In this installment of Tabletop Wrestling , Hanna Raskin and Mike Seely fight over the bill that accompanies take-out orders.

Hanna Raskin thinks it's


Should You Tip on Takeout?

In this installment of Tabletop Wrestling, Hanna Raskin and Mike Seely fight over the bill that accompanies take-out orders.

Hanna Raskin thinks it's good practice to tip on takeout.

If you stiff your server (and stiffing includes those rounded-up tips which work out to a single-digit percentage of the total bill), you will earn the eternal ire of every staffer in the restaurant. But if you leave the tip line blank on your takeout order, you probably have little to fear beyond a raised eyebrow or a shrug. Most restaurant employees are accustomed to off-site diners skipping the tip.

But that doesn't mean you should do it. While packing up a to-go order shouldn't command the same price as waiting on a table, it's still a service that deserves recognition. For you to receive a paper sack filled with boxes of spaghetti, containers of tomato sauce and foil-wrapped garlic bread, an employee had to take down your order, enter it into a computer and track down the plastic utensils and condiment packets that somebody inevitably forgot to restock before the shift started. The time invested in the transaction may not be immediately visible, but it's meaningful to minimum wage workers whose nightly take hinges on hustle.

So what's a fair tip for takeout? The answer is situational. I'm inclined to tip more if takeout is a small fraction of the restaurant's business, since I assume the process is less streamlined. And I'll always tip more if I'm treated like a guest during my short stay: If the bartender pours me a glass of water while I'm waiting for my order, say, or the hostess offers me a seat, that's worthy of an extra buck.

Because when we're talking about take-out tips, a few dollars - perhaps five percent of the bill - is usually the appropriate figure. I don't think there's anything wrong with leaving $1 on a $20 takeout order, although I know diners who'd feel cheap writing it on the credit slip - just as I know there are diners who won't takeout tip on principle. I'm not sure that's a principle worth upholding when the cost of doing the right thing is so affordable. After all, if you can't spare $1, you probably shouldn't be eating out anyhow.

Omar Omar
Mike Seely is keeping his tip for a sit-down visit.

What's a fair tip for takeout? Zero dollars.

When I'm waited on at a restaurant, I tip generously--20-25 percent instead of the suggested 15. But tipping on takeout is akin to tipping for a cup of drip coffee; it simply shouldn't be done unless something exceptional occurs, like fireworks shooting out of the cash register, a free tumbler of $100 bourbon while you wait, or the hostess crafting a rustic carry-out basket from chopsticks to spare you the environmental burden of using a plastic bag.

The problem with establishing a five percent -- or even a 10 percent -- standard for takeout tipping is you still come off like a cheap bastard. Not tipping on takeout is a more principled stand, and one that, as Hanna acknowledges, is something the industry is accustomed to, if not thrilled with.

When one orders takeout, one typically orders it from a restaurant whose food she's grown to enjoy while dining in the same restaurant. Hence, she's (hopefully) tipped generously at that restaurant before, and will do so again when circumstances allow for a more leisurely meal away from home. If there's a sense of restitution felt after the lack of takeout tipping, the subsequent dine-in visit is the time to assuage such guilt.

Follow Voracious on Facebook & Twitter. Follow me at @hannaraskin

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