Do You Tip at Non-Sit-Down Restaurants?

I’ve noticed a growing trend in the world of eating out, specifically for restaurants like:

  • take-out joints for lunches
  • smoothie shops
  • ice cream parlors
  • sandwich shops
  • pizza places (non-delivery)

For years, these take-out establishments have been content with setting their prices to cover their expenses and make a healthy profit. Somewhere along the line, a genius business person came up with the idea that putting a tip line on the receipt and forcing people to sign for the transaction might boost profits!

From a business point of view, this is brilliant. Just about anything collected on a tip is pure profit and:

  • Having a tip line on a receipt makes it feel like a tip is expected and customary, increasing the likelihood that one will be left.
  • A 20% tip on a $7 lunch bill is about $1.50, but people feel stingy leaving that kind of tip, so they leave $3 or $4 instead (blowing up the tip to almost 50%!)

Why I don’t tip here

In my opinion, a tip is something asked for and received when a service is performed—in the case of restaurants, that’s the act of cooking, serving, busing, seating, etc. But one can also make the case that a lot of those things are happening when we visit some of these smaller joints.

I base my decision on the simple fact that these places have never before asked for tips. That leads me to believe that this is nothing but a move to increase per-check totals and boost revenue, not a genuine move to “reward” the service of employees.

In addition, most of these places have cash tips jars sitting on the counter already, and both generous regulars and off-hand visitors do a fair job of making their happiness known.

The other side of the story

On the other hand, I’ve been considering the employee implications of my decision lately. Legally speaking, if the “restaurant” asks for tips, is it no longer obligated to pay their employees minimum wage? (You might recall that minimum wage for tip-based workers is much lower.) If that’s the case:

  • my refusal is eating into employee’s paychecks, and
  • it’s stopping making restaurant owners some serious money through a double-whammy: lower payroll costs and increased revenue.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place—we don’t want our costs of living to go up, but we also want to be fair to the people who help us.

What’s your take?

Do you tip at these kinds of restaurants, and why or why not? Considering some of the reasons I’ve outlined, are you likely to change your mind? Is it customary and expected to tip there, and I’ve just missed the boat completely?

Photo by realSMILEY

6-Step Analysis of a Grocery Store Receipt

Today, I’m going to share the actual receipt from my most recent trip to the grocery store. It’s a short receipt, because I only needed a few things for the week, but it’s perfect for a demonstration of a short analysis I go through after almost every trip to get food.

The point of this isn’t to micro-manage your shopping experience or to eat barley for the rest of your life. But doing this often enough sends small adjustments into your head that eventually lead to larger, money-saving changes.

Let’s get right to it—here’s the scan of my receipt from this weekend:

1. The total

Have you ever done this?

You shop at the same grocery store for years because it’s closest to your home. For whatever reason, you decide to check out a different store that just opened in your neighborhood. You buy essentially the same groceries, and check out, where the total shocks you!

(Hint: Higher than expected—go back; lower than expected—stay!) Smile

Regular shoppers usually have a good gut feeling about what their total will come out to. With a lot of local competition for grocery stores, I like to cross-check the receipt total with my gut feelings to see how well I did. If I’m higher than expected, there’s usually a reason (unusual ingredients, different store, etc.) that I can find and fix.

Our total today was $43.86, which was lower than expected for everything I put in the cart. The reason is actually the store itself—we’ve found that this particular grocery store offers everything at very competitive prices in comparison to where we usually shop. That’s valuable info!

2. Most expensive item

Scanning down the list of items, I look for the one or two most expensive things I bought that day. While the bulk of the total is actually the sum of all the little things you buy, spotting an unusually expensive item can give you a good reality check.

This is how I caught on to the “deal” I was getting with cherries a few years back. While they were technically on sale for $1.99/lb, the small bag usually weighed enough to make it $7-$10! You can imagine my surprise, since I didn’t bother to weigh it before check-out.

Today’s most expensive items were the sliced turkey breast ($7.06), and the top round steak ($5.49). Both were inexpensive and on sale, so there’s no need for me to worry there.

3. Best deal I got

When I shop at the grocery store, I typically look for the sale and deep discount items (like BOGOs). Most of the receipt is filled with these discounted items, unless there’s a particular staple that I need to buy that day.

I like to identify the one item I got the best deal on that day. Today, that’s probably the sliced ham ($2.54). I got a fairly thick bag of fresh deli ham for a killer price.

4. Worst deal I got

These days, it’s a rarity that I get a really bad deal on something. I’m careful with my selections and know what to avoid for big surprises at the check-out lane. But there’s always something I could do better on, so I like to find these groceries on the receipt in the hope of keeping my eyes open.

The Activia Yogurt, for example is an 8-pack for $4.49. I could get the same yogurt at my local Costco in a 24-pack for about $10, basically getting a third 8-pack for free. I need to become more diligent about getting some groceries at the wholesaler to shave money off the total monthly bill.

5. Something I could do without

Even though we’ve progressed to a point where we rarely buy extravagant things, I still like to identify at least one or two items on every receipt that we could do without. It’s usually some kind of treat or “upgrade” to a standard food, and reminds us to be thankful about the things we can still afford to get.

On today’s receipt, we have several of these treats:

  • Bread, $3.99: For me, a sandwich is 80% bread, and 20% everything else. If I don’t get the best bread available, I won’t like my sandwiches, and therefore kill my habit of eating lunch at work (which, in turn, saves me about $40 a week). Call me a bread princess, but I’ll take that trade-off! Smile
  • Yogurt, $4.49: This is a great weight-management snack, though we prefer Activia because it’s gentler on the stomach. That means a bit extra is spent over the store brand.
  • Premium Eggs, $3.59: I regularly buy eggs that are hormone-free and vegetarian-fed. They’ve come down in price, but are still a premium over the standard egg carton.

6. Something I should get more of

There are times where we miss an obvious deal staring us in the face because something is priced “per pound” or otherwise distorted, or we’re simply in a rush. The truth becomes obvious at checkout, and there are often some good surprises. “Wow, I had no idea that green pepper would only cost 43 cents!”

I like to search the receipt for these gems. Sometimes this is the “best deal,” but more often than not, I don’t really need any more of that particular item. Today, for example, I think I would have done OK getting more cucumbers. They were on sale for .50 cents each, and they are both large and filling additions to any good salad.

A Word on Money Mantras

I think of mantras as things you repeat in your head often enough that they eventually get through and make an impact on your actions. For me, this simple store receipt analysis is like a money mantra—over the long term, I notice trends and patterns that I would have otherwise missed.

This translates into better shopping habits, helpful changes, and fun surprises.

Am I just overly analytical? Have you ever done this to your receipt? Share your comments on the site today!

Photo by basykes