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Do you tip on alcohol?


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I've been thinking about tipping a bit lately. "Galaboutmpls" got my mind moving with this interesting MNSpeak post on some tipping tips. But twice over the last week, I've been thinking specifically about alcohol, and the tipping conventions.

When I go to a bar and order a $5 beer, I don't hesitate to tip $1. That's 20% for nothing more than pouring a drink. If a beer is $3, I'll still tip $1. 33%.

When I go to a restaurant with my wife, and we buy a $35 bottle of wine that a server helped me select—and then pours throughout the meal—again, I don't hesitate. That'll be tipped as part of the meal, and that's generally 20%.

But twice over the past week, I've had bottles of wine that came with virtually no service.

The first time I ordered a Merlot, the server said that was one of her favorite wines, and then she came back to the table two minutes later to ask what I ordered. We had four people drinking, so the bottle was pretty much finished off in one visit. It was a $30 bottle.

Granted, adding a 20% tip was just $6, but it was such an easy $6 compared to the work it took to deliver two main course entrees. The entrees come with water, with coaching us through a menu, then taking an order, timing it, and delivering it properly. Again, just $6.

Last night I had a $26 bottle of wine that just sat on my table; I topped off my glass throughout the meal. It took a $40 dinner (for my wife and my two kids) and made it a $66 dinner. Essentially, escalating an $8 tip to $13.

Fine-dining restaurants with big wine bills are the ones that really make me think about this. If I get two bottles of wine and a round of cocktails, it's easy to spend $100-$150 on wine. Do you add a $20-$30 tip to that?

So what are we supposed to do? Should we tip on alcohol? Do you tip a lower percentage on alcohol compared to food? Have I turned into one of those nut-jobs who questions whether he's supposed to tip pre-tax or post-tax?

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