I usually tip 20% for excellent restaurant service, 15% for solid service and 10% for bad service.
I thought I was being generous. Turns out that makes me, at best, an average tipper.
Tips have been on the rise for some time. During the 1950s, people commonly tipped 10% of the bill, says Michael Lynn of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. By the 1970s and 1980s, the standard tip had risen to 15% of the tab. Nowadays, people commonly tip 15% to 20%, with the average tip about 18%.
Why are tips rising？ Dr. Lynn, who's written more than 40 papers on tipping, says that people tip to make a good impression on the server. 'If I want the server to really like me, I have to leave an above-average tip,' he says. 'And if I want the server not to dislike me, I have to leave an average tip. That dynamic leads to an upward trend in tips.'
There's a lot of money on the table. Americans tip about $42 billion a year, estimates Ofer H. Azar of Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who studied tipping while getting his doctoral degree in the U.S.
Despite the economic crisis, don't look for tips to get smaller anytime soon. Drs. Lynn and Azar say the same social-acceptance factors are likely to keep pushing tips higher, albeit gradually.
'These changes are over decades, not year to year,' says Dr. Azar. 'I don't think in five years that 25% will be the norm.'
Despite my cost-cutting ways, I actually have sympathy for the restaurant help. My last job before becoming a full-time journalist in 1980 was working as a busboy in a French restaurant in California. Busing tables was grueling work. The waiters would give us a share of their tips, and the extra $15 or $20 I took home on a Saturday night was big money to me back then.
The restaurant was owned by Iranian immigrants during the Iranian hostage crisis. (If it sounds like something out of a Peter Sellers movie, that's what it felt like.) Business, to put it kindly, was sporadic. One Sunday night, the restaurant scheduled only one waiter and one busboy, me. For some reason, we got a run of business -- far more tables than we could handle.
This particular waiter had been at it awhile. He told me there was no point trying to give good service to everyone. It was impossible, and we would just irritate everyone. Instead, he told me that he was going to pick certain tables for good service (and good tips) and he'd get to the rest when he could. So that's what happened.
A waitress in an Italian restaurant in New Jersey recently pulled the same number on my wife, Clarissa, and me. Our dinner took forever to come, and it got worse from there. As this waitress rushed to help other customers, we had to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a dessert menu, and there was another long wait for the bill.
I knew exactly what was happening and wanted to tip her 10%. Clarissa nixed that. The food in the restaurant was quite good, and she wanted to come back again. A lousy tip would get them upset. So we compromised: 15%.
Our solution wasn't unusual. Cornell's Dr. Lynn says that people tip a little worse when they get bad service, but not dramatically. 'How sunny it is outside has as big an impact on tipping quantity as does the service quality,' he says.
小费上涨已经有一段时间了。康奈尔大学酒店管理学院(Cornell University School of Hotel Administration)的迈克尔•林恩(Michael Lynn)说，上世纪50年代，人们通常会给帐单金额10%的小费。到了70、80年代，小费标准就涨到了帐单金额的15%。现在，人们通常会给15%到20%的小费，通常的比例为18%左右。
小费的总体规模蔚为可观。以色列本-古里安大学(Ben-Gurion University)的阿扎尔(Ofer H. Azar)在美国攻读博士学位时对小费进行了研究，他估计美国人每年给的小费总额约为420亿美元。