Thursday, May 11, 2006

Genuine Performance-Based Tipping

Author: Nick
Category: Money

pretty small tip

Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived in China or North Korea where tipping is illegal? No need to work out 15% of $47.32 in your head, no worrying that you’ll forget to leave a tip, and no angry waitresses who spit in your coffee on your next visit. Yeah, China or North Korea would be great…

But since we aren’t all lucky enough to live in a dictatorship, tipping is something you’ll need to do with every trip to a restaurant. But just how much should we tip? Is 15% still the standard, or has 20% crept its way into our inflated economy?

For me, tipping is a dynamic process that directly reflects a server’s performance. But to be fair from one dining experience to another, I’ve come up with a systematic method for computing the tip I leave based directly on the actions (or inactions) of my server.

1. Start with a base tip of 15%. Assuming a perfectly average dining experience, that’s the percent of the final bill (before applying coupons or other discounts) that the server will earn. I’ll usually cap the maximum tip at 20% unless the server just goes all out and makes it the best meal I’ve ever had.

2. Add bonuses based on good performance. Some examples…

  • Prompt order-taking upon arrival. +2%
  • Friendly demeanor; looks like he or she is happy to work there and serve me. +1%
  • Allows substitutions, check-splitting, or other conveniences. +2%
  • Offers recommendations and honest opinions. +1%
  • Keeps free-refill beverages full without exception. +1%

3. Deduct penalties for bad performance. Some examples…

  • Significant order or check-delivery delays. -2% to -4%
  • Grumpiness, boring personality. -1%
  • Problems with food (wrong order, food delivered cold, etc.). -2% to -4% (but prompt fixing of the problem can lessen the penalty)
  • Giving a feeling of rushing us through our meal. -3%
  • Check-tallying errors. -1%

Oddly enough, using this system, I seem to be averaging around a 15% tip. More servers receive tips higher than 15% from me than under that amount–a reflection of the great quality of restaurant service in this area.

Feel free to share your thoughts on tipping here!

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