The Tipping Point

By Ed Zwirn

New York Post, July 15, 2017

The minute you walked in the joint, I could tell you were a man of distinction — a real big tipper.

Granted, today’s crop of servers at the city’s restaurants are probably not humming anything close to this old standard, but experienced waiters and waitresses say that they usually know how much they are probably going to get tipped as soon as a customer walks in.

“Generally, men tip better than women,” says Meleck Verbay, who tends tables at Le Midi, an East 13th Street French restaurant where dinners range up to $50. She says that she “hates to generalize,” but adds that the gender tipping gap can get pretty wide, with men usually tipping about 20 percent (and occasionally as much as 40 percent) while women can go as low as 15 percent, or even 10 percent.

This anecdotal tidbit lines up with actual statistical evidence — at least if you go by a report conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for CreditCards.com released last week.

The researchers spoke to 1,002 adults living in the US, between June 22 and June 25. The responses they got revealed sharp gender, regional, racial and even partisan divides when it comes to tipping practices.

The best tippers are men, Republicans and Northeasterners, all of whom tip a median of 20 percent when dining out. At the other end of the spectrum, the median tip was 16 percent from women and Democrats, while Southerners are slightly stingier, at 15 percent.

In addition, while 94 percent of whites said they tip their restaurant servers all or most of the time, only 82 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of blacks said the same. Whites were also twice as likely to say they typically leave a tip that exceeds 15 percent of the total tab.
Darron Cordosa, who has worked at a small neighborhood restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens, for the past seven years, says he sizes up his customers based on both gender and age.

“Of course, most of my customers are regulars, so I already know what to expect,” he says. “But when I look at a table of four 21-year-olds, I usually can expect not too much.”

Sizing up the prospects by gender, Cordosa admits that if he had “to choose between a table of men and a table of women, most of the time I would be inclined to go with the men.”
But there are exceptions to every generalization, as Cordosa points out.

“I have been surprised by a 21-year-old who leaves a tremendous tip, and disappointed by a middle-aged white man,” he recounts.

Of course, tipping habits are as much a function of income and wealth as they are of gender and political affiliation, and that is borne out by talking to the people who run Delmonico’s, a high-end Beaver Street steakhouse that has helped Wall Streeters celebrate their deals and bonuses for 180 years.

Delmonico’s

“Our clients are pretty generous,” says Carin Sarafian, director of sales and marketing at Delmonico’s. “So our servers get tipped very well.”

“I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life,” says Delmonico’s waiter Albert Bradica.

“What we find here at Delmonico’s is a very sophisticated crowd that tips 20 percent, 95 percent of the time. For extra attention, I can get 25 percent to 30 percent.”

Since his customers already know they are going to spend a lot of money and act accordingly, he says tipping doesn’t vary as much based on gender and other attributes as it may in other eateries.

“Who they are and what their gender is doesn’t matter,” he adds.

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Ed Zwirn

About Ed Zwirn

Ed Zwirn is a journalist/editorial professional with a focus on financial trends and practices. He lives out in the woods in Bethel, NY, not far from where the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival was held in 1969. As a financial writer, his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, CFO Magazine and news services including Dow Jones Newswires and Informa Global Markets. Ed also spent three years in Ukraine, where he ran an English-language news service. He now divides his time between his freelance journalism, song and poetry writing, and barbequing and lawn-mowing on his 2.5 acre property.