To Tip or Not To Tip

A national debate is rearing its ugly head amongst us and I must confront it. It seems that some people need to know if there are times when it is okay to completely stiff a server. And my answer may come as quite a shock to some of you, but I say: yes. On the rare occasion, it is okay to stiff a server. A reader named Dee writes:

Only once was it so bad that I decided a tip wasn’t deserved. When the waitperson came to pick up the signed credit card receipt, I took the opportunity to tell him that there was no tip included for his service. I told him that since he waited until clearing from the appetizer to tell me that they’d run out of Prime Rib, that I never received the hot tea I’d ordered, that I got baked potato as a side when I’d ordered rice pilaf, and that my dining partner’s entree arrived 15 minutes before my second choice was served… for all those reasons, I told him I didn’t feel he deserved a tip.

I think Dee was right to refuse a tip and she was also right in explaining to the server why he wasn’t getting one. Forgetting to get the hot tea was his fault. Of course, things slip our mind and we can fuck up. And sometimes at work you can have only four mistakes happen all week but all four of them happen to be at the same table. It’s like the perfect storm of bad service. Maybe the kitchen didn’t tell him they were out of Prime Rib until it was too late. Shitty, yes. But maybe he should have accepted the blame and try to make up for it by bringing another app that was comped while she waited. He certainly should not have brought out her friend’s food when her order wasn’t ready to come out with it. That was dumb. And maybe the kitchen sent out the wrong side, but if a table has already been slighted, it’s the server’s responsibility to make sure everything else is right. I would have been hovering in that kitchen to ensure that it came out quickly and correctly. I have found too that it helps if you just are completely honest to a table when this shit happens. Tell them: I Screwed up. I am sorry. What can I do to make it better? Customers like it when we accept responsibility for mistakes. They hate it when you blame the kitchen or the the runner or the host or whoever the fuck. They aren’t dealing with any of them, they are dealing with the waiter, so therefore everything is the responsibility of the waiter. Period.

Of course, I think it’s better to leave at least 10% so that there is enough to cover the taxes and tipping out. And if you are really unhappy with the service and you feel it was the waiters fault, let a manager know or just don’t go back. I stiffed someone once. It was at The Black Eyed Pea in Houston. The waiter was an idiot and kept fucking up our order. And then at the end when we mentioned something about going back home, he said, “oh to your trailer park?” What the fuck? Did he just call me trailer trash? Now I may have spent my formative years living in a mobile home (trailers are for horses and mobile homes are for people, just so you know) but he cannot insult me like that. He should have had the decency to go to the sidestand and then do it like all self-respecting waiters. That was the final nail in his coffin and I picked up his 20% and put it right back in my pocket.

Yes, Dee, it is okay. Choosing to leave no tip is alright if there is justification. We know when we are doing a shitty job and sometimes it just happens. When it happens to me, I am not surprised with a stiff. What we don’t like is when we know we gave great service and don’t a tip. Or when we realize we fucked up, we tried to fix the problem and they say they are satisfied and then they still don’t tip. Fear not, sweet, Dee. You were okay in your actions. We love that you tip above 18% when it is deserved. For that, you rock.

What are your thoughts, fellow servers?

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20 thoughts on “To Tip or Not To Tip

  1. Toni

    In order for me to stiff a server, they would have to be pretty terrible. Like forget my salad, never bring a refill, get my order wrong, not check on me, AND be rude. I would just feel too terrible if I stiffed someone. Whenever I go out to eat, I always plan on leaving at least a 20% tip. That's usually what I'll give for mediocre service. If the service sucks, I'll leave 15%. If it's good, I'll leave 25 – 30%. I've never actually been a server but I'm sure it's hard work and I want to make sure they get what they deserve. I've actually refused second dates before because the guy didn't tip well.

  2. Dia

    I like to think of myself as a kind customer, I always tip generously even if there were some problems.One time though when I ordered food to go, I had to wait about 50 minutes to be served, then the waiter looked at me *cue confusion*: "Wait, I'm not sure this is your order. Is it?" Then proceeded to open up the packages for me to take a look. Now, the things I ordered were mostly pasta, and I do not know if the white sauce they are smothered in is cheese or cream. I informed him that I, in fact, have no clue, perhaps I should try a bite? He left and came back with a different batch of orders, which upon returning home, turned out to be the wrong ones. (Perhaps I should have just taken the first offer.)I was hungry, and tired, and I did go back to the manager to complain who agreed to refund me the tip I gave (nothing more though).

  3. sprinkles

    I used to do hair and I've worked in food service – both are industries where tips are expected. One day I commented that I didn't get a tip and my manager pulled me aside and said that a tip should NEVER be expected! It was up to the customer to decide if they felt the service was worthy of one. Just because I felt my skills, time and service were worthy, that doesn't mean the customer agreed. Since that time I've always wondered WHY we are always expected to. Yet I almost always do. I know what it's like to work hard and get jack in return.I've only stiffed a server once and it was for a situation similar to Dee's. I didn't tell the waitress why I had no intention of tipping as she disappeared once our food was served and we never saw her again. And the restaurant wasn't busy!!! The service was disasterous from the start.

  4. Australian Sites

    Here in Australia it's all a little different with the tipping.We have different wage structures and our waiting staff already get a very decent base wage.I have always (even though here it is not expected – but getting more common) tipped for good service (and make a point to speak to management about exceptional service.)Bad service how ever is intolerable. (and yes, before anyone bitches I have done my own time serving – but good service is what I was paid to provide, with a smile of my face even if I think you are a jerk)It costs a lot here to eat out in a good restaurant and quite frankly I expect great food and good service when I dine out. And by good service I don't expect the world – All I expect from waiting staff is that they are friendly and courteous (like I am to them), that they check on me now and then and provide the meal I ordered – do that and I'm a happy customer – screw it up and I have no intention of handing over the money I worked hard for to someone who cant be bothered doing their job right. That being said I'm glad my serving days are over – I have seen the jerks and the rudeness and don't think Id last a week these days without punching some smart mouthed customer in the nose.

  5. Anonymous

    Once I gave a tip back to a table. Now I know what you're thinking, They stiffed me and I pulled a waiting and gave it back to them but it wasn't that at all. I actually told this table I didn't deserve it. Here were the circumstances. It was valentines day around midnight. The restaurant closes at one and valentines day is one of our busiest nights of the year. The restaurant just implimented this new rule about when you can and cannot eat so naturally nobody had eaten. Also, I'm a smoker and their new crackdown affected smokers too. In a three table section I can handle getting triple sat all night no problem and still have loads of free time. This was the case. I was bored, hungry, and on edge. At the point that this table walked in we had just come off the wait. I had been at the restaurant since two a clock and I was about to pass out. I had just heard that even though I requested the bottom section so I could go home early, (I worked 45 hours that week and I'm a full time student) Every one of the fourteen servers on would be closing together. I wasn't gna get to go home ever. I was in a terrible horrible mood but I tried to keep on my happy face even though you could tell that I was dying in front of them from starvation, sleep deprivation, and deprivation of an addiction. I only had one other table (the last two tables in the entire restaurant) and they both ordered steaks. The main table of the story had ordered an appetizer and I forgot to put it in because I'd gotten distracted by my own eminent demise. That was mistake number one. Then I accidentally gave this tables steaks to my other table who cut into them before I realized what I had done. I had to get two twelve ounce steaks remade and I gave the other table their actual steaks. These twelve ounce steaks were well done. Shit.The table goes its ok, but we've been waiting for our appetizer for 25 minutes, is it coming?? SHIT. I went into the kitchen and asked for the appetizer on the fly but the back staff was already mad at me for getting them into shit abt food cost that it took another 15 minutes to make a 6 minute appetizer. By the time it came out their steaks were also ready. I brought out the appetizer they asked for it to go. I brought out the steaks which I had comped and I apologized a million times for my stupidity. The guy at the table seemed fine with it. He'd gotten a free steak and he could actually finish it bc he was starved. The woman though was incredibly unhappy and continued to be rude to me all night. They tipped me 15 dollars on their 50 dollar check and i gave it back to them. The man looked at me and said no, gorgeous, that's for you. I went really, honestly sir I am not trying to be rude at all and I mean no disrespect but this is the worst job I've ever done and I will never learn my lesson if you still tip me. please. take your money. He said ok.I bussed his table and he'd left me 25 dollars and told my manager on his way out that he'd never met someone so honest. Those are good peopel.

  6. Anonymous

    As a server I think it is unethical for someone not to tip. How would you feel if you only made 4.65 an hour and your entire living depended on whether or not you remember to get somebody tea when twenty other people want something too? I would have forgiven this waiter. If somebody doesn't bring me something I would remind them the next time that they passed by me, and there are so many guests who don't ask for what they want and it only fucks up their experience. Taking care of multiple tables involves a lot of hard work, especially when you're still getting seated when youre already overseated and other work comes up. As a server, yes, you should be trained to handle it, but as a human sometimes servers forget things, and if you don't ask for them you wont get them. We are not mind readers. Also this waiter must have been extra busy. What probably happened with her side is that the baked potato is the most popular and he forgot what she ordered and knew that it would be a quick fix no matter what it was so rather than facing the embarassment of asking again he just punched in potato instead of pilaf. He probably wasn't told about the prime rib until late, and in that case theres nothing he could do. A server doesn't usually want to piss their table off so I doubt that he would keep that from her on purpose. And bringing out her friends meal was probably an attempt to not leave it in the window to make the plate too hot and the food itself too cold. Yes he should have brought her some comped fries or something but i suspect that he was completely weeded. I do agree that if a server insults you their tip should be taken away. For instance, I'm only eighteen so when I walk into a restaurant ready to tip 50-75 percent for good service I usually only wind up leaving 25 bc i get mistreated on the sole basis that i'm a teenager and there are preconcieved notions about knowing how to tip. I still tip though, unless they say some dumb shit.

  7. Anonymous

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  8. Mel

    I was at an Ihop once with a friend. It was a pretty quiet morning there so many of the tables were empty. We waited 1/2 an hour before our waitress came out to see us for the first time. After that everything was sooo slow. She forgot things that we had asked for, screwed up our orders…and when we informed her of the mistakes she became rude. I don't like to make a scene in a restaurant so I just kept quiet. About halfway through our meal the waitress was standing a couple of tables away SCREAMING –I mean at the top of her emphysema infested lungs– at this little old lady who was bussing tables. The woman had to be 85 at least. The waitress was following her around yelling at her about how terrible she was doing and how slow she was. The few customers just looked around at each other with their jaws to the floor. I decided to leave her a penny for a tip, as well as a "tip" on a napkin explaining the reasons why she did not get more. I told her that I would have left a tip even with her shoddy service, but her attitude towards that older woman in front of the ENTIRE restaurant cost her the 20% I would usually have left. I do not like skipping out on the tip because you never know what was actually the servers fault and what could have been a sheer mistake…but clearly that waitress needed some etiquette courses.

  9. Anonymous

    I am not a server but I once stiffed a waitress but didnt tell her, it was at the alamo cafe here in San Antonio, texas. First off I was by myself on my hour lunch and craving some chicken fried steak but I am particular and asked for no gravy just some ranch on the side(for my fries) she broughtm me cfs smothered in brown gravy and I explained to her that was not correct so she took it back and a few minutes reappeared with cfs now covered in ranch plus you could still see some brown gravy on the sides. I politly said im sorry but i wanted NO gravy and ranch on the side and could I at least get a new cfs that doesnt have brown gravy still on the side. so the side dishes camme seperatley n she left them there while I waited another 10 or so minutes for my dish which she just brought out the plain cfs no new sides which were cold AND no ranch. so i was like screw it and just ate a few bites and asked for it to go with a few containers of ranch now mind you this place was dead. So I pay the bill which she brings back my change from the bar since they had just opened and she didnt have enough, but the bills were WET and smelled. So i stiffed her I was in my car reversing when she stood in front of it and had the nerve to ask me why I didnt tip her. I just laughed

  10. Anonymous

    Saw this and it reminded me of you—-and-how-much?ywaad=ad0035Pissed me off because I work coffee and when you leave 15 cents it means a lot to us and if I work hard and go out of my way I don't think its ridiculous to expect a tip.Also when it comes to stiffing the waiter has to do something outrageous to deserve that. And I mean outrageous.

  11. JumpIt

    Sometimes, I feel just a dollar or two means more than just completely stiffing the server. I've seen it happen to my coworkers. Instead of them just bitching about how they had this ridiculous table that stiffed them, I've seen a couple come back and ask the manager what they did wrong (if it wasn't obvious) when they've received a very, very small tip instead.

  12. Tricia

    At my fathers retirement party in Boston years ago, our waiter was so high, he brought drinks for over 2 hours. Drinks we never ordered. My brother found him doing coke in the bathroom. My mother didn't want to say anything or 'make waves'. FINALLY the other staff stepped in, took our order and cleared the table. We never saw him again, and the restaurant closed right after that…..

  13. Anonymous

    I've stiffed a server before. The service was disastrous from the start and I would have left her a shitty 10% tip… had she bothered to come back for our credit card to run. But, since we waited 20 minutes after her dropping the check to come back and never saw her, we began to gather whatever cash we could find. And with the $3-$4 in coin we had we covered the bill TO THE PENNY. Her loss.


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