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Bad life experiences aside, the larger point here is that I came out of my time as a waiter as a really good tipper, like all people who have ever worked in a job that involves tipping.
I put on my Weird But Earnest Guy Doing a Survey About Something hat and hit the streets, interviewing 123 people working in New York jobs that involve tipping. About 10% of the interviews ended after seven seconds when people were displeased by my presence and I'd slowly back out of the room, but for the most part, people were happy to talk to me about tipping -- how much they received, how often, how it varied among customer demographics, how large a portion of their income tipping made up, etc. I supplemented my findings with the help of a bunch of readers who wrote to us with detailed information about their own experiences, and with a large amount of research, especially from the website of Wm. The most critical step in avoiding Ambiguous Tipping Situations is just knowing what you're supposed to do. Since tipping is such a large part of life, it seems like we should stop to actually understand what being a low, average, or high tipper means for our budget.
Looking at it simply, you can do some quick math and figure out one portion of your budget. I got a little more comprehensive, and came up with three rough profiles: Low Spender, Mid Spender, and High Spender. One thing my interviews made clear is that there's this whole group of situation-related factors that service industry workers think are super relevant to the amount you should tip -- it's just that customers never got the memo.
It's nice to give a coffee barista a tip, but you're not a horrible person if you don't because at least they're getting paid without you.
Service matters.It seems silly to put this in because it seems obvious, and yet, Michael Lynn's research shows that the amount people tip barely correlates at all to the quality of service they receive (Luckily, Lynn's research also shows that service workers think service quality does correlate to tip amount, so the incentive system still works). Here's the overview, which is a visualization of the results of Lynn's polling of over 1,000 waiters. People also consistently said that those who act "entitled" or "fussy" or "like the world's out to get them" are usually terrible tippers. On the good-tipping side, people who are vacationing or drunk (or both) tip well, as do "regulars" who get to know the staff, and of course, the group of people everyone agrees are the best tippers are those who also work in the service industry (which, frankly, creeped me out by the end -- they're pretty cultish and weird about how they feel about tipping each other well). 3) A few different people said that when a tip is low, they assume the customer is cheap or hurting for money, but when it's high, they assume it's because they did a great job serving the customer or because they're likable (not that the customer is generous). 4) When a guy tips an attractive female an exorbitant amount, it doesn't make her think he's rich or generous or a big shot -- it makes her think he's trying to impress her. 5) Don't put a zero in the tip box if it's a situation when you're not tipping -- it apparently comes off as mean and unnecessary. 6) According to valets and bellmen, when people hand them a tip, they almost always do the "double fold" where they fold the bills in half twice and hand it to them with the numbers facing down so the amount of the tip is hidden. Apparently no one tips flight attendants, and if you do, you'll probably receive free drinks thereafter.


Golf caddies say that golfers tip better when they play better, but they always tip the best when it's happening in front of clients.
Tattoo artists expect $10-20 on a $100 job and $40-60 on a $400 job, but they get nothing from 30% of people. A massage therapist expects a $15-20 tip and receives one 95% of the time -- about half of a massage therapist's income is tips. A whitewater rafting guide said he always got the best tips after a raft flipped over or something happened where people felt in danger.
9) The US is the most tip-crazed country in the world, but there's a wide variety of tipping customs in other countries. The amount of tipping in a country tends to correlate with the amount of corruption in the country.
11) Celebrities should tip well, because the person they tip will tell everyone they know about it forever, and everyone they tell will tell everyone they know about it forever. For example: A friend of mine served Arnold Schwarzenegger and his family at a fancy lunch place in Santa Monica called Cafe Montana. I'll finish off by saying that digging into this all week has made it pretty clear that it's bad to be a bad tipper. If you liked this article, you can subscribe to Wait But Why to have our once-a-week posts sent to you by email. All lyrics provided on this site are for educational purpose only and are property of their owners. Arras is a WordPress theme designed for news or review sites with lots of customisable features. He's 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.
And friends of mine would sometimes notice this and say sentences like, "Tim is a really good tipper." My ego took a liking to these sentences, and now, ten years later, I've positioned myself right in the "good but not ridiculously good tipper" category. My interviews included waiters, bartenders, baristas, manicurists, barbers, busboys, bellmen, valets, doormen, cab drivers, restaurant delivery people, and even some people who don't get tipped but I'm not sure why, like acupuncturists and dental hygienists (I'm still not sure why, nor are they). Most customers have their standard tip amount in mind and don't really think about it much beyond that.
Sometimes a bartender cracks open eight bottles of beer, which takes 12 seconds, and sometimes she makes eight multi-ingredient cocktails with olives and a whole umbrella scene on each, which takes four minutes, and those two orders should not be tipped equally, even though they might cost the same amount. Food delivery guys are undertipped -- they're like a waiter except your table is on the other side of the city. It might not make sense that in the US, we've somewhat arbitrarily deemed certain professions as "tipped professions" whereby the customers are in charge of paying the professional's salary, instead of their employer -- but that's the way it is.


So while stiffing isn't okay, it's good to have a range in mind, not a set percentage, since good service should be tipped better than bad service. Throughout my interviews, I heard a lot of opinions reinforcing what's on that chart and almost none that contradicted it. However, when someone's giving a really great tip, they usually hand them the bills unfolded and with the amount showing.
Tipping expert Magnus Thor Torfason's research shows that 31 service professions involve tipping in the US. I covered a bunch of different areas in New York, including SoHo, the Lower East Side, Harlem, the Upper East Side, and the Financial District, and tried to capture a wide range, from the fanciest places to the diviest.
High Spender goes to fancy restaurants and does so often, and Low Spender goes out to eat less often and goes to cheaper places (more details here). And as such, you have some real responsibility when being served by a tipped professional that you don't have when being served by someone else. I only took seriously a viewpoint I heard at least three times, and in this post, I'm only including those viewpoints that were backed up by my online research and Lynn's statistical studies. The easiest one for people to focus on was foreigners being bad tippers, because A) it's not really a demographic so it's less awkward, and B) people could blame it on them "not knowing," if they didn't want to be mean. That number is 27 in Canada, 27 in India, 15 in the Netherlands, 5-10 throughout Scandinavia, 4 in Japan, and 0 in Iceland. The theory is that the same norms that encourage tipping end up leaking over into other forms of exchange. At some point, the US decided that customers, not employers, should pay the salaries of service employees, and it's been this bizarre mess of a system ever since.
They also have to "tip out" the other staff, so when you tip a waiter you're also tipping the busboy, bartender, and others. The US doesn't contribute to this general correlation, with relatively low corruption levels. The delivery guys I talked to all said the tips don't change in bad weather -- that's not logical. Likewise, while tipping on takeout orders is nice but not necessary, one restaurant manager complained to me about Citibank ordering 35 lunches to go every week, which takes a long time for some waiter to package (with the soup wrapped carefully, coffees rubber-banded, dressings and condiments put in side containers), and never tipping.
The way to handle terrible service is to complain to the manager like you would in a non-tipping situation -- you're not allowed to stiff on the tip and make them work for free.



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