Tipping and Bad Service
February 2, 2005 3:54 PM   Subscribe

TipFilter: Some friends and I were on the receiving end of some bad service last night, so we didn't tip. The waitress followed us out and made a scene. I'm looking for advice on how to handle tipping in these rare situations and what to do now. [More Inside]

I know questions on tipping are pretty common, but can't recall a similar situation coming up.

The food was fine and on time, but getting our drinks took ages. Literally 20+ minutes. The pub has dozens of excellent beers on tap. I know it can take a few minutes to pour a nice pint, but it wasn't busy (Two tables with food, two tables just drinks). Also, the people who ordered at the bar were served immediately, so it's not like there was a mechanical problem gumming the works. The first round I chalked up to her just forgetting, and wasn't going to hold it against her, even though she acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world for it to take 25 minutes to get three beers from a bar. Second round, same deal, 20+ minutes. As we stood to talk to the bartender about canceling the order and settling the bill she appears with our drinks oblivious to the time that had passed and our intentions to leave. We settle in, drink them, pay and leave without tipping.

She followed us out to the parking lot, and asked if there was something wrong with the service. I explained what happened. She said, "You've got to be kidding me. Never come back here again." and stormed back in to the pub.

How do you handle tipping when the service is bad? If she had made even the slightest effort to explain or apologize, I wouldn't have hesitated to leave a full tip. Should I do anything further to try to address the situation? Does the dramatic finale mitigate the circumstances any?
posted by jaysus chris to Work & Money (85 answers total)
 
I would say don't worry about it. Speaking as a waiter, she's the one at fault and should have known both that her service was bad and not to expect a good tip or one at all.

Look, she knew, don't kid yourself. It's not your fault and as far as you've explained, you did nothing wrong.
posted by Captaintripps at 3:58 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


I would suggest asking for the manager before you leave. I have been out several times with people who have worked in the service industry when the service has been bad. Every time, they politely asked to speak with the manager or lead person, then explained our frustration. In each case, we were offered a substantial discount or free food for the trouble. This usually doesn't take very long and can be a prerequisite to not leaving a tip, if the service is that bad.
posted by xorowo at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2005


Call the manager and let them know what happened. If they decide to chew you out as well, then take the lady's advice and don't go back there again.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2005


Waiters with a sense of entitlement should NEVER be encouraged. You are the customer, you make the call on the quality of the service you received (whether others, especially the server, might agree or disagree with your assessment doesn't enter into it). Every server gets super-busy at times through no fault of her own—reasonable customers take this into account. But everyone who rewards truly bad service simply ensures that it will continue.
posted by rushmc at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2005


It sounds like she was "off her game" that night and was not paying attention to her customers. Her act of confronting you outside the pub - wow! I don't think you should feel compelled to do anything more in this situation. The service was poor ... and you chose not to "reward" your server for the inattentiveness and (as later demonstrated) surliness.

BTW - I just got through reading the following in today's New York Times: The Waiter You Stiffed Has Not Forgotten (What evil lurks in the hearts of waiters? Now you can find out. But can you stomach the results?)
posted by ericb at 4:06 PM on February 2, 2005


My opinion: never tip $0.00 unless your waiter/waitress has spit in your soup. Fix the problem in real time. Get a maitre d' or manager and mention your problem. Then leave no less than 5 percent if the service sucked. That eliminates two issues: one, management knows to keep the dummy on the ball, and the waiter/waitress will not make a scene (the crappy ones live for these histrionics).
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't feel bad at all. Servers, even good ones, get stiffed all time and her lack of aplomb in handling the situation indicates that this woman is probably in the wrong field.

Actually, if I liked the place (you say the food is good and the beer selection excellent) I would take it a step further and consider addressing her competency with the management. They would likely be interested in a member of their staff telling customers that they are no longer welcome because they dared to express their displeasure at her performance by not rewarding her incompetence.
posted by cedar at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


Granted, I'm a dick, but if I get really poor service (like, remarkably, humorously bad) I like to leave about 35 cents as a tip. That way they get the message, can't chalk it up to "maybe they forgot to leave a tip, or left it at the register" and technically, you're tipping. Probably don't want to do that at a restaurant you frequent, though.
posted by robbie01 at 4:12 PM on February 2, 2005


My wife used to be a waitress. She drilled into me, the least you -ever- tip is 10%. If service is normal, 15-18%, if better than that 18-23%, if beyond 23-30%.

She also says, a cup of coffee isn't $1 * 0.15 it's $1 + -at least- $1 tip.

Pay those people well, a lot of them are getting by. Here it's $2.65/hr + tips. They don't get more than that during clean up either, which some managers can be really mean about.

Really bad service means about 10% and maybe a note. People get busy, do you expect not to be paid when you have a bad day at work? Don't bring it up with her manager unless she she showed outward contempt to you. Pay some of this forward, you'll feel better about it.
posted by sled at 4:16 PM on February 2, 2005


nj_sg, I've since thought we should have left _something_, for exactly the reason ericb points out. I go to this place once every couple of months, and I seem to remember something about shitting where you eat... I think I'll take your advice in the future. 5% is low enough to get the point across, but not so bad (hopefully) as to warrant revenge.
posted by jaysus chris at 4:18 PM on February 2, 2005


Speaking as a former server who's also received awful service over the years, I'm in the "never ever leave bupkis unless they've peed in the soup or decked your wife" crowd. Waiting forever for your drinks is certainly a pain in the ass, but it warrants a (calm, polite) mention to the manager and a minimum tip (10% or so). Walking out after leaving zero really is (figuratively) shitting where you (literally) eat.

Servers, even good ones, get stiffed all time and her lack of aplomb in handling the situation indicates that this woman is probably in the wrong field.

In all the years I waited tables (fancy-schmancy places as well as neighborhood pubs), I can count on one hand the times I got stiffed -- and I nearly always lost my shit over it, because it was always for something like "the chicken is overdone."
posted by scody at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


I have done this before in a similar situation. I once waited at a virtually empty bar for 10 minutes while the bartender spent that time figuring out what LPs he should spin. This was a swanky, pretentious place. That didn't stop me from leaving only 25 cents for a round of 6 drinks. Leaving a few cents is even more blunt than leaving no tip because the waiter knows you thought their service was lousy and that you didn't simply forget to leave something. The problem with a lot of bars is that there's really no manager standing around supervising people. Anyway, he tried to humiliate me by returning my quarter to me in front of my friends. Didn't work.

My advice:
1. Stay away from lousy bars.
2. Never stiff anyone who has given bad service. Always leave a few cents.
3. When you leave the few cents, do so on your way out of the joint.
4. In the case of your Angry Waitress either forget about it or try to talk to the owner but it probably isn't worth your time.

Also, I never buy the advice that says you have to leave X% no matter what. I worked in the service industry for several years and NEVER treated anyone like crap. The idea that I should let someone else treat me poorly and pay them for it doesn't wash.
posted by quadog at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've never worked in the front of a restaurant, but I'd feel slighted if a customer asked to speak to the manager before communicating their displeasure to me personally. A waiter made a watery milkshake at a diner I frequent, I asked about it, got a "sorry", and tipped normally (.20). Now the milkshakes are good, and I don't feel like there's spit or insult between me and the guy.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2005


Sucks to live where the minimum wage is such a $2.50 crapfest.

In BC the minimum wage has to be at least $7, and by now it's probably more than that. If the service is lousy, there's no way they're getting a tip of any sort.

Nor do I pay two bucks for a one-buck coffee.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2005


Granted, I'm a dick, but if I get really poor service (like, remarkably, humorously bad) I like to leave about 35 cents as a tip.

You forgot classless.

I use to work at a place where a repeat customer would leave a penny if he didn't get good service. Everytime. I almost feel sorry for some of the things he ate, then again, he was a "dick".
posted by justgary at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2005


...though, come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever actually encountered a one-buck coffee. Even the worst joe costs a couple bucks around here. [sigh]
posted by five fresh fish at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2005


True story: I had really horrible service in a pub once, maybe 5 years ago. The waitress was slow with our drinks in an empty room, literally tossed a plate of nachos on our table from a foot away and stalked off, and generally behaved like a 16 year old who just got told to clean her room. I paid with a credit card, carefully filling in a "$0.00" in the tip line.

For the next six months, I became invisible to servers throughout town. Any bar I was in, they would go around the table and get orders from everyone but me. Eventually I had to start waving my arms and calling after them as they walked away. Even today, I need to use twice as much eye contact as an average patron to get any service.

You could argue a conspiracy of vengeful disservitude on the part of servers perhaps, but with my nondescript face in a city of a million, with dozens of bars in the neighbourhoods I infrequently visit, that seems a bit too unlikely to me.

I like to think that something in the Universe broke that day, severing my human connection to waitstaff throughout the cosmos, perhaps forever.
posted by cardboard at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2005


I almost feel sorry for some of the things he ate...

This insinuates that you pissed in his porridge out of spite.

If so, I wonder who was the more classless: the penny tipper, or the spiteful cook/waiter?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on February 2, 2005


Also, I never buy the advice that says you have to leave X% no matter what. I worked in the service industry for several years and NEVER treated anyone like crap. The idea that I should let someone else treat me poorly and pay them for it doesn't wash.

You said precisely what I've been trying to write for ten minutes. I tip 20% for good service, and more for inexpensive meals, but why would I reward bad service? Out of fear? That's terrible. What is classless about not rewarding bad behavior, justgary?
posted by letitrain at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2005


I agree with scody - leaving no tip whatsoever is wrong. You have no idea why service was slow, and it's not up to you to decide who to dock. 10 percent at minimum.
posted by painquale at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2005


why would I reward bad service? Out of fear?

Tipping isn't a reward. It is a cost of being served, and even bad service is still service. (man, I've seen this deabte rehashed out on AskMe so many times....)
posted by painquale at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2005


If you're a bad waiter, you get bad tips. So you don't make enough to survive, so you get another job where it won't matter that you're a bad waiter. Self-correcting system.
posted by smackfu at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2005


I second Jack Karaoke. If you return to a place, a good tip really does insure prompt service. (I hear that this is the original meaning of TIPs). If you are clear and pleasant and assertive, you will seldom get really bad service.

I would discourage you from stiffing anyone completely. Waitresses share their tips with the kitchen staff, so you were really stiffing the whole restaurant. Still, what the waitress did was wrong, and I am sure she could be fired for it. I was taken out to dinner at a restaurant in Niagara Falls by a close friend from central Europe. She left a 5% tip. I was embarrassed, and excused myself so I could top off the tip. Before I could, the waitress confronted my friends, and then complained loudly to the staff within earshot. I was appalled. She basically humiliated my friend over a cultural difference.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:56 PM on February 2, 2005


Write a letter to the bar's manager and let them know what happened. The same thing happened to me and the manager was extremely grateful to get some knowledge of what was going wrong.

Bad servers make the entire industry look bad and her chasing you down to ask for more is beyond lame. She was a crappy waitress.

In an instance like this, I'll write a note to the server and let them know why the tip is so low (I never leave nothing, that's compounding rudeness). Most don't give a damn but some have been appreciative.
posted by fenriq at 5:05 PM on February 2, 2005


Jeez, let's go to the freakin' European system already. Pay them a living wage, include the tip in the bill, and if the service is stellar toss 'em a few bucks or round up or whatever. It was a pleasure to eat out in Europe as I never had to worry about this crap.
posted by fixedgear at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2005


Tipping isn't a reward. It is a cost of being served

I'm all for good tips when I'm given even somewhat reasonable service, but it's absurd to declare tipping as a cost of being served. Yes, servers often work at an absurdly low base wage, but taking a tip for granted does not better anyone. Whether in restaurants or elsewhere, tipping is a sign of appreciation for services rendered. If absolutely nothing was done to warrant appreciation, nothing is required.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2005


If you return to a place, a good tip really does insure prompt service. (I hear that this is the original meaning of TIPs).

That would make sense if you had spelled "ensure" correctly. And if "tip" was spelled "TEP."
posted by grouse at 5:12 PM on February 2, 2005


You said precisely what I've been trying to write for ten minutes. I tip 20% for good service, and more for inexpensive meals, but why would I reward bad service? Out of fear? That's terrible.

Exactly. I couldn't disagree more with those saying to capitulate to bad service. Or excusing employees who do bad (and illegal) things to people's food in retaliation. They are recommending a situation where you may have food refunded to you by a manager, yet you're still giving money to the person responsible for the service so bad that you got the refund. I actually like the fact that I can review the job performance of food servers in a way that will get their attention: I only wish I could do the same with many other types of bad employees throughout society.

Some people are just utterly illogical.

Tipping isn't a reward. It is a cost of being served

Nonsense. If I walk out without paying the bill, I'll be arrested. If I walk out without tipping...nothing. Therefore, it is an optional charge dependent upon the good will of the customer, and servers would do well to keep this in mind.
posted by rushmc at 5:12 PM on February 2, 2005


Waitresses share their tips with the kitchen staff, so you were really stiffing the whole restaurant.

This could be a good thing, as it would bring the incompetence to the management's notice all the quicker, giving them the opportunity to address it, rather than suffer a long period of customers leaving quietly never to return without understanding why.
posted by rushmc at 5:14 PM on February 2, 2005


All this bellyaching by poor waitstaff (for surely only a poor server would rationalize tipping being as mandatory) has me thinking:

I think I'd prefer to tip the truck driver who transports my nice, juicy steak from the slaughterhouse to the restaurant. Thanks to him, that's a good, fresh steak! I mean, c'mon, he's a workin' man who has to put up with the rest of us uncultured idiots every day on the road. It's surely just a matter of time until some stupid member of the public kills him through sheer incompetence -after all, most drivers can't even pronounce the street names correctly.

So pull up a chair pardner. Let me buy you a cup of coffee while I eat my steak (well done, with ketchup). We can mock that mamby-pamby waiter over there and perhaps, on the way out, slash his tires.

So in summation: don't worry about that bitchy waitress. And please don't piss off the truckers.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:29 PM on February 2, 2005


A very long time ago someone older told me that "a small tip says more than no tip at all." Hasn't everyone heard this? Who could fail to believe it? Small tip: you're unhappy. No tip: maybe you're unhappy but who cares, because you're just some asshole. No tip is like going nuclear. If you leave no tip without even once having complained to the wait person, aren't you being just a little passive aggressive?

Personally, I've reached the point where I've been paying my own way in restaurants for longer than a lot of my servers have been alive. I wish there were more professional waiters in this country because I'm sick of service from people with 3 months' experience and no particular sense of occupational pride. But I just don't get much satisfaction out of lording it over a bunch of minimum wagers.
posted by coelecanth at 5:35 PM on February 2, 2005


Question: did you attempt to remedy the situation politely before it got out of hand? Or did you do nothing to indicate that there was a problem? Restaurants are in the hospitality business, and the vast majority of problems can be solved amicably if you address them when they happen, rather than waiting until afterwards when nothing can really be done.

Based on what you wrote, you have no idea why the drinks were late. To give no indication what the problem is and then exact revenge by stiffing the waitstaff is simply spiteful.

The waitress was obviously wrong, but so is everyone else involved.

I actually like the fact that I can review the job performance of food servers in a way that will get their attention

If you actually derive pleasure from holding a referendum on the service when you go out to eat, you need to stay at home. I have a close friend who works a service job (not in a restaurant). Most customers are decent, but a very small minority seem to feel that simply because they are spending their money at a business, they can lord it over the workers as if they're less than human. The statement above exemplifies everything that is despicable about this type of attitude.

Waitresses share their tips with the kitchen staff, so you were really stiffing the whole restaurant.

This depends on the establishment.
posted by casu marzu at 5:43 PM on February 2, 2005


The basic rule of non-tipping, as described by Miss Manners is thus: if you didn't complain to the manager, you must leave the minimum acceptable tip. This is 10% in many places, and more like 15% in large cities. If the service wasn't bad enough to warrant a complaint to the manager, it wasn't bad enough to stiff the staffer.

With that, you must combine another rule of etiquette, which is that you don't go over someone's head without trying to resolve the issue with them first. So, unless you complained to her and she was unwilling to resolve the situation, and then you complained to her manager, and she was also unwilling to resolve the situation, from an etiquette standpoint, you should have given a tip.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:48 PM on February 2, 2005


Miss Manners wins as usual (channeled through jacquilynne).
posted by grouse at 6:00 PM on February 2, 2005


This thread would make a great opening to a Tarantino movie.
posted by robbie01 at 6:14 PM on February 2, 2005


If I ever intend to return to a restaurant, I tip 15% even if it sucks. This is a small town and you will be eating spit in no time if you don't tip. Now my favorite breakfast place I tip somewhere along 30% because I get my food without ordering. My coffee poured for me without asking, fast. I go maybe twice a month. That and the fact that breakfast for two is $7.00 doesn't hurt either. Tip well, get treated well. Don't tip, don't return.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 6:18 PM on February 2, 2005


While on vacation in Cooperstown, NY, we went into a small diner and had lunch. The service was terrible mostly because the waitress was busy talking to the other workers- so not only was she not doing her job, she was keeping them from doing theirs. She even made a comment that since we were obviously tourists, we would leave a bad tip, and did so more than loud enough for us to hear.

When we were ready, I left exact change with the bill on the table, then walked up to the lunch counter where the three employees were gabbing. I snapped a nickel down on the counter and told her that was her tip, explained that I used to be a waiter and usually tip well, then proceeded, in detail, to explain all her transgressions. While I was there, I chewed out the cook for talking with the waitress when he should have been preparing our food, and the dishwasher for the dirty silverwear and plates. I summed up my argument by stating that she wasn't getting a lousy tip because I was a tourist but because she was a lousy waitress. I then turned on my heel and walked out to the car where my family was waiting. Gawd, that felt good.

On Preview: You don't live in Cooperstown, do you, BrodieShadeTree? Because the only other customer in there was served in 30 seconds without even ordering (we were in there for lunch, with no one else in there, for almost an hour and a half).
posted by Doohickie at 7:22 PM on February 2, 2005


Yes, servers often work at an absurdly low base wage,

In many cases, NO BASE WAGE. That's tips only.

And I hope that the service from the bartender sucked when you decided to stiff the waiter, because they have to get paid-out by the waiter.

I'll bet that busboy who poured you your water and cleaned up your filth probably deserved to get stiffed, too. Because when you stiff the waiter, you stiff the busboy.

Of course, people who've never worked in restaurants are completely oblivious to these financial realities, then go around making "Fuck 'em!" declarations without realizing just how stupid and miserly they come off afterwards.

If you enjoy feeling like part of civilized society, you will conduct yourself appropriately.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:51 PM on February 2, 2005


I never signed a social contract requiring me to tip anyone.

If tipping is expected, even for lousy service, then it is an OBLIGATION and loses its meaning.

I'm competent at work. I expect other human beings to be so as well. It's their job to get me my food. It's not my job to ensure that they get some of my money, whether they render services to me adequately or not. They are not automatically entitled to it. They have to earn it.

And if someone is a lousy waitperson, why should I talk to them? Wouldn't the manager want to know? Doesn't the lousy waitperson, on some level, at least, already know that they suck? It's really management that should be told. Look at it this way, if they're going to blow off your order, what makes you think they're going to take your criticism of them blowing off your order any better?

In short, if the waitperson is a jerk, be a jerk right back to them. It's karma.
posted by geekhorde at 7:58 PM on February 2, 2005


You have no idea why service was slow

That's another fault of the service--poor communication from the server.

and it's not up to you to decide who to dock.

Oh yes it is.

One other point: U.S. servers NEVER make less than minimum wage, regardless of tips. The employer is required by federal law to make up any difference between the restaurant's base wage and federal minimum if tips don't do it.
posted by NortonDC at 7:58 PM on February 2, 2005


And I have worked waitservice jobs before. I got good tips because I was competent at my job.
posted by geekhorde at 7:58 PM on February 2, 2005


Threads like this make me swear that we should all just suddenly quit tipping entirely.

It is just stupid that the wages are so low that these people depend on tips for their survival.

Screw that! Quit tipping. The restaurant staff will be hurting for while, but over the long run they'll be much, much better off, because the restaurants will have to pay better wages in order to retain staff.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 PM on February 2, 2005


Something I overheard once while visiting the U.S.A. ( I swear this is true).

"I've been getting all my groceries home delivered, and I was watching the guy carry all this heavy stuff and thought about how I don't tip him. And then I thought how I always tip the pizza guy, and he's just got a light box to carry, and it seemed kind of unfair'
"So what did you do?"
"I stopped tipping the pizza guy."

It was all said in complete seriousness. My jaw dropped.

Anyway, in Australia tipping is a reward for good service, as the restaurants pay enough for people to survive on without tips. Tipping is somewhat expected, but not entirely necessary (although I always tip well if I have been pleased with the service - or to put it another way, not displeased with the service).

Once night I ate with a group of friends a popular restaurant. We ordered simultaneously, but the food came out in random order - some of us were eating main courses while others had their entrees arrive. We were running on a tight time frame because we were going to see a show, and had thought that nearly two hours would be plenty of time. The last of our group to get served gulped down their meal and then we raced out to make the show.

We quite pointedly didn't tip, and one of the girls at the counter said `They didn't leave us a tip!' in a voice loud enough for us to hear. Damn straight - instead of the pleasant dining experience we had expected it was irritating and stressful.
posted by tomble at 8:07 PM on February 2, 2005


I was a waiter for several years (and a pretty damn good one, if I do say so myself). I'm going to second/third the opinions posted earlier, by casu marzu and others: if you believe that your service was subpar, you don't have to tip - BUT you should have the brass to speak to the waiter about it like a human being (and TRY NOT to act like an asshole when you do it). If your appetizer wasn't satisfactory, let your waiter know before you order dessert, and definitely before you pay the bill. This gives the waiter a chance to make the situation right, or at least apologize - they may not realize that you aren't happy with your service or meal. If they get defensive, or act like an ass, then at least you have made an effort to deal with the situation in a way that saves face for all involved, and you can feel fine about your 0-2% tip.

I try to treat everyone as I would like to be treated, and that means giving people the benefit of the doubt, not expecting them to read my mind, and not being a passive-aggresive jerk. Just stiffing on the tip doesn't improve your situation at all, and it won't teach the waiter any lessons about customer service - they'll just have another jerky-customer anecdote to post at www.bitterwaitress.com.
posted by sluggo at 8:30 PM on February 2, 2005


The employer is required by federal law to make up any difference between the restaurant's base wage and federal minimum if tips don't do it.

You're also required to drive the speed limit.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 PM on February 2, 2005


If you're supposed to tip to avoid contaminated food on a subsequent visit, then how are people supposed to feel comfortable confronting the waiter before all of their food is served?

It is beyond disgusting that anyone would state that someone "deserved" nasty things done to their food. Every job involves dealing with annoying people, so why are such petty and disgusting human beings apparently attracted to the American food industry? Why do waitstaff take their anger out on customers instead of working to change the laws and increase their wages?
posted by MightyNez at 8:52 PM on February 2, 2005


Speeding doesn't leave a paper trail, smackfu.
posted by NortonDC at 8:58 PM on February 2, 2005


Back when I was waitressing [yes, a lifetime ago for most of you], getting a small tip just meant that the tipper was miserly [cheap]. Getting a small tip that included 1 penny meant that they thought the service was poor.

I don't know how most people do it these days, but I still add that 1 penny for poor service. Really bad service gets JUST 1 penny.

And no, I don't always tip.
posted by kamylyon at 9:05 PM on February 2, 2005


Yeah, smack, that quote had me in stitches, too.

And didn't any ex-waiters around here ever have to tip-out? I can't believe this isn't argument #1 against no-tippers.

WHEN YOU STIFF THE WAITER, YOU STIFF THE BUSBOY, BARTENDER, AND HOST AS WELL.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:07 PM on February 2, 2005


Something I overheard once while visiting the U.S.A. ( I swear this is true).

"I've been getting all my groceries home delivered, and I was watching the guy carry all this heavy stuff and thought about how I don't tip him. And then I thought how I always tip the pizza guy, and he's just got a light box to carry, and it seemed kind of unfair'
"So what did you do?"
"I stopped tipping the pizza guy."

It was all said in complete seriousness. My jaw dropped.


Was there an audible rim-shot after that last line?
posted by crank at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2005


if the waitperson is a jerk, be a jerk right back to them. It's karma.

Or, it could just be you being a jerk.
posted by coelecanth at 9:24 PM on February 2, 2005


Here in Minnesota, the story is slightly different. Servers must, by state law, be paid at least minimum wage. I know there are a couple of other states like this, but I forget which ones offhand.
posted by neckro23 at 9:57 PM on February 2, 2005


All of the neckro23. It's federal labor law.
posted by NortonDC at 10:10 PM on February 2, 2005


I downsize tips for bad service, BUT if I see my wait person working their butt off because management has too few wait people, I do not stiff the wait person! Instead I usually increase the tip and tell them why. Sometimes I will go so far as to take some ire out of the manager (it pisses me off to see 1 person with too many tables to give acceptable service).

Yes, the restaurant business is hospitality business. I just wish those working in it understood that fact. A customer must be made minimaly comfortable, at once. To me, that means a drink, even if only water, and the menu, right away.
posted by Goofyy at 10:55 PM on February 2, 2005


Christ.

"All of them, neckro23."
posted by NortonDC at 10:55 PM on February 2, 2005


Disclaimer: I'm Australian, we don't tip. However, a friend does the waitressing thing at the highest level (Silver service, Queen Mary 2).

I think everything played out as it should. The whole tips thing specifically sets up these sorts of events. Sounds like it's not worth the hassle of going there ever again. You don't need that sort of crap and there are plenty of other places. Heck, it probably wasn't even worth using up your question for the week.
posted by krisjohn at 11:02 PM on February 2, 2005


WHEN YOU TIP, YOU MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR THE RESTAURANT OWNER TO CONTINUE UNDERPAYING HIS STAFF.

Does small caps really help, CD?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 PM on February 2, 2005


I'm all for leaving no tip or leaving the token blatant under-tip in the case of very bad service, but it has to be VERY bad service. The kind you talk about for weeks afterwards and bring up whenever you hear friends talking about bad service (or that restaurant). I've had that kind of service maybe twice - not counting the time the waitress quit somewhere between taking my drink order and bringing me my drink.

There are lots of factors that come in to play for bad service, some of them are the fault of the manager - like understaffing when it's busy or just having a crappy system. The waitperson has no control over that. I try to consider that along with the situation before I even think about docking the tip. Service hasn't always been as quick as I'd like it - but I haven't had many cases of good old fashioned shitty service.

jaysus chris - throw me in the chorus of "ask for the manager" in your case.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:02 AM on February 3, 2005


Does small caps really help, CD?

Well, you noticed it, didn't you? So I guess the answer is YES.

Unfortunately, some fools will go on believing that stiffing the waiter only affects the waiter. Stiffing the waiter hurts all the people that waiter has to tip-out at the end of the night. If you think waiters are poorly paid, you should see the average bus-boy wages.

And spare me the labor laws argument (not directed at you, 5fresh). I suggest you go to Boston's North End and have a meal at any Italian restaurant, then ask the waiter what their salary is. Most don't get paid salaries. This is true in many places in New York as well.

The busboys got a $20/day salary, plus 10% of the tips from the waiter they worked with. On slow days the busboys made more than the waiters. How so? Because it doesn't cost the restaurant management anything to have a dozen waiters on staff, even if you only need half that. They overbook waiters, then the waiters are left trying to pick up enough tables to make their shift worth it. There is very little reward for seniority or competance: after all, if a talented waiter quits in disguist (or simply can't make enough), three new, starving waiters will fill his spot in a second.

Most of the time your dinner comes out hot, most of the time the waiter doesn't accidentally suggest something with peanuts in it if you've specified an allergy... 95% of the time, the waiters do their job fine, subsisting solely on tips. So why rock the boat?

It would be wonderful if management simply dumped the 'tip' system and paid their employees a decent hourly wage. This would further encourage talented, good waiters to stay on staff. But in case you don't know, most restaurant owners are scraping by themselves, and are miserly when it comes to wages. They understand the system (and probably went through it themselves) and aren't going to be the ones to risk financial hardship just so they can "do the right thing".
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2005


Thanks to everyone for the feedback so far. I wasn't entirely comfortable leaving nothing, but I'd never been that disapointed with the service before. In the past when something's gone awry, I've always had the impression that the staff was doing their best and tipped accordingly.

I think I'm going to write a letter to the manager explaining the situation, and include a small tip, mentioning that it wasn't fair to stiff the bussers and kitchen, etc.
posted by jaysus chris at 7:43 AM on February 3, 2005


WHEN YOU STIFF THE WAITER, YOU STIFF THE BUSBOY, BARTENDER, AND HOST AS WELL.

I work in sales with a team. If four of us are working our asses off and one is slacking we all get reprimanded and poor performance by one member can hinder promotions and performance reviews for the rest of us. It may not always be fair but that's the way it is. If a member of my team is rude to a client and we get in trouble for it I don't get angry with the client. I let the sales associate who was rude know that they better shape up. If the bad behavior continues I get higher-ups involved and that person gets fired. It works this way in many businesses. When everyone on the team is competent and working smoothly, we all benefit.

The server did not provide good service. This may not have been her fault but she made absolutely NO effort to either explain or apologize. If she didn't know that she was providing bad service then she shouldn't be a server. If she did know that it was bad service and still refused to explain or apologize then she's simply rude. Why should anyone feel obligated to reward rudeness? Either way, I think the OP was correct. And perhaps lower tipouts from that server will cause the busboy, bartender and host to put a little pressure on her to be a bit more competent on the job. That's how it works when you're on a team.

If you're going to reap the rewards of being on a team when things go well then you should be prepared to take a few hits here and there when someone screws up.
posted by LeeJay at 7:47 AM on February 3, 2005


I react to people in the same way that they have treated me. Had I been you, when the waitress confronted me outside I would have told her to shove it up her ass. But that is not constructive and I don't recommend you bring up your children that way.
posted by scratch at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2005


Most customers are decent, but a very small minority seem to feel that simply because they are spending their money at a business, they can lord it over the workers as if they're less than human.

You're making stuff up; I didn't say that. What I said was that, in a world where there is very little oversight of job performance and where compensation is rarely linked to performance, I appreciate the opportunity to bring the two more in line. If you feel that people should be compensated equally for a bad performance, then yes, we simply disagree.
posted by rushmc at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2005


if you didn't complain to the manager, you must leave the minimum acceptable tip. This is 10% in many places, and more like 15% in large cities. If the service wasn't bad enough to warrant a complaint to the manager, it wasn't bad enough to stiff the staffer.

Sorry, but that's nonsense. Not everyone is comfortable with initiating confrontation, and they shouldn't have to, especially when there are other, perfectly good ways of expressing one's dissatisfaction (like reducing or eliminating the tip). I see this all too often, where people assume that everyone should deal with the world the same way that they do, which I think is a really arrogant position. People are different.
posted by rushmc at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2005


A friend of mine once told me about a situation where he received excellent food via extremely poor service. When the waitress presented the check he told her, "The food was excellent but your service was terrible. Please allow me the pleasure of meeting whomever cooked my food. I would like to tip them and not you." He ended up having to go through the manager to do it, but he did indeed tip the cook and stiffed the server.
I'm speaking as another server here, and I think that in extreme situations no tip is quite well warranted. As many have pointed out, tips are not a mandatory part of the dining experience, they are supposed to be a reward for good service rendered and a way for the server to quality-check his performance after turning a table. If you feel that the service has utterly, entirely, and completely failed you, then by all means leave the server no tip.
If the server is tacky and stupid enough (most of the time when I get stiffed I have some idea as to why) to follow you outside and leave the restaurant, call the manager and discuss it with them. Then find out who their boss is and call that person, too. I guarantee they will appreciate hearing about the situation because as repeat customers you are what keeps their business alive. Finding servers is easy but building a repeat clientele is often the difference between an establishment's success or failure.
posted by baphomet at 7:58 AM on February 3, 2005


I suggest you go to Boston's North End and have a meal at any Italian restaurant, then ask the waiter what their salary is. Most don't get paid salaries. This is true in many places in New York as well.

So report them, don't act as an accessory to their crime.

If you're going to reap the rewards of being on a team when things go well then you should be prepared to take a few hits here and there when someone screws up.

Well said.
posted by rushmc at 8:02 AM on February 3, 2005


if the waitperson is a jerk, be a jerk right back to them. It's karma.

Truly, this is the Golden Rule for our contemporary world, isn't it?

rushmc: I seriously doubt I'm making stuff up. If you go into a restaurant with the attitude that you're going to make the waiter pay for every perceived fault, you are contributing to the problem.

I have to confess something here: I eat out quite a lot, at a wide variety of places, from taco stands to pho joints to upscale places to (once in a great while when I can afford it) four star places. I cannot recall ever receiving egregiously bad service, I've only rarely seen somewhat surly service, and occasionally I've seen somewhat slow service, which has always been understandable under the circumstances (usually in small family-run places under a big rush). I have never been in a situation that justified stiffing the waitstaff. Know why? Because I'm unfailingly nice to staff. I'm not saying that I chat them up or I'm phony nice. I'm polite, I tell them what I want, I listen to their input, and I let them go about their jobs. I'm not there to rate their performance, I'm there to enjoy good food with my friends. In restaurants where I'm a regular (and many where I'm not), I usually receive exceptional service, and I tip accordingly.

I see other people in the same places who are rude, demanding, and overbearing with the waitstaff. I guarantee you that these misanthropes are the same people who justify stiffing the waitstaff for perceived slights.
posted by casu marzu at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2005


I see this all too often, where people assume that everyone should deal with the world the same way that they do, which I think is a really arrogant position.

I'm paraphrasing Miss Manners. It's what she does - tells people what the accepted ways for dealing with the world are. If you want to go off the accepted standard of etiquette and deal with things your own way, that's fine, but you should be defaulting in a direction that's more accommodating of other people, not more accommodating of you.

The basic reality is that tipping, while it's optional in the 'the cops won't drag you away to jail for not paying it' sense, is not optional in the 'being a reasonable human member of society' sense. Reducing the tip, no matter how it might seem that way, is not an appropriate way to express your displeasure with the service, at least not as a first step.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 AM on February 3, 2005


A hopefully-unintrusive related question: Do you tip car-service drivers (in NYC) or not? Same rules as cabs?
posted by nobody at 9:22 AM on February 3, 2005


Either way, I think the OP was correct. And perhaps lower tipouts from that server will cause the busboy, bartender and host to put a little pressure on her to be a bit more competent on the job.

Obviously, this is what happens. The problem in your comparison is that the incompetance of one member of a sales team at a company job isn't going to prevent you from paying your rent. If you work on a sales team, you've got a salary. Further promotion will be more difficult with a lackluster team member, but I honestly doubt management wouldn't just fire the one bad apple than have to hire five new people. This problem doesn't exist with the restaurant industry when it costs your management nothing to make bad hiring decisions. They'll just keep hiring and firing people--it's not in their best interests to lure competent people with wages so that this kind of crap doesn't happen in the first place.

The reality for most restaurant workers is, they will lean hard on those that can't pull their weight, but that doesn't change the fact that they're going home with less wages that night.

And so what if the restaurant management even fires the bad apple. He'll just be replaced with someone who you have to train all over again. Have fun pulling up all that slack for a month.

So report them, don't act as an accessory to their crime.

The unfortunate reality is that this is a luxury most people working who find themselves working at jobs like this can't afford. I worked with a lot of illegals who were happy to walk out each night with any money in their pockets. I also worked with a bunch of kids trying to pay for their college education to get themselves out of that life. Without a college degree (or a Visa) in a city like Boston or New York, it's (get ready, controversial statement ahead) really hard to find work to pay the bills.

I agree with you, though. Now I'm not working there and my roof doesn't depend on waiting tables, it's easy for me to say, "Well, let's prosecute the bastards that don't pay their employees and be done with it." Unfortunately, it's going to most hurt the people that you're really trying to help.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2005


All of them neckro23. It's federal labor law.

My understanding of the labor laws is that the standard minimum wage rate does not apply to tipped employees, but that there are different minimum wage rates- so if minimum wage is, say, $6/hr for most workers, it might be $4/hr for tipped employees. Also, a certain percentage of receipts (I think 8%) is declared as income on the assumption that a waiter is making at least that much in tips on average.

But the minimum wage thing only applies to full-time workers; part time and underage workers are exempt from minimum wage requirements. If you look at a lot of restaurant rosters, you see a bunch of waiters working 30-some-odd hours/week, just under the limit that defines full-time work. My waiter days are over 20 years ago though, so I may not have all the facts straight.

That being said, going back to my earlier example I felt justified in tipping $.05 because it was some of that "worst service ever" type of service, and the three employees that were there were all in some way culpable.
posted by Doohickie at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2005


My wife and I once had dinner with another couple in a fairly well-known local restaurant. The service was beyond horrible: we actually went up to the wait station and poured our own coffee. There was literally no staff in the room. We left a $0.01 tip with a large note on the bill indicating the poor service. No one said a word to us as we left, but considering there was no one, that's not surprising.

They went under not long after.
posted by tommasz at 10:03 AM on February 3, 2005


I fail to see how it is going to hurt anyone over the long term. If a scum restauranteer is shut down because he's screwing his employees, a replacement restaurant will crop up in his place.

Further, good waitstaff should have no problem finding work: a good waiter is a benefit to restaurant profitability. There are waiters who make a damn fine living at their job, because they are superlative.

Those who do not excel at the job should go find another job that better suits their abilities.

Here's a win-win proposition: only eat at good restaurants with good staff, and let the bad restaurants and bad staff go under. Survival of the fittest. The best shall excel, which benefits both you, the employees, and the owners.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 AM on February 3, 2005


The problem with having to explain, go to the manager, etc. is that the bad service suddenly becomes *my* problem. So I get bad service (assuming it's not just understaffing, eqiupment failure, etc.), and it's suddenly *my* problem to set things in motion. I pay for service so I don't have to go through all that. Bad service, bad tip.

I would really love to be able to tip the busboy and cook seperately in some of these situations. Or sometimes, not the cook and busboy and only the waiter;)

It's a shame that when food comes back not well-cooked that you can't pin the blame on the server (for not communicating it) or the cook. I guess that's maybe the sharing developed--it really is a team.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:29 AM on February 3, 2005


I can't believe that in an empty restaurant after 5-10 minutes you didn't say "Where's my goddamn beer?"
posted by goethean at 10:38 AM on February 3, 2005


Here's a win-win proposition: only eat at good restaurants with good staff, and let the bad restaurants and bad staff go under. Survival of the fittest. The best shall excel, which benefits both you, the employees, and the owners.

I think that's probably the best solution all-around.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:59 AM on February 3, 2005


The problem in your comparison is that the incompetance of one member of a sales team at a company job isn't going to prevent you from paying your rent. If you work on a sales team, you've got a salary.

No. No, you don't. Most serious sales jobs are 100% commission, or as close to that as the law allows.
posted by kindall at 11:20 AM on February 3, 2005


My understanding of the labor laws is that the standard minimum wage rate does not apply to tipped employees, but that there are different minimum wage rates- so if minimum wage is, say, $6/hr for most workers, it might be $4/hr for tipped employees. Also, a certain percentage of receipts (I think 8%) is declared as income on the assumption that a waiter is making at least that much in tips on average.

But the minimum wage thing only applies to full-time workers; part time and underage workers are exempt from minimum wage requirements. If you look at a lot of restaurant rosters, you see a bunch of waiters working 30-some-odd hours/week, just under the limit that defines full-time work. My waiter days are over 20 years ago though, so I may not have all the facts straight.


That's only partially right. Federal law requires that tipped employees be paid at least $2.13/hour. If the tips an employee makes do not raise their hourly rate to at least the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference.

Also, employees under the age of 20 may be paid less than minimum wage ($4.25/hour), but only for the first 90 days that they are employed.

Part time employees must be paid minimum wage, just like full time employees.

The Department of Labor has a pretty helpful website on all this kind of stuff - here. State laws are often different.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2005


Obviously, this is what happens. The problem in your comparison is that the incompetance of one member of a sales team at a company job isn't going to prevent you from paying your rent. If you work on a sales team, you've got a salary.

I get a miniscule hourly rate but the vast majority of my income comes from commission. A small dip in sales and I might NOT make my rent. My income depends not only on how well I perform but how well my team performs. The comparison is closer than you think.

But I'm not advocating NO tipping at all. I believe in tipping well and I can honestly recall only one situation in my entire life where service was so awful that I left nothing. I'm just saying that I personally don't believe that a customer should always feel obligated to tip no matter how bad the service.
posted by LeeJay at 11:45 AM on February 3, 2005


Back on topic, *I* would have walked right back in that restaurant and informed the owner of:

a) The waiter being a rude asshole.
b) Why you didn't tip.

There's zero excuse for them to act like that. Not being paid an option tip is not an excuse to harass you.
posted by shepd at 12:17 PM on February 3, 2005


$2.13 and hour?!?!! $85 bucks a week full time. That's .. um.. < censored> .. um .. outrageous.

Nothing like that up here in Canada as far as I know, at least in BC. Minimum wage is just that, the minimum and it doesn't change depending on your job. And you're not required to buy basic health insurance either.

I usually tip at least 15% rounding up if I use a CC to detect fraudulent charges (if the bill was 9.81 I'll add 1.50 => 11.31 and give the final amount of $12.12) but I've encountered a few times where the staff got a penny. As others have said never leave nothing, a few cents speaks way louder than nothing, especially on a credit card.

One memorable occasion a restaurant changed ownership and managed to independently tick off my father, sister and myself so bad we never went back, all in one week. This is a place my RPG group spent $50-120 at 2AM one night every week. And we weren't cheap (I once saw a 32% tip.) But when a round of drinks and a few appies takes 2+ hours to materialize between walking in the door and getting the bill you ain't getting a 10% tip.
posted by Mitheral at 2:15 PM on February 3, 2005


All of the neckro23. It's federal labor law.

I know a lot of NYC waitstaff who get around $2.25/hr (sometimes in the form of "shift pay"). They are so used to the tipping world, that in going out anything under 20% is considered a 'bad' tip, ie, a tip that is specifically saying the service was bad. Except there is also a certain amount of stereotyping - certain people are considered just cheap, and other groups are "known" for being good tippers (eg, gay men).

I guess the point is, a lot of people consider tipping such an integral and given part of eating out that if you tip low (under 15%) they will just think you're cheap, and if you return to the restaurant, will be less likely to serve you well. Sometimes they begin with an assumption - that guy is not going to leave a good tip, so i'll be half-assed in my service (unconsciously, for the most part) - and then it's confirmed when you leave a low tip to 'make a point'. If you expect to go back somewhere, leaving a generous tip may make it more likely that they will put some effort into treating you well when you return...

Although in general I agree that the expectation of tipping is unfortunate. I especially hate that I sometimes don't even know what the expectation is, when I hire a new kind of service (eg, massage, or man w/ a van). But if the restaurants had to up the wages, the menu prices would go up, too, so I don't know that it actually makes a difference. NYC waitstaff do perfectly well, because most NYers do tip 20% pretty much automatically.
posted by mdn at 4:39 PM on February 3, 2005


Mithral, it looks like you missed the point. It's never $2.13/hour, it's at least $5.15/hour, whether that number is arrived at via tips or not.

$5.15 an hour is no great shakes, either.
posted by NortonDC at 5:03 PM on February 3, 2005


If you go into a restaurant with the attitude that you're going to make the waiter pay for every perceived fault

Why would you choose to look at it that way, rather than that you're simply going to reward the waiter commensurate with his level of service, be it good, bad or indifferent? Seems a very negative outlook.

The basic reality is that tipping, while it's optional in the 'the cops won't drag you away to jail for not paying it' sense, is not optional in the 'being a reasonable human member of society' sense.

That's an opinion that many people disagree with, as can be seen in this very thread.
posted by rushmc at 8:05 AM on February 4, 2005


That's an opinion that many people disagree with, as can be seen in this very thread.

I'd bet hard money that most of the people who disagree have also never worked as a waiter. You try being down-and-out, scraping a living by on the whims of your customers, then tell me blithely "Oh, tipping is totally optional."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2005


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