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Tipping 15 Percent? Many Diners Pay 25 To 30 Percent Gratuity In City Restaurants

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Forget 15 percent. Or even 20 percent. The new normal in restaurant tipping is to give a full 25 to 30 percent of the tab, the New York Post reports. In other words, for a night out in New York City, you can expect to actually pay $130 for a $100 dinner.

It's not just New York City where tips are heading north; other cities are also experiencing "tip creep." New research from a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration studied 9,000 receipts from a restaurant in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and found that more than one-third of patrons left a tip that was more than 20 percent.

As a transaction, tipping is meant to represent reward or incentive for food service. But in fact the additional money has become an essential income source for workers, many of whom barely make minimum wage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food and beverage service workers made a median hourly wage of $8.72 per hour in 2010. About half of all states allow restaurants to pay servers $2.13 per hour, as long as the employer makes up the difference if the server doesn't reach the standard minimum wage after tips.

But not all restaurant owners -- or dining patrons -- got that memo.

Some restaurants have taken to adding an automatic gratuity for diners who are foreigners (and thus not accustomed to American tipping standards), while other have taken more drastic measures. According to one report earlier this year, a family was locked inside a restaurant in Houston after refusing to pay 17 percent gratuity.

But owners can be the problem, too. Celebrity chef and restaurant magnet Mario Batali settled a lawsuit earlier this year for more than $5 million over improperly withheld tips.

Meanwhile, some food and beverage industry workers are getting more creative about soliciting tips: A new electronic tip jar called the DipJar allows patrons to swipe a plastic card rather than tip with cash.

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