Entertaining & Etiquette 50

Percentage Tipping

al b. darned | Mar 23, 2012 11:56 AM

There have been numerous discussion on CH concerning tipping, but none that I can find discuss the following:

Why do we tip a percentage of the bill?

The amount of work required to serve me a prime rib dinner at the "family restaurant" and the "quality steak house" are about the same:

Greeting/present menu,.
"Would you like a beverage?"
Delivery of beverage
"May I take your order? (maybe "Come back in a couple of minutes")
Bring apps and/or bread service
Bring salads
Bring mains
"Would you like desert?"
Bring dessert (or not)
Present check
Bring slip to sign (or present change)
"Thank you for coming. Please stop by again."

OK, there are intermediate steps, like clearing dishes, refilling beverages, ensuring everything is satisfactory, and the like, but that happens (or doesn't happen) at all levels of restaurant.

The family place charges $15.95 vs. $24.95 or more at the steak house, with a corresponding price differential for everything from beverages to dessert. The quality of the food is not the question (though in the example presented it is every bit as good at the family place), nor is the atmosphere. Neither materially change the amount of work the wait staff has to perform.

Along that same line, it takes no more effort to serve me a local craft beer with said meal than a Bud Light at either establishment. Open the bottle, place glass on table, pour some beer in the glass, place bottle on the table, smile. Yet the craft brew costs more, resulting in a higher tip.

As an analogy, if I buy a new refrigerator at Sears, Home Depot, or an appliance store, they charge the same rate to deliver it to my house. It doesn't matter if it is a low end GE or a high end Samsung with all the bells and whistles.

So does anyone know where the tradition of tipping a percent came from? I am not familiar with the European model. Isn't the service charge also based on a percentage of the bill?

Part II (If you care to go there?) OTHER THAN "paying a fair wage and eliminating tipping" (That would be my answer) how would you change the system? If you would prefer to leave it as-is, why?

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