Ask the Salty Waitress: Should I tip my server in round dollar amounts?

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Photo: Westend61 (iStock by Getty Images), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio (iStock by Getty Images)

Hello, Salty! So glad to see you’re back!

Recently, my sister and I were eating in a restaurant together (thank you, vaccine!), and when the check came, I wrote the tip so that bill would come out to a round number, meaning that the tip included change. My sister said this was kind of a dick move on my part, that the server doesn’t want to be stuck with change (the total tip was in excess of 20%, it just wasn’t a round figure).

So, is she right? Do servers see a tip for $10.57 on a $39.43 check and say “oh god, one of those assholes”? Or does it not matter? Does this quirk make me a jerk?

Thanks in advance,

I Like Round Numbers and I Cannot Lie

Your Roundness,

Thanks, doll! It felt great to slip on the old clogs again and get back to work. (And with a raise! With a big apology for undervaluing my labor! Ain’t life grand? I love those big, round numbers, too. In return, I’m gonna try to put more feeling into my recitation of the daily specials.)

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And now on to your question. When I see a tip for $10.57 on a $39.43 check, I never say, “Oh god, one of those assholes.” And neither does any other server I know. Instead we say, “Oh, god, bless this gentle soul for leaving me a more-than-25%-tip and for actually doing the damned math instead of just writing a round number in the total!”

The reason why, hon, is because we don’t get that $10.57 right away, and when we do, it’s not in the form of one $10 bill, two quarters, one nickel, and two pennies. Instead, all our tips get paid out all together at the end of the shift or the end of the week, and sometimes, depending on where we’re working, a share of that goes to the back of the house. And who knows, somebody else might have rounded up their bill to leave me $9.43, which means between the two of you, I get a nice, crisp $20. (I’d hope that I’d get more than two tables per shift, though. Also, the bills aren’t usually crisp.) But change is money, and money doesn’t bother me, unless it’s in the bottom of a milkshake glass, in which case, I hope you really like the taste of spit, ’cause that’s what you’re getting in your food if I ever catch you in my section again.

You can tell all that to your sister, and you have my permission to add “Nyah nyah nyah” when you’re done.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a question about how to handle customers? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

DISCUSSION

yourmomandmymom
Darth Fabulous

Similar question: cash or credit? I know some who will pay the bill on credit, but leave tip in cash, supposedly so it can’t be taken by the house. Granted, cash isn’t a thing at most restaurants around me post-covid.