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CWOTUS's avatar

If you think the restaurant is overpriced, does it affect your tip?

Asked by CWOTUS (20485 points ) February 2nd, 2013

In the USA (for those unfamiliar with US customs), a tip for service at a restaurant is generally in the 15% – 20% range, based on the cost of the meal + drinks.

This afternoon I took my uncle to a restaurant in a nearby town, a place that I didn’t know at all, and with which he was unfamiliar. It seemed like a nice enough place, and though the ownership had changed at some time, he had eaten there years ago. The food was so-so (and so was the service), but the meal (and the drinks) were priced quite a bit higher than I would have expected for this area and type of food.

He had a bacon cheeseburger with fries, and I had a plate of various appetizer items as a meal, plus a cup of chicken soup. We each had a drink (he ordered “a bottle of the cheapest beer you have” – Bud Light, and I had a gin-tonic with the bar brand), and neither of us had a dessert. The bill was just short of $40! (It wasn’t an unpriced menu; we knew what the prices were – except for the drinks – when we ordered, but we weren’t doing the math as we added up the dishes during the order.) Paying $27 – $30 for that lunch would not have surprised me; paying $40 + tip for a pretty mediocre lunch for two amazed me – especially at this little place in this little town. This is a family-owned, independent, non-chain restaurant, and I’m pretty sure the server is part of the family, too.

So I’m curious to know if you would tip “the full percentage you normally would” on a bill that was pretty significantly out of whack to begin with. I wasn’t going to tip in the high end of my range in the first place, because the server wasn’t too attentive to the orders from the outset, but I’m curious to know how others feel.

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29 Answers

chyna's avatar

I was at the beach and went to a restaurant with friends that we knew nothing about. When we got the menu and saw their “special” was pork chops with greenbeans priced at 30.00 we left. I probably would have left only a 10% tip in your place as it drives me crazy to have bad or mediocre service and be expected to pay 20%. I just won’t do it.

Shippy's avatar

It’s kind of two separate issues. One is the prices of the meals. The other is the service offered.

If I had sat down and seen an overpriced menu, I personally would have left. I have done that often. It does sound extraordinarily expensive, I might add.

Here we are supposed to tip at 10%. Of course a lot tip more, but on higher bills it would probably stay at that percentage. I never tip for bad service, ever. I have been a waitress in my time and as a hard worker I often earned very little. So why pay moochers such a high tip. I have an issue all round with service tips. Why should we pay for their staff in the first place, but I will go off topic here. So I will stop.

Also if I had frequented this place before, for example, and had noted a very huge hike in the costing, I would mention it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

My husband and I can’t eat at Applebee’s for under $40 with sub-par service, but I consider that normal.

A cheeseburger with fries would probably be around $11, appetizer sampler at $12–14, two alcoholic beverages at $3 (beer) and $6 (gin), soup for $3. That’s $35–37 right there. That’s what I’d expect at any mediocre restaurant.

If the service was bad, then there’s no obligation to tip 20%, but I don’t base my tip amount on how overpriced I think the food is. Personally, I tip 20% even with just decent service, regardless of whether the bill is $20 or $100. And if the prices are on the menu, that was your mistake.

hearkat's avatar

I’m with @livelaughlove21 on this, $40 (remember, that includes tax in most states) is what I’d expect for that meal. Privately owned restaurants are going to be more expensive than chains because they don’t buy in bulk the way chains do, and they want to support their family. The only meals my fiancĂ© and I get for less than that is when we go to our local Chinese place and the local ramen place, and pizza – and we don’t drink.

We tip based on the service relative to the total of the meal – typically 20% rounded up to the nearest dollar. My fiancĂ© is a very generous tipper, I am more judicious If I am being miserly because of the bad service, I might tip only 15% based on the total before taxes. With very bad service, I have tipped $1.

Coloma's avatar

My tipping is evenly decided between service and personality of my wait person, regardless of menu prices.
If my server is a friendly and personable type big bonus points from me. I am more likely to overlook slower service or other minor things than I am a wait person that is not effervescent in their attitude.
I want personality with my meal. lol

Shippy's avatar

@hearkat That’s interesting. Today we ate lunch at a mid to high range restaurant. I had Sole with shrimps. There were two fish on the plate. My son had calamari mains, with savory rice. His girl friend had a Sushi Platter. We also had starters and two massive bottles of mineral water. Plus fruit juice throughout for a little more than that.

Sorry edit, My son had crayfish and also calamari toes.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

We don’t really have the same tipping culture in the UK, but when you do tip in a restaurant then it is generally around 10%. To me the idea of tipping 20% is completely alien and in a place that I felt was overpriced they would be lucky to get 10% and if the service was bad they would get just the 0 part.

hearkat's avatar

@Shippy – What are calamari toes? I guess you are doing a rough exchange rate conversion to the US Dollar for comparison?

Shippy's avatar

@hearkat Yes I am. Calamari toes are at the end of the squids legs. Omg! I so want to burst out laughing but it is, its the end part. Forming a closed tube.

marinelife's avatar

Not at all. It has nothing to do with the service, which is what the tip is based on.

hearkat's avatar

@Shippy – I figured that’s what you meant, but I never heard them referred to as “toes” before. I like that part, because it forms a little cup to scoop sauce in.

SavoirFaire's avatar

No, I would not base my tip on what I think of the restaurant’s prices. It is not the waitstaff’s fault that menu items cost more than I think they should, nor is it the waitstaff’s fault that I decided to stay after looking at the prices. I tip 20% standard and deduct only for particularly bad service. Mistakes made by the kitchen, bussers, host, or management do not count against the tip. Neither does merely lackluster service. They are not there to entertain me, and my ego is not such that I need to be convinced that my waiter truly cares about my hopes, dreams, and ambitions to think that they’ve done their job.

In the US, leaving a low tip—that is, less than 15%—says “I don’t believe you deserve to have both food and shelter this month.” It takes quite a bit to make me comfortable expressing that sentiment about another human being.

CWOTUS's avatar

For the record, I wasn’t put off by the prices so much as the “value” ... which wasn’t there. The food was bland and tortilla chips should never be soggy. So it was overpriced in relation to what we received.

augustlan's avatar

The only way I can think of that it would reduce my tip is if I were paying in cash, and didn’t have enough left to pay my normal tip (20%). I’d feel bad about that miscalculation on my part.

susanc's avatar

I agree with @SavoirFaire in every way. The service has nothing to do with the food or the pricing of the food. It has to do with the attentiveness and accuracy of the service. A very good server will know that @Coloma needs some personality and that I, @susanc,
would prefer they keep their effing opinions to themselves. I don’t care – I desperately don’t care – if what I selected is the server’s favorite. I don’t need the server to tell me “Good choice” unless I ask if they do that thing well in this kitchen. And so on.
I’d rather talk with @Coloma in any restaurant than talk with my server.
Also, I want to make the point strenuously that restaurants in the US don’t pay a living wage, and the tip is the only thing that keeps the server going. If you don’t think it’s appropriate for the customer to tip, you need to limit your eating-out to Burger King and other places where the service is so limited that tipping doesn’t exist. Not that those places pay a living wage either.

ucme's avatar

I’m with Steve Buscemi on this one, if I feel like tipping i’ll tip, but i’m not going to tip as a matter of cause, depends on the atmosphere/service/attitude.

bookish1's avatar

I live in the U.S. and I know that waiters here are lucky if they make $3 an hour. I try not to retaliate against the server for the owners’ greed.

Coloma's avatar

@susanc I adore charming people, the world needs more of them. I am a very gregarious type and I like to talk to EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE, all the time. If I wanted to be served by a mute zombie I’d still be married to my ex husband. lol

CWOTUS's avatar

Let me pose the question this way:

If you eat at an out-of-the-way restaurant that wasn’t well known or was in an “untraveled” region and for that reason was underpriced, and you had a great meal with great service for, say, $40 – a value that you would not have expected in any other place that you frequent, and you tip the server 20% because of the really outstanding experience, that amounts to an $8 tip.

Let’s also say that you ate in another place and had the exact same meal: same quality and quantity of food, but just “fair” service. Nothing you would overtly complain about, but nothing special, either, just “acceptable”. But because of its location, popularity, lack of competition or high volume of business – maybe it’s in a popular tourist area, for example – the bill is 50% higher to begin with, and now you’re facing a $60 check. Since the service was not stellar, but you see no reason to punish the server, you decide that 15% would be fair. That’s a $9 tip.

Do you consider that you’re rewarding mediocre service with a higher tip – 12.5% higher, to be exact – when all that has changed is the posted price on the menu? That was the basis of the original question.

Pachy's avatar

I never, or at least almost never, base my tip on the size of he bill. For me, a tip is a “thank you” for service—either good service (20%) or poor to minimal service (10–15%). I extremely rare occasions when the service is appallingly bad, I’ll leave no tip of just a dollar.

hearkat's avatar

@CWOTUS – If the food was not up to the quality standards for the prices being charged, the complaint is with the management and cooking staff, not with the wait staff service. If you complain about the quality of the food, they will usually remake it for you, offer a substitution, or deduct the price from the meal.

hearkat's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room – I don’t know where you live, but in the US wait staff is paid well below minimum wage – often just $2.00 per hour – and their tips are how they earn their living, so it is much more than a “Thank You” – it is their salary. I agree that the concept of a “tip” started out to be a bonus for good service, but that has changed as a means to save money for the business. I don’t like when I see tip jars at places where the staff earn minimum wage, though (which is >$7.00, here in NJ, but admittedly far from being an adequate amount to live independently).

Pachy's avatar

@hearkat, thanks for your perspective, but I too live on a budget. And while I take your point about wait staff being paid minimum wage, I don’t feel responsibile for paying their salaries—that’s between them and their employers. Nonetheless, I always try to be as generous with my thank you tips as as my own financial situation allows. I feel compelled to add that if I didn’t eat out at all, both the restaurant and its wait staff would lose whatever amount of money I spent there.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CWOTUS If I had a great meal with great service for $40, and if that was a value that I would not have expected in any other place that I frequent, I wouldn’t leave $8. I’d leave at least $10. In any case, I think you’re focusing too much on the absolute dollar amount of the tip.

hearkat's avatar

I also thought I’d mention that we use sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon when looking for restaurants to get an idea of the food quality, price, and attire.

Blackberry's avatar

No. If I can’t afford the tip I won’t go.

CWOTUS's avatar

That’s kind of the point, @SavoirFaire, focusing on the absolute dollar amount of the tip. Why reward a bad server with a better tip – in absolute terms, not in “percentage of the check” – just because the meal is overpriced?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CWOTUS Because that’s how the institution works. Regardless, you’ll note that my habit would result in a higher tip—in terms of both percentage and absolute dollar amount—for the better service. I am also unlikely to return to a restaurant that I think has overly high prices and disappointing service. In the long run, the better restaurant will still get more of my money in absolute numbers.

rojo's avatar

Yes, it does and yet I feel guilty about it. The waiter/waitress did not set the price but still….

On the other side, last week I had a bartender charge me full price for three drinks during happy hour. I did not argue with him; I just didn’t tip him. I figured he could screw his boss out of the tip instead of me.

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