Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tipping and Money Etiquette

Usually I’m not exposed to the places where tips are expected. I eat either in the student cafeteria, or cafeteria-style restaurants, or fast food chains. But if I am served by a waiter, a tip is a must.

Recently I was in such a restaurant with a bunch of friends, four of them. Everyone was supposed to pay for her share. I gave my share plus 10 percent which is a standard tip in Moscow restaurants. Another girl did the same, while the rest paid exactly the price of the meals, without tips. I tried to encourage them to tip, but what I heard was “Aww, come on! We don’t have so much money to give tips, you know.” I and the girl who also tipped ate a little less that the others did, so 10 percent of our share looked really meager. I felt very uneasy when the waiter took the money.

I believe that even though tips are not obligatory, if you eat in a restaurant, you should tip. Being “a poor student” cannot be an excuse. If one cannot afford pay the bill plus tips, one simply should choose another place to eat. I think that’s frugal vs. stingy. Not going to an expensive restaurant is frugal. Not tipping there is stingy.

But what should I have done then? Should I have made the others tip or should I have tipped more myself? Or maybe it was right to do nothing, because it wasn't my business?

P.S. While I was in the process of writing this post, I came across a post named Money and Etiquette: Why are the important things in life never taught in school? at Her Every Cent Counts, where she describes her embarrassing experience in a restaurant. I now feel certain that money etiquette is really complicated and I totally agree that it must be taught in school.


Krystal said...

I don't believe in tipping (because isn't their job to make the food and serve it to you?), but I do it anyway because it's rude not to.

But who decided that it should be standard to tip in restaurants? Why not tip the bus driver, or tip the girl working at The Gap for bringing you a different size in the change room?

Why should people that work in restaurants EXPECT tips from us, even when they give us poor service? And how come some restaurants are so bold as to tack on a 15 or 20% tip to the bill of a large group?

The people that work in restaurants are doing their job. They aren't going above and beyond to make your meal more pleasant - they're doing what they're paid to do. So is the bus driver. So is the sales associate. So why is it that the restaurant staff are the only ones being tipped? It doesn't make sense!

Yet, I'll still tip 15% whenever we go out, and I get embarrassed if I don't think we've left enough.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I know how you feel about not thinking you've tipped enough. I don't think you should be under obligation to tip more just because your friends decided not to tip at all.

GoldnSilver said...

Many asian countries (and some european countries) don't require tipping at restaurants (like in the U.S.).

On the other hand, U.S. restaurants waitsfull make their living based on tips (their base pay is min. wage).

However, I do not like how Starbucks' have tips jar next to the cash registers. I am already paying premium for your coffee, and you are asking for a tip?!

matt said...

The best tipping story I have was at a bar in Portland. The bar tenders were completely ignoring us, so we got a hot chick to order our drinks for us all night on the condition that we pay for her drinks all night. I gave her some money to order a round for everyone. The bar tender gets our drinks. This woman hands him a couple of dollars for the tip. He tore it up and threw it into the air like confetti. Then he said something like, "Your money is no good to me." What a show-off. All I could think of was how he tore my money up and threw it into the air. I could have killed that SOB.

When I was in New York City (February), I ended up paying $35 for a $20 meal to cover the tips for my jerk colleagues. The waiter had the audacity to bitch about our tip. I wanted to take it back soooooo badly.

I don't believe in tipping. I think that the cost of a meal should be reflected in the price, like everything else that we buy. When I was in London several years ago, I noticed that some of the restaurants at which we ate said not to tip because it was included in the price. I wish that would make its way here.

My biggest tipping bitch is the bar. If I order a beer at a bar and some woman pulls the tab on my can, how is that worth a tip? Am I supposed to tip her because she is pretty? Forget it. I don't think mixing drinks is very hard either.

As for teaching etiquette in school, I don't know how you would do it. I don't know two people who have consonant views on this.

Elaine said...

Actually, the minimum wage for restaurant workers in the U.S. is lower than that for workers in jobs where tips aren't expected. So, although the system may seem silly and archaic, it's seems unkind not to tip someone making less than $3 an hour in base pay.

Olga said...

Thank you all for comments! I couldn't imagine that there would be such a diversity of opinions. It seems that there are no real rules concerning money etiquette. So I think I will do what I think is right and let other people do what they think is right.