How much should you tip in buffet restaurants? Interesting discussion over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Unless there’s an unusual reason I only leave a token tip at buffets, because sometimes I don’t even see a waitress. Takeout and fast food? Not a chance. Pizza delivery? Sure, keep the change.
To be honest I have very mixed feelings about tips. The evil part of my nature secretly agrees with Mr. Pink’s famously obscene rant (warning: strong language). However hard they work they’re not my employees, and there’s no rational reason to pay one group of service workers tips and not another. Restauraunts should stop expecting special legal treatment and pay their employees what they’re worth, like everywhere else.
In practice I’m really pretty softhearted. If someone does a good job and is reasonably attentive then they get 15% (and it’s easy to work out – just multiply the 5% tax here in Maryland by three.) If they do a sucky job and ignore us, then they get less. It’s been a long time since I haven’t left any tip at all. We (the wife and I) try very hard not to punish the waitstaff for things that aren’t their fault. If the cook is slow or the manager is goofing off and messing things up then it’s not the waitresses’ fault. We’ve had ocassion to walk out of Denny’s with our meal on the table because of stupid mistakes by the cook, but the waitress who was almost reduced to tears by the whole situation still got a nice tip.
What does bother me is the expectation that tips need to constantly go up. If you do a particularly good job then you deserve a good tip. But pushing the "minimum" tip upward from 10% to 15% to %20 and higher is just silly. The cost of the food has already gone up over the years, right? So the fixed percentage of that amount that’s given as a tip also went up at the same time. I know waitresses work hard, but no harder than a lot of other people. Unless you can make a case that the waitstaff is working 5% harder now than they were before I don’t see any justification for giving them a higher and higher percentage of my bill. (And yes, I know it’s not an exact coorelation, but I think it’s close enough.)