As a full time professional food whore slinger of the hash, I am always willing to give a bad server the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe she’s new” or “He’s probably having a bad day” are phrases that drop out of my mouth when my server forgets to bring me something or fails to make himself available. I realize that at times, even a full time professional food whore slinger of the hash, like myself, can hit some bumps in the road that keeps my service from being stellar. Just last week, I totally forgot about one of my tables because I had picked it up even though it wasn’t in my section. I took their order and rang it in but then realized that I was out of Chardonnay. I went to the bar to refill my coffee cup and then the bartender shared a story about how he had gone to a water park the day before. This made me think of a time I was at Blizzard Beach in Disney World. We saw this woman carrying her sleeping baby under arm as she was standing in line for a water slide. The baby looked totally out of it. “Is that baby alive?” asked my friend Van? “I dunno,” I replied, “but I wonder if she’ll let me use it as a floaty for the Lazy River because I can’t find any more inner tubes.” I took a swallow of my wine so the bartender could top it off and then I went on to check on my tables completely forgetting about the one that wasn’t in my section. So, I know bad service sometimes happens to good people. But when it happens to me, I never know what to to tip.
The following is an actual text message conversation I had with my brother a few days ago:
Coby: Help. We’ve just had the worst waitress/service ever. What do I tip? 9:21 pm
BW: What’s the check? 9:21 pm
Coby: Getting it now. 9:22 pm
BW: I’d probably still tip 15% if I thought she was trying. If she was straight up bitch, 10% or less. 9:22 pm
Coby: Man, she SUCKED. 9:25 pm
BW: Was she rude and uncaring? If so, fuck it. Stiff her but tell the manager as you’re leaving. 9:25 pm
Coby: Not bitch. CLUELESS. We sat with our food in front of us for 5-7 minutes without silverware. I had to go get it. 9:27 pm
BW:10%. Fuck it. 9:27 pm
Coby: Still waiting on check. 9:29 pm
BW: 5%. 9:29 pm
Coby: Got the check. No pen. 9:33 pm
BW: 5%. Fuck that shit. This will be a blog post by the way. 9:33 pm
BW: What was the verdict? 10:45 pm
Coby: Gave her 5 on 48. 11:02 pm
Was my advice wrong? What do we do when we have bad service? We maybe expect the bar to be raised a little bit since we all do it for a living, but if someone is woefully inadequate at their job, it’s hard to tip them the same as I would for someone who was spectacular. I always start at 20% and go from there. To get less than that, you kinda have to go out of your way. Even for bad service, I will give 15%. But my brother gave 10% and I stand behind it. He asked for the check at 9:22 and did not get it until 9:33. Does it really take eleven minutes to hit “print”on a computer and drop a check? If you’re that far behind, you can always ask someone to drop the check for you. And to sit for over five minutes with hot food in front of you and no silverware is unacceptable. Why wasn’t there silver there when they were sat? If the food is overcooked and the server fixes the situation there is no reason to stiff them. But what happened in my brother’s case seemed like it was all the responsibility of the server. This waitress was lucky to get the 10%.
What do you do when you have extraordinarily bad service in a restaurant? Do you still tip well? Or do you tip less than you normally would but explain why? And if you explain your actions, how do you do it? A note on the check or a discussion with the manager? Discuss, please.