Things to watch out for | San Francisco - LikeALocal Guide

Things to watch out for

P
By Traveller January 23, 2020
San Francisco

Things to watch out for

(8 answers)
P
By Peter Traveller January 23, 2020

Hi,

In australia, all of our food at restaurants etc. have a price inclusive of tax. So when we go to pay for our $15 meal, its $15

I've heard that this is not the case in the USA. What is the tax rate in California that I will need to remember to add onto my meals at cafe's etc.?

Do I always pay this, or are there places / vendors that you don't? eg. McDonalds etc.

Tipping is also a foreign concept to us. What is the general rule in regards to tipping? Is there anywhere it is acceptable to not tip?

thanks
Peter

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8 answers

Hi Peter....you will pay tax (8.5 percent) at restaurants....including McDonalds. It is calculated by the restaurant and included in your bill/ticket. Tipping is common and expected in most full service restaurants. The amount you tip is based on your pre-tax amount. My tips range from 10 percent (poor or slow service) up to 20 percent when service meets expectations. The majority of my tips are 20 percent. Most people do not tip at places like McDonalds and other fast food places. Tipping is a mixed bag at coffee shops like Starbucks....some people do tip but I typically do not tip. If I order at the counter and pick-up the food at the counter or the food is delivered to my table, I don't tip. Hope this helps!
Local January 23, 2020
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In the US we have advanced capitalism so you'll have to get used to it. Nothing is free! Restaurants have menus with prices that they charge but that's not what you pay. You pay tax which in california is between 7.5 to 9% on almost everything except some foods in markets. (Tax is set by countries and cities, hence different rates.) Tipping is expected in everyplace but fastfood chains, think MacDonalds. Fifteen percent is expected as the low end, 20% is normal. Also for cab drivers, hotel workers etc.
Welcome to America
Local January 23, 2020
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Hi Peter, I’ll answer this in installments, because the response window limits me to 1500 characters. So, here’s part 1, Sales Tax:
Sales tax is added on when you pay in California, so the price you see listed is not the total you’ll pay. It’s different state to state, but in California, the prices don’t reflect tax, unless it specifically says so. As for the tax rate, that varies by location, because each state and county can add sales tax, too. So, as of 1/1/2020, the statewide sales tax is 7.25%. So, you’ll pay that on all taxable items all over the state. With the addition of local taxes, the total sales tax can add up to 10+%. If you want to be sure, you can put your location into this calculator and it will tell you the combined tax rate for that place: https://gis.cdtfa.ca.gov/public/maps/taxrates/ I usually just figure on 10%, but it’s often not that much.

In cities like San Francisco, there may be other charges added to your restaurant bill, like surcharges for city mandated programs, like the healthcare initiative. Those can be as high as 6%, on top of taxes. If you see an added charge and it isn’t clear what it’s for, just ask.

Not everything you buy is taxable, though, like food at the grocery store, and other necessities. You’ll notice, too, that takeaway food is taxed less than served food consumed at the restaurant. Don’t worry too much about it, just assume your bill will be about 10% higher, give or take, than the listed price.
Q
Local January 23, 2020
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Tax is 8.5% and tipping is at least 18% of the meal. When you pay by credit card the receipt will have a spot for you to add gratuity, write In your amount and it gets added to your charge.

No need to tip at places without a waiter. Food is pricey in SF, your next question should be where to find affordable but good places to eat.
Local January 23, 2020
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Tax in SF is about 8.5%. Standard tip is at least 18% and is added to the bill by you. If you pay by credit card there will be a spot on the receipt for a tip, write in the amount and it will be added to the card charge. Tipping at restaurants where you actually sit and eat is the norm.

Don’t tip at fast food or places where you don’t have a waiter. Food is SF is expensive so your next question should be where are affordable but good restaurants
Local January 23, 2020
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Thanks mark, any recommendations?
Well...depends on your preferences. But I would suggest restaurants in the neighborhoods, where the locals eat.

The Mission District has a huge variety of cuisine as does the Richmond District.

Burma Superstar or B Star, Fiorella is Italian based. In the mission Esperanto is a tapas place. These are smaller places and do get crowded. Cinderella bakery in the Richmond is tiny but has great Russian food and sweets. Pica Pica is a Venezuelan place that serves arepas, sweet corn round things served with all sorts of goodies on them.

Whatever food you prefer...you can find a place that serves it.
Part of the fun is finding food you’ve never tried. Good luck and be bold!
Mark Local January 23, 2020
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Part 4, Last Word On Tipping:
I haven’t seen it in California yet, but have in Miami and even Las Vegas, where there are loads of foreign tourists unfamiliar with out tipping culture, that restaurants and spas are starting to add the tip to the bill. They’ll usually put 15-18%, to make sure the underpaid workers get what they expect to be paid. If you see that, just know it isn’t mandatory, you can ask them to take it off, and they will. I think it’s BS, and when they do it, I pay it without adding anything extra, which gives the server less than if they had allowed me to determine the tip myself, because I tip more than 15-18%. But, if they’re going to add it for me, okay, but that’s all they get. You just have to check your bill, so you don’t miss it and accidentally tip them on top of that, which I’m sure happens a lot. But, like I said, I haven’t seen that in California yet.

Just so you know, servers who get tips have to pay taxes on their tips, and restaurants report their sales to the tax authorities, which then “allocate” them an assumed amount of tips based on the sales totals. So, a server has to pay taxes on the assumed amount of the tip, whether he or she gets that tip or not. This is pretty draconian, and one of the reasons I would be really disinclined to chintz out on tipping waiters/waitresses/bartenders especially. If they get stiffed, they still have to pay taxes like they got tipped.

Hope that helps!
Q
Local January 23, 2020
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Thank you so much for an amazing response. I’m really looking forward to my trip and just need to factor this stuff in. I was looking at 10% tip but happy with 20% if that’s the standard
Part 3, Tipping Cont’d:
Other contexts: Bars—couple bucks per drink. Taxis—couple bucks for a short trip, more for longer trips, like to the airport, but not a percentage. Bellmen/porters: couple bucks per bag. Valets: $2-5, depending on how fancy the place is. Hair stylists, massage therapists, aestheticians, manicurists—depends, but I usually tip them like I would a waiter, ie, 20% of the bill. But, if the service is inexpensive but takes them a long time, like in some of the Asian foot massage places, or nail salons, I increase the tip, because I know they don’t get paid hardly anything. Vice versa, too, if it’s a super expensive service, but is really quick, I’ll tip less. Just use your judgment.

I never tip retail cashiers, although tip jars are appearing at the registers these days. Basically, tip only service personnel. And keep in mind, servers have to tip the cooks, hosts, etc., from their tips, so you are indirectly tipping those other workers by tipping the server. That’s part of why the customary percentages are so high.
Q
Local January 23, 2020
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Part 2, Tipping. We do get kind of ridiculous with it, I agree, but that’s how we roll. Workers in service positions are not paid much of a wage, so tips are expected in restaurants, for table service, unless the service is truly dismal. The amount is discretionary, but in San Francisco, 20% is standard. Anything less than 15% will have you thought of as a cheapskate, and less than 10% might get you chased by the waiter to ask what went wrong. You can add it onto a credit card transaction if you want, and some places even show you what the percentage ranges would be, based on the bill, so you don’t have to calculate in your head. They make it easy, trust me.

You don’t tip at places like McDonald’s. At other counter service places, you will see tip jars next to the register, but these are totally discretionary. If I’m just buying something that has been pre-made, and I’m literally just paying and they are handing it to me, I don’t tip. If they have to make it for me to order, I’ll throw something in the jar. But not a percentage, just my coin change or a buck or two, depending on what I’ve ordered. Still, even if I didn’t tip at all, I wouldn’t expect to be called out on it, like I might if I didn’t tip a waiter.
Q
Local January 23, 2020
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