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Foodie Rant - How NOT to Tip

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 10, 2009 4:20PM

Cash.jpg Tipping - it’s been one of the great controversies of American dining for years and years. Hundreds of articles have been written about it, every waiter/waitress memoir contains an extensive section on it, and organizations have been formed to oppose it. We could write about 100 rants related to tips and service, and we probably will. Today’s rant takes on an old-fashioned rule of dining: how to calculate the tip.

Many old etiquette manuals argue that tips should only be calculated on the basis of food delivered. In other words, tax and alcohol should be subtracted before the tip percentage is figured. We’ve been taught this rule by parents, older dining companions and even some former waiters! This rule is ridiculous, and should be immediately abolished. Why? Because the waitstaff has to “tip out” to other people in the restaurant.

Remember, if you decide not to tip because you didn’t like your waiter, you’re also taking money from the bartender and busboy. At the end of the night, waitstaff are required to give a percentage of their tips away to these assistants. This is also the reason why not tipping on alcohol is particularly idiotic - if you’re ordering alcohol at a restaurant table, you’re not tipping a bartender directly. You are, however, tipping them through your server. Whether or not you tip, someone is making those drinks and bringing them to you - and they should be compensated.

This rule is a leftover from very high-end dining; if you are ordering a $400 bottle of wine on a $50 meal, the tip would be artificially inflated. Whether or not to tip on such high-end items is worthy of another discussion, but its unlikely most of us are actually ordering those on a regular basis. If you subtract alcohol and tax, even if you intend to tip a decent 15%, you may actually be tipping only about 11%. Don’t be surprised if you get dirty looks the next time you return to the restaurant. Tips should be calculated on the full amount - post tax, post booze, post everything.

Photo credit: Inspired by Everything on Flickr.