7 On Your Side: How much should we tip?

Tipping is an odd practice when you think about it for just a moment. We give away money we could keep for ourselves. Why? And how much should we really tip? That is exactly what 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney wanted to find out.

If you look around, there is a lot of money changing hands when customers tip. At The Ramp, a fun waterside place in San Francisco, the wait staff is doing pretty well. Over in North Beach at Original Joe's the valets are receiving tips. And across from Union Square we saw a doorman at the St. Francis accept a tip. But why? Why do we tip? No one makes us.

Michael Lynn is a professor at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. He said, "If you ask people what is the major motivation for tipping, they will tell you it is to reward good service."

Most of us do say that, but there is little evidence to back that up. Many people tip between 15 and 20 percent of the total bill. That is only a small difference between the best and worst service.

One customer at The Ramp told Finney he usually tips 15 percent, 20 if service is great. He said, "Our bill was $59 and I gave a $12 tip." However, that is more than 20 percent.

So again, why do we tip?

"Lots of reasons, but the biggest, most important one is because it is expected and they want social approval that comes with following norms," said Lynn.

So we often don't tip for service, but to be liked, or to keep the world in balance.

"What do I tip? Twenty to 25 percent. I am a server. What goes around comes around," Heather Azucar, from the Ramp, said.

Finney spoke with Golden Gate University professor and author Kit Yarrow, Ph.D. She says tipping is beginning to tick some of us off. She said, "It's a hot button issue. For the longest time people looked at tips as something that they wanted to give. And when people feel like they are expected to spend money, rather than choosing to spend money, it starts to chaff a little bit."

So how much should you tip? Most people tip between 15 and 20 percent. In urban areas, we lean towards 20 percent.

In parts of the world there is no tipping at all. In Europe, Americans are seen as over tippers, which is seen as a good thing.

Mimi Cassidy from Moraga Travel said, "What we tell people when they're traveling in Europe, that it's a little different. That it kind of gives Americans better service, because they know that Americans are used to tipping."

By far the most important indicator of a tip and what it will be is the amount of the actual bill. So if you are a waiter and want to make more money, sell more drinks and desserts. If you are a dinner who wishes to keep the tips down, skip the drinks and dessert. Now for more on tipping like how much should you tip a valet, a porter, a doorman or a maitre d' check out the helpful links below.

General Tipping Guide
International Tipping Guide
Pocket Tipping Guide

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