Travelers Tales: The story with tipping in New York City

Tipping… It’s definitely an interesting topic when traveling. Where do you tip? How much do you tip? Is it rude not to tip?

In Germany, you normally tip around 10% (just for your information :)) but I remember that in Australia, waiters didn’t even really understand when I wanted to tip. So you never know.

My first stop of my around the world trip in 2013 was New York. Me and my friend went to this pretty fancy restaurant (she works at JP Morgan and wanted to treat me to a great dinner) and had some tapas. It wasn’t the best service I’ve ever experienced and our meatballs were a bit burnt but I am not one to complain, so we just went with it.
When it came to paying, my friend said that she’ll pay the bill (which was around $80 or $90) and I should leave the tip. She then left her card and went for the bathroom, while I took out my wallet to check how much cash I had.


Restaurant bill via flickr (cnewtoncom)

I either had a $10 bill or $3. Because I knew New York was going to be expensive and I still had 5 months to travel and had to save every penny I could AND because the service wasn’t the best ever, I decided to leave the $3, not really thinking about it any further.
When he brought back the card, he came up to me and asked “So, why did you only give $3 tip? Would you be able to write down what the problem was, so I can explain it to my boss?” I was so confused that I didn’t even know what to say! I obviously didn’t think any further when I left the money and surely didn’t mean to offend him by it. But obviously I did!

After a little discussion, I decided to leave the $10 dollar bill (which he ran after me with because he didn’t want it anymore?!) and left.

So remember: Always check what the tipping etiquettes are in the country you are in. You might unintentionally insult someone’s work by tipping too little or not at all.
Because I now know, that waiters in New York (or maybe in all of the US?) get paid so little that they are deeply dependent on tips. I’ll definitely never forget that anymore.

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