There’s a great scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dog’s where Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink refuses to throw in any cash for the tip at a diner. When asked why he won’t throw in a buck for the tip, he responds that he doesn’t believe in tipping. When pressed further he says, “If she don’t make enough money she can quit.” And then “I don’t tip because society says I have to tip.” And this is the crux of his argument. Mr. Pink thinks in order for a waitress to “earn” his tip she has to do something remarkable. The others at the table get upset with him because they recognize that a waitress makes her living off of tips, without them she wouldn’t be able to pay the bills.
Both these arguments miss one of the finer points of tipping. Tipping is less about pleasing society, or helping to contribute to somebody else’s bills. The point of tipping and the real art behind it is to create a network of “friends” from the various wait staffs of places you frequently attend.
Now maybe this is a more cynical approach to tipping than some people are comfortable with, but the practice is cynical to begin with. The character Mr. Pink makes the point that without tipping waitresses can’t pay the bills, but he wonders why it’s incumbent upon the a patrons to make up the difference when they’re already paying for food. The price of service should be in the price of the food. Or, as some places do, the gratuity is included automatically in the bill. But since most restaurants don’t include this gratuity the patrons are obliged to reckon the tips on their own. And this is where the calculation comes in. It’s also the moment at which you realize you have to leave a tip, it’s just the way it is. And as long as the waitress didn’t tell swear at you, or throw a drink in your face, or openly spit in your food, you’ve got to pay the tip.
The point is it doesn’t matter how you feel about tipping. The wait staff works for tips. It’s as simple as that. And because they work for tips they’re sensitive to the amount that you give. If you don’t tip well, or often, and it’s a pattern, you’ll develop a name among the wait staff as being cheep. Now this may not actually be a problem for you. If you don’t go out very often or if you do but you don’t frequent the same establishments then you don’t have to worry. But if you do tend to go to the same places then you should pay attention.
The standard for tipping waiters and waitresses is 15 to 20%. But really look to be on the higher end and up. And always tip at this level. If you go to a place often the wait staff will recognize you for giving consistently good tips. And if you’re in a particularly generous mood go even higher. In this way, money buys friends. And since tipping is part of the price of admission, you’re better off paying a premium.
There’s so much talk about networking, and building a network for business purposes that it becomes redundant. But if you’re going to spend time building a business network, you should also spend a good deal of time working on the network that helps you better spend your money and enjoy your life, your pleasure network.
Imagine next time you want to take a girl on a date. Would you rather take her to a place where you’re on a good footing with the people who work there? Or would you rather they know you as that cheap bastard who leaves exactly 12% and only leaves that much when he feels he should. The chance are pretty good that if you create relationships with the wait staff based in part on how well and often you tip then they will give you better service when you really need it. You may not own the restaurant, but if you’ve ever had the red carpet rolled out for you for no other reason than because you showed up with a love interest, and the people who worked at the place knew you well, then you know the value of this kind of networking.
At the end of the argument Mr. Pink is wrong for the simple fact that the reason you should tip is not because Brenda has a baby at home, but because if your tip makes her night the next time she waits on you she’ll treat you as a preferred customer. And this is true because there are so many people who don’t tip well that your consistent generosity will stand out. And, lest I forget, be nice. Being nice can go further than money, but the two together are greater than the sum of their parts.
The reasons to tip are selfish ones. But that shouldn’t stop you. Don’t hurt yourself by being cheap.