THE RESTAURANT – The food was awful, the place was too noisy, the parking was handled by valets who put orange cones out front, with self-parking in the next ZIP code, and here comes the waiter, Lance, with the bill. He was a good guy, pleasant and helpful, but here’s my problem, and maybe yours, too. The bill has a line to write in the tip. So what to do? How much to tip, if at all? It wasn’t the waiter’s fault, but I do want to send a message to the restaurant that this has been one lousy evening. How much do you tip? It used to be 10 percent, now it ranges up to 20 percent, but 20 percent is how much of $11.75? I didn’t bring a calculator. Some restaurants now have a few lines at the bottom of the bill, helping with the math by giving you the exact amount they want as a gratuity: “10 percent — $14” or “15 percent — $21” or whatever, again, I didn’t bring my calculator, but I have received bills that suggested a tip of 25 percent, which seems a bit much.
As a rule of thumb, I would take the tax and double it, which was almost 20 percent. Finally it occurred to me that Texas towns have a total of city, county, state and Mafia protection tax of 8.25 percent, or almost 10 percent, so by tipping on the total I was tipping on the taxes, too. I pay enough taxes not to be nickel and dimed to death over a half dozen vodkas. A few New York City restaurants solved this problem by doing away with tips and simply included them on the bill. That didn’t work too well because customers wanted to determine how much they would add to the bill, not the management. What about take-out? You give the order by phone, text, email or smoke signals, then pick up your meal in a bag, and leave. No waiter at your table taking the order, bringing out the food and no busboy cleaning up your mess. But someone back in the kitchen is cooking your food and someone is bagging it up. Should you tip? Incidentally, have you noticed that when you get back to your desk or home or bridge shelter and open the bag, the order is always wrong? I try to check out my meal before leaving the restaurant, but they always tie up the bag like a roped calf at a rodeo.
To answer these questions, or at least learn what the guy at the next table is tipping, we have The Moneyist. (“Advice to life’s thorniest money issues.”) It cites a survey by CreditCards.com which found: More than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20 percent or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group. Women are better tippers than men. Baby boomers are more likely than millennials to tip restaurant servers and taxi or ride-share drivers (63 percent versus 40 percent), hair stylists (73 percent versus 53 percent), food delivery (72 percent versus 56 percent) and hotel housekeepers (33 percent versus 23 percent). One theory is that baby boomers are older than millennials and probably make more money, so they have more money to tip.
My daughter once worked for a hotel, in the office, and said I should leave at least $2 in my hotel room each day for the maid, and not wait to leave a total tip when I left after staying several days because a maid will often work different rooms or floors each day. I didn’t think about that. When John Kerry was running for president, he left a $20 bill in each hotel room he stayed in, but Kerry was married to a Heinz, as in ketchup and pickles. I guess he could have left a jar of dill. Notice the survey found that women are better tippers than men, but government data finds that women are paid 83 cents on the dollar compared with men. This might suggest that men would tip more rather than less. But that’s not the case.
Do you tip others in your family’s life who serve you? More than half of U.S. adults (53 percent) said they give their kids’ teachers or child-care providers holiday tips at least on occasion. In some cases, parents tip hundreds of thousands of dollars to educators just to get their kids in school. But a majority of people said they never give their trash/recycling collectors or mail carriers holiday gratuities. My garbage collectors strike at dawn, so I never see them, but one hot afternoon they came by and I ran out with a six-pack of Coke for them. The next week they stopped and honked, waiting for their Cokes. No good deed…. Yes, I tip my mail carrier at Christmas because she is so efficient. Despite all the jokes about the post office and mail service, if the rest of the federal government was as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service, I’d be ecstatic.
A 2018 survey by the same organization, CreditCards.com, found that diners in the South and West tend to tip less, while married people tip more than singles and more than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20 percent or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group. So if you are a waiter, look out for old married folks from up east. Waiters have a median income of $21,780 per year or $10.47 per hour. While the growth rate for this industry is 6 percent a year, about the average for most U.S. jobs, “candidates seeking employment at upscale restaurants may face strong competition for jobs,” according to government data.
Back to my bill. My plan is to tip 20 percent, but 3 plus 4, 7 and 2 is… Lance, I’d like a doggy bag and a calculator.
Ashby is tipped at firstname.lastname@example.org