Pre-figured tips on the check

In addition to the 3 tip buttons on the hand held terminals that are now becoming common in NYC I have noticed in places that still drop a paper check on your table, the checks are coming with 3 boxes with pre-calculated tip amounts that you can just tick. Usually 18%, 20% and 25%. There’s also a line for custom. I used to do the mental math of take 10% of pre-tax amount in whole dollar amount then double. It seems the amounts are mostly calculated off the post tax amounts which in NYC adds about 9% which makes the lowest choice of 18% almost equal to 20% of pre-tax. My sense is that this is about trying to nudge tips higher. Anyone else seeing this pop up in other parts of the country?


Could well be.

Another possibility is that the developers who create the software are simply not aware of the practice of basing the tip on the pre-tax amount.

Either way, the amount nudges up.

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I think those developers might also have one of those bridges to sell you …


This has been the case for a while.

The pre tax / post tax thing used to be sneaky on group checks, when people were less likely to calculate again on their own when they had been told a 20% tip was being added for the group size.

The more egregious part imo is that many places no longer find it necessary to separate the liquor out on the bill.

It used to be tallied separately, so one could tip fully on the food tab and something nominal on the liquor tab that was already marked up by a lot (I mean even the cheapest wine bottles are double or more, so if you’re ordering expensive wine, why one then needs to tip another 20% on top of that is a mystery to me.)

Always helps to do your own math.


Umm, have I been over tipping then? Its not unusual for the liquor and wine cost to be almost as much or more than the food cost. Maybe I have a drinking problem but my practice had always been to tip on the full amount. Have I been doing it wrong? It never occurred to me to tip less on wine even when the bottle has been well into 3 figures. This is a serious question.


I’ve never calculated the tip separately for liquor vs food. Am I unusual?


I’ve never even seen a bill where the booze and food are listed separately (and yes, in our case it tends to easily make up half of the bill). Is that a NYC thing?


funny how you and I focused on the exact same words

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I wake up in a cold sweat sometimes, thinking “Did I overpay???” This is gonna have me losing sleep for weeks!


Where tipping is concerned I don’t think there’s a right or wrong.

That said, I was taught (way back when) that the tip was to be calculated on the food bill, pre-tax.

The liquor bill is always inflated as everyone knows – when you go to a bar, people used to tip $1-2 per drink (more for nyc non-pub pricing where a drink is easily $15-20). For a cocktail place, maybe that fades because some preparation is involved. A beer? Someone’s popping it open.

When bottles of wine are involved, there’s already a massive markup, especially as the wines get more expensive. So if you’re ordering a $300 bottle of wine, you’re probably paying $100-200 more than you’d buy the bottle for (then you pay corkage, of course) – so why would you be expected to pay another 20% on top of that markup? Your choice of a more expensive wine should not penalize you even further. (That said, markups do tend to go down as bottle prices go up, but leave that to the side for the moment.)

All that said, it really irks me to tip on tax.

(ETA: all %s from pre-covid / pre-tip inflation times)


Me too (even though what does it really matter in the end if it’s not actually pinching one).

But it also doesn’t bother me in many situations, like when we go for our HO group dinners and intentionally round up to 25-30% (or more) when we’ve had a fun evening that the staff made better through their patience and accommodation.

That said, my work involves knowing numbers, and so I do like to know what I’m actually paying even when I’m ok with overpaying.


The people who tip on the pre-tax amount (I tip on post-tax) are always the ones who have more money than I do. #whyIhavenomoney

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So by taking it from 18% to 20% a tipped employee (who’s only making $7.85 an hour with no benefits in Florida) is going to make a getaway woth an extra $2 on my $100 dinner tab.

This is just not the hill I’m gonna die on. Here, I’ll give them an extra $5 to makeup for the next table that stiffed the server.


Reading all this, I am still not clear as to why I should tip less % on wine versus beer or cocktail or for a more expensive bottle of wine as compared to food.

Beer costs less than a cocktail. The cocktail can easily cost 2x the price of a beer in many places I go. $10 for a beer $20 for a specialty cocktail. If I leave 20%, then its $2 or $4. Seems okay to me to pay more for the work of making the cocktail. But don’t get me started on a $20+ pour for wine by the glass. That feels like robbery before you even get to the tip

When you look at a food menu, there will be a range in price for dishes. That range can be substantial. There can be a pasta dish for $22 and a special of the day for $45. The work for the server is identical for serving the two dishes. But if I order the special, the tip I leave will be twice what it would be for the pasta dish. So in my mind its not much different than when I order a $75 bottle of wine or a $200 bottle. Work is the same. I have always tipped based on the total bill. I would be happy to be convinced I shouldn’t do that. It would make a fair difference in what I pay.

I agree that the extra tip amount whether its an extra $2 or $10 on any one check isn’t going to matter to me at all but I feel that using the tax included is obfuscation that is at best disingenuous and at worst dishonest. Especially when they hit me with a 3% CC charge on top of everything else. Like I walk around with a few hundred in my pocket to avoid the CC fee.

It like the airline that advertises a base fare that is lower than another’s more inclusive fare and then charges you for a seat, a carry on, boarding, etc and if you added all that up and showed it upfront the buyer would see that there was no bargain at all.

I know that every year end when I argue with my boss that I need an additional 2% for my division comp pool, its no small matter getting that not so trivial amount.


I and almost everyone I know tips post tax.

I tip on the booze. I’ve never heard of tipping separately for booze.

I tip 20%, higher for excellent service.

If I receive complimentary food/drinks and/or receive a discount, I tip based on what the full price would have been.


Yeah, the calculator runs on the taxed total here, too. The front of house staff didnt program the system so causing a scene over a trivial amount of money simply isnt worth my time, my breath, or my good mood, especially when I know its going to the staff who are insanely underpaid and overabused.

The 3% is simply a passthrough of the fees charged by the processing company and we all know this.


Me too. My drink bill when dining is usually inconsequential, and I am not usually paying the bill, but if I am, I calculate before tax. I don’t think about it; "Ooooo! I save $2.00! " That’s just what I was taught. Also, while I don’t go to bars much, when I do, I don’t tip 20 percent + like I do for food. I might tip for a good talk and a good time, but it is not on a percentage of the bill.


Are you suggesting the food bill is not inflated?

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Of topic perhaps, and I don’t work in the industry, but I was under the impression that the profit on restaurant food was very little, while the profit on alcohol could vary from significant to a lot. Is that no so?

Back to tipping; I don’t know how it got started but pre-tax tipping isnt that unusual. Some say you tip on service, and tax isn’t service.


That’s definitely true.

Without an ABC license most restaurants would go under.

But that said, it’s not like the price of food is not inflated. It’s just inflated less.

Ever order a an iceberg lettuce wedge salad at a steakhouse??