Category Archives: Shopping

Restaurant Tips Reach a Tipping Point

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From New York to California, restaurants are adopting a “no tipping” policy. Establishment owners have cited various reasons for doing away with the tips altogether. No doubt, the policy change has generated substantial publicity for the businesses and social media is lighting up with savory comments for and against the “no tipping” policy.

Until recently, many restaurant employees would receive lower wages with the promise that the tips generated during the shift would cause the wages to jump substantially higher. Restaurant tips have motivated wait staff to provide better service in the hopes of receiving a generous gratuity. This was a win-win for both business owners and front line staff. Owners benefited from satisfied customers while employees went home with a fatter pay check.

The problem with the policy is not only an extra burden on customers but also a cold war styled territorial dispute between servers, at least in some establishments. In fact, some employees had boiled the process down to a science. Flower in the hair, red dresses, blond hair, smiley faces on checks … these were some factors that generated higher tips, at least from men. 1

That is about to change, though.

A new breed of employers is favoring higher wages and a more stable paycheck over restaurant tips and gratuities. A major change is sweeping restaurants nationwide and from East Coast to West Coast, establishments are doing away with restaurant tips. New York-based Restaurant Riki cites Japanese customs for its no gratuity policy, while Sushi Yasuda chases customers to return what was left behind. According to some business owners, the idea of rating server performance with tips was downright condescending.1

Restaurant tips are disbursed individually to the server or added to a common pool that is distributed to all servers at the end of the shift.

The eateries that favor a no restaurant tips policy try to make up for the difference by offering staff higher wages and a more stable takeaway. The policy is receiving mixed reactions from guests. Some prefer not having to do the extra math after a wonderful meal, while others are concerned about the impact on service quality. This is a major cause of concern for frequent guests who often build a personal rapport with their servers.

On the flip side, a sluggish economic recovery is forcing patrons to lower their tips, especially for unemployed folks who have no choice but to eat out while interviewing and traveling.

How to tip at a restaurant

Despite the shift away from restaurant tips, many owners will still consider redistributing the tips to employees or giving them away to charity.

At a surface level, restaurant tips may sound like a simple issue but many guests are still not sure about the amount they should be leaving aside as gratuity. A good restaurant tipping guide would spell out the tip percentage to 10% to 20%, but we have seen ranges as low as 5% as well (especially if the service is extremely poor or unreasonably rude).

Not all restaurants allow customers to do the math, though. I once visited a Malaysian restaurant in Flushing, NY. While the service was good and the food was descent, the check had a pre-calculated gratuity added to the bill. I had no discretion to tip more or less. When questioned, the disgruntled server simply asked me to pay up. No option, apparently!

Here are some ideas if you consider tipping:

(i) If you decide to leave your server a tip, cash is preferable because it can be used right away. Credit card payments are not bad, but there is generally a lag period before the server gets paid. There is also the issue of a portion of the bill going toward credit card processing fees (can range between two percent to five percent, depending on the merchant service being used).

(ii) Generally, the total is based on pre-tax amount and is computed without considering discounts.

(iii) How satisfied were you with the service? If the drinks were on the table within two minutes of seating and the server was providing refills before asking, you are receiving exceptional service.

(iv) Give consideration for local cost of living. If you live in an expensive city, a higher tip is probably a good idea.

(v) The server’s personality and needs are also given consideration, at least by some guests. Students often resort to waiting tables to make their way to college. Giving them an extra hand does not hurt.

(vi) Some restaurants make their wages public. If you are aware of the wages being paid, you will be in a better position to judge the amount you need to add as gratuity.

Restaurant Tipping Chart

Level of Service and Restaurant Tip Percentage

Exceptional Service – 20%

Good Service – 15%

Average Service – 10%

Extremely Poor Service – 5%

1. CBS News

2. Image Credit: Elviz Low via Creative Commons

Save More Money By Comparison Shopping Online

By John

Comparison shopping online is the norm these days. Getting the best deal for your money has never been more important than right now with rising inflation and budgets being squeezed. Shoppers have always compared prices and quality before they buy, both within the same store and at different stores. It has traditionally taken quite a lot of time, effort and legwork. Most of the legwork can now be cut out by going online, although it still takes some time and effort. Still, if you are keen to save money it’s worth it, isn’t it? And, as ever, the more effort you put into it, the more likely you are to be rewarded with the best deals and save more money by comparison shopping online.

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Let a search engine do the donkey work

Whether you are looking to buy furniture, electronics or simply groceries, there are innumerable web sites to help you find what you are looking for. Enter the product you are looking for and the site will show you the stores where it is available, its price at each store, information about the product, and specifications. Some sites also publish reviews by customers who have purchased the product. Some will also give links to the stores so that you can check the store policies, payment methods and delivery or shipping costs, before making a purchase online.

These sites of course are free to use. For a small annual fee you can join a shopping club which further refines the process of online comparison shopping by going into greater detail and publishing more useful reviews.

Caveat Emptor

The effectiveness of online comparison shopping has inevitably increased the competition between stores, which may have adjusted their pricing matrix to maintain their profit margin. You should read the small print carefully: the product may be cheaper at one store than another, but a higher shipping cost may cancel out the advantage. Stores will have different policies about returning goods once sold, and different minimum purchase order requirements that may or may not work for you.

If you are comparison shopping for groceries you need to identify the real bargains by comparing unit costs and not just package costs. You don’t want to end up paying for more packaging but less contents. Similarly, two small packets of a particular product may turn out to be cheaper and with more contents than the “economy size” packet being promoted. You should keep an eye open for special offers that may vary during the day, and also printable coupons, both of which will save you money.

If you intend to intend to make a purchase online, it is advisable to go with a store you have dealt with before or one with a solid reputation. Never submit your credit card details to an insecure web address. Generally speaking it is better to use a credit card than a debit card for online shopping as there is more protection should your card be compromised by fraud. Always keep a printed record of your purchase order in case of problems down the line.

Without your having to do the legwork anymore, online comparison shopping will help you to purchase the products you want, of the quality you want, and at the best price and save money by not paying more for your shopping than you need to. Adopt comparison shopping and see how it works to your benefit.

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Save Money By Shopping Smart

By John

You, like most people, are probably looking for ways to cut costs and make savings these days, as inflation relentlessly outstrips wage increases. Once all the big and regular payments for insurance, home, auto, utilities and other services have been taken care of, what is left is what you have to live on. You want to make those dollars stretch as far as possible. Grocery shopping will account for many of them and therefore it is worth looking at some shopping techniques to ensure that you save as much money as possible by not spending more than you need.

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Supermarkets and grocery stores have an aim that is the complete opposite of yours. Yours is to buy exactly what you need at minimal expense, theirs is to persuade you to buy more than you need at maximum profitability for themselves.

Be prepared

Before you even set foot in the store, you should be well-prepared. You should have eaten, written out your shopping list, left the spouse and kids at home. You have chosen this particular store because you know from previous experience and online research that it carries the products you like at consistently good prices, and is currently offering a number of sale deals on items you need.

Store tactics

Remember their aim: to sell you more. The entry area will be awash with eye-catching offers and advertisements which can safely be ignored. The store layout rarely varies: the basic foods and ingredients (cheaper) are laid out along the perimeter walls while the inner aisles contain all the more expensive brands and processed goods, thus offering you ample opportunity to be tempted into buying something you didn’t know you needed.

Shelf layout is usually standard too. There are typically 5 levels – cheapest items on the top, then medium, then (at eye-level) most expensive, then medium, then cheapest again right at the bottom.

The wording on items and price tickets is carefully designed to tempt you into buying the items the store would prefer to sell you. Words like “Premium”, “Basic” and “Value” abound. There is more ornate packaging on the most expensive products, obviously. There are lots of offers of 1-for-2 or 2-for-3. Alongside genuine sale items, non-sale items might well carry exactly the same design of price tag.

At the checkout counter will be candy and goodies placed just where kids would be looking while you settle up.

Stay Focused!

You needn’t be fooled by these tactics if you concentrate on looking for the genuine bargains and best deals and on completing your list.

It’s all about comparing. Packaging doesn’t matter – you’re not going to eat that. Compare unit costs of brand name products against the store’s own products against generic products, and go for the cheapest that is of acceptable quality. Compare unit costs of the “special” offers and see if it’s really a bargain (as well as something you need). Check that the item under the special-sale tag is indeed the sale item before you put it in the cart. If the price tag on the cheapest products is mysteriously missing (incompetent worker, mischievous child – or a “dirty trick”?), take the time to get the price scanned.

At the checkout take note as your purchases are rung up. Make sure that discounted items are registered at the correct price – sometimes there can be a mismatch. Use coupons, the store’s own card and check for any other discounts that may be available.

Smart shopping means not accepting the sales pitch at face-value. It means being healthily skeptical, checking and comparing. This may take time but if it cuts down your shopping bill by 15%, 10% or even 5%, surely it’s worth it? Shop smart and save money.

Click here to compare offers on multiple items and save hundreds of dollars. Compare and save on credit cards, cell phones, long distance plans, mortgages, insurance, shopping, and so much more.

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