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The Big Apple
Stand up, New Yorkers!!
Arthur's Guide to Tipping in New York 
17th-Jun-2006 11:05 am
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Last week a nice young girl posted to this community asking for advice on tipping in the United States. Every few weeks or months I notice the same question asked here or in other communities. So I've decided to post a "Guide to Tipping" for everyones beneift.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I have an AAS in Broadcast Management and Technology and I've been driving for my fathers Brooklyn Car Service for nearly 2 years. Before that I helped operate the phones. My uncle manages the buisness, and my Father, Grandfather and Uncle have all spent many years driving either yellow cabs or for private car services over the years. I've had many friends who bartend or waitress and over the years i've interviewed many people who work for tips. In the end anything I write below is only an opinion, one developed by experience and by my morals and beleifs. I hope it helps some of you.

Yellow Cabs and Taxies
Lets start with the baseline. For a standard yellow cab in NYC I'd recommend tipping either 10% or the remainder of the demonination of change between 5$. For example, if the ride was 17$, and it was neither spectacular nor bad, feel free to give them a 20$. Got driven to JFK for 45$, give em a 50. While its not as specific as a percentage its a decent guideline for base service. However, I have some "modifiers" I use to determine a tip for yellow cab drivers.

Obviously if they go above and beyond the call of duty, helping with heavy luggage, helping you get in the car, getting you somewhere so fast you dont remember the ride, holding decent conversation, not smelling bad, etc etc etc I'd increase the tip to as high as 20%. However, I also have rules for DECREASING the tip. Its becoming an increasing problem in the city that Cab Drivers dont speak good english and cant translate street signs too well. The TLC is constant ferreting out cab drivers who used fake information to get their license. Also, many many cab drivers send all their money out of of the country. If you're a politically minded person, these things will affect how you tip. They may not, but they DO affect me. So what do you do? If a driver can barly speak english or has a lot of trouble communicating do not tip at all. These people need to learn english so they can do their job properly. Tipping them only enables them. Additionally, write down their TLC license number and report them to the TLC via 311. The TLC often impresses on these individuals to take english classes. If a driver is rude, does not follow your directions, ignores requests for help, smells bad, or whatever else....do not tip.

If you find anything particularly offensive or helpfull about a driver, please, call 311 and file a comment with the TLC (either positive or negative).

Private Car Services

The city is filled with private limo and car services which are radio dispatched for door to door service. This side of the buisness is more intimate as you start to form a relationship with the drivers if you use the car service often. A greater part of the salary of a driver for a private car service comes from their tips. So the baseline here is 20%. You're far less likely to encounter problems using these services but if you do encounter a problem driver simply call the car service and immediatly ask for the manager and complain. Problem drivers do NOT stay hired for long. There are ALWAYS more drivers out there for the buisness to hire.

This is one reason you can tip more, you can and should expect better service. Door to door service, help with luggage and groceries and what not. If a driver gets out to help with anything being placed in the trunk without being asked, consider increasing the tip.

Here is a more specific guideline for tipping that I feel works if you're not gonna use 20% specifically.

5$ - 7$ Tip 1$
8$ - 12$ Tip 2$
12$ - 17$ Tip 3$
18$ - 21$ Tip 4$

This nice little system also usually means you dont have to deal with many singles. Airport jobs, depending on distance and luggage should be between 5 and 15$. A really fast job from Mid Brooklyn to JFK with almost no luggage works for 5$. A job from Queens or Brooklyn to Newark with 2 or 3 heavy bags deserves 15$.

There are almost always Tolls for inter boro or inter state jobs. If a driver takes a longer road to avoid a toll, you should definatly consider giving him half the money you saved on top of whatever tip you've decided on. Taking the longer road means the driver spends more gas while you spend less money. Its considerate to thank him by passing some of those savings on to him so he can cover gas.

Waiters and Waitresses or Food Services

Unlike being driven somewhere, the tip here varies far more then in any other industry because it should specifically correlate to how good the services are. Before I say anything else I'll say this. Most resteraunts add the tip TO the bill if there is over 8 people. The reasons for this are "shady". Some places do it to ensure their waiters get a tip, because in NYS the Min wage for Waiters is somewhere around 3.15$/hr because they are supposed to work on tips. Some places split the tip from a table with ALL their staff (usually the manager takes a nice 20% cut before splitting it, which is illegal but nothing you can do).

I dont belive there is any LAW that says that you MUST tip if the gratiutity is on the bill. If its added to the bill and you have less then a party of 8 I recommend you do NOT pay it. If the service is good give your tip DIRECTLY to the waiter and tell him to keep it himself. Make sure to tell the mangement you refuse to pay the gratutity and that they dont see you tipping your waiter privatly.

Ok, now for numbers. The tips themselves average between 10 and 35%. Pretty wide eh? A nice baseline is double the tax, or rounded down to 15%. For terrible service that only the waiter can control, drop the tip as low as 5% of not removing it entierly. If the service is spectacular (for example, if you get some bad food and the waiter replaces it or gets the manager to give you a discount or a free cupon, If they check on you often and keep your drinks full) feel free to triple the tax or go as high as 35%. Especially at an expensive place.

Here is something to look out for. Usually alcahol or bottles of wine increase your bill by a HUGE amount. Do NOT add the amount of bottles of wine or whatever else to the bill when considering a tip. Especially in a place where the help only OPENS the bottle for you. Usually these places have a bar area. Take the value of all your mixed drinks and determine a seprate tip for the bar staff, and put it in the cup they use. Do not tip for bottles of alcahol at all unless the staff is refilling your drinks FOR you with your own bottles.

I dont drink so I dont go to bars often. When I do I usually sit and drink soda while talking to the bartender inbetween her duties (yes her, why would I talk to a male bartender!). Here's what I've learned. The majority of drinks run around 5$ right? Well, many bartenders appreciate a tip of 1-2$ per drink. If you're drinking something that takes energy to make, a mojito (with the smashed leaves) or some mixed drink that requires some extra energy, a higher tip is a must. Make sure the bartender who's serving you gets the tip. Dont always slide it with the drink, sometimes its better to palm it to them under the table so they dont have to share it with others.

Well, I cant really think of anything else. If anyone has questions or wants my opinion, ask me. As you can see i'm not a fan of the shared tip, or of immigrant drivers who cant speak english. Hey, thats who I am. Live with it.
I considered posting groups of people (culture/race) I belive to be the worst tippers. But I'm afraid my comment would then turn into some fight over racism or whatever else, despite it not being so. Thus, I'll only post my experiences on that if someone specifically requests it. I hope this helps some of you. I dont expect everyone to agree, but I'd like to think this guide is a nice guideline which leaves everyone involved happy.
17th-Jun-2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
This is some great advice, but I can't help but include my two cents. When it comes to eating out, I'll usually tip 20% automatically (25% if the service was exceptional) - yes, it's overtipping but, as somebody who has waitressed herself, it's hard not to relate. Plus, I believe in good karma. :)

I'd be curious as to how many people here feel the need to tip at coffeeshops - not chains like Starbucks, but the small, privately owned ones where there might only be one or two people behind the counter during a rush.
17th-Jun-2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
For Coffee shops I just drop loose change in the cup.
17th-Jun-2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
you're a politically minded person, these things will affect how you tip. They may not, but they DO affect me.

Much of an axe to grind?
17th-Jun-2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
No not really. I'm not angry at anyone. I just dont belive in contributing to the problem of non-enlgish speaking drivers or money leaving the country.
17th-Jun-2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
When my midwestern mother was visiting I had a hellish experience with a cab, refused to deal with the wheelchair (ultra-light manual wheelchair, I can lift it and I have scoliosis and one leg ;p) and said "that's her problem." So on a cab ride that was something like $7.80 or $7.60 (uptown to midtown, nothing big at all), I gave him THAT EXACT AMOUNT, including exact change (and bitched out the TLC a day or so later). But I waited until after everything was out and we were already both clear of the vehicle, because I expected him to get mad (and boy did he get mad, a cop had to tell him to back off). So if you're going to do something so strong to make a pont, make sure you're ready to deal with the immediate consequences...
17th-Jun-2006 03:46 pm (UTC)
Next time make sure to write down his HACK License Number and Name and call 311 to complain.
17th-Jun-2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
I really hope no one takes your advice seriously, it's way biased in favor of car drivers and against waitstaff. It's fucking stupid if you ask me.
17th-Jun-2006 03:31 pm (UTC)
Not to mention xenophobic.
17th-Jun-2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Say you're at a restaurant and for whatever reason part of the meal is discounted/free [be it a coupon, compliments of the restaurant, rewards program of sorts, etc], thus bringing down the bill's total. How do you handle the tip?

I tip based on what the bill would have been if everyone payed full price -- the wait staff still brought out just as many dishes and worked just as hard regardless of the total. My boyfriend on the other hand (who's a waiter no less) tips 15% of the total for good service, regardless of whether or not the bill is discounted. I tend to tip way too generously though -- the result of seeing women in my family support themselves by waiting tables.
17th-Jun-2006 03:31 pm (UTC)
Increase the tip a little bit. Like i said above, if you get a discount BECAUSE of the waiter, definatly increase the tip.
17th-Jun-2006 03:39 pm (UTC)
"I considered posting groups of people (culture/race) I belive to be the worst tippers. But I'm afraid my comment would then turn into some fight over racism or whatever else, despite it not being so."


*bites her tongue*
17th-Jun-2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
Go ahead and bite it. My opinion is not a generalization. It has nothing to do with who the person is. Its an observation based on time and experience. It doesnt apply to every person that gets in the cab, but If you kept a list of every person who you drove, and everyone who gave a tip...the trends would be clear. Nearly every driver (both private and yellow) tend to agree and make the same observations.
17th-Jun-2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
This is nice, but I tip differently when it comes to drinks.

In most places where I go if I want a mixed drink then I go to the bar to order it, tip the bartender, then sit down. If I want wine or beer then I'll sit down first and tip the waiter. I don't give all my tips to the bartender unless I directly ordered from him. Same with cocktail waitresses: If I ordered from her, then I will tip her (usually they share tips with the bartenders anyway).

A lot of people I go out with follow suit. They tip whoever they ordered from and whoever served them. But then again, this is what we do. Everyone does their own thing, based on their own experiences. It might be better to have assembled different options when tipping from different people when making this guide, as opposed to just giving your opinion. That way, when people read it, they can see what others do and make a decision then.
17th-Jun-2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
Well, thats what the comments are for :-D. Thanks for commenting!
17th-Jun-2006 04:54 pm (UTC)
I have to say this is the worst tip guide I have ever read. There is NO reason why anyone (waitstaff, bartender, or driver) should ever be entirely docked a tip as that is the only place they're making money. You're asking someone then to basically work for free. In the United States tipping is considered virtually required because the jobs where people getting tipped the employees are getting payed next to nothing. Typically actual paychecks come back zeroed out because the hourly wage is not even enough to cover taxes.

As a waitress I can also say in a restaurant there are very few if any reasons a tip should ever dip below 15%. 20% should be standard. If the server is blatantly rude to you, spits in your food, or completely messes up your order (although that's normally the kitchen's fault) then you might feel the need to drop to 7-10%, but NEVER below that, and then only if the service is ATTROCIOUS. A server has to TIP OUT a percentage of their TOTAL SALES whether you tipped them for it or not. That being said your idea that you shouldn't have to tip for any open bottles of alcohol on your table is absolutely ridiculous. The server still brought you that wine. They may not have poured glasses for you, but they also didn't lift your fork to your mouth during your entire meal. That alcohol is added to your bill the same as any other item you order and has to be tipped out for in exactly the same way. To subtract it from your bill first is just plain stupid and rude. And if you tip the bartender independently of your server you are an asshole. That bartender is probably making slightly more hourly, getting better tips already, and is already being tipped out from the server for that bottle of wine you just forgot to tip them for.

As far as large parties the server or the restaurant have ever right to add on gratuity. A large party is a nusciance. A large party requires most of your attention and often requires a server to pass on other tables that come in after the party in order to be able to give the party proper attention, therefore losing out on other tips. But the tip ultimately is added for convincene. Large parties are normally splitting a bill up a million different ways between them and often they don't correctly split the tip or remember to add the tip in properly if it's not already written on the bill. And to get totally dicked on a tip for a large table with a large bill is one of the worst feelings of all time, after all the engery and attention you provided. Waiting on a large party is much more difficult than taking care of 2 people out on a date. Consider that.

MY rule of thumb for tipping (in restaurants)-- if you don't expect to tip 1 dollar for every 5 dollars you spend then just go eat at McDonalds and don't waste my time.

17th-Jun-2006 05:05 pm (UTC)
No need to be rude in your reply. We all have diffrent opinions. I'll agree that my intitial assessment of not tipping for bottles may be incorrect.

I neglected to mention that I dont actually drink. I forget where I picked up the idea of not tipping for the bottle, but the person made a very convincing argument. In the future I'll make sure to tip normally.

However, you're also a bit mis-informed.

Drivers dont live on tips. It does make a big percentage of their daily earning though. Here is how it works for drivers. A yellow cab driver usually rents his cab from the person who owns the medalion. (Person or company) They could pay upwards 400/week for renting the vehicle.

Private Car Service drivers split a percentage of their take with the base (typically its 50/50) because the base assigns them the jobs. The percentage varies on many factors but is the default.

Anywho. I dont agree that waiters and waitresses should be underpaid. I strongly belive they should get the normal min/wage or an actual hourly wage. Tips should be just for their personal service. Too bad its not.

In either case, I always tip very well if the service is deserving. You may not want to belive it, but I do. When I come back to a resteraunt I enjoy having the waiters scramble to get me at their table and give me killer service cause they know I take care of them.

But If i get terrible service thats the direct fault of the waiter I WILL decrease or remove the tip. I WILL complain to the management. Thats my opinion and my right as a consumer.

I hope any further comments wont include insults! Thanks for your opinion and help on the bottles.
17th-Jun-2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
seems like most people here are generally biased towards waiters. *shrug* I think the tipping structure is stupid in general. wish all restaurants just added it to the bill. If i order an expensive steak, and my friend orders a salad with no tomato. Did the waiter have to do more work to carry my steak than the salad? No, but he'll get a way bigger tip from me. I tip the same everywhere unless something does something special or stupid. 15-20% depending on how the numbers round. The same % applies to bartenders too, 15-20% on a $5-6 drink is 15-20%.
17th-Jun-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
You're very misinformed on your idea to not tip on bottles of wine. I'm a waitress myself and even if you don't tip on my alchol sales, I still have to pay a percentage of my tips to the bartenders to cover it.

If you have a real problem with the service in the restaurant, the best way to deal with it is by speaking to the manager. Most times you'll probably get a discount on your meal and you're also sure to have the problem taken care of. Docking the tip of the waitress just makes you look like a cheap asshole (which is exactly what the waitress will say to her friends as you walk away.)

You may not LIKE tipping at a restaurant, but until the law is changed, it will still be part of dining out. If you don't like it, eat at McDonalds.
17th-Jun-2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
Please read the other responses. I already agreed on the issue of bottles.

I never said I did not like to tip, on the contrary I said I tend to tip as high as 30.

17th-Jun-2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
One: Wow. NO ONE seems to read anyone else's replies. Or what you say in response. Speak first, think never, I suppose. Sucks to have to listen to that, bro.

Two: I usually tip 10% out of eease, but frankly I find that I tip based on service. I'll go anywhere from the loose change I have at a McDonalds (Service industry is service industry!) to 20$+ at a fancy restaurant. I tend to be an overly generous tipper, but c'est la vie. I prefer tailoring myself to the service, rather than the bill. I do, however, baulk at restaurants that /assume/ a tip. I only tip what I feel respectable, and have no issue telling off thse who insist I pay a certain amount. Then I refuse to return to that service. I don't eat at several diners because of wait staff or managers insisting on a tip. I'll tip, but I don't like people telling me how to be generous.
17th-Jun-2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
Eh, what can I do.

I see you know Ari and Howard. Larp with em do ya?
17th-Jun-2006 08:38 pm (UTC)
I also decrease my tips for cab drivers who talk loudly and obnoxiously about non-work related things (sometimes I can tell a brief convo is just giving another driver directions) on their cell phones the whole 15 minutes during my cab ride. I can't even tell them where to drop me cuz there's too busy chatting. Last night's guy was even singing poorly while on the phone :-(
17th-Jun-2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
my opinion is that if you can't afford the tip then you can't afford whatever it is that you are buying.

That said, the other night I definately took out 1-2 dollars out of the tip becuase I had rude service. When I do that thought I feel like the person thinks I am cheap instead of taking it as "this was bad service."

17th-Jun-2006 09:31 pm (UTC)
Its usually good to explain that it was bad service if you can do so in a non negative tone.
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18th-Jun-2006 12:28 am (UTC)
I make all my posts friends only out of habit...didnt even think of it really. If you're gonna read this community, you should have it friended...
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