Tip of the Iceberg (Lettuce)

Chatter about tipping wait staff has the Internet all a-buzz.  

In San Francisco they want to add an automatic 25% gratuity to restaurant tabs.  In some parts of New York City (this is not a hoax or a joke) Persian restaurants add an automatic tip to the bill if the customer is from India or Pakistan because the waiters claim those folks notoriously under-tip or don’t tip at all.

Several years ago my friend Lisa and I met for lunch in Mississauga and were served by a terrific waiter who was efficient and charming.  In our pre-Christmas shopping haze, as we split the bill we completely forgot about adding a tip.   I realized our mistake when I was almost home and called the restaurant and asked to speak to the manager.  I couldn’t recall the server’s name and despite explaining where we sat and what we ate, the manager couldn’t (or didn’t want to) figure out who our server was.  I planned to mail a cheque or give them my credit card number so they could charge a tip to me.   But it wasn’t meant to be.  I felt terrible that this excellent waiter was stiffed.

I tend to tip 20% for good service, 15% for okay service and 10% or less for lousy service.  Leaving no tip at all doesn’t make a statement, it makes you seem like a cretin.  Plus, if the service was really lousy, I will speak to the manager.  But it always makes me bristle to see “a gratuity has been added to your bill, as per house policy”.  That happens a lot in Las Vegas where cheap tourists must be notorious for withholding tips.   If the meal isn’t good, that’s not likely your server’s fault – another subtlety people sometimes forget.

Adding 25% to a restaurant bill seems presumptuous to me.  Not all restaurants are worthy and not all servers deserve such a compliment.  I prefer to make the decision on my own based on merit.  And I’ve never forgotten to tip again.

2 thoughts on “Tip of the Iceberg (Lettuce)”

  1. On those occasions when I’ve been confronted with a bill which has a built-in gratuity, I’ve often refused to pay it outright or adjusted it to what I felt was appropriate, and I’ve never returned to that venue again. If your booking a large group or party, a fixed or built-in gratuity which is negotiated up front, I have no problem with, but automatically assume, sorry ain’t happening.

    Now, I’m very aware of the economics behind gratuities, having had many a discussion with acquaintances within the service industry over the years regarding this issue, but I have never felt obligated to leave a gratuity for any service I’ve received as a matter of course. If your service is good, you’ll have a loyal and frequent customer, but if its not, I’m not going to tip you in order to say good bye.

    And I do occasionally provide a gratuity, based on service received and my own economic situation.

  2. I find the most confusing situations come when you’re traveling. Rob and I enjoyed a cappucino and biscotti outside the Vatican, and asked our server if the gratuity was included. He said “no” (silly us!) and we tipped; of course it was included, because that’s how they do it in Italy. Or in the Vatican. Or something. Anyway, Buyer (and diner) Beware when you travel; know the rules before you sit down. But at home? Yes to AT LEAST 15%. And part of that is to prove to servers that women dining with women are NOT bad tippers! LOL BTW – I do understand, Allan, why large groups have an automatic tip added. Add a whole bunch of people (some probably as bad at math as I) and even more booze and somebody’s going to get stiffed. It shouldn’t be the server who’s making minimum wage (or less in the USA).

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