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Tips on Tipping


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As a customer, I like having the power to tip high or tip low depending on the service. I guess I fall in the "What's the incentive for good service if there's no tip" category. But I'd love to hear the other side argued.

And the article emphasizes that this will raise the salary of the kitchen staff, which is certainly a good thing.

Jael

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And the article emphasizes that this will raise the salary of the kitchen staff, which is certainly a good thing.

Jael

This raises the whole question of what happens to tips after they leave the patron's pocket. Some places have what is called "tip pooling." I'm not going to profess to understand what happens to tips once they go into the "pool" and which members of the staff get a cut. But my guess is that only a portion of the tip finds its way into the pocket of the server/waiter. I'm sure those with more knowledge of the issue can weigh in. The question raised is "does a service compris system result in any meanful change in the distribution of tips?".
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This raises the whole question of what happens to tips after they leave the patron's pocket.  Some places have what is called "tip pooling."  I'm not going to profess to understand what happens to tips once they go into the "pool" and which members of the staff get a cut.  But my guess is that only a portion of the tip finds its way into the pocket of the server/waiter.  I'm sure those with more knowledge of the issue can weigh in.  The question raised is "does a service compris system result in any meanful change in the distribution of tips?".

In general, waiters have to 'tip out' to those that help them on the floor/bar. This means a portion of the tip goes to the service bartender, busboys and runners (if they exist). This can take up to 25%-45% of the total tips received by that waiter.

Some restaurants determine the tip out amound based on what the server sells. Others just trust the server to be fair, based on the tips they really earned. I always perferred the latter (as a busboy years ago) since I could expect a higher tip out if I worked really hard for my servers.

I have never heard of a tip out to the kitchen staff.

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I guess I fall in the "What's the incentive for good service if there's no tip" category. But I'd love to hear the other side argued.

Honestly, if this was almost anywhere besides Per Se I think I would be in your camp. But when you are in that stratosphere of the dining world you have to assume a certain caliber of waitstaff, real pros. I can't imagine anyone would survive very long if they were not very, very good. Not that there wouldn't be slip ups, but I would trust that the establishment would address them satisfactorily. To put it another way, how many diners at Per Se would NOT tip 20% anyway (aside from serial 15%-and-not-a-dime-more crowd which Per Se I'm sure is willing to lose. It's not as if they are hurting for business).

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The pooling of tips has long been established in top-flight restaurants. In my experience, both as a manager and a waiter, it works fabulously provided you have strong management.

When there is strong management, the level of professionalism and teamwork is generally very high. Poor management, tip pooling is essentially the "good" waiters carry the "bad" waiters.

The 20% service charge isn't even that big of a deal to me. At the level Per Se operates, I don't think many would not go there solely because of this. I think from a PR standpoint they should have just said, "Effective September 1st all of our employees will be on a salary and prices will rise by approximately 20%."

Now, what is really the "groundbreaking" news to me is that the tips will be pooled amongst the entire staff, surely in effort to compensate the BOH. Everyone in the biz knows the great disparity between $/per hour and $$/year between the waitstaff, and every other person who works in the restaurant, to include managers.

I am no employment lawyer, but I believe this distribution of tip money means he can no longer use the tip credit, even if all of the "tipped employees" earn more than minimum wage. So he's going to have to pay everyone a lot more per hour.

I've heard it estimated that Per Se grosses around 7.5 Million a year. At 20% gratuity, that amounts to $1,500,000 per year. If they have 50 employees (which is surely low), that's $30,000 per year/ per employee.

What I wonder about is what the base level of compensation will be per employee. I can't imagine many top flite waiters in Manhattan wanting to work for $75,000 per year, let alone potentially $50,000. No matter how nice the restaurant.

I've heard about the mandatory gratuity and pooling at the FL, but I've never heard that the pool was split equally with everyone. Has anyone else?

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Honestly, if this was almost anywhere besides Per Se I think I would be in your camp.  But when you are in that stratosphere of the dining world you have to assume a certain caliber of waitstaff, real pros.

That makes sense. At Per Se I would expect wonderful service to continue under this policy. If it starts spreading through the dining world, then I'd have concerns.

Edited by jm chen
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Honestly, if this was almost anywhere besides Per Se I think I would be in your camp.  But when you are in that stratosphere of the dining world you have to assume a certain caliber of waitstaff, real pros.  I can't imagine anyone would survive very long if they were not very, very good.  Not that there wouldn't be slip ups, but I would trust that the establishment would address them satisfactorily.  To put it another way, how many diners at Per Se would NOT tip 20% anyway (aside from serial 15%-and-not-a-dime-more crowd which Per Se I'm sure is willing to lose. It's not as if they are hurting for business).

Besides, nothing stops you from adding something as a tip if you wish. In many European countries, a service charge is included in the price. At least they are being upfront and saying what the charge is for. Of course, it is split with the back of the house staff too. Also, in most restaurants, after tipping out, that 20% tip becomes a 13 or 14% tip for the server.

What I want to know is whether that 20% is charged on the very expensive wine that is on Per Se's wine list.

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What I want to know is whether that 20% is charged on the very expensive wine that is on Per Se's wine list.

From what I understand this is the case (20% on the total bill). This is the only place that would have problems with such a policy. Does a waiter really earn that $400 for opening a $2,000 bottle of wine? On top of that does the restaurant deserve that extra $400 on top of the already astronomical profit margin built into the price of the bottle? But this is an entirely different discussion :P

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In the end, what this means at Per Se is that the cooks are getting a raise and the waiters are getting a cut in pay.

Hmm, then in a competitive market like NYC I would be surprised if they were able to attract top notch waitstaff. I could see how this may backfire in the long run: require 20% on top of the bill to be split with BOH, lose great servers who know they can make gobs more money elsewhere, service starts to decline, patrons start bitching more and more about the required 20%. Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy :P

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Hmm, then in a competitive market like NYC I would be surprised if they were able to attract top notch waitstaff.  I could see how this may backfire in the long run:  require 20% on top of the bill to be split with BOH, lose great servers who know they can make gobs more money elsewhere, service starts to decline, patrons start bitching more and more about the required 20%.  Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy  :P

My guess is that "Per Se" on a waiter's resume would look pretty good and the 20% surcharge is a good reason to look for work elsewhere.
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Hmm, then in a competitive market like NYC I would be surprised if they were able to attract top notch waitstaff.  I could see how this may backfire in the long run:  require 20% on top of the bill to be split with BOH, lose great servers who know they can make gobs more money elsewhere, service starts to decline, patrons start bitching more and more about the required 20%.  Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy  :P

I would be very suprised if the waitstaff at Per Se doesn't have to tip out to the back of the house as it is now.

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Last week I had lunch in one of our finer dining establishments with six of my colleagues. I made the reservation through Open Table and was notified in the confirmation that the restaurant adds a 20% gratuity to parties of six or more. Well that was no big deal because I'd dined there several times and always had good service.

Well, the service was somewhat terrible. We each had only a beverage and a main course but the meal took an hour and a half. Even though we wanted dessert, we figured we wouldn't have the time.

My question is, "Is there a disincentive for the server to give a table of six or more good service because he/she knows he's getting 20% anyway?"

Thanks for your help.

-Ed

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It's an interesting question. I too have had beyond-lackluster service at a fine dining establishment with a large party. I believe it was not coincidental that this was also during Restaurant Week. And we were all in our 20s.

We complained, and management told us that the 20% was not a requirement, and they'd be happy to take it off the bill so we could leave whatever tip we wanted. I suspect that most restaurants who have the 20% gratuity policy also have the take-it-off-if-there-are-complaints policy. So a smart waiter would provide good service regardless of the "guaranteed" 20%.

In most restaurants, though, I think it's a good policy -- I've eaten meals with enough large groups to know that otherwise, somehow, you end up having to wring a few extra bucks out of several folks just to get to 18%, and it's unpleasant for everyone. Maybe that's just my stack of stingy friends, but I suspect it's not.

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I think most decent servers in most decent establishments actually try to provide good service regardless of the size of the party. I was a waiter for a few years and I think the cause/effect of tipping is a bit exagerrated -- most people want to do a good job. Of course, kids these days...

Note also that it appears (from what you've written, there may be more) that the root problem was in the kitchen, not with the server.

If you're in a place where the service has been good in the past, and it falls off in a larger party, there's probably another explanation.

Of course, there's a big difference between a party of 8 and a party of 20, any group that big is going to get impersonal service because of the logistical problems of serving a group that size. It's no longer a dinner, it's a banquet. Get ready for rubber chicken.

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I second Waitman. the problem might not be the server but kitchen, or something else got stuck between your order (like a larger party than yours) . Or it is just that your party is 6 and assuming that they dont have a big kitchen and everyone in your party orders different meals , that will take long time than usual also.

But if you really think that the problem is the server , there is no question you should pay the service charge. and nothing is wrong when you ask the manager to take it out of the bill.

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Note also that it appears (from what you've written, there may be more) that the root problem was in the kitchen, not with the server.

While the kitchen may have been part of the problem, there was a 25 minute wait from the time the server dropped off the dessert menus until he came back to take the order.

-Ed

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Among all the restaurants that I dine at, I often tip generously to reflect how much I appreciate the service and food. Working in the industry I tip well over the standard but I have been wondering for a bit what is the etiquette for tipping at Japanese restaurants, particularly the sushi chef. And what about other restaurants? Is it out of line to tip the chef at any other restaurants if I have an outstanding experience. I welcome all responses especially from chefs.

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The first post seems to limit this commentary to tipping the chef at a sushi restaurant while the title of the thread seems to be more general. I can't comment on the propreity of tipping sushi chefs separately from the rest of the service staff. But I agree with Joe; when a meal is expemplary, I sometimes ask the wait staff to see if the chef has a moment to come to the table and, if he does, ask the wait staff to please bring an extra wine glass. I specifically recall going through this process at Cordoruy one evening. Chef Power was able to come to the table and help us finish off our bottle of wine, an Oregon Pinot, if I recall correctly. I paid close attention to make sure that there would be some left for the chef. But I count this more in the nature of offering "compliments to the chef" than "tipping."

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when a meal is expemplary, I sometimes ask the wait staff to see if the chef has a moment to come to the table and, if he does, ask the wait staff to please bring an extra wine glass. 

My impression is that a chef rarely has a moment to come to the table, because that moment can quickly turn into five minutes. Rule of thumb: if a chef comes out to the table, grinning, standing with perfect posture, and one arm tucked behind his back, he wants to get the hell away from there ASAP.

Question: when a glass of wine is sent back to the kitchen, is it ever actually drunk? Is it poured down the drain? Left out for the cleanup crew? What actually happens to that glass which is so magnanimously and ceremoniously sent back "to the chef" compliments of Vinny Maggotino?

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Question:  when a glass of wine is sent back to the kitchen, is it ever actually drunk?  Is it poured down the drain?  Left out for the cleanup crew?  What actually happens to that glass which is so magnanimously and ceremoniously sent back "to the chef" compliments of Vinny Maggotino?

the Chefs I know do not drink when they are running in the kitchen but of course they like to try the wine as a sip or a glass after their shift is done or close to the closing.

if it is for chef I always save that glass and make sure he drinks it.

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the Chefs I know do not drink when they are running in the kitchen but of course they like to try the wine as a sip or a glass after their shift is done or close to the closing.

if it is for chef I always save that glass and make sure he drinks it.

I have had chefs come to the table to share a glass of wine, and I have often inquired and then sent a glass to the chef (since I tend to bring my own older wines from my cellar at many restaurants here in DC). Of course, when the DC Crü has a wine dinner, we normally have worked with the chef to set up the meal in order to make sure that the food and wines pair well. We have been honored to have Chef Power, Tony Burell (when he was at Gabriel) and Chef Poteaux at Aquarelle, to name a few, join us for a glass of wine during these dinners.

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What is the practice amongst waitstaff after receiving a tip? It is my assumption that regardless of the restaurant (Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, Sweet Water, etc...) that the waitstaff has to tip out the folks busing the tables, the hostess, and the person in the kitchen checking the food before it goes to the table.

Am I wrong in assuming this, or does it also differ between here in the city versus someplace more rural?

Thank you.

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The tip is indeed split with many others. How many different ways depends on how many back servers are present. Some restaurants may have food runners, expediter, bussers, and of course the bartenders. I dont recall ever tipping out the hostess, unless she or he contributed significantly toward the service in my tables. It is standard that the server tips out 25% of their tips to back servers.

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It is standard that the server tips out 25% of their tips to back servers.

That is wonderful if you did that, but out here in these here suburbs, they are only tipping out 10% (and my guess is that most of the unscrupulous servers where my son worked weren't tipping even that out). He was working at a well know chain here and the poor kid was making approximately $15-20 a night, for six hours work! Unfortunately this restaurant paid him server minimum at that. Needless to say he quit after 2 weeks!

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Enlightenment, please, re. tipping sommelier. Recently, great job done by Ramon at Marcel's who paired wine by the glass with our party of 4's three courses. In hindsight, I fear faux pas in adding additional tip to payment of bill (hoping he would receive a split) instead of directly tipping him.

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Being one that earns a living from the gratuity of others I can say that I base my performance on the percentage of the check that is left. When I recieve a tip that is less than 20%( after tax) I feel as if I may have let someone down. I do understand that there are many ways that people calculate tips. I am not sugesting anyone should change their method or that one way is better than the other. I do know that gratuity is just that. A gracious way of letting someone know you appreciate a job well done.

PS tipping above 20% is a sure way to earn VIP service at those places you frequent often <_<

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This topic has been pretty beaten up on other boards, so I understand if the moderator curtails this discussion. It would be useful to hear this board's comments though, because I sense the group think here is perhaps a bit more focused on the non-chain/fine dining arena.

I'm a standard 20% of the gross bill tipper, i.e. after tax. I might move a couple bucks up or down to convey some sense of admiration or admonishment, but not much.

My problem comes with wine. Let's just assume the waiter handled all the wine. If four of us have dinner and a cheap bottle of wine ($50) and the bill is $350, the tip is $70. But if we have two good bottles of wine ($150 ea.), the bill is $600, then the tip is $120. That's a big difference, 70% more tip for maybe 10% more work. Does the waiter understand when I only leave $80-$90 that I'm not short-changing him?

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Several years ago, when I worked at the McCormick & Schmick's on K Street, our policy was to tip out 3% of your overall sales. The bussers got 2%, the bar 1%. Smart servers tipped the bar 2% as well. If you worked a private party whose reservation had been scheduled through our private dining coordinator, she got another 2% and the house took 1% off the top. Because the restaurant has a single-server philosophy, the portion of overall sales tipped out is relatively low. At fine dining establishments, which have more people attending to a table, the proportion of sales tipped out is assuredly greater.

So, on an evening's sales of $1400 worth of food and alcohol, the breakdown might have looked like this:

Gross tips: $1400 x 17% (because everyone doesn't leave 20%) = $238

Bar's portion: $1400 x 2% = $28

Busser's portion: $1400 x 2% = $28

Take-home, taxable pay: $182

Let's say that $1000 of those sales came from a private party (10 people in a private room with a minimum of $1000, they leave a $200 tip, and you have a few other tables on the side). In addition to the above, the private dining coordinator gets tipped out $20 and the house gets $10, bringing the total earned for the evening down to $152.

Like crazeegirl, I always tip on the post-tax bill. I get annoyed with friends who tip smaller percentages or on pre-tax (or worse, pre-wine) sales.

ETA: "Take-home pay" has yet to be taxed by the federal, state, and city governments. Subtract another 25 percent for income taxes and you have the amount the server realizes.

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I guess I'm in the minority, but I tip pretax, but always leave at least 20% of that. I just don't see tipping on what goes to the government, especially since it doesn't count against the server's total of sales for income tax purposes. As to tipping on the wine, I tend to tip on the wine unless I have bought several expensive bottles. Then I will tip 20% or more on the food and up to $20 per bottle. When I bring my own bottle from my cellar, I leave a tip that is the same as the corkage fee or $20, whichever is greater.

BTW, if I can, when I pay for my meal with a credit card, I tend to leave the tip in cash, not on the card. That way the server can decide what to declare.

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BTW, if I can, when I pay for my meal with a credit card, I tend to leave the tip in cash, not on the card.  That way the server can decide what to declare.

Gee, I wish my employer would do that for me. Anyway...

My question is: When did 15% become 20%? I've always tipped 20%. But it used to be that 15% was the standard, and my 20% was generous. At some point, 20% became the standard, and 15% became a punishment.

Not that it makes a big difference in my life, but now I have to tip 25% to be the same old generous fellow I used to be.

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This topic has been pretty beaten up on other boards, so I understand if the moderator curtails this discussion.

[Not only won't I curtail it, I'm making it a separate thread.]

To this day, I have yet to get a satisfactory answer about how to tip on an expensive bottle of wine.

Restaurateurs, managers, sommeliers, and servers will often hem, haw, obfuscate, and waffle when this subject comes up, basically smiling and saying that yes, tipping twenty percent on the total wine bill is always appreciated. Well, duh.

The truth of the matter is: with the exception of decanting, and possibly some extra pouring attention, it doesn't require any more effort to serve a $500 bottle of wine than it does a $20 bottle of wine.

And it's no fair bringing up the cost of inventory, glassware, breakage, returned bottles, and laundry service here, because all that's covered in the cost of the wine itself, which is usually criminally high to begin with.

But if you tip $4 on a $500 bottle of wine, rest assured you'll be remembered as the single biggest cheeseball on the face of the planet.

Now, as for palming the sommelier some cash, that's another matter entirely, and I'm sure Mark Slater will have a thing or two to say about it.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Like crazeegirl, I always tip on the post-tax bill.  I get annoyed with friends who tip smaller percentages or on pre-tax (or worse, pre-wine) sales.

I understand why servers want to be tipped on post-tax totals (more $$$), but what's the justification for it?

Meal for six at Jaleo DC:

$300 pre-tax

$30 tax

$66 (20%) post-tax tip

Meal for six at Jaleo Bethesda:

$300 pre-tax

$15 tax

$63 (20%) post-tax tip

Assuming the same service (in theory only, I know), if tipping on post-tax amounts is appropriate then why should the server in Maryland make $3 less than the one in DC? Maybe in order to avoid insulting servers in less aggressively taxed regions we should just calculate all tips based on the highest regional tax amount.

Taxes on meals aren't a restaurant's to keep - why should the diner pay a gratuity on it for the server? I know it's a small amount each meal, but it adds up to about $8 million a year in the DC area.

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tipping on the bottle comes down to a simple fact of service. Did you order the wine without solicitation? Did a 'wine educated server/manager/bartender' steer you towards a selection, present it CORRECTLY, and made sure that the wine was served properly? Did they fill your glass up to the rim in hopes of digging another selection out of your wallet? Were they capable of talking about the wine in ways other than using the terms "Killer Juice", "Its really, really, really good" or my favorite the shrug of the shoulders and "I like it, its fruity".

Its all in what your expecatations are in tipping on that bottle of wine.Simply put, tip whatever you feel acceptable.

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BTW, if I can, when I pay for my meal with a credit card, I tend to leave the tip in cash, not on the card.  That way the server can decide what to declare.

I don't think this works. The IRS has a procedure that is based on the amount of the sales, not on actual tips. If anyone is interested I'd be happy to pull up the Rev. Proc. and I think there is a 9th circuit case on it.

And to keep this on topic, I heard that a famous conservative radio talk show host from Florida was in Citronelle the other day and ordered a bottle of DRC ($2-3K)and tipped 20% on the entire bill.

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Except in very unusual circumstances, I tip 20% on the whole bill, regardless of what I spend on wine. Yes, it's more than generous if I order an expensive bottle (which for me is well below DRC at a couple of thousand but three figures is not unusual), but I factor it into the cost of the experience. I can afford it, and I just hope the staff appreciates it (and remembers me).

As for the argument that it takes no more effort to serve a $500 bottle than a $50 bottle, it also generally takes no more effort to serve a $30 dollar entree than a $15 dollar entree. It's all just a cost of dining out to me.

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I don't think this works.  The IRS has a procedure that is based on the amount of the sales, not on actual tips.  If anyone is interested I'd be happy to pull up the Rev. Proc. and I think there is a 9th circuit case on it.

Back in 80's, someone I supervised at a non-profit was having to pay off a hefty tax bill to the IRS because when he was a waiter the IRS decided that he didn't declare enough tips. Just one more problem for those who work for tips. If you are a lousy server who routinely gets less than 15%, you may get screwed again by the tax man.
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Restaurants are required to have tip declarations of at least 8% of sales for their wait staff to meet the safe harbor provisions. The IRS dosen't care if its a $21 bottle of Refosco or a $499 bottle of Dal Forno Amarone. The restauranteur must show 8% tips and pay taxes on that. The server needs to declare tips on that as well. Just something to consider when thinking about tips on wine bottles!

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I would imagine that the reason people cross below the 8% threshold has more to do with tip declaration honesty (or lack of) rather than 5% tips on $500 bottles of wine. <_<

Honestly, once you start getting into wine that is in the triple, let alone quadruple digits, a tip of 20% on the wine isn't really necessary. If you can do it, hey, it's nice to be you. But a waiter shouldn't really expect it, and I don't think most do.

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Honestly, once you start getting into wine that is in the triple, let alone quadruple digits, a tip of 20% on the wine isn't really necessary. If you can do it, hey, it's nice to be you. But a waiter shouldn't really expect it, and I don't think most do.

This is the seminal question: What do waiters really expect with regard to tipping on wine, especially when the price of the wine approaches the stratosphere?

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