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NPR: Why We Tip


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Why We Tip

If you ask people why they tip, they'll say it's obvious. They tip for good service, of course. It's a reward for a job well done.

But a leading theory on tipping suggests that's not really why we do it.

Studies show that the size of the tip doesn't have much to do with the quality of service. The weather, how sunny it is, what kind of mood people are in, these factors matter just as much as how satisfied the customers are with the service they receive.

Jessica Gibson, a waiter at an Irish pub in Tulsa, Oklahoma, believes that the harder she works, the greater her tips are. Yet she also admits that when she's a customer, she always leaves a 20% tip, even if the service is terrible.

Like most people, Jessica tips pretty much the same amount no matter what. It may vary a little, but it won't not much.

Which raises the question: if we don't tip to get better service, why do we it?

Michael Lynn, a professor at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration and a former waiter at Pizza Hut, says there is another explanation: We tip because we feel guilty about having people wait on us. It's a way of saying: "Here, have on drink on me when you're done working."

This is the social pressure theory of tipping, an idea first put forward by anthropologist George Foster.

This theory explains why we tip some people but not others. We tend to tip in places where we're having a lot more fun than the people who are serving us: bars, restaurants, cruise ships. But we usually don't tip in grocery stores or dentist's offices.

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The harder you work on a table, the more stuff they ask you for, the less your tip will usually be.

Some people do tip based on quality of service, more tip based on the personality of their server. Really though, there are a myriad of reasons for a certain % tip: persons mood, type of restaurant, who they are with, who is serving them, etc.

Just a heads up to those who don't know: in any situation where tipping is required and you are unsure of the proper amount, tip 15-20% for decent/average (15%) to great (20%) service.

Oh, and btw, if you do any of these things, you should be leaving 20% unless the service is dreadful: coming in to eat with less than 20 minutes before the place closes, letting your kids trash the table, chairs, and floor, if you ask your table sends your waiter for items more than 3 times after the meal has been dropped off and all were done in a timely manner.

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The harder you work on a table, the more stuff they ask you for, the less your tip will usually be.

Some people do tip based on quality of service, more tip based on the personality of their server. Really though, there are a myriad of reasons for a certain % tip: persons mood, type of restaurant, who they are with, who is serving them, etc.

Just a heads up to those who don't know: in any situation where tipping is required and you are unsure of the proper amount, tip 15-20% for decent/average (15%) to great (20%) service.

What do you tip if you have to track down the server to order your drinks and main course because they are too busy watching TV?

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I usually try to tip well. I understand what its like to get run all over the place. That comes from the second job I have at Ukrops/ Martins for the last 5 yrs. Sadly you can't take tips either. (I have had customers sneak them on me somehow when I'm not paying attention because they know the rule. Suddenly I'm like where did this come from?:ols:)

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When I worked at a burger joint last summer, the best tippers were always the people who drank. We carried alcohol but not everyone drank. It was sort of a family-ish restaurant. But on Friday and Saturday nights there were a couple of groups of older folks that liked to come in and buy beers and margaritas. We always made sure to visit their table frequently to ask if they wanted more to drink. The more they drank, the more they tipped.

Now, delivering for Jimmy John's this summer, I still haven't figured out who my best tippers are. I have someone who doesn't tip pretty much every shift, though. I don't see how someone could decide not to tip when all you did was click a few buttons on your computer, or make a phone call, and someone makes you a sandwich and brings it all the way to your front door. My only guess is that these people have no experience in the food industry, or assume we already have a delivery charge.

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What do you tip if you have to track down the server to order your drinks and main course because they are too busy watching TV?

I held myself to a high standard when I served, I do the same of whoever is serving me. If I get good service, I leave 20%, maybe more depending on just how good the service was. If I get adequate service, but nothing I'd consider real good (drinks empty for too long w/o waiter stopping by, waiter doesn't check after meal is dropped to see if we need anything else or doesn't even ask when they drop the food, etc. etc., then it's 15%.

I have had service before, if you want to even call it that, where the waitress took the order and we never saw her again until she dropped the check. Someone else ran our beers to us, ran our food, we had to go to the bar to order more drinks, food came out wrong (which isn't always the servers fault, but in this case it clearly was), and the place wasn't busy. So I left her a nickle.

In your case, I'd say it depends. If the waiter didn't he/she was sat, but then you got great service after tracking them down, then I'd say still do 15-20%. However, if you were told that person was going to be your waiter, then they knew your table was in their section, they just weren't paying attention. But still if they gave great service and we're attentive, I'd forgive the mistake. If, however, it was only average at best service afterwards, I'd only leave 10 to 15%, if it was bad service even afterward, I'd leave a very small tip, not even 10%.

---------- Post added June-23rd-2011 at 12:19 PM ----------

My experience as a bartender tells me that the biggest tippers are almost always men who are trying to impress women.

the worst tippers, on average, are the Sunday Church crowd. And they'll show up in the middle of a lunch rush with 20 people and complain when it takes time to find a space for them and push all the necessary tables together, or pitch a fit of pretend astonishment if they have to wait (as if calling ahead is some impossible feat), then they'll run you around like crazy instead of everyone simply saying what they want when the waiter is there asking, they'll wait and add something on when the waiter comes back, like 5 trips just for your table in the span of 5 minutes during a rush is no problem and doesn't take away from the level of service being given to the other tables. They'll try to call you over when you have food or drinks in your hand or even are taking an order for a different table, and at the end of it all, you'll be lucky to get 10%. But you'll get a pamphlet about their religion, yeah, all of what you just did will really motivate me to check your congregation out.

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anybody else use the $3 for every $20 ($1.50 for every $10) ... so if a bill is $67, and you got average service you give a $10.50 tip, or just $11 to avoid any math. (and you avoid the tacky cell phone calculator drill! :ols:)

tumblr_ln49ruUfdi1qagjn7o1_500.gif

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I always tip well because, deep down, I believe it gives me good karma. Also, because I don't drink alcohol, so my bill is usually on the low side.

But simple guilt probably explains it better.

Same here. I start at 20% and go slightly up from there if they did a great job. And no, I never waited tables and those who are or were servers put way too much stock in that.

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In my experience, the best tippers were the ones that left happy. Even if their food sucked, but you hooked them with a free dessert....happy. If they got drunk....happy. If they were old ladies and you made a well-executed "you look way younger" joke......happy.

The people that i worked with that got the worst tips were the ones that hated life and that rubbed off on their tables. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, when i bartended, it was a total crapshoot. For the most part i'd get $1 per round that I served, so the way to maximize was to just push as many drinks across the bar as possible (and ignore the **** out of the service bar).

---------- Post added June-23rd-2011 at 12:29 PM ----------

Same here. I start at 20% and go slightly up from there if they did a great job. And no, I never waited tables and those who are or were servers put way too much stock in that.

Everyone on the internet starts at 20% and goes up from there. :ols:

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Same here. I start at 20% and go slightly up from there if they did a great job. And no, I never waited tables and those who are or were servers put way too much stock in that.

Imagine you make $2.13 an hour, so your wage comes only from the tips you get. Imagine you give a table great service, they never see the bottom of their drinks, food is made well and comes out on time, you are friendly and engaging in conversation, you don't even say anything while their kid is dumping ranch dressing into the crack of the booth, throwing food all over the floor, and wiping stuff all over the table. At the end, their bill, after using coupons, is $25. They leave you with a giant mess to clean up, but were nice enough the whole time, and then you turn over the receipt and see $2.50 or less on the tip line.

It's insulting, and I can't imagine anyone who has served before ever doing that. Basically you put stock into who has or hasn't waited because you don't want to believe a good chunk of people are just naturally cheap and inconsiderate, you want to forgive them for being lousy because they are ignorant, having never likely waited before. You don't want to think it was purposefully done to you.

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In your case, I'd say it depends. If the waiter didn't he/she was sat, but then you got great service after tracking them down, then I'd say still do 15-20%. However, if you were told that person was going to be your waiter, then they knew your table was in their section, they just weren't paying attention. But still if they gave great service and we're attentive, I'd forgive the mistake. If, however, it was only average at best service afterwards, I'd only leave 10 to 15%, if it was bad service even afterward, I'd leave a very small tip, not even 10%.

.

Yeah it was pretty bad service, I think I ended up leaving like 5 percent. She never did anything for us. Though at the same time I dont want to punish the bar staff or bus boys, as dont in some places they take a share of the tip?

Also, if I have sushi, I tend to tip the waiter as well as the sushi chef, I always assumed that this was the best practice since the sushi guy puts in so much effort. Or am I double tipping?

The one area I am a little unsure of is if I go and do a pick up order at a place like Outback. Since the guy I am actually tipping, to my knowledge, is really only walking the food out to the car, whats a standard tip for that?

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I wish there was a way to get rid of the 2.15 an hour crap and at least let servers start at a decent wage. I'd rather not have to tip. My wife is from Peru, the servers are paid well and you don't leave tips.

the cost of a meal would go way up at a lot of restaurants. A good server can average $8 to $10 an hour at a regular restaurant. However, unless it's a busy night, then even just 2 tables that don't tip 15+% can screw over the overall net hourly rate of the server. even worse is if they are so demanding it impacts the service being given to other tables, then they still screw the waiter over on a tip, plus they may have screwed over the waiter's tip on other tables too. I'm not saying don't ask your waiter for stuff, I'm saying ask when he/she is there, and ask for everything, don't have something new for them to get each and every time they come back to the table. Besides, all the extra stuff could/should have been asked for when placing the order.

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I hope I don't derail this thread, but what's your opinion on tip jars (question is addressed to everyone)? I can't stand these things and I wish someone in the media would share my sentiment and get the ball rolling to pressure non-sit-down establishments to not have them.

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The percentage method of tipping is lousy. If I'm eating at an inexpensive place and the service is friendly, I always tip well over 20%. Why should that server get only 3 bucks because my meal was cheap? He or she did the same amount of work.

On the other hand, if I'm at a very expensive restaurant, I feel no obligation to tip as high a percentage. That server didn't work ten times as hard as the poor guy at the cheap joint. :whoknows:

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Everyone on the internet starts at 20% and goes up from there. :ols:

You might be right, but I'm serious. I'm a notoriously generous tipper and I get an earful from my wife from time to time (who did work as a waitress in high school).

Imagine you make $2.13 an hour, so your wage comes only from the tips you get. Imagine you give a table great service, they never see the bottom of their drinks, food is made well and comes out on time, you are friendly and engaging in conversation, you don't even say anything while their kid is dumping ranch dressing into the crack of the booth, throwing food all over the floor, and wiping stuff all over the table. At the end, their bill, after using coupons, is $25. They leave you with a giant mess to clean up, but were nice enough the whole time, and then you turn over the receipt and see $2.50 or less on the tip line.

It's insulting, and I can't imagine anyone who has served before ever doing that. Basically you put stock into who has or hasn't waited because you don't want to believe a good chunk of people are just naturally cheap and inconsiderate, you want to forgive them for being lousy because they are ignorant, having never likely waited before. You don't want to think it was purposefully done to you.

I get your argument about why one should be a good tipper. I just would bet that there are just as many bad tippers who worked in the industry as didn't. I'm usually wrong, so maybe this is no different!

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Yeah it was pretty bad service, I think I ended up leaving like 5 percent. She never did anything for us. Though at the same time I dont want to punish the bar staff or bus boys, as dont in some places they take a share of the tip?

Also, if I have sushi, I tend to tip the waiter as well as the sushi chef, I always assumed that this was the best practice since the sushi guy puts in so much effort. Or am I double tipping?

The one area I am a little unsure of is if I go and do a pick up order at a place like Outback. Since the guy I am actually tipping, to my knowledge, is really only walking the food out to the car, whats a standard tip for that?

yes, in a lot of places bar and bussers get tipped out too. But bar is only 3% of alcohol sales, bussers get 1.5% of all sales, typically. So they'll get theirs based off your check, not how much you tip.

never worked in sushi place, though I love sushi, but from my knowledge, all cooks at restaurants get paid a good wage. So I don't think you need to tip the cook. But again I don't have experience working in sushi, so I could be wrong, but it does sound like double tipping. I've never tipped anyone but the waiter when eating sushi.

The guy taking your order and walking it out also bags the order up, makes sure everything is made right, and that you have the right sauces, napkins, etc. It depends on how much you order, I'd say $2 for anything under 30, anything over 30, 10% is more than acceptable. Heck, to go people are happy just to receive any kind of tip, and they get paid a regular wage anyways (tho it is a dollar below minimum wage because they do get tips). So if you spent $40 on to go, and they were nice, and everything is bagged nice, I'd leave 4 bucks. If it's just for you, and you spend $15-20, I'd leave 2 bucks.

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I hope I don't derail this thread, but what's your opinion on tip jars (question is addressed to everyone)? I can't stand these things and I wish someone in the media would share my sentiment and get the ball rolling to pressure non-sit-down establishments to not have them.

I find them funny and don't mind them at all. If you feel like throwing your change or a dollar in there so that 4 high school kids can divvy up $8.44 at the end of the day, go for it. Depending on my mood, I'll do that sometimes. I realize all they are doing is running a register or something like that, but what's the harm?

---------- Post added June-23rd-2011 at 12:53 PM ----------

The guy taking your order and walking it out also bags the order up, makes sure everything is made right, and that you have the right sauces, napkins, etc. It depends on how much you order, I'd say $2 for anything under 30, anything over 30, 10% is more than acceptable. Heck, to go people are happy just to receive any kind of tip, and they get paid a regular wage anyways (tho it is a dollar below minimum wage because they do get tips). So if you spent $40 on to go, and they were nice, and everything is bagged nice, I'd leave 4 bucks. If it's just for you, and you spend $15-20, I'd leave 2 bucks.

Wow...now I feel like a bad tipper. I never give that guy more than $1. Whoops.

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I've done some waiting, so I tend to tip well.

For truly outstanding service and/or for what I'd call elite servers (people who do the little things you might not notice, but which make a difference) it's 25% or maybe a bit more

20% for good to above average

15% for average

10% for sloppy, inattentive and careless

1 cent, 1 dollar or nothing for atrocious

Once (the worst ever - hostile, nasty, inaccessible) we did not pay the bill

If a server is getting killed by a rush or covering for someone out sick, I tend to give more; if they make a mistake and I can see they're really upset by it, I'll also give more.

---------- Post added June-23rd-2011 at 12:58 PM ----------

The percentage method of tipping is lousy. If I'm eating at an inexpensive place and the service is friendly, I always tip well over 20%. Why should that server get only 3 bucks because my meal was cheap? He or she did the same amount of work.

On the other hand, if I'm at a very expensive restaurant, I feel no obligation to tip as high a percentage. That server didn't work ten times as hard as the poor guy at the cheap joint. :whoknows:

True, but he didn't have to put up with the douchey clientele at the upscale place either. :)

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