“The service was friendly, but slow and incompetent. One wrong item and one duplicate item was served to my table. The food was nicely presented but tasted like crap. And the prices were exorbitant, but I knew that going in” is what FlyerTalk member davie355 posted in this discussion. “Unusual for a restaurant in the US, payment was done by handheld electronic card reader brought to the table. I was asked to sign and select from one of the precomputed tips: 18%, 20%, 25%, with the last option being selected by default. Oh, of course on the receipt a 4% surcharge had already been added for compliance with health insurance laws of California, whatever that means.”
25 Percent Gratuity: The New Default Tip at Restaurants?
In the not-so-distant past, gratuities for waitstaff of restaurants in the United States ranged from ten percent to 15 percent before the latter became the accepted norm, which then eventually crept up to 18 percent before seeming to reach the unofficial current plateau of 20 percent for servers.
“That is ridiculous!” exclaimed FlyerTalk member Gig103. “Even 18% can be overkill, depending on where the restaurant is located and the quality of service. Some states still pay $2.13/hr minimum wage before tip credit, but others must pay full minimum wage even to tipped staff. Yet we’re still expected to tip ever increasing amounts.”
A useful link which Gig103 then provided is Minimum Wages for Tipped Employees for 2019, as a tool provided by the Department of Labor of the United States allows you to view which states:
- Require employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips
- Require employers to pay tipped employees a minimum cash wage above the minimum cash wage required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act — $2.13 per hour
- Minimum cash wage payment is the same as that required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act — $2.13 per hour
Not Tip at All?
“When a restaurant charges a ‘surcharge’ for their inability to price their food in relation to the wages they pay, i do not tip and encourage everyone else not to tip”, opined FlyerTalk member crabbing. “The thing to keep in mind is that legally, restaurants are required to ensure their wait staff receive minimum wage, but the wage for servers assumes a standard 15% tip. if servers’ actual wage falls below that level (e.g., customers fail to tip), the restaurant is required to make up the difference.”
What if the server offers substantially lousy service and does not deserve to be compensated at all? Do members of society have an obligation to leave a gratuity to that person regardless of the lack of service provided?
A tip should be deserved, not expected; earned, not required — regardless of the amount. If you are a service provider, did you offer a service of value to your customer — and did you do it exceptionally well? If so, that is how you will get a tip out of a customer. If not — well — that is up to the customer to decide. Not you…
…and increasing a gratuity to 25 percent as a potential default will not always guarantee better service at a restaurant. Should restaurants increase the prices of the food to adequately cover the wages of their servers and leave tipping to be purely optional at the discretion of the patron instead of having it considered an acceptable societal obligation?
Some FlyerTalk members believe that the word tips is derived from the acronym to insure proper service. Perhaps — but politeness and respect towards the service provider goes a significantly long way towards ensuring proper service; and that can be far more effective. Most people deserve to be treated with respect and addressed politely. Respect and politeness can be far more valuable than mere money. Throwing money at someone who does not earn or deserve your respect — let alone perform the service in question properly or at all — should be considered insulting to a person with moral character.
Similar to giving away vouchers for free but you must pay for the envelope in which they came — which was a workaround for nefarious sellers seeking to bypass the rules, restrictions, terms and conditions of frequent travel loyalty programs — is the day coming where food in the restaurant will be free of charge and the mandatory tip will be 100 percent of what the bill would have been?
I understand the argument that service personnel — mainly in the United States — depend on gratuities due to low and even sub-standard compensation paid to them by their employers. They do deserve to earn a living and be compensated for their work. If those service personnel choose a job or profession which is reliant upon gratuities, then they need to perform their role as best as they possibly can — and unfortunately expect the occasional deadbeat to not leave a well-deserved tip. Others may argue that service personnel earn more than people think as a result of gratuities — but I am not about to tackle that debate here at this time.
As for a gratuity of 25 percent as a default, I am opposed to paying a full quarter of the total bill as a tip to a server unless my overall experience in the restaurant was excellent or outstanding — I hope that that does not become the new normal in terms of dining experiences in the United States — and I am interested on reading your thoughts and opinions on this issue as well.
Gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…
- Do You Leave a Tip or Gratuity for Taking Out Food From a Restaurant?
- Should Breakfast Attendants at Hotels Receive Tips and Gratuities From Guests?
- Should Flight Attendants Receive Tips and Gratuities From Passengers?
- Should Customers Pay Servers By the Hour as a New Concept Pertaining to Tipping and Gratuities?
- Should Gratuities and Tips in Restaurants Be Discontinued?
- Tips and Gratuities: Your Thoughts, Please
- How Much Should You Tip Around The World?
- No Tipping Policy Pared Down at One Restaurant Chain
- Comparing Tipping to Paying Taxes? Get Real…
- When Is a Tip Not a Tip? When It is Mandatory
- Hey, Marriott: I Will Tip When I Darn Well Feel Like It
- Should the Practice of Tipping Be Abolished?
- Tipping the Hotel Maid: Yes or No?
- Tip: Charge the Charge to Tip the Tip Separately From Charging the Tip as a Charge
- Bad Service at a Restaurant: Should You Leave a Tip?
All photographs ©2015 and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.