Ever find yourself staring at the check in disbelief? Knowing how much to tip can be a struggle. Luckily, our resident foodie has put together this Public Service Announcement to help you get it right and, importantly, to help you get laid…
So it’s your first date with this curvy brunette you met at your best friend’s house party. You decide to take her somewhere nice for dinner. Smooth move. But the place is expensive, and after the steaks and a bottle of wine, the bill is a bit more than you had anticipated. In order to stop the bleeding, you stiff the waiter. You figure there’s a 12 ½% service charge on there anyway, so what the hell? Who cares? You’ll never see this bozo again anyway. Really bad move. You just wasted your whole investment, because you’ll never see the chick again either.
Girls pay attention to this sort of thing and she figures, if you’re cheap, if you don’t tip, then you won’t be very generous with her. As a result, she’s definitely not going to be very generous with you.
But the whole tipping thing can be confusing, so I’m going to clue you in on how it’s done and help you out with your sex life at the same time.
First of all, when you get the bill, you’ve got to know what you’re looking at. By the way, don’t study it too carefully either, because then she’ll know you’re a penny pincher. Just glance at it casually to make sure they didn’t accidentally give you the check for the four-top with the high roller and his three Russian prostitutes. If the bill is correct, note whether there is a service charge, and do the math.
If there’s no service charge, the standard tip should be 15-20%. You should pay it for all sorts of reasons. First, generally speaking, waiters don’t make jack, and these guys, even the numbskulls, depend on tips to pay the rent and feed their kids. So do your social duty. Second, you might want to come back to this place some day and waiters have a photographic memory for anyone that shortchanges them. If you don’t tip or tip too little, on your second date, you’re going to get a table by the kitchen and saliva in your soup.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the guy has earned it. True, there are some really crappy waiters out there, but if you’re in a decent place – one that doesn’t have pictures of the food on its menu – and the service is bad, chances are the guy is new. Give him a break. He’ll get the hang of it one day. In the meantime, he’s still got to pay the rent and feed the kids. If you are really miffed because he got your order wrong, forgot your drinks, took forever, and the food is terrible, you can go 10%. Anything less and you don’t deserve to be dining out in the first place.
If there is a service charge, you should still tip. Why? Because first of all, 12 ½% is under the standard minimum. So leave him something extra. In cash. Even if you’re paying with a credit card. This way you know the money will go to the staff at the end of the night instead of being swept into the owner’s accounts at the end of the month.
Incidentally, just so you know, most restaurants work on a points system; tips are pooled together and divided according to job description by the host, the waiters and the busboys. Stiff one, you stiff them all. If you really want to give a particular server something, slip it to him under the table and make sure his colleagues don’t see. Otherwise, they’ll bust his balls when he gets off work and make him hand it over to them anyway.
Secondly, and this is nearly impossible to know, but it’s the reality of the world we live in, some unscrupulous owners don’t give the service charge to their wait staff. And even those who do sometimes use it as a way to make up for the really low wages. Rare are the restaurants where the waiters are paid a decent salary and given the service charge as well. Sad but true.
How much do you pay when there’s already a service charge? That’s hard to say and some argue that you don’t have to pay anything. For my part, I usually add another 10% of the bill before taxes. That may be a bit over-generous but, like I said, you can’t always trust the management and, in any case, I have a soft spot for these guys who spend hours on their feet dealing with cranky customers and even crankier chefs. So do the right thing and get tipsy. Besides, at the end of the day, that extra 10% just might get you laid.
David Blanks is a historian and writer, restaurant critic, former restaurateur, and long-term Cairo resident. When not cooking, dining out, reading or blogging about food, he hangs out with his hippie princesses, plays bass, and does back-up “vocals” for the occasional rock band. When asked for his principal qualification for being awarded the title of ‘foodie’, he said: “I began eating at a very early age.” Keep up to date with his culinary shenanigans by following him @BiteMeCairo