Tipping Disparities

While making short work of my muffin (not the $16 kind mind you) and my second cup of joe this morning I read an interesting article in my local rag about San Franciscans being the country’s worst tippers. Of course, this was not at all surprising considering their political demographics. Liberals in general expect government to provide, for everyone, so any evidence provided indicating that some disparity in the arrangement, this invalidates their premise. Probably the reason why the left in general are such cheapskates in their charitable giving:

Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

Any out of pocket expenses incurred beyond the taxes happily offered up would only prove the government as being not quite up to the task or that it basically needs more money to do it’s job. Adequacy in providing can only be achieved through government intervention. But back to the tipping controversy:

If there was any surprise to come out of the new Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants guide released yesterday, it wasn’t that Gary Danko was the most popular restaurant. We already knew that. It was that Bay Area diners have the proud distinction of being the worst tippers.

Those snobby elitist, having to mix with the unwashed but certainly not willing to throw them a few bucks their way, right? Well, not exactly.

Bay Area diners tip an average of 18.6 percent, which tied with Seattle for the lowest; the national average is 19.2 percent. From visiting other cities I don’t think that the level of tipping parallels the quality of service. Overall I think the service here is better than you’ll find in most other cities.

Gee, I thought the parsimony exhibited would be extreme enough to draw some conclusions, but this is much ado about nothing. It also makes me wonder if I’m out of touch with today’s protocol.
18.6 percent seems pretty generous to me and only fractionally behind the national average, but is that national average of 19.2 percent legit?

I always start from a position that 15% is where the bar is set. I have tipped more than that, but rarely and only for exceptional service where the server went above and beyond. Other than that, I expect courtesy and proficiency, my meal to get to me in a reasonable time and what is served is what I ordered. I understand that screw ups can happen and if there is a big problem I will usually mention it to the manager but won’t penalize the server because it usually is out of her hands. If the whole meal is a disaster, I will still tip 15% (they live on their tips, I realize that) but won’t be a return customer. And on rare occasions have written the corporate office, they have a right to know what goes on in their establishments.

But to average 18-19 percent, now I feel like a cheapskate so I thought I would put it to the group. Where does reasonableness in tipping lie with you? Do you average 19 percent, 15 percent, or is every meal weighed on it’s own merits?

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  1. JimK

    I worked for tips in the past. I start at 20. I subtract for problems, and if it’s my first visit to a place and the service is great, I tip 25%.


    I get excellent service everywhere I am a regular because I overtip for a few visits, then scale it back to 20%. I’m paying not for them to do their job well…but for them to go out of their way to give *me* the best possible service they can render. It’s like training. Then, periodically I will tip 25% just to remind them “Hey, that dude tips well, let’s treat him like he’s wealthy.”

    I’ve had a few epically bad experiences. For those I tip as little as I think they deserve or nothing at all.

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  2. Hal_10000

    I agreed with the guy at Waiter Rant who told people to eat out less if they needed to save money, rather than cheap out on tips. Even when money was tight, I made sure we did at least 20%. This is especially true now that I have a kid, since I know what an annoyance that can be (and how many families don’t tip).

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