A tip is left on a table in Montreal. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Doreen’s Deals: Should you tip for takeout? Answers are surprising

We frequently get takeout from our favorite Chinese restaurant. For more than 30 years, I’ve been calling in our order and my husband Dan climbs in the car to pick it up.

We’ve never left a tip.

There is no tip jar on the counter, and the owner has never even hinted that we should add a gratuity to the check.

Is that wrong? Are we being cheap? I don’t think so, but there is a robust debate about tipping for takeout at restaurants that employ tipped servers. For the record, we tip well when dining in.

If there is a tip jar on the counter, do you shove a few bucks in or ignore it? How big of a tip is appropriate anyway? To many, the proper etiquette is a mystery.

The Sun Sentinel’s popular NFL columnist, Omar Kelly, was recently shamed for not tipping on a to-go order at a Miami restaurant, so he asked Twitter: “Do you tip when ordering takeout?” Of 4,769 votes, 51 percent said no. It was a close call, so Kelly then asked me to weigh in.

Tipping’s a choice. I believe there is no right or wrong. But the idea that whenever I buy something I have to tip, when no real service is provided, is ridiculous. Do you tip the cashier at CVS? No, you do not. A person ringing up my takeout order is the same in my book.

I ran my own Twitter poll, and more than 600 people voted: Only 31 percent always tip, 35 percent occasionally tip and 34 percent never tip.

Since there was no overwhelming consensus, I asked John Masi, a professor at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management in Miami, to help clear things up.

Masi, 51, is a Boca Raton, Fla., chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has been teaching at FIU for four years. He says tipping is very personal, and that tipping on takeout is something he struggles with, too.

Masi points out that restaurants with a robust takeout business don’t need to hire as many servers, and a cashier can pack up to-go orders. “Personalized service is in essence reduced by takeout. There is no bussing, cleaning, presenting a check. There are a dozen different steps in a full table service versus a limited number of steps for takeout.” That impacts a customer’s decision to tip.

Many restaurants are moving toward pooled tips, he says. “Tipping pools are split between servers, greeters and bussers. The kitchen help usually doesn’t get any tips,” Masi says. “Often, they are the ones packaging the order. A counter person will add the cutlery and ring up the order. They are making minimum wage, generally.”

The federal government requires tipped employees make at least $2.13 an hour.

Even though Masi doesn’t always tip for takeout, “being in the business, we err on the side of being generous. More often than not, I find myself tipping somewhat for takeout. I split it down the middle with 10 percent for pickup. I leave 18 to 20 percent for servers.”

Then there is the problem of what to do when confronted with tipping on an electronic tablet-based payment systems. It can be an awkward moment when the device is swiveled to face you and you must decide to add a tip before paying with a credit card. Buy a Danish and then add a tip? No thanks.

That simple act of declining the tip makes you feel guilty, which, in my opinion, is what it is designed to do.

Michael Lynn, a professor and behavioral scientist at Cornell University’s hotel school in New York, has been studying tipping for 33 years. He has published more than 50 research publications at TippingResearch.com.

He says there are five major motivations for tipping.

“One is to reward good service; another is to buy good future service. The third is to buy social esteem: I want the server and any observers to think well of me. The fourth is to help the server by being generous. Last, to do what you think is socially right.”

Does he tip on takeout?

“I don’t. There is a difference between takeout and other restaurant services,” Lynn says. “I make my living studying tipping and I don’t see a reason to do so. The restaurant is not providing any customized service. Only about a third of people tip in that context.”

He says the cooks who are usually filling the orders don’t get the tips.

“The person is just bagging the meal and handing it to me. This is no different than any retail clerk ringing my order.

“There are a lot of psychological benefits to tipping: A sense of equity and fairness. Showing off, getting people to think well of me. Feeling good by helping someone. Doing what is right, doing my duty.”

I turned to Doreen’s Deals Facebook fans to see if they tip on takeout and how much.

Judy Otto wrote: “I don’t tip in takeout establishments unless I’m eating in. On deliveries, yes —I tip 15 percent at least.”

“I work in a restaurant. If you order takeout PLEASE TIP!!,” wrote Janine Costa Hurt. “You’re like another table. I have to take your order, ring it in, collect for the sale and my payroll is taxed on that sale. I also have to tip out the food runner/expeditor. If you don’t tip, you’re costing me money for your takeout!”

Lynn says that’s bunk.

“She should take that up with her employer. If she is doing untipped work, then she should get regular minimum wage.”

“Whether you tip or not the server or hostess has to claim the sales and the IRS has the person claim an 8 percent of the check for a tip,” wrote Barbara Evans Hochstetler. “Also has to pay kitchen runner for boxing your food. Just food for thought … “

Masi says servers should not claim sales, but instead claim only “tip income.” “There is no law or set practice with tipping out a runner, host or busser. That is at the discretion of the server and/or the individual policy of the restaurant.”

Restaurateurs should educate servers to personalize service.

“There are different things they can do, from smiling to introducing themselves by name to writing a personal note on the bill that can increase their tips,” Masi says. “If you make the person feel special, then they tend to tip more.”

Doreen Christensen

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Just Posted

Red Deerians shop for exotic plants at spring plant sale

Exotic plants are popular at the Red Deer & District Garden Club’s… Continue reading

Central Albertans come together to end MS

Red Deer’s Bre Fitzpatrick has MS. The medication the 34-year-old is on… Continue reading

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — Crews battling an enormous wildfire just outside the… Continue reading

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

OTTAWA — While most Canadians firmly back the Charter of Rights and… Continue reading

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

WATCH: Cars, airplanes, motorcyles on display at Red Deer Airport

Cars, motorcycle and airplane enthusiasts united at the Red Deer Airport Sunday… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Bid to get D-Day beaches added to list of UN World Heritage Sites in limbo

OTTAWA — The beaches of Normandy, where the Allies stormed ashore to… Continue reading

Could this 20-year-old Montreal polyglot be Canada’s most multilingual student?

MONTREAL — Georges Awaad answers the phone with a polite “Hello,” but… Continue reading

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals have laid out their proposal for rules… Continue reading

Trump’s trophy day of sumo, golf and cheeseburgers in Japan

TOKYO — President Donald Trump presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the… Continue reading

Two dead, one seriously injured, following explosion in Calgary home’s garage

CALGARY — Police in Calgary say they believe a house fire where… Continue reading

Raptors fans spill onto the streets ahead of potentially historic game

Cars honked, exhilarated fans chanted and long lines formed outside bars and… Continue reading

Most Read