Are you supposed to pay % tip on food you don't eat and send back?
September 28, 2017 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I sent back $20 wings that were so salty, after the first one I couldn't eat any more. I ordered something else similar in price. Our bill was $55 ($45 after a promo gift card), but the table checkout tablet said the 20% tip was $15. I asked*, and the server said for him personally, he would tip a % on the $55 (i.e. gift card doesn't discount the tip) and he agreed with me that one wouldn't tip on returned food. He seemed genuine and added, "I'm a finance major, and I noticed that amount was wrong as soon as you showed it to me." Then on the ride home, I'm second guessing myself. He did the work to bring the food, was very gracious and apologetic about it not being up to par, and got me a replacement dish post haste. I gave him $11. Did I just stiff him $4?

*For the record, I only pointed this out to him because I genuinely thought their software was incorrect and I wanted him to report it as such.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the waiter was right that you tip on the $55 but for his honesty and kindness I probably would have tipped him the extra 4 bucks. I don't think you or he were wrong for the $11.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I consider replacing defective food to be part of the waiter's job. So, I would not tip extra on the replacement food. I would tip on the entirety of the bill, so if you wanted to provide a 20% tip, you'd tip $11.

I also think that tipping after tax is generous already and that a 20% tip is also generous, so even if you were to decide to tip on defective food, you are providing a reasonable tip. If you have a 8% tax rate locally, your tip is approximately 16% of the pre-tax amount on the higher amount (including the food you sent back) - which is entirely appropriate.
posted by saeculorum at 6:52 PM on September 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Gift cards absolutely do not discount the tip, and it is not necessary to tip on food you didn't eat (though doing so would be above-and-beyond kind). $11 on a $55 check was just fine.

Source: former service industry worker.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:52 PM on September 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

When you get food discounts you tip on the full price.

This situation sounds like the kind of exchange where both people are genuinely trying to figure out the right thing to do, even if it meant you paid more or they were tipped less. It sounds nice! I think I'd call their manager and put in a good word, without necessarily going into every detail.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:54 PM on September 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

20% of the actual post-tax bill is a pretty solid tip. You do not need to give them extra money because the kitchen screwed up and gave you bad food that you couldn't eat and they didn't charge you for.
posted by aubilenon at 6:55 PM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Never heard of tipping on returned food. That could get amazingly expensive.

I think a 20% tip on the amount actually due is gracious and appropriate. Some tables are just a little more work than others; dealing with a return item is not an extraordinary addition to the workload that warrants extra.

To me, going above 20% would be a special circumstance or extra work caused by you, such as:

- you were entertaining guests and stayed extra time.
- you had some special food order (off-menu item, for example)
- you didn't order a lot for some reason relative to the size of your party (1-2 people at your table not eating for some reason)
- you observed the server was having some difficulty with the kitchen or management that they had to work extra hard to overcome.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:57 PM on September 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yes, there was an article recently on this being an issue at Cheesecake Factory... the software computed tip on items that had been returned on the bill. This seems to be the story but I can't find the more in depth one now.
posted by tilde at 7:47 PM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I first thought this was going to be a situation in which you returned the food and didn't get anything in its place (or something comped). You wouldn't want to tip the waiter basically nothing because the kitchen screwed up. But if you ordered and paid for a replacement item, tipping on the food you actually ate should be sufficient.
posted by praemunire at 7:50 PM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Generally a satisfactory tip is at least 15% of the total pre-tax bill, which you would compute before any reductions for coupons, gift cards, freebies, etc. If you're doing something unusually inexpensive in relation to the normal bill at a given place, set a larger minimum. I sometimes sit at a restaurant and sip at a $1.50 coffee. I won't tip less than a buck. Keeping my coffee full is not hard work, but may be half a dozen visits to the table.

You can increase a tip based on whatever factors you deem appropriate. Extra attention, special requests, whatever. I tip based on effort more than received service, which means the biggest tips I've given have usually been where the service has been rotten because the waiter is severely overworked and hasn't stopped moving.

It seems like your tip was fine, but it would also have been fine to tip the larger amount if you felt it was appropriate. It is certainly within the job description to replace inedible food, though, so it seems like this is entirely discretionary and not something you would be expected to tip for.
posted by jgreco at 5:19 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

He did the work to bring the food, was very gracious and apologetic about it not being up to par, and got me a replacement dish post haste.

This would be worth an extra buck or two from me. But I usually tip 18%, not 20%, of the total. You're fine.
posted by beandip at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2017

Nthing to tip on full price before discounts/gift cards, and that returned food due to a legitimate complaint shouldn't count towards the tip--but if they're courteous and professional about replacing it, I might throw in a bit extra anyway. If you're returning something because you don't end up liking it (assuming that's something the establishment accommodates), then I'd tip more since it's not the server or cook's fault in that case.
posted by Aleyn at 1:40 PM on September 29, 2017

Thanks all for the comments.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 8:01 AM on November 1, 2017

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