Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ask the Internet: How to Tip a Waiter?

This week, I’m asking the internet to settle an argument once and for all.

Q: At a restaurant, do you include tax when you calculate the tip for your server?

A: My sister (an ex-waitress) and I believe you should include tax. Others whom we love and admire say, "Nuh-unh."

What about you, sweet readers? Do you include tax? Why or why not?

I’ll tally the votes/opinions and reveal the winner in Friday’s Top 10 post. It should solve this debate forevermore, for the rest of eternity, until the end of time. No one will ever ask the question again.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

58 comments:

TJ Tarwater said...

Whatever we pay is what we go off of. If where we live taxes the meal, then yes, we inlude the tax.

And we always tip more than 15%. I'd rather brighten someone's day by giving them a decent tip than further make them grumpy by leaving them nothing or less than 15%. It's not always easy to do the song and dance for the hungry customers and sometimes it's busy and they can't fill your cup every five seconds.

De Nueva said...

From a former waitress, I say yes. If they're a good server, 20% on the total bill, including tax. If they're not a good server, deduct accordingly.

Susan F said...

The tip is calculated only on the cost of goods that the waitperson serves.

Cliff said...

No, I do not include tax.

Why? The tip is to reward the server for providing good service. They did not provide the tax.

Dave said...

include the tax.
for me, tipping debates, whether they're about tax, including the drinks, or just what percentage to tip at, break down the following way:
either you're a] eating a meal where the total cost means that the difference in tip a small amount. in other words, it's an inexpensive meal, and including the 8 bucks of tax [or the drinks, or going from 15 to 18 percent] will not drive the total tip amount very much higher, and does one really want to be the type of person who stresses over a buck or two?
or b] you're eating a meal where including the tax would change the tip considerably. you are eating an expensive meal, in this case, perhaps a very expensive meal, and you can afford to be good to the staff.

Trs said...

I do not usually include tax in my tip estimates. However, I do use a bit of liberal rounding which tends to make up for it anyway and is also significantly easier to manage.

Pre-tax total rounded to the nearest dollar * (15% for good, 20% for great) and then rounded up.

Comparisons:
$10.76 sub-total
$11.51 with 7% tax
15% of tax = $11.51 * 0.15 = $1.73
15% rounded = $11 * 0.15 =~ $2
20% of tax = $11.51 * 0.15 = $2.30
20% rounded = $11 * 0.2 =~ $3

Emily said...

I never thought about it...I always just tipped on the bottom line (which includes tax, of course)

Jonathan said...

It is easier just to take 10% of the total bill and double it to 20%. After that, I round to the nearest dollar if I am paying cash.

I adjust the amount if the service was horrible and by that I mean how the server did their job. It could have been bad and late food, but if they kept me informed of what was going on, then I am happy.

Amy said...

I live in Indiana, where our state sales tax rate is 7%. So, if the total bill is $100, that's $7 tax. 15% of $7 is $1.05. Not an amount worth getting worked up over, in my opinion, especially considering our family's meals out are rarely $100 (more like $50 - we don't drink much).

Generally, when I'm tipping, I round up to the nearest dollar, anyway, so a 50 cent difference either way doesn't matter.

Annie Jones said...

I calculate the tip before tax.

As others have said, the tax is not a good or service provided by the waiter or waitress, so I don't base my tip on it.

AmandaLP said...

I always calculate 20% on the total bill, including tax. Any other way and it gets too complicated.

Wendy (The Local Cook) said...

I don't know it would make much difference. DH and I just look at the total, multiply by two to estimate 20%, and round up to the nearest dollar. Maybe we're too generous? ;-)

holls said...

No tax for me, I calculate it pre and then make judgement. We are talking about pennies here so it might influence rounding decisions, that's all.

I firmly believe you should not tip on the taxable amount.. tipping guides should all be based on the amount pre-tax.

You should really be getting what you are paying for not overtipping based on the taxed total. Pay for the service... people!!

Rob said...

I always include the tax in the tip. Never heard of anyone adding it before tax, and if I saw that I'd just assume they were leaving a lower tip.

Laura said...

I tip 20% on the meal, tax not included, and I round up because I don't like counting change.

Anonymous said...

Yes, tip on the entire bill. It's usually only a matter of a dollar or two, but over the course of a day that can make a big difference in the waitpersons take-home pay. As a former waitress I know how hard the waitstaff works and that their "paycheck" usually barely pays the taxes on their real wages -the tips. I always tip 20%, unless the service is truly shoddy then will tip less...and let management know. If you can't afford to leave a decent tip then you can't afford to eat out.

Ms. Meg said...

I always calculate tip from the total, taxes included.

Kathryn said...

I always include the tax but do tip according to service provided. If a full service restaurant and service is good would leave 15% or more.

When I waited tables one restaurant made us report 8% of food bill total, including tax, as a tip whether we received that much or not. It was a bone of contention as nobody ever tipped on a carryout order but whoever wrote up the ticket was reported as getting a 8% tip for tax purposes when we did not.

Kim said...

I don't tip on tax. However, I'm occasionally lazy and do, especially if the service was good.

Usually, I try to just get someone else to pay the bill... ;)

Sandi said...

I always just pay 20%. I figure that includes the tax... right?

Elizabeth said...

I've never been a waitress, but my impression has always been that you tip based on the total bill including tax.

Sometimes though, we do order carryout and eat at home so that we don't have to pay tax or tip...

We live in Ohio.

Merry said...

I agree with Cliff.

Anonymous said...

I've been a waitress for many years. Here's the thing: No, the tax shouldn't count as a "service" or anything, but the truth is if you leave less than 15% of the total bill (tax included), the staff will think you're cheap and/or didn't have a good experience. They're not going to say, "oh, they just left out the tax!" They're not thinking about that because the majority of people who are spending the money to go out, don't worry about the few extra dollars for the tax. Look, I'm super broke, but I just don't go out where someone's depending on my tip for their livihood.

I have worked places that make the staff leave the tax off when figuring auto-gratuity for a large party. But in that case you're better off letting the party tip you on their own because it will usually be more than the pre-tax 15% or 18%.

aelphabawest said...

I tip 15% post-tax, which I figure is in the ball park of what 20% of the bill is pre-tax.
I still tip 20% post-tax if the service was excellent.
I never tip below 15% or simply not tip without taking the time to explain to the manager exactly why (which has only happened once - I figure, if I'm not motivated enough to do that, the service wasn't that bad).

Washington D.C.'s restaurant tax is something like 10%.

Amy said...

I tip on the food, not the food+tax. Though, if it's a group and we're splitting the bill...it's just not worth explaining and justifying.

Sara said...

This is an interesting question because I don't think I've ever included the tax, nor have I ever had a friend include it when we were out to eat - not specifically for moral reasons or anything, I just don't consider it part of the service provided by the restaurant so it didn't occur to me. The tax actually has nothing to do with the restaurant but rather is money they're collecting for the government, right? I also assume that when restaurants add an automatic gratuity, this doesn't include the tax (maybe this is wrong?). It seems like bills with auto-gratuity have a list under the total, like tax=such and such, health care tax=such and such (this is a new addition in the bay area that many restaurants are doing), gratuity=such and such, etc. Plus, restaurant tax varies so much from area to area - why should a waiter get a higher tip because they live in the bay area where taxes may equal around 15% between the sales tax and the health care tax? Then again, I also always tip 20%+ except in cases of extreme bad service, so maybe it all equals out anyway?

Marcia said...

I do not tip on the tax. From what I've read on tipping etiquette (regardless of what the waiters say), the tip goes on pre-tax.

But I round up. Good service gets 20%.

corrie71 said...

I usually tip between 15 and 20 % of the entire bill (including tax). However, if the service is truly awful, I will deduct accordingly.

I once went on a first date with a man who didn't tip at all (the service was fine) and that was enough to make me not go on a second date.

Daniel said...

Why not let the tax do the work for you? In many if not most places in the USA it's 7-8% of the total bill. Just double it. And add extra for good service.

Dan
Casual Kitchen

d0ver said...

I do not include the tax because I always use the tax in my calculation. In WI we have 5% state tax and 1% or less in local taxes. I always use the tax and multiply by 3 or 4 depending on service.

BetonyaH said...

It is polite to tip on the total of your bill. I have been a waitress for 2 years now, and what most people do not know is we only get around $2.15 an hour. Therefore, we make our living on the amount customers leave in tips. An easy way to calculate 20% tip is to move the decimal over to the left one place and double that number. If you do not like to tip on top of tax, you can use this method as well by excluding the tax.
Example: If your bill comes to $20.00, a 20% tip would be $4.00 by moving the decimal over to the left which gives you $2.000 and doubling this number.
So, speaking for all servers, please be sure to include a decent tip whether you tip on tax or not. This is where your server makes his/her living.

Wendy said...

I tip 20% pre-tax. But the one that always gets me anxious is alcoholic beverages: my [notoriously cheap] mom always told me you're not supposed to tip on alcohol. I always do because I've had fights with friends over my even mentioning it. Does anyone know if this is an old etiquette rule?

Kit and Kaboodle said...

Do NOT include tax. I live in an are of California where our sales tax is pushing 10%. Why should servers out here get higher tips than areas where sales tax is half as much?

Olivia said...

The tax is already based on the cost of the meal, it goes to the state, and it VARIES by state - these are all reasons to base the tip on the cost of the meal, as far as I'm concerned. 20%, round to the nearest dollar. Honestly though, I'm a little surprised this is a topic of debate, since the total difference is <2% of the meal cost.

TJ said...

I tend to include the tax, if for no other reason that it is the bottom line. And I alwaus round up/down to the nearest dollar, depending on service.

eric said...

Why would you include tax? The amount that the government wants from this meal is completely separate from my judgment of the service that came with the meal I purchased.

Don't include tax.

Katie said...

Don't include tax for me! I agree with all those who said before that has nothing to do with the waiter or their service.

And most of us DO know how measly wait-staff wages are. We still expect good service for a good tip, (that's the point of a "tip" after all). You chose the job, not me!

Jennifer said...

I don't know why anyone would tip on the tax. Tax varies by region, why would I tip higher in Los Angeles (~10% sales tax) than in Connecticut (6%)? Especially since in CA servers make the regular minimum wage of $8/hr and in CT they only make a portion of it ($5.69/hr). I tip on the pre-tax total but I do tip on beverages.

challenges2010 said...

Now that you brought it up I'll be leaning not to tip based on tax included price. Never really thought about it before.

chacha1 said...

I don't tip on the tax amount. It's not part of what the restaurant is providing.

Re: the server making $2.15/hr ... really?? still?? where?! I made $2.01/hr in Georgia back in 1983!
Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Here's something controversial:

Why should a $7 hamburger get a 1.40 tip (at 20%), and a $20 steak get $4, when the actual work done by the wait staff is pretty much the same? My selection of food doesn't alter the work the waiter does unless she is making the salad or going through extra hoops to handle a specal request (special cooking requests, extra sides or substitutions of veggies or other sides)...

So I say, look at the average price of the entrees and combo's on the menu, approximate the average of those, and tip around 20%, with variation for poor/above-and-beyond service.

:)

Anyway....tip on the pre-tax amount.

Daniel said...

I don't eat out a lot and when I do it's with my parents (frugal living as a college kid keeps me out of restaurants). Usually my mother leaves the tip and she does 15% of whatever the total is, including tax.

Heidi said...

Save yourself the hassle and do what we did - move to a state that doesn't tax!

Anonymous said...

15% - 20% on the pretax amount, then round up so the total (meal + tax + tip) is a round dollar number.

Sue said...

I guess I tip before tax, not intentionally, though. I use the tax as a tool, I'm not good at math in my head, so I triple my area's 6.5% tax and round up.

Anonymous said...

What anonymous hamburger vs steak guy said. Another example- I order a $40 rock glass of scotch (or caviar, whatever) easy to serve, equals maybe $8 tip @ 20 percent. Steve gets the supercurry cauliflower thing ($14) and requires many glasses of free water from same server, equals maybe $3 tip @ 20 percent.

The question shouln't be do you include tax when the real valuation of the service hasn't even been addressed.

I give 20% pretax to hot servers and 17% to uglies. Seriously, though, maybe 5% of servers I've ever had really impressed me with service, 95% expect nice tips for carrying food twenty feet. Amazing!

Elizabeth said...

I tip 18 - 20% of the full bill including tax (depending on the quality of the service).

Becca said...

I guess I never really thought about it, but I just tip based off the total amount. I am very discerning about how much I leave though. If I feel like service was slow, then I leave less. If the server doesn't bring me any more to drink during the meal, that's an automatic deduction. I understand when there are problems with the kitchen slowing down food, but if I don't see the waiter for 15 minutes and am thirsty, that bothers me and I usually leave less.

serenader said...

I was taught to tip on the pre-tax amount.

Banquet Manager said...

Of course not. The tip is calculated of the value of the food and drink without tax. Come on...you all should know this.

From the Banquet Manager

Rebecca said...

Here's an etiquette/tipping question I've wondered about: do you need to tip a full 15% - 20% at a buffet restaurant, where you get your own food and the server just gets drink refills? I usually figure they can serve many more tables at a time than a regular waiter, so I typically tip about 10% of the meal cost if they did get us drinks refills, and nothing if I had to get my own drinks.

Jackie said...

I had never even thought about this before. Even though I'm a pretty frugal person, it doesn't bother me that I've been paying a tip to taxes, especially since its a few pennies on the dollar. I've also been a waitress in the past and I tend to over-tip now when I do go out to eat.

Ava said...

No, I do not tip on the tax. Here in NY tax is 8.875% (why do you have to be so confusing NY?) so I just double the tax & round up to figure out my tip. The server ends up with 18-20% of the pre-tax amount as a tip.

Anonymous said...

Yes I tip on the tax and whole bill.I was a waitress for years.I figure if the bill is $40 you pay 10% on a average so that is $4.Now me being a waitress for years you do not get minumum wage?Do you all know that?It is only $3 something an hour now.So really if they do good tip them good that is there pay really!!!If my bill is over $50 I do $8/$2 per person in our family.They run and keep the drinks full,food in a good time and caring so worth it since they will remember you next time and give you GREAT service in return.Trust me I know.

Heather said...

Wendy, servers typically have to tip out to several different people: bartender, bussers, sometimes food runners, etc. When I waitressed at a large chain (began with an R and is a Rolling Stones song) we had to tip out 2% of our total sales to the bartenders (or something like that) we also had to tip out 1% to busboys and 1% to hostesses and on busy nights we also had to tip out food runners. And we also have to pay taxes on a minimum amount of sales, I believe 7% or your credit card sales, whatever is higher. That includes takeout, which people don't typically tip well on.

As many have said, I always tip 20% or up on the final total. The few cents isn't enough for me to really care. Plus I have the added benefit of knowing I am making a servers day.

Anonymous said...

Of course you don't tip on the tax on principle. Have I? Yes. I would tip on a drink. I would tip on an sandwich. If you handed me an bill to pay a taxes... and you wanted a tip...? Uh... No. :)

Marcia said...

That brings up another question. Do you tip in a place where you order at the counter? They have tip jars everywhere now.

I have a friend who had 3 tips: 20%, $5, and 0, depending on the service. Don't bring more water after asking 3 times? You're getting $5.

As far as 15 vs. 20%...I used to tip better when I lived in another state (as in, often 25-30%). But in Cali, servers get full minimum wage plus tips.

Anonymous said...

Lots of people are saying the tax isn't provided by the waiter/waitress .. but it is. Anyone who has taken economics 101 knows that the tax is a hit partially on the consumer and partially on the restaurant. Thus, the restaurant is paying part of your tax, we just don't know exactly how much. So for those people, it would actually be most correct to tip 15% of half the tax, or 1/3 of the tax, whatever the case may be.