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  1. Good afternoon, friends,
    This weekend I will be traveling to a well-known tourist destination. I have friends who work there, and they have been so kind as to offer my husband and I free tickets. These tickets would normally run over $400 if I had to pay for them. I told my friends I would take them for a very nice dinner as a thanks, and they agreed. The spot chosen is up-scale, and I expect the total tab to be a bit less than what we would have spent on tickets. I don’t have the financial luxury of dining in this manner often, so my question is about tipping. My husband normally tips around 20%, and I tip around 15% depending upon type of service/location/etc. If the meal costs $350 (including drinks), then 20% would be $70. That seems like a lot of money to me, but would tipping that amount be the correct thing to do? Or would a $50 tip be inoffensive and appropriate?

    Slight background: This particular place does pay waitstaff more than $2.13/hr customary in the U.S. Several sites devoted to this place, though unaffiliated, suggest 10-15% because of this.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Elizabeth

      15% is never incorrect as a tip, though I don’t know if I’d take their pay-scale into account. $70 is a lot of money, but not when you’re dropping $350 on dinner. Keep in mind that this is also the kind of place where a waiter may only have 2 tables at a time so they can provide really good service. If you do receive exceptional service (and at places like that, you likely will) I would allow for the possibility of tipping 20%. The difference is $20 – and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t see the point of being expansive with yourself but stingy with the help. (I mean this more as an attitude, I don’t know if $50 is really stingy, I don’t think it is. There’s also the question of whether you’re tipping on the tax or not, which at that level is not insubstantial.) Another way to look at it – if your husband reaches for the check, I would not say anything about what he chooses to leave for a tip.

    • Alicia

      Tipping is part of the cost of going out and if you can not afford the tip you can not afford the restaurant . Yes it can seem a lot but so is paying that much for food is also a lot. The servers at high end places are well trained well versed at things like wine selections ect. If that is more then you are willing to pay a server then you should pick a less expensive resturant

    • Nina

      My family dines at places like the one you describe a couple times a year, as a part of special occasions. From this I’ve learned that, while the standard 15% for good service, 20% for excellent rule applies–when staff is well-trained and well-paid, as they usually are at these places, the service is almost always excellent. It’s really a pleasure to watch people who are good at their jobs work, and I find it adds a lot to the meal if the waitstaff is amazing. Go with your gut–if the staff enhances your experience of an already stellar meal, they’re worth the 20%!

      • Thank you all! An 18% gratuity was automatically included, so the decision was taken out of my hands.
        The reason pay scale matters is why the US has become a tipping culture, and other countries have not. In fact, I inadvertently offended a bartender in New Zealand by asking where the line for my tip was located on the credit card receipt (the bartender said, “you have so much money to show off that you want to pay more?”) They simply don’t have that “TIP:______________” line on any receipts. In places where waitstaff/servers are paid a living wage, tips aren’t necessary to cover their pay. Here most waitstaff make under minimum wage as they are expected to make up the difference in tips. Because our culture is unique, many U.S. destinations who cater to a large international base have started placing mandatory gratuities on the bills (as was the case with my recent restaurant) since no one was tipping except other Americans.

        I say all that to explain why I would ask the question in the first place; I’m not trying to justify a lack of gratuity. I definitely tip staff.

  2. Annie


    I am a professional wedding videographer. My good friend invited me to his daughters wedding as a guest but also wants me to video the event. My question is do I need to give a gift? My professional services would cost more than what I would spend on a wedding gift. Right now I’m thinking an inexpensive gift from their registry will be enough but I can’t help wonder if my professional service isn’t gift enough. Thanks.

    • Elizabeth

      If you agree to film the event, you do not need to give an additional gift. You should give a card and say something to effect that you hope they enjoy the memories on the video or something. You can also decline to provide video services, since this will preclude your enjoyment and full participation in the event, I would imagine. Or, you could limit it to the ceremony only.

  3. Fiona

    It’s quite a strange situation – I’m from Singapore (so we’re a mix of Chinese and Western culture) and I am one of the lowest level executives in my newly-set-up department (about 9 months). My boss’ birthday was last month, and a fellow (cheapskate and opportunistic) colleague suggested that our boss should treat us. However, I couldn’t attend the birthday celebration. During the celebration (without my presence), my manager said that it’s the company culture to treat colleagues for birthday celebrations and suggested that this should apply to everyone.

    My birthday is this month and my colleagues have settled on a date to celebrate it and keep asking me for input on where to dine, since “you’ll be the one paying”. As a note: In Asian culture, and everywhere else, usually the organizer of the party pays, or the boss/manager pays to reward their staff for their efforts. However, I did not ask for such a celebration, and there is no good reason for me to pay. What should I do? I don’t mind paying, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable, especially when I earn one of the lowest salaries in my department.

    • Elizabeth

      This is a tricky situation. Your boss probably did not appreciate being put on the spot like that, so as a form of retaliation suggested that it apply to everyone. Your birthday happened to be next, though he probably did not consider that when making his declaration. You could simply cancel your own party, say that you are busy, etc. However, if your boss is also pushing for this outing, you may have to bite the bullet and do it. It would be good to choose an inexpensive venue if you can, in that case. His plan seems to clearly contradict social norms, but it seems like it would be a bigger faux pas to reject it. Could you have a party in your home instead? That would be cheaper.

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