MARILYN HAGERTY: Proper tipping is bottom line for New Year's revelry

The question is not whether to tip. The question is how much to tip. And the question is in the back of the mind for the person who takes the check this weekend of celebrating New Year 2011.

The question is not whether to tip. The question is how much to tip. And the question is in the back of the mind for the person who takes the check this weekend of celebrating New Year 2011.

On the Eatbeat trail for the Herald, I have heard it said the 15 percent tip is a thing of the past. Some say the going rate for restaurant service is now 20 percent. But in visiting with restaurant owners this past week, I found that while the tipping rate is 20 to percent in larger cities, it is more like 15 percent in this area. Another Grand Forks restaurant manager said the average tips run between 13 percent and 15 percent at his place.

And there are rare occasions when a customer doesn't tip at all. After all, a tip is for good service.

Waiters and waitresses depend on tips to make up for hourly wages that are minimal. In East Grand Forks, $7.25 an hour is the minimum allowed in Minnesota for servers. In Grand Forks, $4.86 an hour is based on wage laws of North Dakota. Beyond that, most servers depend on tips to take home a going wage. And they know they must do it by offering good service.

One way is to describe the specials for the day and give the price. Another is to make eye contact with the customers when taking the order. A local waiter says he just wants to make sure the customers enjoy their meal.


Good waiters do not disappear for long periods of time. Neither do they hover over the customers. Never should they ask, "Are you still working on that?" After all, eating the food shouldn't be work. The check should go to the person who asks for it. The waiter should never ask if a guest needs change and just bring the change.

At the same time, diners have unwritten obligations. They should listen carefully when the specials are described instead of asking endless questions. They should not make unreasonable special requests.

Blowing snow

The weekend arrives with warnings of snowing and blowing...And, as the old year passes, an alcohol-free event called Celebrate the Night is planned tonight in the Alerus Center with all kinds of entertainers and activities for kids and a couple hours of open mic..."Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Healthy Heroes" will be on stage tonight through Sunday in the Alerus...While the Lions Christmas in the Park continues through this evening in Lincoln Drive Park...People who are hardy might try out the cross country trail just opened in the Red River State Recreation Area of East Grand Forks...And those who are sedentary might like to dial 399-3435 to hear a children's story from East Grand Forks Campbell Library.

Ask Marilyn

Q. What is your New Year's resolution?

A. I am going to try to figure out whether my television is equipped with an internal digital QAM tuner so I can view the digital channels without additional equipment. I am having a hard time understanding the message that came from Midcontinent. I don't know what a digital QAM tuner looks like.

Q. What was the word of the year 2010?


A. I read in the Wall Street Journal that "austerity" was named word of the year by Merriam-Webster. The word saw more than 250,000 searches on the dictionary's website and became more popular with news coverage of Greece's crisis and the government adoption of austerity measures. That's according to John Morse, president and publisher of the dictionary based at Springfield, Mass.

Wayne and Wendy

Cheerful persons of the week: Wayne Zink, Wendy Wendt.

Reach Hagerty at or (701) 772-1055.

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