As a former waiter, and someone who eats (and drinks) out a LOT, I consider myself to be a fairly good tipper. Typically, I leave at least 20% for good service, but even the worst, most incompetent, cigarette stinking, drink spilling, order fucking upping servers still get 15%.
And not only do I tip well, I behave well. I clean up after my kid, treat the servers with respect, rarely complain about the food, and never ask for water unless I plan to drink it!
My medium-rare steak comes out well done? I eat it. My fish comes out as chicken? I eat it. My Sierra Nevada comes out as Miller Lite because the keg kicked and the bartender’s too busy to change it? I’ll drink it. And then lie to the server and say everything is fine.
I only have one rule: If the waiter adds the automatic 18%, they GET the 18% and not a penny more. To me, it’s an insult. Back when I was a server, I only used the automatic gratuity when I was 100% certain I was going to get shafted on the tip. Not due to poor service, mind you, but because the person paying was a tool.
An experienced server can quickly size up a party. There are groups who are very demanding and give you a run for your money, but, you can tell that at the end, they will give you your money. Unfortunately, there are others who are equally demanding, and just give off a vibe that says, you’re here to serve us, and there will be no quid pro quo. Problem is, with large groups, it’s not always easy to tell who’s picking up the tab So, to me, adding the 18% was always a gamble. And even though we’re only talking about a few percentage points, at the end of the shift, they add up, so it was a risk I did not often take. Plus, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Which is why, when I get auto-gratuitied, I take it personally. I feel judged. I stare at the line item and think, do I look cheap? Were my Groupons sticking out? Was I a tool? Was it something The Warners did? But rather than ask, I simply sign the check and snap it shut, leaving them nothing more than what they bargained for. But I want to leave a note and let them know that had they taken a chance on me, they would have made an extra five bucks.
Or, more accurately, an extra $5.23, as I have an odd habit of making every check an even number. If the bill comes to $89.15, I leave a tip for $20.85 to make it an even $110.00, This drives my wife crazy for some reason (and not just because of her poor math skills) - I think she thinks they end up going home with a pocket full of change, but I know that at the end of the night, the tips get rounded to the nearest dollar.
Speaking of dollars, the dollar and change I leave for EVERY Dunkin’ Donuts transaction usually results in a 70% tip. I get a medium hot chocolate for $2.33, hand the drive-thru person a $5, and ask for a dollar back. But, the poor kid at McDonald’s gets shit. Why is that? Why do we tip coffee pourers, but not burger flippers? Why do we tip the people who cut our hair, but not the ones who fix our brakes? Taxi drivers get tipped, but bus drivers get exact change. We tell the guy at the pretzel cart to keep the change, but when we buy one at the Kwik-E-Mart, we wait for our 37 cents. Try to tip a cop, and you can get arrested for offering a bribe. But you’re a bad person if don’t put money in the fireman’s boot. Crazy, right?
Maybe we should take a lesson from Mr. Pink and not tip anyone. Or, we could start tipping everyone. Or, what if we only tip those who don’t get paid, yet still provide a service? Like, say, a blogger, for instance!