You've been out to eat with that Muslim friend or Muslim couple – you know, the one that leaves an embarrassingly low tip after a meal. What is it that makes some of us feel stingy when it comes to giving tips after getting service? And does anyone else feel the need to overly compensate when they go out as visibly Muslim to a nice place and wonder if the wait staff is rolling their eyes fighting to avoid your table and the inevitably low tip?

I like to think of tipping as a random act of kindness. It's something you can do that will make someone's day. Put yourself in their shoes. You have a grueling job, with unappreciative people, and then on top of that people feel the need to nickel and dime you on your income.

Most people don't realize this, but in professions where gratuity is expected, the server is expected to make a certain amount of money in tips. The minimum wage for a waiter in the US is $2.13. Put this in perspective for a moment. Without tips, that is an annual income of $4,430.40. Annual means a whole year. Even then, they don't get to keep the entirety of their tips, and they have to split the tips with other staff (dishwashers, janitors, cooks, host, etc.).

The rough average living wage for an American household with 2 adults and one child is roughly $18-$20/hour (about $40,000 annually).

And just so there's no confusion, the living wage is the same whether you're at an American restaurant or a Muslim one. Don't be one of those people who tips 20% at Chili's (of all places), but only 10% at a sit down 'zabihah' restaurant. This is a phenomenon I've never understood.

Think about that the next time you pull out your calculator and say, “They refilled my Coke 5 minutes after I needed it, so I'm going to tip them 9% now.”

A lot of people say its “good da'wah” to tip well, to give a positive impression of Muslims. That's nice, but I think we need to tip well as part of just being decent human beings. If you have the ability to spend $50 to $100 on dinner, then you have the ability to leave a generous tip and help brighten the day of someone who has been serving you. It's not going to kill you to throw a dollar into the tip jar at a Starbuck's, especially if you're a regular.

If you want to take it a step further, show some extra appreciation. Leave a note thanking them or seek out the manager to compliment the service. It's part of our Prophetic tradition, “He who does not thank the people has not thanked Allah.” Get creative with how you thank people. 

An infographic is embedded below that gives you the general etiquettes of tipping in different circumstances.

We'd like to hear from those of you who work in a service industry: What's your experience with Muslim customers? How do good/bad tips impact you? 

45 Responses

  1. Dua

    Salam – I am glad we are stepping outside of our usual posts and diving into issues of the society we live in alhamdulilah. I personally tip pretty well and do realize that I am blessed because I am able to eat out.

    I hate the concept of needing to tip though – I don’t think it should be my job to not only pay for your food but also to pay your wages, that’s why you have an employer. I don’t understand the need for tipping in some industries but how it’s not allowed in others. A barista that works a cash register at starbucks gets paid above minimum wage – so why am I supposed to pay her extra for something she/he are paid to do. The same goes for other industries like hair salons.

    I know I probably sound like a cheapo but I don’t jipp people out of their tips. I just think it’s a system error that needs to be fixed. A tip should be something I want to give for special service, when 20% becomes the norm, how do I reward someone for being extra good – with 25%? 20% is already awfully high.

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    • Anon

      I have to agree here – not sure why the author feels that waiters always deserve tips, and also that the tip should be a certain minimum purely because of the low wages in the food service industries. Not to be too insensitive, but there are many low-paying jobs which people all over the world want/have to do – I don’t think this necessitates them being paid extra if they haven’t earned it.

      As Dua has pointed out, the cost of rewarding employees for their good work should be with the employer. If I choose to tip someone for service above the norm – that’s my prerogative. I don’t think it should be a cultural expectation that anyone anywhere in a service industry should expect a tip; and I’m not even including the cases where there is an obvious lack of care and attention to the job, rudeness to customers, etc etc.

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      • Abu Asiyah

        I worked in restaurants as a waiter for several years, both in Muslim and non-Muslim restaurants.

        “Not to be too insensitive, but there are many low-paying jobs which people all over the world want/have to do – I don’t think this necessitates them being paid extra if they haven’t earned it.”

        Low paid jobs is fine – waitering is rarely a highly paid job. But jobs below minimum wage – in a country where people sacrificed their LIVES to make sure a minimum wage exists (don’t believe me? read about the US Labor Movement in the 19th-20th centuries), that’s wrong.

        Realize that working as a waiter, I would make about $30 for a full 8+ hour day of work (and don’t even get me started on waiter “hours” – waiters work a LOT off the clock). This is far below minimum wage. With tips, I would make another $50 or so on a decent day – that’s $10/hour, WITH TIP. And I always gave the best possible service.

        When you hire a construction worker and he puts in 10 hours of back-breaking labor that you think was sub-par, do you pay him $10 for it? No, you pay him his correct wage and then you take it up with his employer that he’s not doing his job right. Somehow, with waiters you feel entitled to decide who deserves below minimum wage pay and who doesn’t?

        Also, realize that a lot of the stuff waiters get blamed for – messed up orders, late food etc is only SOMETIMES the fault of the waiter. Yes, it’s possible the waiter put in the wrong order, took his time bringing the food out, etc. It’s also possible that the kitchen is backed up, they screwed up the order, and they took ages to get the food out. It’s even more likely that the boss who wants to save money decided to employ only two waiters for a restaurant with 20 tables on a full-house night. As a waiter, 5 tables is considered busy – when you’re doing 10 because your boss is cheap, there’s not much you can do to prevent poor service. What’s worse – Muslim owners tend to do this way more often than non-Muslim owners do.

        And realize also that waitering is a difficult job. Yes, when I was one, I did my best to put bad tables behind me. But for some reason, it’s always the Muslim tables that are the most rude, most demanding, complain the most, and tip the lowest. I still remember one of the waitresses I worked with almost started crying after she spent hours fawning over a table of four Muslim guys (while having 10 other tables to take care of), gave them the best service, and got $0.00 tip for it. If you treat waiters well – realize that their bad attitude just might be because the previous three tables were these “nightmare” tables. And if you treat you ARE the one who creates nightmares for waiters, then don’t be surprised that you get poor service. Waiters are only human, there’s only so much abuse they can take.

        “As Dua has pointed out, the cost of rewarding employees for their good work should be with the employer. If I choose to tip someone for service above the norm – that’s my prerogative.”

        The norm in the US/Canada is 15%.

        But I do agree with you on this one. The whole tipping system is messed up and should be done away with. As a waiter, I would’ve preferred to get paid above minimum wage by the employer and skip the tips. On the other hand though, if you don’t like rude service, then you might want to reconsider that – visit any country where tips aren’t the standard. Rude service is the service you will always get.

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      • Shonan Love

        ‘visit any country where tips aren’t the standard. Rude service is the service you will always get.’

        That’s utterly false. In Japan, where tipping exists nowhere outsider bars owned by foreigners and ryokan, service excels like no other place on this planet.

        Tipping having gine beyond its original intention – rewarding above and beyond service, at one’s discretion – is wrong. You can write long platitudes about why we should pay waiters’ wages but needing to write so much just shows your need to defend a lopsided nonsensical point.

        Tipping is a Western cultural flaw and neither needs nor deserves any defense.

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    • Teresa

      On average, a server allocates 1 hour of service to a table and often much longer. Service involves ensuring your beverage is full, even if all you are drinking is water, accommodating various requests, serving your plate, and cleaning your mess. The only difference between a servant and a server is the gratuity offered in appreciation of the time and energy spent meeting and anticipating your needs. Gratuity is an act of appreciation that represents the customer’s understanding and appreciation for service provided-typically 15% to 20% of the total bill. In Canada, servers are regarded as hard-working and skilled individuals who create positive experiences for diners. It is not customary to treat them as servants, nor as citizens who are undervalued.Skimping on gratuity sends a strong message that you regard servers as your personal servants.

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  2. amad

    What if the bill shows a service charge already included?

    By the way, there is no custom of tipping in Middle East— where it is most needed … 5% if you are generous. Many places charge a service fee which doesn’t go to waiters. The mentality in this region is different. Waiters are thought of as “servants” whose job it is to serve and they are doing no favor to patrons!

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  3. Sidra

    This might be an odd question, but I never know what to do when I’ve been given bad service. It happens rarely, but I still feel the need to leave a 15% tip out of obligation/ I don’t want them to hate on Muslims.

    *Note from Comments Team: Name has been changed to comply to our Comments Policy*

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    • Abu Asiyah

      As a waiter, if I did a poor job I wouldn’t flinch at a 10% tip, maybe rounded down even. It was kind of expected.

      However, I can definitely say that I could usually tell who would under-tip for bad service and who wouldn’t before handing them the check. The people who treated me with respect, who were polite, etc, would usually tip well anyway.

      Given that waiters experience a lot of disrespect, are treated like trash, are abused (both by patrons and by the kitchen staff – there’s usually like a mini war between waitstaff and the kitchen), and do screw up once in a while due to the fact that the job is high-paced and high-pressure, it’s nice to have that one odd guest who actually treats you well and overlooks your faults and tips you well anyway. After seeing a lot of bad ahlaq, you have a lot of respect for that kind of person.

      So my personal advice is to tip 15% anyway. A waiter who realizes he/she have done a poor job will appreciate the gesture. Now that I’m past my waitering days, that’s what I do when I go to restaurants – 15% for bad service, 15-20% for decent service, and 20+% for anything better.

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      • Shonan Love

        Are you seriously saying that bad service should STILL be tipped for?

        Talk about a sense of self-entitlement! Service in North America is pathetic and this kind of thinking is the reason for it by and large.

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  4. Ubaid Seth

    Great article!! In the travel section, that plane is awfully close to the hotel. Is it possible to change the direction so it’s not crashing into anything? :( Sorry to nitpick

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  5. ibrahim

    You will find that tipping cultures vary across the world. In some countries they expect a tip – even if the service has been poor or at best mediocre. I only tip if the service is good. It also depends on the type of restaurant. If you go to the big chains in UK, minimum wage Plus is paid to their staff and working conditions are largely humane. But if you go to a halal restaurant run by Muslims the chances are the staff are illegal immigrants earning below minimum wage. Any tip will probably go to the greedy restaurateur. Restaurants like this are easy to identify by the sad grimaces on the faces of the waiters.

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    • Nano

      Thats why Ive made it a habit to tip the butcher guys at our halal meat store in US. They are immigrants and Ive noticed the store owner doesn’t appreciate them as much as he should. it really makes their day. Likewise my husband has a habit of tipping the guys who are usually on the grills making bread, chicken etc on the side, (muslim restaurants in Malaysia) along with the usual waiters.

      I don’t think tipping is culturally expected in Malaysia like it is in US, but people do tip and its appreciated. I’ve been tipping lately for very good service and at places where I am now a regular.

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    • Wael

      Umm Mohammed, that hadith refers specifically to state workers (government employees), as you can see from the interpretation that follows in the article. It’s the same in any modern society. Immigration officers, police officers, building inspectors, etc, cannot accept tips or gifts, as it could be seen as bribery or corruption.

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    • Abu Asiyah

      In addition to Wael’s point, scholars in the West have pointed out that in case of waiters and others whose minimum wage was lowered because they expect tips, it’s unjust to deprive them of their income. Shari’a has to take culture into account.

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      • Shonan Love

        Which ‘scholar’ has actually gone and said not tipping is unjust?

        References, man. You waiter types and former waiter types have your view all skewed because you worked in that environment and were indoctrinated to believe you deserve tips – even, as you said, 10% -15% if you have given BAD SERVICE.

        Insanity, thy name is everything you just said, brother.

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  6. ibnabeeomar

    Legally they’re allowed to pay minimum wage BECAUSE tipping is an expected part of what you pay for the meal. It might be different in other countries, but that’s how it is in the US.

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  7. jamicam

    I always leave 20% in restaurants, even with poor service. On very few occasions I’ve left 15% if the service was just horrible, but never less than that. I’ve never heard that Muslims are bad tippers. I wonder how widespread that perception really is — maybe just regional or for Muslims of specific nationalities?

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    • Abu Asiyah

      As an ex-waiter, I can tell you I dreaded Muslim customers, whatever ethnic background, even if they were clearly raised in the West. I’d say 80-90% were extremely difficult customers and the worst tippers.

      I still remember a table of two Arab families – always demanding, complaining about food, etc. After I spent so much effort on making sure they’re happy, they left me 1 cent as tip. 0 is rude. 1 cent is beyond rude.

      The worst customer I have ever served was a young hijabi. I still remember her non-Muslim friends shifting uncomfortably and looking at me apologetically because of how she was treating me.

      I’d say the perception really is dead on, so thanks for doing something to offset it. It does go a long way, even if people don’t realize it.

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  8. Hyde

    Well long as you don’t tip like Mr. Pink from reservoir dogs, I’m assuming it is good to go.

    Btw since when do Muslim couples eat out together ?

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  9. Mww-m

    “The minimum wage for a waiter in the US is $2.13.”

    This is misleading. The minimum wage for a waiter in the US is $2.13 *if* they don’t make more than the standard minimum wage with tips. If a waiter works 10 hours and makes $5 in tips, the employer must pay them the standard minimum wage for 10 hours minus the $5 collected in tips.

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    • ibnabeeomar

      oversight yes, misleading no. either way, minimum wage is still less than half a living wage, and the entire premise of the article would be the same even if they made $7/hour instead of $2/hour.

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    • Abu Asiyah

      That’s true in theory, but not in practice. Most restaurants don’t have this principle enacted – one that did that I worked in only had it after 2+ years of complaints by waiters. So I have indeed gotten paid below minimum wage on many days.

      The big restaurant chains probably do have this in place, but for the individually-owned restaurants, it’s very uncommon (at least in my experience).

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  10. skazimi84

    Alhamdulilah, happy to report that my husband and I have always been very generous tippers- 20% at the least. The credit does go to my husband as he established this rule in our house. Regardless of where we eat, we believe that the people who are serving us deserve to be complimented (via tips for instance).So glad for someone to write about it!
    One thing i would like to do from now on is to tip my postal worker in the form of a present! What a great idea – SubhanAllah!

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  11. Serendipitous

    Hmm…interesting article :) Now for some controversy..no…really..I think women are better tippers than men. You can usually see the wives embarrassed by their husband’s scroogey tipping habits..lol.

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  12. AskYous

    Jazak Allah Khair for this article ibnabeeomar. I almost never tip unless I’m part of a big group… which rarely happens. Because of you, I will start tipping on all my checks in sha allah.

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  13. Olivia Kompier

    We can complain all we want about why it’s silly or nonsensical that waiters get tipped, or we can talk about other cultures which don’t, or why the halal butcher deserves it more, but at the end of the day it is a norm in the west and if you don’t tip/respect the ‘urf/norm you look like a cheapskate- tightwad and sadly it’s the case for many Muslims. make a separate post about why tipping is dumb but at the end, at at the end of the day if you go out to a restaurant in the west where a tip is expected please leave at least an average one and consider it a sadaqa if its so emotionally trying for you to do it. how many Muslims are well paid professionals yet they tip like they can’t afford to have eaten out in the first place? instead of justifying to yourself why you shouldn’t have to ask Allah’s reward for putting down the $ and just do it.

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    • Nano

      Not sure anyone is complaining here sister, looks to me to just be a varied discussion.

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  14. Mohammad Yusha

    Tips end up with the owners in most Asian restaurants whereas in western ones, why do people tip in cuisines and not at fast-food restaurants? Waiters are paid less than minimum wage because they get tips but at the end of the day who benefits? The owner – who gets away with paying less than minimum wage. As for giving tips with the intention of doing sadaqa, I think there are many people out there who are more deserving of sadaqa than waiters. As for leaving money in “jars” in grocery stores, does it really go to the needy?

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    • Abu Asiyah

      I have worked in non-Muslim and Muslim restaurants, one of them being a Pakistani-owned place. The tips I made were mine to keep, always. In fact, a lot of the time they were in cash, so they couldn’t take it from me if they tried.

      People in fast-food restaurants usually don’t get tipped and therefore are paid at minimum-wage or just above it. That reinforces not tipping them.

      With regards to jars – yes that’s true. I’ve heard from people who worked in places like Subway that the money usually goes to the boss.

      At the end of the day, these are pretty much just excuses. If you’re worried about the money going to the wrong person, take the 20% tip in cash and hand it directly to the waiter. They’ll put it in their pocket and the boss won’t even know. But most of the time, that doesn’t matter.

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  15. Abdullah

    I take tipping as a way of charity, i make the intention that im giving charity by tipping

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  16. Serendipitous

    At the end of the day (or meal), as with all things – Innamal aamaalu binniyyaat. Of course it’s a social norm. If you’re doing it for the right reason’s – with the intention of making someone’s day better, it is of course a sadaqah, but if you’re doing it coz it’s ‘the norm’ or so that people don’t think you’re a cheapskate, well, then you’re just giving away the money for Riyaa (outwardly show). When we had little, we left little tips, we now leave bigger ones, but have always made sure we and our kids clean the table as best as we can and don’t leave dirty paper napkins on the table for the waitress to pick up after us just to make her day a tiny bit less stressful.

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  17. ibnabeeomar

    Let’s put it another way: NOT leaving a tip is cheating someone out of their livelihood.

    The tip is an *expected* part of their income, its part of the price of the meal. This is how it works in America. You can disagree with it and not like it and be offended by it, you can think its dumb, but if you *choose* to eat out at a restaurant, then please understand this and act accordingly.

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  18. uzman

    We have to put ourselves in the shoes of people who don’t know Islam and it’s beauty and respond accordingly! Share Islam and tip.

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  19. Jon solis

    The origin of the word “tip” was To Insure Promptness. It was given BEFORE the service as a guarantee of the quality of service that you desired. Somehow over the years it has been changed to show one’s pleasure of the service received, with a 15-18% tip the expected norm and a higher rate for exceptional service. A lower tip is really only given rarely if the service is really below par, and probably means you won’t go back to that establishment again. The tip is unfortunately a necessary part of the price of a meal because American law allows waiters to be paid at below minimum wage. Also, the IRS actually assumes a certain amount of tips received. If a waiter actually did receive no tips during the year, the IRS would assume he/she received tips and require him/her to pay a tax on money that was actually not received!

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  20. Mohammad

    In some gas stations in one of the richest “muslim” countries in the world, attendants are forbidden from taking tips, and if suspected, are strip searched, and any tips that they have goes to the management. Their work involves 8-10 hours of standing (in 100+ temps in summer) smelling petrol fumes and refueling cars, while the typical corporate middle manager drives Audis and BMWs. Jut one more reason why I personally bang my head thinking of my stupidity in returning to a “Muslim” country when I could have remained in the US. Some “muslim” countries have adopted the most extreme bits of capitalism and have turned into far more consumerist and capitalist than the “evil capitalist West” that some naive Muslims like to rant so much about

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  21. Zammer

    I’m not a European nor do I agree with many things that happen in Europe or the way they live their lives……but As an example Europeans (Muslims or Non-Muslims) consider the North-American phenomena of “tipping” to be very backwards!! (Very surprised that Canada is like the US in this matter)

    When you “need” to constantly “tip” when you go out to eat somewhere, basically indicates that the person who is waiting on you is not getting paid well enough. In Europe (again, as an example) they have services charges included in your meal…these charges go directly to the people who are waiting on you.

    This means every the people waiting on you receives the same amount every time and there is no difference between what your colleague receives or no difference if you are waiting on Muslims, Hindus, Jews or whatever.

    In Europe (Again, an example) there are LAWS considering minimum wages and these service charges to people working in these low paid jobs in order to guarantee equality and justice.

    This is a form of equality and social justice that you people (seems Muslims have become just as bad as your non-Muslim neighbors) in the capitalist, highly commercialized and corrupt societies of North America can not even comprehend.

    You are living in supposedly one of the most richest countries in the world while your lowest workers are basically living like slaves.

    The Fact that people are constantly unappreciative shows how greedy and corrupt you people in North America have become….you want everything quickly, fast, constantly in a rush. You North-Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are one of the most corrupt people on this earth, your greed and ways of life is unsustainable. Just because you are Muslims living in the West, will not save you from the disastrous economic downfall that is awaiting all of you.

    It is very Ironic that you are quoting from the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) while everything around you is in a constant state of corruption….you are basically living in a place of constant Riba (interest), Zina and exploitation of other nations.

    You and your parents/grand parents left Muslim countries in the millions in just the past 50 years in the so called search of a better life, believing that you have all the freedoms to worship Allah how you want…While in reality, everything about your lives and around it is in total contradiction to Allah’s LAW and your religion.

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    • O H

      Too many generalisations made in the post. Incase your a Muslim it is essential for you to have good assumption (حسن الظن) of your fellow Muslims. I am sure you could have expressed your points in a manner which doesn’t seem like a rant!

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  22. Name

    I just think some muslims have too much money. Tip if you can and you dont regret it. Dont let this article make you feel guilty next time you go. Not everyone can afford to spend 100 dollars on a mean. I mean wow. I for one do not reproach the rich arabs on their spending habits. If American Muslims spend 100 dollars on a meal then I dont think they should either. hold dear to that principles.

    Next time guys, dont criticise Arabs for lavish spending unless you whole the same concern for your fellow doctors and profesionals.

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    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Dear Name

      Your comment contradicts our posting rules due to lack of a Name and your use of an obviously fake email address.

      Also just to clarify the cost of the meal referred by the author is for multiple people not one person.

      -Aly

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  23. O H

    I may come across as stingy but I don’t leave tips behind in restaurants but I instead opt to drop coins or notes in the donation boxes, etc they may have around the counter. In Sydney especially some of the Muslim shops and restaurants have donation boxes for Masjids, orphans in foreign countries, Help for Syria etc which I rather drop my tip in. I would rather spend a good amount of money on the poor and needy or welfare organisations , not with people who earn enough to pay off their basic bills. By the way I am not saying all the waiters and workers in the West have an awesome earning with no issues meeting their daily expenses, its just that I feel there are other poeple and places where it can help out more. I would rather forego a tip of $2-5 in a restaurant to add $2-5 on my sadaqa for a charitable cause. I would also enjoy paying tips to poor workers and servicemen whilst I am in my home country which happens to a really poor nation and where they are in more need of such generous bonuses. Just my 2 cents!

    Insha Allaah the ones who pay tips out of kindness will be rewarded.

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    • Taylor

      You know, it is very noble that you are trying to help out the less fortunate, but let’s remember that servers depend on their tips and often cannot pay basic bills without this extra income. Why not divide your donation in half and give half to the server and half to the charitable cause, after all…everyones just trying to make it in this world!

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  24. jason

    Muslims, Indians and other similar races are typically the most demanding and among the worst tippers. i for one wouldn’t eat out as your reputation causes bad things to happen to your meals. I have watched Muslims spend $200 and leave absolutely zero and this is more common than them tipping anything at all. i know of people of your community waiting tables and refuse to wait on their fellow muslin or Indians.. It is extremely rare anywhere in the U.S. to have a Muslim tip and that is your reputation as well as asking for special dietary favors. I read of those on here who tip 20% and haven’t seen one in 20 years and have always worked high end restaurants. i don’t care what they do in the country you are from as this is America and if you want people to say positive things about you i highly recommend you tip the average 20+ % that is common in America or go to a country where it isn’t common to tip. The muslims biggest shot at good PR is by tipping those who talk to the most Americans and change the conversation from how it disgust servers to have to wait on you as a frorced from of charity. Now thats something you might want to think about long and hard because i have worked across this country and everyone hates to wait on your community.

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  25. Taylor

    From personal experience, Muslim’s are horrible tippers! As in other cultures, you do get exceptions, but in general they are awful tippers. I work in a restaurant and so does my sister, we both make excellent tips, and I genuinely love the service industry. I always go above and beyond no matter my customer. A lot of other waitresses go the other way when they see a Muslim family (if I am being honest), but I always give anyone I serve good service and the benefit of the doubt. I don’t let past experiences dictate how I treat a family, especially not based on race. BUT, with that said, most Muslim’s in my experience address their servers by putting their hand up in the air, snapping their fingers, making a huge mess and not tipping. I had one Muslim family consistently address me by snapping their fingers. There were six in the family and they all wore brand new Canada Goose Jackets, drove a Range Rover and their bill was $230, for apps, several refills and main course dinners. My tip = $0.

    Tips are not expected by servers, if you do a bad job you probably shouldn’t get a tip, but when you consistently go above and beyond and get little to no tip, it’s a bit disgusting. My sister worked New Years Day yesterday, and had a Muslim family whose bill was $83, do you know what she got tipped? $1.53, which let’s be honest is mildly insulting. I get that it’s a tough economy and money is tight, but let’s not go to a restaurant, act like jerks and then don’t tip. That goes for any race, just in my personal experience it’s been pretty consistent with most Muslim families. Not always (there are also some very nice Muslim families) but the 89.9% of the families that don’t tip anything, EVER, give the others a bad name.

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