5 Stages of Grief When You Get Stiffed

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All of us have been stiffed at one time or another. It matters not that we gave perfect service; the drinks were full, the food came out in a timely manner, we had a smile plastered on our face and we did everything we possibly could to ensure that our customer had a wonderful dining experience. Sometimes, people are just assholes and they don’t want to tip. It can be shocking for us when it happens, but I am here to help you get through it. There are five stages of grief when we get get a 0% tip and knowing what they are and how they affect you can better prepare you for the next time it happens.

DENIAL: This is when you cannot believe that they didn’t tip you. You’re all, “What happened? I thought we were good. It seemed like such a smooth dinner course. I am so surprised that they didn’t leave me anything.” You refuse to believe that someone so seemingly nice would intentionally stiff their server.

ANGER: Now you’re pissed off because you know you deserved that fucking tip. They had the most complicated order with all those substitutions and you nailed it. You even told them that their baby was cute even though it had a cold sores all over its mouth and it smelled like rancid buttermilk. You know what? Fuck them. You hope they get a flat tire on the way home and you’re happy they left behind their to-go food because you will now throw that shit away faster than the wife sucked down five Diet Cokes. Bitches.

BARGAINING: Okay, so now you’re thinking that maybe they just forgot and they will be back any minute. Or maybe they left cash on the table and it fell of the floor, so you crawl under the booth looking for a ten dollar bill. You know the service was deserving so there has to be a reasonable explanation.

DEPRESSION: They did not come back, there was no cash under the table and it’s been thirty minutes since they left. You have ignored other tables while you fretted away in the sidestand telling everyone how awful it is that you got stiffed. You really needed that $14 and you’re not going to get it. How will you pay for your drinks after work? Or worse, what if you don’t make rent? It’s okay to cry.

ACCEPTANCE: It is the end of your shift. You made plenty of other tips to make up for the losers who didn’t leave you anything. You have convinced the bartender to pour you a tequila shot and that has calmed your nerves. You still made good money tonight, but you could have made a little bit more. It’s okay. You will pull through because you know that this is part of waiting tables. Sometimes you get huge tips and sometimes you get bad ones. You can accept that. You have also permanently etched the image of their faces into your brain so that if they ever show up in your section again, you will know not to try too hard. Because they suck.

The next time you get stiffed, please refer back to this page so you can understand your emotions and get through it. It won’t be easy, but I am here for you. For more useful information about waiting tables, you can click here to buy my book.

2 thoughts on “5 Stages of Grief When You Get Stiffed

  1. Danielle S

    I like it the other way around, I recently had this lady and her adult kids come in. Her kids kept praising me, she kept changing her mind, and belittling me. She took and payed for the check, and I figured that since she was paying, and I felt I just couldn’t make her happy, she wouldn’t be tipping at all. Got back to the table to bus it, and saw 2 dollars sitting where her son was sitting, thought wow, at least this covers the 10% I have to claim whether I get it or not. I took the check, since I hadn’t been back to get the signed cc receipt from her yet, and she left a pretty generous tip. Those are the ones that keep me driven, the tips you don’t think you’ll get, but bust your butt for anyways, and get way more than what a good tip would be.

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