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My Thoughts on Tipping

by Shawanda Greene

A few weeks back, I didn’t leave my taxi driver a tip. It wasn’t because I’m cheap. He’d clearly been smoking in the cab right before he picked me up. Since I have asthma and allergies, I don’t take too kindly to folks putting me in a position to make a difficult decision regarding my health:  inhale smoke fumes and wheeze or roll down the window and freeze. It’s not right. #KillYoSelfAndNotMe

If it wasn’t for the taxi driver’s faux pas, I would’ve gladly left him a tip. Maybe he’s learned his lesson.

It isn’t often I bump into a service industry employee who performs their job so poorly, I feel they deserve a tip of exactly $0. If you do your job reasonably well, expect a tip of no less than 15%. That clearly doesn’t apply to people who aren’t customarily compensated with tips.

By the way, what’s with fast food restaurants leaving a tip line on their receipts? I’m not tipping you for putting three spicy chicken wings and three buttermilk biscuits in a box. It’s not happening.

A friend once asked me if she should deny herself the enjoyment of having a sit down restaurant meal because she couldn’t afford to leave a tip. Um, yeah. If you can’t afford to leave a decent tip to your waiter, then don’t you sit your broke butt down in a restaurant and let someone else serve you.

I don’t take this position simply because tipping is the right thing to do when it comes to people busting their rump for minimum wage. I also feel this way because if adding an additional 15% to your food bill results in an overdraft fee on your bank account, then you either need to cook at home, order takeout, or find a place that makes more sense given your financial situation.

I know tipping can add a significant chunk to your food bill. That’s why when I was getting out of debt, I ate primarily at restaurants that didn’t require it.  Chipotle and Chicken Place are two of my faves. You can get a hot, semi-healthy, and delicious meal for $6 to $10. You can’t beat that.

Before I go, I should note that I especially despise tipping hairdressers. Aren’t they like professionals? I’ll tip my locktician, but the percentage she’ll get on my total bill will be considerably less than even the most obtuse server at The Original Pancake House.

So what are your thoughts on tipping?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Paige April 29, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Im a two dollar tipper and I hate it and feel bad about it at times but that is my budget. If my waiter was awesome and or cute is the only time I tip more than $2. My bill is always around $20 so im not far off… My hair & mani-pedi ,ppl get $2 if I hate it or up to $10 if I love it.

You know who I hate tipping the girls at sonic. Really how much should you tip ppl who bring your food 10 feet to your car?

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Toy Lady April 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I tend to agree with you, for the most part, about tipping, although I've kind of had to come to terms with it. I mean, the normal argument for leaving a tip is that waiters/waitresses aren't paid well, they work hard for less-than-minimum wage, etc. And I know that. I've done more than my share of waiting tables. But why should that be my problem? Isn't it the responsibility of the EMPLOYER to pay his employees? (My clients don't tip me, and believe me, I work my BUTT off for them!)

But then it (finally!) occurred to me that tipping is one of the purer forms of setting the value of something – *I* get to decide what that service was worth to *me* – the restaurant is giving me the opportunity to reward (or penalize) THEIR employees in a way I can't do other places – and the employees are actually motivated to provide good service! Imagine how cool it would be if you could leave a tip at the grocery store for the produce guy makes sure all the lettuce is crisp and healthy-looking! Or, say, at the pharmacy where you had to to sit and wait *2 hours* while they counted 30 pills into a bottle. . . yeah, a tipping policy might not be such a bad thing!

However, for EXTREMELY bad (not just lousy – I'm talking egregiously awful!) service, rather than leaving no tip (after all, I might have just forgotten), I prefer something of a little more significance. Something that says "I didn't forget – I chose not to," I think a token tip – a quarter, say, or even a penny – makes more of a statement.

(I've actually only been in that situation once, and I wasn't paying the bill (or leaving the tip) – but I did make it known that any tip being left by anyone else was under my protest!)

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Lakita | Personal Finance Journey April 29, 2010 at 9:17 AM

I wrote about tipping during my “Manners & Money” Series a while back.

Personally, I wish tipping would go back to something that is a reward for above & beyond exceptional service. BUT, since it has evolved into an EXPECTATION…I calculate it into my budget for service related industries.

For example – when going to the Airport, I carry about $10 in singles for porters, shuttle drivers etc. When in a restaurant, I leave tip without thinking about it. I also occasionally tip my hair dresser. I don’t mind, because she is very meticulous and will often schedule me last minute or at weird hours.

I don’t like the idea of tipping mediocrity. But since service industries are taxed a baseline average for tips, I will oblige unless there is a gross infraction. I mean, you have to go out of your way to make me miserable not to receive a tip. And if its that bad, a manager is probably involved and my meal is probably free. But that has only happened a couple times.

Ideally, I’d like a stronger reporting & auditing system for tips and do away with the baseline average from the IRS. Pay the service industries a decent wage and have them report their tips. Since that probably won’t happen, I’ll just deal.

Thanks for letting me ramble / rant

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FinEngr May 4, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Lakita hit it right on.

It seems like tipping has shifted towards an expectation as opposed to a reward/acknowledgement of good service. If I recall correctly, other countries pay their waiters livable salaries and tips are for ABOVE & BEYOND service.

Like government handouts, the baby starts to cry when the teet runs out. We've even had waiters come after us when we leave less than 18%.

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Tia April 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Paige, You tip people at Sonic? You are too kind. Now I feel bad. I didn't know you were supposed to tip them. :( I think I tip well when I go to restaurants, but until recently I never tipped hairdressers, nail techs etc. I guess my thought has been that they pad their tip in the price anyway.

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ctreit April 29, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Tipping is just part of some services. There are some tips that bother me though.
(1) The tip jar at a Starbucks. When will supermarket cashiers put out a tip jar?
(2) In some upscale restaurants in Manhattan you got to tip the guy in the bathroom. I feel bad for the fellow there, but I think it is a little much to expect a tip for taking a leak which I can do all by myself. Thank you very much!

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Kim April 29, 2010 at 2:10 PM

You know what really gets me? I went to Tampa for vacation, and the only parking available was valet. So every time we got used the car, there went a dollar (horrid transportation system). I hate tipping when I have no choice in avoiding the tip.

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Cathie April 29, 2010 at 3:32 PM

I am mostly with you. About restaurants: what most people don't realize is that servers are paid barely over $2 an hour. If restaurants were forced to pay regular minimum wage, many of them would go out of business. It is extremely difficult to make $$$ running a restaurant. With tipping, good servers can end up making $15-$20 in a mid-level family restaurant. It might seem like good money, but it's HARD work. Even that bumbling idiot who can't remember you asked for ketchup is probably working hard, even if not efficiently.
My daughter works in a salon, and right now she is working solely for tips.
But those people who are getting paid to pour my coffee in a cup at DD? I don't understand how they should get a tip. They aren't clearing a table, running to provide special needs, or anything else above and beyond what they are being paid to do. I get past the guilt of not tipping by paying with my debit card.

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Jin6655321 April 29, 2010 at 4:35 PM

I agree that tipping has become too common place but, the way I see it, it's just another form of inflation. A lot of businesses have managed to keep prices low by keeping wages low and sticking us with the responsibility of fairly compensating their employees. The places that are now adding tip jars (like fast food places) are also the places where the prices have remained pretty much the same in the past five years. I think that instead of being angry, we should be glad that business are resorting to tips instead of raising prices. At least tips are optional.

I would be angrier about the whole tipping process if I thought these people were getting rich on their profession alone and my tip is some sort of a required icing on their glamorous cup cake. However, I know several tipped professional (stylist, masseuse, etc.) and they're barely ecking by. Sure they charge you $100 an hour, but $60 of that probably goes to the Salon owner. And yes, $40 an hour is still more than what most people make but if you only have 2 clients that's only $80 a day. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will bring more customers!

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Carla May 4, 2010 at 10:46 PM

I am a tipper. Depending on what I'm doing and the service, my rate is usually 18-20%. If the service is bad, then they get 10% and a word to the manager. If I cant tip, then I eat at home, do my own pedicures, etc.

Yes, I am generous, but I guess that comes from having worked in the service industry 15 years ago.

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Donna Freedman May 7, 2010 at 12:54 AM

At a restaurant, my baseline tip is 20% — because I know some people undertip or don't tip at all. It doesn't matter whether I *like* tipping or not, or whether I think it's unfair that the servers are paid just a couple of dollars an hour. If I go out to eat, I am complicit in that system, so I tip.
Somebody has to work REALLY hard at being lousy to get less than 20%. Usually it's more like 25%. Then again, I don't go out to eat all that often.
I'm with you on DD, et al. Everybody seems to have a tip jar out these days. But that doesn't mean we have to buy in, so to speak.

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Alice May 26, 2010 at 6:17 PM

I'm a waitress… and I always give great service. However some people like to come in spend $100 on food and drinks they can't afford, tell you service is excellent, but that they just can't afford the tip. (not kidding, people have rally told me that) Really? Then stay home! Do not go somewhere and have someone serve you and then don't tip. I can't pay my bills with the words "service was excellent". When I can't afford to tip I go to Chipotle or McDonald's, not a restaurant where a server is barely making an hourly rate and on top of it servers have to tip out bartenders and busboys, often times based on their sales. Ugh. Undertipping when service is bad is one thing, but undertipping when you are too broke to tip or just cheap irks me to no end. Unfortunately, I love being in the service industry so I will remain a tipped employee and deal with all this until I finish graduate school… a few years from now.
My advice to people when thinking can you afford or not afford to go out somewhere, is remember to add tip and tax. Otherwise, Chipotle makes awesome burritos :-)
Hence, when I go out I always overtip for good service. I do not leave money in tip jars at coffee shops, fast food places. No. Uh- those people make more than minimum wage. However, I tip the pedicure lady cause I hate my feet and anyone that deals with them deserves a little something :-)

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Blair June 2, 2010 at 4:10 PM

I'm never sure about tipping for massages. I know they are a luxury and that the person giving them probably isn't making all of the money, but if I'm already spending $80 or so for an hour, I feel like that is plenty!

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Moneymonk June 8, 2010 at 7:19 PM

Nice website design Shawanda!

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@frugalquack August 20, 2010 at 1:24 PM

The tipping topic is a good one, because I think that minorities myself included are put in an awkward position with this issue. Many service people have pre-conceived notions about us and will EXPECT a tip no matter the service.

If we don't tip, immediately our nationality/heritage is put into the equation.

But fact of the matter is that a tip is just that – a tip. And a tip is meant to reward good service. If as a service provider your service stinks – I don't care if you make .50 an hour – you're either not getting a tip at all or a very low tip.

Good service = good tip
No service = no tip

I've witnessed several non-minorities immediately call out someone's heritage when not tipping or leaving a low tip. This is BS.

A tip isn't automatic, it isn't something you are automatically going to get. And my (or anyone else's) heritage SHOULD NOT be part of the conversation.

Good topic, Shawanda. Glad I got that off my chest.

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@JoeTaxpayerBlog February 6, 2012 at 8:31 AM

Years ago, I walk into a diner for a breakfast meeting. I ask for non smoking and am seated. The very next guy to walk in is seated at the next table and lights up. I get the waitress' attention (she had seated us both) and said "I thought I asked for non-smoking." She said I was in non-smoking, and the next table was smoking. She set me straight that two sets of tables in the same room had to have a few where smoking met non-smoking.
Needless to say, no tip. (Did I mention, the place was empty otherwise.)

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Shawanda February 6, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Sit the non-smoking guy next to the smoking guy in an almost empty restaurant. That's just too stupid.

I remember I worked with a woman from South Africa who was amazed by the way we do smoking and non-smoking sections in U.S. restaurants. She likened it to having a no peeing section of the swimming pool. Her analogy is one of the best I've ever heard.

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