My brother and I have been tipping the same way ever since we got our first Velcro wallets and bowl cuts, using the method our father taught us some 20 years ago. But after watching enough friends fill out their bills at restaurants, everything I once thought I knew about tipping came crashing down on me.
I realized I may have been tipping wrong my whole life. Maybe you have, too.
Of course, "wrong" is a subjective term when it comes to a cultural norm like tipping that, for the most part, involves individual customers choosing what amount seems "right." But when I realized my peers had been tipping differently, and potentially saving over $400 a year, it became clear I had to rethink my strategy.
Before we get into that, it's important to remember that servers in many instances earn the majority of their income from tips. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows restaurants in certain states to pay tipped employees less than minimum wage. In New Jersey, for example, a restaurant can pay a server as little as $2.13 an hour.