Tips are calculated before or after tax?

Today I had the worse experience dining out.

The server was doing a ok job. So we just left him about 15% tip..which I thought was fair. (I know some people tip 20% or more but we were just students who cant afford to be very generous.) Anyway, while we stepped out of the restaruant, the server stopped us and said we didn’t give enough tips. I told him that I gave him 15% pre-tax amount tip. He insisted it’s 15% of grand total and said that "in America" tips are 15% of total amount includ tax. Ok, we are a bunch of foreign students, not Americans. However, we have being staying here for few years. It is not like we want to be cheap. We just thought, 15% should be added from the total amount of food and beverage but not the amount with tax. Cuz state tax is added by the government and it should have nothing to do with the restaruant. Correct me if I am wrong

What made me feel the worse was that he kept saying "in America" ..We were kind of hurt by that.

Calculating the tip to a percentage exact to the penny is considered a bit rude. It destroys the illusion that the tip is a "reward for service" turning it into a mechanical function which they were going to get no matter what and the quality of service had nothing to do with it. It is all perception anyway since the best service I’ve had has come from places in foreign countries where the service is included in the price.

(I can’t even imagine a waiter in this country taking food from the table, rewarming it, and returning it to us … without ANYONE EVEN ASKING, or serving part of a meal and keeping the rest covered and warm by side only to serve each person more as they needed. Now that really is service. Not this take a drink order, take a food order, let others deliver it, cruise by once to ask if everything is ok, usually before one can even put a bite in their mouths and then disappear for the rest of the night till it is time to get paid.)

15% on the pre-tax amount is the standardly defined rule, though.

However tipping 15% post tax only adds another 1-1.5% depending on the tax rate.

I have seen many places that now suggest 18%, but I’m not sure if that is meant to be pre or post tax?.

It is also common to round the tip up to the nearest dollar or make the total bill an even amount.

Also if the bill is very small or the restaurant is very inexpensive I feel the service deserves a higher percentage reward.

One thing that gives me a real problem is when I buy wine by the bottle. (Drinks bought by the glass deserve the full tip). Most resaurants mark the bottle up to triple or more its retail value already and I can often pay more for wine than the meal. It is also usually the case that the waiter had no wine knowledge and all they did was bring a bottle and some glasses and pull the cork. In this case I never know what to do. Do I still tip 15% on everything or just for the food and a much smaller amount for the wine, and if so does the waiter think I’m stiffing them since I’m only tipping 8%-10% in total? I’m told that I should only tip the full amount for the food … but somehow I never feel right doing that.

There was this one place that my friends and I would regularly go when we were in college. It was a sandwich place with a cafe/dner feel and great cakes. A revolving group of us went there at least once a week. We all always tipped as we should. Then one day for whatever reason the manager just added the tip to the bill and presented it to us. He or she (I don’t remember which it was a long time ago) had the right to do it but had never done that before. (I think we divided the total added tip again, allocated each persons share … and the numbers never worked … then we had to go back and forth … I may even have personally pocketed some extra money in the deal as I usually put the bill on my charge card.) Then we realized what the manager had done!

After much angry discussion with the manager we paid it, but we were so upset that none of us or any of our extended group EVER went there again! The irony was that we usually tipped higher than what had been added. The tragedy for them was the loss of many good customers by one greedy act.