Is the practice of tipping out of hand? Who’s to say what a good or bad tip is for service received? Who should we tip?

I’m not against tipping. Not at all. But isn’t tipping supposed to be a reward for good service? Seems we no longer apply that reasoning to tipping. It’s now expected.

I think I’m a generous tipper. But I also think it’s time to reconsider how it works.

For example, why should a party of two spending $100 tip the same amount as a party of six spending $100? The server works a lot harder for that party of six. Just because the food I order is more expensive, does that mean the server worked harder?

This actually happened to us recently. Tim decided to order a pretty expensive dinner – crab legs. So, we had a hefty bill. But I don’t think the server deserved a $20 tip because he didn’t give us that much attention. He barely even stopped by our table to ask about drinks, let alone anything else. He was quite busy, however, with several large groups that undoubtedly filled his section a lot longer than we did. If we don’t tip 20%, will something bad happen?

I was a waitress when I was 18 and 19. I worked at a Country Kitchen, which wasn’t a high-end eating establishment by any means. Like many servers, even today, I relied on tips to make my money. But you don’t make a lot of money on $3 meals. (Remember, that was almost 50 years ago.) However, I’d bet I worked just as hard, or harder than someone working at a fancy restaurant serving $10 meals. Yet they made more money than I did.

Also 50 years ago, the standard tipping rate was more like 10%. When did it start being 20%?

During the pandemic, we ordered a lot of takeout meals and tried to be generous with tipping, knowing restaurants were struggling. It seems, though, now that’s expected. If you order online for takeout, you’re always asked about leaving a tip. We do, but I’m starting to think that’s crazy. What’s the tip for?

I’ve even started to notice places that never expected tips are including it as an option when you check out. Should I leave a tip when all I do is order something and even get my own drink? I don’t think so.

At a recent spring training baseball game, I ordered food at a concession stand and paid with a credit card (many don’t even take cash anymore). Before I could pay, I had to choose whether to leave a tip. Are you serious? Now we’re expected to tip for concessions?

According to this report, 47%% of Americans tip 20% at dine-in restaurants. 58% of the respondents in their survey said they increased their tipping during the pandemic. That’s consistent with what we did. Do we have to keep it up?

The article also states that 68% still tip based on the level of service and that some have left nothing if they thought the service was unsatisfactory. I’ve always heard you leave just a penny if you want to make a point about the service.

I think it’s become harder to avoid tipping because of the way we pay at some places. Many use a handheld device, which they give to you when it’s time to determine the tip and sign. What if you choose 0? I have done this, such as in the concession example above. I didn’t think handing me two bottles of water deserved any kind of tip. Was I judged for that?

If you order takeout and pay online, do they see what you leave for a tip? And does that influence how fast you get your food or the quality of it? I sure hope not but I guess I don’t know.

What are your thoughts about tipping? I thought about doing a poll but decided to just ask for your comments on this post. Please let me know.

22 thoughts on “Tipping”

  1. Where I live, leaving a tip is a big No! No! Employees should be paid a high enough wage to retain their personal dignity. The minimum wage here is $22 per hour and casual workers get another loading of 25%. Customers do not pay the wages of the staff. Never. That is the employer’s responsibility. Perhaps you could lobby your politicians about treating all people with respect and demonstrating that through adequate wages.

    1. Wow!! Employees here would love your minimum wage. Where do you live?
      There have been many attempts at raising our minimum wage but employers balk. I don’t see our situation changing anytime soon.

  2. I pay a flat 20 without fail. If service is good I go above. But wait people depend in tips to make their living, right or wrong. And most things that make us unhappy are out of their hands..I mean if the food is late,thats not a waiter issue. There is also a severe shortage of restaurant staff. But i.dont pay at Panera or at the Starbucks drive thru. I also give my hair gal.20 percent.

    1. We are typically 20% tippers. Yesterday, at Subway I chose no tip. We did endure a time with staff shortages but it seems to be gradually improving. Not what it was before COVID but better. I also tip my hair stylist even though she’s self employed. I gave her $10 when I paid her $100 and still $10 now that it’s only $42.

  3. IMHO, tipping removes the onus from the employer to provide a livable wage. I provided a service in the health care industry as a nurse; there were no tips offered & we negotiated wage increases. I do believe in tipping for great service but I don’t feel obligated to tip for take-out, counter service, etc. Stay home if you can’t afford the tip? Pretty bourgeoisie attitude. I can afford the tip; I’ll decide if it’s warranted. My hackles rise when it’s considered mandatory.

    1. The mandatory part is what I hate too. I read that there’s a lower minimum wage for those in the restaurant business because they do expect tips to cover the rest. I suppose the question is, do I want to pay more for the food or continue to tip? At least the tip is somewhat under my control. But it doesn’t mean I like it!!

  4. I agree that tipping is no longer for extra or exceptional service; it is simply part of the cost. I think about the ridiculous service, “convenience’ and “facility” fees that are now tagged onto concert or play tickets, often adding at least 25-30% to the original face value of the admission. Those “tips” are impossible to avoid. Even picking up tickets at the venue box office incurs a service fee.

    I do remind myself that a counter worker or waitperson usually depends on tips to help with the massive increase in rent and food. I don’t mind tipping in that instance.

    But fees added to tickets or entertainment options gall me to no end.

    1. I agree with you on that. Especially now that we order tickets online and receive them on our phones or to print at home. What are all those fees supposed to be for?

  5. We were caught off guard when we went to pick up a pizza at Papa Murphy’s. They put together the pizza, but do not cook it. They have no place to sit. Two 16 year old were behind the counter. The tip was on the bill! Then they had another place for “additional tip”.
    Yes, tipping is out of hand.
    The issue comes when many of us just say, forget it. I’ll just do it myself. I think that is coming on strong as the boomers age. “If you can’t afford to be generous, stay home.” I’ll just make up my food and go to the park.

  6. I get so irritated when I order at a counter and they flip the screen around so I can choose a tip. I think to myself “for what? I go to the counter to order, go fill my drink, go back to the counter to get my food and then throw away the trash. I do not tip in those instances. It seems the old rule of 15% has changed to 18-25%. My thought is that 15% is still a good rule of thumb as all food prices have risen and thus the tip will also be higher at the same %. I always start with a base of 15% and if you are fantastic I have no problem going to 20-25%.

    1. You’re right about the food prices and tips consequently getting higher. I just wonder why a tip is a percentage of my food costs anyway. I’m sure that came about because it is an easy way to calculate an amount but I don’t know that it makes sense anymore.

  7. I think tipping is way out of hand. My husband was at physical therapy a few weeks ago when one of the therapists ordered a $10 pizza from Domino’s. She got off the phone and said it was going to cost $20! The other therapist got upset and asked why. Seems the delivery fee was $5 and the mandatory tip was also $5. The second therapist offered to go pick it up but Domino’s claimed it was too late. Lesson learned.
    As you pointed out, it shouldn’t be based on the dollar amount of food but on the amount of attention given. Personally, we’ve solved the problem by simply staying home. We perfected most of our restaurant favorites during the pandemic and now have little desire to dine out. Also, tipping on carry out food, fast food, drinks and ice cream is ridiculous. I call it guilt tipping. And, like your experience at the ballpark, I’ve gone into eating establishments to purchase gift cards and I have to decline giving the manager a tip while he activates the card. The cashier at the grocery store can activate a similar card and doesn’t expect me to tip them. I could go off on more of a tangent but let’s just say I agree with everything you’ve written!

    1. I haven’t heard about the Dominoes mandatory tip. Seems it isn’t a tip anymore if you have no control over it. I think you’ve found the right answer – just stay home!!

  8. It is an interesting topic. I always tip the person who puts my to go order together as it took time away from their regular server duties to pack up our meals(hence loosing out on income). I didn’t have this practice until reading about servers during the pandemic — it is a practice that I continued. I also firmly believe, that if I don’t have the money tip well — that I shouldn’t be eating out. And certainly tip generously on the first “drink” to make sure I get good service for future trips to the bar : )

    1. We tipped on all of our takeout during the pandemic but now I’m rethinking that. Maybe just a smaller amount? It’s tough to know what to do. Definitely don’t forget the bartender!!

  9. I’ve been tipping more since the pandemic but I do tip differently when service is not good. I mostly go to lunch with friends at places like IHOP, Applebees or small local pizza restaurants. Pre-covid servers were plentiful. Post-covid servers are covering at least double the number of tables. They look exhausted but 98% of the time they still do a good job with a smile. Most of my lunches cost between $10 and $15 and I generally tip between 20-30% for good service.

    When I think about all the other places I tip (hair salon, nail salon, food delivery, even local coffee drive throughs), I’m thinking I need to re-evaluate all of it.

    I did have an experience a few weeks ago that I found in very poor taste. I hired a company (not local) to remove 2 small broken pieces of furniture and deliver one TV console to my daughter who lives about 8 miles from me. I knew the cost ahead of time (which was NOT cheap but I wanted a fully insured company) but I didn’t expect the movers to tell me a tip would be appreciated because they really depend on them!

    I think I just need to wise up. I’m a retiree on a fixed income, right? Ha Ha.

    1. It’s one thing to feel we need to tip, but another when they bring it up. But I feel that’s what they’re doing when a tip option appears on a point of sale device. At some point, we need to say enough is enough!!

  10. Interesting blog. I’ve heard some places pool all the tips and divide them with kitchen workers/all staff. Many places in Europe don’t expect tips. It’’s so difficult. I don’t want to insult people, either way! BTW, I’d NEVER be insulted by too big of a tip, but apparently it can be a humiliation in other parts of the world. 🤷‍♀️
    I had not really thought about about the example of an expensive dinner. Ha! “Food for thought”…

  11. I am with you. My hairdresser has a “tip” on her credit card machine and it starts at 15%, then 20%, 25% and 30%. I feel like that reaches the “greedy over 20%.” Mind boggling. I do feel like the pandemic changed the way we tip and now some of those in the service industry, “expect a big tip.”

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