Nothing spoils a dinner out faster than receiving the check. The server places the bill on the table and gets lost like J.J. Abrams.
You silently stare at the slip, usually housed in the vessel of the moment: a bamboo boat, a sleek metal tray, or an origami basket. They attempt to soften the blow with a small gift: a fortune cookie, a mint, or a chocolate.
Servers who like to make their 20% will look over their shoulder, and slip a few extra mints in to the boat, tray or basket. They want to say: “I like you. I don’t do this for anyone else.”
If she or he is wearing a low-cut top, laughing at your jokes, or refilling your water glass (without you even having to ask), they may be looking for 22-25%.
You reach for the check. This implies two things: responsibility and generosity. It will be met with a “Thank you.” Or, “I had no idea.” And sometimes: “I wouldn’t have ordered the steak.”
In these situations, there is no other option. You must pay the entire check or look like an a-hole.
You kick yourself for not saying “separate checks” while ordering. You had been debating it, but thought it would make you look cheap. Then they brought the nachos and you forgot all about it.
You are generally the kind of person who tips a hearty 13-14% and sometimes even 17% (when that works out to an amount less than $3). 18-20% is unheard of, unless you are in a group of 8 or more and they add the mandatory gratuity. But if you had to wait for a table, or drinks, or your soup was cold, you are forced to subtract a few percentage points.
You put your credit card on the table. The hologram flashes and the server swoops in. Within seconds they are back with the slips, all smiles and telling you to have a great night.
You attempt to calculate the tip, while assessing the service. Your steak was medium rare and you asked for medium. Ridiculous. You asked for dressing on the side and it was on top. Outrageous. And your friend asked for a wedge of lemon and got a wedge of lime. Seriously.
Your friend offers you the tip calculator app on his iphone, while you shield the slip. It’s okay… you’re really good at math.
Do you tip 12%, flip the slip and head directly for the door? Or do you tip 18%, leave it face up for all to see?
Your friends move toward the door as you tap the pen against your lip. The server smiles from across the room, so confident.
You neatly fill in the tip line and add it all up. There’s no mistaking that 4 for a 9, is there? You retrace the 4, sign the slip and throw it on the table haphazardly, secretly hoping it will land face down.
You stuff a handful of toothpicks and mints into your pockets as you pass the maitre d’station. There, that’ll show them.