An introduction to a multi-part series on tipping etiquette. Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.
Tipping; oh how this topic riles people up! So much so, I’ve decided to dedicate a series of blog posts to the topic. However, before I jump into the nitty-gritty, I’ll share some anecdotes on the topic.
I recall several months back, sitting in a restaurant in the West Village with five of my closest friends. Upon receiving the bill, we began an impassioned debate regarding whether alcohol should be subtracted from the total amount of the bill for purposes of calculating the tip. I scoffed, thinking, of course the tip amount would be based on the total bill including alcohol. I’ve learning that apparently, tipping is not so simple.
Based upon my research, I stand firmly that I had it right – see an article from The Bon Appetit Foodist regarding guidelines for tipping in restaurants and another article from Town & Country in which two master sommeliers and an etiquette expert were surveyed for their guidance (sorry ladies and gentlemen, but it seems you do indeed need to tip on that $10,000 bottle of wine). However, based upon perusing forums on OpenTable’s blog and Yelp – not everyone agrees with tipping on alcohol when it’s included on a dinner tab. This is just one point of contention. There are also squabbles over whether to tip on the after-tax or pre-tax amount and whether doubling the tax is equitable. One, the consensus seems to be that we are to tip on the pre-tax amount. Two, one should avoid doubling tax given variability around the United States (this is a U.S. centric article given that tipping is generally not customary abroad).
On the flip side of this, certain restaurants are eliminating tipping altogether. Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns several well-known New York City – based restaurants has been phasing out tipping at its restaurants since 2015, raising prices on items and indicating “hospitality included” on the menu. This has not been without controversy, a New York Magazine Grub Street blog post last year cited high turnover of experienced wait staff due to the policy change and that in certain instances servers reported that they are actually making less money.
Controversy is not limited to dining in restaurants. Several months ago, I visited a nail salon for a basic manicure – the service was inexpensive. I tipped 20%; in my opinion, the customary amount for a salon service, only to be chided that the tip was insufficient. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly substantial tip given that the service was pretty inexpensive. Still, I stood there flabbergasted and embarrassed and timidly opened up my wallet and handed over a few more dollars (the second time this happened I took the opportunity to haughtily lecture the manager of the salon on providing her employees with a living wage and now can never show my face there again). I’ve regaled numerous friends and acquaintances with this story and have discovered that I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Upon researching the topic, it seems 20% is sufficient; however, if the service is inexpensive, it’s nice to tip a little more, but this is not required.
The last anecdote I’ll share for now is this – I like to host an annual holiday cocktail party at my apartment. In preparation for my party last year, I purchased several bottles of wine and liquor and happily discovered that my favorite shop near my apartment offered delivery services. Normally, I would just muscle the case the three blocks and up the stairs to my apartment while most likely uttering a few expletives along the way. I really don’t like paying for delivery if I don’t have to do so. This time, I opted for delivery and was a little unsure of how much to tip. Admittedly, I guessed. I gave 15% of the total bill rather than the couple of dollars I would have normally tipped on food delivery. I ended up being on point by using some common sense and kindness. Think about it – what type of tip would you like to receive after carrying a case of alcohol several city blocks and up a few flights of stairs.
As you can see, knowing how much to tip is not always simple. Further, it’s very useful to be familiar with various guidelines, especially in New York where it seems we get nearly everything delivered and utilize a variety of services. My upcoming blog posts will delve into the particulars of several situations where one may be expected to tip.
In the meantime, what do you think – have you had similar experiences? How did you handle them?