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How much should I tip? 30% is new norm, some say

I was a restaurant server throughout high school and college, and it was a thankless job. That’s why I have always prided myself on leaving a good tip. My standard: 20 percent. The server has to do something really, really bad for me to even consider dropping that to 15 percent.

Just this past weekend, I was at dinner with my husband and son at one of our regular spots. We waited 10 minutes with no service. We flagged down a waitress, who rounded up the person who was supposed to be taking care of us. She came to our table and, in a clearly annoyed tone, mumbled, “Sorry for your wait.” Service did not improve throughout the meal. And yet … we tipped her 20 percent.

But I might not be as generous as I thought. Some folks have been floating the idea that while 20 percent might have been a good tip a decade ago, now it’s barely average.

Their take: 30 percent should be the standard for great service. It probably isn’t too surprising that this is coming largely from restaurateurs and servers themselves, who would benefit from a 30 percent tip.

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Much of this is because of “tipping inflation.” Many restaurants that put suggested gratuities on customer checks don’t even list 15 percent any more, and some (especially in big cities such as New York) actually go so far as to suggest a 30 percent tip for excellent service.

In wandering around the Internet, I came upon some spirited debates about tipping and the idea that 20 percent is no longer adequate. Very few customers appear to be on board with this idea — unless the service and meal are truly spectacular. Some actually stick to 15 percent for good service. But servers point out that they are paid far below minimum wage, and that they have to share their tips with hosts, bussers and bartenders. Some even suggest that customers tip 10 percent for “poor” service.

The Emily Post Institute (yes, this is a real thing) suggests tipping servers 15 percent to 20 percent. I’m not convinced the 30 percent guideline is going to take off any time soon.


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