Your relationship with your server is similar to your relationship with your lover: You have no fucking clue what she expects, so you’re set up for disappointment.
The only expectation set forth by American society is 15% of the tab (before tax) is an adequate tip for service as expected. If you tip 20%, it means the service was exceptional, or you are exceptionally generous. If you tip 10%, it means the service did not meet expectations, or you’re a cheap bastard. There are other possibilities for the noteworthy (in either direction) tip:
- You were drunk, and forgot to get your change.
- The server is lovely, and you mistakenly assume (as you would with a stripper) that a large tip will somehow get her naked.
- The server greedily gave you a huge stack of ones, hoping you’d leave more behind because otherwise they will take up prime wallet space.
- You’re trying to impress your date, and convince her you’re more generous than the average Match.com loser.
- Your math skills leave something to be desired.
The media blasted NFL quarterback Drew Brees for leaving a small tip on a takeout order. First, since Drew can’t say it, allow me: “Fuck you, media.” There. Go ahead, Roger Goodell, suspend me for half a season. Second, that high-expectation-having server needs to be terminated, immediately. Any tip on a takeout order is a generous fucking tip. What would be exceptional service for the takeout person? A big smile? A double-check to make sure there’s extra soy sauce packets and napkins? A refrigerator magnet?
You, food delivery person, suck.
The server who serves an eat-in order at least puts forth some effort. She, and the bus boy and hostess, cleans and sets the table, guides me to it, and hands me a menu. She greets me, informs me of the specials, and asks what I’d like to drink (trip one). She enters my order, picks it up from the bar, and delivers it to me with a nice glass of ice water (trip two). She takes my order, asks how I’d like my steak done, and submits it to the kitchen. When ready, she assembles my food onto a service tray, carries it through an obstacle course of patrons, children, and other servers, and places the food in front of me (trip three). She makes an additional trip (four) for my next drink and Tapatio. She clears my plate, asks if I’d like dessert (without suggesting I could do without it), and retrieves said dessert with a steaming cup of coffee (trips five and six). She leaves the tab (trip seven). She takes the tab and my near-limit card, and returns (trip eight) with it nicely tucked in a little fold-y thing. After I leave, she cleans my mess (trip nine). She has visited me numerous times, interacted with me, and presented opportunities to be judged against my expectations.
Compare this interaction to the takeout clerk who (sometimes) takes my order, places it in a bag, and hands me the bag and a bill. This glorified paperboy should not expect any tip at all. His interaction with me included two trips at most–few chances to impress and give me a reason to pay extra for something I obviously wanted to pay less for, or I would have sat at a fucking table.
The takeout douchewaffle who whined about Drew’s tip should have set expectations properly.
“You’re Drew Brees. You make twenty million dollars a year. Your bill is seventy-five dollars, so I expect you to hand me a hundy, and tell me to keep the change, which amounts to less than you earn during a sneeze.”
Of course, Drew should have the opportunity to set expectations as well.
“You’re a second-rate server, or you’d be out on the floor. You’re not a Saints fan. Your pants are too tight, and you spend too much time taking pictures with your phone when you should be working. Give me my fucking food while it’s still warm, without picking your nose or ass, and appreciate the fact that you served a future Hall-of-Famer. If you want a bigger tip, be a better server, and earn your escape from this takeout counter.”