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Tipping point

Following a recent meal and beers with some friends at Block 15, the subject of gratuities came up, as it pretty much always does after you eat at a sit-down sort of place.

For four of us, the tab was something like $86; the two of us teaming up on the paying agreed we'd just leave $100 in cash and let the very nice and helpful server keep the change.

As I do the math right now, that's around 16 percent, which isn't a tightwad's approach to gratuities, but if I had it to do over again, I'd maybe suggest we leave a bit more.

The meal made me think of a dinner I had with three guys at a steakhouse a few years back and our post-meal analysis of tipping.

One fellow said, "I don't eat out that much, so when I do I tip 20 percent if the service is good."

Another said his figure was 10 percent.

"Ten percent?" I said. "That was the going rate like 40 years ago. Myself, I start at 15 percent and if the service is really good, I go up from there."

As the first friend had astutely pointed out, for most people the difference between 10 percent and 20 percent is maybe a few bucks, so why not just tip higher and seem sort of generous? After all, these waitresses and waiters need to make a living too.

Of course, I must say that I'd rather our culture hadn't evolved as it has in regard to tipping; I'd just as soon pay more for the meal and have the servers get paid more, rather than feel compelled to do something -- i.e., leave a gratuity -- that's theoretically supposed to be a voluntarily given reward for exceptional service.

On my lone trip overseas, to Australia, I was on the verge of leaving a tip at a diner when my companion abruptly cut me off. "We don't do that here," he said. "Don't get people started thinking that's the way it's supposed to be."

Follow Steve Lundeberg on Twitter, @AnyGivenLundy, or email him at steve.lundeberg@lee.net.

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