A couple of months ago I began this blog because I’d had a pretty spirited debate on tipping with some friends at a bar. Some strangers overheard and joined in with their opinion and before we knew it, the bartenders, managers, servers, and people coming in off the street with no clue what we were talking about were all being polled and asked their opinions.
It’s pretty nuts just how far ranging everybody’s thoughts were on when and where tipping is appropriate, mandatory, or unnecessary. Almost everybody had different ideas.
When tipping was deemed appropriate the amount each person spit out was all over the place.
Before getting too in the weeds on the blog, I did what anybody looking for the answers to tough questions from the smartest of society does: I took to Twitter.
One of the replies was a link to a blog Nate did on the very same subject years prior.
If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a read. He nailed most everything.
Among the highlights- he pointed out how random it is that it’s totally expected to tip bellmen at hotels, even if they don’t take your bags to your room (just for holding them for instance), yet most people leave nothing behind in their room for the maid staff.
Also, everybody who chimed in agreed with him that bathroom attendants deserve nada.
He also ended his blog with a bona fide A++ Dwight Schrute meme on the topic that I will be using and citing at the end of this blog*.
Having said all that, this morning a tweet came across the timeline from the main account from one of the newer guys, Large’s eunuch Tyler from Barstool finance.
Now I like Tyler. I’ve never met him in person yet, but just from reading his newsletters, the handful of blogs he’s done, and seen him on their podcast, you can tell he knows his shit. Plus, most importantly, he passes the Large test. If he’s good enough for him, he’s good enough for everybody.
So you can believe my reaction having seen the pot stirrers behind the scenes running our main social media accounts clipping and posting this clip.
Heavens to Betsy!
Listen, I'm by no means calling anybody a cheapskate or stingy who doesn't leave 20% on a take out order, or on a cup of coffee, or whatever you're usually doing when the cashier flips their toast ipad kiosk around for you to sign and tip if you want to.
But to throw them a buck or two, or at least sprinkle some loose change in their tip jar isn't asking much. And it adds up for that minimum wage, or tipped wage employee who is probably working that register because they rotate shifts. It's a shitty shift and it's shitty for this exact reason- a lot of businesses still pay them as a tipped employee, but nobody tips, because they're not doing "a service" we deem tip worthy.
Which brings me to the basis of this blog.
What is a tip worthy service?
How much should you tip said service?
We got some pretty good responses on twitter, which I will weigh in on, but I would love to hear from our esteemed scholars in the comment section on what you all believe. So be sure to weigh in and maybe we will be able to come to some conclusions, once and for all, and I can update it in a third tipping blog.
I can't find it, but somebody had a great tweet to me that said something to the effect of: "you either grew up working a job in the service industry yourself, or had a loved one who did, and know the ropes, or you didn't and are clueless."
I don't think it's that harsh but it's true. I don't know a single soul who's ever worked a hospitality job, or still does, that looks down upon somebody else in the industry, or doesn't appreciate what they do, and take care of them for it.
I can't say the same for those who never had to work growing up, and work office jobs post college. Those are usually the people who have zero idea just how much hard work goes into working in a restaurant, hotel, sports stadium, or anywhere else you're dependent upon people to take care of you for doing a good job.
I like to think that for every piece of shit who dines and dashes, leaving the bill to be paid by their server, or tips 0% on a check, there are 10 or more saintly people who overtip to balance out the scales.
I've worked in the hospitality industry basically my whole life.
My first job ever was at 12 or 13 years old was as a bus boy at The Cocke & Kettle Restaurant in Uxbridge, MA. (I think it had to be under the table because I think it's illegal to be that young and work in Massachusetts (shout out Slater's Mills and the child labor laws they made necessary)
I had to wear a tuxedo, minus the sport coat, bowtie, vest, pants, and dress shoes, and bus tables, and clean up popover crumbs all over the restaurant.
I got a great taste for how fucking chaotic it is behind the scenes at a large scale restaurant and worked my ass off for peanuts.
The food runners broke up our tips at the end of the night and decided what we "deserved" (a practice I also think is illegal) so if you got on their bad side you were fucked.
All my money went straight to the baseball card shop and the Tommy Hilfiger department at Filene's in the Natick Mall.
After eating shit at that place for a few years my friend John got me a job at this awesome summertime seasonal food shack called "George's Surf & Turf" in Mendon.
That job was awesome- manning the grill, overseeing the fry-o-later's, and fry baskets, but entailed a shit ton of work. Prep was insane. Clean up was even crazier. The place was a drive in place where the servers would come to your car. In the peak summertime months we would get absolutely crushed by crowds that would sometimes wait 2 hours to get a parking spot. The place was super famous for its fried scallops, fried clams, and pretty much everything else fried. The kitchen would be a shit show for a 4-5 hour window, then die down and we'd have to clean up what looked like a bomb zone. The next morning we were back to work there prepping for the same madness. I think I made like $4.75 an hour. No tips. When George the owner gave me a .10 cent tip I almost broke down and cried as if he said he was giving me a $10,000 dollar bonus.
Shit was crazy back then.
I've grown up in bars, clubs, and restaurants since, own a few of my own now, and think I have a decent understanding of the business.
As much as its hard work, there's also arguably no funner job.
You get to work with other likeminded people. You're constantly meeting new people. You get to interact with them face to face, have conversations, learn, make relationships.
You're usually on your feet and active, not sitting at a desk staring at a screen for hours.
You can usually get some flexibility on your schedule and have a say in your hours if you're lucky.
And best of all, you get paid to provide other people great experiences.
It's very rewarding.
Now that all that's out of the way, let's get to the tipping breakdown.
Does anybody know the difference between how Starbucks baristas are paid vs. places like Dunks? I know Starbucks employees get everything under the sun- benefits, college tuition, maternal leave, and free blowjobs (allegedly), so I wouldn't be surprised if they make decent hourly and tips are just gravy. But I'm pretty sure those nice sweet ladies behind the counter at Dunkies who remember your order of ice coffee with 16 sugars and 14 creams in it every morning could really use some of your pocket change you tightwad. (Maybe I'm wrong. In which case, apologies.)
(Sidebar - tipping in other countries)
Tipping in Europe is wild. No matter who it is, they fucking flip out when you take care of them. Cabbies, bartenders, servers, whoever. You grease them just a couple euro's or American USD and they go nuts ringing bells, graciously thanking you, and hooking you up however they can. I'm pretty sure you could get a body buried for you in Italy for $5.
TAKEOUT AND CASH REGISTER KIOSKS
My man Mario raises a good point here.
But what are these places? We need to decide once and for all.
Your neighborhood Chili's? Chain restaurants takeout? Subway's? Jersey Mike's?
We discussed this on twitter yesterday
Jersey Mike's (a superior franchise sub chain) prompts you to tip on their card reader when you checkout. I always ask the cashier if they actually get the tips (because you never know with these big corporations), and they always say yes. So I always tip - 15 or 20%.
Subway apparently doesn't give their employees the tips which I'm pretttttttty sure is illegal and is also the least shocking thing I've heard regarding Subway since finding out their "bread" is made out of yoga mat rubber.
FOOD DELIVERY DRIVERS
This one I couldn't agree more with.
To me, and I am by no means job shaming here, people who do food delivery have one of the worst jobs going. Not because its back breaking work or something to look down upon. No. Because people are fucking assholes. And hungry people are even bigger assholes.
And there is nothing worse than rude, hungry, assholes. Imagine dealing with that every day or night? On top of that, gas prices are fucking insane right now (thanks Obama), so that kills their profits, and to make matters even worse, these food delivery apps fucking gouge you the customer with fees, the restaurant with fees, and stiffs the driver/delivery person. After you're paying $30 for a fucking burito from Chipotle because of the fees, the average person isn't feeling so generous to take care of the delivery person. They get the shaft.
RIDE SHARE DRIVERS
I'm all ears for people on here. As I said above, gas prices suck right now. The slim margins these drivers make are made even slimmer when you factor in their gas expenses. I'll be honest, a lot of times I just throw somebody 5 stars without even thinking to tip. I feel really shitty just typing that. But I always make sure if somebody is driving me well out of their way (like I just took an Uber from Auburn, Alabama to ATL airport), and I know the driver won't have a ride back to where they're from, I always over tip big time.
If the driver is awesome, doesn't talk your ear off, or does talk and is actually entertaining, nice, funny, etc, makes your ride pleasant, helps with your luggage, or gets you where you need to go fast, then I always tip. But 90% of just regular rides, I don't, and now I feel shitty. What's the consensus here?
BARBERS HAIR STYISTS
What's the move here? I tip my barber a ridiculous amount. That's not trying to sound like a big shot or hardo, I feel like an idiot actually. I just had no idea what the fuck to tip him, so I started throwing him a lot, and have never been able to adjust out of fear of looking cheap.
If you live in a high rise building, or your building has security, and a maintenance staff, then most likely around the holiday season you are propositioned to contribute to an employee fund. It's usually optional and you're a dirtbag if you don't. But what's a good amount here? I know they always suggest an amount but when you divide it up amongst everybody it always seems insanely low to me. And I know they divide it up according to seniority and rank and shit so I know the new and young guys/girls always get the shaft. So when I lived the high rise life I would always just give everybody an envelope with an equal amount directly. This went a long way with everybody and anytime I needed anything whatsoever I didn't even have to ask.
GAS PUMP GUYS
New Jersey stand up.
Back when I was young we used to have people pump our gas in Massachusetts too. Your parents would always tip these guys because 1- gas was like .99 cents a gallon, and 2- because they were usually the starting linemen on your towns high school football team and could use the money. I think NJ is the only state where this happens now. You gotta tip those guys right?
This one's a good one.
1- how do you make sure they get it? You have to personally hand it to them right?
2- In which case you have to be on a personal relationship with them, or know you have the same mail person every day right?
3- how much do you give them?
Also, this applies to FedEx and UPS guys too right?
I'll be the first to admit this one made me gasp. Not because I don't think they should be tipped, but because it's such an obvious one and one that never even occurred to me.
The garbage man is one of the most essential and yet overlooked workers we have in our country.
Go to a country where the trash doesn't get picked up on a regular basis, where the people have no clue on when and if the trashman will show up, or a place like Naples where the mafia extorts the local government by controlling the garbage and sanitation department, and trash piles up, stinks to high heavens, attracts rats, raccoons, bugs, and a ton of other shit and you'll quickly realize how lucky we are to never have to think twice about how great we have it garbage wise here in America.
Yet these guys are often nameless, thankless, heroes to us. And for that I feel badly.
1- How do you tip these guys?
2- and how much? Holiday season? Quarterly? What are we doing here?
RANGE GUYS and CADDIES
I caddied in high school (shout out Mr. Murphy and the Worcester Country Club), did two loops a day, double bag (nbd) and walked with $100 bucks on a good day. If I was lucky and didn't get some asshole who'd only throw me a $20 for carrying his bag and watching him hack his way to 4.5 hour round of 110 golf.
So out of respect for the hustle I always take good care of caddies. $50-60 a bag is what I'm told the going rate is nowadays so that's what I tip.
But what about when you drive your own cart and return it and they take your clubs and clean them. How much do you throw those guys? $5 bucks? $10? How much?
Back to Nate's topic at the beginning of the blog I mentioned.
I'm a firm believer in taking care of hotel staff across the board. I have some good friends who work in corporate positions at hotels who are divided and tell me it works both ways.
One girl tells me the maids have the worst jobs ever. If you knew some of the things they have to witness when they open those doors you'd be horrified. The shit (literal shit, sometimes) fucked up people purposely leave for them to clean is beyond fucked up.
(Sidebar- OG Stoolies will remember the story of my friend from the Mandarin Oriental who passed along a story to KFC of Sylvester Stallone having an affinity for shitting in showers and leaving it for the maid to clean up. I looked everywhere for his blog but Devnest cleaned it up along with everything else they got rid of before the Chernin sale.)
For those reasons, you should take care of them.
Personally, I always leave behind $5 bucks per night I stayed there on the dresser for them. And on suggestion from this same friend, I ball up all the used towels in the bathroom and leave on the floor for them, along with the bed top sheet, and throw all the random trash in the trash bins. But I'm just a guy with a ton of guilt on my mind who's trying to get into heaven.
My other friend tells me hotel maids belong to one of the strongest and cutthroat unions in the country and that they are paid "very" well. What his interpretation of very well is I have no idea. He hasn't given me an exact figure. But he says you don't need to take care of them on top of what their hourly wage is.
I would like to think that this is how the majority of Americans think and operate. But something tells me I'm just being a hopeful optimist again and that's not the case.
I've told this story here before but back in college I lived in a house with 4 of my buddies. I was by far the poorest kid in our group so I dined exclusively at Loyola's cafeteria and scrounged off friends' and girls' meal cards. One of the guys we lived with was pretty well off. And his parents took care of him financially pretty well. He enjoyed the luxury of ordering out almost every day. He'd get Jimmy John's delivered to our house like 3-4 times a week. Back then a sub, bag of chips, and delivery was like $9.10 or something like that. He'd throw the delivery guy a $10 and close the door. Every day. Even if it wasn't the same delivery person every single day, (which I'm 99% sure it was) you had to imagine they had this roommates name (redacted) written in big black marker on the wall above the phone at the Jimmy John's instructing everybody who worked there to spit in his sandwich and rub their nuts on it every time he ordered right? There's just no way they couldn't. As a result, we would flip out on him anytime we'd witness him order, or collect an order at the door because we knew what a stingy fuck he was and more importantly because we could never order from there because we didn't want pubes in our Italian Nightclub subs.
Shout out Waiting -
For those people who love to defend themselves to people by saying, "why should I tip somebody for doing the job they chose to?", it's just one of those things you need to throw your hands up and realize you'll never be able to get through to some people. Yah, sure, they should just stay home, and do "the job that person chose to do" themselves, rather than waste people's time and take away service opportunities that they could be taking care of somebody who actually appreciates it and will compensate them accordingly. Regrettably there will always be people like the steak sauce guy from Waiting-
I'm pretty sure anybody who's gambled in a casino and hasn't lost their ass knows and does take care of their dealers. There's nothing more important than having a dealer or croupier who has positive energy, is rooting for the table, and giving good mojo. You HAVE TO take care of those people. You win, they win. That's how the gambling gods declared it eons ago. You hit a big blackjack or roll you have to break something off for them. Or at least play the next hand/roll for them, they love that.
Sidebar - I feel like nothing compares to the legends of people who take good care of casino workers. You literally hear about these people everywhere you go and hear the stories like they're Paul Bunyan or somebody. Frank Sinatra was a legendary tipper. Supposedly anybody who came in contact with him from the moment he rolled out of bed until his head hit the pillow received a $100 bill. Minimum. And that was a shitload of money back then.
The new favorite I hear about all the time no matter which casino I'm at in Vegas now is Dana White.
Supposedly he's the greatest tipper of all time. And card counter.
Story goes he is so good at counting cards he pretty much never loses. He wins huge and he tips huge. We're talking $10,000 tips to his dealers- which they pool and split amongst them of course- but it got to the point where he was asked not to return to a certain casino because of his counting and winning. The dealers caught wind of this and threatened to strike if White was barred from returning. And they were serious because the casino caved and allowed him back. And he beat their brains in again. Now he's just not allowed to play blackjack there. *Allegedly*.
There were also some really good random ones thrown out there that I have either never considered, or have always considered and never know what the verdict is. Here's a list:
Drive Thru Tellers?
Guy or Girl at The Deli Who Slices Your Meat?
Women Of The Night?
You HAVE to take care of these guys. Worst job going. But how much? What the hell do you tip these guys based on?
Hear me out on this one. When they are pouring you drinks they are bartending. Would you stiff your bartender? Probably never right? So do you tip your flight attendant? I have before and they accept it and are super gracious. They act like you gave them a million dollars and you don't pay for a drink from then on.
(Pro tip - this guy is 100% correct 70% of the time works every time)
Open Bar Bartenders at Weddings?
I feel like there are two kinds of people in the world. People who tip at open bars and people who don't. And you know the people who don't. Scumbags.
If you want to throw one big tip in on your first drink to cover you the rest of the night, that is totally fine and acceptable. Even pointing it out to the bartender so you're clear is permissible.
If you wanna throw a buck at them for every order or drink you order? That's fine too.
What's no bueno is ordering from the bartenders all night, stiffing them, and chalking it up to "oh well, the bride and groom invited us, we had to hire a sitter, drive here, and give them a wedding present, the least they can do is provide us with free booze. Plus, they'll tip them in the end."
No fucko, that's not how it works.
Those people are making like $2/hr to schlep Dewars on the rocks to your ass all night, hoping and praying you throw them an Abe Lincoln just once.
Never thought of this one. Kind of seems like a no brainer no?
No brainer. But how much?
Boat Captain and First Mate?
I fucking love deep sea fishing. Anytime I'm somewhere with warm waters I go out of my way to hire a charter. I keep asking Sydney Sweeney to set up a trip with me because she hasn't done it much, but I think she's too afraid because she'd rather spend time with her make-a-wish groups she takes out on video shoots with her. But I digress…
On a good fishing day you always take care of the Captain. Couple hundred bucks depending on how many hours you were out there and how well you did catch wise.
But when you get nada? How much do you tip? Really interested to hear people's responses.
If I missed anything chime in in the comments.
p.s.- Least shocking thing ever to come from this discussion, that Large was raised well.
p.s. - One thing I hate about the service industry and think is the most idiotic, foolish law regarding it, is how back of the house employees (i.e. kitchen staff, cooks, dishwashers) aren't allowed to participate in tip pooling with the front of the house.
These people contribute so much to the restaurant and dining experience, perform grueling work, over an insane amount of hours, and when you have an incredible meal and experience, and want to "take care" and reward the joint for it, the only people who see any of that reward are your server, the busser, and maybe the bartender and hosts in some places.
Some states are allowed to do this actually, but they have to wave the tip wage tax credit and pay all employees minimum wage across the board. Some states like Massachusetts and New York have tipped wage unions so insane they lobby to prohibit a law like this ever passing. In most of the country though this is the norm. It's outdated, unfair, and needs to change.
p.p.s- Doing last call for all your best and worst service industry "war stories".
We want to hear about your nightmare customers, bosses, fellow employees, and situations. Anything you'd only encounter working in the pits of a business that serves ingrates & animals.
Part 3 is coming Monday so send yours in on social or shoot over in email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't worry about needing to stay anonymous. Nobody's name will be used unless you ask.