The Tao of Tipping

Servers live and pay the rent by tips. Not all servers are an automatic 15%. What’s the rule? — BadWitch

Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GWBW — Do you recommend tipping 15% or by the level of service? My brother and I have fought over this at the table. Tipping Point


Dear Tipping Point,

Come on now, people! Everyone knows American service industry folks work a usually hard and dirty tough job for next to or minimum wage to pay the rent — this means they’re clearly working for tips. Sure as with the rest of life, not all servers are created equal. But tips are not some charitable nicety you bestow on a lowly server from your station above when the generosity whim hits you. Unless your server is completely inept, rude, or otherwise not doing her/his job (then use your discretion), BadWitch says tip starting at 15%. Additionally, percentages are percentages, but if you happen to frequent small neighborhood buffets, diners or other inexpensive eateries more than you go to costly restaurants, maybe you might consider carefully weighing your number of visits to the level of service against the fact that these working people have to make it up with volume over big ticket size. Help a (good) server out!

Service is as service gets,


P.S. This fighting at the table thing…be the sort of diners you would like your servers to be on their side of the public (not your kitchen) table, and the whole eating out experience will likely be a lot more appetizing for everyone.


Dear Tipping Point,

Gratuity should be based on your level of appreciation for the service received balanced by the knowledge that your waitperson has to pay their rent from your offerings. Get it. If you receive great service, where the waitperson has really contributed to the overall enjoyment of your meal—through personality, exceptional service, etc—why would you only leave 15%? Encourage that person to keep doing a great job by reflecting your appreciation in the tip: 20%, 30% or more.

Of course, now with service the service industry expecting customers to tip because the person put a scone in a bag because they pay their workers so poorly, the debate over tipping has only heated up. So, spend what feels right and affordable for you. It is a comment on the service, not a way to impress others with how much money you have or show how good you are to the help. It is a comment to say, “you did a great job,” or, well, we all know the other side of that coin.

Once I left a penny tip. Why? The waitress was rude, as hell, got my order wrong and then tried to make me feel like it was my fault. By the time she slapped the missing piece of my order on top of the same I-said-no-coleslaw-plate, I decided leaving her no tip would not truly reflect how much I did not enjoy her service. So I left her a penny. She threw it at me as I walked out the door. I caught it and said, “Thank you.”

That being said, I worked as a waitress throughout my college career and after. I used the money earned to pay for rent, books and food. I worked hard and tried to give people good service because I understood that I was a part of their lives for this little interval and could make their meal great or suck, if I so chose. My attitude almost always got me great tips. Yes, sometimes I was stiffed. Once a family ran out on a check. (Nice example for the kids, huh.) Another time, a patron yelled at me (he was not having a good day) and announced to the dining room he would not be leaving me a tip because of my incompetent service. I felt like crap, smashed a tray in the break room where no patrons could here and walked back out with a smile on my face. Every other table in my section left me a huge tip. One table told me straight up it was because that guy had been such a $#&% and I kept on rolling.

All this is to say, please tip your server if they give you good service. It is a difficult job that requires memory, stamina, multi-tasking abilities, good humor, PR, finessing the egos of the kitchen and coordination. It ain’t easy and base salary is almost non-existent. But when it is done well, it can make your meal pleasant and delicious. Isn’t that worth showing some appreciation for?

Love from a standard 20% tipper,



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6 responses to “The Tao of Tipping

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  3. Karma, tip liberally and when only hold back when you are making a point.

  4. Well said, if I do say so myself. Thanks from someone who appreciates good service!

  5. Since when did tipping become mandatory? You give good service, you get rewarded. Granted, some poor restaurant experiences are not the fault of the server. In those cases (and it’s pretty obvious when it happens) I generally overtip. Why? Do I really need to punish the server because the kitchen screwed up? However, surly servers (yeah, you…the a-hole who acts like they’re doing me a tremendous favor by waiting on my table) get 5% or nada.

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