Look, you’re a big kid now and chances are if you’re reading this you probably work or have worked in the service industry in some capacity in the past, so I’m not going to tell you how much you should or shouldn’t tip at restaurants/bars/coffee shops/hot dog stands/car washes. (Ashley can help you with that if you’re still confused.)
Rather, I’ve been working on perfecting my Tip Delivery Method (TDM) in order to avoid the dreaded feeling that your bartender/barista/hot dog guy/car wash attendant might not have noticed how much change you left her. You know what I mean: You’re ordering your coffee when you get a handful of coins back as change. So you go to drop them in the jar only to realize Carol Coffeeslinger is eyeballing you funny and probably thinks you just unloaded a bunch of Canadian pennies in there because she can tell you’re a cheap bastard by the way you always get the smallest coffee and ask for too many refills. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that this is the kind of thing I worry about on a daily basis, but the point is that this is a poor Tip Delivery Method. You could have dropped 3 gold coins from a sunken pirate ship in there and she probably wouldn’t notice until the end of her shift. And she’ll still think you look like a cheap bastard! (Because of the refills thing.)
So now, whenever dining out or ordering drinks, I make it a point to not just have my tip ready in advance, but to use a TDM that ensures your friend on the other side of the counter knows exactly how generous you are. Lucky for you, I’m going to share a couple tips (sorry) so you too can build up some tip karma. Let’s take a look!
The “I Don’t Need Change”: An updated version of the classic “Keep the Change” move, which if you ask me, reeks of a boarding school education. The key distinction here is not to wait until your friendly service person is holding a random assortment of coins and then telling them to “keep it.” Because that sounds like you just don’t want to deal with all those pesky coins taking up room in the pockets of your khakis where you also keep the keys to the Land Rover. Instead, if you know your order comes to $2.50, just hand them three bucks and explain that you don’t need change. It spares you the cliche, but more importantly it gives that person a face to connect with all those dollar signs. Next time you belly up to the counter, he or she will be much friendlier to you than to the guy in front of you who ordered with a fistful of nickels.
Cash First Round: A friend and fellow veteran bartender gave me this one. Dive bars hate taking credit cards, so usually this isn’t even a problem. But if you plan on paying for most of your bill with plastic, it’s never a bad idea to drop cash on the first round. Again, you’re trying to get some face time with the people pouring those drinks so when you come back for round 2 and have to drop the Discover card you’ll avoid the usual stinkeye that comes with it. (PRO-TIP: If you have a Discover card, you probably deserve it.)
These TDMs generally work best in a bar-type environment: coffee bars, beer bars, dive bars, sports bars (probably not wine bars), cafes where you order at counter, etc, etc. But you can also put them to good use in sit-down, bring-me-the-check, table-service places. (Particularly if you go there a lot.) Just remember to avoid the cardinal sin or receiving the tab: If you ask to split the bill more than two ways, you’re being difficult.