The Tipping Points

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Every so often when I sit down to sort through my receipts and expense forms, my mind wanders to the topic of tipping. Something about seeing all those gratuities—scribbled in my handwriting on tiny slips of thermal-transfer paper—makes me want to take the pulse of the dining public to make sure I'm, you know, doing it right.

For example, how much do you tip? Do you tip on the pre- or post-tax total? If you tip on the post-tax bill, do you adjust your gratuity upward when you are in, say, Hawaii, which has a 4 percent state sales tax? Do you tip the same at lunch and dinner? Do you tip differently depending on whether you have a whole meal or just cocktails? Do you tip differently depending on if you sit at the bar or at a table? If you were to order, say, a $100 bottle of wine, would you tip $20? Do you tip if the restaurant has counter service? Do you tip the same if there's counter service but you don't have to bus your own table? Do you tip if you were served by the owner of the place rather than by her employee? When you use a gift certificate, do you still tip on the whole bill? Do you actually adjust the tip depending on your dining experience? If so, do you tell the server? Have you ever caught yourself adding a tip to a purchase simply because there was a tip line on the receipt?

It's enough to make my head spin, so I tend to go with 20 percent in most dining situations, except at counter service, in which case I panic and do everything from tipping 20 percent to throwing loose change in the jar. (Now here's a real question: Do you ever fake that you're throwing money in the jar, you cheap bastard?)

Anyone got any tipping insights, questions or anecdotes that might be helpful?

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