Pete the Planner's guide to tipping

Written by
Peter Dunn

Do you vote? I do. I don't mean voting in the presidential election. I mean voting with gratuity. One of the strangest aspects of our economy is the concept of gratuity. Tipping. Billions of dollars are exchanged every year through this ancient process of giving money to someone. Sometimes the money is earned, sometimes the money isn't earned, and sometimes everyone involved is clueless about how tipping should work. I believe tipping is a vote, a vote on how well you liked your server.

If I may steal a ridiculously overused technique that is used in every graduation speech in America, and define the word we are talking about. A tip is defined as a sum of money given to someone as a reward for their service. Let's examine this. A sum of money is pretty vague. It doesn't say a reasonable sum of money. It simply says a sum of money. The definition goes on to say "given". "Given" is not the same as paid. "Given" implies that the act occurs at the givers discretion. We then get to the word "reward". Hmmm. I guess that I am going to be forced to now define reward. A reward is defined as a thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement. I think that the word effort is what stands out here to me. Should you reward someone for a complete lack of effort.

Let's briefly digress and examine who we might tip. Waiter, barber, bell-hop, taxi driver (not Robert DeNiro), house cleaner, masseuse, bartender, doorman, baristas, and sushi chef. I feel reluctant to tip some of these people. When a taxi driver owns his own cab, I feel weird about tipping. A bartender tip can be weird thing. They poured Peach Schnapps and Sprite over ice and handed it to me (kidding). And tipping a barista for a $4.00 cup of coffee is a little excessive.

My rule of thumb on tipping a waiter is 20%. If they do a great job, then I will tip them more. If they do a terrible job then I will tip them as low as 12%. I think the whole idea of a restaurant passing on labor costs to the consumer in such a crazy way is strange. I guess tipping a waiter is better then having food prices increase by at least 25%. I have never been a waiter, so I don't fully understand both sides of this conversation.

What is your tipping baseline? Do you use it as a vote?

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