The answer depends on which expert you ask.
“The Rules” is a Moneyish series where we define the rules around sticky money or workplace topics.
Maybe your friend could use a tip or two on gratuity.
One in 10 millennials says they usually don’t leave a tip for restaurant servers, a recent CreditCards.com report showed; a previous survey from the site found that one in five people says they at least occasionally stiff their server at a sit-down restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Emily Post Institute advises tipping 15% to 20% pre-tax for sit-down wait service at a restaurant, and 10% pre-tax for buffet wait service. And these workers rely heavily on tips: The median share of hourly earnings from tips makes up 58.5% of wait staff’s earnings, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Also read: Why are millennials so terrible at tipping?
“People who have been in a service industry tend to tip what they should, 20%,” etiquette expert Melissa Leonard told Moneyish. “Somebody who has never worked in a restaurant, a catering hall … doesn’t appreciate how hard it is.”
But while you might be a stellar tip giver, you might have friends who are less generous or don’t tip at all. Here are some possible approaches to tackle the issue, according to experts:
Stay quiet. Recognize that people tend to have their own opinions on tipping, “right and wrong,” Michelle Singletary, a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for the Washington Post, told Moneyish. And it’s hard to know where those attitudes come from: The person might not have been raised to tip; they might be opposed to the idea of restaurants not paying workers a living wage; or they might feel they don’t have the means to spring for a generous gratuity.
“You cannot spend other people’s money, nor should you,” Singletary said. “You don’t know what’s going on with their financial life, their philosophy, and it’s not your job to teach them — unless you’re in a position of authority with them (like a parent), or you’re extremely close.”
Also read: 10 people NOT to tip for the holidays
Lead by example. It can help to compare notes on the tip right after the check comes, international etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer told Moneyish. That way, you can make sure everyone is on the same page with gratuity — and signal to that friend how much they should be tipping. “We will say to the whole group at the table: ‘What are you going to do? I’m going to put 15%, or I’m going to do 20%, which totals $20 or $30,’” she said. “Does that sound good, or are you going to do something different?”
“You leave a tip. You do what you’re supposed to do,” Singletary said.
Cover the difference yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friend — especially if you think it will provoke a confrontation — you may just increase your own tip on the total bill. And if you anticipate more problems if you leave extra money on the tab, Leonard said, do so discreetly by walking to the bathroom and handing your server a little extra cash, or asking the host to pass along additional tip money.
“Sometimes by the third or fourth time of putting the money in yourself,” Leonard added, “you may get so annoyed that it gives you the push to say something.”
Try broaching the topic tactfully, one on one. Leonard says she sees nothing wrong with lightheartedly addressing the person’s low or nonexistent tip: “Hey, let’s do the right thing; let’s give them 20%,” she suggested saying. “That is the norm now; we don’t want to be blacklisted from this restaurant.” You could also put a personal face on the issue, if you or someone close to you has depended on tips.
“Don’t get emotional,” Leonard said. “Keep a smile on your face and say, ‘Hey, I used to wait tables back when I was a teen and I was so grateful when people gave me the proper tip … I really think it would go a long way if we did that today.’”
Talk about tipping more generally in a group setting. Don’t pull the topic out of thin air, Schweitzer said, but use some relevant article or research on tipping as a springboard. “I would do this with a group of friends or family and see what they had to say, and make sure that this person was in the group,” she said. That way, the bad tipper can hear the discussion without feeling singled out.
If this is a recurring issue that’s important to you, simply avoid eating out with this person. “I think in this case, if it really bothers you and you believe in tipping and maybe you’ve worked in the service industry, and your friend (has) not,” Singletary said, “then that’s not the person you go out to eat with.”
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