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Archive for the ‘Paying the bill’ Category

Trials and Travails of ‘Splitting the Bill’

Posted by gratrueities on April 14, 2010

You’ve just enjoyed a wonderful (one hopes!) dinner out with friends and then comes the moment of truth…the bill arrives.

Splitting the bill can, too frequently, be an awkward experience. The practice I’m  most comfortable with is adding in the gratuity and splitting the total by the number of people – then each person/couple/family contributes accordingly, per person. My rationale:  if you are dining as a group, you mostly likely are doing so because you want to do so, you enjoy one another’s company and your expectations regarding the experience and expense involved are fairly consistent.

However, it’s recently come to my attention that not everyone is in agreement on this subject!

From the price of the items ordered to the amount of the tip, there seem to be many points open to question. A recent example…I was in the process of dividing a check and adding a 20% gratuity on the total bill, including tax, when someone asked “why are you tipping on the tax – shouldn’t you just double the tax? That’s what I always do.” (a formula that equated to about 16% where we were dining). This did not become a heated discussion by any means, but it highlights one area of confusion that surrounds splitting the bill – every person has different practices. To further complicate things, if the person figuring the bill is a poor tipper, do you speak up or just quietly bump up the tip at your own expense?

Then consider the “small-orderer” – the person who only orders a salad or appetizer (Worse…just a cup of coffee. Worse yet…just drinks the tap water!) while everyone else orders a meal. Or, the person who doesn’t drink alcohol while the rest of the group swills down cocktails and/or wine. In those instances, it may be more sensitive to tell the person who did not partake to “throw in” whatever they think is fair and split the remaining balance . Since I am never that person who doesn’t indulge, I can’t say for sure – but I think I would still be inclined to want to be included in regular split. This is definitely a case where I know (from experience, unfortunately) not everyone agrees!

Let’s not forget to look at the flip side – the person who decides they want to order every appetizer on the menu, an exotic item (think truffles or lobster) or that pricey bottle of wine – at the everyone else’s expense. Not fair…and there should be consequences! Unless they offer to cover their personal indulgence, they may not want to expect to be included the next time!

These are my only my opinions. I, therefore, decided to do a little research to see what it actually considered customary today. I was happy to see that I am somewhat in line with current thinking…or at least half. A recent FoxBusiness article addressing the etiquette of splitting the check offers opposing arguments:

One opinon: “Times are tight, and if a person or couple orders appetizers, dessert and drank alcohol, and you choose not to, it’s OK to discreetly say, ‘I am going to take care of my end,’” said Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette coach. “But be sure to adequately cover what you ordered, plus tip.”

Arguing for the other side: Mirza Grotts, an etiquette and protocol consultant,  said situations regarding money are already awkward enough, and by asking to individually pay will make matters worse.“Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said. “Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said.She said it’s much easier to split the bill evenly, particularly if it’s a friend you go out with repeatedly. “It becomes a wash and will even out in the long run,” she said.

So…my conclusion: Let sensitivity and common sense prevail. If you are dining with friends with whom you socialize regularly, it probably will all even out in the end…just split and make it easy. If you are dining with someone in a difficult financial situation who orders frugally, let them pay accordingly (or better yet, treat them if you have the means and it’s comfortable to do so). If dining with a repeat offender – the “big orderer” who burdens you, make a decision. Bottom line, if you resent the bill split, you probably shouldn’t repeat the circumstances.

Side notes:

Make it clear from the beginning that the check will be split, avoiding unpleasant surprises at the end of the meal.

Do not let the check sit on the table at the end of the meal: Grotts also said it’s rude to let the bill sit on the table when it arrives. “Always be the first to grab the bill, it is embarrassing to let it linger.”

Social situations are distinctly different from a business dinner, in which case the person extending the invitation is expected to pick up the bill.


Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Paying the bill, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bad Tipper Advisory!

Posted by gratrueities on April 3, 2010

Just last month a Winston-Salem, NC woman was banned from a restaurant for being a bad tipper. So…be forewarned! (You know who you are, if you are at risk.)

Here is the story: Monica Covington, a repeat customer at Kanpai Japanese Steak and Seafood House, was banished from the restaurant for refusing to agree to pay an 18% minimum gratuity.  This is where things get somewhat tricky, because apparently the stated restaurant policy is that 15% will be added for parties of six or more. Therefore, it seems clear that Monica’s previous visits had earned her the reputation of being a poor tipper. The restaurant took measures to address her pattern by tacking 18% onto her bill. She claims she paid the gratuity the first time without argument – even though she was with a party of only three. (Hmm…I wonder what these other people think – have seen no further mention of them). However, upon a return visit (she must have really liked this place), when informed up front that she would be required to pay an 18% gratuity, she struck back. Thus, came Monica’s petition citing discrimination and asking people to boycott the restaurant for unfair business practices. The restaurant next retaliated with a its own cry for support and continued attempts to tell their side of the story. As you might imagine, both parties have their advocates.

Further, there was no consensus on the recent OpenTable discussion regarding the incident. People remain very divided on the subject of patrons vs. servers – and, as we’ve said here before, the opinions are not split straight down the line between customer and server, as one might expect.

This case is also curious in that the customer (Monica) obviously wanted to return to the restaurant. She was not tipping poorly because she was dissatisfied, but because that is her “way” (hate to call her cheap, but it seems that it may be so). Why she wanted to return after being singled out for her tipping habits is somewhat of a mystery – clearly her love of teppanyaki won out over pride!

As of last report, the case seems to be heading toward the courts! So…something to think about – review your tipping habits at your favorite restaurants and make sure you are a welcome repeat customer. Or one day, you too could find yourself banished!

GraTRUEity #53 – “You keep me coming back for more.”  “P.S. And I hope you’ll allow me to continue!”

Posted in Dining experience, Paying the bill, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

GraTRUEities Demo: The Standing Tip

Posted by gratrueities on January 3, 2010

Using your tip to create a stand. Demonstrated at Cafe Bernardo, Davis, CA.  Excellent New Year’s Day late breakfast, and friendly, fun service. A must stop if you are in the area.

Posted in Dining experience, GraTRUEities, GraTRUEities In Use, Paying the bill, Service, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call 911 – GraTRUEities!

Posted by gratrueities on November 19, 2009

Maybe if they had had an alternative way to to express themselves, the Bethlehem, PA couple arrested for not leaving a gratuity at the Lehigh Pub would have not ended up in handcuffs. Yes, that’s right…the couple was arrested for refusing to leave a $16 tip – for sub-par service.

This was a case where the gratuity was included in the bill – a “mandatory” 18%. The patrons paid the $73 dollars owed for food, drink and tax but protested paying the “tip” for what they claim was poor to non-existent service. Leslie Pope and John Wagner attempted to explain the reason for refusing to leave a gratuity and the bartender took decisive action – he called the police and had the couple arrested for theft! That’s one way to get a tip.

This is certainly a case where using the “simple, time-tested system” of letting ones tips do the talking (see page 2 comment, Grub Street ‘Editor’s Pick’) did not work out so well for the customer. Perhaps they would have been better off  in this case  going with our motto – “put your mouth where your money is.”

Leaving an appropriate message along with a tip may work out better in the end for all.

Posted in Bars, Dining experience, Etiquette, GraTRUEities In Use, Paying the bill, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Do You Believe in “Tip Coordination?”

Posted by gratrueities on November 6, 2009

You can even order a t-shirt that poses this very question! In the first ‘Seinfeld reunion‘ episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiam,’ Larry David shares with Jason Alexander his feelings on the subject. What is “tip coordination” you may ask?  Basically, it is an agreement, when splitting a restaurant bill, that all will tip the same amount or percentage – price fixing, if you wish!  Here is an interesting commentary on the psychology of tipping and the subject of “tip coordination” from the blog

“Economists have often wondered why people tip.  We have lots of sophisticated explanations for why rational (i.e. selfish)    people pretend to be altruistic.  A leading explanation, the reputation model, relies on some repeated game concern but how would that apply in a one shot waiter game?  The puzzle is, of course, easily resolved if one allows homo economicus to have a heart. Warm, mushy feelings for waiters can easily explain tipping, even if you both know your relationship is the restaurant equivalent of the one night stand.

As our well-educated and well-read readers know, the heart is a complicated thing and often responds to incentives in odd ways.  Larry David is the dark Jane Austen of our cynical time and his (second!) magnum opus, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is the warped Sense and Sensibility.  I enjoyed the Seinfeld non-Reunion episode.  There were so many treasures in one half hour but the business lunch between Larry and Jason Alexander was my favorite bit. Larry and Alexander go dutch and Larry suggests they coordinate the tip.  He wishes to avoid the embarrassment of under-tipping.  It is just obvious to Larry that other people’s opinion matters so he must tip.  Note it is not morality but image and hence self-image that guide Larry.  He certainly does not want to tip low when his Dutch partner tips high.  But if your partner tips low, there is still an incentive to tip high, because it is quite natural that you want your image to be better than your partner’s.  In other words, there is a dominant strategy to tip high…a Prisoner’s Dilemma of tipping. Once we open up the heart of homo economicus, not only is there an incentive to tip, but toovertip.  No wonder Larry wants to collude and coordinate tips.”

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Paying the bill, Pop Culture, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by gratrueities on October 14, 2009

Yes or no – a little of both?

In her recent MSN Money article, The Rude New Tip Jar Economy, Liz Pulliam Weston explores the increasing pressure we feel to tip “more and in more situations than ever before.”

Many of us take pride in being generous tippers and take pleasure in rewarding people for a job well done.  Just as we like to be compensated for our own efforts.

That said, the economic realities of this past year have made most of us more cognizant of the value of our dollars – and possibly both more cautious or more generous, depending on the situation.  We want our tips to have meaning and value, not to merely compensate for deficient wages.

That brings us to the other reality:  most service providers depend on their tips to earn a living wage, leaving them at the mercy of the customer, not all of whom play by the rules of the tipping game.

Therein lies the dilemma. How do service providers earn their due without offending the customer by crossing the line? Tip jars, mandatory service charges, etc. all convey the expectation of a gratuity and, while they bring in money, they can also have a detrimental affect.

People still want to feel they have a choice  – they want their tips to be meaningful, not not judged as lacking and especially not take for granted.

Has the time come to revamp the system?

Posted in Dining experience, Economy, Paying the bill, Pop Culture, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Worth the “wait?”

Posted by gratrueities on October 9, 2009

Hollywood celebrity, a Beverly Hills hotspot, dining and dashing and Twitter – all the makings of a good drama!

And, though a month late, a $3 tip (which was actually in excess of 20%) that finally arrived!

Was it worth waiting for?  Jon-Barrett Ingels, who lost his job as a waiter at Barney Greengrass after tweeting and blogging about an incident with Jane Adams of the hit TV series Hung, may not think so.  Although, who knows, the ensuing publicity just may provide the aspiring actor/writer with an unanticipated career boost!

Not to get “hung” up on the irrelevant, but it seems that many stars seem to frequent Barney Greengrass Beverly Hills.

Posted in Paying the bill, Pop Culture, Tipping, Twitter, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Reader’s ‘Digestion’ and “The Waiter” revisted…

Posted by gratrueities on July 21, 2009

From Reader’s Digest Magazine and from Waiter Rant via Yahoo …a little reminder of some things to avoid when dining out!

Oh, those waiters!

Posted in Dining experience, Paying the bill, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tipper’s Remorse

Posted by gratrueities on March 5, 2009

I’m suffering from a case of “tipper’s remorse.” This is just like buyers remorse, except I have nothing to return and no way of getting my money back.

Unfortunately, I knew when I left the gratuity that I didn’t really want to tip generously – I was already annoyed with the service. I think I succumbed to a pathetic desire to prove something to the server (in this case, the bartender). Just what I hoped to prove, I’m not sure!

We were dining at Sushi Roku in Santa Monica, CA. My daughter and I were seated at the bar, waiting for the rest of our party to join us. We had some difficulty gaining the attention of the bartender, who was otherwise occupied in deep conversation with two women seated next to us.

When we were eventually acknowledged, he was minimally attentive, distracted by the many “assets” of his other two customers. With the bartender’s evident lack of interest serving us, let alone recommending a cocktail, we settled on wine. Two small glasses appeared and we were told we needed to settle our bill at the bar.

For whatever reason (maybe hoping to inspire regret that he did not consider us more worthy) I left a much larger tip than was warranted – over 20% on an already appallingly large bill for two skimpy pours.

I’ve regretted this ever since – based on principal, not money. What motivates us to at times tip generously even when we really don’t want to? Is this part of the phenomenon of “tipflation” or a whole separate issue?

Posted in Bars, Dining experience, Paying the bill, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Tip Jars, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

More — Celebrity Tipping

Posted by gratrueities on February 7, 2009

One of our regular GraTRUEities readers just sent the following link to a list of good and not-so-good celebrity tippers. We definitely cannot vouch for the reliability of this list. And, we don’t know how up-to-date it is…but we think it is worth sharing.

There seem to be a lot of professional football players on both sides of the list. And, note that the entire Los Angeles Lakers NBA team made the good-tipper list. They dine as a unit?

It’s good to see that one of our favorites, Tom Brokaw is a good tipper. But very disappointing to see Al Gore on the bad tipper side of the aisle. Maybe he is trying not to litter?

And, in the “I’m not surprised” category, Whitney Houston is a bad tipper….

On the other hand, tell me it isn’t so Jimmy Buffett and Don Henley?

Share your insights/thoughts on celebrity tipping…

Should celebrities get away with tipping less than regular folk?

Should they tip more?

Do you have a celebrity tipping story to share?

Curious minds want to know more!!

Submitted by a reader, the website Glamorati also has a list of notoriously bad celebrity tippers…for curious minds!

Posted in Paying the bill, Pop Culture, Tipping | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »