Financial Confession – I’m a Bad Tipper

February 27, 2009

I think we all have financial confessions to make, little things we do with our money that aren’t so smart or that we’re not proud of.  The thing is, no one else really knows about our “dirty little secrets” so we’re not accountable to anyone to change our bad habits.

To help keep me honest I’ll occasionally be running a financial confessional where I talk about a money topic that I’m not proud of.  Feel free to chime in and let me know how foolish or selfish the habit is, or whether you suffer from the same affliction.

Bad Tipping Habits

I’ll start it off by openly admitting that I’m a horrible tipper at restaurants.  I know that people work hard for their money and deserve to be compensated for their efforts but due to some mental block, I have a learned instinct to try and tip as little as possible. I guess it basically boils down to the fact that I’m cheap and don’t like to part with my money but I feel guilty about the impact it has on hard working waiters and waitresses.

Luckily for me, I married a woman that doesn’t have the same flaw so I’ve found an easy solution to under-tipping.  Anytime we go to a restaurant, I simply pass the receipt onto my wife and have her leave the tip.  I know that she does a good job leaving a fair tip and will be much kinder to the server than my stingy tip mentality would allow.

So what do I do when she’s not there?  Usually the only time I go out for food is when I’m with my family but on the occasion she’s not around I always think WWWD (What Would Wifey Do).  I usually have a lower number in my head that I feel like tipping, but instead I go with the higher amount that I know my wife would leave.

So I guess you could say she’s my tip muse : )  I haven’t broken the bad tipper affliction, it seems to be baked into my psyche, but I’ve found a way to at least get around it.  Anyone else a bad tipper?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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21 Responses to Financial Confession – I’m a Bad Tipper

  • chris new orleans

    You also probably go line by line to divide the bill so that everyone pays for excatly what they ordered and not a penny more when dining with others. I find those types just as offensive and refuse to dine with groups that don’t add at least 20% tip to the post-tax bill and divide by the number of people at the table, even if some didn’t consume alcohol.

  • chris new orleans

    My advice to you is to go to the grocery. I have never worked in the service industry, but you are the person who deserves the urine, feces and spittle in your food. I despise cheapskates.

  • Ben

    Moris, I guess I don’t understand why they would hate me. I know I’m a bad tipper so I have my wife to leave the tip so the server gets whats fair.

  • Moris

    Please know that all of the people who wait on you hate you very much.

  • Lacey

    As a former server, I agree with the comments posted by other service-industry employees, except this very important one. DOUBLING THE TAX IS NOT A RELIABLE METHOD OF COMPUTING A FAIR TIP! Tax varies significantly from state to state, and sometimes, city to city.

    So, unless you are certain that the tax you’re doubling is above 8%, doubling the tax is a poor rule of thumb. I was a server for years at a Maryland resort, (5% tax), and I’m certain some of the people from New York (9% tax) didn’t notice they were NOT leaving a fair tip by doubling the tax (10% = bad tip).

    There’s a simple solution if you don’t want to pay a 15-20% tip: get carryout. Same food, no (or less) tip needed. As Amber said, servers must tip other employees, and pay taxes on SALES. Not actual tips received – SALES. If you don’t leave the normal 15-20%, you’re forcing the server to cover those taxes and tip shares for you.

    Most servers also do a tremendous amount of prep and cleanup work, being paid $2 an hour, while there are no customers around and no tips to be made. Usually their entire paycheck goes to cover taxes on sales. The tips are the only thing they are being paid.

  • jennie

    thank you for answering the eternal question all of us servers/bartenders ask ourselves after every shitty tip, “is it really that they don’t know? or do they just not care?” i can go on forever as to why tipping is part of going out to eat, but it’s still not going to keep the cheap bastards from dining out. do yourself a favor though and don’t frequent the same restaurant/bar you end up stiffing after every visit because we do remember you.

  • david

    the fact of the matter is, the united states is one of the only first world countries around that doe not pay its service industry a decent living wage. i have been abroad to several other countries, and, being a bartender, asked the bartenders there how much money they made. in australia, they made around $20 an hour. a little more for the UK. same with italy and france.
    you know what else? going out there was a little more expensive than going out here. to keep menu prices low, restaurants and bars cut the service staff’s pay to as little as $2.00 per hour. have you ever tried living on $2.00/hr? i think it might be decent pay in mumbai, but not NYC. if you don’t want to tip, eat your f*@#ing meals at home, asshole.

  • Katie

    Wow. Maybe I feel this way because I worked a job where I made $2.50/hr and depended on tips to make up the bulk of my income, but I’ve always felt that scrooging on the tips was shortchanging, even cheating, those who are providing you a service of fair compensation. If the service is really poor, I can understand reducing the tip, but most of the time, you should tip 20%. Moreover, you should EXPECT to pay that much before you go out to eat or go to any other event where tip is expected.

    You pay a tip to compensate someone for services they provide you that you would otherwise provide yourself. For instance, you tip a bellboy for bringing up your bags for you. You tip a waitress for bringing you a meal that at home you would have to serve and clean up yourself. You are compensating them for the convenience they give you. If you can’t afford the convenience of having someone else provide you a service, then stay at home and do the work yourself.

    This isn’t just an issue of fair pay. It’s also an issue of being rude, ungrateful, and the worst kind of miser. It makes me angry just to read all of these comments about how some of you regularly screw over wait staff and other people in service industries just so you can have a couple of extra bucks in your pocketbooks. I’m frugal, but I’m certainly not stingy. If you’re that concerned about your money, DON’T GO OUT.

  • dave

    i have been driving concrete mixer truck for 40 years. i am very helpful and help out all i can on jobsites. I have delivered millions of dollars worth of concrete to thousands of projects and i can count the tips i have recieved on one hand!

  • Amber

    You have to keep in mind as well that servers at most restaurants don’t go home with the tip you left on the table. We have to tip out a certain percentage of our sales to all the people that: seat you, clean up after you, run your food, etc. Also, we not exempt from taxes we have to pay them too. So really, even if you do get mediocre service and you leave a bad tip (below 17%) you are effecting at least 6 people at my restaurant. Oh, and please remember that a lot of servers are people making their way through school and squeeze in work between medical school hours like I do.

  • Scott @ The Passive Dad

    I think I learned about tipping from my parents and also from working as a food server when I was in high school. I typically tip 15-20% for good service and have gone above that for exceptional service. It also helps if you are feeling generous due to a celebratory dinner. Those might happen once a year for us, maybe.

  • Ben's Mom

    Ben asks at the end of his article, is there anyone else who is a bad tipper. I know a notoriously bad tipper, Ben’s dad….hmmm

    submitted by Ben’s mom

  • Sarah

    “by necessity, I am a bad tipper” said Kevin

    This is not true. If you can afford the bill, you can afford an appropriate tip. If you feel you cannot afford an appropriate tip, you spent too much to begin with.

  • JBP

    As a server/bartender working my way through college, I have to say I’m quite taken aback by how easy some of these numbers are being thrown around. If you’re getting counter service or at a waffle house, there might be something to the bare minimum notion, but I work and provide excellent service for what is an accepted custom in this country of tipping according to the price of the bill. When it doubt as to the norm, just look at the percentage added as an auto-gratuity to parties of 6 or more (most places will have this clearly printed on the menu). Where I work, this is 18%. Interestingly, though, my coworkers and I hate when we get parties of 6 or more, since rarely does anyone leave anything more once they feel their tipping obligation is complete. But all the same, we generally get tipped 20%. Now, that may be because we give excellent service, but it’s worth pointing out that we took the hard job working during everyone else’s R&R time because it was cost-effective. When you fail to tip according to the accepted custom, you’re failing to uphold the tacit agreement business owners and customers agree to: That in order to gaurantee the best service possible on every table, you should tip according to service and according to a sliding scale of percentage. You may argue you never made such an arrangement, but you can’t plead ignorance to that being the way in which restaurants are set up in this country and, hence, that you agreed to that by going out to eat. By failing to uphold you’re end of the bargain, that amounts to more than just disappointing a hard-working individual, but stealing from his take-home pay as promised to him by taking up his valuable real-estate, the table which could have gone to some other customer willing to uphold their end of the social norms.

  • Grant Baldwin

    I used to work full time in a fine dining restaurant, so it definitely taught me to be a generous tipper.

    I learned that sometimes a bad dining experience isn’t always the server’s fault. It may have been something their boss did or something wrong with the food or some other element that the guest may not see.

    The other distinction would be leaving poor tips just because you’re cheap. I’ve always heard it said that “if you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t eat out!”

  • Jessica

    Maybe you don’t realize how much servers actually make. In my neck of the woods, servers are paid $2.13 an hour. Tips are how they survive–there is no excuse for bad tipping (except for horrible service, but even then I think a discussion with a manager/supervisor is far more effective).

  • Kevin

    Mainly by necessity, I am a bad tipper.

    Here is a suggestion though to figure out the tip. Multiply the tax by 2 and you have about a 15% tip. This is a bit under the suggested 20% but enough for you to save a few pennys and the waiter not to bitch too much.

  • The Personal Finance Playbook

    I stick to the old rule of 15%. I think a lot of people consistently give 18-20%, but I reserve this for excellent service. I try not to eat out if I can help it, but I really do enjoy eating out. Getting carryout is a good way to avoid paying for tips and drinks. Eating at home is, of course, the best way to save across the board;)

  • N. Avery

    Oh, and I should define, “really cheap with the tip” means less than 15% to me.

  • N. Avery

    Oh, that is funny! I actually am a very good tipper as long as I get good service. 22 – 25% is not unusual for me.

    Here’s my confession, although it’s not exactly a money confessions: When I go out on dates with guys, especially the first 2 or 3, I stealthily try to see how much they leave in tip. If they’re really cheap with the tip, I think less of them! Talk about judgmental! I want a man I’m dating to be conservative with their finances, but not a tightwad on a daily basis, and in my head that’s a good measure.

  • Nate @ Debt-free College

    I am always amazed at how much most people tip – which most likely means that I am a bad tipper. 🙂