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Restaurant tipping guidelines: What’s right, what’s not?

—When Kathy Wilds eats at a restaurant, she tips depending on the service she receives.

Her formula is pretty simple.

“Good service good tip, bad service no tip,” she said.

So does James David Johnson, although he always leaves something behind. If the service has been bad, it could just be some change.

Della Figur tips 20 percent of the bill unless the service was “awful.”

If the service has been bad, Figur also will speak with the manager and tell them about the experience and how she’s not coming back unless the service is “as good as the food.”

Nick and Dana Hills also tip based on the service they get.

“If the service was excellent, my husband and I have tipped $20 and we have also left a minimal amount or nothing at all for very poor service,” Hills said.

Jennifer Martinez, on the other hand, tips 25 percent of the bill.

Obviously, patrons tip differently, and just like the variety of responses posted on Highlands Today’s Facebook Page, servers have seen it all.

Dee Andrews, owner of Dee’s Place, remembers the generous $100 tip she received. Then there are some who don’t leave anything behind.

It’s all part of the job.

“There is nothing you can do about it,” smiled Maida O’Bryan, longtime server at Island View Restaurant, about the non-tippers.

Because she is in the business and knows that tipped staff depend heavily on tip money for their wages, she makes sure to leave behind 20 percent of the bill when she goes out to eat.

Andrews tends to tip more than the norm, as well, when she’s patronizing an establishment that is not her own.

“You don’t know if they are having a bad day,” she reasoned of the servers she may encounter and is glad to spread the blessing around.

Florida’s minimum wage is $7.93 an hour but tipped employees such as wait staff get $4.91 an hour, which means they supplement their wages from the tips they get.

Melissa Lancaster asks everybody to remember that.

“Everyone should tip seeing that’s what they live off and raise their family,” Lancaster said.

Even if the service is bad, Lancaster still tips 10 percent.

Wilds responded that servers should then remember to “always give good service...smile when they don’t want to. They are customer service.”

Wilds said if the food is bad she does not blame the servers.

“I’m talking about keeping the tea glass full...extra plates removed depending on where eating...a simple smile.”

Tracey L Tait-Brown said as a server she’s noticed the average person in Highlands County tips about 15 percent.

“There are those who tip very well, and those who tip very little, but that’s the life of a server,” she said.

The Emily Post Institute, which tracks evolving standards in behavior and etiquette, offers some tipping guidelines -- from wait service in a sit-down meal to that tip jar sitting on the deli counter.

As it turns out, there is a different tip recommended for a different eating situation.

Tips for wait service at a sit-down meal should be from 15 to 20 percent before tax, they say. For a buffet, they suggest 10 percent.

While there is no obligation to tip a host or maitre d’, if they go “above and beyond” to find you a table on a busy night or if you are regular patron, they recommend $10 to $20.

Take-out meals don’t need to be tipped. For extra service, such as curb delivery or a large, complicated order, Emily Post suggests 10 percent.

Tipping jars don’t come with any obligation, the etiquette institute maintains.

“Tip occasionally if your server or barista provides a little something extra or if you are a regular customer,” they say.

Emily Post strongly recommends that people tip during the holidays.

“The holiday season is traditionally the time Americans choose to thank those who provide them with year-round services. In these tough economic times it’s important to remember that holiday tipping is truly about saying thank you,” they say.

Holidays are also the time servers see generous tips.

Andrews said Christmas is when patrons tip more than usual.

After thinking for a little bit, O’Bryan remembered a generous tip that bought a smile to her face:

It was a large gathering at Easter. The group gave her a generous tip on top of the gratuity they had paid.