Should I Tip for Counter Service?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Can you guys do a column (if you haven’t already) on tipping for counter service/food pickup?? I always feel awkward when paying with a credit card and it has a line for tips.


Tipped Out

Official Etiquette:

The Emily Post Institute covers a wide range of tipping suggestions. For takeout, they say no obligation or perhaps 10% for a large order or curb delivery. Tip jars also have no obligation, though perhaps you might throw something in if you are a regular or get extra attention.

The Billfold has a charming post on tipping at food trucks which covers the gauntlet of the debate on counter service tipping.

Our Take:

Jaya:  I don’t always tip with counter service. Am I a bad person?

VictoriaPsh, no. I rarely tip for counter service. I feel like this is the kind of tipping situation where you only need to do it if people legitimately go above and beyond, like starting your coffee order when you walk in.

Jaya:  Yeah, if I pay in cash I’ll probably leave some change? if there’s a dime or two.

VictoriaBut if someone is just slicing a bagel, throwing some cream cheese on it and handing it to you…. I don’t see it as much different than any other kind of retail service.

Jaya:   Definitely. Though what are the labor laws? It’s not like waiters where they are living off tips, right? At least in America.

Victoria Right, they get paid at least minimum wage. Now whether that is fair or right or not is a whole different issue. Btw, did you know that in some states, like CA, waiters must be paid minimum wage? They don’t get this whole “service wage” plus tips, but then they still get tips because everyone is used to tipping waiters.

Jaya: Oooooh, interesting.

Victoria Or at least that is how it is supposed to work, I don’t really know if it does in practicality though. I do think if you get takeout from an actual restaurant where the waiters are packing up your food for you, then you should tip, perhaps a bit less than normal- more like 10-15% to compensate them for their time lost from waiting at a table.

Jaya:  Yeah. I am actually fascinated in how tipping has changed since Seamless and other online ordering things came along.

Victoria Has it?

Jaya:  I think so. It sort of automatically calculates it. You can change it, but if you don’t do anything and just click “order” it’s already thrown in a couple bucks.

Victoria Ooh true.

Jaya:  And I forget if it’s the same amount I would have tipped had I paid in cash.

Victoria It’s pretty low, I always bump it up because delivery is the type of service you should be tipping for (though I don’t tip nearly as much if I am picking it up after ordering through Seamless).

Tipping always causes so much debate! Share with us your thoughts and experiences with tipping in the comments!

Etiquette For Kids…From 1530

Kids! They’re always fidgeting and yawning and being unhygienic, and this was as true 500 years ago as it is now. In 1530, Erasmus published the educational treatise On Good Manners For Boys, which may be the earliest example of an etiquette book out there. Dedicated to the 11-year-old Henry of Veere, it outlines some good manners, though he insists that Henry doesn’t even need such a book, “having been, in the first place, brought up from infancy at court.” If only we were all so lucky. He goes on to describe how “the task of fashioning the young is made of many parts,” and I assumed he was talking about collecting legs and eyes and teeth to build an army of youths. Really, he means the task consists of teaching piety, a love for liberal arts, giving instruction on the duties of life, and teaching good manners. So, how do you do that? Erasmus explains.

“For the well ordered mind of a boy to be universally manifested—and it is most strongly manifested in the face—the eyes should be calm, respectful, and steady: not grim, which is a mark of truculence; not greedy, the hallmark of insolence; not darting and rolling, a feature of insanity; not furtive, like those suspects and plotters of treachery…”

This goes on for another paragraph, which is just to say you should be constantly aware of your eyes. What are your eyes doing right now? Are they grim? Are they truculent? Stop that.

“It is bad manners to look at someone with one eye open and one shut. For what else is this than to deprive oneself of an eye?”

It is literally nothing else, Erasmus. Do not wink at me.

“The eyebrows should be smooth, not contracted, which denotes fierceness; not arched, a sign of arrogance…”

He goes on like this nearly as long as he did about the eyes themselves. Following this he finally gets to the etiquette of the nostrils, the mouth, and how you’re cheating if you use blush because a natural modesty should be giving your cheeks that glow. You’d think that Erasmus would have the most polite face, given that he knows all the rules, but I don’t know…


That mouth looks pretty tight set, Are you “afraid of inhaling someone else’s breath”?

“To expose, save for natural reasons, the parts of the body which nature has invested with modesty ought to be far removed from the conduct of a gentleman. I will go further: when necessity compels such action, it should be none the less done with decency and modesty even if there is no observer present. For the angels, from whom derives that most welcome sense of shame that accompanies and protects the chastity of boys, are always near.”

Are you saying the angels don’t want to see my butt? I’m pretty sure they want to see my butt. What else are they doing all day?

“There are some who lay down the rule that a boy should refrain from breaking wind by constricting his buttocks. But it is no part of good manners to bring illness upon yourself while striving to appear ‘polite.'”

I love old science, and the idea that holding in a fart could cause you illness. He later says that it is more dangerous to hold in a fart than it is to hold in a bowel movement, which is bananas. Try to do both of those today and see which is worse. Anyway, he does say that if you must break wind, cover it with a cough. Slick.

Finally, Erasmus gets to the bottom of the body, discussing whether or not one should cross one’s legs like an Italian. Now, we move on to dressing.

“To drag long trains after one is ridiculous in women, reprehensible in men; whether becoming in cardinals or bishops I leave others to judge.”

I had no idea cardinals or bishops could be “becoming.” But thankfully I’ve also learned from Erasmus that wearing multicolored or embroidered clothing is for “idiots and apes.” Dude is bitchy. He also reserves an entire section on behavior in church, including this gem.

“Touching the ground with one knee while the other is upright supporting the left elbow is the gesture of the impious soldiers who addressed the Lord Jesus in mockery, ‘Hail King of the Jews!'”


Erasmus addresses banquet and bedtime manners, but in the end comes up with the cardinal rule of etiquette itself. “The essence of good manners consists in freely pardoning the shortcomings of others although nowhere falling short yourself: in holding a companion no less dear because his standards are less exacting.” May we all strive to be better ourselves and more forgiving of others. And to let each other fart in public.

Etiquette For Children: It’s Not That Hard (Ok It Probably Is But Please Try)

raggareI’m going to preface this by saying I don’t have children. I do not know what it’s like to have children. I have a niece who’s the bomb and have seen firsthand how difficult parenthood can be, but every time I visit my niece I know I can leave the apartment and go to a bar or a show and then get eight hours of sleep. Parents, you have a hard job, and I know lots of sacrifices have to be made just to keep everyone sane.

However, I am a human who lives in the world, and that world is full of children whose parents seem to have NO IDEA just how ridiculous they are acting.

I’m not talking about a baby throwing a tantrum in a cafe or on the subway, because if a child cannot talk and is screaming at the top of its lungs there is only so much a tired parent can do, and we should all be more forgiving of that. I’m talking about the kids running around restaurants and banging their silverware, or screaming to each other in a museum, or that one kid I saw in a grocery store who was just picking up produce and throwing it on the ground. Yes, having a kid is hard and you can’t be everywhere at once, but ultimately you are raising your kid to live in the world with other people. People who maybe are going to expect them to have an inside voice.

I don’t want to be in the business of giving parenting advice, but I will be boastful and say that I have been told on many occasions that I was a well behaved child. So here’s some of what I remember the adults in my life teaching me.

Learn where kids are unwelcome. I don’t necessarily agree with people who say children shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants or bars or anywhere public, but there is a line. Yesterday, a story came out about a couple who brought an 8-month-old to a fancy restaurant in Chicago that only serves a $210 tasting menu, which I assume will last hours. I’m sure their baby is lovely, but at what point did they think a child that young would be able to last through a meal like that?

Make sure you can accommodate your child to the expected behavior of where you’re going, not the other way around. Have a 10-year-old who can stay in his seat and eat politely at a nice restaurant? Great, bring him along. Bring your 4-year-old to a bar at night? Don’t expect anyone to change their normal bar behavior for you, and be ready to leave if your child throws a fit.

When your kid is old enough/knows how to mostly sit still, introduce them to what Adult Spaces look like. My parents used to bring me to dinners or cafes with their friends when I was a kid, and I was either given the option of doing something like sitting and coloring quietly, or joining the adult conversation, mainly by listening since I didn’t really have much interesting to say when I was seven. They’d be happy to speak to me and explain things, but it was also clear that if I wanted to interact with everyone I had to raise myself to the adult conversation, rather than them coming down to speak to a child. This was not my time to be the center of attention.

There are plenty of opportunities to make Adult Spaces in the home, especially when family comes over. For instance, the idea of a “kids table” at holidays can be somewhat detrimental to a child’s etiquette experience. You’ll go from sitting with other kids and generally being unsupervised to having to hold your own at a table with adults. It’s intimidating! But if you’re sitting with adults, you’ll learn by watching how they eat and how they converse, and if something goes wrong, at least you’re in your own house surrounded by people you love. The flip side to this is that you need lots more adults than children to make it an Adult Space. My fiance’s family has six kids ages 7 and under right now, so any family gathering is very kids-focused, even at the dinner table.

Be aware of what your kid can handle. My mom was lucky to have a few museum memberships when I was growing up, so some days we’d pop in somewhere and wander around for about twenty minutes. That was apparently my museum threshold, before I’d start getting cranky and tired, so we’d leave before I started crying. However, it still got me used to being a place like a museum, where I have grown to withstand almost a full hour without getting cranky.

Use the magic words. A parent friend of mine says “how do you ask?” is a constant refrain in his house, in making sure his kids know “please” and “thank you.” Use them yourself to show your kid what you mean. I’d also suggest reminding family or friends frequently around your kids to do the same. I am totally guilty of giving my little cousins whatever they want when they demand it, without reminding them to ask politely.

Ultimately, it seems that if you expect your child to be reasonably well behaved in your home, they’ll have better manners outside the home. But also, kids are crazy and unpredictable and sometimes you just want to let them do what they want so you can avoid another screaming match. Parents: what are your tips for raising a polite child?

A Very Germy Christmas

If everyone is sick on Christmas, just go out for Chinese.

Hi Victoria and Jaya!

I have a question about handling social situations gracefully when illness and contagion are involved.

We spent Christmas with my husband’s grandparents (in Hawaii, no less!).  On Christmas Day, we arrived at their place in the morning to find Gramps’ wife sick in bed with some kind of undetermined stomach bug/food poisoning–so sick, in fact, that my husband wound up calling the paramedics and sending Gramps and Nana to the hospital.  We stayed at their apartment all day: finished roasting the turkey, carved it, refrigerated a couple platefuls and froze the rest, and cleaned up around the place.  Over the next couple of days, my husband and I spent several hours visiting at the apartment while Nana recovered.  As we prepared to leave Hawaii, my husband started to feel very unpleasant.  To spare you the gory details, he’s not as sick as Nana was, but the flight back home was NOT a good time.

Obviously, our situation was more fraught with obligations than most because of a) Christmas and b) grandparents.  But…shouldn’t people cancel invitations when they may be unpleasantly contagious?  And, is there a polite way to excuse oneself from social situations if someone is obviously sick and you’re worried about catching what they have?  I don’t want to make anyone feel like their home is a den of filth, but stomach bugs are no joke.

Thanks for reading!


Not-So-Merry Christmas

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners says that an ill host should cancel a party.

Our Take:

Jaya:  Omg that Christmas sounds so sad!

Victoria We had a Thanksgiving once when I was very little where my cousin had some sort of illness and made everyone sick. And people still talk about her being Typhoid Andrea (although it wasn’t typhoid and it was 27 years ago).

Jaya:  Oh my god! Well yes, there was a reason Typhoid Mary was put on an island, and forced to stop making fruit cups for everyone.

Victoria: So firstly, it’s pretty great of them to take on finishing up Christmas while the grandparents were in the hospital instead of just throwing it in and going out or something.

Jaya:  Yeah, good job/ But also this seems very difficult. It’s not like a cousin got sick and had to stay at a hotel. It was the people hosting the Christmas. So you’re sorta SOL if your hosts are sick.

Victoria I think that the issue here is probably that they didn’t really have much notice that they were going to be sick.

Jaya:  I mean I’d rather find a random diner and have Christmas there than get a stomach bug from my grandparents, but still, yeah, no one plans getting sick. (She said, as if people planned getting sick.)

Victoria And if you are flying to Hawaii, you probably aren’t really going to be able to cancel your flight at the last second. Obviously if grandma and grandpa are a short car trip away, then totally cancel. But once flights and serious travel are involved, you are kind of stuck with making the best of the situation.

Jaya:  Yeah, though, ok, they flew to Hawaii. Most people do not go to Hawaii for less than 24 hours. I’m gonna assume they had at least a couple days booked. So if they arrive on Christmas Eve, it’s perfectly acceptable for the grandparents to call and be like “look, gramps has got a stomach bug, we’ll let you know more in the morning but if he’s still sick we may have to cancel.” And obviously it sucks because you have to find new plans/call the hospital (!!!), but I think most people would rather figure something out last minute than get a stomach virus. I’m also assuming they were maybe staying at a hotel, but this definitely changes if you’re staying with them, and show up to find them sick.

Victoria But don’t most airlines not really let you cancel your flight for a refund, so you are basically out probably $1000+? I mean, if it were me, I would probably check into a hotel in Hawaii and make the best of it.

Jaya:  That’s what I mean. you’re not gonna cancel your flight, but you know you at least have the rest of Hawaii to explore after you call the hospital and get your grandparents in.

Victoria Ahhh yes, totally.

Jaya:  I’m gonna guess the grandparents did not get sick until they were airborne. Because if you’re sick two days before Christmas, you would think you’d get over it and if you get sick the day before Christmas, everyone is already there.

Victoria Although, in some families, it might be more the thing to do to go ahead with staying with the family and helping out. I pretty much get a nasty cold every time I visit my parents for Christmas and let them baby me.

Jaya:  True, but it’s not your house you’re having Christmas in.

Victoria True.

Jaya:  I think it’s amazing that they went and cooked dinner and took care of everyone. It sounds like someone needed to at least go over and make sure they were ok but yeah, you risk getting sick that way.

Victoria But to be honest, wouldn’t you expect to do that for most close family? Like if I was visiting my parents and my mom got sick, I would totally make Christmas dinner and everything. I do think it would be totally excusable to get a hotel, of course. But I also think that hotels make for happy families, lol.

Jaya:  Yeah. I can’t tell if they were staying at their grandparents’ house, but you do not need to stay there.

Victoria The whole thing depends on your relationship. And it’s always much more awkward when it’s your in-laws.

Jaya:  But in general, I think that if you are hosting an event and you get sick, it’s your job to cancel/warn everyone. Like, an aside, I just had dinner with my dad and a cousin, and when they showed up they informed me they were both getting over 104 fevers. And it’s like, uhhh, don’t be outside?

Victoria Yes, I do think they should have been given a heads up so they could plan accordingly.

Jaya:  You give someone a heads up so they can make their own decisions, by either staying at their hotel/home, or coming over and helping out but knowingly risking getting sick.

Victoria Yeah.

Jaya:  Okay now the hard part though, how do you say so if you wanna stay home?

Victoria Yeah, I think you just have to be firm and be like, you are sick and we are going to stay home/stay at a hotel. But again. a lot of it will depend on your relationship.

Jaya:  Right. I don’t think anyone will blame you for that. I think it just has to be for the right reasons. Two people with a stomach bug is a big problem, but if your cousin has a slight cough you should just suck it up.

Victoria Some families see staying at a hotel as a huge insult and some are totally cool with it. But then also, with older people, you might also see it as your duty to come in and help out. And then also, when you get married/have kids/are an independent adult, you have to assert your boundaries. And just be firm and repetitive.

Jaya:  It probably will be rough when families see staying at a hotel as an insult. But unless they’re threatening never speaking to you again, I think just saying “We only have a limited amount of vacation time and don’t want to risk getting sick, but we’re happy to help out and plan alternatives if needed” that makes sense. Yeah, kids are always a good cop out with this. No one wants to give a baby a stomach virus.

Victoria  And most people will know their own family best and how best to word it to be the least insulting.

Jaya:  Yeah, I think it’s just about holding your ground, like you said, without blaming anyone. Like, shit happens, people get sick. It’s not because you live an unhealthy life, you just pick things up. This is the hard part about the holidays. I think any hosts always feel such pressure and like “I don’t care if i’m throwing up every 15 minutes! I’ll put on dinner!”

Victoria Hahah yeah. That’s when everyone else has to jump in and be like, okay, let’s move it to my house or whatever. Holiday spirit!

Jaya:  Yeah! Go have it at the hotel bar! Make it like that scene in A Christmas Story where they just get duck at the Chinese restaurant!

Victoria Haha sure (i never saw A Christmas Story).

Jaya:  WHAT! Well, spoiler alert, dogs break into their house and eat Christmas dinner so they go to a Chinese restaurant as a family and have a great time. Probably a good lesson for everyone. Best laid plans, etc.