Do You Practice Math When You Leave a Tip?

By David Ning on 1 June 2010 (Updated 4 June 2014) 62 comments
Photo: sjlocke

Is it just me, or does everyone have their own special way of leaving a tip?

I was taught to write a rounded dollar figure as the total, and cross out the tip line because the amount becomes trivial. But what if the servers end up having to make the calculation by hand every time a customer did this? It's fairly easy for me to do the simple math once, but it gets pretty cumbersome when there are one hundred receipts to calculate at the end of a day's shift. Have servers been cussing me for decades? How do you write your tip? And have you seen some weird ways to calculate a tip? I know I have. Off the top of my head, I can think of four that deserves a mention.

The Whole Dollar Tipper

The tipper who only knows about whole numbers, he always rounds the amount to the nearest dollar. It certainly makes it easy for the mathematically challenge (actually, it's probably the only way he can ever leave a tip), but there's also the advantage of time for the tipper. Oh and don't forget, it saves the server time too because they can very easily tell what percentage you tipped him as soon as he sneaks a peak at your receipt. (Never seen this? Don't worry, because they always do it after you turn your head to leave.

The Clean Tipper

These people do what I do. They write a total amount that's rounded and either cross out the tip amount or fill in the difference. It makes expenses easier to add up, until they realize that every other expense they need to add up end in the nearest penny.

The No Tipper

A big fat $0 is what they give. He/she may not do it every time, but there's always an excuse for it. Oh the service is bad, take outs don't require tips, the owner takes them all anyway, blah blah blah. Stop complaining. See these people and shoot them please.

The Geek Tipper

Lastly, and surprisingly, the geek tipper is very popular in debt...I mean US of A. I don't get it, but many people simply try to figure out, fairly accurately I might add, the right percentage and then put that amount in the space labeled tip amount. Then, using what was learned in grade school, they scribble all the numbers on the receipt and try to add all the dollars and cents. It's fine most of the time. After all, it's a free country and who am I to judge. But once in a while, the addition is wrong! I mean, what is the server suppose to do now? Use the tip amount, use the total amount or forfeit the tip all together?

Your Turn to Share

So, what kind of a tipper are you? I don't mean how much you pay, but rather, how do you write your tip amount? And do waiters always deserve a tip?.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I use a method not listed: let's call it the Easy 20 method.

Take the amount of your bill (ex: $23.17) and drop the last digit (in other words, you are dividing by 10 to get 10%.... in this case $2.31).

Double that amount, and you have a perfect 20% tip. In this case $2.31 x 2 = $4.62.

Then simple addition to add $23.17 + 4.62 = $27.79

Guest's picture
Juliana

This is exactly what I do, too.

Guest's picture
Eric

I am in a similar boat. I usually drop two digits though and round. I was a server for two months and had an eye opening experience. I learned about the hard work involved in working as a waiter. I generally stick to the 18-20% range, but sometimes go a little over.

I have only left a really bad tip once. I was at a restaurant in Israel, where 10% is the standard, and had such bad service that I left a shekel (about 25 cents) on a meal that cost about fifteen dollars.

Guest's picture

yep, that certainly seems easiest.

Guest's picture
Molly

I do this, but then I round it up or down to the nearest whole amount. Thus, in this example, if the service was amazing-best ever, I'd round it to $30. If it was average or good, $28. Lousy, $27. I think whole numbers are beautiful.

Guest's picture
princess_kessie

I'm a geek tipper - I use the iPhone app "Check, Please" to calculate the appropriate amount - whether 12, 15 17.5 or 20% as required or deserved. If I am paying cash, I will then round up to the nearest dollar amount. If I am paying by card, I will pay exactly what is calculated on the app.

As an Aussie who doesn't tip every day (I only tip when travelling in countries that use tipping regularly, or when I get exceptional service in those countries that do not, since we don't have tipping here in Australia), I will only tip service that deserves a tip.

Adequate service get the lowest tip, the best service will sometimes even get an additional cash tip handed to them personally. However, atrocious service WILL result in no tip whatsoever. Rudeness, sullen attitudes, lack of attention - there are quite a few things that will result in no tip, but they will be left with no doubts as to why they got no tip. All it takes is a smile, attention to my needs (not mind-reading), and a pleasant attitude will get a reasonable tip. Go above and beyond, you'll get more than you bargained for :)

Guest's picture
Amanda

Like Princess Kessie, I don't tip. The minimum wage in Australia is more than ample enough for someone to live on - it's not like in America where servers NEED tips in order to survive, working on four dollars an hour or some ridiculous wage like that.

It really should be the impetus of the government to mandate a minimum wage sufficient to decent living standards - it shouldn't be up to consumers to pay above the listed price on the menu.

Guest's picture
Joan

I do the Easy 20 as well. It's simple, and basic math.

Guest's picture
Guest

Since my tax is 6%, I multiply it by 3 and play with that number.

Guest's picture
Chris

For anything less than $100 I just double the first number and round up a dollar. If the bill is over $100, I double the first 2 numbers and round up. Super easy. As long as the service isn't abyssal, I always tip 20% - waiting and restaurant work is hard work.

Guest's picture

I figure the nearest whole dollar amount to the percentage I want to leave. Then the total addition is easier.

Guest's picture
Joe Enos

There's another form of geek tipping, when you want the total to be a funny amount, like $11.11 or $12.34 or $24.68. You can't always make it happen, but usually there's some way of giving a reasonable tip and ending up with something like this.

Guest's picture
Czadd

I like the guy who says "I'll take all the cash and just put it on my card." He then proceeds to take the cash from everyone else--who tipped generously so they don't look like cheapskates. Then he pays a 5% tip. Why do I know so many people like this?

Personally, I start with the "easy 20" and work down from there if the service was very bad.

Guest's picture
erika

Servers do not always deserve a tip. There are bad servers / restaurants / cooks out there and I don't feel like it is necessary to tip them. If I tip them it will only encourage their behaviour - if they are bad at what they do, then I prefer not to tip, and hope that that encourages them to leave the industry.

On the flip side I have no qualms about leaving a 30 - 45% tip for people that do their job well. I want those people to continue in the business. In the end good and bad balance out.

Zero tippers are not complaining. We are just not encouraging people to do a bad job.

Guest's picture
Wulf

Servers always deserve a tip. If the food's bad, that's not their fault; the cook gets paid whether it's good or not. But the server only gets paid a minimal (not even minimum) wage. Even if the server makes mistakes, they have bad days like the rest of us. They still deserve to get paid for doing their job.

I tip $5 for anything under $25 and $10 for anything over. If the service or food is bad, I talk to the manager, I don't send the server home without a paycheck.

Guest's picture
Hannah

Maybe said server should get a job where a bad day doesn't mean less money for them. Really, though, I detest this tipping practice. I'd much rather have a higher bill that I am expecting than all this arbitrary tipping. What really is annoying is all the people who aren't paid three bucks an hour trying to get tips these days. They get nada from me in their little tip jars.

Guest's picture
Guest

Have you ever trained an animal or small child? The time for proper correction is at the time of the no-no, not long after the fact. If you want to rub the waiter's nose in it, take your payment (and the pitiful tip you chose to leave) to the manager. Tell the manager why you're leaving a piddling 1% tip or whatever, and have them ream out the server door forgetting your straw or sugar packet or whatever. Problem will be solved, and some managers will even comp your bill so you won't have to pay for your food at all! The cost of the entire meal can be taken out of the servers pay instead, and they'll be taught a lesson they won't forget in a hurry.

Guest's picture
Micah

Similar to the Easy 20, but I do a combination of the Easy 15 and the Clean Tipper.
Drop the last digit (=10%), add half of that (+5%), then round up to the nearest dollar, so it ends up being 15-20%

Guest's picture
Sam

Wait, we have to tip on take-out? But they're not serving you. I walk in, I pay, I walk out. They're not bringing you refills or napkins or extra ranch etc.

Guest's picture
Merrily

I agree with Sam, I do not tip when I pick up food.

Keep in mind I also live in Washington State where servers are paid the minimum wage of $8.55/hour which is the highest in the country.

I take issue with servers *expecting* an automatic 20% tip for mediocre service. I know they expect this because my sister works in a kitchen and says the servers get annoyed when patrons leave anything below 20%. The servers also are not expected to share any of their tip with the back of the house. If you like the food and want to make sure the cooks get their due you have to expressly state that a specific portion of the tip goes to the back of the house. Otherwise the cooks that bust their ass take home 1 to 2 percent, which my sister says is about $10 a night. Ridiculous.

Guest's picture
jodi

Please tip for take-out if the restaurant primarily has sit-down service. The server who is getting your order together may have lost the chance at taking a table because they are busy with your order, and it certainly takes their time away from their sit-down customers.

Also, your order might be under their "server number" so the price of your order is added to their overall sales total for the night.

I tip about 10% for take-out orders.

Guest's picture
jodi

I always leave cash as a tip.

A credit/debit tip isn't received by the server until they get their paychecks, usually, and that can take two weeks. Also, if the server has to "tip-out" the bus boy or bar staff, they have to do it in cash every night. Since so many people now pay with cards, this can leave the server with little or nothing in cash at the end of the night.

I always write "cash on table" on the tip line of the credit slip. This also prevents the cashier from "adjusting" your tip. This does happen..........I work in a bank customer service center, and we frequently get calls about restaurant debits that are not what the customer signed for.

Guest's picture
Leah

That's not true that servers don't get their debit/credit tips until they get their paycheck! Servers take home their tips at the end of the night by taking their electronic tips out of the cash they need to submit to the house. If I made $50 in electronic tips & had $250 in cash in my pouch from tables that paid cash, I'd return $200 to the house (plus tip out, whatever percentage that is varies from each restaurant). If I made $50 in electronic tips, but only had $40 in cash sales, the house would owe me $10 the next day. Servers ALWAYS get their tips right away. :)

Guest's picture
jodi

I always leave cash as a tip.

A credit/debit tip isn't received by the server until they get their paychecks, usually, and that can take two weeks. Also, if the server has to "tip-out" the bus boy or bar staff, they have to do it in cash every night. Since so many people now pay with cards, this can leave the server with little or nothing in cash at the end of the night.

I always write "cash on table" on the tip line of the credit slip. This also prevents the cashier from "adjusting" your tip. This does happen..........I work in a bank customer service center, and we frequently get calls about restaurant debits that are not what the customer signed for.

Guest's picture
Suzanne

I do a straight 20% rounded to the nearest dollar. Just makes things fair and simple!
Suzanne
Social Media Specialist
CareOneDebt Relief Services
http://twitter.com/AskCareOne

Guest's picture
jodi

I always leave cash as a tip.

A credit/debit tip isn't received by the server until they get their paychecks, usually, and that can take two weeks. Also, if the server has to "tip-out" the bus boy or bar staff, they have to do it in cash every night. Since so many people now pay with cards, this can leave the server with little or nothing in cash at the end of the night.

I always write "cash on table" on the tip line of the credit slip. This also prevents the cashier from "adjusting" your tip. This does happen..........I work in a bank customer service center, and we frequently get calls about restaurant debits that are not what the customer signed for.

Guest's picture
Suzanne

I do a straight 20% rounded to the nearest dollar. Just makes things fair and simple!
Suzanne
Social Media Specialist
CareOneDebt Relief Services
http://twitter.com/AskCareOne

Guest's picture

Nice mathematic. I'll take it into account! =) Thnx!

Guest's picture
Erin

In the area I live in, the sales tax is about 8% and up. I usually double the sales tax for fair to good service, and then add a few more dollars if it's great service.

Bad service still needs to be tipped (sorry, if it's unpopular) but at about 10%. Remember, the server needs to also tip the busser, bartender, and sometimes even the hostess, out of her tips - usually at a total of 7-10% of the total amount of food they served. If you don't leave a tip, they still have to pay their collegues...so in essence, it cost THEM money to serve you.

Guest's picture
fo

Double the tax and round up. Here in CA, that comes to about 20%, but I always make sure only tip on the pre-tax total. You should never tip on tax.

Guest's picture
ACustomerNotYourDaddy

Bad service still needs to be tipped? 20% as a default? Ahh, entitlement America.

I'm not sure when it started, but this idea that patrons have an obligation to make up for the poor pay practices of employers or to excuse bad service because "servers have bad days" is ridiculous.

Leave your bad day at the door and do your job. If you don't then don't expect a tip (particularly not one - 20%- that equates to outstanding service).

I'm a patron. Not a capitalist boss. The tips I give are in relation to the service you (as a server) render to ME. They are not about me being obligated to sustain some arcane payout structure your boss created because s/he doesn't want to pay everyone (busboy, hostess, bartender) a decent wage.

If you had to take a takeout order, take that up with the boss. It's beyond silly and wasteful (some of you are going be working many years spending so loosely) to leave 10% of a bill for someone that picked your container of food off of the counter and put it into a bag.

Are you people serious? No wonder Americans are in so much debt!

Guest's picture
Guest

I normally tip about 20% using the 'easy 20' method... I also try to tip in cash whenever I can so they don't have to claim the income if they fell like sticking it to Uncle Sam.

Guest's picture

Always a Whole Dollar Tipper...unless I have a bunch of change then I throw that in as well to save carrying it around. I usually pay with a credit card but tip with cash left on the table. I figure 20% tip, round it up and if it comes to say $8 then I will leave $10.

I like to tip well so I may tip higher. I earned low wages for a portion of my life so I like to make sure that I'm not causing someone else to have to scrimp. Even if the service was really bad I will leave a tip but not go back again.

Guest's picture

Lately, I've been leaving cash as a tip and writing "CASH" on the tip line of the credit card receipt. I just think it's easier for the server.
Minimum tip: 20%. Generally it's 25% because some people don't tip, and because serving is a physically strenuous job that requires you to be nice to people who sometimes are jerks.
That said: I have no problem complaining, politely, about bad service. If it's kosher to include a link, here's the MSN Money column I wrote on the subject:
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/ConsumerActionGuide/c...

Guest's picture

Lately, I've been leaving cash as a tip and writing "CASH" on the tip line of the credit card receipt. I just think it's easier for the server.
Minimum tip: 20%. Generally it's 25% because some people don't tip, and because serving is a physically strenuous job that requires you to be nice to people who sometimes are jerks.
That said: I have no problem complaining, politely, about bad service. If it's kosher to include a link, here's the MSN Money column I wrote on the subject:
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/ConsumerActionGuide/c...

Guest's picture
AJ

Our tax is 8%... we double the tax and round up.

Guest's picture

Are we talking about solving the Yang-Mills equations in an n-dimensional vector space here? It's multiplication, nothing more. You look at the pre-tax total. You multiply by .15, maybe .20. Is this difficult?

And if you're the guy who says "let's put it on my card" after everyone else has paid cash, what's wrong with that? Especially if everyone who paid cash is dumb enough to have tipped far more than they should, thus taking care of your share, too.

Maybe it's a regional thing, but I think tipping for a takeout order is nuts.

Guest's picture
applesquash

It's easier than you think.
Round your bill up to the nearest 10.
$3 for every 20.
$2 for an extra 10.

So, for a 46 dollar check.
Call it 50.
Two 20s and a 10.
3+3+2
8
Done.

Guest's picture
applesquash

I saw after I posted lots of %20 people.
Even easier.

Round up 10
Divide by 10 (drop the 0)
multiply by 2

so $46
call it 50
leaves 5
5*2
10
Done.

Sometimes I round down for worse than average service.
I'm very nice to waiters and waitresses.
But once I got service so bad I left the guy a penny in my glass of water.

Guest's picture

Opps. What a shame. I am a "No tipper" type of customer. I am usually in a budget as always. *Excuses* haha

Guest's picture
Leah

If you can't afford to tip, then you can't afford to go out to dinner. Stay at home & eat some ramen noodles.

Guest's picture
Guest

Why go out to eat if it's not in your budget? What are you paying any money at all for, if you can make the same meal at home for a fourth of the cost? I agree, if you can't afford to tip, don't eat out.

Guest's picture
Candice

The problem with trying to increase server wages in America to a decent livable level (such as that in Australia) is that people here already complain about paying however much they're paying, regardless of the fact that no one is forcing them to eat there (but to up the prices so the restaurant could afford to pay servers say $12/hr would drive all the food prices way up)

All in all, 20% is the average and a reasonable amount. More is nice, less is mean, because no matter what you do the same amount of work and sometimes you make enough and sometimes you don't.

P.S. Cash tips are ALWAYS better than credit because servers sometimes have to wait up to 2 weeks to receive their credit tips, even though they still have to tip out bussers and bartenders and expos out of their own pocket. So if you get all credit and no cash, you could potentially be paying to go to work, at least in the short run.

Guest's picture
Guest

Not all restaurants work this way. Some send their servers home with cash every night. But every credit card company charges a vendor a certain percentage of each transaction. Most of the time, this comes out of the tip total. So it costs the server money to run your credit or debit card. Cash everything is better, because the vendor dosent incur those charges and it's easier to keep track of your buget that way. Why pay interest on your purchaces?

Guest's picture
Guest

What's the deal with automatically adding 18-20% for parties of 6 or more? Just recently I had some of the worst service I've ever experienced when out with 6 of my friends. Without exaggeration, it took 20 minutes between sitting down and getting our drinks. Things continued to be very slow all night, with the server routinely passing right by our table without even glancing at us, leaving our drinks empty as we ate. Now, generally I'll leave 20% rounded to the nearest whole dollar without even thinking, sometimes more. But imagine my surprise when they demanded that I tip 20% for terrible service just because there were 2 more people sitting at a table. Ironically, she screwed herself out of a bigger tip because we would have ordered several more rounds of drinks in the same amount of time if she had bothered to bring them.

Guest's picture
Cidre

Larger party=bigger bill. Bigger bill=less tip (since people get sticker shock over the price of food.) I'm not a fan of gratuities either, but I understand why they are there; some people think it's perfectly acceptable to give a waiter $2 on a $400 bill.

When you have two or three smaller parties over the course of ten hours that do that, it tends to even out. When you have two or three larger parties who all do that, well, you're not even breaking even for the night, since you have to tipout.

You can always cross them out/subtract them/whatever.

Guest's picture
Guest

We double the tax and round up to the nearest dollar.

Guest's picture
Guest

I use "easy 20" (move the decimal to the left, then double), with a few twists:

I tip on the pre-tax amount; I don't think the tip should be based how much local governments choose to gouge.
20% is not my cap. Particularly for good service, an extra few dollars won't break me.
I use checksum tipping to guard against fraud: Add the digits to the left of the decimal and take the ones digit of that sum. Make the final digit to the right of the decimal equal the that digit derived from the dollars sum. For example: 35.61 (3+5=8) becomes 35.68. 78.12 (7+8=15) becomes 78.15. This goes out the window with a server I know and trust.

Guest's picture

It is always good and self-satisfying to give tips. It makes them inspired in a sort of way to do good in their job. Probably i am mostly a "whole dollar tipper."

Guest's picture
Guest

No, waiters do not always deserve a tip and I'm not going to worry about it. Here's a tip for ya: Get a job where you are paid for your work and don't have to rely on tips.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm a college grad with 12 grand in student loans, and an abysmal job market. I wait tables because I can get a job waiting tables. Simply being employed is a blessing. If you can't afford to leave a tip, don't eat out. Make your own food at home, cheapskate.
I AM being paid for my work by tips. I kind of prefer being paid for the work I do, rather than the hours I'm physically present. After all, I work 100% of the time that I'm on the clock. How many office drones take long lunches or surf the Internet instead of doing the work they're paid for? How is that fair? That's exactly why waiters deserve a tip. Also, if you don't leave a tip, the server will just insult your predecessors, shrug, and move on. If you are truly dissatisfied with the service they've given you, to ensure it dosent happen again, tell a manager exactly why. That way, the server will be reprimanded or fired, you'll get preferred treatment for being an a$$, and you'll do away with the passive aggressive bull. The tip part comes at the end of a meal, long after the time when a server can correct their behavior. By speaking up, you can get what you want instead of quietly seething until you decide to "inform" them of their poor life choices by cheating them out of their wages.

Guest's picture

I typically use Math (http://www.wikipedia.com/Math) when tipping

Guest's picture
Guest

I do the nearest five and divide by 5 . If the check is $46.32 I use 45 and divide by 5 thus I leave a $9 tip. If the check is $58.65, I use $60 and divide by 5, thus I leave a $12 dollar tip.

Marc

Guest's picture
Guest

This is EXACTLY what I do. I understand the doubling the first number, but dividing by 5 seems so much easier to me for some reason?

Guest's picture
Michelle F.

I always carry a calculator in my purse so I can quickly figure out that 15% tip. Also I can add up how much money I am spending when I go shopping.

Guest's picture
Stephen S

working at a smoothie and sandwich shop, ie a place where we were paid $7 an hour but also got tips, it was understood that the hotter girls would work the register while the guys and other girls made the food, better tips for all.

I am a clean tipper. I will usually go for 15% and then add in however much change it takes to get to a clean $....sometimes thats 75cents more so its a jump, but hardly ever 20%.

I did make a mistake once on this at a japanese steakhouse taking my girlfriend out for her birthday less than a month in to dating. I only tipped 6-7%. I tried to do my typical thing, but went 5% plus change b/c i was so flustered

Guest's picture
Guest

I count 1 dollar for every five spent on food. I'm quite bad at math so this works for me and it is fast. If the meal is $25 then I leave or write $5 in tip space or on the table. If it is something like $23.75 I will round up to to $25 and leave $5. I if the service is not so good I'll round down to $20 and leave $4. I try to leave not to leave change as part of the tip. Servers are busy enough as it is.

Guest's picture
Guest

Tax in the Chicago area is 10%, so I double the tax and that's the tip.

Guest's picture
Molly

When I tip someone, I take into account the amount of time they served me.

Then I assign them an hourly rate based on how happy I was with their service.

So if you helped me from 9:10 to 9:25, and I want to tip the equivelent of $10 - I give you $2.50 (I use a time card calculator http://www.calculatehours.com/Time-Card-Calculator.html to do the math...)

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm a whole dollar tipper for a very good reason... I tip in cash and write zero on the tip line on the ticket. A $5 tip in cash is worth more to the server than a $5 dollar tip on my plastic. I don't spend any time worrying over the tax reporting policies of these hard working, underpaid workers.

Guest's picture

It always depends on the service.

Guest's picture
Marissa

I round up my tips and make sure it is a bit more generous if the service was really good. i have a friend who busts out her blackberry to figure the right amount so she doesnt mess up. To each their own, I guess