I bet you saw the title of this post and couldn't wait to get drawn into a debate about politics, rights, or religion, didn't you?

Actually, this could be just as controversial. I'm talking about tipping.

Opinions on tipping run the gamut from "any amount of gratuity is earned through the quality of the service" to "never tip less than 18%".

Let me briefly tell you about my experience this past weekend. I was at a large restaurant in Times Square with 3 friends. The food was fine, not spectacular but not terrible, and the service was ok. Our waiter seemed a little flighty and we had to explain a little more than usual once or twice, but it wasn't a huge deal.

Then the bill came.

The waiter placed the pleather folder on the table and went on to explain;

"The tip isn't included in the total. The minimum tip is 15%. I can divide the bill up however you like between your credit cards but be sure to tip on the total. You can either write your tip on the credit card slip or leave cash. But 15% is the minimim."

My dining companions and I were literally dumbstruck. When he left the table we just looked at each other like, "did that really just happen??". In addition, there's a printed note on the bill saying that "15% is the suggested tip. A 15% gratuity will be added to parties of 5 or more". That's pretty standard these days, especially at a place that surely gets a lot of tourist business from other cultures who may not be familiar with our tipping practices. But on top of that, there was also a large red sticker stuck to the bill that said "TIP NOT INCLUDED", and there was an area saying what 15% would come to and what 18% would come to and it was highlighted by hand. Keep in mind, this was all on top of the waiter's little speech on how we should tip him. I have never in my life had a server go into so much detail about gratuity and I have never, ever been told by a server how I was expected to tip him or her.

We were all shocked and, frankly, insulted. We did leave a gratuity, but it was closer to 10% than 15%. I was even tempted to speak to a manager on the way out but the restaurant was very crowded and my friends and I were on a schedule to catch a train. But I did go to the restaurant's website that evening and emailed the company.

So where do you stand on tipping? When you start a meal, do you right off the bat figure the tip in to what your final cost will be, or do you hold out judgment until your meal is over? Is there a "minimum tip"? Have you ever left little or nothing as a gratuity due to bad service? What about delivery (pizza, Chinese, etc), what's your rule there?

I know this can be a topic that inspires passion, so let's keep the conversation respectful and on topic, please. We're allowed to disagree with each other, but let's do so respectfully.

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