Tipping is not a city in China

Tipping is not a city in China

Has anyone checked? Maybe it really is.

“Tipping is not a city in China” always struck me as amusing since the first time I saw it written in sharpie on a piece of paper and taped to the tip jar residing at the Misfits merchandise table in the late 90s or early 2000s.

I have seen the subject of tipping come up repeatedly lately on Facebook , in the news, and other sources (like actual conversations face-to-face with real live people).  I’ve probably even talked about it here before. Check out this snarky yet brutally honest article by a blogger (& waiter?) that I Re-Tweeted +1’d pinned shared on Facebook a few weeks ago.

Who sets the standards?  The people being tipped (tipees?)?  Their bosses?  The tippers?  Society at large?

The whole process has always confused and bewildered me (& will most likely always continue to).  I was raised thinking that for a waiter/waitress that 15% is a good tip.  For the past several years, through the magic of the internet, I have been told that 20% is a good tip.  So, 20% is the new 15%.  I’m not sure if this varies per area, or if this is all over the US.  I’m not sure if everyone agrees with this, or just your server.  I know some people that still think 10% is acceptable, and it puckers my butt-cheeks.

Things I know:

  • It’s crazy to get out the tip calculator & lave a tip to the penny.
  • In fact, don’t leave change.
  • Waitresses sometimes have to tip busboys, bartenders, and other employees.
  • A tip is expected, even for bad service… just a little one.

Things I don’t know:

  • Say I’m at Bob Evans and I don’t have any cash on me… I tip with the card.  Does my waitress think I stiffed her?
  • When will they just pay waitresses & waiters what they deserve?
  • Is “keep the change” acceptable if it’s an adequate tip, or is that just a pain to figure out?

I always try to leave decent tips, simply because I don’t have a large circle of places to go where I feel comfortable.  (You know about the deathfish, right?)  I’m sure I’ll be back if I find a place that I like.  Why not tip well?  Hopefully I’ll be treated well the next time, & the next time, & the next time..

Here’s where it gets weird…

One waitress at a Diner could come across all of these issues:


Cup of Coffee

Lunch Special

Casual Dinner

Meal Total





# of People





Table Trips










Hours There




20% Tip





So, in all of these situations, is 20% rule appropriate?  Is it the “no less than $5” rule?  Is there a “no less than $5” rule? Do you get $6 for dinner because of the price of the meal, despite less trips than say a breakfast where you get tons of cheap sides?  What do you tip when you drank a butt-load of coffee?

I used to work night shift on an assembly line at Sony & a bunch of us would hang out at Eat ‘n Park in New Stanton with the late-night UPS employees.  I know I’d always get free stuff… bowls of soup, drinks, grilled stickies…  But I always tipped to include for the amount for that item.  We were hanging out for endless hours, and tables weren’t turning over, so it was only appropriate.

What about a trip to Sonic?

  The Carhop

The Drive Thru

Takes your order:

☒ No

☑ Yes

Reads It back:

? Sometimes

☑ Yes

Takes Your money:

? Sometimes

☑ Yes

Walks (or skates) out of the building:

☑ Yes

☒ No

Hands it to you:

☑ Yes

☑ Yes

You tip the carhop, but probably don’t tip at the drive through… the only real thing that they do differently is exit the building.  For that they get a tip?  (OK, rollerskating carhops deserve a mad tip.)  Why doesn’t the drive-through person get a tip?

How & what do you generally tip?  Do you have any personal guidelines?  What were you taught?  Percentage or straight dollar amount?  Always?  Never?  On Holidays?  Who taught you?

  • The pizza guy (or girl) (…or other food delivery.)
  • Haircut / Wash
  • Car-wash (Magic ash type drying people, and/or fundraiser.)
  • Six Pack Shop / Beer Distributor
  • Doorman
  • Cab / Limo driver
  • Person who takes your bags at the airport
  • Bellhop
  • Furniture delivery
  • Mailman / UPS / FedEx
  • Movers
  • Garbage man
  • Coffee shop or ice cream parlor with a tip jar
  • Touring band’s merchandise table
  • Any sandwich shop, deli, or pizza place where you “eat in” that has a tip jar.
  • Gas station attendant?
  • A masseuse?
  • Anyone I forgot?

If there’s a jar asking for tips…

  • Are you more or less likely to tip?
  • What if it’s funny?
  • What if it’s begging?
  • What if it’s “whiny” or demanding?

I just really find the subject interesting & I’d like to get a discussion going in the comments here.  GO!

(I fully expect my friend Laurel to rant here in the comments, please don’t let her do it alone!  Let’s engage in intelligent discussion.)


22 thoughts on “Tipping is not a city in China

  1. I personally hate the percentage tip. I tip based on service. Main things : was my drink ever empty, how busy was my server, and what was their personality?
    Bad service = no tip but to not tip someone must be BAD service. One time at En’P our waitress was a bitch, told us to get our own soup from the buffet and tore the both next to us apart to vacuum while we tried to enjoy a late dinner. She got no tip. The hostess however was super nice so I tipped her. Mostly because I knew that waitress was such a bitch that she just thought I was cheap so I sent a message.


  2. From Facebook:

    Ted Stinson
    I used to depend on food service to basically keep me from starving, because I worked long hours with a commute. I formulated a loose rule of thumb:

    Awesome service gets 30%. I actually start here and start subtracting for poor service. Poor service doesn’t include human error or inventory issues. It’s about the personality or lack thereof from my server and if they seem to actually do their job.

    An average server is probably going to get 20%, because I want them to be able to get a little more than the government thinks they’re getting and it’s up to them if they want to include the overage when they report earnings.

    A poor server…. maybe 10%. A couple of times that I’ve been really upset about my service, I’ve unscrewed the salt shakers, put change in the bottom of a full glass of water, and left the table looking like a bomb hit it. That’s extreme, but some people deserve it for being rude.

    I have more or less tipped barbers and bartenders with the same kind of mentality. Bartenders usually get a $1 per beer, unless I was running a tab and then I would try to do drunk math, but the same kind of service rules apply. Barbers get a good tip if they actually know how to accent my face by the cut. I used to have one who could cut my hair in about 5 minutes flat and he was like an artist for $8 a pop. I always gave him an exta $5.

    Ted Stinson
    I round to whole dollar amounts 9 times out of 10.


  3. I personally don’t like the percentage rule for tipping…use it as a guide…ok…but not straight percentage…there is a local restaurant that has an awesome daily “coffee shop special” – it is a full four course meal…soup/salad/main meal/dessert (includes small loaf of homemade bread, coffee and tea)…and it is cheap!! usually around $7.95 to $10.95 currently.($4.95 to $8.95 in the 1980’s) Between this four course meal and drink refills, and you have to have her pack your dessert “to go” because you are so full from the great dinner… the waitress is constantly at your table..and she has all the tables surrounding you….IF she is pleasant and timely – she deserves a GREAT tip – not just 15 or 20% . (AT the time period I am talking about was in the early 1980’s, and at that time tips were 10%) ON the other hand…at the SAME restaurant -same coffee shop side (they have a main dining room also) – my husband and I ordered a “Lobster for two dinner” (sorry son!) I think it was Valentines Day or anniversary…anyway – the dinner came on one gigantic platter…lobster in the middle…fancy mashed potatoes piped all around the platter, and the vegetables were in two piles on the platter…..the waitress took our drink order and food order at the same time – had the busboy bring our drinks, homemade bread and dinner plates – she brought out the one platter….didn’t see her again till we were ready for check (my husband got the busboy to refill our water glasses)…. so…should she be rewarded that WE DECIDED to have a more expensive “one platter for two” dinner than the usually “coffee shop special” where our total bill at that time would have been about $20.00 total…and would have resulted in many trips to our table?? I THINK NOT! My husband left a modest tip on the table,…tipped the busboy directly on the way out. At this restaurant the waitress gives (or at least used to) a portion of their tips to their busboys assigned to them for the night.
    On another note – I do not agree with the restaurants that put all tips in a jar, then divide them equally at night between all waitresses!!! NOT FAIR!!


  4. Eric, it’s getting late in the morning, and I have to get ready for work, so I, admittedly, did not read the entire entry or any of the other comments. But, It’s pretty standard, from what I understand, to now leave 20% for good service. Cost of living goes up periodically, so naturally where it used to be 10%, then 15%, the gratuity standard is going to keep going up along with it.

    As for the first chart, I’d say just round up to the nearest dollar. Always. Leaving any kind of change is tacky (and believe you me, I know ALL about tacky). Unless, of course, you’re paying with a credit/debit card (as opposed to cash on the table), and you’re adding the tip onto the bill; then I suppose you could round the ENTIRE total (including your 20% tip) up to the nearest dollar, making your own math calculations much easier.

    BTW, the server will know you didn’t stiff him/her in the event that you tip on your card. All tips are calculated at the end of the server’s shift when they cash out, and most times, the server will communicate with the cashier to find out how much they made, assuming the two are not one in the same.


    • Really though… if all the tips are added at the end of a shift, the server has no idea if you tipped well, poorly, or at all? I think i just need to make sure I have cash on me more often.

      In with the percentage going up… If everything is relative, shouldn’t the percentage stay the same? (Not denying anyone 20%, just wondering out loud.)

      People are concentrating on waitresses/waiters… What about the rest?

      Bartenders? Pizza guy? Bellhop? Hairdresser/Barber? Carhop? Masseuse? People at food counters (coffee/ice cream/hot dog/six pack shop)?


  5. So I think for all the circumstances above you should make a survey cause I am way too lazy to type them all out here.
    Generally, I tip 20% everywhere related to waitress /bartenders/hair/nail people, with a $2 minimum or $5minimum if it is a friend.
    *for all you percentage challenged- DOUBLE THE FIRST TWO NUMBERS. Boom-20%*

    Finally, if I know that you are making minimum wage or above at your job I do not tip for just doing your job. Like at Subway they have a tip jar. No.


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  7. I got an email…

    On Mon, Jun 4, Nichole Stennes wrote:

    Hey Editor,

    I was wondering if this is the correct email to contact regarding content on aixelsyd13.wordpress.com?

    Nichole Stennes,

    So, I wrote back…

    On Mon, Jun 4, Waldo Lunar wrote:


    Yes, it’s all a one-man show, just my incoherent ramblings.

    How may I help you?


    And she replied…

    On Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM, Nichole Stennes wrote:

    Hi Waldo,

    I’m part of the design team at HospitalityManagementSchools.org, and in light of national waiter & waitresses day that was on May 21st, we created an interactive graphic that illustrates how we should tip when responding to hospitality and service. I came across the site and wanted to pass it along in case you had any interest.

    If so, you can take a look here: http://www.hospitalitymanagementschools.org/tipping/

    If you like the graphic or think it’s a fit, feel free to share it on the site.


    Nichole Stennes
    nickistennes@gmail.com | HospitalityManagementSchools.org

    So, I said…

    From: Waldo Lunar
    Date: Thu, Jun 14, 2012
    Subject: Re: A interactive graphic on tipping
    To: Nichole Stennes

    Thanks Nicole,

    It looks like a great guide. You can include it in the comments if you’d like, or I can put it there. I didn’t know that you’re supposed to calculate a tip pre-tax. Very informative!

    Rock on!

    …but posted it all here anyway.

    It’s a pretty interesting guide, and fun to navagate. What do you think about it?


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  9. Pingback: When I tip, you tip, we tip. [#Tipping?] | World (and Lunar) Domination

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