To tip or not to tip - that’s the question

Ok. So this story got me thinking:

When do you tip? We always tip when we go to a sit down restaurant even when the service is deplorable. And by deplorable I mean being ignored or when a waitress actually threw the folder onto our table without stopping.

But for example when you go in and pick something up - no eating in involved do you add a tip?

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If you eat out at a restaurant in the US, you tip. If you don’t tip, you’re stealing. Yes, even when the service is terrible.

Yes, I tip when I’m picking up food. Not as much, but a dollar or two. Because the waitstaff still isn’t paid enough, even if they’re not spending a lot of time on me.

You’re not stealing if you don’t tip. I have to admit that the way American society works with regards to stiffing wait staff on a fair wage is appalling though.

I only tip at a sit-down meal, then ~10% give or take the shrapnel. But no tips for A-holes. However we pay our staff a fair wage here in the UK.

Also no tip if I order a takeaway and you charge for delivery. Free delivery = tip. No tip if I am collecting from you.


It depends.

In Sweden: no tip.
In Germany: round up to the closest, sensible number to avoid getting a lot of coins
In Spain/Portugal: Even though tipping isn’t necessary, we usually give around 10% if we’re happy with the service

Delivery: I tip around 5 Euro
Pick up: No tip or round-up

I take parts of everyone here. Wait staff is paid a decent amount, so it’s not required.

Delivery: I usually tip when it’s free. But this will also depend on speed/service. Call me to explain you are late, and it takes you 1,5 hours, no problem. Make me call you after an hour or more, problem. However, since Corona, cash tips are less appreciated. Companies try to get you to tip online before delivery is made. I only do this to a few places I use often and I know have good service.
Pickup: no tip.
Eat in: I tip. When it’s a small amount I round up to the closest bill, so everything from € 6 to 9 becomes € 10. When it’s big, it’s somewhere near the 10%. This however can change with bad service, which is very uncommon for me by the way, I’m easy to please.

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It might not be stealing in the UK, but it’s absolutely stealing in the US.

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I disagree. It may be socially unacceptable to not tip but I do not believe it is theft in any way. Restaurants save money by refusing to pay their wait staff a real wage. However, the staff are compensated for it by the restaurant if their tips do not reach an assumed level.

Would you be able to elaborate on why you believe it is theft?


Because everyone knows that restaurants don’t do that, no matter what the law is and the social contract is that you’re buying the server’s labor separately from the food. You know this ahead of time, if you’re not comfortable with it then it’s not ok to go out to eat. Are the restaurants the real problem> Yes, but that doesn’t absolve you from following the rules as they are.

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So you’re advocating that it’s moral theft rather than legal theft?

To make it clear I was meaning that it is not theft in the legal sense. As in I won’t be standing in front of a judge for Theft of Services.

Yes. It’s not illegal, but there’s no moral justification for it and I will look down on anyone who knows the situation and disagrees. Ideally, we’d fix that but this is the world Americans live in.

Understood. Playing along the lines of social contract:

You provide service of minimal acceptance = You get paid.
You provide exceptional service = You get a bonus.
You provide unacceptable service = You do not get paid.

In the story, my view is that the waitress did not provide any form of acceptable service. Therefore breaking the Social Contract. Therefore she doesn’t get paid.

As for “But that’s the way America is…” sentiment, be the change and boycott the entire industry. I agree that if you don’t want to tip in the USA, don’t go out in the USA. That is one reason I don’t convert my Tourism Pounds into Tourism Dollars.

I also really disagree with the whole Social Contract sentiment in general but that’s because I am generally disappointed in and by my fellow society.

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So because the restaurant is ACTUALLY stealing from employees, you consider is stealing if a customer doesn’t tip? Kinda weird logic.


Restaurants are terrible, but you know the situation going in. If you get bad service, the proper response is to ask for a manager while still paying your bill and tipping because you agreed to tip when you walked in. That’s part of the deal. If you don’t like that, don’t eat out and talk to your Congresscritter. You don’t get to decide after the fact that the server didn’t deserve their wage.

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If the server fails to provide an acceptable level of service, it is the server who has broken the “contract”.


Actually, I do get to decide, hence the tipping part.
Still: It’s illegal what the restaurant is doing, why should that fall onto me?
Because restaurants are illegal, I’m not allowed to eat out, for not supporting said restaurants in their illegality?


Reply to original question:
Sit down restaurant: I tip. Usually around 20%, a bit more if the service was good, a bit less if the service was bad, as low as 10% if the service was horrible. (That being said, the waitress in the story @PublishedAuthor referenced would have gotten pocket change from me. I tip because I choose to; try to force an amount out of me and you’ll get next to nothing.)
Pickup: Usually no tip, but if it’s an awesome restaurant and one of my favorites, I’ll throw in a small tip as a thank-you.
Delivery: I don’t do delivery. I don’t like delivery fees. I’d rather pick my food up myself. But if I did…definite tip. Delivery drivers are typically using their own vehicles and paying for their own gas; they need every penny they can get.

Reply to @Callyn:
Yes, I’m American, and no, I do not see not tipping as “stealing”. You have your opinion; that’s fine. I just don’t agree with you. Sure, if the service is terrible, I should ask for a manager, but I’m still not going to tip well just because the server is underpaid. When I go out to eat, I expect reasonable service, and I’m willing to pay for it. If I don’t get reasonable service, why should I pay as if I did? I’m with @CJR on that one: acceptable = tip; exceptional = better tip; unacceptable = little/no tip.

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So, I’m way late here, but to add on, I tip 20+% in sit-down restaurants.
I tip 15-20% when I pick up a to-go order, as the server has had to check my order. Plus, I still have pandemic sympathies for those working with the public.
Delivery - I never use delivery other than my favorite pizza place - and they get 15-20%.
My first job was being a waitress at 16 in a diner - I wasn’t good at it, but I tried. I appreciate the effort that goes into it.
That having been said, I have received truly awful service before, and still felt bad when I tipped 10%. This has happened maybe twice in my life.

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I only really tip when the service has been excellent. Not sure on the percentage - I just round up to the nearest multiple of 5, or 10 if the price ends in a 4.