standard gratuity

Continuing the subject of what to tip your server for bad service comes this AP article seen in the Washington Post: Waiters’ Tip Fight Grows

One former waiter, Yakup Ulutas, is proposing restaurants change the system. Ulutas, a 36 year-old restaurant manager in Atlanta, founded a nonprofit organization,, to persuade restaurants to implement an automatic 20 percent service fee on every check. He estimates 2,500 waiters have joined.

Naturally, this guy would be in Dunwoody. I grew up there, and it is high snob central, or at least it used to be. My main problem with this guy’s campaign is that he doesn’t want restaurants to raise wages, saying that the establishments wouldn’t be able to afford it. So instead that should be just another standard cost of going out to a nice meal that gets stuck to the consumer? By the same thought, when I go buy something at Nordstrom, should I be charged a standard gratuity fee for the staff’s exemplary personal service? I don’t think so. And what about tipping for deliveries? The local Papa John’s has already tacked on $2 for barely-justifiable fees in recent months and still suggests you tip the driver.

Tipping has many connotations to it. Some people tip well so that they don’t look bad to those around them. Others think of it as paying it forward to be sure of getting good service on their next visit. Some tip on the pre-tax amount, others on the post — and after eating in DC with the 10% tax, I find myself looking at the pre- amount more than not. But most people I eat with, regardless of the level of service (not the food), tip a standard 20% and don’t even think of it. Some of that has to do with the ease of math, but mostly it’s considered to be already included for them, which I guess fits right in with what FairTip wants.

There was an episode of Cheers where a customer comes in and is served by Carla. He puts a stack of bills on the table and says, “See that? It’s your tip.” He explained that the poorer the service the more bills he’d take back.* And it’s very true to life that it’s very easy for a server to get a standard (15-20%) amount from a customer, but it’s even easier for them to get less — the idea behind the tip meter. Like the other morning, I sat myself, had long waits for service, ate without any drink refill and the food was sub-par. The food is not a server’s fault, however people do not come to restaurants because they aren’t hungry. So if no explanation has been offered for a long wait from the kitchen when my food comes, I don’t want to wait that long again for it to be done properly, I’ll either eat what I get or I’ll send it back, negotiate an appropriate amount to pay and go somewhere else, regardless of the guilt I feel for doing so. Still, after all that, I tipped 10%. I wasn’t trying to be rude even though I was pissed off, I guess I’m of the old school that feels a tip is one way that a diner can express how they feel about their experience. Honestly, if I felt that I could have gotten the server’s attention at any moment that wasn’t related to my ordering or my paying, I certainly would have, but when he did his sweeps of the room, I couldn’t make contact at all.

I’ll still go back to Tonic because it’s close and I do like it, but based on the advice I got here and on LJ, I’ll be sure to express myself in a more constructive way. But I’m curious, if you had to develop a tip meter of your own, what categories and check boxes would you include to ensure a poor, standard or above average tip? And would it have different requirements for different kinds of restaurants, or be the same across the board?

Oi! Someone change the subject, I could go on all day about this kinda stuff.

* of course being Cheers, Carla treats him horribly, he takes all the money away and as he leaves she tells the regulars that he was a relative.

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