Q. If I go into a restaurant to place an order to go, should I tip? I usually don't, since they didn't give me any table service, such as seating me, bringing a drink, inquiring if my food is good. I feel I am a good tipper if I eat in the restaurant.
A. There is no absolute authoritative, written etiquette rule on this subject stipulating you must tip when going into a restaurant to place an order to go. Prior to the more recent popularity and availability of take-out orders, the unwritten rule has been: no obligation to tip.
As with many of the nuances in our ever-changing society, new etiquette rules are eventually established, which are applicable to these changes. That is the case with your question. There has been a considerable amount of discussion on the subject among etiquette experts throughout the country. The consensus of opinion, and mine, based on various circumstances is this:
* Generally, tip 10 percent of the bill, before tax (always rounded up to the next dollar; no coins). For example: If your order is $29.50, the tip would be $3.00; not $2.95.
Another contributing tip factor: I try to be very alert concerning the waiter taking the order. If this individual is the designated take-out order individual for the day or evening, definitely tip 10 percent, and add another dollar because this waiter is no doubt getting the same hourly wage as the wait staff serving tables. The only difference is the wait staff serving customers at tables has the wherewithall of receiving sizable tips from each table for their shift, but the take out staffer's tips for his shift may be negligible. Although most restaurants rotate this duty, it is still a bummer when it is your turn.
* Definitely tip 10 percent or more if you have a very large and complicated order. For example: dressing on the side; sauce on the side; no onions; extra cheese on this, etc.
* Since tipping is all about service, and actually attitude. If you are greeted by a very positive person who enthusiastically takes your order and offers the options of "extra cheese" or information such as "the sauce that comes with this is rather spicy, would you rather have ...?" -- a 10 percent tip or more is definitely warranted.
*Above-and-beyond service while you wait for your order deserves tipping. For example: You are offered a beverage, or a seat, or you are asking for a rush on the order for some important reason.
Q. How many "free" refills should you get at a fast food restaurant? Is is OK to get a refill for the road? When getting a refill, should you completely remove the lid and straw, or is it OK to pull it aside, making sure it is not touching the dispenser.
Number of refills: When a fast-food restaurant establishment offers "free refills" on beverages, that means "free refills" for the customer who purchased a beverage. There is, therefore, no specific limit of the number of refills.
Good manners dictate you should not abuse the offer, nor be wasteful. Size of the container and the amount of ice are also factors for determining the number of refills the customer chooses.
Refills to go: Fast-food restaurants actually realize their customers are on the go, otherwise they would not be dining in a fast-food restaurant. They also understand many of their customers appreciate being able to take a free refill to go with them because their time inside the fast-food restaurant is that hurried, and they need to get back on the road. It is a given for fast-food restaurants that feel the free refill to go is an important customer service.
If you feel uncomfortable about refilling a beverage prior to leaving the fast-food restaurant, by all means ask at the time you make the purchase, or ask before you refill.
Beverage refilling etiquette:
* Adhering to, and insuring sanitary processes when refilling a beverage cup, are absolutely critical. Lifting the lid and straw and pulling them to the side is acceptable, while insuring neither touches the dispenser. It is also logical and practical because if you totally remove the lid and straw, there could be drips or other sanitary problems. Leaving them at your table in your dining space is not practical because there is normally not an appropriate space for them.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to firstname.lastname@example.org