​Do you tip on take-out that you pick up yourself?

First of all, I would like to thank “Kyla,” a viewer who wrote to us with the question of all questions: Do you tip on take-out? 

And not delivery because of course you tip the beautiful person who delivers delicious food right to your door. 

Kyla is talking about tipping when you order take-out at a restaurant and actually go and pick it up yourself. 

We posted the question on Facebook and there are nearly 200 responses.

Many people wrote in about tipping on delivery, which was not the question. (But thanks for sharing.)

Many said they do not tip when they pick up take-out because tipping at a restaurant is generally reserved for being served food by an actual person at said restaurant. 

Most who advocated for tipping when they pick up food work in the industry. And I get that, mostly because of a phenomenon called “tip pooling”. This is when a small percentage of a restaurant’s sales are deducted from servers’ tips and distributed to other staff members, like the dishwashers, hosts and bussers. It’s perfectly legal here in Ontario (I didn’t have time to check the other provinces and territories.)

I worked at a restaurant that did this and was always happy to help line the pockets of those who made my night easier. It was also helpful that the restaurant deducted take-out sales from the total nights’ income because they rightfully assumed that most people don’t tip when they pick up their own dinner. 

For the record, restaurants that have tip pools usually aren’t take-out joints, if you get my meaning. They’re the sort of establishments that have linen, and a nice wine selection, and don't survive on their take-out orders, like, say, a burrito or sushi place might. I tend to tip $5 when I pick up food from places like these, mostly because I've inevitably worked with people there and it would be very off-brand for me if I didn't. 

I have no idea what the hosts are going to say on this one. I just know that I am as confused and “stressed out” as Kyla is. 

I break out in a sweat every time I pick up my favourite roti or gyro and I don’t have cash because the debit machine will always have a tip option. Do I take the multiple and extremely awkward steps to skip past it and risk being on the receiving end of a stink eye? (Usually not.) But when the debit machine has the extremely convenient tap-your-card-and-go option, I exhale, and thank goddess. 

I turned to Emily Post and her 18th edition of Etiquette for a more definitive answer. 

There are nine pages dedicated to tipping—tipping hotel staff, tipping at salons, tipping at airports, on trains, in taxis—but she doesn’t tackle The Big One.

Like most of you, she recommends tipping 10 per cent of the bill for take-out food deliveries, and 15 per cent for especially quick service, or if there are more than one flight of stairs involved. 

And like you, she also bemoans the fact that most servers are paid less than minimum wage and restaurateurs count on their customers to top up their employees’ earnings with tips. (Whether this is unfair is another topic entirely.)

But her language on tipping while eating in a restaurant is revealing: “Today, tipping in restaurants is expected and, in fact, mandatory. Think of it as part of the contract you agree to when you choose to eat in a restaurant.”

Note: “in a restaurant”.

“That contracts says you’ll get served a meal, charged a price, and then pay 15 to 20 per cent of the bill to help pay the waitstaffs’ wages. Many people tip 20 per cent  because it’s easier to figure.”

Note: “you’ll get served a meal”.

Does this help at all? 

In the meantime, I’m going to start carrying around actual cash and when I pick up my favourite Tibetan momos, I’ll hand over a 20-dollar-bill for my $18 order and say, “keep the change.” 

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