The Wandering Wino Blog


How much to tip?Do you tip? Who do you tip? How much do you tip? When do you tip? Should the Starbucks crew be tipped the same as your fine dinning waiter? How about the pizza guy, bartender, how much do you tip them? The valet? Are all things equal?

I spent nearly 10 years of my life working for tips as a bartender, waiter, delivery guy, and night club door man. High society to coffee shop, LA to Dallas, I worked a big range of both demographics and restaurant types. The last 10 years have been on the other end of the table. Now I just tip. I am a true believer in those that provide a service should be compensated. Even sub standard service deserves something, unless really horrific. 

It seems in todays U.S. society, everyone now wants a tip. When I walk up to a register to order anything I often see a tip jar. Ice cream, coffee, a mall snack, they are everywhere. What next, a tip jar at the bank teller? How about we put a tip jar out for the grocery store clerks? This was unheard of 10-15 years ago. I do not believe a tip jar should be there to make some feel pressured to put something in just because someone scooped me ice cream. Who thought of this new idea to put a tip jar out for any human being that does anything? Maybe I should put one around my neck? Wait, I think that's called pan handling.                 A few things to keep in mind: 

  • Never tell someone "I'll take care of you." This is the kiss of death and inappropriate.
  • Never mention the tip as part of the conversation with a tipped employee. Again, it's inappropriate.
  • Double the tax to figure a restaurant or bar gratuity in the USA is complete nonsense (these tippers should be flogged).
  • When sharing a bill, do not ever under estimate the tax portion owed.Major contributor to why restaurants add gratuity to large groups.
  • Nearly all tipped employees are paid minimum wage or less. Trust me it's legal.

In those walk up register situations, I believe that if someone does something extra for me, or I am a regular, then yes, they should be given a tip in acordance with what that person did. Otherwise, go fish!

When I waited tables everyone talks about the cheap people that double the tax of the bill to try to get 15%. This is what I call from school days a D-. Does it pass, well sort of, but don't ever come back and expect to be treated like everyone else. Don't be high maintenance to keep asking for things and then tip like that. 20% in restaurants has really been the basic restaurant standard for a number of years. 15% is old school. Any person using 15% as a standard tip to a waiter, I would suggest to that person to never be a regular at any restaurant. Why your cheapness asks? Because the servers fight over who will take that customer. They do not want a D-.Every restaurant I've worked in has these regulars and every worker in the building knows they are the cheap tippers. Everyone! 

I've seen restaurant people fight similarly to great high tipping customers. Everyone knows who you are and wants to treat you right! To any famous people that might read my humble blog, we all talk about how much you tip. Always!

Once when I was a bartender three men fought over who would buy the drinks. The winner paid with a $100 bill and tipped me $0. I was fast, prompt, respectful, friendly, and provided excellent service and I got zero. When the man came back for another round, what kind of service do you think he got? Well I wasn't exactly being Jesus that day and ignored him as long as I could. For drinks, plan on 20% or more. Really a buck a drink or more and I'm really under shooting it. If it's happy hour, never think that 40 cents on $2 draft night is going to be acceptable. Have some dignity and just give the buck to the bartender. 

The delivery guy, well now we just switched from apples to oranges. 10%-15% as a standard.

The valet, minimum $2-$3, anything less and the tipper is being cheap. If they charge for valet, do not adjust the tip. These guys do not share in that charge 99% of the time. 

Airport Skycap, $1 a bag or more

Haircut, 15%-20%

Buffet restaurant, 10%

Taxi, 15%

Casino dealer, $5 a session

Limo driver, 20%

Maitre d', $20-$100

Sommelier, 15% of wine

Wine tasting rooms very rarely have tip jars. I have tipped tasting room people in some instances. When I'm treated like a special wine club member (and I'm not) with all the other wines offered exclusively to them and or my tasting fee is waived because they like me; then you bet I tip them. Maybe it's $5 or $10, just depends. This is not typical but I've done it and I know others do it too. It's really OK, they will gladly take your money.

These are just some standards to go by, and if someone says, I can't afford to tip. Well, then they can't afford to go out. These so often thankless jobs are often plagued with disrespectful customers, rude people, bad tippers, long days/nights, and very, very hard work. Having worked the business as many years as I did, I can tell you if a customer has yet to receive their food/drink and then pisses off the wrong person, then watch out! Bad things sometimes happen. Is it right? Immaterial question if someone just ate/drank it. 

Do you have bad tipping friends or family? Often awkward. Distance yourself with a separate check. 

All instances can be unique on their own, and I often tip higher than the suggested above standards. These are typically hard working people that should be thanked with our money. These people often put up with a lot, so be nice. It's not that hard, is it?


  • Florida Keys Girl
    Posted Wednesday 04 May 2011 23:08
    You know, I agree tipping has gotten out of control. That being said, I have been in the habit lately of tipping in the 30% (sometimes more) range at restaurants. Of course, I often BYO (see my comments on the you know you're a wine geek post...) and the server should not get stiffed because I have brought my own wine - and they have most likely waived the corkage fee.
  • Matt
    Posted Thursday 05 May 2011 01:14
    I agree. Maybe Starbucks should pay their people enough of an hourly wage so that they don't have to guilt us into tipping them for pushing buttons on a computer screen? I don't do it. I tip the people that are SUPPOSED to be tipped. We went to dinner at Morton's last week and they charge a $29 corkage fee. That and the $17 half-a-chicken-breast-sized crabcake appetizer made me want to walk out. But, the server still got her 25% on the $200 bill because it certainly wasn't her fault. I think most people know that you're supposed to give your server 20% but choose not to because they are cheap. And, to be honest, when I see a large beer costing $8 at the local restaurant and turkey burgers hitting $12, it makes me wonder how much longer that will last...
  • Robin Renken
    Posted Friday 16 March 2012 00:31
    I was just in Temecula mid week following a holiday weekend and every tasting room had multiple tip jars on the counter. Do you think this was left over from the weekend of cheap drunks or is this becoming a larger practice?

Comments are closed.