A Question About Tipping

Despite never working a day in the restaurant business, I am very appreciative and intrigued by the serving profession. Besides the candid look at human nature they receive each shift, I feel waiters and waitresses have a thankless job. I love to hear the stories but I hate to hear about the hardships.

Although I feel I am on the conservative side when it comes to spending my money in general, people tell me I am a good tipper. Chalk that tendency up to the respect I have for the service industry. But when I receive this comment it is usually just regarding the percentage I tack on, not necessarily the way I leave it. With that said, I would like to ask restaurant people and non-restaurant people alike a basic question:

When you leave a tip, should you make it a flat dollar amount or should you leave it in a way that will result in flat dollar amount for the entire bill?

Let me quickly explain. When I tip (90% of the time I am using a debit card), I leave a round amount such as $10 or $15. Other restaurant customers will leave an amount that will round out the total bill, such as leaving a $9.14 tip that will adjust a pre-gratuity meal of $30.86 to $40. Or, for the sake of clarity, leaving a $4.22 tip on a pre-gratuity meal bill of $15.78, thus rounding it to $20.

This is my thinking: It must be much easier for a server to add a flat tip amount to his/her earnings at the end of the night. Isn’t it simpler in life to add up amounts of $8, $14, $17, etc. as opposed to $7.89, $11.13, $15.83, etc.? I have thought this way for the past 10 years. But lately I have started to think that my brain might be back in the 1960s.

Fueling my action of always giving a round gratuity amount was the vision in my head of servers crunching the numbers on their tips from card transactions and adding it to the cash tips they received. After going through the headache of adding up a bunch of random amounts, they leave for the evening with a dollar amount plus 67 cents in change. Who wants a couple quarters, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies? If everyone tipped like me, he/she would be taking home 33 cents more and thus hauling out just paper instead of some annoying metal mixed in!

But then I realized that maybe the process doesn’t really work that way. Are tips recorded electronically and then just applied to a paycheck? Do servers really not even have to deal with non-round dollar amounts? Are they saved from taking home pennies at the end of the night?

I want to get this down straight for the sake of servers because one thing is sure for someone like me: it doesn’t matter either way.

As someone who almost always pays with my card, it doesn’t matter if I leave a $9 tip or a $8.67 tip. It isn’t the end of the world if my bank transaction for my dinner at the Olive Garden was $50.89 as opposed to $51. I am not worried about my transactions looking messy, and, although I try to do my best to save money, I am not sweating over a couple coins at lunch.

So let me have it, everyone. Besides the basic requirement that the tip itself is actually a good one, would you prefer it to be a round amount or an amount that raises the total bill of the meal to a round amount? Check please! Don’t Blink.

6 thoughts on “A Question About Tipping

  1. As a member of the service industry for many (MANY) years, in my opinion it’s up to the individual who is dining. I never cared either way, I was just grateful for the additional funding 🙂

    Where it gets complicated for people is during Happy Hour, what to tip on alcohol, etc. Some places will have everyone split tips at the end of the night, some places add it on to the paycheck, and others each server is on their own, but they have to “tip out” hostesses, bartenders, kitchen, etc.

    I always go 20% or more, but that’s just me. From the sounds of it, you’re very gracious to an industry you’ve never been involved with from an operational side, which is great!

    Thanks for being awesome 🙂

  2. Just be appropriate if you get expected service (10%) great service (15%) or exceptional service (20+%). You have many dining and food/beverage choices these days and you should expect the best service possible, whether from a fine-dining establishment or a drive-through coffee stand.

  3. Being a server/bartender for years I have learned to appreciate the good tippers such as Brent. I don’t believe it matters if the tip is rounded up or not, as long as it shows you did your job to the best of your ability, which you always should! I will add for the majority of tips most customers would give a even number instead of adding the change up to make the total even. Maybe because the math is more difficult after a few drinks, or maybe it is just quicker and easier for some. Either way, I have always been very thankful for the tips I have received and for servers/bartenders all around we thank you for your generous tips.

  4. I don’t feel that it really matters if it is rounded or not. In my experience, the tips that are left on the card are automatically added up by the computer and given to you at the end of the night by the cashier. This is after, you pay your tip-out for the bartenders, bus-boys, etc…, so it is going to most likely come out to a change amount anyways.

    I always appreciated anything that was left, so I didn’t mind either way. 🙂