Leaving a tip for services rendered is hardly a science. Indeed, how much one should tip and for what type of service is determined not by science but by some mysterious ether network—a precursor to what in geek speak is known as the “cloud”—in which knowledge is stored, collected and collated, then mysteriously transferred to servers and customers worldwide. When you leave what you think is a customary-size tip, your server will either scowl or pat you on the head, depending on where you are and what you bought.
As with information in the “cloud” of technology, you will be the last to know if you made a system-seizing error or not by leaving an inappropriate tip. Your own nervous system will simply freeze—after getting that icy stare or fond farewell of “Have a nice day, jerk” while everyone all around you says, “Told you so.” Then you’ll walk away, or maybe get a pace or two away only to return shamefully with another buck or two and head out the door. You might even lose some sleep. But, in the end, you’ll drive yourself crazy by asking whoever will listen, “Why should I tip her? She gets a paycheck already,” or, “I left a $5 tip. What more does he want?”
No matter how you didn’t get the memo, wire into the tip-etiquette cloud or read Tipping for Dummies, you must realize one thing: It wouldn’t have made any difference. Most people were jerks before they were bad tippers. So, being called a jerk over a miserly tip was just the server having that special insight that all good servers have. Good servers can spot a jerk a mile away. Good tippers tip out of habit or just because they don’t know any better. Great tippers happen by chance.
Like in Ogden on Monday. I just read on
The Salt Lake Tribune website (in a piece by Matt Piper, spouse of our own senior editor Rachel Piper) that in two Ogden clubs, a mysterious tipper left enormous tips on meager tabs. At one spot, he left a $5,000 tip on a $214 tab. At another, he spent $49 and left a $1,000 tip. Not a bad day’s wage for not mispronouncing the daily specials, I’d say. While I’m happy for the servers or staffs (depending on whether
those tips were shared), one can only hope that this isn’t the start of a national trend—or make much of a dent in the tipping cloud—because if that percentage of tab becomes the norm, I won’t even be able to afford the free popcorn.
On a bill of that size, I would have left a $42 tip, right about 20 percent. I tip 20 percent for good service, great service and crappy service. I don’t know if that’s fair or cheap; it’s just that I know how to multiply by two, so it becomes easy to just move the decimal point, leave the a tip and say goodbye. I can’t think of the last time I stiffed a bartender, waitress, cabbie, hairdresser, masseuse or mistress. My problem is that too many people know me via City Weekly, and while I don’t mind being regarded as a jerk, I’d hate to reflect poorly on the newspaper. So, I tip the same no matter what.
However, if I have gotten bad attitude or bad service, that’s the last tip I’ll leave that person. Next time in, I’ll request to sit in another section of the club, sit farther down the bar with the second bartender, or, in worse cases, simply stop going to a place altogether until said offender is replaced. Sounds ratty, but it’s what I do. If I meet someone who got a tip from me and shouldn’t have (too many servers think tipping is mandatory), I just say to my nemesis, “Hey! Good to see you, too. No, no, no. I prefer it here in the corner with the sun glaring in my eyes. See you next time.” I’d rather suffer.
That’s maybe my penance for spending nearly 10 years as a bartender—at times a very good one, and at others, a cranky fool who could make a mess of a bar faster than anyone on the planet. I was the guy who drove customers to put their heads between the band speakers or sit next to the fireplace in the middle of summer. It got to the point that only the worst customers and worst tippers sat at my bar. One time, a guy had about 20 dimes in change left in front of him. Every night, he’d pick up all his dimes and walk out the door. On this night, just as he was reaching for his dimes, I grabbed a mixer bottle of grenadine syrup, poured it into his hands, rubbed his hands together, then rubbed his hands over the dimes. Dimes dangled from his red fingers, and he was not able to put his hands in his pockets. Got him! Nope. He came back the next night as if nothing had happened.
That’s when I started talking to him. Despite the fact that he’d open the saltshaker and free-pour salt down his throat, or that he could never hit the ashtray with his cigarette ash, I began to soften. In time, he started leaving 20 or 30 cent tips here and there, making him about a 2 percent tipper, which was still a raise to me. When he keeled over dead, I kind of missed him.
But I did get the memo: Even though some servers don’t earn it or deserve it, leave a tip anyway. It beats grenadine fingers.