In the industry, we call it “palming,” that extra act of monetary kindness, a few crisp folded bills of legal tender that a customer nestles into your palm. A properly delivered palm tip—a lost art for sure—should come with a Good Fellas gangster handshake to show appreciation for great service or bribe a server for attention. Most waiters love getting palm tips, because money, but we could do without the unnecessary skin contact.
It’s always awkward to shake someone’s hand when you aren’t expecting cash attached to it. I’ve been on the receiving end of many garbled palm tips in my day, and it ruins the moment, like teenagers kissing whose braces get stuck. There’s something about the handshake tip that feels awfully close to leaving money on the nightstand when you leave. Even though servers do it for the money, palm tips still feel dirty sometimes.
I’ve also had my share of awkward palm tips where a guest, usually an elderly one, makes a big production out of shaking my hand, and then I open it up to reveal enough money to do a load of laundry. Sometimes it’s cute, like when you see your dead grandparents in their eyes, but most of the time you’d prefer a double-digit thank you.
If you’re planning to palm a restaurant worker in an upscale restaurant, there should never be less than a twenty dollar bill in your hand, ten dollars at the bare minimum. A palm tip with any less says: “How Would You Like To Mow My Lawn?” Not a good look.
A handshake tip should also always be an extra reward, never a down payment on the eventual tip amount. Servers can’t stand when someone greases them with cash upon arrival then deducts the palm tip amount from the gratuity they leave on the total bill.
While giving servers extra money directly is hardly the worst thing you can do, there are better ways to leave a palm tip that can help avoid the awkwardness. If your goal is to incentivize your server with extra motivation before your meal begins, consider asking the host or maitre’d to deliver the money for you along with a request for special care. Of course, there’s always a risk that the money won’t end up in the right person’s hands, but dishonesty is rare.
You can do the same on the way out. Tell the maitre’d or manager you were pleased with service. They’ll be grateful for the feedback and should be happy to deliver your monetary gift for you. This way, the tip will be delivered at an opportune time, not while the server has a tray of drinks in their hand or is visiting with another table.
Oh… and here’s an inside tip for those of you that insist on giving out cash handshakes when you dine. The best person to tip in the entire restaurant: The busboy. Your water glasses will always be full, and your table will be immaculately clean. It’s the best return on investment, guaranteed.