Let's say the bill came to $34.56 and you're paying with a credit card. A 15% tip takes that to a little over $39.74. Can you simply write $40 for the total, circle it, sign, and leave the tip blank? Or must you do the math and write the correct number for the tip?

If you have to do the math, why? If you left $40 in cash they'd have to do the math anyway...

Is the answer different for other cultures where tipping is customarily done?

Does it offend the staff when you leave the math to them, akin to leaving a low tip?

  • 1
    I think a tip is not a mandatory fixed amount. If it was (like taxes), it would be calculated by the cash machine. And in many restaurants, they actually use the cash machine to calculate a suggested tip amount.
    – Vince
    May 19 '15 at 18:59
  • One has to first ask, if you are taking the time and brain power to figure out approximately what 15% is, would it be that difficult to write that amount down and add it to the bill in your head? Personally I estimate what the 15% is, then round that up to the nearest dollar and write that whole dollar amount on the tip line (and do the math ;-).
    – user13044
    May 19 '15 at 20:26
  • It's still less work to write 40 than to write 6 and 40.56 May 19 '15 at 20:50
  • i do this all the time. no one cares. it's no problem. the restaurant just wants the final amount. if you're worried about fraud, it's simple to cancel a charge on a card as well.
    – user428517
    May 19 '15 at 21:42
  • 1
    I wonder though, does it offend the staff in any way by creating more work for them? Is it akin to tipping low? May 19 '15 at 21:50

Speaking as someone who used to serve, I'd prefer if you filled out the tip line yourself. Since I had to add up the tip lines at the end of the night to calculate tips, if the tip line wasn't filled out then I'd have to do all the math myself and then fill it in.

It's not a huge deal, but it doesn't actually make anything easier.

Also, we didn't have to do the math on cash tips. The reconciliation at the end of the night just tells you how much you owe back to the restaurant, or the other way around if you have more tips than cash you're carrying. Cash orders just get rung out to exact change in the computer and you hold onto the difference until the end of the night, or they get change and leave a tip out of that and you don't need to calculate that either.

Maybe that reads confusing. Cash handling for servers is sort of inherently confusing. To answer your question, filling out the tip lines makes it easier on your server.

But I can't emphasize this enough: make sure you get the math right! If you can't get the math right just leave a final total, because any kind of question about the tip means that your server gets the smallest possible tip.

Say you have a $40 order and you write $6 on the tip line, then write $47 on the total line. The managers are going to insist that you only get the $6 because the customer who's paying gets the benefit of the doubt, even if you actually meant to leave a $7 tip. If we catch that before you leave we can ask you to fix the math and initial it, but if you're already gone there's nobody to ask and the server loses that dollar.


If the tip is not included in the bill, I will do what you indicated...

  1. make a rough guess
  2. add the rough guess to the bill
  3. top up the new total to the next highest integer
  4. put that figure in the total and sign the receipt (or credit card)

This same technique works for me in the USA, the UK, France, Italy, Germany... basically all of the EEA, and Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. Northern Africa, Central and South America... I think it's a generic approach that can safely be used in the Western Hemisphere.

If I'm required to pay cash, I'll do pretty much the same thing, but tell the waiter something like "...you can bring me back a fiver out of that..." They bring you back a fiver and account for the difference as a tip.

That's if the tip was not included. If it is included, then I'll go ahead and pay the exact amount.

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