Tipping On The Bill Total Or What You Think The Value Of The Food Is

by admin on April 6, 2017

I am a middle aged American woman and I took my daughter off for a short vacation during her college break. On recommendation, one night we went to a live dinner performance that was themed around the medieval period. We ate at tables surrounding an arena where “knights” jousted and engaged in sword fights, complete with horses, dramatic music and lighting. The performance was engaging if a little cheesy and I’m glad we went.

The dinner was pre-determined: we chose a (soft) beverage but everything else was a set menu of soup, roast chicken, some sides and dessert with coffee. The beverages and food were doled out from common pitchers and pans by “serving wenches” (gotta stay with the theme, I guess). The food was basic but pretty good. There wasn’t any real individual attention from the wenches, other than to ask if we wanted refills of beverages or coffee at appointed times.

The etiquette situation arose at the end. At the start of the dinner the “serving wench” went through some announcements about what wasn’t included in the tickets, which included gratuity. Since the “wench” was much more along the lines of a food runner than a waitress, I had thought that she was an employee in the same category as any other employee. OK, I didn’t mind slipping her a little money. I was a little shocked at the end of dinner when everyone was given a tray with the explanation that tips were customary along with suggested tipping rates. Apparently I was expected to tip 15-20% of the ticket price (about $110 for two tickets, although I got a slight seasonal discount). In other words, I would have tipped the same for a nice dinner that cost $110 in which the waiter provided individual, attentive service as I did for someone whose job was to dole out pre-selected food from a communal container. (The food was fine but definitely not worth $110 on its own). In addition, there was no real way to leave a tip other than cash as far as I could tell. I doubt that all of the people at such a performance had the kind of cash that they were expected to leave, at least comfortably. It was really an uncomfortable situation for a few moments to be essentially told “OK, you laid out $100 but you need to leave another $20”. (I ended up leaving $10 on the grounds that I would have tipped about that much for a comparable restaurant dinner. Plus, it was almost all the cash I had).

So: what is the etiquette situation here? Should a person expect to tip that much under the circumstance? Or was the facility presumptuous? I would much rather have paid a little more up front with the understanding that the gratuity was covered. (We still had a good time, but the tipping situation bugged me a little).

(FWIW the website probably mentioned somewhere that gratuity wasn’t covered, but I still wouldn’t have thought I was supposed to tip on the basis of the full ticket price, since the cost was largely to cover the performance rather than the food as I understood it). 1021-16

It’s been my experience that you tip on the total bill, not what you consider to be the actual cost of the food because it is nigh on impossible to speculate as to what the actual costs would be.   I’m surprised the venue has not commenced with gratuity already added to the bill to avoid this.

{ 122 comments… read them below or add one }

Wild Irish Rose April 6, 2017 at 8:31 am

I agree with Admin here. Also, it’s been my experience as a food server in many different establishments that the servers are expected to share their tips with the other employees, and that includes the entertainers. This, too, is something that the facility’s website should note so you’re not surprised by it.

I went to a similar place in Florida many years ago. Loved it!!

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Maria April 6, 2017 at 8:48 am

Admin’s answer is perfect. Perhaps I am dating myself but I could not stop thinking of that scene in the movie, “Cable Guy”, when Jim Carey takes Mathew Broderick to Medieval Times. The inattentive service was likely due to the fact that the waitstaff does not want to take away from your enjoyment of the performance. I would probably have left 25% bc the server had to do the whole “serving wench” thing, as well.

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Ivy April 6, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Last time I took the kids there our server was also a performer, he was the “valet” or whatever it is called of our knight, and participated in group scenes. Not sure if all servers do that, but it’s one more explanation of the “inattentive” service. Definitely tip on the total.
My pet peeve during tipping time at Medieval Times is that the are not always coming with these trays and then you wonder where to leave the tip, given that the tables are littered with food leftovers.

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Lerah99 April 6, 2017 at 8:58 am

The serving “wenches” are paid as servers.
Which means they get paid the tipped minimum wage.
In many states that means they get paid $2.13 an hour.
Everything else they make comes from tips.

Dinner theater, Mystery Dinners, Tourist shows like: Medieval Times, and Dixie Stampede, Dinner cruises, etc…. are all events where you are expected to tip on the overall ticket because food is included as part of the event.

You should calculate that tip in as part of the cost for the night of entertainment.

I live in Florida.
I’ve had many friends who’ve worked as servers and bartenders in food venues at major theme parks.

You’d be horrified at the number of people who don’t tip because “The ticket to get into the park was so expensive and the food is all over priced.” Sadly, not tipping doesn’t “stick it to the man” who sets the prices at the park, it just keeps your server from being able to pay their bills.

In restaurants where servers are expected to tip out a percentage of food sales to the bartenders, bussers, and hostesses, not tipping means that your server gets to actually spend money for the pleasure of serving you.

I get that you feel the set-up made the “wenches” more food runner than server. But they get paid as servers and you should tip like they are servers. You can find the system to be flawed and corrupt if you like, but that’s not the server’s fault.

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Galatae April 6, 2017 at 9:00 am

Tip on the bill. It’s a terrible system, but they get next to nothing in wages:
https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Medieval-Times-Inc-Salaries-E225414.htm

Even the vet salary is low.

I agree that it should be figured into the cost of the ticket, though.

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Marie April 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

I’m just sitting here quietly enjoying living in a country where tipping is not needed and not expected.
You get very happy smiles if you do tip because of great service, and if you don’t, you know the server will still gets proper wages.

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lakey April 6, 2017 at 11:18 am

I agree. I’ve been to countries where tipping is not expected because servers are paid reasonable wages just like everyone else. The service is professional and just as good. We’re paying either way, so they may as well just charge more for the food and make it simpler. Then you don’t have the risk of servers being stiffed.

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Queen of the Weezils April 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm

I felt very weird not tipping in those countries, but when in Rome…..

Both systems have pros and cons, but I think I prefer the living wage/no tip one.

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iwadasn April 6, 2017 at 10:34 pm

Funny, I would think “quietly enjoying” it would preclude going on about it to anyone who dares to have a culture that’s different from yours.

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Aleko April 7, 2017 at 1:12 am

I’d agree with you if Americans were ‘quietly enjoying’ their own tipping culture; but from the number of vexed discussions I encounter online, it doesn’t seem to be satisfactory for anyone. (I’m from the UK, FWIW.)

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Colleen Halbert April 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm

My daughter loved it. She was an excellent and friendly server and made far more per hour than she would have made making minimum wage. Even more than the starting wage at the manufacturing facility I worked out. Meanwhile the slower, less friendly, less capable workers weren’t doing as well. Should she have been punished because of them?

She was quietly enjoying our tipping culture quite well.

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HET April 7, 2017 at 1:06 pm

I would hardly characterize 2 sentences on an internet forum as “going on about it.”

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Ketchup April 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm

I’ll join you. It’s nice.

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Serryce April 9, 2017 at 7:58 pm

I try to leave at 10% tip when I eat out here (in Australia), partly because even if the service hasn’t been spot on, well, serving’s not a particularly fun job anyway, and dealing with people and their sense of entitlement is never enjoyable, and then the workers are not always paid the best. (And even if they are, see the point about serving not being a particularly fun job.)

In America, I always leave the minimum tip. More if the service was reasonable (it usually is) and a big chunk if the service was good. Yes, it sucks that American restaurant companies feel the need to take their profits out on their employees, and frankly I find it a complete bugger to my faith in humanity to know that American customers feel the need to take their penny-pinching out on the people doing the service work.

I figure that I can afford the tip margin of 20% of dinner more easily than the person doing the service work can afford to lose it. In that, I agree with the adage that if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford to go out. Kindly stay in, and keep your parsimony at home with your pinched little heart, thank you.

An amusing anecdote from an Australian friend who married an American guy.

During the period in which said American guy was wooing her, they were travelling around some of the cities of Aus trying to work out if he’d be willing to relocate (he wasn’t). But at this one cafe one morning, he didn’t like what was on the menu, so he asked to substitute several ‘add-on’ items for the items one of the ‘set meals’. Well, here in Australia, they frequently aren’t willing do that, and the server was fairly blunt about it, even when the guy moved from wheedling to cajoling to offended that his meal choice wasn’t being catered to (it wasn’t allergy or intolerance related). So he orders the set meal with bad grace and the sides he wanted, and the server had taken the menus away, he leans across the table to my friend and says, “Well, she’s only getting a TEN PERCENT TIP!”

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Lanes April 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm

I also live in a country where tipping is not normal… but it’s starting to come through.
Tip jars at the counter at most cafe’s and coffee shops, and even gratuities added to the bills of some upper class restaurants – printed already before it is handed to you, so you’re basically THAT customer if you ask for it to be removed.

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Ajay April 11, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I live in a living wage country, and I have been that customer – pre-adding a tip implies to me that they are not paying their staff a living wage, and I did contact the local government labour office, it turns out they were not paying a living wage and were fined quite heavily – the new owners are amazing and the food has taken a large step up in quality and consistency. (the staff were always good)

I abhor the forced tipping culture, it is a clear statement of how the government cares nothing for the workers by not setting a minimum living wage.

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Annie April 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

I live in a US state that has always required that servers be paid the minimum wage, regardless of tips. Recently in my city, the minimum wage went up to $15 an hour. This weekend I was at a restaurant that charged a flat 20% service fee, with no tipping required or expected. This was a first for me and I liked it. I hope it’s the beginning of the end for tipping in my city. It always annoyed me that I had to subsidize bad tippers to bring a server’s wage up to a living wage.

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KenderJ April 11, 2017 at 6:23 pm

I can understand the attraction of a flat service fee, but did you know that you paid taxes on that service fee? Service charges and “auto grats” are treated as taxable sales by the IRS.

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Mustard April 11, 2017 at 6:02 am

Argh… yet another pitfall for foreigners in the U.S. – as if entrées that are actually main courses and not appetisers and getting the cutlery right aren’t enough..

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pennywit April 6, 2017 at 9:10 am

I think I know this restaurant/performance venue. I think I tipped a bit less than the 15-20 percent in part because the gratuity was cash only and some of my budgeted cash for the evening had been spent on knicknacks (especially pennants and photo ops) sold before and during the show. I simply can’t give the server money that I do not have. If the credit card option had been available, I would have probably tipped around 20 percent of the value of the meal.

Dinner theater is a little different. At dinner theaters I have attended (unlike this medieval theme restaurant), the actors are also the wait staff. In those venues, I often tip generously — thirty or forty percent or more — based in part on the actor’s performance on stage.

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Anna April 6, 2017 at 9:30 am

Wow, I would have been struck by that as well, as the ticket was for both the food and the performance, and you don’t typically tip actors when you go to a theater, do you? Are those tips being shared with the performers? I’m not sure the correct answer is all that clear to me, either.

I’m comparing this to experiences I have had going to a local music club that also serves dinner, although purchasing dinner is optional. Tipping is expected, but only on the cost of the food, not of the ticket to see the musician.

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JD April 6, 2017 at 9:45 am

I’ve heard of these types of dinner shows, but never been to one, so I’m glad this was posted. I would not have expected to tip on the ticket price, either, since I’ve never had to tip for a ticket to an evening of classical music with the city orchestra or a play at the college theater. Is this how it works for those dinner shows? I had no idea, and I have to say I don’t care for it, either. The management should have added the tip to the total price to start with, if they want a tip for the total cost, and not requested the customers to put money on a tray. They would have been out of luck with me, since I most likely would have had zero cash on me.

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Jen April 6, 2017 at 9:56 am

Medieval times? If this in the state of South Carolina then its been my experience as a server that most restaurants from low to high end will not let u do an auto gratuity.

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Miss-E April 6, 2017 at 10:25 am

Tip on the bill. Basically you went out for a prix fixe meal, if you were in a restaurant with a prix fixe menu you wouldn’t get any more individual service than what you got at this place but you would still tip on the total of the bill. These servers are running around servings way more people than servers in restaurants do, they’re doing the same basic work and getting paid the same pittance that servers are usually paid. There was nothing in the story to indicate that the service was poor, you should have tipped a full tip.

I recall once, way back when, a similar discussion on this site where Admin said (paraphrasing) that if you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to go out, it’s part of the cost of eating out. I find it a little odd that after dropping $110 on tickets, suddenly $20 for service is a huge ask.

I will say, it’s pretty silly that they only accept cash for tips, especially in this day and age.

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Dee April 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm

I don’t think people go to these shows for the food since it’s “okay” (at best) but for the entertainment, which includes food as an aside. I see this instance, then, as a theater event and I wouldn’t tip for food at the theater. Also, the server isn’t taking orders and meeting customers’ needs throughout the experience. It’s essentially group catering and there’s never tipping for that. I’ve worked as a waitress and as a caterer’s server and the only reason for tipping is for customized at-your-beck-and-call service, which is not what OP was getting. And $110US/ticket is a very princely sum for a mediocre dinner and entertainment and I can see why OP would think tips were already included. So, if I was her I wouldn’t have tipped either, mostly because I probably wouldn’t have had the cash in my wallet or any more in my budget after spending it all on the tickets.

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Janey April 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm

OP said it was $110 for two tickets. So $55 for dinner and the show. Not bad at all for the set up she’s describing.

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lakey April 6, 2017 at 5:43 pm

I may have misunderstood but I believe OP’s wording was $110 for two tickets. I thought she meant $55 per person, which I would consider a pretty low price. I haven’t gone to professional plays or musicals in a while, but not long ago the tickers were near $100 each and that did not include a meal, and wasn’t on Broadway. The show must be pretty expensive to put on. I might seem silly for bringing up the horses more than once, but we used to own horses. They are very expensive to care for. Shows that involve costuming, music, and performers are expensive to put on.

I can see how someone who purchased the tickets ahead of time might be caught off guard by finding out that they needed to tip, but I don’t think it is unreasonable. I just think that the people running the show need to be more upfront about the tipping policy at the time of the ticket purchase.

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Dee April 6, 2017 at 11:51 pm

You’re right, OP did say it was $110 for BOTH tickets. I missed that. That seems pretty reasonable for the package, but I’d still not expect to tip for the meal, as it’s not the focus of the event. I get that it might be expensive to put on a show like that but the cost should be reflected in the ticket price, not on some secret pay-later code of practise that not everybody knows. Again, no matter the price of the ticket, I still wouldn’t expect to tip for a theater show that included food.

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lakey April 6, 2017 at 11:06 am

I guess that I expect something like this from a venue that does “touristy” business. Frankly, I think that the ticket price is pretty reasonable if you look at the cost of putting on productions with live entertainment, much less the cost of maintaining horses. So their expectation of about twenty dollars in tip wouldn’t bother me. They may be splitting the tip among employees other than the serving wenches. I’ve been to combo dinner-shows and this is pretty much what I would expect.
I agree with Administrator, it would make more sense to tack the tip onto the ticket price, then people wouldn’t be caught off guard.

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Chris April 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

The lady of the house and I generally tip in cash (because of reasons any server would be glad to explain). The closest we have come to the posted situation would be dinner theaters or something similar. I don’t think we have encountered a cash only way to tip. This reads as a failure on the venue’s part to make things clear. If there is no way to tip other than cash, then they are placing quite a burden on the servers.

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Rose Lloyd April 6, 2017 at 11:24 am

A lot of folks don’t understand that the tip is almost always shared. The server may tip out bussers, hosts/hostesses, bartenders or even the performers. If the tip is below the 20% mark the server could end up losing money as the tip out is based on sales, not on the actual tip that is left.

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Queen of the Weezils April 11, 2017 at 8:14 am

Yes. I sometimes wish we could pass a law that forces everyone to work food service for 6 months at some time in their life, and retail for the other 6. A greater understanding from the inside would benefit everyone.

(Of course that would be impossible to pass that law, nor would I want to live in a country that would pass it. But I can dream……)

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sillyme April 6, 2017 at 11:40 am

After watching a comedy/documentary about tipping, and having read a lot about it, I’m considering a new approach to tipping.

Think about it: excellent service is excellent service regardless if the meal cost $25, $40 or $100 *per person*. Now, think about this: the amount a server makes in a night – all other things being equal – is based on how many tables s/he can turn over in a night. So, if I tip a percentage of an inexpensive meal but keep the table two hours, I’ve short-changed that server compared to what I’d tip a server of an expensive meal but sitting only one hour.

So, I’ve started taking into account two things. First, service. This is the quality of the service, quantified by how many trips to the table, correctness of the order, plating that the server would do, and how hot the food is (it’s not the server’s fault if the food is bad or the kitchen is slow.) The server can only be responsible for getting the food out to the table promptly after the kitchen prepares it.

Second is how long I’m there and how busy the restaurant is. If I’m lingering over dinner and it’s a busy night, I need to be aware that I’m preventing the server from earning tips from other parties, and tip accordingly. That’s true regardless of what my meal costs.

I can’t always afford to tip the difference between the restaurant’s wages and minimum wage, but the server is also (hopefully) waiting on more than one party. Still, it seems more fair to tip based on the time spent serving me, rather than simply the cost of the meal.

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Kate April 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm

I like your system and I think I might take it up. I have never understood how, 10 years ago it was standard to tip 10% of your meal, then 15%, now I have started to hear that you should always tip 20%. Food prices go up with inflation, even at cheaper places, like fast food chains, and a percentage of the food as tip would accommodate that, so why increase the percentage? I think I will tip 10% from now on, like people used to.

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Willynilly April 6, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I am 41 years old. I was taught, back when I was in elementry school in the 1980s that a standard base tip was 15+% (the local rule of thumb was “double the tax” and local tax was, and still is, 8.25%). Never in my life do I remember 10% being considered a reasonable tip, certainly not as recently as 10 years ago.
Now it seems the norm is 18-20% is standard, 25% for excellent service or totals under $5-10.

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Whynotme April 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm

10% here too. Tax here is only 6.5% too.

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SS April 10, 2017 at 8:01 am

I agree… I’m 50 and I was taught 15% when I was a child too. I’ve never heard 10% except when service was bad.

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Kate April 10, 2017 at 11:08 am

I grew up in the northeast, and read about tipping in etiquette books like Emily Post’s among many others. Maybe it is geographical?

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KenderJ April 11, 2017 at 6:56 pm

I’m the opposite. I was always taught that 10% was the standard unless the service was really horrible. It’s only the last decade or so that it has been creeping up to 15%-20% and there is a lot of pushback from the old ranchers about paying that much. I should point out that servers in my area are paid minimum wage regardless of gratuities. Also, back when I was in food service a million years ago, servers weren’t expected to tip out to everyone and their dog and they were not expected to tip out more than 10% of their total tips. I don’t know about now, but the expectation to tip more than 10% seems to come mainly from people that are from “somewhere else”.

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Rebecca April 6, 2017 at 11:33 pm

I have always wondered why the percentage keeps going up too, and when I expressed this on some other forum, the responses were somewhere along the lines of “because of inflation, dummy.” Well no. 10% of a $50 meal is $5. So now that the same meal costs $100, 10% is $10. A raise directly proportional to inflation. Who keeps deciding that the actual PERCENTAGE is increasing? It’s crazy. And where I live the servers DO make minimum wage, before tips. There are so many minimum wage earners who don’t get tips. Why does being around food change anything?

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Rose April 10, 2017 at 4:27 am

In a few areas, yes, servers make minimum wage. In most, they do not. It is industry standard to tip them, and they count on it to pay their bills. If you don’t like to tip, don’t go where it’s an expectation. And complaining that ‘other people don’t get tips, so why should servers’ is a bit silly, unless you’re going to do this with every person you encounter. Veterinarians do essentially the same thing as doctors, yet get paid a lot less. This doesn’t give people the right to decide to pay their doctor only 75% of the bill, does it?

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Colleen Halbert April 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Minimum wage for servers is $2.13 at the federal level and is not like the minimum wage of $7.25 for other categories. So being around food actually does change things.

Some states have their own, higher, minimum wage but not all.

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sillyme April 11, 2017 at 1:03 pm

The increase in tip percentage is one thing I got in this life.
It’s to match the increase in living expenses, I would think.

I should have warned everyone, I’m a math nerd.

Anyway, 10% of $100 is $10 (U.S.). Always has and always will be. The problem is that with inflation, that $10 buys less. In 1975, it would get your server over 25 gallons of gas. When gas prices exploded to $4/gal, that same 10% tip would get less than three gallons of gas.

So, I’m assuming the theory was, diners would increase the tip, just like employers increase full wages, to keep up with the cost of living for servers.

Another reason I’m strongly considering the time of service + lost opportunity (how many tables are they missing out on if I overstay) scale.

Nerd Alert: Some economic health indicators now use the “basket of goods” model to track the “health” of wages and income, rather than the standard inflation model. They track the changes in how much it would cost a specific “basket” of household necessities to give a more realistic indicator of how national incomes are doing for the population.

I know no one cares about that last bit but me. Excuse me being a bit of a “Sheldon” here.

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KenderJ April 11, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Me, too. I tip 10%

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Dee April 7, 2017 at 12:07 am

The reason the tip percentage has increased over the years is because guilt works; people feel compelled to pay the increase. The higher menu prices already translate to a higher tip without upping the percentage. Back when a hamburger meal could cost less than $5 we could hope for a $.50 tip. Now that that same meal is about $15 the tip should be about $1.50. Back when, a table of five might mean a $2.50 tip; now, that same table would be $7.50. If you covered 5 tables and had a turnover every two hours then you could be looking at $10+/hour in tips alone. There are many variables of course (alcohol, desserts, etc.) but the percentage should not increase over time if the menu prices also increase, which they would obviously do.

Here minimum wage is way higher now than it was when I was waitressing (when cost of living is factored in), and so restaurant staff make significantly more even without tips. Restaurants that have tried to eliminate tipping in favour of paying their staff a higher wage saw a mutiny amongst staff, because tips + minimum wage added to way more than the $20+/hour new wage.

Which makes it all so very difficult to navigate if one wants to reimburse for good service but not pay too much.

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PJ April 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

This.

Both the cost of living increases and inflation have been at about 2% for the last 20 years (on average. They can both fluctuate each year). So inflation in the food prices should be enough to the COL increase.

I’ve also seen the backlash when restaurants try to get rid of tips because the staff will not make as much money that way.

I tip about 18% at full service restaurants. I don’t vary it with the level of service. To me, it is just a service fee that I’m supposed to pay, so I do. I still think they should just explicitly charge us for the service, and get rid of this silly tipping game.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:45 am

Because cost of living has gone up too. I was in the trenches when the IRS decided on an arbitrary minimum amount of a server’s gross sales (the totals on the bills of the tables they served) as 8%, would be considered to have been earned. Maybe in DC with the money floating around Capitol Hill they pulled 8% or more. Waitress on night shift at a 24 hour restaurant in a college town, try 3%. I had the IRS tell me (with pay and tips I grossed $8k a year) that I owed just over $1000 to cover that 5% they thought I was making. Some places waitresses were ending up in the hole (minus value paychecks) because the employer started taking that out of their check straight. Petitions started and legal started. About a month later they relented and I got a letter saying they’d reviewed things and decided I didn’t owe that $1k. And the flip was the ‘fink book’ that we had to fill out daily or by shift for a week, sign it, and turn in a page dated for that week. As proof of our tips. Minimum was $2.65 at the time.

Hence the amount you should tip has gone up. Especially that the legal tipped employee base was $2.13 an hour then and still so today–some places, that is all they pay. Yet. That person is trying to survive. Until they abolish that abysmal rate, tip 20%. Unless the service truly stinks.

Some places too, the manager reviews the CC receipts and if someone writes in a low amount or zero, (I do zero because I tip in cash and I write that on the slip that I tipped out in cash) the server gets talked to for the reason WHY they got a cruddy or zero tip! They can get in real trouble for it.

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Anon April 7, 2017 at 9:44 am

I think a lot of people forget that it’s not just food inflation, but also cost of living. It honestly sounds like some of you guys are looking for excuses not to tip as much.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I honestly think they should just increase the price of the theater ticket and pay a living wage instead of hitting you at the end to tip as well.

Rebecca April 8, 2017 at 12:16 am

Sorry but that does not make sense at all. Cost of living goes up because of inflation. And other people besides servers have an increased cost of living. Including the customers at restaurants. I’m gathering math is not your strong point. What I am saying is the expected tip has gone up in relation to the meal and general inflation. Other people aren’t getting these kinds of raises in relation to the increased cost of living.

As for taxes, that’s unrelated and kind of not my problem and it does sound unfair – that needs to be taken up with the IRS or CRA or whatever the tax authority is where you live.

NostalgicGal April 8, 2017 at 3:48 pm

@ Rebecca, and everyone else.

Here are two charts that will show you the state of wages in every state and territory of the US for regular wages, then for tipped employees:

https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm#DC
https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm

Three states have a discrepancy of roughly $7 or more between tipped minimum and their state mandated minimum. One of these, the District of Columbia is roughly $9 difference. And that is an expensive place to live.

Wait staff need to be paid a living wage. That is ridiculous. Even with a minimum of $2.13 an hour, against $7.25 Federal, that is $5.12 an hour you hope to make in tips. If you have to share it with back staff, that means you need a LOT of tip money to make the federal minimum. And trust me, minimum wage is no fun to live on either, especially in places where the cost of living is high. Someone else put a link to ‘average salaries reported for Medieval Times’, average was $3.12 an hour. Makes me determined I will not patronize those because they don’t pay a living wage, they apparently aren’t great on disclosure on stuff like they expect you to tip before you buy tickets…

Yes I’m devoted on this subject. I worked for years as a waitress after I was first married to get spouse through his degree and work on mine and it’s not for the faint of heart and we did a lot of hand-to-mouth.
Yes I do tip. Even the time where the steak was bad and they comped my meal I still paid the waitress her tip. She had done her work, she deserved her tip. I made sure to hand her her tip directly.

new anon April 9, 2017 at 6:24 am

It honestly sounds like some of you guys are looking for excuses not to tip as much.

DING DING DING DING DING! We have a winner!

I’m not even American and I know that it’s not nice to stiff someone on the tip because the server almost certainly has a crappier deal than you do. But then, maybe I know that because I’m not American…

PJ April 10, 2017 at 5:41 pm

I get what you’re saying, Rebecca (been working 20 years now as a mathematician 😉 )

@anon and @new anon: We’re not complaining about the financial outlay of the tip. Most of us *do* pay it because we know it is essentially the staff’s wages. Most of us *do* understand that it is really bad to withhold that fee from the server. In my life of 40+ years, I’ve only known *two* people who were rotten tippers, and one of them was not American but knew full well that the tipping was needed to get up to minimum wage.

We’re complaining about the whole game of hitting this moving target of ‘what’s fair and reasonable’ nowadays since both the percentages and the base to which the percentage is applied are inflating, and this assumption that anyone rich enough to go out to dinner must surely have the means to tip more than they do and are therefore stingy when they only leave 20%.

Yet when business have attempted to pay a full wage with no tips, it is the waitstaff that resists.

Kate April 10, 2017 at 11:42 am

I am very sorry you had such negative experiences, but everything you describe sounds illegal, based on federal laws on tipped professions. I am sure you know, but for the benefit of others who may be reading: tipped employees do get at least the legal minimum wage for their state. The $2.13 is the base pay, the rest is made up in tips, if it isn’t made up in tips, the employer is legally required to pay whatever amount is necessary to make up the difference between the base pay and the legal minimum wage for hourly workers.

As far as the percentage increasing though, that doesn’t really have anything to do with cost of living, which is the point I and others have been wondering about. Back in, say the 60’s, when a hamburger cost 10 cents, a 10% tip would have been a penny. Now when a hamburger costs 10$ at a diner, a 10% tip would be a dollar. As food prices have increased, as well as overhead costs like rent and electricity, which naturally make their way into the cost of the menu items, the cost of living increase is covered. It is why the standard amount to tip is a percentage, not a flat rate.

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sillyme April 11, 2017 at 2:25 pm

I’m sorry, I had to replay to Kate.

Kate, please don’t confuse the server minimum wage, arond $2/hr (give or take based on the state) and the minimum wage for all other hourly workers: now $15/hr in some states.

So, when I (or others) talk about tips making up the difference, we’re talking about that HUGE poverty-inducing gap between the legal min. for a server and the mandated min. for everyone else.

The increase in the costs of the food (meaning a 10% tip on a costlier food item would go up) does not cover the change in what that money would buy.

I’ve been a server, a salaried professional and an hourly temp. I’ve had to live the differences in wages, benefits paid or not conferred, etc.

Also, why bring overhead into the conversation? Overhead is paid by the restaurant owner.

What would be interesting is to see how restaurant food prices have increased compared to the cost of living. If it’s proportional, then I’d think there’s something there. If it’s not, as I suspect, and the cost of living increases have eclipsed the rise in restaurant prices, then I think there’s some validity to the increase in percentage.

I remember tipping and being tipped 10% (that’s how long in the tooth I am).

Here’s more food for thought (pun intended):
When and where I was waiting tables, on Sundays children under ten ate for free. So, you’d have families come in with two adults and four or five children. And some Sundays chicken was all you could eat.

And then the party would tip at 10% of the meal – for the adults only. Because, you know, the kids ate for free so that didn’t count. And those multiple chicken refills, those were free so they didn’t count either.

klb4n6 April 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I always tip more at breakfast, the meals are typically much cheaper than lunch or dinner but the waitress is doing as much if not more work than the later meals. I typically do 25-35% for breakfast (assuming the service was good).

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stacey April 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

When you purchase a ticket to an event that includes food and entertainment, the question becomes one of precedence. Is the event about the entertainment? Or about the food? If the establishment turned over tables for successive clientele and otherwise acted like a purveyor of food (even for a set menu), then the food was the point. If the clientele were seated for an evening of entertainment and food was included in the price, then the entertainment was the point. Since the cost of the food isn’t broken out and the cost of the gratuity is (somewhat?) discretionary, it makes sense to leave an incidental tip ($10 is fine). The circumstance that tips the question of gratuity more into an “incidental” category is that there isn’t room to add a tip after the meal via credit card (and it’s customary to pay for food that requires a gratuity after consuming it and experiencing the degree of service).

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Lyn April 7, 2017 at 11:09 am

After reading all comments, this one makes sense to me!

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Devil's Advocate April 6, 2017 at 12:45 pm

The problem is tipping is a percent–did a server do a better job just because I ordered the steak vs the pasta? Yet somehow I should tip more based on the meal I ordered not the service I encountered. I hate tipping in general (and in general we tip more the just food servers who may make 2.13/hour, we also tip a wide variety of other industries). If tipping is required because we have guilted ourselves into being responsible for the employee’s wages–then it should simply be the difference between the amount paid to the employee and the amount of min. wage per hour.

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Kate April 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

You are right. I find what you and Sillyme have said very interesting. I replied to Sillyme above about a side issue, how the percentage you are supposed to tip has increased in the last 10 years from 10% to 20%. I don’t understand that at all!

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:49 am

See the reply I wrote above. The disparity between the server/tipped employee legal base pay rate has not changed in over 35 years, it is still $2.13 an hour. About that time (circa 1982-3) the minimum wage for non tipped was $2.65 an hour. The disparity between non tipped and tipped minimum wage has widened drastically. Until that tipped base is changed or abolished, that server may be seriously hurting to make ends meet. Hence the amount you should tip has risen. It stinks. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

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Kori April 7, 2017 at 8:15 am

See, I keep seeing this response. I’m 45 years old, and worked as a waitress in the 80s. NO idea why people think the amount has gone up. It hasn’t changed in my lifetime. It has been 10-20% as long as I can remember. I ALWAYS tip 20%, no matter the restaurant, as long as the waiter/waitress has done a good job. Less if they were lousy, more if they were fantastic.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Yes, in 1982 standard flat was 10% and good service, 15%. With college students that wanted to order the $1 dinnerplate roll, a 50c cup of bottomless coffee, take up a 4 seat booth (one person) and study for three hours and leave me a dime, that was an issue. I left it to the manager to hoof them. They got to the point that the manager would handle door seating and tell the backpacks they got one hour IF they ordered a meal. Snack 30 minutes. If we got busy they would be asked to LEAVE (have a 10 booth section that seats 40-60, have six studiers, what profit?) . That is what the three uni libraries were about, all of them were nice and two had 24/7 study carrel rooms. Pizza would deliver to those rooms…

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Queen of the Weezils April 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

Kori, I think location has a lot to do with it. I think the “percentage creep” was more apparent in the middle parts of the country and less on the coasts, more in rural/suburban and less in urban. So it is possible both you and NostalgicGal are both right, but were in different locations at the same time.

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Lerah99 April 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

You are welcome to dream up ideal situations and how you’d like things to be done.

But you live in this society. And it has certain rules set up for how and when you should tip.

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Carmen April 6, 2017 at 11:26 pm

That was a bit harsh.

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Lerah99 April 7, 2017 at 9:39 am

Harsh? That’s not harsh.

I have a friend who doesn’t tip because he feels the system is unjust.
That’s harsh. He goes out to eat several times a week and stiffs the servers over and over and over again because he “won’t take part in such a corrupt system”.

Does that action do anything to bring about the Utopia he dreams of?
No. It just means his hard working servers get to pay out of their own pockets for the pleasure of serving him.

So he gets to feel all smug and superior by “not participating in a corrupt system” while also screwing over the hard working service industry people he’s pretending to advocate for.

So I’m a little tired of all this “This is how is SHOULD be” people who then use their ideal world as a reason to screw over working stiffs in our actual reality.

So feel free to pontificate about all the ways things would be better if you were in charge. But remember that you live in THIS world and please act accordingly.

You can dislike social contracts and opt out of them if you choose. (Aka. don’t go out to eat in places where tipping is the norm, cut your own hair, don’t take a taxi, mow your own lawn, park your own car, pump your own gas, etc…) But to benefit from them while also refusing to participate in them, well that’s insisting on having your cake and eating it too.

You are benefiting from the services without participating in the actions that support those services. And you aren’t hurting the powers that be, you’re hurting the workers.

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Dee April 7, 2017 at 11:26 am

Real change comes from opposition, and that opposing action will hurt innocent others along the way. Not that change is bad, it’s just that it will be painful at first. Going along with the status quo but complaining about it nonetheless is enabling the dysfunction. So, in that sense, your friend is correct in his actions.

NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:22 pm

If he’s a regular at some of those places, it’s gotten around about him and will be reaping the benefits (crappy service and I wouldn’t put it past ‘additives’ in his food depending on how nasty he is).

Miss-E April 10, 2017 at 7:50 am

No sorry Dee but hurting innocent people in the name of change is nonsense. The way to change the tipping system starts with the employers. I’m with Lerah99 – it is very much not okay to decide you don’t like tipping and just stop. It does nothing but you look like a jerk who doesn’t tip and it screws over the server who worked hard to serve you. It would be nice if things were different but that will have to start somewhere else – increasing the minimum wage for servers or establishing restaurants that build the tip into the cost.

stacey April 10, 2017 at 10:31 am

I think that if you are going to refuse to tip when it is the norm, you should inform your server up front and permit them to recuse themselves from serving you. It seems only fair that if you are going to enjoy the benefit of their labor and time while simultaneously keeping back a tip that they should also be able to opt out of interacting with you. A manager can then decide if he or she wishes to step in and serve you, since they aren’t customarily tipped. They will most likely take note of you as somewhat troublesome and might eventually conclude that their restaurant is unable to partake of your patronage since your lack of tip indicates that their servers simply aren’t up to the task of satisfying your expectations.

Kate April 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

Actually, if the places he eats at are not committing crimes, and are handling wages for their tipped employees as federal law mandates, they will still be getting minimum wage, like other hourly employees do. The problem comes in when the restaurant is cheating their employees and the federal government, and the employees don’t know about the laws protecting them.

KellyK April 10, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Dee, refusing to tip isn’t opposition, though. Actual opposition is directed at the person making the rules, whether it’s the employers or the lawmakers setting the minimum wage. Not eating out and making sure local restaurants know why they’ve lost you as a customer would be opposition. Asking your lawmakers to raise the tipped minimum wage would be opposition. Just choosing not to tip doesn’t actually accomplish anything except that he gets to feel smug while screwing someone else over.

NostalgicGal April 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

@Stacey, I like your reply. And in another place someone did report that, they were going out with someone that refuses to tip, so they informed the server up front. The server told the manager, who came and waited the table instead. The person did it to draw out the other one for their actions directly and for once let them deal with things face on and find out what that actually meant. The person started tipping after that.

@Kate, I have yet to see a place (and I worked at a lot) that were paying under minimum for tipped and made up the difference if the server didn’t make it to minimum. Tough bounce, hustle harder.

Devil's Advocate April 7, 2017 at 8:13 am

A rule in society only remains so long as society allows it to be a rule. By dreaming up ideal situations perhaps we can get this arcane system to become a thing of the past—and instead force employers to pay real wages to their wait staff.

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sillyme April 12, 2017 at 12:27 pm

There’s one restaurant (U.S. West Coast?) that’s getting a name for itself by paying the FULL min. wage and not involving itself in tipping. They were on Adam Ruins Everything (what happened to that show?) According to the servers on the show, they were happy about it.

I haven’t seen any discussion yet about all the other issues that complicate this matter: establishments that ‘pool’ tips, unscrupulous managers who take a bit off the top of the tips, etc.

Yes, Kate I saw your reply and loved it! 🙂

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PJ April 13, 2017 at 11:35 am

I would be very interested to see the full-wage/no tip idea gain traction. I wonder how it would affect my state in particular.

I live in one of those states where tipped workers get the state minimum wage (which is a couple dollars higher than the federal minimum) in addition to their tips, and pooling or tipping out is also forbidden by law. Even so, it is very clear that 15-20% is very much expected, and 10-15% is a shameful insult. The argument isn’t ‘we have to make up for the gap in the server minimum and federal minimum,’ but there’s still the mindset that the tip has to make up for some wage inadequacy.

If such a trend started and grew to the point where most restaurants paid full minimum wage and had a no-tip policy, the implications for employees in my state (and customer expectations) would be very interesting… either the tipping culture would continue here and we’d have very competitive service jobs, or the tipping culture would die out and business owners would have to figure out whether they continue the existing level of pay which would be way out of line with the industry in general… but I guess in my state that’s already the case.

Ty April 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

I’ve never been to a venue like this one before, and like OP, I probably wouldn’t have expected the necessity of leaving a tip either, just assuming that because this venue isn’t a typical restaurant, that employees would be paid more than the average sever’s wage. That being said, I’m always a firm believer in having extra cash on hand in situations like this. Many times, I’ve found myself having to pay exorbitant parking fees that I didn’t expect or cover charges or whatnot, so it’s just a good idea to make sure to have some extra money on hand when on an outing.

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Willynilly April 8, 2017 at 10:24 pm

When I was in college and my early 20s I waitressed at a banquet hall. It was a firmal place: mostly weddings a few professional dinners or landmark birthdays, etc. We had to wear tuxedis and serve in white gloves, and “selling an entree” (asking “ok who got the chicken?”) was a firable offense.
We got paid servers minimum as our base, not standard minimum wage. Any gratuity the hosts added to their final bill was what brought us up to minimum or sometimes even a dollar or two more.

Just because its not a typical restaurant, with table turnover, etc, does not change that employers are free to pay waitstaff wages.

I always tip my waiter/waitress cash when I go to a wedding. Directly. And when I went to Medeval Times (twice in my life) I tipped them too.

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AM April 10, 2017 at 9:55 am

Interesting. I worked at a similar place, but we made over minimum wage. The bride and groom were charged a mandatory “service fee” (20% of the bill), which went to paying the servers.

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Queen of the Weezils April 6, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I’ve been to this kind of place, too. I know it’s expensive and the food isn’t quite up to snuff, but you’re paying for the whole experience. So I would tip 20% (assuming good service) on the whole bill.

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PJ April 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm

The dinner theaters I’ve visited give a tab at the end of the event that lists the dinner price along with any add-ons (eg: wine or dessert) that weren’t covered in the ticket. At the bottom is a total value of your meal so you can decide the proper tip (and know what you owe if you bought any extras).

They don’t consider the cost of the entertainment to be a ‘tippable’ charge. I appreciate this practice as I don’t typically on theater performances.

Honestly, what I’d appreciate more is to get rid of tips altogether and eateries just charge enough to pay the staff properly.

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Jilly April 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

The dinner theatre that I frequent also lists the value of the meal for tipping purposes as well as other additional purchases.

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Anon April 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Part of the problem sounds like people only having a certain amount of cash when going to these places, and then learning that it’s not going to be enough, and while they would have tipped more, card options aren’t available.

Perhaps they should make it more prominent if they take no cards.

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admin April 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm

The one time the Hubs and I went eons ago, there was an ATM machine in the lobby.

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Queen of the Weezils April 11, 2017 at 8:00 am

They should make it VERY prominent if they take no cards, because that is really rare these days. I bet there was a way to tip via card, if OP had asked. It may not have been obvious, but there just aren’t many places (especially one that serves so many at once) that doesn’t do cards. With services like Square, it’s even possible to hook cards into cell phones or tablets, to make running cards both portable and easy.

We have a very small business of selling art that my husband makes as a hobby. We only sell at shows, festivals, and other kinds of similar events, where we might not even have access to electricity. But with Square and a cell phone, we can run credit cards as long as there’s a signal. If we can do it, they can do it.

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Kay_L April 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I bought tickets to a concert at one of those places where they also serve dinner. You have to buy dinner to get a seat right up front. So, I knew that as part of the deal, I had to buy at least $25 worth of food and drink per ticket.

And I expected to tip 20% on whatever food/drink I purchased.

The surprise was being informed on the menu and on a placard on the table that they automatically a 20% fee to cover all the people who work to bring us the show, i.e., backstage people, sound guy? Not really sure who they were demanding this fee for but it wasn’t for the servers!

So, essentially–you want to sit up front? Buy at least $25 worth of food and pay an extra $10 for fees and tip.

What really got me was, given that it was all tied to my ticket purchase, was that this extra fee was not disclosed beforehand.

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NostalgicGal April 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Some dinner theater I have been to charge separate for meal/drink/entertainment, some are all in one. It should be made clear at the time your tickets are purchased, whether online or at a ticket window, about gratuities are extra. Or just add the cost to the ticket and be done with it. If it is $60 a ticket, just make it $72 instead and the 20% is covered. As some others said, they didn’t know and what $ they had may have been spent before the end of the meal. Also the venue should just pay a living wage so servers don’t get stiffed like that. (I think $2.13 an hour for tipped staff was set in late 70’s when minimum was $2.35 an hour, so the disparity wasn’t much. Over the years though minimum has risen but the tipped has not been raised….)

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Garden Gal April 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

My family and I went to one of these jousting/feasting places years ago, I think in Las Vegas. The food was adequate at best, the show enthusiastic but cheesy. I wouldn’t go again, but our son, who was about 12 at the time, loved it.

When I was in my early 20s I was a waitress (at a friend’s brand-new restaurant) for the worst weekend of my life. It was exhausting! Since then, I’ve always tipped at least 20% of the total bill (rounded up to make it easier to calculate) unless the service is really poor. So, if the bill comes to $46.60 with tax, I’ll tip 20% of $50 at a minimum.

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tessa April 6, 2017 at 6:29 pm

We went to one of these in Orlando several years back and the tip announcement was made at the end of the performance. It kinda caught us off guard a bit….thinking it was included in the price for some reason. And boy, the servers were right there, ready to go down the line to collect the tips before people got their things gathered up to leave.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:52 am

When you’re having to make up at least $5 an hour to hit non-tipped minimum if you’re on tipped employee minimum wage, you bet they will be there. That’s the difference between paying the rent and eating. The tipped minimum wage rate needs to be raised or abolished. It hasn’t been changed in over 35 years… and the disparity was much smaller back then. Now it is substantial.

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Rebecca April 6, 2017 at 11:37 pm

I would personally tip about 10% in this situation, same as if I went to a buffet where I got my own food but staff came around to clear plates, etc. While I do like to know what the customary tip is in the region where I’m travelling, I don’t like the actual business telling me how much I should be tipping. It’s a tip. If it was mandatory, it should be on the bill as a service charge listed with the food prices. Or if the restaurant feels the servers should make a specific amount, they should pay them that.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:53 am

Totally agree.

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Aleko April 7, 2017 at 1:44 am

Leaving aside the way this was sprung on the customers, and there being no way of paying other than cash, my feeling is that while these girls were not doing silver service, even if they weren’t doubling up by taking part in the arena show, they had to ‘perform’ in the sense of wearing a silly costume and putting up agreeably with any potential Merrie Olde Englishe banter the customers might indulge in. I reckon that’s worth something in tips.

I find it interesting that this ‘serving wench’ thing apparently exists on the west side of the Atlantic also; I thought it was a British fixation. (A bit Freudian if you ask me; busty females dispensing liquid nourishment on demand, nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean?) I used to do living history interpretation at a small manor house (nb: ‘manor house’ in Britain doesn’t mean anything nearly as grand as I gather it does in the USA), and everyone turned up expecting serving wenches. One week I was interpreting the role of mistress of the household, sitting in the parlour writing letters, wearing a silk gown with a full ‘suit’ of Brussels lace – lappet cap, fichu, sleeve ruffles – and people would still bounce in crying ‘You’re the serving wench, aren’t you?’.

Gratuitous historical fact of the day: ‘serving wenches’ actually didn’t exist. Serving at table was a masculine occupation at all levels of society in the Middle Ages and Tudor period, and in commercial establishments it didn’t become at all common to employ waitresses till quite late in the 19th century.

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sillyme April 13, 2017 at 8:40 pm

I think I want you for my new best friend. A History Geek!!!
(Please know that in my social circle, “geek” is a high compliment, meaning someone who has voluntarily attained a detailed acumen on a subject over and beyond the average or mainstream.)

I’m serious, I love these historic facts and details, and that one about the “serving wench” made my day. Especially since I can use it the next time my husband gets a little high-handed around the kitchen. 😉

Can you think of all the cyber-trouble we could get into together, a Math Nerd and History Geek?

(Seriously, great post.)

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OldMom April 7, 2017 at 7:54 am

It seems to me that an essential problem would be the customers’ lack of cash. I work at a place where people have to pay cash for copies. Frequently people don’t have any cash so they have to go to an ATM or dig change out of their car. As for me, I usually keep a 20 or a few ones for incidentals but the times I pay cash for anything are increasingly rare so while I might be willing to tip 20 percent it’s unlikely I’d be able to. The venue needs to change its method because the servers are getting stiffed.

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NostalgicGal April 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm

At least at a few places I used to haunt for copies, they sold copy cards. $50-70 for 1000 copies (depending on the place). The card could be recharged. They also had a delay on the machine spitting out the card or an auditron (the little numbered box) when you punched ‘give it back’ so nobody could walk by and steal your card or box. I liked the copy card better, keep it topped up and you always had a single to a ream of paper copy job paid for….

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Joy Bryant April 7, 2017 at 8:53 am

I think you should take the time to leave a comment on entity’s website. Perhaps if enough people commented, they would at least provide advance notice.

Tipping has gotten so out of control in my opinion. My biggest pet peeve is that so many now expect the tip to be calculated on the total including sales tax rather than the food amount. Also, we are seeing more and more chain fast-food type restaurants where one orders at the counter and there’s now a tip jar when you get to the register.

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HET April 7, 2017 at 6:22 pm

YES! THIS! (The tip calculations being done on the total including tax) I’m sorry that I’m not sorry….I know lots will see it as petty, but if our restaurant and bar bill is $92 and the tax is $8 more on top of it, do not tell me a 20% tip is $20. It’s $18.40 and that’s what I’ll tip, TYVM.

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Carmen April 8, 2017 at 12:55 am

Agree completely.

The entire “tipping” situation is out of control.

A tip jar at “Subway”? Give me a break.

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2017 at 3:55 pm

And there was a place called out for printing on the bill suggested amounts to tip, and listing percentages next to the monetary amounts. The problem was they overinflated the amount of the tip (aka 15% was 18%, 20% was 28%, 25% was 34%, etc). If you did the actual math the percentage to the amount listed was wrong. It was posted to media and quite a few added photos of their own bills from the place with these inflated values on the slips. I prefer to do my own tip math, thank you.

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stacey April 10, 2017 at 9:23 pm

It’s worth mentioning that a surprising number of people who work in restaurant, retail and service industry don’t know how to calculate a percentage either for sales tax or for tipping. And I agree with the “before tax”/ “after tax” irritation. I personally do “after” but don’t feel that it should be the actual base.
Ditto for alcohol. If you order wine or cocktails, there are some very diverse schools of thought- everything from “$1 to $2 per cocktail, regardless of difficulty” to “price of wine is included in the calculation of the gratuity” (which is fine for most of us normal folks, but would be the equivalent of a car payment for some bottles available in mid-range to finer wine offerings).
I guess I’m going to stick with 20%, post-tax, including drinks, as a base. If I one day order something fancy-ish on the wine side of life… I’ll “Google” the options for the context, ha!

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Jen April 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

One other thing to keep in mind is that performances like Medieval Times or Dixie Stampede is that the servers are usually responsible for one-two rows in a section, so maybe 15-25 customers at most. There are only two performances an evening, so it’s not like a typical restaurant where they can turn over 4 or 5 tables in an hour. We went to Dixie Stampede about 5 years ago while on vacation. It was a large group of us, probably about 12 people total, so we had one whole row in our section. Our server was great – joking around with us, very kind to my then-3-year-old son, boxing up a meal when said overexcited son fell asleep promptly five minutes into the show and missed his whole meal. He did also participate in parts of the performance that involved the audience. I had no problem giving him a generous tip that IIRC was shared with the bussers and other staff, because they also have to clean up and reset the whole arena area for the next show, scheduled to start about an hour after ours ended.

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HET April 7, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Just in case people aren’t aware (and from some of these comments, lots of people aren’t aware) 7 states in the US *do* have to pay servers more than $2.13 per hour. From this graphic it looks like west coast servers make the state or local minimum wage. Presumable, this would also mean the bussers, cooks and bartenders make the minimum wage too.

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HET April 7, 2017 at 6:29 pm

shoot, I forgot the link to the graphic (from 2014) https://goo.gl/images/552kz5

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Tmc April 7, 2017 at 11:30 pm

I never have cash – ever, ever, ever. I’m not familiar with this dinner show and probably wouldn’t think about there being servers (I would probably assume it’s a buffet). If the theater doesn’t allow you to add a tip on your credit card or at least inform you in advance, then I really don’t think it’s the customer’s fault. Unfortunately the servers making $2.00 per hour are the ones suffering because of it.

On a side note, I think tipping in the United States has gotten completely out of control. I read an article recently that banned all the people in our lives we should tip. It included your dental hygienist!! You know, the one that makes $60+ an hour!! It’s just gone too far.

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Tmc April 7, 2017 at 11:31 pm

*named, not banned

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koolchicken April 8, 2017 at 12:59 am

I find it in poor taste on the part of the venue that the staff is essentially forced to beg for tips. I feel that the company should either ensure guests know full well tipping is expected and not included in the bill, and that only cash is welcome. Or they should actually pay their staff a living wage.

This isn’t like a standard restaurant. In a place like that you know you’ll be expected to tip. But at dinner theater places like this with communal food, it’s not necessarily expected. Sure most people would still leave a few dollars on the table, but you’d expect gratuity to be included in the total bill. It’s horrible for both the servers and patrons if it’s sprung on them. I myself don’t often carry cash, so I’d be mortified.

Years ago my (now husband) and I had dinner in a rather interesting place. It was truly family style in that we shared a very large table with several other families we didn’t know and large serving platters were placed in the middle. Servers brought pitchers so we could get our own refills, and they placed the food on the table, but interaction was minimal. As a result a great many people were confused on how much (if anything) to actually tip. While incredibly friendly, they interacted with guest very little. We all served ourselves, so should we really be tipping someone for that? I think we left 10% because we wanted to leave something, but we could have gotten the same service from a fast food place. The food was great and it was really fun having dinner with so many people we’d never met, but we didn’t go back because the tipping set up was so awkward.

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PJ April 13, 2017 at 10:35 am

“I find it in poor taste on the part of the venue that the staff is essentially forced to beg for tips. I feel that the company should either ensure guests know full well tipping is expected and not included in the bill, and that only cash is welcome. Or they should actually pay their staff a living wage. ”

YES.

It basically says “the money you paid upfront for your food and entertainment today wasn’t actually enough. Now we’re putting you on the spot to guilt you into giving us more money to make up for it.”

They should just increase the price by $10/ticket and let customers decide beforehand if they think it’s worth it.

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Catty April 8, 2017 at 7:23 am

I’ve been to similar shows in Orlando. The food is very subpar and the service is usually below average. They kind of just dump food on the plate, and I usually don’t eat it. Also, on the way out, there are other opportunities to tip the entertainers, which I do.

I usually leave a fair tip, but not 20% of the ticket price.

Also, I have noticed a rather annoying trend at restaurants, specifically in the US, lately. (I live in another country but travel often.) I visited several restaurants and servers would write down the suggested gratuity on the cheque. I have seen this a lot but the last few places I visited wrote the suggested gratuity starting at 20% and went up to 30%, written in large red ink. These rates are well above industry standard, and at one place the service was horrendous, so the server was being extremely presumptuous. (Long waits, no drinks, not removing used plates, and having to work hard to get the servers attention for menus, drinks, and to find out when our food would be out after a very long wait.) I usually tip 20% no matter what, but I find this practice very rude.

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2017 at 3:59 pm

I mentioned elsewhere, some places were doing that, printing helpful % with the monetary value, for tipping on the slip, but they inflated the monetary amount. 15% was 18%, etc… they got called on it on social media with a lot of people posting pictures of their slips showing this and it was obvious the math was off.

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JeanLouiseFinch April 9, 2017 at 8:02 am

People need to remember that the usual practice is that a server is taxed on 8% of the total bill. That means that if you don’t tip, the server is actually paying to serve you. That is why I always tip 15-20% and round up if the service is good. I don’t know what they do at a place like Medieval Times, but I would assume that the staff is taxed the way the government dictates. If you can’t afford to pay for dinner, performance + tip, then maybe you need to make alternate dinner plans.

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Kate April 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Actually, if the restaurant if obeying federal wage laws for tipped employees, it doesn’t. Please see mine and HET’s posts above.

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Colleen Halbert April 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Employers are required to make up the difference between $2.13 and $7.25 if the employee does not make enough in tips. It’s quite honestly the main reason I pay my delivery drivers the standard and not server minimum wage. It’s too complicated with a delivery business and people who do not tip or tip $.50 to figure out if my employee made enough. It’s also why I charge what I do for a delivery fee to offset the additional wages.

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Whynotme April 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I probs have a cruddy way to tip, so my apologies, but I tip $5 at lunch and $10 at dinner. Sometimes it’s way more than necessary (like on $8 lunch) and it could be too low, but not often, for dinner ($60 meal for two). I firmly believe tipping should be based on service and not the cost of my meal, because that’s so arbitrary and has nothing to do with the wait service.

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NostalgicGal April 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

Just make sure it’s not a state where tipped employee minimum is $2.13 an hour, or that poor server has to make over $5 an hour just to break even with minimum wage THEN they are taxed on the ticket sales. So $60 means they have to pay $4.80 in FEDERAL taxes, just to serve you. Then there’s state and Social Security. That means the server may not have broken even on your dinner. Just remember that. $5 on an $8 lunch is very generous, but the high end may not average unless you have the same server for the dinner that you had at lunch…

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Miss-E April 10, 2017 at 7:57 am

Yeah servers definitely hate you. You say that tipping should be on service alone but you have a flat rate that you favor, what if you get excellent service? Do you bump all the way up to $11?

You should keep in mind that serving jobs at expensive restaurants are hard to get and very competitive. People work extra hard to get/keep those jobs because they can make more money there. Tipping more at a fancy place is also reflective of the amount of work a server is doing.

Plus, while we all can agree the tipping system isn’t ideal, it is the system. You’re putting your foot down and the only result is that you’re screwing over your server who is going back to the kitchen to complain about the cheapskate who just tipped him $5.

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Miss-E April 10, 2017 at 7:57 am

Yeah servers definitely hate you. You say that tipping should be on service alone but you have a flat rate that you favor, what if you get excellent service? Do you bump all the way up to $11?

You should keep in mind that serving jobs at expensive restaurants are hard to get and very competitive. People work extra hard to get/keep those jobs because they can make more money there. Tipping more at a fancy place is also reflective of the amount of work a server is doing.

Plus, while we all can agree the tipping system isn’t ideal, it is the system. You’re putting your foot down and the only result is that you’re screwing over your server who is going back to the kitchen to complain about the cheapskate who just tipped him $5.

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Queen of the Weezils April 11, 2017 at 8:04 am

Yeah, that’s a cruddy way to tip. I understand not liking the American tipping system – I have reservations about it to – but to not follow this system while in America is being rude. And if you’re a regular at some place, the servers are probably arguing over who gets stuck with you and they won’t hustle on your account when that effort can be spent on other diners who likely tip better.

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NostalgicGal April 10, 2017 at 12:56 am

Okay brain was out to lunch on me. The $4.80 (8% of $60) is not tax paid but considered the taxable income (8% of gross sales the server handled. On $1000 in sales, the server is figured to have $80.00 of income to pay taxes on). Like I said, when the law first kicked in the IRS assumed 8% and I got a staggering bill from the IRS for 2x over what I was making (I was making about 3% of gross sales and the law was 8%). It took about a month after that in the face of substantial and mounting protest, petitions, and pressure on Capitol Hill by their constituents, to make the IRS back off. Still.

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Kate April 10, 2017 at 12:18 pm

No, it doesn’t. Please see mine and HET’s posts above.

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Miss-E April 10, 2017 at 7:58 am

Whoops sorry, this was meant as a reply to another commenter, not as my own statement.

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