Q&A: What's the proper tipping etiquette?

Who to tip, when to tip and how much

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – As with many of the stories done by the Investigative Unit, we conduct a long interview, pick out several soundbites, and then combine the sound with other elements such as graphics and video footage to complete a story.

The problem is, a lot of good information gets “left on the cutting room floor,” an old expression from the days of editing film.

[READ: How much should you be tipping for services?]

Luckily we have ClickOrlando.com and our Q&A series. 

Last week, News 6 investigative reporter Adrianna Iwasinski spoke with etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore on the dos and don’ts of tipping.

The story came to life after a newsroom conversation about tipping. If you normally tip the Domino’s pizza delivery guy, are you obligated to tip the counter folks if you pick up the pizza at the store? What about an Uber Eats driver? The baristas at Starbucks?

Jacqueline’s answers to our questions were great, but we wanted to give our readers a little more “tipping” fodder for water cooler conversations. The conversation that follows has been edited.

WKMG: What is tipping and why do we do it? 

Whitmore: Well tipping to my knowledge stands for To Insure Prompt Service – TIPS. We want all servers to exceed our expectations, but that’s not always the case. But if we get good service and the food is good and the food is fresh and the person is polite, then why not show our appreciation by giving that person a certain amount?

WKMG: Let’s talk a little bit about modern day tipping and the delivery services. This is something new that a lot of people are using. You have a convenience fee, but then on top of that do you tip? Why or why not?

Whitmore: First of all yes you do tip on top of that. The tip is usually to ensure prompt service and if the food is hot and if it’s served in a timely manner. I always reward people for good service. 

WKMG: People are paying for their items, and a convenience fee, and then a tip on top of that as well. All of a sudden your convenience is costing you a bit of money. 

Whitmore: Yes it’s very expensive for takeout because they are saving you time and time is our most valuable asset. If you can sit back and relax and watch your television show and pick up the phone and order and have someone else deliver it while it’s raining or sleeting or snowing, then that’s a convenience to you. So that’s why these people appreciate their tips. 

WKMG: How many people are actually tipping? 

Whitmore: I don’t know the exact numbers of people who are actually tipping but when I did a poll on Facebook, I found that at least 50 percent of the people said that they would give a tip because they felt that if they got good service, and the delivery came within a specific timeframe, that was reasonable. They felt generous enough to leave at least 15 percent. 

WKMG: And what is a reasonable tip for food service deliveries? Some people might think I’ll give a dollar or two. But that might be too little. 

Whitmore: It is. When I order takeout I will oftentimes tip on the amount of the food alone. So if the food is $20, I’ll usually give three to four dollars, at least 15 sometimes 20 percent. Sometimes it’s even more than 20 percent. But it may not be the norm. It may be the exception to the norm. 

WKMG: Do you tip at a food truck? You’re showing up and you’re waiting for the food they’re preparing in front of you, but it’s not necessarily like a restaurant situation where you have a server. How do we handle that? 

Whitmore: Here in Mount Dora we have Food Truck Thursday every third Thursday of the month. And yes – there are some tip jars that sit outside the pick-up windows. Normally what people will do is they’ll throw in their loose change or they’ll throw in a dollar. These food trucks are run by individual mom and pop business owners and entrepreneurs. These are people who depend on their tips. They’re not necessarily there to demand your money, they’re there to give you good service and give you quality food.

WKMG: There’s a study that just came out last week saying millennials are some of the worst tippers. Why do you think that is?

Whitmore: I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I think that if it is true, it’s probably because they don’t make a lot of money but also maybe they’re just not aware of tipping practices. A lot of times etiquette is about awareness and mindfulness. And if they just haven’t been taught or they haven’t been shown by example, then oftentimes they don’t do it because they just aren’t aware. They don’t know and what you don’t know is what you don’t know.  

WKMG: Do you instead think younger people are apt to tip more generously? 

Whitmore: It’s usually people who have worked in the restaurant industry or in the service industry who are more apt to tip more generously. You’ll find those people are more generous because they have empathy for that person. 

WKMG: Let’s talk about etiquette because sometimes I wonder if etiquette has gone out the window. 

Whitmore: Etiquette is treating others the way you want to be treated. So if I’m a delivery person and I have delivered a pizza to you, I personally would want to be tipped. Because that’s the money that I used to feed my families. Traditionally in the United States, servers make a lower wage than they do in other parts of the world and they rely on their tips to help pay their bills. 

WKMG: So should we be paying our servers more?

Whitmore: Absolutely. But that’s not the norm. Normally we pay the servers minimum wage and then they rely on their tips for living. So the same thing is happening with the delivery services like UberEats and Postmates. Those people don’t make a lot of money unless of course they deliver a lot in an evening. But a lot of people are using this to supplement their income and so they are relying on their tips to increase their income. 

WKMG: So let’s say you’re talking with someone who tries to be very careful with their money. Maybe they shouldn’t be the ones who are ordering UberEats and other convenience services because they think they’re getting it for the cost of the food and then the delivery fee?

Whitmore: I don’t want to say don’t use takeout service if you’re not going to tip. I think it’s just being more aware or maybe you don’t use it as much. I would recommend to anybody to at least leave a few extra dollars. 

WKMG: Are we in a generation of over-tipping? 

Whitmore: I think tipping is good karma. What you give out will come back to you. And again that’s something I believe in. I think it’s part of our culture. It’s not going to go away anytime soon. I think that it’s expensive to live and if you can afford to eat out then tipping is part of that. 

WKMG: I remember back in the day it was double the tax and you’re good. What is the protocol nowadays especially on things like these delivery services? 

Whitmore: Normally 15 percent is the basic amount. But most people nowadays are tipping 18 to 20 percent and even above 20 percent if they receive extraordinary service. But normally 15 percent is the basic. If service is bad or if they have a problem with the food then they should take it up with management because it may not be the server’s fault. So if you're going to tip less then find out if there was a problem and how to rectify that situation and maybe the server can do that for you.

WKMG: We have so many different situations of when you should, shouldn’t or sometimes-maybe tip? 

Whitmore: I might walk into a coffee shop and order coffee and I might just give the loose change. Some days I may not give them anything because tipping is not necessarily required in that situation because I go to the window and I pick it up. Normally, tipping is not required in that situation. However, if I go to a restaurant and I receive poor service I’m still going to tip, but probably not as much. But I’m also going to find out why the service was bad. I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t tip. But again tipping is optional. It is a consumer’s right whether they want to leave a tip and how much they want to leave.

WKMG: Is tipping etiquette on the decline? 

Whitmore: Most people, I would say, would say etiquette is on the decline. But I do believe there are good people out there. There are good people and there are bad people, it just depends on what your perspective is. But I believe kindness breeds kindness and if you’re kind to someone then kindness will come back to you.

About the Authors:

Donovan is an investigative and special projects producer at News 6. Dr. Myrie (yep, he has a Ph.D.) has been with News 6 since 2016 and has degrees from Ithaca College, Columbia University and Union Institute & University. He’s made quite a name for himself of late in the News 6 family with his comprehensive and creative infographics.