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Foodie Rant - The Coupon Tipping Blues

By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 26, 2010 3:20PM

Money1.jpg I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the recent debates over Groupon and the other group-deal coupon sites. Some argue they hurt small business, some that they can save a business that is on the rocks. I don’t have a business degree, and I’m hardly un-biased - I love cheap food as much as the next customer. Despite the glitz and glamour of my foodie life (I wish!) meals still cost a lot, and it’s hard for all of us. So, I’m a regular user of many of these sites. But I tip on the entire, original bill.

One complaint that I’ve often heard is that putting out one of these coupons will give your restaurant a reputation for bad service. Consider the following scenario: coupon is issued, and hundreds of people descend on a restaurant. They order exactly the amount of food that the coupon covers, receive the discount, and tip on the resulting LOW amount. After a few days, the waitstaff begin to dread these coupons, and potentially treat customers who present them in advance with less deference. These customers leave, spreading the word that this restaurant spits in their food and dances on their fillets barefoot in the kitchen.

Hence my rant. Anytime you receive a discount of any sort, be it a coupon, a Chicago Public Radio card, a gift certificate or anything else, it is a good idea to tip on the full, ORIGINAL amount. Remember how much that certificate was for? Add it back on, before you figure your percentage. You’ll still be getting a good deal.

Most restaurants have no system of compensating waiters for coupons - they just lose money. The food they serve is exactly the same, the work they do is exactly the same - but if you only tip on the discounted total, they suddenly receive 25-50% less compensation. If I were in their position, I might start to get angry, after a few weeks of that!

The same goes for anyplace that gives you anything for free. Bartender slips you a free drink? Tip anyway! Get a free dessert for your birthday? Consider that extra $8 when you figure the tip. This will go a long way to making staff like you at your regular haunts, and might make these coupons a little more sustainable. It’s only fair.

Check out our other Foodie Rants.

Photo by drew*in*chicago.