Tips on Tipping

By Michael Hook

Las Vegas is a unique city where a high percentage of its employees make most of their money in tips because the establishments that they work for only pay minimum wage. Minimum wage in the state of Nevada is $8.25 and considering the cost of living in Nevada, minimum wage is not enough to survive.  This is where the concept of tipping comes into play. 

Receiving tips allows people who work in the service industry to earn a decent living. Without receiving tips, a minimum wage employee earns on average $15,800 a year before taxes.  However, this small amount of income is only possible if this person worked 40-hour weeks without missing a day.  When tips are added into the salary, a waiter or waitress can make up to $23,000 a year.  Tips can really influence an individual’s salary, which helps the server as well as the economy.  Tipping a waiter or waitress is beneficial, but the percentage of the tip should coincide with how good the service was. 

When service is poor you might ask yourself, why should I tip if the experience was lousy because of bad service? My solution to that question is what I call the “Pay it Backward” model.  With this model, you can assess how to tip based on the service at the restaurant. This model encompasses five different aspects of the dining experience:

1. Was the host/hostess/waiter friendly?

Did he or she say hello or were they generally nice to you?

If you had a question could they answer it?

For example, Malik and Jessica go to eat at IFH Mondays and the two hostesses are talking to each other and completely ignoring the couple. After about ten minutes the hostesses finish talking about the Jersey Shore and they sit Malik and Jessica in the smoking section, when they specifically asked for non-smoking.

4% Deduction right there in the tip. (If they are tipping on a 20% scale. Subtract 3% from a 15% scale.)

On the brighter side, Jonathan and Sally decide to eat at Appleseed’s and receive exceptionally good service. When they walk through the door the hostess immediately says hello with a nice bright smile on her face and asks the couple if they would like a booth or a table. This couple is promptly seated at their booth and is told that their waiter Jeremy will be right with them.

0% Deduction the service was great so far.

2. Did you get seated in a reasonable amount of time? (Keep in mind how busy the restaurant is at the time.) Malik and Jessica had to wait for the gifted gabber of a hostess for about ten minutes to end her intellectually challenging conversation before they were finally seated.

Another 4% deduction

Meanwhile over at Appleseed’s, Jonathan and Sally are talking about how they are happy because of how friendly the hostess was and how they were seated immediately at the time of their reservation.

0% deduction

3. Was your waiter or waitress prompt with taking your order?

Twenty minutes later over at IFH Monday’s Malik and Jessica are starting to get a little irritated.  They are usually very patient people, but it has been 20 minutes and they still haven’t seen their waiter yet.

Yet another 4% deduction

Over at Appleseed’s, Jonathan and Sally’s order was taken about twenty minutes ago, by Jeremy after of course introducing himself and making any necessary small talk that he chose to speak with them.

0% deduction

4. Was the food brought out promptly?  (Also keep in mind how busy it is.)

We are at IFH Monday’s, which seems to be living up to its name.  Malik and Jessica are both sporting enormous frowns and have that irritated four o’clock at work look in their eyes when their food is finally brought out, forty-five minutes after their water finally decided to show up.

4% deduction, the tip is getting microscopic

Jonathan and Sally’s food took about twenty-two minutes to be brought out to them; this is pretty good considering how busy it was.

0% deduction, maybe a possible increase in the tip

5. Was the food cooked how you like it?

Was it burnt, undercooked, a little overcooked or did it just taste horrible?

Near the end of their dining experience Malik and Jessica are quite frustrated and annoyed to say the least, but maybe the food will be great and they can forget about how awful the service was. But when the food is received it is just how they thought it would be, awful. Malik’s steak, which he asked to be cooked well done came out very rare, and Jessica got the entirely wrong meal that she ordered.  She had ordered ribs and received salmon, and now they end up having to wait another fifteen minutes for her ribs to come out.

The final 4% deduction is taken away. When Malik and Jessica leave, they do so without tipping and they tell each other that they will never come back to this restaurant.

On the flip side, Jonathan and Sally are enjoying their meals, which were cooked perfectly. Jonathan’s steak is medium-rare, how he asked for it and Sally’s lobster tastes terrific. They are enjoying a great night, partly because of a great dining experience and, because Jonathan is paying, he is starting to think about how much of a tip he wants to leave. The bill was $44.22 and he decides to leave a tip of $11, a 25% tip. Jonathan usually tips between 15 and 20 percent, but because service was exceptionally great, he figured that they deserved that tip.

One thing that people may think when reading the title of a model titled “Pay it Backward,” is that this model is negative however that is not the case. With proposing this model I am proposing a solution to the main problem: A bad customer experience. I believe that a waiter or waitress should be given the benefit of the doubt that they are going to provide excellent service. Therefore, I would say to assume that you are going to tip 15-20% and work your way down from there according to how bad the service was.

Thus, the model of “Paying it Backward.”





Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011) Occupational Employment and Wages In Las Vegas- Paradise May 2010. Referenced from

Steves, Rick. (2009). Tipping Tactics. Referenced from


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