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Gratuities and Arithmetic: How to figure tips in your head

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Tipping for service is certainly a common practice, but the calculations can seem complex

Sure, it’s simple to come up with a 15 or 20 percent tip amount when you’re sitting at your desk with a calculator handy. But how do you come up with the right number when you’re standing in the salon, climbing out of a cab, or rising from the table in a restaurant?

Tip calculations are simple, once you know a handy little mathematical trick.

If you wish to leave a 20 percent tip, just figure out 10 percent first. Divide the bill by 10. Then double that amount to make 20 percent.

For a 15 percent tip, simply add 10 percent and half of 10 percent.

Here’s how this plays out on-the-spot.

Let’s say your bill at the local eatery comes to $32.44. Ten percent of that is $3.20. A 20 percent tip would be $6.40, so you’d probably leave $6.50, or even $7.00. A cash-paying customer might even drop $40 on the table, which is actually a $7.56 tip, but saves the time of gathering change.

Suppose your manicurist charges you $25.00. Ten percent of that is $2.50, so a 20 percent tip is an even $5.00. Handing over $30 is a pretty much a no-brainer.

What if your waiter at the sandwich shop does a half-baked job before presenting you with a bill totaling $16.65? Maybe you don’t feel like rewarding him with a 20 percent tip. Well, 10 percent is $1.66. Another five percent is $.83. That adds up to $2.49. So the grand total is $19.14. Even with crummy service, most folks would round that up to $20.

Should you ever not tip at all, if service is particularly bad?

Etiquette experts differ on this issue. Most urge folks to tip a bit, as service employees who customarily welcome tips generally receive relatively low wages. Management expects these staffers to pull in tips. These individuals are expected to declare tips for taxes. So tipping is generally expected, even is service is poor.

However, in very rare and particularly egregious circumstances, such as when a server is rude or cruel or completely disregards a customer, a one-time non-tipping response may be more than an issue of etiquette. In such a drastic case, the offended customer would be likely to mention the bad experience to management as well.

Are you still stumped?

In a particularly hectic moment, or when multiple distractions make tip figuring seem like a daunting proposition, it is altogether acceptable to pull out a calculator or smart phone to figure out appropriate tips. Most of today’s cellular phones, tablets, and similar personal devices have calculator features.

For a 20 percent tip, simply multiple the bill total by 0.2. Then round up, if you are feeling generous, or if the quality of service warrants. That’s the number you enter on the gratuity line, if you’re signing a charge card slip.

If you’re paying with cash or a check, just multiple the bill total by 1.2 to include a 20 percent tip. There’s your total with the gratuity included.

You are cordially invited to join (“like”) the Etiquette Examiner – Chicago and More page on Facebook for courtesy tips, as well as information and even humor on matters of manners.

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