal farm produce? The situation is nearly the same, but for that one’s theft of services and one’s theft of goods.

  34. OK… hear goes… hold on Nelli!!! When this happens I instruct the servers to let me handle it as their floor manager. When I handle it as follows there is a 99% favorable outcome. It’s all in the delivery, my tenor and the tone of my voice…

    I address the table with a smile but a smile of puzzle and concern.

    I bow ever so slightly placing my right hand over my heart and tap it so as to convey a sense of respect and non confrontational tenor.

    I address all of them giving each my eye contact.

    “Ladies, we are honored that you have been our guest and have favored us as well as our country with your visit.

    I have been told by my staff that possibly your dining experience did not meet with your expectations. As the manager I am obliged to ask you what if anything displeased you.”

    Normally at this point they are all shaking their heads and saying… everything was lovely, wonderful, delightful… THEN THEY ASK THE PIVOTING QUESTION “NOT ME – THAT IS THE TRICK”… They proceed to ask me… why I say this?

    “Because our minimum gratuity is 15% and you tipped 2% which is translated here in America to mean that you were not happy with us… therefore my duty and question begs to be answered.”

    Right about then, apologies begin to reverberate… they all open their purses and the cash falls out onto the table. 99% of the time it is well over the 20%. THE END!

    Everyone leaves happy.
    No one has been offended.
    The crew is “satisfied”.
    War is over!
    Done

    Hope this helps!

  35. Chris says:

    ” I wonder if the same folks who’ll stiff a server would steal farm produce? The situation is nearly the same, but for that one’s theft of services and one’s theft of goods.”

    This is completely inaccurate. Stealing goods is illegal. When you eat at a restaurant you are paying for food and service as part of your bill. Servers choose to work at a restaurant knowing full well what the hourly salary provided is and what the potential tipping environment is present. There is no law or mandate that you tip. It’s courteous, good social etiquette, etc. but it is certainly not illegal or along the same lines as stealing.

  36. Mike R says:

    “Oh, I didn’t know.” I call B.S. on this one. You have a voice and probably access to the internet, you can always ask. When I go to Europe or Asia, if I can’t find it out online(which is never), then I can always ask. I will sometimes ask the server what the tradition is to make sure. If you can put up with the rude people in the world to make your living, then you deserve my hard earned cash for doing it.

  37. aphonik says:

    Let’s take this discussion a bit downscale, shall we? As an American who has traveled very little outside of the states, my one experience with foreign tipping customs (or lack-of-tipping customs) occured a few years back when I worked for a small British company with an office in New Jersey. My boss at the time — a crass, misogynistic fellow — was from the UK and for a business lunch one day he opted to take the five of us to the local HOOTERS. (I cringe even now.)

    The food was unremarkable (it being Hooters) but our waitresses were pleasant and competent enough, yet when it came time to pay the bill the two British men in our party refused to tip. They knew full well that tipping was customary in the states but simply refused out of principle. I made the point that servers aren’t paid more than a few dollars an hour and depend on tips for the bulk of their income but it made no difference to them. I was horrified and wound up tipping for the entire table. A terrible experience all around. (Needless to say I was THRILLED when I left that job for good a few weeks later.)

    And I agree with the other commenters here: if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford to eat out. End of story.

  38. Soldiner says:

    This is an issue for your employer. We automatically state on our menu 5 or more = 18% gratuity. Upon recieving the bill, it is automatically generated with gratuity. Foreign, cheap, age, race, 5 or more, gratuity should be automatically generated to the bill. If the patron asks or has an issue, the manager should explain the policy and possibly remove or discount the expected gratuity. If it becomes an issue, 98% of the times customers understand when it is explained to them.

    I was serving a private party many years ago and I learned my lesson. A 22 person bill was $2,500. My busser was already counting his money before the shift started. I had great communication with the guest, he was raving about the service, food, atmospehre at the end of the meal. I did not put the gratuity on the bill and he asked me how much should I tip? I explained it was like IHOP; If it was adequate service 12-16%, If it was good service 20%, If it was the best service you ever had and would come back because of me and request my service 25%. He explained that the gentleman at the other end of the table makes $300 per week and he could not justify a $500 tip for a 3-hour meal. I recieved sixty bucks that went to the busser and I tipped out the bar out of pocket. I always put the gratuity on after that. Lesson learned.

  39. Lou says:

    I have a million thoughts on this:
    First…of course they know with all the info on the internet.
    Second…tipping should not be mandatory…bosses should pay a living wage…but since they don’t, it is what it is.
    Third…I worked in a hotel/restaurant in a resort area and they had a slip that was inserted in all check presenters that said something like “We welcome all our foriegn visitors and hope you enjoyed your meal experience. It is customary in the USA to leave a gratuity of 15-20%. Thank you and please come back.” It was written in 4 or 5 languages. As a result…if you were stiffed, you knew it was not ignorance…just flat out cheapness. And as a result, as a server, you felt better.
    Fourth…I travel away from the States every year and make the efffort to be a non-ugly American…learn the local customs etc. and act accordingly. If I can do it…so can anyone.
    and Fifth…If you can’t afford to tip, don’t go out. Fast food is your answer.

  40. david jones says:

    I am an English bartender currently working in one of the most famous places in Italy and have had the chance to come across a very wide spectrum of nationalities and their attitude towards tipping it is always a tricky subject to deal with but at the end of the day the tip is essentially a gift from the customer to the server. It is a personal thank you for a job well done. Anyone who recieves them should feel pleased with themselves for having done their job to such a level of satisfaction that a complete stranger feels compelled to hand over their cash to them and to feel ‘stiffed’ because they haent given you the correct percentage is a churlish attitude and the fact that such a thing is expected almost to the level of being imposed in the United States is part of the reason why people visiting the country will pay 8% or even refuse to pay at all. You get paid to do your job, if that job does not cover your basic needs then you need to find another one and if the situation of low wages is institutionalised then surely there are enough people in the industry over there to make some real political change to rely on other peoples kindness is foolish in the same way as trying to earn a safe living from gambling and dictating to them the level of that kindness is insulting and to the rest of the world ridiculous.

  41. Melinda says:

    Wow! I am a 20-28% Tipper every time we go out to eat. After reading these posts, I’m not going to be going out much anymore. Seriously, the dishonesty and problem here lies with the restaurants. Pay your people, post your additional expenses honestly (FOOD $, DRINKS $, DESERTS $, ADDITIONAL $$ TO PAY MY EMPLOYEES WHAT I WON’T, PLUS TIP $) so you have to be accountable for being so cheap, and get the feedback from your customers that you deserve. There are many good restaurants that take care of their employees. Some states pay minimum wage to servers, so in our state, we have never been told that we are SUPPOSE to make up the servers basic pay. We tip according to the quality of service with a suggested starting point of 15%. I say that having been a server myself, as well as my mother, sisters, nieces, and daughters. I am not a foreigner. The HOSTILITY that some of the servers express is insightful. Why would I take my family out, and spend some very hard earned money, only to be exposed to this attitude? We recently traveled a 5000 mile circle of the United States. Our best “A +” experiences were in Bend, Oregon, South Bend, Indiana, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Helena Montana. Our grade “B” experiences in Utah, Nevada, North Dakota, Idaho, were pleasant. Both stops in Kansas were just unhappy, grouchy and downer experiences. Good gracious Kansas, smile a little. Chicago, sorry you were so put out to take an order with no changes or substitutions, no service, no smiles, no refills, but nice touch to look at the tip, THEN try to fake some friendliness as we were going out the door. Yep, I’ve been a strong advocate for fairness of people of the service industry, but I’m seeing a shift to rudeness and entitlement just like those we were most offended by.

  42. P mac says:

    A well-dressed German couple came into the Big Downtown Steak House where I work, just last evening, and were seated 1/2 hour before closing and rang up a bill of over $200. I engaged them in some good conversation.

    They were a bit weary from a full day’s travel overseas. We all know how awful that feels, and I made sure that that they had alll the smiles, comfort and great food that they were hoping for, as I do this for a living. There was no “rush” to get them out and they enjoyed themselves throughout the meal. Service was “spot on”, I must say. We had introduced ourselves with hand shakes before their first course arrived.

    After their two hour dinner, I presented the bill. The line on the credit card slip where one is supposed to add the gratuity was filled in with a slash mark, and the bill was totaled up with no tip what-so-ever for the server..me.

    The slash mark alone spoke for itself. If it wasn’t mandatory to tip, then why should I, was all I could see.

    There isn’t one single grown woman or man on this planet who travels to the USA on business who doesn’t understand the “tipping” system in this country, I assure you. Was this subject ever brought up amongst peers at some point in their business education? HELL,YES! Many of them see “tipping” as on optional expense, unlike the sales tax in American department stores that they abhor.

  43. Jasmyn Mead says:

    Waiters in the US are exploited by their employers. Nowhere else in the world would you be able to get away with not paying a wage or paying close to nothing so your staff must rely on your customers for a pay check. Americans are so complacent when it comes to things like this.

  44. Simon says:

    For Europeans, enforced tipping feels like a shake down. Imagine you buy a car at a dealership. When presented with the invoice you are told you now have to add 20% to cover the salesman’s wages because the dealership doesn’t want to pay the guy enough. THAT is exactly what it feels like to us. In Europe, staff are paid a fair wage and when we see the price of a meal, that is the price it will be. Don’t tell me it’s optional and then get bitchy if I exercise the option to not tip, or to tip less than YOU think is “fair”.

    My perspective comes from being Britsh but having lived and or worked in the States for several years. Whilst in the US I tip well, but only when the service warrants it. I also cut down the percentage at very expensive places since I think the restaurant (that is charging $100+ for a meal) should pay their staff well.

  45. nana says:

    I must reiterate!! FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE for service workers is $2.13 per hour. Getting paid $2.63 is considered generous! FAIR? NO. Organize? In the U.S. I doubt it. The mere mention of organizing got me “forced out” of Starbucks years ago- and we were paid well and had benefits!
    I don’t know about anyone else, but none of the severs in my restaurant works 40 hours a week – you can’t get that many shifts! If your tips do not amount to at least $7.40 per hour over the pay period, your employer must pay you the difference!
    FYI 30+ years ago when I started out servers were paid $1.90 per hour.
    The fact of the matter is we depend on tips to survive, good, bad or otherwise. If you can’t deal with it, don’t participate in the system. Think about it next time you buy anything made with “slave” labour. Diamonds, shoes, COFFEE, books, clothing. At least we are Americans with American jobs!

  46. Brett says:

    Simon, thank you so much for taking out your frustration on the waiter for his/her manager not paying them more. So great to see that scoundrel of a waiter get his/her due for giving great service – thanks for taking the intitiative, since that waiter should know better than to work at a high-end establishment.

    On a lighter (more sane) note, whether we agree with the principle of tipping or not and whether we feel the gratuity should be included in the cost of the item so the restaurant can just pay their staff a decent hourly wage, is unfortunately not up for debate. In this country there is a set of rules regarding the purchase of goods and services at restaurants. These rules (unwritten of course) stipulate that the customer orders and pays for their chosen products. It also stipulates (albeit not by law, but by implied appreciation) that the customer is paying for SERVICE as well. This includes but is not solely attached to: greeting of guests, espeically well known guests/bringing of drinks/taking orders and timing the orders in comfortable fashion so each guest may enjoy each course without being rushed/opening and pouring wine for table/taking away of dirty dishes/laying out new silverware, etc/taking and delivering of coffee, etc. orders and proper, attentive service throughout. If these (and other) tasks are not handled up to the satisfaction of the guest, then that guest has every right to decrease the gratuity to what they deem a more suitable amount (one that matches the service). However, if that same guest has enjoyed their time at said restaurant, has had no complaints and has generally found their experience to be enjoyable, then it is asked of that guest to add gratuity to the bill as a sign of appreciation towards their server. Usually that gratuity is between 18-20%.

    Oh yeah, I forgot one more thing. Stop with the “I shouldn’t have to pay my mechanic more than the bill says” b.s – this industry pays roughly 1/4 of the national MINIMUM WAGE by the hour. EVERY server/bartender/etc in this business DEPENDS on gratuity to make a livable salary. My co-workers and friends in this business are some of the hardest working people I know and put up with more aggravation during the course of one shift than most anyone else – it is not a perfect system, but please don’t think you are changing things for the better by not tipping – in other countries, etc., it may not be the custom. IT IS HERE. All we are asking is that our guests (local and foreign) respect that custom.

  47. Chris says:

    obviously, these post are predominantly from those in the restaurant/service industry and your determination of appropriate is different than others.

    You gripe about the bad tippers but more and more customers are complaining about servers/bartenders who care more about the tip than the service and expect a tip regardless of the service provided. When someone eats in a restaurant they are paying with the price of the meal for the food, the establishment upkeep/etc, and basic service. If not, all restaurants would be like Cosi or someother where you order, pick up your own food, and sit down and eat. That is not the standard of american restaurants.

    Personally, I think that tipping has gotten out of hand. For example, I ordered take out from a local steakhouse on my way home. For the steak and potato it was 35 bucks which is fine. I eat in the restaurant frequently but almost never get carryout. I went to the bar to pick up my food, paid for my food, and got ready to leave. the bartender was checking to see if I left a tip before I even had turned around. I dont tip on carryout so she was sorely dissapointed but this attitude is what’s wrong with restaurants today.

  48. Liza says:

    in new zealand you generally only tip your server when the service is above and beyond what you expected. tbh, ive noticed that my american customers dont tip my service even when i know they have had amazing service. i find australians are the best since they understand the work that goes into amazing service…
    when i travel to the states (every 2 years on average, and always on a very strict budget) i find myself resenting having to pay 20% extra on my meals when i feel the service hasnt been up to the standard that 20% deserves. if i have to pay an extra 20 percent on top of my meal, then your service better be spot on, or else i will argue the point.
    i think that a lot of servers in the states have become complacent with receiving that extra 20 percent and expect it no matter how bad their service is… becasue on my last trip over there, if i had the choice, there was only one guy in 6 weeks that would have earned his full 20 percent, and one chick would have earned approx 12 percent, and i say thats high, because she was new, and stressed out at our large group… her service was really average.
    so, if youre going to complain about the tipping, maybe look at your service.. did you go above and beyond the absolute basics? becasue i went to some really nice places with my family over there, and the staff did the bare minimum and still expected 20 percent

  49. Eleanor says:

    As an Australian who has travelled extensively around the world, I can honestly say that the service I received whenever I dined out in the United States was BY FAR THE BEST. Good service is one of the most important factors for me when I eat out at a restaurant. When I resided in the United States, I always gladly left at least a 15% to 20% tip.

    To Liza above-I’d say that the reason your American customers don’t tip you in New Zealand is because they’ve probably been informed, like I was, that it is not customary to tip in NZ-I lived in NZ and didn’t usually tip for this reason.

    To Penelope above- Love the way you deal with ignorant foreigners.

  50. Emily Plunkett says:

    I really don’t want to stir anything here, and I don’t want to cause trouble by kind of sharing my side of the whole story, but the idea that probably one of the greatest and most meaningful trips I’ve ever taken in my entire life being spoiled by a renewed feeling of guilt isn’t sitting well with me and I’m actually quite hurt.

    I don’t go out a lot at all. I, like most of the workers this blog represent, have worked in low paying service jobs my entire adult life – or since I had to abandon school to deal with my first bout of full on clinical depression. I don’t make a lot of money, and what I do make and am able to save goes towards concerts and small trips that I take with my friends here and there that have helped my depression more than any pill. It gives me hope, I get to meet amazing new people from all over the world, and I feel a level of acceptance I wouldn’t otherwise get by hiding myself away in my apartment. All of the trips I take (especially since moving to the big city just over a year ago) are as budget as I can manage. I’m usually in a group where we split gas and hotel rooms, I attend concerts that never cost more than $30 a ticket and when we do eat out, I’d rather hit up a Tim Horton’s/McDonald’s, a food court or even skip a meal than walk into a bar or a restaurant. It’s the experience at the concert and with my friends that’s paramount, not how I spend my money beyond the concert hall. (To fully understand how important these trips are to my emotional well being, please read these blog entries I wrote: http://emilyplunkett42.blogspot.com/2009/07/underwhelmed.html,
    http://emilyplunkett42.blogspot.com/2010/08/underwhelmed-pt-2.html, http://emilyplunkett42.blogspot.com/2010/10/underwhelmed-pt-3-repeat-business.html.)

    But when you’re out with friends and/or miles away from home, it’s inevitable that you may be ushered into some kind of eating establishment that’s somewhat beyond your budget, but rest assured, I always make sure I have extra on me just in case. When I go to these places, I never splurge. I usually end up ordering a small appetizer and I save any alcohol consumption (if I decide to drink at all) for the show – so when I do leave my tip that’s anywhere between $2 and $5 (I don’t ever do the math by the way, I just make sure I’m leaving more than $2), it IS the minimum 15% or at least the closest I can get. And sometimes, it’s a lot more, especially when you’re eating all-day breakfast at an awesome hole-in-the-wall diner and your bill comes to less than $10!

    I do everything in my power to make sure everyone is treated fairly in my circle, from my friends, to the new face that just happens to be serving my garlic bread and glass of water. If I didn’t make the effort to get out and try to experience as much as I can with the little money I have, than I’d be sitting on my ass day in and day out feeling sorry for myself and my situation would never improve. I’m really sorry if the way I tip isn’t satisfactory to what’s accepted as the norm, but it’s the best I can do when times are tough both financially and personally. I’m sorry if I’m not as affluent as those who frequent restaurants on a monthly or even a bi-monthly basis, but I need an odd night out with my friends as much as I need air to breathe. But please don’t judge me or make me feel guilty for what extra money I’m not able to leave. All I can say is that I’m trying my best and I’m sorry for being a disappointment.

  51. Drew says:

    I believe it simply comes down to the point that a tip is discretionary as well as service charge in most, if not all venues in places such as Boston and London (where I work). Some people simply don’t tip whether they get great service or not. They could be at TGIs or The Savoy.

    Additionally, I don’t think people should feel forced to tip – at the end of the day it’s your money. I tip every restaurant meal I have (unless the service is DIRE) and I always ensure that service charge goes to staff as this commonly doesn’t happen in the UK and it’s legal for companies to pay the service charge as a top up to your wages so you don’t actually receive the SC as a SC.

    I completely understand that in America the vast majority of hospitality staff are on a very low wage because society in America believes that tipping is the norm and that’s how it is justified. It’s been that way for decades.

    Yes information is widely available on foreign cultures but that doesn’t mean every single foreigner knows all foreign cultures no matter how common they are. To assume makes an Ass out of U and ME. I’m sure there are plenty of people that don’t know bowing in Japan is how you “say” hello and goodbye. That occurs a lot more than tipping.

  52. Jake says:

    The first thing I saw was that the server had a table of seven (7). Most establishments have a house policy of a mandatory gratuity on parties of six (6) or more. In this case I think the server(s) should go to management and insist on such a policy. The rationale is simple: When there is a table that large it requires more attention and workload and finally in states that have a tip credit on their hourly employees it ensures compliance and that there is no issue on taxes.

  53. Liza says:

    i remember getting into a “discussion” with a manager of a restaurant in LA over tipping becasue they had added 20% tip to my meal when i had got no service whatsoever. i refuse to tip if the service doesnt warrant it. i dont care if you dont get paid much, if you arent doing the work, you arent getting my extra cash its as simple as that. the other thing i find amazing about the states is that nothing is actually the price its advertised.
    in a restaurant its the tip.
    in a department store its the tax…
    i find it fascinating that i have to really make sure i have at least double what i was planning on going out with because i have to add tax to everything, and potentially tip someone.

  54. alex gregg says:

    Chris:

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. On a $1000 tab (when I was a server) I expected $200, at least. A tab that big will take a server’s entire section for most of the night, and after tipping out the bar, backwaiter, maitre’ d, and sommelier, I’ll be lucky to see $150. Now take your ridiculous $80 claim, it works out to be about $60 walking cash. Do you think that is an acceptable wage for a PROFESIONAL who has spent years studying cuisine, wine, spirits, cocktails, and etiquette? I should think not. And when calculating the hourly wage, you have to factor in set up and break down of the large party, so now we’re at six hours, which equates to $10 an hour. Come on! At 20% I would be making about $25/ hr which is acceptable, but still only a mediocre night.

  55. Chris says:

    Alex:

    I didn’t say that $10/hour is great money. But when you have servers complaining they are not even making minimum wage an example like yours shows that this is not the case, even with a poor tip. While you spent “years” educating yourself, the primary purpose of your job is to be friendly, take orders, ensure they are prepared appropriately, and present them. Other additional skills are great and appreciated but not implicitly required at the majority of restaurants. For a job that requires no formal degree/education, $10-25 (your figure) an hour is pretty good in my estimation.

  56. BA says:

    I’m so confused by the apparent desire in the United States for waiters and waitresses to be subsidised by tips.
    Here in Australia, a tip is only ever provided for excellent service, and is definitely not expected. I often tip, because I’ve been lucky to have great servers in many restaurants, but there’s no rule about tipping. When I travelled to Europe, waitresses there would actually be surprised if I was tipping more than a few Euro, and one made a point of asking me if I was sure I wanted to tip so much (it was only 5 EUR). I also understand that in many places around the world, to leave a tip is seen as demeaning.
    The fact that employers in the US seem to have this need to have their employees working for no real base wage is disgusting. $2.63/hour? Here, that would literally be criminal. Although, having never been to America, I find a number of money-related things strange there – like not including tax in a quoted price. Seriously??

  57. isileth says:

    I am not American and I don’t understand why I should tip someone for just doing his/her job, especially if they are doing it without respect for me.
    It’s not my fault if in the USA service people are underpaid.
    Where I live the restaurant bill includes service and if you want to tip you can, but you are not forced to.
    And the tip is something you should earn, not expect.
    I was once in NYC and most of the times the service was bad.
    The receptionist at the hotel was impolite, moody and bored-looking.
    She also corrected us when we dared to ask the key for our room saying “two hundred twenty” and she said, in a very annoyed voice “two twenty”.
    Other servers didn’t even try to speak in something resembling to English and nearly threw the menu in our faces when we asked for it, in order to be able to understand what they were mumbling about.
    I knew before going to the USA the “tip” thing, but I only tipped when the service deserved it.
    Try and be helpful and you’ll get to be tipped, be a jerk and you can forget it.

  58. Dmon says:

    I take my mom out once in awhile. She would never eat out by herself. She doesn’t see why I have to tip more than $1 for them to bring the food.

    I normally don’t tell her how much I’m tipping so she doesn’t feel bad.

    Why should the price of the meal determine the amount of the tip? if the service is the same? If the a server serve me my burger and fries at a diner for 5 bucks and I tip him $1 and the same server serve me my burger and frieds at a bar for 10 bucks, why should the tip be $2?

    The whole tip thing doesn’t make sense. I normally tip 20% though, even at buffets. Sure I’m getting my own food but they are clearing my table and do more work than some other place.

    Heck, most of the time I order take out so I don’t have to tip the server… but the people packing your food feel like they deserved tips… while I understand that it takes more work to properly pack food than it is to serve on a plate… and that they should get compensated…I think the whole tip thing is crazy.

    I hear server complain about tips but I always wonder why they get rid of the whole tip thing. I have a friend who was a waitress. She made more money on a weekend than she does during her part-time job. Even though server complain, how many of them would take the min. wage for server to be $7-$10 and tip no longer exist?? I’m guessing a lot won’t want that to happen.

    And the 3 bucks min wage… what people don’t mention is that, it’s 3 bucks min wage but if they don’t make enough to met the 7 bucks min wage with tip, the employer needs to pay up. My guess employer would just fire that server though…

    Also, I have got way better services in foriegn countries where you don’t have to tip. Some of them refuse tip so I would’ve to order them drinks or something to say thank you. Some of them would even give me more food because of that. The whole tip on good services is stupid. Good services should be part of the job.

  59. Inara says:

    As a Canadian who makes regular trips to the US and generally tips 20% for decent service I recently had an experience that made my jaw drop and had my friend physically dragging me out of the restaurant.

    During peek hours we went for dinner. Understandably we waited patiently, were seated, ate as quickly as possible. Neither of us asked for anything special, (the service wasn’t spectacular, not even great, just decent) and gave what we assumed would be appropriate tips. Mine was 60% & hers was 75%. Granted the checks were inexpensive, but we’re aware of the tipping culture that is the US. The waitresses response is my issue. She had the nerve to be offended by the tips we left!

    This isn’t the first time we’ve had this happen, which makes us want to tip less or not at all. Why should we do so if the service isn’t tip top and we get growled at for a tip that anywhere else would be great?

  60. marissa says:

    THEY SO KNOW HOW TO TIP! they’re just pulling that “i’m not from here, i dont know” crap..

  61. LQ Clark says:

    I waited tables in NH where you really rely on tips, so I get how important they are. So I agree that a person should research the places they will visit, BUT it doesn’t automatically mean you will get everything right. I find it interesting that so many here think that because they read the guidebooks they did not offend someone in a service job elsewhere. I’m betting that there are plenty of waiters in Europe who have stories to tell about rude/insensitive Americans who remain clueless that they goofed despite the research.

  62. Jorunn says:

    I’m Norwegian and let me tell you, we know perfectly well you tip in the States. WE KNOW. We hear about it, see it in plenty of films and read it in guidebooks when we research our trip.The lags who say they didn’t know are lying to get out of leaving a tip. Most people here are offended at the idea (to them) of just throwing away money and giving some to a perfect stranger for nothing (to them). They don’t really get the system in the US. I have come to see it differently and tip, I hope well.
    My American sister-in-law lives here and refuses to tip when she goes home because “It just perpetuates the reason for low wages”. Never mind it cheats the hard-working servers.

  63. stillson says:

    I find the concept of tipping when you receive subpar service quite odd.

    I also don’t get the entire percentage. Why do I have to tip more if I order wine instead of water, or a lobster instead of a soup?

  64. Tim says:

    I enjoy the tipping system. I think it’s an automatic way to incentivize servers to do their job well. Think back on any kind of negative customer service interaction you’ve had with someone: a rude receptionist, unhelpful technical support, a slow bank teller. If you controlled how much money they ended up with in their pocket at the end of the day, I would wager they would be trying their best to have you leaving happy. I work as a server in an extremely busy restaurant and work hard to ensure that every customer I interact with has a positive experience and my average tips are over 20%.

    The service I’ve received in the US also far surpasses service I’ve received in other countries, where servers make money regardless of how well they’re doing their jobs. I once spent 15 minutes trying to flag down a waiter in a restaurant in Paris just to get another carafe of water, at a Thai restaurant that boasted spicy entrees on their menu. And I’ve also more than once had to get up and go to the bar to order myself another drink directly from the bartender instead of having to wait for an inattentive server to offer another round. Things like that happen much more infrequently where tipping is involved. This is not to say I haven’t also had great service abroad, but those exceptions were all four star restaurants with very well-trained staff.

    If you get terrible service, by all means, don’t tip well, talk to a manager and voice your dissatisfaction. But if you enjoy the comforts a tipping system have provided, help reinforce it and leave 20%.

  65. almostfree says:

    If I owned a restaurant, I would require the tip be left ahead of time. Based on your bill/how much of a mess your children made before the food was even served, you would receive that percentage of service for the duration of the meal. That way, tip is built into the check and nobody is surprised or upset at the end of the meal. Trust me, most servers would be able to give the correct varying degrees of service. We already do it to an extent – autograt 20%? You have my full attention. You’re 35 years old and came in for a kids meal and a Shirley Temple? Sorry, I’m going to be more concerned about refills for the autograt table.

  66. Cesar says:

    Please forgive this post is a tangent from the original thread

    I agree with stillson above, when confused with the pecentage of tipping.

    An example from a michelin starred restaurant. I can order two different meals, equivalent number of courses and end up with very different total costs. Let’s take it further and say the two are sitting at the same table.

    Person A ends up with $58 bill
    Person B ends up with $27 bill

    If the server is doing the same amount of work, remember they are at the same table, why should the tip for Person A be twice that of Person B?

    This example is without drinks. I have also been treated very rudely for not ordering drinks or an appetizer. What if I am an alcoholic?, what if I just like water?

    Why do I get worse server than someone who orders a bottle of wine?
    Should I tip more if I order a $150 of wine or a $50 bottle. They are getting glasses and opening for both bottles why does one merit a larger tip?

    very interested in comments perhaps I should make this a separate post.

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