Do We Really Tip Based on the Waiter’s Service?

(Photo: Oli Shaw)

For whatever reason, tipping is a subject that always seems to fascinate. Maybe it’s because it represents a sort of shotgun marriage between economic behavior and “normal” behavior (i.e., profit-maximizing and altruism). In that light, a reader named Joshua Talley raises an interesting question. I am interested to hear your replies.

I’ve been a waiter for years.  I pride myself on providing prompt, professional service.  But I’ve always wondered how much the quality of service impacts the tip. Despite the notion that the tip reflects the quality of service, it seems likely to me that aside from instances of extremely good or extremely poor service, most people simply tip what they normally tip.  For instance, some people are 10 percenters, many are 15 percenters and some are 20 percenters, etc., and it takes either very good or very poor service to change this.  Am I right?

As a waiter in an upscale restaurant in Venice Beach, Ca., I’ve always suspected that the price of wine rarely reflects the quality of a bottle, so I appreciated your wine episode.  Given that I’m not a sommelier, a tenet of mine is that if a customer really wants my opinion of the nuances of a particular wine, then they don’t really know much about wine themselves, so whatever I tell them is relatively safe and the power of suggestion will likely make them recognize whatever qualities I attribute to the wine in question.

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  1. Romeo says:

    I don’t care what the bill is. I don’t tip by percentage. I tip by service. My tipping formula has been the same since college.
    I tip $5 for every person I am playing for. Since I have a family of four, my tip is usually $20.
    I remove one dollar for every time I see the bottom of a glass for more than a minute. I generally end up tipping somewhere between 10-15.. That’s about two hours of wages if they were my personal waiter. Since I am having to share them with other tables, and I generally average less than an hour in the restaurant, I think that’s more than fair.

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