Okay, lets begin, I work in a small restaurant that seats a maximum of 44 people, there is one cook in the back, a dishwasher, and two people that work the front as waiters/host/bus person. I just happen to be one of the people in the front. That's 22 people to serve for each person. I also work in an expensive restaurant and tipping is an expected thing to do. As a waitress, I constantly clear the table and replace used plates and finished food items, we talk to the customers and compliment them, always refilling their water glasses when they are about half full, and for regular customers that are good and really nice we give them 10% off.

Okay I know that in London or Paris, or mainly Europe (not exactly sure) it is considered rude to tip or not necessary, that's perfectly fine. But in Canada it is considered a must, and I think that the tip at the moment, is at 15% of the bill, well it's really 15-20% of the total bill, 15% is the minimum. Most people just tip at 10% of the total bill, but hey it's good that they tipped something. Some people that are really bad are those that carry this Entertainment Card around, you can get this in Canada, it gives you a discount on 1 dinner but you must order 2 dinners, and the rules are: You have to tip 15% of the total price before the discount. It is a rule that is written in the book and on the card. But most people just tip 10% of the bill after the discount and many of them are very cheap because the discount gives you a max of $12.50 off the total bill, so if someone had a $23.50 dinner then they will be paying $11.50 and tipping $1.50. The Entertainment Company gives what they make to charity and community services and centers. I don't really mind the card, just as long as you follow the rules then it's fine.

I hope this doesn't sound like a rant, I'm just trying to explain why you should tip the actual %. Most of the time I am actually being honest, kind, nice and happy, when someone tips badly I wonder if the service was really that bad, or if there was something wrong with the food but I just didn't know. Maybe I have this inability to understand bad tippers. I don't know. I guess the people that really irk me are the ones that I am really being nice to, but they are mean back and bad tippers too!

First of all, in the restaurant I work at, it gets really really busy, like a full house. We have to serve a lot of drinks, and things are constantly coming out of the kitchen that we must rush back to get and serve correctly and politely, smile and make sure everything is okay with the food and service. We are very kind and cheerful even if we really are freaking out because there's just so many things to do!

The worse people are the ones that don't tip at all, or the ones that order $70+ dollar dinners and only give $1.00 tip. I'm not kidding here, it has happened many times!

We work our asses off, and this is the thanks we get, even when some customers are being completely rude and making a huge mess everywhere we must still be nice and say everything is okay and smile and we get nothing for it, except for mediocre $1.00 tips or most of the time tips that are 5%-10% of the price. I am just writing this to make everyone aware of what it feels like through a person who works at a restaurant that doesn't make that much, so I may be a bit [biased, but I'm just trying to explain what this causes. I will try to word this more appropiately when I fix it all up on notepad.

There are many ways to get around bad tippers especially in a small restaurant where you are likely to serve the same people over and over again. With a limited customer base you can often come to predict exactly what your tips will be, while learning how to get around the bad tippers.

Talk to your regulars, especially the people who come in alone. They will leave higher tips because they feel that they must. Many of these people can be transformed into big tippers given enough time and effort. A full fifty percent of your income may come from these regulars, so nurture them, cater to them, and do what they like, and your income will grow because of it.

Give poor service to those you know to be lousy tippers. Spend your time on the good tippers. Ignore the bad ones. I worked in restaurants for years and I have seen all kinds of bad tippers. One man who ate nearly daily in our place would only tip black women. Thats it, no one else. If you were a black woman and waited on him you got 2 dollars, otherwise you got nothing, not a dime. Whenever I got stuck with him I would bring him exactly what he wanted the first time and never check on him again.

People are more likely to tip if you watch them leave. This is because they feel self conscious. If you have to follow them all the way from the table to the checkout stand, talking the whole time. Only the most hardened bad tippers will be able to stand up to this sort of tactic.

If you are female then try flirting subtly with the old men, they will tip you higher, a lot of older men never get any attention from women at all. If you are male you should flirt with the older women for the same bigger tip.

If your restaurant is privately owned then consider talking to the owner about adding gratuity onto the check for your frequent non tippers. Plus gratuity should almost always be added for any groups larger than 5, and for any groups with more than 2 children. For some reason people think that children don't count when it comes to tipping, even though the children usually leave huge messes, and still get a plate and a drink just like the adults do.

Finally, you can always start working at another restaurant if you simply cannot make enough money at the place you are at. Serving jobs are really easy to find, due to the very high rate of turnover that most places have.

I am a bad tipper. Personally, I think tipping is a crock of shit. The only reason I do it is because it is "expected". WTF? If it's expected, why doesn't the restaurant just charge 15% more for everything and pay their employees more?

I'll tell you why, taxes. Tips are most often paid in cash. You really think all those waiters and waitresses report 100% of that money to the IRS? No way. This saves taxes on the part of the employee and the restaurant, because the restaurant can pay the employee less, and the employee gets a large portion of their pay in cash. This cash is impossible for the IRS to track. Yes, some restaurants may have some kind of strict control over tips to prevent some of this, but I can guarantee you that they are few and far between.

No wonder waiters and waitresses get pissed off when you leave a bad tip, that's tax free money you "stiffed" them.

But when it comes down to it, tips are tips. They may be expected, but they are not required (when was the last time you heard of somebody being arrested for not leaving a tip?). All you waiters and waitresses get over it. You do not have some divine entitlement to a tip. If you feel like you are not making enough, ask for a raise, or get another job that isn't based on tips.

Even with my opposing view on tips, I still perform my social duty to tip when I go out. When I go to a restaurant, who ever is waiting on me starts at 15%. If they provide outstanding table service, they get more than 15%. If they provide poor table service, they get less than 15%. That's the way it is. I've left tips as high as 30% and as low as zero. If I leave a "bad tip", I will usually write the reasons on the check (made me wait 15 min to get the check, my glass of water has been empty for the majority of my meal, etc).

No, I've never worked as a waiter. So no, I may not completely understand your position. However, I have had jobs where tips were often given, but I never expected them. Look at a tip as a bonus, not a requirement and your views on "bad tippers" may change.

First, my disclaimer: Nine times out of ten, the servers who griped the loudest about poor tippers were also the poorest servers. The ones who, if you had more than enough servers, you'd be happy to lay off.

That said, there are folks who tip poorly. They're the ones who come in with coupons, or for the early bird specials. If you're lucky, they'll give you 10%. So what? They really don't consume a lot of time - odds are, they aren't drinking alcohol, or having appetizers.

How do you deal with "bad tippers"? Easy - give better service. Here are some tips for you:

  • Never let a water glass be empty.
  • If people are drinking wine by the glass, make sure that they have fresh glasses before the entree is served.
  • Communicate. It's okay if the kitchen is running behind or you're swamped. Stop by the table, spend 20 seconds saying, "I haven't forgotten about you, don't worry, can I get you anything while you're waiting?"
  • Cultivate your bussers. Your bussers are one of the largest contributors to your tip. If the house policy is to give them 10% of your tips, give them more. Especially if you are sharing the bussers with other waitstaff; this gives the busser incentive to work harder at your tables.
  • Cultivate the host/hostess. Especially if you are in a tourist area - having the host(ess) drop by a table for some chit-chat can buy you invaluable time.
  • Smile.
No promises. When I waited tables, I averaged about 23% gratuities. As a bartender, I averaged 35%.

As a diner, here is my policy:

  • If the service was poor, 10% (you still need to eat).
  • If the service was decent, 15%.
  • If the service was good, anywhere between 20% and 40%, depending on how good it was. Good luck.

    And for the self-righteous: in America, waitstaff are usually paid the minimum wage, which was $2.30 for waitstaff last I checked. They are required by law to claim 8% of their sales as gratuity, unless they can document receiving something else. The money is not tax free. Most of the people who are waiting tables are doing it as a second job; you'll find quite a few well-educated teachers who are waiting tables to earn a decent salary, because they love to teach, but it doesn't help them send their own children to a nice college. So get off your high horse. It is not in a restaurant's best interest to include the gratuity on all bills; it makes the bill look larger, and dissuades repeat customers.

Restaurant Tipping and Racism

"Blacks don't tip well."

Hiromi "Toni" Takarada, owner, "Thai Toni," Miami, Florida, USA                         

October 23, 1999

Charles Thompson and his wife, Theresa White, decided to head to Miami's hip South Beach to have supper. Their meal at the popular "Thai Toni" Asian fusion restaurant was quite good. The well-dressed couple fit in well at the upscale restaurant, filled with locals and tourists enjoying the peaceful and chic atmosphere and critically-acclaimed cuisine. The finale to their meal was not a sweet dessert; in fact it was terribly unpleasant for Thompson and White, and a bitter wake-up call later for the restaurant.

Mr. Thompson noticed that a fifteen per cent service charge had been written onto their bill. Nowhere on the menu did it say that a gratuity would be added by the house. There were no signs to that effect anywhere in the restaurant, either. Thompson asked the diners at the next table, who'd also received their bill, if he could look at it. The bill at the neighboring table did not have any gratuity written in. Thompson telephoned 911 and summoned the police.

Why was Thompson compelled to call the police?

After all, it's the same restaurant, the bills were both for parties of two, and the amounts were similar. Perhaps writing-in the service charge for the other table had been carelessly overlooked.

What made the difference is that Thompson and his wife are African American, and the diners at the table next to them were white. This alone made Thompson's "blood boil."1 Worse, when asked by Thompson about the discrepancy, restaurateur Hiromi "Toni" Takarada responded that he added the service charge because, in his words, "blacks don't tip well." Takarada actually reiterated these words to the officers who arrived on the scene to investigate Thompson's complaint, thinking the officers would back him up.

The State of Florida filed suit against Takarada for discrimination. Some residents of South Beach, where gratuities are routinely added to the bills at the area's expensive restaurants, claimed the lawsuit was overkill. The State's attorney in charge of the case, Bob Butterworth, said it was one of the most flagrant examples he'd ever seen of discrimination.

A Brave Researcher at Cornell Stirs Things Up: March, 2006

"Although the topic is sensitive, the restaurant industry needs to openly discuss and deal with ethnic differences in tipping. This study contributes to the dialogue by providing evidence that black consumers are less familiar with the restaurant tipping norm than are white consumers."

— Michael Lynn, Ph.D., in "Ethnic Differences in Tipping: A Matter of Familiarity with Tipping Norms"

Dr. Lynn is an associate professor of marketing at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. He mentions the story of Mr. Thompson and Thai Toni restaurant at the beginning of his report. Lynn's study has elicited both positive and negative comments in the restaurant industry and among civil rights advocates. The biggest fear is that the results will reinforce the negative stereotype of blacks being poor tippers.

The negative stereotype and resultant discriminatory behavior on the part of restaurant servers will not disappear if restaurateurs fail to acknowledge this admittedly sensitive issue. Indeed, Lynn posits that if his recommendations are heeded, restaurant servers will reap the benefits of better tipping. More importantly, blacks will enjoy an enhanced quality of life if restaurateurs are no longer hesitant about opening restaurants in communities with a high percentage of black residents.

The Meat and Potatoes of the Cornell Study

The firm of Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch was hired to collect the data. The actual interviews consisted of questions asked on behalf of multiple clients of the firm. This is called an omnibus survey and is a far more economical way to collect data than to attempt to interview subjects for one study alone. The firm utilized Genesys random-digit-dial sampling, which allows researchers to sample people with unlisted telephone numbers.

Just over a thousand interviews were completed; 788 with whites and 99 with blacks. The remaining respondents were from other ethnic groups, and their responses were not utilized for purposes of Lynn's study. Of calls answered, 71 percent of households refused to participate.

Those households choosing to participate were asked: "Thinking about tipping overall, not your own practices, how much is it customary for people in the United States to tip waiters and waitresses?" The answers to this open-ended question were categorized by the researchers into six classifications: "Less than 15%," "15% to 20%," "More than 20%," "A dollar amount," "'Don't know'" and "Other."

Just under a third of blacks said that the customary restaurant tip was less than 15%. Nearly forty per cent answered "15% to 20%." Just over twelve per cent said they didn't know. Fifteen percent said it was a flat dollar amount.

Over 70% of whites said that the customary restaurant tip was "15% to 20%," and only two and a half per cent said they didn't know. Fewer than 20 per cent of whites responded that tips should be lower than 15%.

Although a tiny difference, it's interesting to note that while 3.7% of whites said that tips should exceed 20 per cent, three-tenths of a percent more blacks (4.0%) said this. At first glance, one could conclude that blacks are ahead of whites among the category of generous tippers. Given the small population of respondents to Lynn's survey, this conclusion is rendered moot.2

Lynn's report was silent with regard to whether or not the preponderance of white responses garnered were intended so as to duplicate U.S. population statistics. Most commercial market research attempts to do so. Lynn's survey results, as reported, were adjusted for the respondents' sex, age, income, household size and whether or not the household was located in a metropolitan area.

Additional Support For Dr. Lynn's Hypothesis

The Cornell Study also cites another survey conducted by Dr. Lynn but not published. 51 servers in a Houston restaurant were interviewed on the subject. A whopping 94 percent of those servers described blacks as poor tippers.

There are several studies yet to be published that also affirm the hypothesis. Data collected from telephone surveys, servers and exit interviews indicate that blacks tip, on average, 20 per cent less than whites do.

Finally, the study cites www.tipping.org and quotes anecdotes from the website's forums.

Communicating What People Don't Know

Lynn's most important conclusion is that, assuming his hypothesis is correct, efforts should be made, via a public relations effort, to communicate correct levels of tipping to all restaurant customers. This involves informing customers with signage, on menus, on table devices. He even goes so far as to say that a reminder should accompany customers' meal checks.

Lynn admits that he's not certain how to undertake this task. However, he advocates involvement of the National Restaurant Association in a nation-wide program of advertising and public relations to spread the message. Lynn also suggests that, in areas of heavier minority populations, local minority advocates should get involved in spreading tipping information. The payback to these groups would be the placement of more full-service restaurants in these areas (therefore enhancing quality of life therein).

As part of the solution, a peculiar method for addressing the problem was suggested. Lynn, a professor of marketing, came up with a restaurant "game" that he proposes be open to play only by those who'd tipped their server 15 per cent or more. These "sufficient tippers" would be offered chances at prizes or given a coupon to use on subsequent visits. From a restaurant owner's standpoint, such a carnival atmosphere being used to promote proper tipping is at best awkward and could embarrass both patrons and waitstaff.

Consequences of Failure to Address the Problem

Blacks comprise about 12 percent of the nation's population, representing buying power, as a demographic, of more than $646 billion annually. Restaurants that fail to embrace blacks as customers are missing out on a considerable amount of potential sales.

Restaurant operators will suffer the burden of high employee turnover should they venture into neighborhoods with high concentrations of blacks without properly addressing the needs and concerns of residents, and their own staff.

Restaurants who continue to stick their heads in the sand and attempt to keep the status quo also may expose themselves eventually to discrimination lawsuits. The Denny's restaurant chain settled a class-action discrimination lawsuit for $46 million in the 1990s. Although Denny's has made significant efforts to change its policies, the image of the company still remains tarnished.  There is also an on-going class-action discrimination lawsuit against the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants that will be quite costly for it regardless the outcome.

The Perspective of the Restaurant Industry Media

A March, 2006 editorial in the restaurant industry magazine Restaurant Hospitality addresses the Cornell study. Prior to the publication of the editorial, Restaurant Hospitality editor-in-chief Mike Sanson blogged:

"It all boils down to this crazy Catch-22. Many black customers (regardless of socioeconomic status) don’t know that a customary tip for good service in restaurants is 15-20 percent. In turn, waiters don’t want to serve black customers. When they do, waiters often deliver poor service believing their tip will be poor. And black customers believe they are getting inferior service because of their race."

The comments posted under Sanson's blog entry, "When Good Customers' Tips Are Bad," were mixed.  One commenter mentioned that she'd never experienced under-tipping by African-Americans. Another called Sanson a racist and an instigator.

Feedback received by Cornell's Lynn was similarly diverse. Lynn openly discusses both sides of the issue in his report.

Just Desserts

The coda to Mr. Thompson's story is that Thai Toni restaurant settled the lawsuit against it, paying $15,000 to Mr. Thompson. Additionally, the restaurant must now write-in a fifteen percent gratuity on all bills, and explain to customers that the figure may be raised or lowered. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors' Bureau has removed Thai Toni from its visitors guides, and from the Bureau's website. Finally, Mr. Tarakada agreed that he and his employees would agree to receive sensitivity training from the State.

A NOTE ABOUT STYLE CHOICES:

The issue of race as expressed in writing is also controversial. The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook both agree that "African-American" should only be used to refer to persons of African descent. AP currently uses "black" or "blacks" as accepted style. The NAACP, however, uses the convention "African-American" as well as "black," and is inconsistent. Thanks to Bitriot, skybluefusion jessicapierce and izubachi for their comments and guidance.


Thanks to Rootbeer277 for raising the point that Thompson dialed 911 to voice his complaint, and didn't bother to secure the local police number. 911 is for emergencies that endanger the safety, lives and property of persons. Thai Toni's not gonna run up the block, down an alley and vault over a fence trying to escape. The article cited in footnote 1 herein asserted that 911 was called. This in no way diminishes the validity of Thompson's complaint.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Bragg, Rick: "Restaurant's Added Gratuity Leads to Discrimination Claim," The New York Times, November 10, 1999

2. This observation was not included in Lynn's report, but is the observation of the author of this article.

SOURCES:

  1. http://people.cornell.edu/pages/wml3/pdf/Black_White_Tip_Norm.pdf
  2. http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-insider26mar26,1,1446332.column?coll=la-travel-headlines
  3. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1329241
  4. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1066467
  5. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_2_97/ai_58411590
  6. http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/wml3/pdf/Customer%20Evaluation%20of
    %20Employee%20Performance%20(JAP%20Submission).pdf
  7. http://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/blog/2006/03/02/when-good-customers-tips-are-bad/
  8. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9900EFDC103AF933A25752C1A96F958260
  9. http://www.tipping.org/TopPage.shtml
  10. http://www.stainedapron.com
  11. http://main.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=7713#b
  12. http://msupress.msu.edu/journals/rcr/RCR%20Style%20Sheet%2015.pdf
  13. Lynn, Michael and Thomas-Haysbert, Clorice: "Ethnic Differences in Tipping: Evidence, Explanations and Implications" Journal of Applied Social Psychology, in press
  14. Lynn, Michael: "Black-White Differences in Tipping Various Service Providers," Journal of Applied Social Psychology, in press
  15. Restaurant Hospitality, March, 2006, Penton Media. Editor's page.
  16. The author's experience as a restaurant manager and owner.

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