I like Ruby Tuesday, at least the one in Snellville. Unlike the now closed Ruby Tuesday in Gwinnett Place, this one is color blind and delivers the same service regardless of the color of their patrons. They have well regarded salad bar and although they switch menu items often, certain items are reliable (wings, buffalo burgers, etc). What I’m here to talk about is their new tipping suggestions (printed on their tickets), which to me are a little outrageous.

I always understood you calculated tips by multiplying the tip percentage, divided by 100, into the total for the meal (see for example, this link, or this link). Later, friends and in-laws from San Francisco told me that you do this to the total of the meal before taxes. These days, 15% is a good tip and 20% is reserved for exceptional service. In my grandfather’s generation, 10% was an exceptional tip and in my father’s generation, 15% considered exceptional.

Therefore, if you have a meal that costs 10.00, and 7% sales tax, the meal with tax is $10.70. So to calculate tips my way, at 20%, I come up with $2.14. If I calculate tips the way my friends from San Francisco do, at 20%, they come up with $2.00. What Ruby Tuesday is doing, however, is taking $10.70, multiplying by 0.8, and subtracting the difference. For a meal of $10.70, the tip that results would be $2.68, and Ruby Tuesday is calling that a 20% tip.

Simply put, what in normal parlance would be called a 25% tip, Ruby is calling a 20% tip. It’s done by a bit of sleight of hand in terms of the calculations, and people need to be aware of what is going on.

Take home: calculate your own tips, and don’t overtip because Ruby Tuesday thinks you should.

Update:  June 11, 2009 – The last time I bought food to go here, the tip suggestions had been adjusted to the more normal values.

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