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Posts Tagged ‘Gratuity’

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 »

15% Tipper and Proud of It?

Posted by gratrueities on April 1, 2010

Well…that is the impression one gets when scrolling to the bottom of the recent New York Times City Room blog post by David Sax. The disclaimer at the end of the post states that he is a “journalist and the author of “Save the Deli” (Houghton Mifflin), lives in Park Slope and always tips 15 percent.”

Note – Mr. Sax does not claim to tip “at least” 15% – but, rather, “15 percent,” period. Hmmm…is that really what he means to say? If so, that is curious, considering he has written a book on dining (even if it is deli dining) from which he has, in theory, profited! See him in action doing research at right!

That said, the post, titled Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect? raises some valid points and, despite the title and surly tone, does not truly take an anti-server stance. For instance, Mr. Sax takes issue with the less-than-minimum wages servers are paid. He challenges the gratuitous tip, but supports rewarding a job well done. Not surprisingly, the article incited both the ire and support of many NYT readers and has, to date, generated well over 1200 comments.

Obviously, tipping remains a controversial subject  – who, when, how much and for what? Interestingly, the comments generated from the article did not divide straight down the line between customers and servers. Some of the most intriguing comments are featured in a follow-up piece – Readers Split the Difference on Tipping.

We’re always interested in the many points of view that surround the custom of the tip and these are particularly insightful comments.

Also, it makes us wonder what GraTRUEity might be appropriate for someone such as Mr. Sax: “I always tip 15% no matter what…so read nothing into this tip.”  “Underpaid workers unite!” ?? We’re open to suggestions!

Posted in Etiquette, GraTRUEities, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ho Ho Ho! Holiday Tipping

Posted by gratrueities on November 27, 2009

Well,  ’tis the season and that means we need to start thinking about the annual bout of holiday tipping for those who provide services throughout the year, or even just occasional services. 

At GraTRUEities we know that many of us share the confusion that often comes with holiday tipping: who should we tip?  How much should we tip? When should we tip? Should we tip with cash or a gift?

One general guideline we like to keep in mind is this: tipping is a personal expression of thanks between you and the service provider. 

Only each of us  knows how much a particular service throughout the year means.  For instance, our hairstylists. How many times have we called at the last-minute to say we are running “ten minutes late”? How many times have we  had to cancel an appointment completely? I know I’ve done this more than once this past year.  An accommodating stylist should be rewarded for the times when they’ve had to switch around their  appointment book to accomodate our scheduling mishaps.

How many times have we all left ‘extra’ garbage by our curbs, just knowing our pick-up crews will haul it away without a word said? Again, this thoughtfulness can be acknowledged at the end of the year with a small token of appreciation.

Keep in mind some service providers, like U.S. mail carriers, cannot accept cash. But, I know that my mailman loves the tin of Peppermint Bark I hand him in late December every year.

So, start jotting down your list and thinking through how much these service providers actually do to accomodate us throughout the year. And, let our words and deeds of thanks reflect that.

To help guide you through, we’ve created a special page here on GraTRUEities with helpful links to sites and articles with all kinds of Holiday Tipping advice.

We’d also like to hear from you.  If you’ve got any specific questions about holiday tipping or bits of advice you’d like to share, please do. And, in the meantime, happy shopping, happy holidays and happy tipping!

Posted in Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 cheeptalk.wordpress.com:

“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 »

Chips Ahoy!!!

Posted by gratrueities on November 3, 2009

Where – Oba! Portland, Oregon

What  – Happy Hour

Who – Couple at table for two by window

Food – Delicious!

Value – Excellent

Service – Hmmm…mixed…some great and some lacking.  The first portion of the order was timed and served perfectly! Sadly, the repeated request for chips – coupled with ongoing non-delivery – eventually overshadowed the rest of the service.  (It should be mentioned that this was not a busy night.) However, when the chips finally arrived, they were hot and crispy – and *sold* as such!

One other comment from our party – with all the great margarita specials, has Oba! considered buying a blender?

Missed GraTRUEities – somewhat like a “missed connection” on Craigslist:

– “Without a blender, you’re just a pretender!”

– “A sense of timing is a mark of genius.”

– “Chips ahoy!!!”

Posted in Dining experience, GraTRUEities In Use, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Portland, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Rude?

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 »

A ‘Beastly’ Experience…

Posted by gratrueities on November 19, 2008

in a good way, that is…

After reading that Naomi Pomeroy, chef at Beast (pictured at right) restaurant in Portland OR, was named ‘Chef of Year’ by Portland Monthly Magazine we were anxious to give it a try.

Beast is a small French bistro-style restaurant located in the  Alberta Arts District of Portland.

Let me tell you a little about our dinner and, of course, how it relates to the topic of tipping!

The concept of Beast is simple. The menu is prix fixe, six courses and changes weekly – and it is very meat-centric (an additional attraction for my carnivore husband!). The restaurant seats 24 people at two communal tables, with two seatings per night.

Before making reservations, we checked out the menu online to make sure it was something that appealed to us, as it is clearly spelled out that substitutions are “politely declined!” The day before our dinner, we received a call confirming our reservation and instructing us to arrive promptly at 6:00. The latter struck me as a bit unusual, but I later understood why it was stressed…and they did mean “promptly.”

We arrived in the nick of time, were immediately seated and began chatting with our table mates. It was a festive atmosphere – warm, cozy (i.e. small) with an open kitchen and rustic decor.

The servers greeted us and checked to see if we wanted to order wine (they only order they were responsible for that evening) – carafes of water and a description of the meal were waiting on the on the tables. And with that our meal began!

The courses were nicely paced by the kitchen and the service efficient, pleasant and unobtrusive (actually, it was nearly invisible since the main task was to clear plates and walk approximately 8-10 feet to pick up and deliver the next course). Throughout the meal I considered how this style of dining simplifies the job of the server…no specials to recite, no recommendations to offer, no orders to take, no unusual requests to fulfill, no water to refresh, no attempt to entertain the diners…just service, pure and simple!

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, as well as exchanging opinions and comparing favorite restuarants with the people around us.  When the checks arrived – en masse – as they prepared to clear the restaurant for the next seating, some discussion arose concerning the gratuity. The consensus reached was that the usual 20% was in order, but It was clear to me that I was not alone in recognizing that this was a different sort of service than the norm.

A little more discussion on tipping ensued…basically when, where and why!

I left both content after the delicious meal and convinced that people are becoming ever more conscious of what exactly they are tipping for…and aware of what their tip dollars are saying.

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, Pop Culture, Portland, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Service with a smile!

Posted by gratrueities on October 29, 2008

My husband and I spend quite a bit of time in Portland OR – a city noted for having the one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in the US. We seem to spend quite a bit of time frequenting those restaurants!

Last weekend we decided to go out for breakfast after working out at our gym located in The Pearl. (My favorite trainer, Seth, says it’s very important to eat within and hour of your workout – one rule I like to follow!)

After a short “debate” we ended up at a restaurant called the Daily Cafe, conveniently located a block from the gym. My husband’s objection that they didn’t have a enough options (translation – the options were too healthy) was dropped after he saw that they were serving brunch – with several selections including bacon and offering an appetizer and entree for only 13.95.

The restaurant was packed – this brunch was clearly no secret! We navigated through the line to get in and we put our names on a waiting list. I noted that the extremely busy hostess was greeting everybody with a smile while juggling a myriad of other duties.

I decided to order coffee while I waited. Again, I couldn’t overlook how cheerful – smiling – the person was who helped me. I was starting to feel a vibe.

Once seated, an equally friendly (dare I say smiling?) and attentive waitress took our order. At this point I had to comment on how happy everyone seemed! And the mood seemed to be infectious. The customers all appeared to be not only content but also in high spirits.

We enjoyed our meal (which was delicious) and, of equal importance, felt uplifted by our experience.  When we received the check, we made sure to show our appreciation…and we left smiling!

Gratuity – 25%, GraTRUEiuty – A smile is worth a thousand words!

Posted in Dining experience, Portland, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »