Single and Settling In

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My Tipping Point

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I went out to dinner with a friend of mine the other night.  Great food; great service.  When the check came and we went to divvy it up, she mentioned that she no longer tips 20 percent at restaurants because of the economy.  I was kind of shocked.  My friend, a former bartender, was the Queen of Good Tips.  I dine out less frequently these days for certain, but since the service is the same and wait staff are probably hurting from fewer sales, it never crossed my mind to tip less.  

It got me wondering, "What IS the norm now? Have people changed their tipping habits because of the 'current economic climate'?"  (By the way, can we all agree that if we never hear that awful phrase again for the rest of our lives, it will still be too soon?!)  I have also been meaning to research what an appropriate tip is for various services... How much should I tip the food delivery person?  Does the woman that washes my hair before I get it cut get a separate tip?  So, this seemed like a great opportunity to do a little investigating. 

I started asking around, contacting several of my friends that work in the service industry to see if their tips had lessened and to get some advice on what to tip.   

Here's what I found: 

Kate, a hairdresser, reports that tips have indeed been lower during the past two years...dramatically so.  One woman tipped her $6 for a $120 cut and color!  Kate, always the lady, was surprised, but not angry.  When I asked her what general tipping standards were before the economy, her response: 15-20 percent for everything...cut, color, waxing...basically any salon service.  For the person that washes your hair?  A few dollars would be great. 

Davy, a General Manager at a local restaurant, has also noticed lower tips and his wait staff are feeling the pain of customers cutting corners.  "Before the recession, people would tip 15-20 percent without thinking about it.  Now, people are minding their money; they're still enjoying themselves equally, but they leave the minimum tip.  On the other hand, servers need to bring their A-game every time.  People are going out less frequently...they want great service when they treat themselves; if the service is not good on those special occasions, it is so disappointing.  You need people to want to come back." 

Rob, a part-time bartender, reports that his tips haven't really changed.  He gave some great rules of thumb for tipping bartenders:

  • If the service is nothing special, tip twice the amount of the tax on your bar tab (roughly 10 %)
  • For good service, tip three times the amount of tax (roughly 15%)
  • If the service is something special - the bartender came right over to you, told you something about your wine or beer, or maybe gave you a sampling - multiply the tax times four (roughly 20%) 

For advice on tips for other services, here's a really thorough article on "Tipping Etiquette".

I was thrilled to read in this post that it is not necessary to tip in tip jars at coffee places like Starbucks, bakeries, etc.  I always feel like a cheapskate when I don't, but come on, they are pouring me a cup of coffee! 

These days, we don't want to be so generous that we're breaking the bank, but we also don't want to be a scrooge, hurting the people that depend on tips for their income. 

When it comes to tips, what are you doing differently these days? Maybe nothing has changed for you. I'd love to hear from you. 

  • When my wife and I really started tracking our expenses, we found that by far restaurant dining made up the largest sum of our weekly spending. Now that we have a better command of our spending, eating out is much less common; but, when we do eat out

  • I had always written for a purpose, and after graduation there was no longer a purpose. The enjoyment I felt when I created a stream of words that made a page come alive was put in a box, wrapped up, and put on a shelf.

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