Tips and Fees

Apr 2018


In many situations technology has certainly made our lives easier. After all, we can now bank, shop and pay bills online which certainly makes life easier. However, there are also times that technology can create awkward situations. A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant and when the waitress brought the bill she had one of those mobile units where they swipe your card at the table. What I found upsetting was not that the bill had a box for suggested tip (20 percent, 25 percent and 30 percent), but that the suggested tip box was already checked. I was not only surprised, but irritated to see that the 25 percent tip box was already checked. I don’t know if this is the policy of this restaurant, or the waitress did it on her own, but I thought it was unprofessional to have the tip box already checked.

We all know that when we go to a full service restaurant waiters and waitresses depend on tips. Typically, a food server is paid minimal wages by their employer because the assumption is they will make up the difference in tips. Therefore, as a patron at a restaurant it is our obligation to tip. However, as far as I’m concerned it is wrong for a restaurant to suggest a 25 percent tip when the norm is more like 15 to 20 percent.

I’ve noticed more and more that when you charge something, more businesses are asking for tips. You would think that the rules of tipping etiquette have changed but they have not. In other words, just because someone asks for a tip doesn’t mean you have to give one. In addition, if the boxes on the charge card receipt are 20, 25 or 30 percent there’s nothing to say that you cannot tip a different percentage if you choose.

What made my situation at the restaurant a little uncomfortable was that the waitress was standing right there as I was signing on the iPad. I could have easily just signed on the iPad despite the 25 percent tip. My typical tip is 20 percent so the five percent is here nor there. However, I said something. Despite being in somewhat of an awkward position, I stood my ground. I recommend if you find yourself in that situation you do as well.

In our society, we have become insensitive to fees and other types of costs. It seems that companies add these fees in and all too often people are just paying them without questioning them. Me, on the other hand, I am not embarrassed to always question fees. If it only happened once or twice throughout the year it would be no big deal. However, it seems that on almost every bill we get these days, there are additional fees and costs that seem to get added in. When I get a bill and there is a fee that I am unaware of, I call. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten the fees waived because as I was told many times, the fee was voluntary. Of course, the fee is only voluntary if you ask. If you don’t ask you end up paying it. You would be surprised how much money you could save throughout the year by questioning fees.

I recognize when you question fees people will accuse you of being cheap. My response is, so what. I’ve always believed, and you should too, that money looks better in your pocket than it does anywhere else. Therefore, my advice, when you get a bill, whether it’s in a restaurant, store or whatever, always review it, and if there are fees that you are unaware of, question them. You would be surprised how many of those fees go away, which means there’s more money in your pocket and it looks better there than it does anywhere else.

Good luck!


Rick is a fee-only financial advisor.  If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at