The other day I paid $20 to drink my own wine at a restaurant. That's a standard corkage fee in the Bay Area these days.
Restaurants claim they need the money because of the loss of profit from selling a bottle of wine from the list.
I think a $20 drinks profit from a party of two assumes a lot. What if we each had one glass of wine? Or a beer? Or my usual drink when I'm not having wine -- tap water?
But I'm willing to pay the $20, and have many times. However, for some reason this time I got to thinking about the tip.
When the bill arrived, it had suggestions for 18% and 20% tips (not even 15% anymore) printed right on it. Our bill for two including corkage was about $90, so a 20% tip would be $18. But if I left out corkage and tipped 20%, the tip would be $14. At 15%, the tip would be $13.50 with corkage, $10.50 without.
Should I have to tip on corkage? Isn't corkage itself a service fee?
The server brought glasses and opened the bottle, though I offered to open it myself. We refilled our glasses ourselves, as we prefer; servers like to fill glasses to the brim so you'll order another bottle, but my wife stops drinking wine long before I do.
For that the restaurant made $20. You can talk about lost drink sales all you want, but $20 to rent a couple glasses for 90 minutes is highly profitable. Does the server also get $3 or $4 for bringing those glasses to the table?
One could argue that if I don't tip on corkage, the server also lost an opportunity to generate a higher bill through drinks I might have ordered. However, the server would actually have worked in that case, as I would have asked for descriptions of the wines by the glass, and maybe a taste as well. For me the process of ordering a glass of wine is when I most want good service, especially because in many restaurants the server doesn't bring the food anyway.
I'm not convinced that servers should get tips on corkage -- certainly not 20%. But I wouldn't feel comfortable tipping 15% on only the non-corkage portion of the bill.
Fortunately, the tip section of the bill doesn't require me to spell out my logic; a number with a dollar sign in front is sufficient.
In this case, I tipped $14. That's either a generous 20% on the non-corkage portion, or an old-school 15%, rounded up, on the corkage portion. I guess you could call me the Arlen Spector of tipping on corkage: I'm firmly on the fence.