The Basic Rules of Tipping are Wrong and Delta’s Core Value Proposition

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Tipping culture in the US is absurd. It only helps out waitstaff at really high end places who earn much more than than someone doing the same work at a cheaper place down the street, and assholes who abuse the system by not leaving tips. I love going to other countries where tips aren’t expected.

    I’m not sure what we can do to make it go away, though. If anything, it seems to be expanding to more services and jumping to a higher %. 20 years ago, I feel like the standard was 15%, pretax.

  2. I’ve stopped tipping internationally entirely. It’s uncomfortable trying to figure it all out, it’s expensive, I flat out don’t like it, and why should I perpetuate the idea that I should pay someone extra for having done their job?

    At this point, I exclusively tip for wait service in US restaurants. Screw taxis, and anyone else expecting a tip. They chose a profession. Waiters make like $3/hr on the assumption of tips making up the rest, so they get a pass.

    I only wish more people agreed with me, so it’d be less of an international standard to expect hefty tips from Americans when traveling abroad.

    BTW, most pf the articles I’ve run across about tipping internationally are written by tour operators. These authors have a vested interest in encouraging tipping at all points in the process.

  3. The tipping culture in the US is ridiculous. No tips other than to waiters, and even then I have gone to more of a flat tip rather than a percentage. Don’t expect your compensation to be determined by whether I order the most expensive entrée on the menu. Bartenders are no different than the guy who takes my order at the deli counter – nothing for you.

  4. @ jamesb2147 — I too have stopped tipping internationally, at least in rich countries. Much less stressful for me, and no one seems offended.

    @ Pete — I generally agree with you , except that you really should tip $1 per drink to a US bartender. That has the been the standard forever, and it hasn’t even gone up for inflation. People do have to make a living.

  5. You people that don’t tip can make up all the justifications you want. You’re just being a cheap asshole. Eating in a restaurant or drinking in a bar is not some Constitutional right. It’s a luxury that comes along with certain societal norms. If you don’t want to participate then stay home.

  6. @Bill, I’m sorry but they are not working for me. Let the employers pay the wages and the cost cost should include all. Even waiters will be much happier knowing their salary.

  7. Screw you who think I’m an asshole for not wanting to tip. Don’t like the fact ur making $3 an hour well change jobs. Think about how hard ur really working compared to say a field worker. Don’t like ur low wage then get a better job or learn a skill. Tipping began as a way for people not to feel guilty that they were having a good time while theit server was not having a good time working, seriously look it up. It was never meant for society to supplement ur bad choice in life. I don’t feel bad that ur working while I’m out enjoying a meal or a drink so I’m not gonna tip u. If u don’t like it quit ur job. Maybe the problem is not with the customer but with ur states law. In California waiters get minimum wage along with tips yet they still expect a tip. Do you think any of them are turning down tips even though they make minimum wage? I’m also sick of the comment that u should tell ur waiter ur not going to tip so they know not to give u extra service, but no one who makes that comment will also make the comment that u shouldn’t tip a waiter for lackluster service. Call me cheap or an asshole but at least I was smart enuff to get a real job that pays.

  8. My problem with tipping is that it’s expected regardless of whether the service is good. 15% for “average” service, 20% for standard? That’s just insane.

    I tip housekeepers at hotels, and everywhere else when it is required. But I resent it. And, in New York, the restaurants that truly care about service have banned it altogether. They’re the ones who care about hospitality.

  9. When i go to countries where there is no tipping, apart from asian countries like Japan or places like Hong Kong, the service is undoubtedly worse. I’ve never been in a restaurant in Australia where my waitress has returned after the meals have been dropped off, while in even a cheap buffet in America the waitress is refilling my soda before it even reaches the half-way mark.

  10. I would love it if my waiter left me alone after the bring my plate. Leave me alone I’m eating for God’s sake. You think I need u coming over every 5 minutes to interrupt my meal and conversation? If I need u I’ll call for u. I’m not a child that needs to be looked after. Seriously if I told u I’m OK the first three times what makes u think u need to come bug me a third time. You are a food transporter that is it, stop thinking u deserve so much more for the lil work u do.

  11. @Tony 20% for refilling ur drink really? Are you that lazy that u would pay an extra 20% for another human being to fill ur drink? I’ve heard it all now. You also state that in Asian countries u get good service without tipping so why should we do it here if Asians can provide good service without tipping. Doesn’t make a lot of sense does it.

  12. The rise of tipping is driving customers to fast casual dining places, where tipping is not required but which they still serve higher quality food. The public is voting with their wallets.

  13. I believe a server who has provided excellent service should get a tip of 20% at the most and calculated on the price of the bill before discounts and taxes. But the rise of having to tip everywhere for everything at ever rising percentages is putting me off. Build the costs into the price of the product, don’t expect me to run round calculating each stupid tip I am supposed to give and judging me for not having a tip encyclopedia in my head. I’d rather go to counties where tipping is not expected or is more reasonably calculated and eat at home in the US. However, I do eat out a a few restaurants regularly and they seem just fine with the way I tip, so I think this guide to tipping is just some kind of attempt at a money grab. If you are trying to make me feel bad, it’s working. I’ll have a nice Costco steak at home tonight and hold the guilt trip.

  14. I am currently sitting at breakfast on the beach in Fiji and loving the amazing service, which all comes without tipping, as per custom. The first night we tipped the waitress after she gave us so much information on the island….we each got a huge hug from her for it. In the exceptional case you tip, you have to write their name here as it’s a communal nation and all is shared otherwise.

    I tip 10-25% at restaurants, depending on service. People tend to tip more at the high end places. I tend to tip more at places I frequent and at low end. If I go to a Mel’s diner and have a $12 lunch, I am not leaving just $2, but $3-4. But when I spend $200 for a nice dinner I do not go above the 20%. If the service is bad at the high end place, which happens, they will get a token $15 instead for my $100+ dinner.

    I have left restaurants without a tip because of horrific service, I think only twice.

    Don’t usually tip for taxis, unless this my regular guy. and will never, ever tip for Uber. Tip for bellman that they my luggage off course.

    Will not tip at fast food places, cofffee shops, etc. what’s next? Tip the cashier at Macy’s for ringing in your order?

  15. And I tip on the before tax amount in restaurants. I feel that if I was to tip on the taxes, I should send that part to the IRS.

    And I love traveling internationally where people offer amazing service and tipping is not the norm.

  16. Some of the comments left here indicate that some of you have no clue how hard it is to do the job of bus-staff and wait-staff. I run an international engineering consultancy now, but on my way up I worked summers at Ackerman’s Hotel in Mt. Freedom, NJ as a bus-boy and waiter, various restaurants after that, and managed an eating club at Stanford at the beginning of my PhD studies. If you’re serving 3 meals the work starts before 6AM and goes to after midnight. The “serving” part of the work is all the customers see – but bus/wait staff have roles and responsibilities in the kitchen preparing and plating a subset of the meal elements, and prepping everything that comes back for cleaning, major dining room cleaning before/after meal-shifts and after each customer departs. Tables get dynamically rearranged for groups then un-rearranged, everything consumed gets logged in the inventory management system as well as repair orders, plates/utensils/etc get staged and replenished in the dining room stations, cleaning up after kids lose their cookies, and it goes on and on. Adapting to the needs of each customer requires reading their minds (if they don’t say up front), and don’t forget that the manager may be pressuring the staff to upsell. Doing it well doesn’t require a PhD, but does requires both excellent aptitude and attitude.

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