Bill paying etiquette

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Joined Jan 11, 2000
Here's a question...

Do you usually pay via cash, check, or credit card (do I say debit card?). What is usually considered the standard way to pay and what is preferred from a restaurant's point of view.

How about tipping? 15% or does it greatly depend on the quality of meal and service?
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
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Credit cards make life simple but many restauranteurs would prefer cash since credit card companies charge restaurants a percentage per purchase. Restaurants usually pay from 2-2.5% per purchase, more with American Express. Cash sales mean having to pay one less person (the credit card company). As for tips, 15% is still quoted as the proper tip but in fine-dining restaurants standard really has become 18% + or - depending on the service.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
While restauranteurs may prefer cash (and who doesn't), CC's are the norm. Diners could care less what the boss has to pay out in percentages to the CC companies. Myself? I usually pay via CC. Unless the meal happens to total what I've got in my pocket. (It usually doesn't) I'm a pretty generous tipper though. Usually, 20%. Sometimes more. Unless the service is really poor and/or the waitron has that oh-i'm-so-superior-attitude. In which case they get less + a nice and polite explanation as to why I'm tipping as such. Doesn't hurt! Frankly, I'd rather tip the chef.
 
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Cremaster... you actually explain why you are tipping less? Wow, don't think I would have the guts to do that.
 
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ChiliBoy....well, it took me awhile to work up the courage. It used to be that I tipped less/accordingly and then went out the door and ragged to my fellow dining partner(s) about the lousy service. But then one day, one of them said to shut up and put my mouth where my money was. So I swallowed hard and did. I'm not rude or offensive (at least I don't think so) when I tell the server about the reason for the nickel. I simply want to convey to them my dissatisfaction with their service. Sometimes, I've had waiters agree (really!) and at other times they've simply been the ***holes that they were when they first approached my table. Tipping is a very strange practice. All of these unwritten "rules" and all of the expectations from servers who think it's their due to get exactly 20% (or whatever %) no matter what. In the end, it's all about improving the restaurant experience. For everyone. And it's time that diner's started speaking up about what they like or don't like about a particular restaurant and/or meal. In a polite and intelligent way of course. Maybe I'm just tired of the FOH staff assuming they know more than me when in fact, they know nothing about me and should treat me respectfully. I mean, they can talk behind my back all they want. I could care less. But when they're at my table.........again, I'd rather tip the chef! WOW!! Sorry to everyone for this very long post. It's Friday and I'm venting.
 
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Joined Aug 8, 2000
Went to Chez Panisse and they tack on 15% automatically. Whadaya guys think of that? Our wait was only ok, but the busser was more personable.
 

isa

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Joined Apr 4, 2000
In France they always had a service charge to your bill. I forgot the percentage. The waiter only get a percentage of the service charge. You have to leave a tip on top of the service charge...


Sisi
 
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
I guess I'm divided about "service compris" (tip included) on the tab. I agree with Cremaster that if you're polite and instructive rather than confrontational, you get your point across with less overreaction. I also tell servers why I tip heavily when I do that as well- and I do. I cooked and waited tables in a college town in the summer, and I have some inkling of when a heavier tip is in order.
 
9,209
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
I guess I'm divided about "service compris" (tip included) on the tab. I agree with Cremaster that if you're polite and instructive rather than confrontational, you get your point across with less overreaction. I also tell servers why I tip heavily when I do that as well- and I do. I cooked and waited tables in a college town in the summer, and I have some inkling of when a heavier tip is in order. But I don't like service compris when the server takes advantage of having a guaranteed tip and treats you like dreck.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
Mezzaluna, were you at table of 6 or more? Sometimes, restaurants do tack on a service charge for tables with 6 or more people. And yes, I agree with you: if diners are polite and unconfrontational it is sometimes amazing what you are able to accomplish. Once, after explaining my reason for such a low tip, the waiter returned, apologized, and invited me back for another meal free of charge! I accepted. And he was not my waiter during my second visit but, recognizing me, came over to say hello and ask how my evening was going. Of course, that's probably an exception. But still..........and Sisi, I'm not aware of this practice of tipping in addition to the service compris in France. I've never heard that I "have to leave a tip" as well. I have on occassion done so. But, at least in my experience of eating in France, tips are somewhat of an insult and a very "American" (in the French definition) thing to do. I'm in France every year and I have never been confronted or insulted either verbally or via body language and attitude by any waiter about not leaving an additional tip. Am I eating in the wrong restaurants? Or maybe the right ones?!!
 
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Joined Jan 15, 2000
I usually pay by credit card, and usually by American Express, since that's the card I use for business. They summarize your annual spending by category, which then goes to the accountant at tax time. (Ask your tax professional if your dining expenses are deductible as a business expense!) For all of their high "discount rate," Amex cardholders are the top diners, at least here in Chicago; and Amex is always there to help you market to their members.

I generally tip 20% and work up or down. I think that it's important to consider whether or not you've received anything (or a lot!) for free. If a chef or manager comps a course or some drinks, I think it's quite rude not to acknowledge the gesture by tipping extra - and I wouldn't want to embarass that friend or colleague by not "taking care" of their staff. It's also important to understand that, in most restaurants, tips are shared by many dining room employees - door, bus, food runner, bar, etc. If the server sucks, I do tip just 15% and then side tip the busser.

Finally, I think about the olden days when I was a waiter. If I chose wines and food for the guest, and they loved them, then I expected to be tipped at least 20%. It's funny that, 18 years later, I still see and talk to some of my request parties.
 
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
An excellent discussion topic. I use CC (95% of time, unless I've planned ahead and brought enough $). I use the 15% 'rule', but also use the 0% tip for poor/unacceptable service or 'attitudes'. Conversely, I tip proportionately higher for exceptional service, and always politely tell people why the tip is low or high; they deserve constructive feedback, both bad and good.
As a consumer I must mention that the 'arguement' for a minimum tip % (i.e., never 0%) because servers are paid an inadequte 'minimum wage' by employers doesn't sit well with me. Using 'guilt' to force 'mandatory' tips doesn't work with me; tips should be for exceptional efforts, not basic living expenses that employers fail to cover.
I'm interested to know if anyone out there can explain the 'ritual' whereby the 'normal tip %' is determined/raised??.
 
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Joined Jan 15, 2000
I don't totally disagree with lobster. The restaurant industry is notoriously backward in the area of human resource management. I just wonder if the consumer is ready to see a 30-50% increase in every single menu price, from lobster to a cup of coffee, so that service staff can be paid competetively. Trotter's here in Chicago pays there service staff a salary based upon their experience and ability, but the check average is $125+ per person.

The immediate gratification of a wad of cash is what attracts most service staff to the job, not the benefits, consistency, working conditions or job satisfaction. It's the actuarial likelihood of a big money night that evens out for the other negatives of the job, hopefully enough to incentivise an employee to show up on a regular basis. In a job market where GenX'ers have "quality of life issues" at age 21, I shudder to think what would happen to the general quality of service if there was no tipping.
 
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Joined Sep 10, 2000
I always tip on the basis of service, and have no problem tipping more for great service or a nickel for poor service to get my point across. I do have a problem when the tip is included on larger parties and the service is horrible. What do you do then? My sisters and I took our neices out for lunch. We're talking about 12 guests. The orders were takin, maybe 3 at a time. Drinks came a few at a time. and same with the meals. It was mid-afternoon and obviously an inconvenience. When we complained, the (several) waitresses were clueless. We were there for nearly 3 hours. Being a former server I usually take a lot before I complain. So what do you do in this instance when there should have been a very small tip and it's already included.
 
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Joined Sep 5, 2000
You don't complain to the servers, you find the manager. All will be taken care of, if you find the right person. Most places will want to take care of thing right.
 
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Joined Jul 18, 2000
it is probably a clash of cultures, but in Australia tipping is the exception with no given service percentages. I do remember in Maui that my wife and myself's wait person dropped the cutlery and were interrupted constantly by that person apologising for dropping the cutlery.

Perhaps my service expectations are lower than some, but on any given day i prefer a more subtle or discreet approach to service rather than an in your face approach.

Given that, there is a very fine line between attentive, professional and discreet service and those who know how to provide it will be richly rewarded. As much as cooking entails a professional and passionate approach, the same applies to our friends in the FOH.
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Oct 7, 2001
Personally, I think, in the long run, service would improve if we got rid of the tipping system. If we where to stop tipping and start creating salaried positions, where raises were given on merit and experience, we would do away with the post-college, "I'm just doing this until I find a real job" mentality. I truely believe that we would create service professionals again. People who devote their lives to service just as we chefs devote our lives to the food. I know too many waiters who could give a rat's a** about this job and yet they pull down more a year than I do. What other field do you know of where people (even inexperienced people) can make $50,000+ a year working 6-8 hrs a day?
Unfortunately, that would mean having to raise our costs, which I don't think the customers would take to lightly.
 
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Joined Oct 28, 1999
I, too, will go well above the 20% rule, and go as far as matching the check when the service has been exceptional.
At a recent meal, I had invited several friends (and their children) to join us for lunch (and our children). Needless to say, with 10 adults and 7 kids, it was a real fun time for the waiter. But, he was a sport! When the kids spilled drinks, he was right there with refills, stickers & pre-meal 'snacks'. The works. He brought their food out early and even re-plated a few dishes that were too hot for small children. I left him 80% of the check and wrote a letter to the restaurant. I got a call the day they received the letter and told me that they had awarded this particular waiter a 'bonus' and thanked me for taking the time to write. As a member of the trade, I certainly appreciate when someone takes the time to thank me for a particualarly good meal, so I recipricate whenever possible. However, if the service is poor, so is the tip. If it is poor enough, so is the letter. After all, you are purchasing a meal; a meal being the food, the atmosphere, the service, the cleanliness, the whole package. If the package is defective, it needs to be discussed and repaired.
 
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