Want A 20% Tip To Be The Norm? You Had Better Be Doing Something Special – Hint Hint!

Tipping is one of those weird American customs that us Europeans have a hard time with, that and not having the sales tax automatically included in the display price.

Pretty much everywhere I’ve lived you pay the price that’s on the menu and walk out. Gratuity is included in the price as the staff are paid a proper wage. That doesn’t mean you can’t leave a tip, it just means that it’s not expected and doesn’t usually happen unless the service is exceptional.

Since moving to the good old U.S. of A. I’ve been getting this tipping stuff wrong. Hanging my head in shame I must admit to forgetting to tip once or twice, but, in retrospect, I’ve also over-tipped and at times, tipped unnecessarily. I guess it all evens out.

From talking to my friends, and being active in groups of people where we end up eating out a lot I’ve learned that 15% is the normal tip. You can go lower if the service is shitty and higher if the service is great, but 15% is the “expected” norm. Various tip calculator and bill divider apps I’ve used on my Android confirm this.

Still with me? Good.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of waiters and waitresses posting online that 15% isn’t enough. That they want more and they are very vocal about it. They say 20% is the new norm, or at least they want it to be the new norm and if you disagree then they will spit in your food (I’m not joking).

This all came back to the front of my consciousness when looking at the comments on this post over at Geek Is Awesome (Note: website I used to run – now defunct), where people purporting to be waiters and waitresses are openly threatening people who say that 15% is the norm.

You’re the type of people who get they’re food spit in because your a dick and short change people for quality service. I pay my way through school based on the sheer kindness of others. You’re 15% (minus tip share, bringing that down to 12%) doesn’t help much.


Actually, 20% is appropriate.. Servers and bartenders will judge you and give you shittier service with a 15% tip. It’s a well known restaurant fact. If you hook us up we hook you up. Never fuck with someone who deals with your food. NEVER!!!

Can you say, “self-entitled little bastards”?

I can, and just for fun I’ll say it again – self-entitled little bastards.

Since I’ve been here in the U.S. my experience has been that “most” serving has been sub-par to par. There have been very few times when we’ve finished a meal and went, ah, that waiter was great, lets give them a bigger tip. It’s happened a few times, but this is the exception, not the rule.

We’ve had our share of horror story, stoned, stinking of sweat (at breakfast time), eye rolling, want to be stand-up comedian, dirty, unshaven, clearly hung-over, ingnorant waiters and waitresses as well, in fact, far more than the exceptional ones.

In general though, most just come over, put the food down, ask if we need anything and are on their merry way. As it should be.

Maybe now would be a good time to divulge that I’ve worked in restaurants, grew up in a bar and worked in bars…

So can someone please explain to me why these people think the standard amount for tipping should go up to 20%?

Unless you’ve completely failed basic math you should understand that the “my costs have gone up / cost of living” argument is a total wash.

As the cost of living, food and produce goes up so does the cost to eat out. As restaurants raise their prices your tip increases accordingly. That’s why it’s 15% and not $1.50.

If my meal cost $20 today and you get a 15% percent tip that works out to be $3. If the meal costs $22 tomorrow your tip is still 15% percent but now you get $3.10. In other words, as costs increase so does the does the size of your tip!!

Put simply, the cost of the meal has gone up and as such, the size of your tip has increased proportionately. That’s why it’s a percentage!

So what entitles you to an extra 5% of the cost of my meal? What entitles you to another dollar on my $20 meal driving my costs to $24?

Has the service improved? Are you licking my balls while pouring my cola or pre-warming my seat with the sweat from your saggy arse on those cold winter days? I don’t think so.

You’re doing the same thing you always do. Take the order, bring the food, attempt to be courteous and try not to smell too bad in the process.

What more are you doing for me to demand, and demand is what you are doing, an extra 5%? I’d really love to know.

Just to finish off, I want to put this comment which was left on the site (it was private so I’ll spare them the shame of naming them):

Ew Sara. Yes my job is writing an order down and filling glasses but I am also spending at least a half hour with every customer making sure they are happy and can enjoy their meal while I take care of all the details. If you don’t think my time is worth 20% of the meal, go to McDonalds instead. You don’t have to tip them.

She is spending at least half an hour with every customer? Wow, I’d call that creepy and downright irritating when you’re trying to have a meal in peace. Worse, spending 30 minutes with each customer means that she can only actually wait on 16 customers in an 8 hour day. It was my impression that most restaurants want you to handle more than one table at a time. No wonder she needs bigger tips.

It’s my experience that those who put in that little bit more effort get more out. When staff do a good job with us, they get tipped well. But to demand more of my money while doing sweet fuck all to deserve it? You’re kidding right?

8 thoughts on “Want A 20% Tip To Be The Norm? You Had Better Be Doing Something Special – Hint Hint!

  1. So how is it they are going to spit in my food if they don’t know I am not leaving a 20% tip until AFTER I am done eating?

    I don’t eat out very often and I rotate eateries frequently enough that I rarely have the same person wait on me. Those threats are bogus, at least to me. Now, if someone goes to one restaurant all the time…then I guess they need to be careful.

    I tip more 15% if the service gets the job done. Less if they suck, have a bad attitude, leave my drink empty, etc. If they are really good, anticipate things I want, don’t make me feel rushed, etc. then I will likely tip more because that level of service is valuable to me and I want them to know it. Expecting 20%, however, is insane and they won’t be getting it from me.

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  2. This American attitude that tips are mandatory baffles me. In Slovenia you are not expected to tip, service and everything is included in price. It’s somewhat expected that you round up if this is small amount (say €9,90 and you leave €10) and that is the normal tip.

    Though I make a point of learning local customs when abroad. E.g. in Russia you are expected to leave something. No fixed percentage but say you spend 1500 rubles (€35) you leave 100 rubles or something like that.


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  3. You know, I’ve just read all the thoughts I’ve been having about tipping and the American sense of entitlement, right here in this very post. Self-entitled little bastards.

    I’m a selective tipper. My tips are based on the service itself, not whether or not they believe that they are entitled to it because they are serving me. I didn’t sign a contract saying I am going to pay whatever wage they want just by agreeing to come inside and having a meal. Taking the order, bringing the food, and bringing drinks are standard fare, nothing out of the ordinary. If you think that deserves 20%, don’t hold your breath. In short, if you’re doing the bare minimum for me, I’m paying the bare minimum for this meal. If you go out of your way to make it awesome, I’m going to make your day just as awesome.

    As for the woman who said they spend a half hour with each customer, that stuck with me the entire time. I have NEVER had anyone spend a half hour with me during any dining experience. If they did, I think I would start considering filing a restraining order on them, before they start stalking me.

    I’ve waited, I’ve served, and never once did I complain about the amount of tips I was bringing in. I realized that if tips are down and it’s not a slow day, it’s me. So I did everything in my power to give everyone the greatest experience they could have, so maybe they’d see it in their hearts to leave a good tip. Now that I’m working in education (at a pay cut without those tips), my money is a bit tighter. That doesn’t change anything I believe in, I’ll still tip well for those that deserve it, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to part with my hard earned money just because you want it.

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