Tipping in Tight Times

August 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you barely have enough money to eat out at restaurants these days, let alone pay the 15 to 20 percent tip, on top of your bill? Service workers say since the economy took a turn for the worse, gratuities have done the same.

Etiquette experts say whether the economy is up or down.. Tipping rules remain the same: 15 to 20 percent for good service. But more diners are scrimping when it comes to tips and servers say it's eating up their incomes.

There are rules for just about everything; even tipping.

"Fifteen to twenty percent is the usual."

But like all rules, sometimes they're honored and sometimes they're broken.

Pamela Eyring with the Washington School of Protocol said when economic times are tough, consumers spend less, and that often means cutting back on gratuities. "The dine and dash is back, and although they're paying the bill, they're not leaving any tips."

Coast to coast, servers are feeling the squeeze. Fewer customers, smaller orders, and less tips.

"People who would tip you a little bit more like 15, 20 percent are usually going for the 10 percent, 15 percent," said server Jonathan Mancipe.

"For every 50 bucks you spend, you should leave your waiter 10. I'm seeing 6 and five," said server Tom.

Excusable behavior in a bad economy? Eyring says absolutely not. "It's just like stealing, I mean it's just like not paying the bill, it's part of that gratuity, is part of the meal."

It's also a big part of a server's income. Usually a waiter's minimum wage salary goes to taxes. Many of them then share their tips with food runners and bartenders.

Experts say if tight times have you tipping less order less, or take advantage of specials.

So how should you tip if the service is poor? Experts say that's the only time you consider giving less than 15 percent. However, they say before you lower the gratuity, speak to a manager first.

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