THE RESTAURANT

The food was awful, the place was too noisy, the parking was handled by valets who put orange cones out front, with self-parking in the next zip code, and here comes the waiter, Lance, with the bill. He was a good guy, pleasant and helpful, but here’s my problem, and maybe yours, too.

The bill has a line to write in the tip.

So what to do? How much to tip, if at all? It wasn’t the waiter’s fault, but I do want to send a message to the restaurant that this has been one lousy evening. How much do you tip? It used to be 10 percent, now it ranges up to 20 percent, but 20 percent is how much of $11.75? I didn’t bring a calculator.

Some restaurants now have a few lines at the bottom of the bill, helping with the math by giving you the exact amount they want as a gratuity: “10 percent: $14” or “15 percent: $21” or whatever, again, I didn’t bring my calculator. (Waiters have a median income of $21,780 per year or $10.47 per hour, so we’re not talking big bucks.)

Most Texas towns slap on a total of city, county, state and Mafia protection tax of 8.25 percent, so by tipping on the total I was tipping on the taxes, too. A few New York City restaurants solved this problem by doing away with tips and simply included them on the bill. That didn’t work too well.

What about take-out? Should you tip? Incidentally, have you noticed that when you get back to your desk or home or bridge shelter and open the bag, the order is always wrong? I try to check my order before leaving the restaurant, but they always tie up the bag like a roped calf at a rodeo.

To answer these questions, we have The Moneyist. It cites a survey by CreditCards.com which found: More than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20 percent or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group. Women are better tippers than men. Baby boomers are more likely than millennials to tip restaurant servers and taxi or ride-share drivers (63 percent versus 40 percent), hair stylists (73 percent versus 53 percent), food delivery (72 percent versus 56 percent) and hotel housekeepers (33 percent versus 23 percent).

My daughter once worked for a hotel, in the office, and said I should leave at least $2 in my hotel room each day for the maid and not wait to leave a total tip when I left after staying several days because a maid will often work different rooms or floors each day. I didn’t think about that. Notice the survey found women are better tippers than men, but government data finds women are paid 83 cents on the dollar compared with men. This might suggest men would tip more rather than less, but that’s not the case.

Do you tip others in your family’s life who serve you? More than half of U.S. adults (53 percent) said they give their kids’ teachers or child-care providers holiday tips at least on occasion. In some cases, parents tip hundreds of thousands of dollars to educators just to get their kids in school. But a majority of people said they never give their trash/recycling collectors or mail carriers holiday gratuities. My garbage collectors strike at dawn, so I never see them, but one hot afternoon they came by and I ran out with a six-pack of Coke for them. The next week they stopped and honked, waiting for their Cokes. Yes, I tip my mail carrier at Christmas because she is so efficient. Despite all the jokes about the post office and mail service, if the rest of the federal government was as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service, I’d be ecstatic.

A 2018 survey by the same organization, CreditCards.com, found diners in the South and West tend to tip less, while married people tip more than singles and more than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20 percent or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group. So if you are a waiter, look out for old married folks from up east.

Back to my bill. My plan is to tip 20 percent, but 3 plus 4, 7 and 2 is … Lance, I’d like a doggy bag and a calculator.

Lynn Ashby is a Houston-based columnist. Contact him at ashby2@comcast.net.

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