102 thoughts on “Win!

  1. This is quite possibly the best page on the internet, and the most profound back of the napkin work I have ever seen. *slow clap*

    Truly, that’s awesome.

    1. I have to agree. The picture was obviously taken by the customer, because if the picture was taken by the server, it would have been thoroughly crumpled first.

      Should have been pi*2

      1. As a former waitress, you are correct. Frankly, the customer’s attempt at cleverness would’ve made the crap tip worse.

        1. CRAP TIP …? Obviously, you cannot do the math. One person = almost 20% … Hope you are a better server than mathematician.

          1. Please don’t call other posters names like “jerk.” Address the arguments and deep-six the invective, please.

          1. Sorry, but knowing lots of servers I can tell you that 18% is not a _respectable_ tip, it’s okay, but one that’s disappointing if you were nice to each other, or got better than minimsl service.

            Did you know that in many (most?) states servers are paid 50% of minimum wage, and that most restaurants take 30-70% out of tips to pay the other employees?

            Serving is intrinsically demeaning, especially since every small tip says “i don’t value what you did for me.”

            20% (*After* tax) is a decent tip. And if your server was great it should be closer to 25%, or more if you can afford it.

            1. I think a major part of the problem is most people don’t realize that 1) tips are a server’s wage. You are correct that most states in the US are not required to pay their servers minimum because of the tips they earn. 2) Most people are not aware that tip-sharing is how most bussers, hosts, bartenders, etc. get paid. When I was waiting tables, I didn’t mind sharing my tips with those who did help me, but it did bug me in principle (still does). I realize that I’m treading into dangerous internet debate territory here, but tipping is a part (and in the US at least) a major part of a restaurant workers wages. Really, a night of 10-12% tips aren’t going to pay rent and utilities and groceries.

              1. How’s that pay compare against the out of work servers at closed down restaurants people started deciding were an easily disposable optional indulgence?

                It’s difficult to know if this is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ tip; for all I know, the work involved on the server’s part was: get drink order, take order, deliver food, deliver the bill – amount to something on the order of like 6 minutes of time.

                Also, it’s unskilled labor – anyone who’s functionally literate and capable of walking from point a to b in a reasonably straight line can do the work. That is to say that there are reasons the work is low-paid; the skill set of those who do it is of negligible requirement, possessed innately by anyone who’s wandered into his or her kitchen and moved a plate from the counter to the table after having read a magazine.

                If servers are pissy about a tip between 10 and 15%, perhaps they should develop some skills that are more marketable and get a job that paid accordingly; as it is, the tips tendered account for the value of the commodity being sold: moving objects from one place to another.

            2. The whole concept of tipping is demeaning. The idea of paying whatever you feel like, as though you are some kind of medieval potentate is humiliating and disgraceful to both sides. How about paying people a living wage for a perfectly respectable job, so that it isn’t necessary? And a corollary of making tipping a part of society is not that people get better service, but that those who look like they’ll be bad tippers get no service at all, making it vitally important to look well off if you want to go to a restaurant of any kind. Tipping is not a traditional part of life in Oz and thank gods for that. I loathe the whole thing, as do most Australians. If we do tip 10% is considered the norm, but waiters get a proper wage so they don’t depend on tips. Maybe it was an Australian bill.

              1. I loathe the whole thing, as do most Australians.

                Took me a long time to get used to the idea that you don’t tip your server in New Zealand.

                I have to say, this system makes much more sense for both parties; tip rates are highly variable, and it’s really hard to figure out just how much one might make in any given week.

                Another difference between here and the States is that you always pay for your meal up front at the register; the server does not do this for you like in most US restaurants.

              2. Thank you! That’s the problem in the US–tips *are* a server’s wage. And that wage depends on a lot of things a server has zero control over–the mood of the customer, their generosity, their knowledge of tipping–frankly, it’s a crapshoot. I’d much rather see servers (and bussers, and hosts, and etc.) paid a regular wage, and tipping be optional. If that were the case, a 10% would be a nice addition to a server’s wages, and not an insult (as well as “How in the hell am I going to pay my bills?”).

            3. By gum, in my day* a 15% tip was considered standard. An 18% tip meant the server was outstanding.

              *I’m 42. My day was 1991.

              1. Yes, it does. However, the restaurant industry lobbies very hard against paying most of their employees a minimum wage. When the state I lived in raised the minimum wage, as well as the server’s wage (which was still half of the mandated wage), I had a manager pitch a fit over the thought of paying his server’s $3.25/hour instead of $2.13/hour. He kept moaning about “There goes my bonus [for keeping costs at a minimum].”

            4. Any place that pays you half minimum wage and then makes you tip out more than 20% is robbing you. 70% is usury, illegal in a lot of places, and should be reported to law enforcement.

              15% is a standard tip and 20% is a good tip as long as your boss isn’t ripping you off. It’s not the customer’s fault for “only” tipping you 15%. It’s your boss’s fault for robbing you of it.

              I personally tip 15% if it’s basic service, 20% it’s good service, and more if they’re really awesome. I also count the full value of free items and the full price of anything I get on discount when I calculate how much to tip… like if the server brings me 5 free coke refills, I pretend I paid for each when calculating the tip.

      1. But the bill was $26.86, not $16.86.

        $3.14 is a respectable tip for $16.86, but kinda lame – and perhaps a bit offensive – for $26.86.

        Cleverness is not going to feed the server’s children.* ; )

        *who are now starving thanks to Jerry.; p

        1. “But the bill was $26.86, not $16.86.”

          I’m well aware of that. Hence my use of the subjunctive (“…would be about right…”). Let me rephrase, since apparently I was too subtle the first time around:

          Yes, 11% is a crap tip, and the joke would have worked better on a tab $10 lower.

      1. Sorry, I concur that it looks more like a four四 missing a couple of strokes than a nine 九. It looks exactly like the abbreviated character for four used in old musical notation (China, Japan).

  2. Here in the U.K. that is an OK tip. I generally tip 10%, unless the tip is included in the bill when it is usually 12.5%.

    1. No wonder your economy is better than ours. It’s these damn tips that are throwing us into a depression! ; )

  3. In the US, that would be an awful tip. I worked as a server, and tips like this don’t lead to making enough to pay bills.

    I tip AT LEAST 20%, to make up for people who don’t tip well. If I tip you less than 20%, your service was poor.

  4. What the “tab” doesn’t show is how much tax was included in the bill. I don’t tip tax! But even guessing at a reasonable tax, that was still a lousy tip.


  5. After reading the foregoing comments, I for once decided to refrain from being facetious.

    In most parts of western Europe, a tip of 10-15% is OK. In Switzerland and Southern Germany, for coffee or beverages only, it is not unusual to just round the bill to the next full franc or Euro. Finding fault with a 11-12% tip would be unheard of hereabouts. In Denmark or Sweden, when tipping more than 10%, I was regarded as an exotic curiosity. In Finland this summer, I was explicitly told in several places that tipping was not expected except in tourist-infested outfits, and would be acceptable only if I was genuinely satisfied with the service. In two co-operative restaurants in Helsinki, the waitresses declined to be tipped, explaining that their business model was predicated on fair wages. However, I was given the option of depositing any excess coinage into Unicef or Greenpeace boxes.

    Maybe it’s time to realise again that the US may have a problem with their wage structure, and that fair retribution of even menial work, just like adequate and affordable health insurance, is not spearheading communism: it’s an urgent requirement for mending and preserving the social fabric. ‘Deus providebit’ is exceedingly bad economics, and life as a continued Tea Party is viable only for a Mad Hatter or a March Hare.

    1. ‘Deus providebit’ is exceedingly bad economics, and life as a continued Tea Party is viable only for a Mad Hatter or a March Hare.

      well said.

    1. I loved the 0.9999… = 1 flame war. I once stumbled across one of those and found it to be pretty much as described.

        1. My son had a problem with this one as a preteen, and we argued it for quite a while. Not wanting to get into calculus just yet, I finally explained it thus:

          Q: what’s the decimal for 1/3?
          A: .3333….

          Q: and for 2 * 1/3?
          A: .666….

          Q: and for 3 * 1/3?
          A: .9999…..

          So, since 3 * 1/3 = 1,
          and .999… = 3 * .3333 = 3 * 1/3,
          therefore .9999… = 1

          I think it came out as a good lesson in logic vs intuition. (And now, probably some of the mathematicians and/or pedagogues out there are now going to tell me how I really should have explained it, and why I have irreparably damaged his thinking processes.)

        2. Well, many of the participants insisted that you never quite reach 1 so 0.9999… was less than one. One of the responses in the flame war that I liked went something like this: If 0.9999… is less than 1, then there must be at least one number greater than 0.9999… and less than 1. He then challenged anyone to find such a number.

    1. For good service christians tip “read the bible.”

      Anytime your server did not yell at you you were getting great service. One of your friends has done it, ask them.

  6. In Australia, people only ever tip in fancy restaurants and only for very good service. This system of servers relying on tips for the majority of wages, especially in a common coffee shop or cheap “diners” seems stupid, convoluted and unfair to most Australians. One can only assume it’s a system designed to encourage servers to provide better service than they otherwise would on a flat pay structure. But the manager can easily observe the performance of the servers and coach/discipline as required, which seems like a much fairer system to me.

    Cool photo though. I might start doing that!

    1. Yep, tips are not expected in Australia and generally not given. And that is the way it should be. I do round off for the pizza delivery person though. They are generally poor students trying to survive.

    2. I agree, I’m from the US (and tip well) but I’ve noticed food seems to cost the same amount in non-tipping/low tipping country’s as in the US before adding gratuity. (It seems we don’t know what we are doing)

  7. When I worked as a waiter, any of my coworkers would have been quite pleased to average between 15 to 20%. Several members of my family have spent their lives in the hotel/restaurant business (my 60-year old brother is now a wine steward after 40 years as a waiter in some of the top restaurants in the Seattle area). Waiters don’t feel entitled to more than 20% – to claim otherwise is bullshit.

    One caveat: in many places (like Texas, where I now live) waiters are paid as low as $2.25 an hour. When I waited tables, I made minimum wage (it was a union house). I tip more in right-to-exploit states like Texas. BTW, there is a side-effect to the proprietor paying servers next to nothing: they can put many more than necessary on the floor because it costs them so little. The servers then have too few tables to even make much in tips.

    1. Tipping is only part of the story. If the proprietor is expecting a take from the tips, his published prices can be lower in anticipation – clearly the result of local custom and financial pressure. While eating out in the US might seem to be reasonably inexpensive (or so I’m told) the actual cost is higher. Does this impinge on cost-of-living indices?

  8. Back to play mode:
    Fooling around with Mathematica (what else would one do on a Sunday at 4 AM ?) I just found out that a tip of pi is weirdly appropriate to base 26.86.

    e^e sqrt(pi) ~~ 26.8602304

    Is that a bill from a nerds’ watering hole, or what?

        1. Rather, since a godly pi value would likely be = 3.0.
          Re the Thiébault-De Morgan canard about Euler and Diderot you’re alluding to: Diderot would object that, using the angle trisection method delineated in his Examen de la développante du cercle, he could cut Jerry’s luscious pear pie in equal slices with pi as it stands: irrational and transcendental (pwn intended).

  9. Can we all just agree that servers/pizza delivery people/waitresses/waiters are the 1% and put an end to this “tipping” madness once and for all.

    Who wants to join me for “Occupy Cheap Restaurants”?

  10. I cannot imagine complaining about receiving several dollars for perhaps 5 minutes of work. That works out to an hourly wage of at least $60/hr if the restaurant is full. Maybe $30/hr if half-empty. Even if it worked out to $20/hr, that is still an incredible wage for work which requires no specialized knowledge. Many biologists earn less than that, if you divided their salaries by the amount of time they actually worked.

    I expect someone to spit on my food next time I go to a US restaurant, but these expectations of riches for serving tables seem ridiculous. I now live abroad in a third world country, which surely colors my perspective. But even when I lived in the US, I couldn’t believe the amazing earnings my waiter friends pulled in. It made no sense. Meanwhile my highly trained ecologist friends, after going through their PhD programs, were often really destitute (and many took waiter jobs because these were better-paying than jobs in their fields).

    1. Have a piece of paper on the table, I’ll write up our order myself—many restaurants have helpful numbered dishes, to make it easier. Signal me when the food is done, I’ll come get it myself. Why spend several dollars for a waiter?

      What an incredibly misplaced sense of privilege that a waiter who does these useless tasks expects to be paid a small fortune per day!

        1. There is no necessary relationship between food quality and waiters. Indeed, if I am allowed to, I would rather tip the cook (who may really be an artist, who has long experience, and who actually made my food) than the waiter who thinks I owe him or her several dollars just to take my order and move the plates from the kitchen to my table.

          People who are happy to pay extra for this unnecessary service may not understand how much good they could do with the money they just spent.

          1. In most restaurants, you are tipping the cook (and the wine steward, the busboy, the dishwasher, and so on). The waiter is your point of contact with the entire staff, with whom tips are (usually) shared. It’s part of the waiter’s job to be your representative in the kitchen and make sure all those other people do their jobs properly to make your meal enjoyable.

            The waiter also understands the menu, answers your questions about it, and handles any special requests you may have. If something’s not right, it’s the waiter’s job to see that it gets fixed promptly.

            If you think all the waiter does is take dictation and move plates around, then you really need to get out to a better class of restaurant.

            1. If I went to an expensive place and paid those prices, I would not enjoy my meal, as I would be thinking about what better things I could have done with that money, instead of wasting it self-indulgently on such a superficial and momentary pleasure.

              I was briefly a street person (only a month), and several times had zero money. This colors one’s perspective. When I do have money, I much prefer to spend it on research equipment or field trips than on some pretentious meal.

              And I would not like to spend my life earning money. I want to spend my life doing whatever seems important or interesting to me at the time, rather than doing somebody else’s things just so I can pay somebody to be my representative in the kitchen of some fancy restaurant. Having said that, I am a total hypocrite, because I really enjoy a good meal at a fancy restaurant when
              someone invites me!!!

              1. As it happens, I’m just on my way out to treat two of my scholarship students to a nice dinner they probably couldn’t afford on their own. Although I’m sure the food (and the service) will be good, the pleasures don’t end there. It’s a fact of human nature that enjoying good food together cements friendships. Anyone who doesn’t find that interesting or important really does lead an impoverished life.

              2. I agree…my only point is that the waiter is practically irrelevant. I’d love to talk to the person who cooked the good meal, though.

              3. My most influential biology prof in grad school decacdes ago had a Gourmet Food Club consisting of faculty and friends, and they each took turns making great meals. They often invited me. No waiters, everyone was equal and all were friends. Bob Barth, if you are reading this, THANK YOU!!

              4. Well, you certainly do sound like a joy to be around. I mean, who doesn’t love someone that’s happy to sponge off of others, has animosity towards the working poor (which most servers are), and just seems generally clueless about dining culture?

              5. Missed this until today, Brandon. I meant no disrespect to “the working poor”. Judging from the sizes of the tips under discussion here, some of these waiters are earning far more than lots of working biologists, and are not poor by any objective standard.

      1. Thank you, Mister Pink.

        Now you and Mister Brown and Mister Orange and Nice Guy Eddie can get back to deconstructing Like a Virgin, while Joe Cabot pages through his old address book.

    2. You have clearly never worked as a waiter. The incomes they earn are quite variable, and their abilities to do the job well varies too. One factor affecting job performance is attitude: my oldest daughter thinks that waiting on tables would be degrading, I never felt at all ashamed of or degraded by the job. I’d be a much better waiter.

      I’ve been to expensive restaurants and had a lousy waiter and it makes a big difference. My wife, for example, often asks for recommendations and gets responses of highly variable quality. Good waiters pay attention to what is good where they’re working and ask questions from customers that elicit the information they’ll need to give a good recommendation. Good waiters know wine. Good waiters sense when to leave you alone to talk and enjoy your meal and when to make themselves available. Good waiters know how to handle obnoxious assholes who make up a certain fraction of their customers.

      Finally, working as a waiter is tiring work and your feet will wear out after a number of years.

  11. And if you think it couldn’t get any worse, I just learned that one of the more upscale restaurant conglomerates here in the Twin Cities is deducting 2% of a server’s tips if the gratuity has been added to the credit card payment. This is supposedly to cover the restaurant’s cost to process the charges!

    1. That is a pretty common practice where permitted by law, actually.

      People who are not willing to leave a reasonable tip should not eat in full service restaurants. Period.

  12. Two immediate thoughts from a UK perspective. I have often thought US restaurant prices rather low. It makes sense if you are expected to pay twenty percent plus on top.
    The typical UK gratuity is ten percent, but we do have a tax called VAT at twenty percent of the final bill. I always tip in cash, as I understand that adding a tip to your card bill means that the govt. will pinch twenty percent of it.
    I expect someone will write in to tell me that the govt. do anyway and that I’ve been fooling myself.

    1. I don’t know about the UK, but in the US, you are legally required to claim ALL of your tips, be they cash or credit card. (That’s not to say all servers do that, all of the time.)

  13. Here’s a radical notion that might allow you all to appreciate the nerdism without deprecating the clever customer: He/she left extra tip money in the form of cash, just so that could be written on the receipt paid by credit card.

    I don’t know if that’s what happened, but it’s certainly what I would do if given that opportunity.

    1. Same notion I had; then it occurred that stitching in facts cut from whole cloth so our story’s more satisfying — that’s what they do in religion.

  14. At least he didn’t follow Richard Feynman’s example:

    “…one day, just for
    fun, I left my tip, which was usually ten cents (normal for those days), in two nickels,
    under two glasses: I filled each glass to the very top, dropped a nickel in, and with a card
    over it, turned it over so it was upside down on the table. Then I slipped out the card (no
    water leaks out because no air can come in the
    rim is too close to the table for that).
    I put the tip under two glasses because I knew they were always in a hurry. If the
    tip was a dime in one glass, the waitress, in her haste to get the table ready for the next
    customer, would pick up the glass, the water would spill out, and that would be the end of
    it. But after she does that with the first glass, what the hell is she going to do with the
    second one? She can’t just have the nerve to lift it up now!
    On the way out I said to my waitress, “Be careful, Sue. There’s something funny
    about the glasses you gave me they’re
    filled in on the top, and there’s a hole on the
    The next day I came back, and I had a new waitress. My regular waitress wouldn’t
    have anything to do with me. “Sue’s very angry at you,” my new waitress said. “After she
    picked up the first glass and water went all over the place, she called the boss out. They
    studied it a little bit, but they couldn’t spend all day figuring out what to do, so they
    finally picked up the other one, and water went out again, all over the floor. It was a
    terrible mess; Sue slipped later in the water. They’re all mad at you.”

    1. It’s all very well being clever, but a clever arse is still an arse.

      Assuming that was in the US where tips are required to make salaries up to a living wage. I wouldn’t speak to you either if you did that to me! I’ surprised they didn’t charge you for the time they had to spend cleaning up.

        1. Agreed – I cringe when I read that story. On the other hand, though it was a thoughtless thing to do, I don’t think Feynman did it deliberately to be nasty. My take on it is that his intent was to provide a puzzle, complete with clues (not just a deliberate booby-trap), but did not stop to think that other people (like that waitress) might not find it a fun diversion and be impressed with his cleverness.

          1. At what point does a clever academic become a malicious jerk? By the time he has put his small tip under two upturned glasses of water for the busy, foot-tired waitress to collect, he has passed that point.

            1. I’m not defending the behaviour – as a matter of fact, I have encountered analogous situations with my kids in which they have contemplated “clever” actions, and I have helped them to work through the consequences and conclude that the end result would not be worth the potential fun. One might think that someone as smart as Feynman would have been able to work that sort of thing out for himself, but I still don’t think Feynman’s actual goal was to cause problems for others. I would definitely call him an “insensitive jerk”, but perhaps not a “malicious jerk”.

              1. Your distinction is no doubt right, but it might have seemed rather malicious to the waitress. But come to think of it, I’m sure I have been guilty of insensitivity and “funny” jokes, if not quite so extreme or wet as Feynman’s. Still, a mature adult should know better.

              2. It’s quite often the case that extremely clever people are not necessarily the best at social interaction. He was an extremely good speaker, but that’s not the same as having a 2-way conversation.

              3. The rest of the story:

                I laughed.

                She said, “It’s not funny! How would you like it if someone did that to you–what would you do?”

                “I’d get a soup plate and then slide the glass very carefully over to the edge of the table, and let the water run into the soup plate–it doesn’t have to run onto the floor. Then I’d take the nickel out.”

                “Oh, that’s a goood idea,” she said.

                That evening I left my tip under a coffee cup, which I left upside down on the table.

                The next night I came and I had the same new waitress.

                “What’s the idea of leaving the cup upside down last time?”

                “Well, I thought that even though you were in a hurry, you’d have to go back into the kitchen and get a soup plate; then you’d have to sloooowly and carefully slide the cup over to the edge of the table . . .”

                “I did that,” she complained, “but there was no water in it!”

                Sounds pretty malicious to me… I wish I hadn’t known about this side to his personality.

  15. A culture which expects tips is just a step away from one which expects corruption. Where do you draw the line? Tip for good service in a restaurant? Why not in a hospital if the nurse earns less than a waitress? Soon they might expect cash upfront for an operation (par for the course in many places).

    Note: I think the people earning money from tips deserve it, and stopping tipping in individual cases won’t improve things; this is a criticism of the culture.

  16. Here in the UK, where staff are paid a decent amount to start with, 18% is a very good tip. 10-15% is usual (with 15 usually being the maximum).

    Anyway, the guy still owes 0.0015926535897932384626433832795 of a cent.

  17. Looks like people appear to have missed the point, the win comes from the fact the server was able to calculate pi & add it to the bill to equal $30.00. Well at least that’s how I read it.

    1. I think we all understood that. The point you’re missing is that the tipper apparently chose to stiff the server in order to make that little joke. So it’s a win only if you think the joke matters more than fair treatment for the server.

      1. Or the point could be that the customer saw that the difference between the bill and a rounded-up number was pi, and so expressed it that way to be witty, but the point was that he/she was just rounding it up.

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