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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Rule of Tipping: Are There Any Hard and Fast Rules?
The other day, I got burned out on my usual lunch of a turkey sandwich and an apple and decided to indulge a bit. So, I stopped by Sonic for a burger and tots.

Now, it was during the lunch rush, so things were a bit backed up. They promptly took my order but I do admit I had to wait a bit longer than I'm used to at Sonic. I wouldn't have honestly thought that much about it had it not been for the fact that cars that pulled in AFTER I did got their food BEFORE I did.

When, at last, my food arrived at the car, the server apologized for the delay. I smiled and said it was OK. She then realized she'd left her change belt inside and had to run back in and get it. She finally came back, gave me my order and change. I took my lunch and change and was verifying I'd received the correct change when I noticed a hand out and extended. I looked up to find the server standing by my car, looking at me expectantly and holding out her hand. Almost as if she were demanding a tip.

Now, I will be the first to admit I don't quite understand the rules of tipping. Seems to me that a tip is given for good service. I wouldn't necessarily say the service that day was good. About the only reason it was worth noting was that it took so long (possibly not the server's fault) and that she was not organized enough to make only one trip to my car. I will also add that I generally tend to tip at Sonic just becuase I know they work pretty hard and they are usually on the ball at getting the food out to me in a timely manner.

I guess what I kind of didn't like was the expectation that I had to tip on the part of my server. I understand that there are a lot of people who work in the food service industry and they depend upon tips to make their daily wages. I understand that when I go out to eat at a restuarant, that tipping is part of the requirmement. I tend to follow the rule that a standard tip is double the tax (in Tennessee that's helpful). And one way to ensure you get a good tip from me is to ensure my water glass is never empty for long. (I tend to only drink water with meals not becuase I'm cheap but because it's healthier for me and you can get way too many empty calories from consuming a couple of glasses of Coke...which I'd far rather use those on a second helping of General Tzo's Chicken or maybe desert!)

But, Sonic is one of those gray areas. It's not exactly a five-star, sit-down meal restuarant, but it's also not your standard McDonald's fast food arena. Hence why I tend to tip more often than not--but again, I apply the same standard I do for tipping at a regular sit-down restuarant--was the service good, prompt and professional?

I guess the thing that kind of got my goat here was that the extended hand and the expectation of a tip. I know many of my fellow bloggers are aware of the study that came out last week that finds Americans generally feel we're all getting ruder. I mean, I think we've all seen examples of it and I could fill pages after page of incidents in which people have been slighted in recent times. In a lot of ways, I blame this on the proliferation of cell phones and the lack of courtesy people show in talking on them extending over into other areas of life...but that's a whole other post. (I may get to that one at some point this week)

Is it just me or would anyone else be kind of off-put at going to Sonic and having the server hold out his or her hand, demanding a tip for the service?

Interestingly enough, as I contemplated this, The Tennessean ran a feature story on tipping in this morning's Living section. In fact, Sonic was a restuarant mentioned in the course of the story.

Over at the Melrose Sonic, manager Landon Renfro surveys the stalls and then polls his servers, the carhops who deliver the food to customers waiting in parked autos. Carhops fall somewhere between the full-service waitress and the fast-food attendant, and their tips reflect that.

"I think most servers, at the end of the day, take home about 10% in tips," Renfro says. He puts the frequency of tips at 50%, though, as someone shouts from the back, "Please tell people to tip us!"

Also of interest was one person's reaction to the standard "tip" jar that has appeared at coffee hosues and other establishments (such as the one at the dry cleaners I use).
"That's just too much," says Sarah Finlayson, 25, outside of Fido in Hillsboro Village. "Coffee's expensive to start with, like two dollars, and now they're trying to guilt me into tossing my change, or a dollar, on top of that? For pouring me a coffee and handing it to me?"
Reading the article, it's interesting to see the very varied viewpoints on how and why you should tip.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/19/2005 08:05:00 AM | |
dear michael-
i am a tipped employee. i have been a waitress for 12 years. in my experience, tipping is for service as you mentioned. i do not agree with a tip for a fast food restaurant. however, if i get take out from somewhere, i give 10% for good service. more if deserved. i don't tip at in n out burger, nor my drycleaner. it sort of defeats the purpose. i tip at coffee houses, if someone actually takes the time to make me something special or prepares food. usually even something on coffee as long as they are friendly.
this whole tipping thing has gone overboard.

miss m
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