We're never going to settle what's a fair tip, but at least we know what the typical tip is.

There are good tips and bad tips. And then there are way too good tips — as a Waffle House patron recently found out.

A North Carolina businessman (who remained anonymous) had to fight to give his waitress a $1,000 tip, according to the ABC affiliate in Raleigh. Company policy wouldn’t let her keep it, so he eventually just wrote her a separate check.

Most of us will probably never be in a position to drop a grand on a meal, but one in three Americans have left a tip of more than 30 percent at least once, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 adults from Michelin. (Yes, the tire company — which also rates restaurants.) Some 12 percent have also left a tip of at least 50 percent. The rest of us? Well, survey says…

  • The average tip for good service is 18 percent, and 70 percent of Americans usually tip between 15 and 20 percent for good service.
  • 20 percent is more common than 15 percent. Roughly a quarter of Americans usually tip 15 percent, and another 40 percent usually tip 20 percent.
  • Men are more likely to tip big. One in 10 Americans usually tip more than 20 percent, with men slightly more likely to than women: 12 to 8 percent.
  • Some people are jerks. A miserly 1 percent of Americans usually leave nothing for good service.
  • Young people tip less. About 30 percent of younger adults (under 35, which includes college students and parents) normally tip less than 15 percent, while only 16 percent of older adults do.
  • New Englanders tip better. Only 14 percent in the Northeast tip less than 15 percent, while 26 percent do in the Midwest, 27 percent do in the West and 22 percent do in the South.

As for what you should tip, there’s no definitive answer and never will be. Some people say to tip at least 15 percent regardless of the quality of service, and 20 percent for good service. Others say 15 percent is good enough, and zero is fine for bad service. Some people, like Mr. Waffle House, have totally different ideas. But here are some fairly objective things to keep in mind…

  • Food quality (besides temperature and order accuracy), menu options, prices, and decor aren’t your server’s fault.
  • Restaurants in many states only have to pay waitstaff $2.13 an hour, unless their tips fail to bring them up to the minimum wage.
  • Math’s annoying, but there are tricks. For 10 percent, just move the decimal point of the total to the left: $2.15 for $21.50. Double that for 20 percent. Round up for good service and down for bad service. You can also use the sales tax as a shortcut if you know your state’s rate. Failing that, get a tipping chart for your wallet or use your phone.
  • You may have a 30 percent off coupon, but that doesn’t mean the server is doing 30 percent less work.


free debt analysis call 855-654-9191

Meet the Author

Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger


Ballenger is a writer for Debt.com and its first political columnist.


Related Posts

Article last modified on September 4, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Here's what Americans think is a good tip - AMP.