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The Tip Jar: Should you tip on top of a service charge?

Opinion on the subject is divided.
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Do you tip when there's a service charge?

In some places, you don't get the choice of how much you tip, with restaurants adding a service charge of 18-20 percent to your bill – typically taking the form of a gratuity/tip added for parties of six or more.

But Minneapolis could see more restaurants add service charges for all diners – not just large groups – as it moves toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Related: 

– The Tip Jar: Dining out? Here's when and how much you should tip

One thing to understand about a service charge: it generally goes to the restaurant, not the server. Some of the charge may well go towards paying that server's wages, but in all likelihood they're not getting the full amount as they would from a regular tip.

However in Minnesota, according to state laws, if a restaurant wants to keep the charge for itself, it must provide "clear and conspicuous notice" to customers on the menu, a placard or on the bill that the charge doesn't go to the server.

If this isn't made clear, then by law the service charge goes to your server – so you can count that as part of the tip you leave.

If the restaurant does make clear it's keeping the service charge, you will have to decide whether to leave extra money for the server. 

And opinion on whether you should or not is divided.

This guide on TripAdvisor says that tipping is not required when a service charge is added, and this debate on the same site seems to come to the same consensus (unless you're particularly pleased with the service you received).

But a discussion on Quora says it can depend on how much the service charge is. If there's a 15 percent service charge, you should consider topping it up by 5-10 percent.

What do you tip when you've used a coupon/gift card?

There's a bit more definitive etiquette on this question compared to the service charge debate: If you've used a coupon or gift card to reduce the cost of your meal, tip based on the full cost.

Related: 

– The Tip Jar: At a restaurant, should I tip pre- or post-tax?

Laura Barclay, of the Civility Center, told Tip Jar that tipping with coupons/gift cards involved can be confusing for diners, but you should figure out the cost before the discount.

So if your bill is $40, but reduced to $20 after using a gift card/coupon and you want to tip 20 percent – leave an $8 tip.

Same goes if you use a coupon for a buy-one-get-one-free meal – tip on the total amount of both meals.

But figure out your tip based on the pre-tax cost of the meal, she adds.

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