Back to basic tipping code: reward according to service

At one restaurant, a waiter forgets to bring the soup. When reminded, he claims it was never ordered (although it is listed on the check). At another, a waitress obligingly explains the chef's special and later comes by to ask if it is cooked just right. She also makes sure that the water glasses are always full, without the fuss of thrusting a pitcher between people in conversation.

When it comes time to leave a tip, what do you do? Leave the rude waiter a small top and reward the helpful waitress? That seems like common sense. But too many people think that they must leave a 15 to 20 percent tip regardless of service, according to tipping experts.

"Some people bellow and make a scene when the service has not been good, but most of us just pay our dues," says Robert S. Farrington, president of Tippers Anonymous, headquartered in Cochituate, Mass. Mr. Farrington and John E. Schein, president of Tipper's International, based in Oshkosh, Wis., try to combat inferior service by restoring tipping, a reward for good service, to its original purpose. Both groups use "tips" as an acronym for "to insure prompt service."

"People like to have their coffee with their meal," says Mr. Farrington. "And they don't like to wait for their check.

"Most people are intimidated into giving a certain percentage tip no matter what the service is like," he adds.

Both Mr. Farrington and Mr. Schein maintain they are not opposed to tipping.

"Lest you think I'm a cheapskate. I have given 25 percent tips for excellent service," says Mr. Farrington. But he has also given no tip for terrible service. Both groups offer report cards that customers can leave with service personnel to explain a tip, whether it is low, average, or extravagant.

Mr. Farrington suggests that a customer rate service people according to how well he or she is treated and whether or not the server "adjusted" to his or her needs.

Tipper International, whose motto is "What you receive is what you leave," offers cards on which customers can comment about service, quality, cleanliness, prices, courtesy, and atmosphere.

The groups also work with management, particularly in the restaurant industry , to encourage service personnel to do their best. Tippers Anonymous provides posters with such slogans as "Have a bright and cooperative attitude! It will up your tips and enhance your life style! It's easy!" Another reads: "Timing! Match your pace to the customer's mood and up your tips!"

Mr. Schein says this sort of advice "tends to put [service] people on their toes so that customers will give them their just rewards."

Both groups offer information to interested consumers. Tippers Anonymous, PO Box 178, Cochituate, Mass. 01778, will send tipper report cards to members who join and pay the $2 fee.

Tipper's International, PO Box 2351, Oshkosh, Wis. 54903, charges for individual materials. A rating booklet and sets of report cards each cost $1 (not including postage). They also offer a cardboard dial that becomes a tipping cumputer to help customers figure out how much a tip should be according to the price and the desired tip percentage, which ranges from 10 to 30 percent. Persons who want to tip less have to do their own math. The pocket-size calculator costs $3.

A 60-page tipping guide is also available from Tipper's International for $3. It gives information on the history of tipping and recommends how much to tip different service personnel, such as bellhops, waiters or waitresses, and hair stlists. It also summarizes tipping customs in various foreign countries.

"The booklet helps people cope with unfamiliar situations in good taste," says Mr. Schein. It is somewhat informative, a bit silly, and contains one picture of a harem waiting upon a man -- as archaic as the 10 percent tip.

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