The thing I like about Europe is that basically all prices are inclusive of taxes, so what we see is what we pay. Some places (esp. in France) have different prices based on whether we take the food to go or dine in. Gratuities are not commonly expected. I think that the US is the country in which servers expect most. I think that I tip decently. I usually tip somewhere between 15 and 17 percent. When my whole family goes out we may tip closer to 20 percent provided that the service was very good. I believe in tipping based on pre-tax totals. I used to work at the student center cafeteria on my campus, where I did literally everything. My pay was based on being a cashier, which is what I was hired as. Half the time, though, my manager would ask me to fill in for someone in the kitchen. The kitchen workers are paid quite a bit more, and I could have declined to do their work without being fired, but I did the work anyway - with no additional pay. Was I tipped for this? No. True, servers make less than minimum wage. But they have the opportunity to make up the difference in tips. Tips can make servers, valets, and doormen quite well-off, provided that they work at the right places. Someone at my college took a term off and worked as a doorman at a luxury condo, and the pay was so good that he still hasn't returned to college several years later. The people who work curbside check-in at airports can make a lot of money. I generally hate buffets, but anyway, what are we expected to tip at buffets, where the server generally has to do very little? The thing I don't understand about valet parking is that the people take our cars, sometimes to public lots, sometimes to their own lots, and "mark up" the parking. The valet people often expect substantial tips. One time we were at a restaurant in Chicago for not even two hours and had taken valet parking. My father tipped the valet $3, and as I was just about to close the door, the valet said to his buddy, another valet, "He only gave us $3." I really wanted to get out and punch him. How much did he expect? They want tip over tip on an already inflated parking cost. Another time a couple friends and I ordered a pizza for $6.99 and requested delivery. We were charged a bit for delivery and gave the guy $1 on top of the total of the pizza and tax when he delivered the pizza. As he walked away he muttered, "What the f.@k? A dollar?" This really ticked me off. I prefer to go to "down to earth" restaurants because I feel that at a decent number of upscale "gourmet" restaurants what we pay more for is a song and a dance, not really the food. I like places somewhere in between, for example the Palace Hotel restaurant in NYC, the Ritz-Carlton Garden Cafe in Chicago, and (for breakfast) the W Hotel in NYC. http://www.stainedapron.com/rev.htm
has some pretty disturbing stories of servers' revenge.