Rio Rita + A Few Tips On How to Tip a Waiter

The first place I ever went in Austin was Rio Rita, near 6th street in East Austin.  This, of course, is if I don't count the few trips to Highland Mall I've made with my step-sisters on our regular day-after-Christmas-pilgrimage to Austin for the past few years that we've been a family.  Rio Rita was my first night out in Austin, where I met Eirik before going to watch him host the weekly poetry slam down the street at the Scoot Inn.     

The website claims that it is a "swanky lounge" at night, and this is an accurate description.  I really didn't feel cool enough to be there, nor have I ever since then, but the bloody Mary's (also known as mini-salads) are so damn good that I'm going to keep wearing my hipster cloak so I can sneak in.  If I could present the drool that just filled my mouth when I typed out the words "bloody Mary" as evidence, then you'd know that Pavlov didn't lie, and neither do I.  They are fan-freaking-tastic, but will burn you like a scorned ex-girlfriend, so chase it with water if you're a wimp like me. 

In thinking about restaurants, I wanted to post a few notes about proper tipping etiquette, as I don't feel these rules have been shared with enough people.  When I made my first trip to Rio Rita, I was surviving off my tips as a waitress at the Killeen Bennigan's, since I'd left my job of teaching high school kids to read real good so that I could move here.  And when I say "surviving off tips," I really mean stuffing my pockets with nickels so I'd make a cool jingly sound when I walked, then bumming actual dollars off my friends and family so I could eat, (thanks guys). 

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, exorcise your inner scrooge, and follow my tipping guide to make sure that you aren't short-changing any of the gracious wait staff you encounter at your favorite eateries:

Rules for Tipping Like You Care About Human Life:

1) Tip 20%.  This is not difficult to figure out.  10% = moving the decimal place over ONE SPOT.  For example, if your bill is $17.83, then 10% is $1.78.  Now double this to get 20%.  And if you either don't know how to add in your head, or want to double insure that you aren't a jerk, then ROUND UP to the next whole number.  So your final tip should be either $3.60 for the thrifty diner, or man up, and tip a full $4.00.  That waiter probably spent at least an hour tending to your table.  Don't you think he or she at least deserves 4/hour for their time?

2) TIP FOR THE WHOLE BILL.  Not the discounted bill.  Not minus what you sent back.  Not the cost after coupon.  So this rule should be broken down into three parts:
         a) You didn't like something and the cost was deleted.  Tip as if the price were still on the bill.
         b) You ordered something and exchanged it for something else.  That's double the work.  And in both this scenario and the one above, your server has to track down the manager, display the rejected dish, explain the reason for the send back, get the manager to delete the charge from the bill, (tracking down a manager can be like hunting wildabeasts in New York), explain to the cooks what was wrong, wait on the new dish in neglect of other tables so it can be brought back ASAP, and then the waiter must be really apologetic as though it were their fault you didn't like the dish they had no hand in making. 
        c) You had a coupon.  20% off.  Kids eat free.  Whatever.  Tip as though you didn't have it. 

3) Keep in mind that your waiter is not: the cook, the bar tender, or the manager.  Your waiter has no control over how long the food takes to make, how it tastes, or how long it takes for your drink to come up at the bar.  Do not punish the waiter because the kitchen staff and/or bar staff is slow. Note: it is also not the waiter's fault if the dishwasher quits at the beginning of shift, and no food can come out until all of the backed up dishes have been cleaned so there's a fresh plate to serve your dinner on.

4) At most restaurants, your waiter will tip out the host, the kitchen staff, and the bussers.  That means that 3% of your $4 tip does not stay in his or her pocket.  Most hosts only get this 3% as their pay.  I once busted my butt filling in as a host for a four hour shift and only made $20.  Mad?  Indeed I was.  Let's not even talk about how much my master's degree cost.  $20 bucks for four hours?  Grumble grumble.

5) $5 is not the universal tip for a large bill.  Don't look at your $45 dollar bill and think that throwing down a fiver is decent compensation because five bucks to you seems like a lot of money.  Do the math.  20%. 

Eirik accusing me of leaving dishes in the sink at home.  This is why we eat out.  And tip well.  Dirty dishes are gross, especially other people's.