Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tipping on Take-Out?

Wordplay!  Zing!
One monetary issue that everybody has to deal with from time to time is the issue of tipping. In general, if I eat in a restaurant, I leave around a 15% tip. There are some that would view this as being a cheapskate (particularly those that have worked in the restaurant business), and I’m fine with that. I’m not here to make everybody happy. In California, where I live, state laws make restaurants pay servers at least minimum wage, so I’m comfortable not habitually tipping more. If I lived in a state where employers are able to pay their servers less than minimum wage (sometimes as little as just over two bucks an hour!), I would probably be a little more generous.

One area where I have a hard time knowing what to tip, however, is in the area of take-out. Tipping expert Steve Dublanica (who writes for a favorite blog of mine, Waiter Rant) believes that take-out orders should automatically receive a 10% tip. This amount is a little hard to swallow (no pun intended).

For me, when I tip, I am paying for the service. As such, I have something of a chip on my shoulder when I go to, say, a sandwich place, pay for my food with my debit card, and then see a line for a tip on the receipt.* While my bleeding-heart thinks that minimum wage is not enough to live on in California, and that I should therefore be more generous, my fiscal conservative brain thinks that a growing entitlement culture is imposing its will upon me. If there is a line for a tip, then what is being implied is that tipping at this restaurant is the norm, and if I do not tip, then I face the scrutinizing and disdainful gaze of the cashier.

So, as you can see, I’m a little torn.

As a quick Google search attests, opinions on tipping differ across the internet. Here are a couple of rules of thumb that I use.

1) I cannot think of a time when I tip a percentage of the total bill on take-out.
2) If I take out food from a restaurant frequently, I may leave a dollar or two.
3) If the restaurant offers curbside take-out (e.g., the server must exit and return to the restaurant multiple times in order to bring the bill and food to me in my car), I usually leave two or three bucks.
4) If the food is preparation intensive (like sushi), I try to leave the chefs a couple of bucks.
5) If it’s a drive-thru, I almost never tip, unless I go there frequently.

How about you? Do you tip for take-out? Am I an oaf for begrudging take-out workers a couple of bucks? Leave me a comment and let me know.

*One restaurant that my wife and I semi-frequently get take-out from is Pei Wei (which is the fast food branch of P.F. Chang’s). I am consistently pleased that Pei Wei does not have a line for tip on the receipt, and so I never feel badly about not leaving one.


Jolie said...

I don't tip for take out that I pick up. I tip for delivery though. In my head, tips are for service (for the servers) and they have avoided having to serve me by my picking up my order.

Bryan said...

Good for you. I think it's silly that restaurants apparently are starting to expect it. I was waiting at a sandwich shop last week, and the cashier was jokingly complaining that she had been left a dollar tip by a customer who had just exited the store. She seemed to think that the person should have just left no money as a tip as a dollar wasn't worth it. I couldn't help but be taken aback that she wasn't happy to receive *any* tip.