As college students, we often get sick of the same dining halls and cafes around campus; their set menus often lead to predictable and repetitive meals every day. While these campus eateries are definitely attractive to many students who can just swipe their way into the all-you-can-eat halls or utilize their tax-free Big Red Bucks, some days eating in Collegetown or the Commons can be the solution to your food woes. However, eating off-campus almost always comes at a price: the cost of a tip.
While giving out a little gratuity money after you have already paid for your meal may not be very common in other countries, tipping is a common courtesy in the United States and something that my parents used to take care of whenever I ate out with them. When eating out with friends, I would allow them to calculate the required tip and threw in however much they told me I owed. When I first left home to go to Cornell, I also left behind my parents’ and friends’ knowledge of exactly how much to tip. Though many restaurants now often print out the recommended tip on their receipts, this is not necessarily true for all restaurants in the Ithaca community.
Tipping can be very straightforward; however, figuring out what amount is considered appropriate can be fairly tedious. There are even apps dedicated to figuring out just how much to tip. But instead of using up that precious phone storage space, here are some tips on how to tip like a pro.
For restaurants, tips usually range from 15 to 20 percent, depending on how good the service was. If your server was neglectful or rude, 15 percent is sufficient. If you were part of a rather large party, such as a club gathering, and your server had to deal with a rowdier group, be a little more gratuitous. Consider factors such as how friendly they were, how fast they brought you your meal, whether or not they checked on you during the meal or if they annoyed you by checking too much.
Remember, tips should not reflect the service of your waiter or waitress alone; tips are often pooled and help out workers behind the scenes such as busboys, runners or bartenders. Consider your meal as a whole by remembering how clean the table was, how courteous your hostess was and the quality of the meal itself. Additionally, the minimum wage for employees that receive tips is much lower than the standard minimum wage, meaning they often rely on tips to make a reasonable living.
To give a 20 percent tip, simply divide your pre-tax total by five. For 15 percent, a little more math is required: move the decimal in your pre-tax total to the left, divide that in half and add that to the number you got before you divided it in half. These numbers give you the amount of tip to add to the entire total. Anything in between is also considered acceptable. If you don’t want to calculate the exact amount (as dividing $19.74 by five can be difficult), always round up; the servers deserve a little more rather than a little less.
When you order meals to go, whoever brings the food to your door is entitled to a little extra. After all, they likely had to find parking, trudge in the snow and find the right door to knock on, all so that you could get some hot chow mein from Apollo’s in a reasonable amount of time. For orders $20 or less, tip a minimum of $3, even if that means tipping 25 percent for a $12 order. For larger orders, tip the standard 15 to 20 percent. For more inconvenient orders — placed in the middle of bad weather or when the restaurant is farther away — give a little more, as they had to rush over so that you could eat in the comfort of your dorm or apartment.
As college students, most of us have little pocket money to spend, but tipping is not the place for us to cut back. The restaurant business is a fast-paced, stressful industry whose workers sacrifice their comfort for ours. Furthermore, many students have entered the service industry in order to pay for college, and even if you aren’t in the industry now, many of these servers could be your classmates, so don’t be stingy.