Today was my last day of work for Cuisine on the Scene. All-in-all it was a good job, and my boss liked me and I liked him. I only made $60-$80 a week or so, but for an extremely flexible summer job to keep my bank account in the green till moving to Ireland, it wasn't bad. It bought me a new pair of glasses, all of the Digger comic books, gas for the months I spent here (including the $172ish dollars I spent on gas for the job itself), and a few odds and ends.
Since I was working primarily for tips--the delivery fee I got for each order pretty much only covered gas--here are some things I learned about tipping in America.
1. Always tip 20%, if you can, although 15% is okay on larger orders. I know 15% is the accepted norm, but with inflation and so forth, 20% is much better. Plus your driver will love you even more.
2. A delivery driver works just as hard, if not harder, than a normal waiter to get your food to you. AND has to pay for her own gas. Tip 20%.
3. Any tip under $5 is hardly worth it. $5+ is a good tip. If 20% turns out to be three or four dollars, round up a little.
4. Don't demand exact change on cash orders, even if the tip is included in the bill--tell them to keep the change. But don't expect them to be super-grateful if the change is only ten or twenty cents...
5. Speaking of, "keep the change" doesn't make a good tip automatically. Figure out 15%+ and THEN around up to the next dollar.
6. The to-go people at the restaurants, if you decide to pick the food up yourself, are still working pretty hard. Give them tips too (although they can be smaller, 10%-15%, since they aren't driving themselves to your house as well--but still keep in mind that most people don't tip them so they get stiffed a lot).
7. It is usually not the delivery driver's fault if the food is late. The restaurants can be slow, traffic can be slow, every red light could conspire to slow your food down... don't shoot the messenger and tip poorly if your food is late or cold. Complain to the restaurant, but don't stiff the poor driver.
8. It is also not the driver's fault if you were shorted an item or if an item was wrong. Delivery drivers do not have food handling licenses and are not allowed to open your food or whatever to check and see if it is right. They have to trust the restaurants. So, call and complain, but still tip. (I did hear a story of a guy who used to work for my boss who would eat little side orders of things--bread here, extra shrimp there--and it was quickly noticed that the people were shorted on EVERY order he ran. So he was fired. But don't assume the worst, okay?)
9. Never stiff anyone but an absolute flaming a-hole, unless YOU want to the be a-hole.
My job wasn't so bad because an automatic 15% gratuity was added to every order, making it impossible for people to stiff us. It was wonderful when people tipped over that, but at least I was assured an okay tip (~$3 was the min. since they had to have at least a $20+ order in order to order ...DX). However, my boss didn't always have that rule in place. He HAD to enforce it when his drivers started being stiffed on a very regular basis. So if your bill doesn't have the tip automatically in it, you can probably safely assume that your driver gets stiffed from time to time. Tip 20% to make up for the asshats who don't even round up to the next five bucks.
Now that I've worked for tips, lemme tell you, my tipping practices are definitely going to improve from now on.