Tips on tipping

“I don’t tip because society says I have to. Alright, I tip when somebody really deserves a tip. If they put forth an effort, I’ll give them something extra. But I mean, this tipping automatically, that’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned they’re just doing their job.”

Despite Mr. Pink’s objections (Reservoir Dogs) to tipping a restaurant server, the reality is there is an expectation in North America.  Service staff in many scenarios are paid low hourly wages because, among other reasons, it is anticipated that they will receive enough compensation through tips.

The restaurant ‘gratuity’ is escalating however, with some businesses adding 18% to a bill regardless of the number of guests;  some of which don’t notify you of this until the bill arrives.  Tip: If you want to avoid a surprise, be sure to ask about the gratuity policy prior to being seated when going to an unfamiliar restaurant.

How do you maximize the service without breaking the bank?  Here are a few strategies that can help you get the most out of the service industry.

At a restaurant, if the service, the food, the table, etc. are not up to you standards, let the server know as soon as possible.  There’s no point in complaining under your breath.  Tip: You are far more likely to get satisfaction if you bring it up immediately.  You may receive an immediate correction, a discount off your bill, a voucher for a future visit, or at the very least, an acknowledgement and apology.  The issue is not always in the server’s control, but if you give a server an opportunity to make it right, tip them according to the response.

Tip: When taking a taxi ride in an unfamiliar city, ask for an estimate of the price before leaving (although this article is written for North America, use this advice especially in other parts of the world where taxis are not regulated).

Tip: In many other cases, it may be in your best interest to tip prior to receiving the service so the staff members have your attention.  This can apply to hotel staff, nightclub security/doorman, bartender, estheticians,  hairstylists/barbers, pet care staff, tour guides, musicians, beach club staff, gaming dealers and a slew of other service industry members.

This is most important when you are going to be returning somewhere where you will frequently interact with the staff. Tip: Put down one or two generous tips in your first couple of interactions, and I guarantee you that they will remember your name when you return.  The staff will appreciate it and you will get better customer service.

I am not talking about hundreds of dollars here, but perhaps 50%-100% than you would have expected to tip.  For example, if you were going to tip $5 at the barbers, give them up to $10.    You will have a reputation for treating the staff well, even if you don’t ever match the same amount again.

Readers: Have you ever tipped ahead of time with the expectation of better service?  Has this exceeded or failed to meet expectation? Are there other scenarios to tip before the service is provided or to wait until it’s delivered?

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