What your restaurant server won’t tell you about your receipt

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We’ve all been there: You’re in that renowned restaurant at the tail end of a delicious meal and the server hands you the bill. These days, receipts are seldom the short pieces of paper with few figures on them like they used to be.

Nowadays, the tab often comes with all kinds of store serial numbers, the server’s name and even the tip suggestions at the bottom of them. It’s that latter item that holds a bit of mystery for U.S. diners.

The truth about those suggested tipping amounts on your receipt

Now it must be said that American waiters and waitresses are drastically underpaid, with many of them making a little more than $2 an hour no matter how big the party, difficult the patron or hot the plate. That’s why it’s always good to tip handsomely in appreciation for good service.

The rationale goes that those tip suggestions at the bottom of the receipt are merely guidelines to help the math-deficient among us give an amount somewhere in the ballpark of polite standards.

But the problem with those figures is that those suggested tip amounts are calculated with tax included. That means instead of paying for just the meal, you’re actually being asked to pay for the taxes associated with each amount.

Furthermore, as our picture clearly shows, instead of itemizing the tipping suggestions in a rationally systematic order (greatest to least or vice versa) many restaurants have resorted to putting a larger figure — in this case 18% — first, which coincidentally could lead a customer to believe that the other numbers are higher.

Clark.com reader Dave made this observation: “I’ve noticed at many restaurants that if you split the bill with friends and each get a receipt, the suggested tip is still based on the total— not just your part. This leads many people to tip for the whole table.”

Here’s Clark’s motto when it comes to restaurant tipping

Money expert Clark Howard makes a concerted effort to always over-tip his waiter or waitress regardless of the quality of service. His rationale is that they’re underpaid, and we wholeheartedly agree.

For emphasis, servers need to be paid more. At the same time, the restaurant industry’s tactics may cause patrons to scrutinize not only their food tabs, but the help. And that may not be helpful.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below or on Clark’s Twitter or Facebook.


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