In a perfect world, everyone would tip, because that’s the polite thing to do.
Except the world’s not perfect: some peoples’ parents didn’t teach them to tip, some people go out without having enough money to tip, and some people take “tipping based on service” so far that one little mistake on the part of the server could mean the loss of a dollar! (Those people are usually the ones that don’t give a rat’s ass if the “mistake” was actually the server’s fault, or if it was because the kitchen got something wrong or the customer forgot to say something.) Worse, tipping out sometimes means that servers end up paying for their customers to eat, and some restaurants make the servers falsify their tip reports so that they don’t have to stretch the payroll.
So what do you do? Well, no matter how polite, sweet, kind, courteous, efficient and speedy you are, there are going to be idiots who just don’t think they should tip or don’t know how to tip for the occasion. (Let’s forget the children who “dock points”–they’re a special kind of idiot.) People say we writers shouldn’t use clichés; but the trouble is, as long as humanity has been around, every word that comes out of our mouths is a cliché. That being said, the appropriate adage for this situation is “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
The first time I was a hostess, I worked at Carrabba’s and we had tip share. (This is apparently different than “tipping out”, as tip share was describe to me as “everyone’s tips go into a pool and get divided back out based on a certain percentage assigned to each role”, not “you have to give up x amount of tips”, as tipping out has been described to me.) The result of this was that I got paid server wages, but since Carrabba’s is a popular and Very Nice chain, I usually made at least ten dollars in tips alone on weeknights. (Prom was just amazing…then I could get up past $21!) (I know that doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but I was only working three nights a week and sometimes only two and a half hours a night.)
The last time was at a Chinese restaurant. I realize that making $8/hr, I didn’t have anything to complain about. Technically. However, those that didn’t tip me were the ones that should have and the ones that did, it didn’t matter as much. When you suspect the hostess is doing more than seating the eat-in guests and you think she might like/want/need a tip, ask if she can accept one. The ten, twenty dollar orders, I didn’t mind as much. But when people order $100-150 worth of food and don’t leave a single dollar, that’s when I was annoyed. If you have enough to buy six or eight different entrees and enough appetizers to feed a dozen, why aren’t you tipping me a few bucks? Don’t you understand? That’s a lot of work! Acres of rice and oceans of sauce, as I used to say. If you’re ordering that much food, that’s two large boxes that I have to pack and if the owner is busy seating people, that’s two large boxes I have to pack and carry up to you by myself.
But I digress. At least tip your server 15% every time. If you’re not too handy with math–and I’m not, despite all my years in retail–there are plenty of tip apps out there or simply bookmark OnlineConversion.com on your phone. Heck, my dumbphone has a tip calculator! More than I can say for my blackberry! If your server is fantastic (mine was, one of the last times I ate out), consider 20-30%. Of course, if you really love your server, the sky’s the limit. (About a month before I was let go, one of the servers got a 44% tip. Forty-four! That’s true server-customer love, right there.)