Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
Should I Tip in the US
Tipping can be an emotive subject with many people so I thought I would go over some of the basics here with more specifics in another article. In some place in the world offering a tip is considered an insult and should not be done. However the United States is not one of them. Here there is a deeply ingrained tip culture and it is easy for a first time visitor to get things wrong. Here are a few questions that get asked and a distillation of the answers you would get by asking regular customers.
Why should I leave a tip? This question is asked frequently, and the answer is simple. The owner of the establishment certainly could pay the employees more money, but he or she would have no choice but to raise prices. By allowing you the option of tipping, you are allowed to decide how much you are willing to pay for that meal. The menu price, plus tax, plus tip is less than you would pay for the same meal if the waiter was paid the minimum wage. In many cases, the owner would at least have to double the employee's rate of pay just to reach minimum wage. If he or she was forced to double each servers pay, it isn't difficult to see how quickly a night out to dinner would be priced out of reach for many people. By splitting the cost between many customers, at a few dollars each, the employee makes enough money to live on, the owner is able to keep the cost down, the customer can afford to go out to eat, and everyone is happy.
Do I have to tip? In the U.S., it is well known that serving staff are paid little, so to some it seems as if customers are guilt tripped into tipping whether they feel it's earned or not. To some extent this is true, and as noted it has come to be considered part of the cost of the meal. That however is no excuse for poor service. A server, who is unprofessional or rude or simply does not do a good job, is not deserving of a generous tip. Some people leave a small tip anyway, knowing that the person still has to eat, but that tip will be directly in line with the quality, or lack thereof, of the service.
This goes back to the discussion of how much you are willing to pay for a meal. You cannot reduce the menu price, but you can certainly lower the tip from 20% to 10% if the meal is not as enjoyable as it could have been. You decided to pay 10% less for that meal, because the experience was not what you expected. Some people enjoy having this control over the situation and wish that every industry offered such a mechanism for insuring good service. On the other hand, there are customers that take advantage of the serving staff's reliance on their generosity. No matter how excellent the service is, they do not leave a decent tip and simply use any excuse to leave less than the customary amount. This is just their way of saving money. It is of course the customer's prerogative, but such customers too are indicating just what kind of service they expect in the future. Professional servers will try to ignore such slights, and continue to provide courteous, efficient service to every customer, but some servers will definitely respond in kind. While tipping is not obligatory, failing to tip a conscientious, professional server is considered an insult, and an incredibly small tip can be more insulting than leaving nothing at all.
You should always tip for the right reasons. Restaurant patrons should also refrain from taking their anger out on the server for things that are beyond their control. If the chef burns your steak, or the bartender makes a weak drink, ask the server to return it and bring another. In most cases, they will be happy to try to fix the problem. They have no control over these things and should not be penalized for them. The customer is essentially "docking their pay" by lowering the tip, and they shouldn't be paid less than they deserve because someone else failed to do their job properly. Also, take into account that when a restaurant is busy, you might have to wait longer than usual for your meal. Do not take it out on the server. As long as they politely acknowledge you, wait on you as quickly as possible, and do what they can to keep you comfortable until your food arrives, you should tip a reasonable amount. On the other hand, if the server is rude, impatient, ignores your attempts to get their attention, or completely ruins your dining experience through thoughtless mistakes or bad service, feel free to indicate your displeasure by leaving little or no tip.
How much should I tip? The recommended amount to tip for servers in a full service restaurant is about 15%. Some people say that since tipping rates have not increased in many years, and the cost of living has, that the standard amount should be raised to 20%. However somewhere between the two is considered a "good" tip. Many people simply leave 10% because it is easier to calculate in their heads, but that amount is considered a "low" tip and may leave the server wondering what they did wrong. You can ask the server to include a tip, and they will be happy to add it up to the percentage you choose.
Some restaurants note in the menu what percentage will be included for parties of eight, or more. Make sure the server has in fact added the tip before you leave. On the other hand, you may not have noticed any mention of added tip when viewing the menu, and may end up leaving an extra tip. For both of these reasons, it is best to check with the server and see if the tip has been included or not if you have a larger group. Also feel free to leave a little extra even if the tip has been added in, but this should only occur by your choice.
A further article will list some of the recommendations for all the other areas where a tip might be expected.
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Page added on: 27 October 2005
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