I generally, as a bartender, try to avoid writing about steps involving the service industry as it comes off, I’m sure, as mostly a gripe session, and while I have no qualms about griping about things outside my profession, when it comes to bartending, I (mostly) keep my mouth shut.
With that in mind, notice that this step is not called Tip Well (#91). I feel like that should be a given. If you need a step about Tipping Well to tip well, you a) already probably don’t tip well and b) I get the feeling no amount of me writing about it will change that opinion.
So onward to my main point. The key concept to understanding how to be a good tipper is to recognize what you’re really paying for. Your tip is a reflection of your time and experience at the venue, not a black and white percentage of the bill. If you spend three hours at the place on dollar beer night, and your total bill is 11 dollars, a 2 dollar tip fulfills your obligation for most people. But wouldn’t you have spent 40 dollars for the same experience if it wasn’t dollar beer night? Wasn’t the service just as good, the service speedy? The service staff knows, as well, how guys like you only come in tonight, to save a couple bucks, and that’s fine, and it gets the punters in the door, so you can leave your two dollars and go. But if you leave a fiver, or even nine so that twenty bucks shows up on your credit card statement, well, the staff will certainly appreciate it, it’s really no skin off of your nose (because if you can’t afford the tip you really can’t afford to be at that bar- especially if it’s dollar beer night), and they might actually remember your face, your drink, your name.
It’s the gesture that makes all the difference. People love drinking on someone else’s dime and have no qualms about it. If it’s a corporate card, the beer flows quickly and cheaply and no one is afraid to order round upon round, but then as soon as the card is closed out, people who’ve ordered expecting to skate away with yet another free rum and diet coke slink away from the already made drink on the bar to ‘go grab some cash’, never to return. And that’s sort of the way that works, and it’s fine. But you’re still receiving the service, still taking the barman’s time. And if you throw a little cash up on the bar with your first round, even though the price of the drink is going on the black card, your drinks might come a little faster, you might not have to ask, and you might get an extra or two once the check is closed.
Being known around as a good tipper has the added benefit, too, of actually being able to let the staff know if their service has been sub-par. Normally, if you stiff the barman, or you leave a 10% tip, you’re just a cheapskate, a guy who wanted to be a big shot, buying everyone’s drinks all night and then trying to save a buck once you realize how significantly you’ve overspent. And the staff forgets about you.
You had a bad service and you left a shitty tip and you feel all high and mighty as you write your Yelp review damning the service and Jake, that sonofabitch who was lazy and rude and hit on your girlfriend and burned your house down and robbed you. Here’s a hint, though- if anyone can write anything anonymously, the inherent value is aggregate at best and for the most part, unimportant. For example, check out the reviews for this restaurant. I put one in there. I have never been to San Fransisco, let alone that restaurant, but I saw a particularly mean review for a server named Kristin and that the garlic fries are good. So I made something up. How much weight can you really put on yelp reviews? No one is firing Kristin or promoting her to floor manager based off of one or two internet-anonymous good or bad reviews. So forget that.
Easy ways to be known as a good tipper include adding a bit of a cash tip to a credit card check, throwing a pile of cash on the bar early and keeping it well supplied throughout your session, then leaving the remainder when you’re done, and tipping over 20% consistently. Take a little time, especially if you’re a regular, to establish yourself as a good tipper, and your service from then on will be the best the place has to offer.
Throw a twenty on the bar at a wedding- you’re not paying for the thing and the booze is free all night, so what’s twenty bucks? But the bartender will remember and your drinks will be waiting, strong, and plentiful.
Being known as a good tipper might seem more expensive than being known as a cheapskate, but, factoring in a few buybacks, it’s probably closer than it seems, and on the plus side, in terms of human interaction, you’re not known as a cheapskate, which is nice.
One final point. With credit card tips, you get the bill, you leave your card, they take the bill, run your card, and bring it back, usually in a little check book. So you fill it out and sign it, and leave it on the table, and walk out the door. The server gets it after you’ve left (mostly). So in terms of how socially responsible you are, and the chances of an awkward interaction, it’s very low. You can bagel them or leave a 100% tip, and it won’t get to them until you are gone. So socially, you should feel very relieved of any and all pressure to leave any particular amount. How you deal with that is a very interesting situation and a good moment for self reflection. I love it when I’m out with people, and we split the bill. I usually kick in extra because I make my money the same way and always appreciate it when there’s a bit more in there. You can tell a lot about the people that you hang out with when everyone is supposed to throw in, say 22 bucks, and you put in 25 or whatever, but when the money is all in, there’s only 88 dollars in there. Someone in your group just stole either from you, or from the server (however you want to look at it) and that didn’t seem at all morally wrong to them. That is a very odd thing. So tipping in all forms is a good moment for realization.