It can sometimes be confusing about who gets a tip and how much that tip should be. Guests can really struggle with the minefield of tipping restaurant and hotel staff in Florida. That’s why we’ve created a handy guide on tipping in the USA to help remove any uncertainties travellers may have.
In the USA, restaurant staff waiting tables often rely on tips to make up a significant proportion of their wages. Staff are really motivated to go that extra mile because tipping is so important to their overall take-home pay.
Today, the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13. (The main federal minimum wage is $7.25). Only seven states mandate that all workers, regardless of tips, must be paid the full state minimum wage before tips, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
This means, if you don’t tip, it can represent a big loss of earnings for your server.
Take a look at the handy guide on tipping in the USA
Here’s our pick of some of our favourite heart-warming, inspiring and, sometimes, shocking tipping stories…
The Tipping Jackpot!
When police detective Robert Cunningham chose to offer his server a deal instead of settling the tab on his usual meal of linguini and clam sauce at Sal’s Pizzeria in Yonkers, New York, she agreed. By 1984, Phyllis Penzo had waited on tables six nights a week at the restaurant for 24 years. Cunningham suggested they split the lottery ticket he had in his pocket, so Penzo duly sat down and helped Cunningham choose the numbers. This $1 entry into the New York State Lotto Competition won the pair $6 million dollars!
Their story was later dramatised (with some artistic licence) in the 1994 film It Could Happen to You starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda.
A Family Remembers
Aaron Collins left a rather unusual instruction in the will his family found on his computer after he died: to leave a $500 tip to a server in a pizza restaurant.
His older brother Seth Collins, his younger sisters and his parents decided to make a website for friends and family to contribute to Aaron’s last wish. Donations quickly racked up to $48,000 within three weeks and the family began following Aaron’s instructions to leave their servers $500 tips. The family have said all of the donations will be distributed in $500 tips to restaurant servers.
Seth Collins said, “It doesn’t seem to be about the money. It’s about the random kindness — that unexpected kindness from a stranger, not just people who have gotten the money, but people who have watched it. And I think that really surprised me.”
Changing Tipping Habits
Another Kentucky resident has taken a similarly generous approach to tipping. Russ Johnson, a retired septuagenarian manufacturing executive in Louisville has decided to start tipping 50 percent of the bill.
His decision followed a conversation with a golfing buddy which inspired him to stop donating to charities and start tipping generously instead. Johnson told MarketWatch: “I have convinced many of my friends to reduce donating to charities. I would rather put money in the hands of people on the low end of the scale working their way up the ladder than in some bureaucrat’s hand who works for an organised charity.”
If a particularly generous celebrity walks through the restaurant doors, servers can be in for a treat. Johnny Depp’s $4,000 tip after an enjoying an evening with friends and several $500 bottles of wine is legendary. And Thrillist recounts a wonderful story about Bill Murray, who not only left his server a hugely generous 120 percent tip he then went on to teach the same server how to make their lemon wedges juicier by rolling them on a cutting board before slicing them!
The Restaurant that Tried to Ban Tipping
A few years ago, Joe’s Crab Shack experimented with the idea of eliminating tips. In November 2015, the casual seafood chain announced it was trying out a “no tipping” policy in 18 of its restaurants. With more than 100 locations nationwide, it was the first major restaurant chain to test out a no-tipping policy.
However, by May 2016 the company began rowing back on its no tipping approach. Its customers had complained of higher food prices and poor service. The restaurant’s research showed that around 60 percent of customers disliked the policy because it took away an incentive for good service and because they didn’t necessarily trust that management was passing the money to workers.
Tipping to Show Appreciation of a Good Job
When the New York Times asked its readers for their tipping stories, they were inundated with stories that ranged from the horrifying to the heart-warming.
Reader Sheri Albrecht of Walford, Iowa’s story definitely falls into the heartwarming category. She told the paper about a time when she and her husband had dined at a local restaurant with another couple who had picked up the check but left a paltry tip.
“My husband returned to the restaurant the next day, found the waitress, apologised for our friend’s poor tip (she remembered it) and handed her enough cash to make 20 percent. She stared at the money for a few seconds, stunned, then threw her arms around my husband’s neck and started to cry. THAT’S how much tips mean to servers.’’