Where Does The Negotiation Start When You Tip?

Image courtesy of (avitania)

When you dine out and have to calculate a tip, where do you start your calculations? Everyone has a different method, but in this country most people start their mental calculations at 15% and then increase or decrease from there. Yet we’ve spotted another restaurant encouraging customers to start their calculations at 18%.

We’re not going to name the establishment, since it’s not a national chain and this isn’t really about that restaurant. Reader Eric noticed this during an otherwise lovely night out. “This restaurant happens to be beloved by the neighborhood, is always packed open to close and is a favorite of ours so I wish them no harm,” he wrote to Consumerist. “But … I don’t know if others have seen this ‘tip creep’ gaining steam.”


Creep? Eric’s name for this phenomenon comes from “Christmas Creep,” our name for how retailers have gradually begun marketing and decorating for Christmas earlier each year. The date creeps back slowly until there are Christmas carols being played in August. Eric wonders whether that’s happening here: restaurants gradually increasing what consumers think that we “should” tip until…well, what would the breaking point be?

We first noticed this phenomenon at TGI Friday’s more than a year ago, when a reader sent in a suggested tip scale that provided handy calculations for 18%, 20%, and 25%.

Fun with anchoring.

Don’t get us wrong: it’s nice when someone does math for us. We just wonder who is behind this effort to nudge the starting point for food service tips up a little higher. Will diners ever latch on to 20% as their starting point rather than 15%? Someone certainly hopes so.

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