Tuesday LTP: Tip Guides | chicago foodie girl


Tuesday LTP: Tip Guides

In the last year or so, I've noticed more and more restaurants are printing tip guides at the bottom of their receipts. Some of them give suggested dollar amounts for good/excellent/outstanding service, while others are solely focused on flat percentages. While I once received a receipt with the message "Please tip 20-30 percent if you enjoyed or really enjoyed your experience," the guides usually tend to suggest a more reasonable 15-20%, like the most recent one I encountered at Bandera.

It was the first time my dining companion had encountered a tip guide on a receipt - her initial reaction was shock ("Are people really that math challenged?!"), but that quickly faded into indignation and irritation. I usually ignore the guides because I have my own method of calculating the tip (the tax rate in Chicago is 9.5%, so you can easily take the tax, round up & double it for a 20% tip), but when I really thought about it, I completely understood her irritation.

While I'm not someone who is anti-tipping or a cheap tipper (mostly because of the system itself - I do think it should be the responsibility of their employers to motivate & pay their employees a fair wage, but I understand that's not the case), it is slightly presumptuous of the restaurant to assume the server even deserves a certain standard level of tip. Shouldn't it solely be based on the service that was provided at that time? Also, are the guides really there for the math challenged or is it because restaurants owners are afraid patrons are unaware of tipping protocol? It kind of feels like they're passive-aggressively goading people into tipping (or tipping more than usual for standard service just so that the server won't think they're cheap). And what about the calculation itself  - why was the tip amount at Bandera based on the after-tax total and not the subtotal? Um, since when did it become the standard to tip on sales tax? I'm sorry, but the sales tax I'm paying to the city has nothing to do with my restaurant experience or the service I received.

Today's LTP: How do you feel about tip guides on receipts? Do you think they're helpful or just annoying? Should there be a standard tip guide included at every restaurant or does the suggestion do more harm than good (especially seeing as a lot of people tend to err on the side of overtipping)?



  1. I actually never thought about this before. I live in a small town and I've never encountered the guides here; however, I frequently see them whenever I go into the city (NYC). Like you, I tend to ignore them because I can figure out the tip myself or I just use my iPhone app. I think they're unnecessary because if someone is already set on tipping a certain amount, no matter the service or whatever the standard amount may be, the guide isn't going to change their mind. Really, it seems the guides only matter to people who tend to tip well anyway. :)

  2. You make some good points. I always tip on the total, not the subtotal... something I didn't even notice/question until now! I usually ignore the suggestions on the receipt, but several of my friends can't figure out the tip in their heads and usually ask me to do it so I think it's good for others that can't.

    One thing that I do find annoying is this one particular restaurant here that brings you a portable credit card machine... when you run it, it asks you to add tip but has really high pre-defined tip amounts and is really hard to figure out to how to change it. And you feel cheap asking the server who is standing over your shoulder!

  3. You make some really great points about tipping, Starr. And the timing of this post is impeccable. My mother offered to take my family & mother-in-law out to brunch on Sunday, and when I casually glanced at her tip, I noticed she was leaving a $4 tip on a $45 bill. YES, people are *THAT* CHEAP... and DUMB!!! I'm like "Mom, that's not even 10%!" She just stared at me. Yes, we didn't get the greatest service, but the waitress actually came to our table and profusely apologized, in near tears over it. My mother wasn't budging, so I threw a $5 bill on top of her cc-bill. I was a waitress, so I always give a minimum of 15%... but it really does depend on the situation.

    Do I agree with the tip calculations being printed on a bill? Eh. I guess I'm sort of neutral on that. I don't think they should've calculated in the tax, that's for sure. But when it comes to cheapskates like my mother, it's definitely helpful. However, these days, most of us carry phones with apps that can help us if we question a %... so I don't find it necessary, personally speaking. But it would've been handy Sunday.

  4. I think the tip guides both reminds folks to tip appropriately and helps the mathematically disadvantaged. It reminds people who are used to lower tipping from previous eras that a 10% isn't enough anymore--that 15% or 20% is the standard today. FWIW, I always tip 20%, and more if the server is overworked, the place is understaffed, etc.

  5. I've never seen those tip guides before and I'm in NY. Hmm. Brian and I usually follow our standard protocol which is 15% for average/decent/good service, 20% for exceptional service. If the service is so lousy that we're tempted to not tip, it's time to speak to the manager about the server.

  6. I tend to be more generous and my hubs says it just grinds on every single nerve to have to pay the equivalent of an extra meal when a family of four goes out to eat at a mid-priced restaurant... we rarely get exceptional service, but if we get poor service, I tend to say why I tipped less than average right on the receipt so management sees it. Rarely happens, but happened this week-end. Zero tip for no dressing on the main-meal salad I ordered, requested waiter twice from the hostess, never arrived, no drink refills, and I hunted him down to get my bill and was ready to leave for an appointment after eating some of the dry salad. No manager available. ONE HOUR in that restaurant. Not getting a penny of my money that I didn't have to legally pay to walk out the dang door! It seems there are less staff wherever we go. I think it is deplorable that we can't just have the price of the meal be the price of the meal. Wait staff get screwed by the system when one of them is having a bad night - they all pay for it.
    To the point of the post - I was a bit taken aback when I saw the first "suggested tips"...because it started at 18%, not 15, and went up to 25. To me, 15 is for "okay" service, with no extra effort. 18 is for "good" service - drinks refilled, stops by to make sure everything is fine, fixes it if it's not. 20 and more is for the excellent server who is professionally friendly, smiles, makes you feel like a valued customer by taking excellent care of you and giving you an excellent dining experience. If I am alone at a table and the bill is not much and I get excellent service, I frequently will tip 25% or more...single tables just don't make much money for the servers!

    Ha, more than you probably wanted to know about my tipping habits.

  7. I don't see them often, but don't really mind when I do. I'll admit to not having done the math to see if it was based on the pre-tax amount. Ultimately, I know the choice of how much to tip is mine. 20% is my standard tip, but I don't really worry about precision in tipping.

    I actually really like the option on the credit card machine at to just add in 15 or 20%. I only go to one place that does this (it's an IHOP-ish place), and you pay at the register. Usually I have a 3-year-old hanging off of me and ... well ... it's a lot easier to just hit a button than figure something out when there's a kid begging to go outside or have a lollipop or whatever.

    I think I probably wouldn't be as crazy about it at a fine dining establishment, however.

  8. @Kelli: LOL!! You're killing me with your mom stories! Oy. :-)

  9. HA, Starr! I could probably fill a blog with stories about my mother. Although painful to live through, they do provide an odd level of entertainment.


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