Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I Tip On The Pre- Or Post-Tax Total?

Dear Salty, when we are at a bar or restaurant and get the check, I always tip 20 percent on the pre-tax amount, while my wife always tips 20 percent on the post-tax amount. Is one more common than the other? Which is right?


Dear Chris,

Do you know how often I get asked this question? Like once a week. So why haven't I answered it in this column yet?

Because it's a dumb, cheapskate question.

The difference between tipping on pre-tax vs. post-tax totals is hardly anything. Teenie. Miniscule. Drop in the bucket. Smaller than my ex's... heart. I can't say which is more common because I can't tell whether a table meant to tip 18 percent post-tax or 19 percent pre-tax—frankly, I don't have time for that kind of petty hair-splitting.

If you spend the end of a dinner out with your wife worrying about whether you should tip an extra two dollars—well, maybe you could have just tipped the extra two dollars.

If you don't trust me, let's do the math. Say your dinner bill is $100, and meal tax in your city is on the high end. In D.C., which has one of the highest meal taxes, it's 10 percent, so let's go with that—I like round numbers.

Tipping 20 percent on a pre-tax bill of $100: $20Tipping 20 percent on a post-tax bill of $110: $22

You're seriously losing sleep over $2?

Even if the meal was $300, that's a different of $6—and you're a person who just spent $300 on dinner.

Remember those old Mastercard commercials? Bottle of California cab sauv: $80Three-course dinner for two: $220Feeling self-righteous because you tipped 20 percent post-tax: Priceless.

So my advice to you is: Quit worrying, tip on the post-tax total if you must insist on the math, and generally try not to be a cheapskate.

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