Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I tip on the pre- or post-tax total?

Illustration for article titled Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I tip on the pre- or post-tax total?
Photo: Photobuff (iStock), Illustration: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Dear Salty, when we are at a bar or restaurant and get the check, I always tip 20 percent on the pre-tax amount, while my wife always tips 20 percent on the post-tax amount. Is one more common than the other? Which is right?


Dear Chris,

Do you know how often I get asked this question? Like once a week. So why haven’t I answered it in this column yet?


Because it’s a dumb, cheapskate question.

The difference between tipping on pre-tax vs. post-tax totals is hardly anything. Teenie. Miniscule. Drop in the bucket. Smaller than my ex’s… heart. I can’t say which is more common because I can’t tell whether a table meant to tip 18 percent post-tax or 19 percent pre-tax—frankly, I don’t have time for that kind of petty hair-splitting.

If you spend the end of a dinner out with your wife worrying about whether you should tip an extra two dollars—well, maybe you could have just tipped the extra two dollars.

If you don’t trust me, let’s do the math. Say your dinner bill is $100, and meal tax in your city is on the high end. In D.C., which has one of the highest meal taxes, it’s 10 percent, so let’s go with that—I like round numbers.

Tipping 20 percent on a pre-tax bill of $100: $20
Tipping 20 percent on a post-tax bill of $110: $22

You’re seriously losing sleep over $2?

Even if the meal was $300, that’s a different of $6—and you’re a person who just spent $300 on dinner.


Remember those old Mastercard commercials?

Bottle of California cab sauv: $80
Three-course dinner for two: $220
Feeling self-righteous because you tipped 20 percent post-tax: Priceless.

So my advice to you is: Quit worrying, tip on the post-tax total if you must insist on the math, and generally try not to be a cheapskate.


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Le Comte de Brûleur

I often think that. Why calculate 15% exactly, or 18% or 20%, to the penny? Just round up to what’s convenient. If the bill is $37.55, that’s $38.00, ten percent of that is $3.80, and half of that is $1.90, add them together for 15%, so a little under 6 bucks, so 6 bucks if I want to leave a decent tip. But I have a five and a twonie in my pocket, so might as well leave seven bucks.

Counterpoint came from my girlfriend, who worked a service industry desk job, worked hard, long hours, with unofficial overtime never compensated, and a modest fixed paycheque with tax, CPP, EI, benefits, and other deductions which made her feel she could never get ahead. She’d hear stories from our social circle of waitresses and bartenders going home with hundreds of dollars at the end of their shift, they’d brag about how much they made and their trips to Mexico, and she’d get frustrated, and ask me why we should be so generous, why we should chip in the extra couple or five bucks, when they make more than she does.