Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reconsidering the 15 percent tip

Posted by on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 12:00 PM

15percent.tip.091009.jpg

As a waiter it's difficult not to approach new guests and make assumptions about what kind of tip you're about to receive. A table of teenagers in the diner doesn't look nearly as promising as a first date or birthday party.

But when the crumbs have settled and the check is signed, the reality of whether a table was satisfied with the service is right there on the tip line ... unless, the tip is exactly 15 percent. Then, according to Slashfood's Hanna Ruskin, a waiter has no idea whether you were pleased with the level of attention you received.

Her argument centers on the idea that over the course of the past two decades, the standard tip has edged up closer to 20 percent. And so a 15 percent tip might actually be the sign of a stodgy customer or someone who was potentially displeased with the service.

Is 20 percent really

standard for most customers, or is it still reserved for

exceptional service? Large parties are regularly charged 18 percent

gratuity at restaurants -- in part a reflection of the fact that

bigger tables often require a larger percentage of a server's

attention. But still not 20 percent. 

In a down economy, it seems difficult to believe that people aren't cutting back on tips. The California Restaurant Association

says that today's standard is between 15 and 20 percent, but anecdotal evidence suggests customers are finding

ways to justify a smaller gratuity. Whether these are isolated stories

or indicative of a larger trend is hard to quantify, since tips have never

been perfectly reported or reported on.

I've always seen 20 percent as a good barometer for good service and

I'd like to believe that other people are tipping in the same fashion,

knowing that servers are struggling alongside them in today's

economy.

[Image via Flickr: adventures of pam and frank] 

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