Growing up, I learned you should tip 15 percent at lunch and 18 to 20 percent for dinner. But what about at a place like Laughing Planet, where you order at the counter? What's the tipping etiquette there?

—[Probably not the real] Gordon Ramsey

Whenever the subject of tipping comes up in a public forum, a chorus of tight-fisted zealots materializes to insist that food-service workers should not expect "extra money just for doing their job."

It is, of course, perfectly legal not to tip, just as it's perfectly legal to skip through an oncology ward shouting, "Nyah, nyah! I don't have cancer!" The right to be an asshole is the most jealously guarded of American freedoms.

Your mama* raised you right, Gordon. But I do have a few words for Mr. God-guns-and-guts out there, whose non-tipping fingers are even now twitching over his keyboard:

It turns out that your failure to tip actually makes you exactly the sort of freeloader you profess to deplore. Tipping augments wages, leading to more talented workers and a higher level of service for the customer—a system whose benefits you enjoy without paying for them. So get a job, you fucking hippie.

As far as tip jars, that cash is usually split evenly among the whole staff—you're not just tipping the person at the register. Counter tips should start at a buck or 10 percent, whichever is more. Pizza guys (trust me on this) average about 15 percent.

In either case, it doesn't take much to make the difference between a "meh" tip and a good one. Throw in the extra buck and be a hero.

*This is the only time in the history of this column when a mention of the questioner's mother will not be followed by, "is so fat that she broke her leg and gravy came out."

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