// you’re reading...


tipping in a group

WSA adsense code -->

When I was a student, I spent 3 months living in the United States on a J-1 exchange visa, and it was there that I learned to tip. Americans are profligate tippers in comparison to most other cultures, and we were instructed that the *done thing* is to tip around 15% in restaurants (round up to the nearest $). We were also given a list of other people that expect to be tipped in America, who we wouldn’t normally tip in the UK, and warned that the British sometimes attract a reputation for being stingy tippers.

As a result of this experience I am now considered to be a generous tipper at home. I like to leave at least 10% in a restaurant. Recently, I went out for a meal with some acquaintances. The number of courses, and types of drinks that we were having varied quite a bit, so we all (without disagreement) contributed enough to cover our own bills. I put in £12 to cover £7.95 set menu and £1.75 drink, which leaves a pretty generous tip. One or two others also gave more than 10% extra to cover their tips. Still, the final bill was £96 between us, and we left £103 to cover that and the tip, which felt a bit wrong to me.

Fairly often, in similar situations, especially if I’m the person collecting the money, or sitting next to them, I’ll add more so that tip is at least reasonable. In this case I was at the other end of the table, so that wasnt’ possible (I also didn’t have any more cash on me). I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t know these people well enough to effectively call them misers. I swear that more than a third of the group must have been freeloading on the tip.

What do other people do when this kind of thing happens? How much do other Brits normally tip in restaurants? Stuff like this is why lots of places add on an automatic service charge for groups, which seems to annoy people a lot. Personally, I quite like it when service is included in the price of the food, which is become rarer and rarer these days.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Similar Posts:

If you like what you're reading, why not leave a comment below, subscribe to my feed, or check out some of my best posts.


14 comments for “tipping in a group”

  1. You could avoid this by asking for separate cheques right from the beginning.

    Usually when I go out with a group this is done without asking. I went out with a group of about 15-20 co-workers a few weeks ago. We each got our own bill at the end. It makes sense to me.

    Posted by Canadian | March 11, 2009, 8:12 pm
  2. I’m terrible at these things too- I have said something along the lines of “oh we seem to be a bit short on the tip- maybe I miscalculated, hold on till I put a bit extra in”
    Thus giving me an opportunity to add and often someone else will add too- usually someone who has already paid their tip but feels guilty like me.
    It’s a little bit passive-aggressive but it’s a hard topic- I had a chronically cheap room mate once and only direct comments (not from me- cause I’m a wimp) would work for him.
    Getting separate cheques is good but not everywhere will do it.

    Posted by Looby | March 12, 2009, 12:03 am
  3. I think 10% is about normal for a tip in the UK. That said, I am not worried about not tipping if the service is no good. In the UK waitstaff are paid enough that they are not relying on the tips, whereas in the US they do largely relay on tips. As a result, I don’t tip in the UK automatically, but to reward service that went above and beyond.

    Posted by FruGal | March 12, 2009, 2:58 pm
  4. PS - And let’s face it, the service culture in the UK is nowhere near as good as in the US. A lot of the time here in the UK waitstaff make you feel like they are doing you a favour by doing their job!

    Posted by FruGal | March 12, 2009, 3:00 pm
  5. @Canadian:
    When I’m in charge of a group, there’s no problem. Sometimes people I’m with feel that the separate bills is suggesting that they are trying to fleece the group though.

    Yes, I’ve tried that before, but it does occasionally get a frosty reception. Especially with a group. I think a fair few people don’t really get how percentages scale, or at least it takes them by surprise. I think being slightly passive-aggressive is fairly normal British behaviour in these circumstances, a bit like trying to tell people that they’ve pushed in front of you in a queue.

    I also don’t tip if the service is bad. Frequently the problem is that it’s far too slow, especially at the end when all I want to do is get the bill and get out - waitstaff often shoot themselves in the foot that way. I think the service culture is different. Mostly it’s not as good, and certainly it can be a little like they are doing you the worlds biggest favour. In pubs/bars however, I think you get equally good service in the UK as in the US, and there are no tips. Perhaps unless tipping is endemic, it’s not a very good incentive?

    Posted by plonkee | March 12, 2009, 5:27 pm
  6. That’s true about bars and pubs. I tip if the bar tender has mixed me a cocktail, but not for just pouring a glass of wine. And you’re right, it must be frustrating for waitstaff who give great service, then receive no tip as it’s not a hard and fast rule. It would definitely lessen the incentive to give good service all the time.

    Posted by FruGal | March 12, 2009, 5:32 pm
  7. My experience of table service in the US and England (I don’t have enough experience in Wales or Scotland or NI to comment on them) is that the overall basic normal level of service is about the same in the two countries. However, there is more truly awful service in England in my experience, especially outside of London. Fortunately that terrible service is still not all that frequent.

    Posted by Jill | March 12, 2009, 6:21 pm
  8. I saw a post about this very subject on AskMefi this morning:


    Posted by guinness416 | March 13, 2009, 1:47 pm
  9. I had lunch out twice on my trip across the pond last week. The first time I did not see that the bill did NOT include service and I happily left the pub after a decent meal and good service without leaving a tip. I noticed the receipt said service not included when I was about 5 miles away. The second lunch I double checked and this time service was included.

    Posted by bouncing back betty | March 13, 2009, 7:20 pm
  10. As an American, it’s interesting to get another perspective on tipping. I consider myself to be a generous tipper. 20 percent if the service is good, 15 if it’s not so good, and maybe over 20 percent if it was outstanding. In American, many servers aren’t paid minimum wage, and they rely on tips to make up the difference. Tipping always causes controversy over here because some people just don’t like to tip well regardless of the quality of service.

    Posted by Kristen | March 13, 2009, 7:49 pm
  11. it very useful site i got more information i hope all are enjoying this site

    Posted by car loans | March 14, 2009, 9:14 am
  12. When I visited South Africa I tipped all the time because they rely on it for their income.

    I am quite confident that if we were to remove the national minimum wage law in the UK we would see a lot more tipping (and consequently a lot better table service!)

    Posted by Dave | March 14, 2009, 1:50 pm
  13. Don’t you just hate that?

    Don’t have a good answer, but a so-so answer might be to hold off on part of the tip you plan to leave - let everyone put in their share and only add your extra little bit at the end. Makes it harder for folks to freeload…

    Posted by Shadox | March 15, 2009, 11:41 pm
  14. I’m from South Africa and it always seems to happen that there will be people in the group who underpay. I have a group of friends and I KNOW who in the group tips short by now. I’ve become quite hard-assed about it and I just put it to them straight that I need more money from them. It’s a reflection on them, not me! It’s really pathetic that people can be so stingy about something like this.

    Posted by Liz | October 16, 2009, 2:54 pm

Post a comment

Proud member of the