We've all been there. It's the awkward moment between paying for your greatly-enjoyed meal and getting up to leave the restaurant; those 30 seconds or so where you have to look someone else in the eye, and tell them exactly how much you think they're worth.
Waiting tables is a tough gig; some places believe you should always pay 20 percent on top of your bill, but depending on what you ordered, how good the food was, or whether your server was able to avoid doing something racist, you might think otherwise. If only there was a general rule for tipping anyone in any given situation...
Well, food fans, your prayers have been answered; it's time to look a bit closer at the types of tips which go out to service workers all over the country; a $40 billion industry in the United States.
Tim Urban, who runs the fantastically philosophical "procrastination website" Wait But Why, fought the good fight for servers all over, asking 100 service workers in New York City about tipping norms in their respective industries. This mission was based off Urban's own experience as a waiter in his college days, saying he's become a "really good tipper" as a result.
"[A waiter is] sad because he gets no salary and relies on tips like every other waiter, but people undertip him because at this restaurant they get their own food so they think he’s not a real waiter even though he has to bring them all their drinks and side dishes and give them a full tour of the restaurant and how it works like a clown and then bus the table because they have no busboys at the restaurant and just when the last thing he needs is for the managers to be mean and powerful middle aged women who are mean to him, that’s what also happens."
In his blog, Urban discusses all the different scenarios in which the tipping situation is unclear, like the "Inadvertent Undertip", the "Inadvertent Overtip", or the "'S*** Am I Supposed To Tip Or Not?' Horror Moment". In order to never again experience an "Ambiguous Tipping Situation", Tim Urban put together some significant primary research to give us this very illuminating tipping chart:
The graph tells us a lot of things, like how much of your service worker's salary comes from tips, and how socially acceptable it is not to tip. On the whole, that benchmark of around 20 percent for tips works quite well, though you should try to tip more for extenuating circumstances (eg. if your pizza delivery man had to drive through several inches of snow to do their job).
However, it's generally frowned upon to tip under 15 percent in a restaurant or bar; servers make almost all their money from tips, so if you had a problem with the service, it's generally better to take it up with the manager. If, at any point, you decide not to tip, it's better to leave that line blank. Writing a big fat zero makes you come across as a bit of a jerk.
Well, folks, there you have it. Now, you'll never have an awkward tipping situation again. Hopefully.