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When it comes to big tippers, Cleveland is No. 1 in the country.

It’s not the lake effect. It’s more likely the “Schultz Effect.”

Connie Schultz won the Pulitzer Prize for her Plain Dealer columns on tipping that she wrote in 2004. Connie’s crusade about tipping started when she discovered the cash in a large jar marked “tips” at a coat check in Cleveland went to management, not the workers.

She taught us all to check where our tips were going and to tip in cash directly to the person serving us. Management might deduct for credit card processing fees.

So it wasn’t a total surprise to see that Toast, a restaurant management system company, ranked Cleveland as having the country’s top tippers. Toast compared 12 U.S. markets and found we were tops in tip percentages at

full-service restaurants and fast-serve restaurants for eating in and for takeout orders.

Cash tips weren’t included in the data, just credit card or digital payments.

The survey included 12 metropolitan areas: Cleveland, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Richmond, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Cleveland made the top with an average tipping rate of 20.6%. San Francisco came in last at 17%.

Our tips for dine-in service averaged 21.4%. The national average is 19.6%. For takeout and delivery orders, we tipped at 15.4%; the national average is 14.3%

I recently heard a local radio show host talk about tipping. A woman called in to say she didn’t get good service at a restaurant and didn’t want to leave a tip, but her husband insisted on leaving a tip. She asked, “Is my husband wrong to tip poor service?”

Not in my book. There might be a whole lot more going on behind what we call “poor service.” So many restaurants are scrambling to find and keep good help, maybe that was the best service an overwhelmed server could give in an overwhelming situation. If three workers didn’t show up and yours did but didn’t refill your water glass as fast as you wanted, is that bad service or one extremely dedicated worker?

When I bought doughnuts for my grandkids a few weeks ago, the doughnut shop had a sign on the door reminding patrons to be patient with the people that actually showed up to work. A lot of places are

short-staffed. Yes, I tipped my doughnut server well and in cash.

Some people feel the push for tips is getting out of hand. There’s a new term for it: tip creeping.

You can ignore a tip jar or discreetly leave no tip on a slip of paper on a table, but you can’t ignore the prompt on the screen when you’re paying by credit card at a counter. The screen forces you to choose: to tip or not to tip? It’s in your face. You can’t say you forgot. You have to be intentional and choose an exact amount or percent.

But what if you bought something at a counter in a two-minute transaction and no one waited on you at a table, do you still tip? For a bottle of water at a convenience store? Do you tip for groceries?

When you pay for your bagel, pizza or ice cream cone, the credit card screen gives you options: 18% 20% 25% or custom. You feel like a schmuck hitting custom to choose a lower amount, but if you just bought four pints of ice cream and all they did was put them in a bag, do you need to leave a $6 tip?

Some people tip based on principle: 20% no matter what. Others tip based on their guilt level, not the level of service provided. Others never tip. Or they tip the same amount of cash no matter what the total bill. One server told me a group ran up a $200 drink tab and left a $5 tip on the bar.

Why not err on the side of generosity?

I believe in guerrilla tipping. I love to tip people who don’t expect it. Whenever I see a woman cleaning the restroom I’m using, I give her $5. That woman deserves a tip. They always thank me profusely. Sometimes they cry. One ran after me in the airport to give me a hug.

Tips aren’t a form of punishment or reward. They’re a form of kindness.

The kind you’d cheerfully give to someone you loved.

Connect with Regina Brett on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans and sign up for her weekly newsletter at