Tipping Isn’t A City In China

This week, I had a chance to dine at a local restaurant featuring a new happy hour menu. I was excited, and happily planted myself at a table on the patio after a nearby appointment. Ten minutes later, after smiling at every server and bus boy who walked by, my server finally arrived with a menu. Unfortunately, the service continued to slide downhill after that.

When the bill arrived, I suddenly heard my best friend in my head. Jenny – a former server herself – has lectured me on the importance of tips at nearly every meal we’ve eaten together since high school. Regardless of whether we receive the wrong drinks, or our food is cold, or if the server is unfriendly, she consistently makes sure that I leave a proper tip – 15-20% preferably. I always get the impassioned plea defending the livelihoods of servers everywhere.

“You have to leave a tip. This is his job,” Jenny says. “This is how he pays his bills.”

So this week, as I sat at the restaurant with my long-empty water glass, I debated my entry on the tip line. Was it really warranted? Did the server go above and beyond? Five servers, eight tables seated, at 5 pm on a weekday – is there ever a good excuse for bad service?

I even thought about how nice it had been when I visited Australia, where servers are paid a great wage across the board and the service is impeccable.

As usual, I guiltily left the appropriate gratuity.

How do you handle the tip situation?