What To Tip When the Service Sucks

What to tip?

What to tip?

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.

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77 thoughts on “What To Tip When the Service Sucks

  1. Katie

    Hello 🙂 I am and have been a server for the last 16 years. Currently, I live in Las Vegas and I work inside of a casino in the middle of the strip 🙂
    When I go out to eat or to drink, I ALWAYS TIP AT LEAST 15%!!!!
    I usually tip 20% of the check for bad service and anywhere from 20% – 50% of the check for good/great service (depending on the total quantity of the check, how much extra money I have, and honestly, the ATTITUDE of the server).
    Some people are just PHENOMINAL!!!!
    I totally believen in Karma and I think it’s just the right thing to do to over tip, no matter the horrible, clueless server I may have just had…
    As servers, we not only have to be strong physically (standing on our feet all day and walking anywhere from 4 to 8 or 9 miles a day for 5 days a week!!!) but also mentally (can anyone really be allowed to be THAT emotionally abusive in public and get away with it?!?!?). To have people be incredibly rude and hurtful day in and day out, really takes a toll on the mind. BUT to be able to let that all go and just deal with each day as it comes and NOT let bad attitudes and bad people get to you… well, that’s just an art form 🙂
    To my fellow servers worldwide…

  2. Jonah

    For me it depends on whether I get the impression the server is doing their level best to do their job despite things going on, or just doesn’t care.

    I remember one occasion when the server looked like she was having a really bad day. She also looked like she was doing her absolute best not to take it out on us. It was a fairly cheap place, and our check was such that I’d regard a fair tip as being maybe $4-5. So I left her three ones, very slightly fanned. Except the middle one was actually a $20.

    On the flip side, at one restaurant the waitress didn’t literally dump our food in our laps but might as well have done. She dropped our plates onto the table and had turned her back by the time they landed. Her tip on a $50 check was 25c. My wife didn’t think she deserved that. I didn’t either, but didn’t have anything smaller.

    At one of my local diners our favorite waitress was leaving. We were there on her last day, so wished her well verbally and left her a $20 tip on a $22 check. She always looked after us really well, and it was just a little way of thanking her.

    Another place I like to eat had a new server, who was utterly disinterested in actually serving. He was a young guy who, for some reason, appeared more interested in the table of college-age girls than in the table with two middle-aged couples (myself, my wife, and our friends). When I had to ask another server to get us a refill because our server was nowhere to be seen, his tip cut in half. When our server brought us the check and didn’t even thank us for coming before heading back to salivate over the young ladies, his tip got cut in half again. I think he got $2 on a $40 check. I was very tempted to write something like “put your dick away and serve your tables” as the tip. I subsequently wrote to the restaurant and got a very apologetic reply from the manager, and a gift card for more than double our check. The sad thing was that just about every other server we have had there has been really good.

  3. Kaos

    Never been a server but I did hsir for 30 years so…tips. I worked for, and earned them.

    That said, my default is 25-30% as long as service is decent/average. I have no problem with not tipping simeine who is rude, surly, or incompetent. I am not about to “reward” someone for doing a shit job.

    However I can discern between “bad night/spaced the refills/has other PITA customers monopolizing his/her attention/dilligently works to fix errors”and “just fucking useless.”

    Sometimes math is hard so if service was good and the server was pleasant I just tip half the bill. Easier.

  4. Chris Evans

    One time when I got really terrible service at the cheesecake factory I just tore a 20 dollar bill in half and left half of it, took the other half. I think that conveyed everything I wanted to… No, I am not just cheap… yes you would have received a good tip if you weren’t such a terrible waiter.

    Leaving a nominal tip without saying more will usually only verify what the waiter was probably thinking about you when he was giving terrible service… that you were cheap and weren’t going to tip him well anyways… creating a cycle of bad service.

  5. Kay

    Attitude goes a long way for me. I tend to engage with my servers, so will ask how they are doing. Are they trying, being polite, acknowledge long waits or mistakes? I’ll forgive a lot, but if they don’t care, neither do I. If they’re standing around talking, (and I don’t mean business with managers or other customers) and I’m being ignored, too bad for them. I do stay observant with what is going on in the restaurant. How are they being sat, are other sections, with other servers, also having problems with food times etc. You can tell when something is beyond a servers ability to take care of. 20-30% is normal for me, but I will cut it to 10% with a comment to management.

  6. sue1407

    First thing I do when I drop food is ask is ask is there anything else you need ( that would have taken care of the no silverware problem) second I work in a really busy diner style restaurant and we all take care of each others tables so I guess I am really lucky. Then I am sorry I dont care how busy I am I check my tables to make sure everything is ok. I am a grossly overtipper, (especially if I have a drink or two) But I have never left less than 10 % cos I know they have to tip out at the end of the night

  7. Rachel


    Reading some of these comments about “bad service” from other servers is disheartening. I ALWAYS give the benefit of a doubt to those taking care of me because I know what is going on behind the scenes (lunch/dinner rushes, being triple or quadruple sat, lack of expedite/food runner/buss person, a manager who does not give a shit) affects my experience at the restaurant. Honestly, it is rarely, if ever, the server’s fault. As for your brother — was he a guest that sucks down a glass of water in three or four seconds flat? Was the waitress extremely busy? Perhaps the restaurant was out of silverware and while it was being washed/rolled/put back near the host’s stand, your brother received his food (this, by the way, has happened at a restaurant that I worked at on multiple occasions)? There are many variables and as long as the server was apologetic and was obviously trying their best at a demanding and unforgiving job, leaving less than 20% is unforgivable.

    I have been out to eat with many of my coworkers and have listened to them critique other servers while not acknowledging how we are all bad at our job sometimes…obviously, working in the industry does not help people lose their sense of entitlement.

  8. Olivia

    Some girlfriends and I (all bartenders/severs) went out for New Year eve and had horrible service! Beers sat empty for a good 15 minutes, ordered soups as an app they came with the whole meal, one of the entrees was cold ( i know thats not the servers fault) but became annoyed with us when we said it was cold. She walked past us a good three or four times and never stopped to see how we were while second round of beers sat empty for another 10 minutes. By the end of it and when we finally got our check we still tipped 20% but wrote a note on the back saying if she was more attentive we wouls of left her much more for having to work on a new year eve night and we all usually tip 30-40% anyway. Felt bad but it was true from us 20% is a bad tip

  9. Just A Poor Server

    Ah yes, the dilemma. I’ve been in the customer’s shoes and the server’s shoes for this.

    If service was straight up horrible, as in the server didn’t check on you, didn’t refill, didn’t ask if you needed anything, or didn’t bring you what you needed, and generally seemed to just not know what they were doing, I would tip them 5-10%. I wouldn’t stiff a server unless they were rude and ignorant to me, and that thankfully hasn’t happened. I’ve gotten horrible service before, but I know what to look at when I am out to eat. Is the server in the weeds? Are they on their phone when they should be working? Do they seem genuinely interested but are having a bad day? This factors in to my tip.

    Customers need to understand that a bad experience doesn’t mean you have a bad server. Sometimes things just happen that are beyond our control. It’s a server’s job to make sure you have the best experience possible, and sometimes it doesn’t live up to your expectations. If something was cooked wrong, or is cold, or has a hair, or whatever, the server should take it upon themselves to rectify the situation, whether that be getting a manager or getting them something complimentary while they redo the food. This doesn’t mean you have a bad server though, and to those guests who don’t tip or tip poorly because of something your sever could not control, I hope you get what’s coming to you.

    Be that as it may, I think your friend did the right thing. She seemed clueless and didn’t deserve the full 20% a great waitress would have gotten.

  10. Pria

    I never stiff a server. When the service is crap (the server forgetting to ring in my stuff, bringing out wrong food, acting like an aloof jerkoff, whatever), I tip 25% and leave a note: “One server to another, service wasn’t so hot tonight. Hope things go a little better for you.” A heart, a thank you, and I sign my name.

    Come on, people. We’ve all been there. We’re people before servers, and sometimes, as fellow industry-employees, we’re the only ones who see each other that way. I’ve had three friends die this year and I’ve been at work when I found out about 2 of the 3. I tried my best, but my service was mediocre. I knew it at the time.

    Sometimes you just need someone to be nice and cut you a break.

    No judgment to those who stiff others, I ain’t mad at it. Do whatever you want. But then don’t get pissy or indignant (as we are all apt to do!) when you work a $500 table and see a $20 bill wadded up on a wet napkin while you bus it. You had it coming.


    1. Just A Poor Server

      I’ll agree on the basis of knowing when a server seems to be having a bad day and it is effecting their serving capabilities, because been there, done that. However, there ARE situations when a server doesn’t deserve that 25%, such as when they are an asshole or rude to you. Can’t justify that by saying “Oh they must be in a bad mood.”

      And yes, Karma does have a way of working out. It’s why I’m thankful I tip good wherever I go in the hopes of that good karma coming back to me.

  11. Michelle

    Personally I tend to start at 20% for decent service but I NEVER leave no tip. The reason for this is because the server may assume I forgot or that maybe my co-diner thought I was getting it and vice versa. But if I leave something like 15 cents then they know that I didn’t forget to tip but I intentionally left a shitty tip. I served for many years and it was the shitty tip that would upset me more than the zero tip for that reason.

  12. Caitlin

    I will never stiff a server because then there’s a chance they’ll think I forgot to leave something on the table. If the service is beyond horrible for no apparent reason (ie: it doesn’t look like the person is in the weeds), I will ask the server what happened. If they don’t have a good excuse (ie: had a walk in of 20 right after my order was rung in), I’ll leave them a dime or a quarter. Yes, I’m a heartless bitch but I’ve been a server for ten years and I don’t have any tolerance for awful service anymore. Also, I’m in Canada so servers are still making minimum wage.

    If the service is solid I’ll give 20%, and if it’s above and beyond, I’ll tip more *and* go tell the manager that they have an awesome employee.

    That being said, as a server you need to be careful about leaving shitty tips because Lord knows kharma’s going to bite you in the ass on your next shift at work!

  13. Paul

    In the UK bad service would get zero, good service 10%, exceptional (and I mean way above and beyond) 15%, it would be unlikely that a 20% tip would be left in any circumstances, unless by an American tourist who didn’t understand tipping in the UK. But certainly bad service, slow service or sloppy service would result in no tip, probably without exception. Having said that waiters earn around £7 and hour which is about $10 or so.

  14. Victoria

    Well re the check, there are reasons it could take a while. At some places I have worked the bartender or manager is responsible for printing or totalling checks and if they are very busy it can take them a bit to get to that. Where I work, we do the checks and math by hand and that can take a bit too especially if you’re busy and need to do other things. Also, sometimes places are understaffed and then EVERYTHING takes forever to do. We had a server just not show up (her fucking fault) the other week and so I was the only server for my place. But I told every table as such and apologized in advance, comped some drinks for some particularly delayed tables and almost everyone tipped 20% or more. When I’m served I always tip well EXCEPT if the server is straight up rude. Then I’ll leave like 10% and tell the manager the reason.

  15. Barrina

    Having worked as a waitress, I became an over-tipper, but once the service was so offensive I made sure there’d be no tip.

    I was at a restaurant with my parents about an hour after the place opened for lunch. I’m pretty sure we were the only people there. We were seated across from the bar, where the sole server was smoking (this was back when you could smoke) and yakking with the bartender.

    She did everything she could to make it clear that waiting on her only table was taking valuable time away from her Marlboro and her chat.

    My father left a tip (he was the type who would leave a tip even if the server had dumped his plate of food onto his head rather than place it in front of him on the table, which he’d excuse because ‘maybe the waitress had bad aim.’), but I pocketed it, and made sure that the waitress witnessed this.

  16. Lauraurora

    Coming very late to this party, (just discovered this blog; love it!), but for me, I always tip very well with one exception. That exception would be rudeness. Incompetence, forgetfulness, slight inattentiveness, eh, whatevs. I have been a server on and off since 1984,so I definitely know “what it’s like.” Shit happens, and I am willing to forgive almost anything except a server who is overtly rude, hostile, or condescending. Thankfully, this type of rudeness is very rare, in my experience.

    I do remember once, back in the late nineties,my husband and I were celebrating our first anniversary. As a gift, my parents were treating us to a dinner out at my absolute favorite restaurant, which was about a 45 min.drive from home,but so worth it for the unique food and beautiful setting. (An old station building on what used to be the lock of a canal. Lots of old brick and wood,super cool.) Well, we made our reservation on time, but they had evidently overbooked, so we had to wait awhile. Absolutely no big deal. But,once we were seated, our waiter came over with a pained expression on his face, and was cold and abrupt. Our food was amazing, but his behavior made me wonder if there was something about us that made him hate us on sight. In retrospect, I probably should have spoken up and asked him if we had done something to piss him off,but I was an insecure pushover back in the day, and am embarrassed to say that I still tipped him over 20%, maybe just to prove to him that he was wrong not to be nicer to us.

  17. Alyxx

    As a server, I find it pretty hard to leave a bad tip but it does happen. I can only remember one instance where I actually stiffed my server, and that was because this girl just did not give a shit. Our appetizer took over 20 minutes to come out, and moments later our steaks arrived severely overcooked (and not by the cook, but most likely by the heat lamps in the window based on the temp of them), and this girl wouldn’t even stop by to check on us or ask how the food was. We saw her once, my friend asked for steak sauce and before he could even get the words “because this steak is overdone” she was gone. She came back with it around the time we were finishing our meals (which took a while because we waited a good 10 minutes before even starting on our steaks because we were starving and she was nowhere to be found). No refills. Dropped the check and just kept walking. After taking our order she never actually *stopped* at the table, she just walked past once or twice. A runner brought our app and food. And we were one of two tables in the whole place. Left nothing but a note about her service, and I have only been back once since because that’s where coworkers wanted to go for drinks after work.

    My rule is the tip starts at 20% or $5, whichever is higher. If the service is exceptional, it can go much higher. If it is bad, it starts to drop, but only if it is the fault of the server and not circumstances out of their control.

  18. Sarah

    As a server, I can assure you that most of us(obviously, there are dipshits who don’t care about their level of service) take pride in the level of service we are able to provide and feel genuinely AWFUL when they are in a situation where they cannot provide this level of service. I take pride in being quick, efficient and friendly. However, the restaurant I work in doesn’t always provide these opportunities for its staff. Oftentimes we will be short staffed, and have very inefficient support staff working at the same time. Rotation is a really big factor that can have a great impact on service. If I’m triple sat while I already have several things to do, I get behind. A server is a human being and can only do so many things at once, while being friendly and quick and remembering all of the little things too.

    If a server forgets little things, like to bring extra napkins to the table or more cream for my coffee or something simple like that, I won’t let it affect the tip I give. I always tip 20%, if the service really blows me away, I’ll go as high as 25 or 30. If my bill is small, I might even go 50 if I’m super impressed. If you can impress someone who’s waited tables themselves than you’re doing a great job.

    I’ve never stiffed someone and I don’t think I could ever do it without feeling bad. I’ve had days where my level of service isn’t up to par because either I’m having a bad day, we’re short staffed, I have a 6 table section that keeps being triple sat or because my support staff and management aren’t there to help me when I need it. I think if a server is trying their best and you can see how busy they are, there’s no reason to not tip them the same as you normally would. It’s not their fault, they can only do their best.

  19. Lauren

    I’ve been bartending ~20yrs in Honolulu, where, frankly, it seems like everyone knows everyone. There are also so many eateries to choose from, I only frequent the ones I know people at. Because of this, I may have killed off a few brain cells trying to remember a less than stellar experience. But there was one.

    Greeting took too long; drinks took twice as long. I observed servers idly chatting the entire time. One of the dishes was cold. Our server checked on us perhaps once during the entire meal. My companion & I were gracious & pleasant & we still tipped something like 20%, which is low for us. I then gave the lowdown to the manager, who I’d known for about a decade, purely because I care about his floor & I knew he would want to know. He invited me back when he had it under control. It was good. 50% tip. On future visits we were always treated like VIPs, which is how it should be. Even bad servers can be motivated.

  20. Maire

    Well my thoughts are this, if you work at McDonalds, or the DMV or in any non-tipped job, you are going to get same pay even if you are having the worst day ever. Why should service workers be different? We tip for servers to bring us food and clean up after us. Period. All the rest, the butt kissing, the bending over backward, the running back and forth back and forth is extra. I tip everybody at least 20%, ALWAYS. How do I know that the reason it is taking so long for silverware is because the dish pit s backed up, or if the ordering manager forgot to order ketchup and there are only 5 bottles to go around. what about if the computer printer jammed and won’t print? Or if all terminals have people on them that have huge orders that all need to be modified? What if my server is not peppy because her child was up all night sick? What if they just put their dog down? Why should a bad day cost somebody a day’s wages?

  21. ReepDaggle

    To me, tipping absolutely depends on the service. However, before I make any decisions on leaving a low tip/no tip, I always speak to a manager first. Now…I’m not doing that to get free stuff or items taken off the bill. I honestly believe that feedback, both positive and negative, is important in becoming better at what you do. As a teacher, I expect people to give me feedback on the lessons I present. Any profession should expect the same.

  22. Emma

    It takes A LOT for me to tip under 15%.. I can only think of one time recently. At a sports bar with my boyfriend, another couple and another guy (5th wheel.. oops). None of us were drinking, and our “Barbie” of a server obviously decided that the lack of liquor, the couples (and maybe the fact that two of the guys were asian.. who knows) meant we weren’t going to tip (for the record- I’m a server and the other girl used to be a server). She checked on the 4 guys next to us (who were downing pitchers of beer like mad) FOUR times without checking on us ONCE (and we ALL needed drink refills). We did tip her (I think it ended up being about 5%), after we waited over 10 minutes for our bill (and she flirted with those other guys some more). We talked the the manager about it, and he was not happy to say the least. Other than that, I pretty much always give servers the benefit of the doubt, unless it’s obviously bad service on their pare (especially if they’re singling one table out to get bad service).

  23. Ben

    I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I look for ANY sign that things are just out of control. Does one poor server have the whole dining room? Is it clear they threw the new kid in on Saturday night? Are they at least letting me know they haven’t forgotten me? Then I’ll usually stick with the 20% I start at or go even higher: Good service doesn’t mean everything goes perfect, but it does mean the server tries to get it that way. Everything can go wrong, and the service can still be stellar. Bad things just happen.

    But I also remember when I was a server, nothing pissed me off more than busting my ass for 15% on a table of two adults and fifteen kids who all drink water and split salads for dinner while the bad servers are making bank while just hanging out in the server station, giving tables bad info just to make a sale, and blaming everyone from bar to BOH when they forget to enter orders.

    On the very rare occasion I will dip down to 10% or lower, it’s because someone has gone above and beyond on terribleness, rudeness, and thoughtlessness, and I just can’t punish the GOOD co-workers who did bust their asses.

  24. Atli Steinn Gudmundsson

    Tipping seems like a major ethical issue when you bring it up to this level. I’m almost glad we don’t have it here in the nordic countries. BUT… I was on a vacation in Albufeira, Portugal, two weeks ago and judging from the number of free drinks we usually received after paying the check, I guess they must have been pretty happy with us (tipping the rest of 50 euros when the amount is 36 should be reasonable according to US standards, or…?). And thanks again for the blog, it makes my day.

    1. Ben

      That would be extremely generous. Here in the US, the “official” standard is 15-20% (though, really, it’s closer to that 20%). Your tip would have been about 39%, which is going to make that server’s day.

      1. Atli Steinn Gudmundsson

        That explains the reaction when we came back a few days later. Still they made us promise to write about the place on Tripadvisor (which reminds me that I still owe that to these guys and three other restaurants), holidays are a full time job these days!!!

  25. Debra

    First of all, I want to thank Bitchy for corresponding with me for a few minutes the other day. I am not a server but my sister is. I was telling him how I tip 20% plus and try to help the server out by requesting an extra beverage with no ice, so they wont have to keep coming back. The only time I have EVER stiffed a server was a server I exchanged (like a bad Christmas sweater). As I was telling bitchy, my husband and I travel for his job so we eat out about 25 days a month. One time a server came up, threw unwrapped silverware at us, and said “what do you want”? i said that we needed a few minutes, as we had never been there, and she said..”Do you know how many times a day I hear that”? She huffed away, came back and said said, “what do you want?” i said we are gonna have the buffet…She said…”it closes in a half an hour, you wont be able to get all of the food that you want off of it…”WHAT DO YOU WANT???!!!” I said,” A FUCKING WAITRESS THAT I DONT WANT TO KILL!!!!” This was a 24 hr restaurant, so we werent keeping her from the toothless hillbilly boyfriend of the night. A new server came over, we got the buffet, and tipped her 40%, she said they had to pool their tips, i said, “not this one”….but the first bitch got nothing, well maybe herpes in the parking lot later on…she got what she deserved…

  26. WhiteRussian

    I’m lucky to work with some strong people and for that reason whenever I see a server that sucks, I get aggravated. Just because I hate working with people who can’t carry their own tables and catch up with things and you have to help them out, and they don’t know where buttons on the computer are (after like 6 months working there), and forget stuff, and don’t ring the orders in properly, can’t run their own food, or clean their own tables. I hate them bitches because they put everybody in the weeds. They’re freaking out with 3 tables in their section and then I’m stuck with filling the ice, rolling silver and all the sidework – because I need ice, silver etc. and there’s no one there to do that but me. For that reason I’m ready to slap servers who have no clue, like – were you born yesterday? Do you have common sense? Were you thinking at all? Were you listening to me when I told you something?
    most times you can tell if a person is busy and honestly trying – then I’ll always leave 20% no matter what, even if the service totally sucked for a good reason.
    If I see an ignorant bitch playing with their phone at the wait station when I asked for shit 5 times and reminded that I had asked for that shit 3 more times, or flirting with boys when my beer is empty, or running mouth for 25 minutes, or coming back to a table smelling like cigarettes after I haven’t seen them for 20 minutes, fuck them. They’re ignorant and take things for granted. Its like assholes coming and asking for bread right off without saying hi.

    And even with me being that anal, angry and hateful I can’t force myself to leave less than 10%. I might talk to them and tell in the face that they sucked. And explain why they sucked and why they should go fuck themselves but still leave no less than 10%.

  27. John

    If you, as a server can’t live of your hourly wages, you need to make sure you get a tip. If you really can’t be aresd to make sure your guests are taken well care of, you don’t deserve a good tip. I never tip to “take care of” waiters who suck at their job. If I was to suck at mine I’d get fired! Thank god my grumpy butt don’t have to wait tables, I’d make nothing! 🙂

    I’m mostly very happy with the service I get and I’m a generous tipper. But I require that the waiters do their job to get it.


  28. amber

    I had terrible service yesterday. When my party came in, the waitress gav gav us waters and no menu’s. We had to ask for them. She took our order timely enough, but we never saw her since then. We asked for hot cocoa 3 times never got it, and asked for coca cola and never got it. We were quite paitent, and she did not move very fast as we were watching her do tables. She claimed to be out of salad, but a table who ordered as we were leaving got a salad. Lots of errors i believe. As a server i understand the reward of a good tip when deserved, and i know the sting of bad or no tip when my service lacks. When i do bad to a table, i will know i will get crap for a tip. So i do the same. I gave her 2 bucks, and the cook 20 on an 80 dollar tab, since he tallied our bill up and made the food.

    1. Matthew Tyler

      TO BE FAIR… At my restaurant, we don’t give menus to large parties right away unless they request them, because often, large parties like to drink and chat without the table being cluttered by menus.
      We also get food shipments in the middle of the evening, so it’s entirely possible to be out of something and have it come in a half hour later.
      As for the hot cocoa and Coca-Cola… Well I can’t really defend that. Three times and still didn’t get it? Yeesh. If a customer has to ask me for something twice, I always feel so bad I stop whatever else I’m doing to get it right away. You should never have to ask for something three times.

  29. Frankie

    If she was outright rude, then I would stiff her or leave less than 10%. For the scenario above, I’d have probably left 10-13% AND said something to the manager – she wasn’t outright offensive but jeez.

    If, however, she was just new/kinda incompetent but trying hard/super friendly and apologetic but overwhelmed, I would still leave 15%.

    My $.02 – I was a server for some years, and my spouse currently works in that industry.

  30. Laura

    I’m also a server and bartender. But let’s be real here. Your tip is for your service. We are independent contractors. I have bad tables and bad days. If I really screw the pooch, (rare, but does happen) I don’t expect a huge tip, because I didn’t earn it. However, it’s always nice to take into consideration WHY the service was bad. If they just SUCK, and there’s no good reason, they don’t get paid. If it’s an honest mistake, or if they can’t get the help they need, tip them well. It’s all situational. And about the having a bad day? I’ve worked during emotionally and physically challenging times in my life, and you DON’T let it affect your job. People don’t need our freaking baggage when they’re trying to enjoy themselves. Cry later. Make money now.

  31. Jenelle

    Honestly, I usually never tip less than 15%. As a fellow server, when someone tips me less than 15% I feel like I want to know what the reason was. To us veterans the mistakes this server made sound like common sense, but what if she really was unaware of her stupidity… Better to say something to her, or a manager than just leave a crappy tip and have her continue to give that kind of service because she thinks she’s doing a good job.

  32. Kay Bea

    I’ve also waited for years and make sure to be aware of what’s going on in the restaurant. My server will not pay for other problems in the business. There’s a major distinction between a good server having a bad shift and someone that just doesn’t give a crap. If they’re trying and the service is decent, the tip will reflect that, 15%. Great service goes as high as 50%. If i’m being ignored and they don’t care, they will literally get my $.02 to make sure they know I didn’t forget, and the manager will be informed why.

  33. CA

    manager…….manager…..manager….manager…..should have been doing dining room table checks as well as bar service and expediting the food. plus…..ask for the manager….have the problem addressed, I never wait more than 10 min without acknowledgement. I am a server, I guess I’m a bit testy, but it’s not a bad thing to want cutlery, your drink or extra napkins while you eat, and are expected to tip…..geeezz If I get a bad tip, I know and realize that I’ve sucked, never worry the servers sometimes always learn their lesson…

  34. Lauren Nabi

    Good Service and Friendly 20% or more (usually more)
    Mediocre Service but friendly 15-20%
    Bad Service but still friendly 15%
    Pretty bad service and not really bitchy but not very friendly 10-15%
    Bad Service and Bitchy 0%—and never go back (this has only happened 2-3 times in my entire life and every time it was so bad that what I really wanted to do was just walk-out)

  35. JimL

    Mark W, you have the right idea. Without some feedback from the guest, a server doesn’t know if his/her service was poor, or you’re just a cheapskate.

    Stace, your brother-in-law should have called the manager to report the dishonesty, as well as the credit card company to dispute the charge.

    Bek, I’m glad that you followed through and contacted the manager. There are too many people who would love to have that person’s job.

  36. ChiTown Girl

    Even when we have bad service, I hate to tip less than 15% because I know the busboys, and perhaps other staff, get a cut of the tips, and I hate to stiff them. I have, however, walked over to a busboy who took care of our table all night, and handed him a tip directly, when I knew the waitress sucked and wasn’t getting a big tip from me.

    As a standard, we usually overtip, since my hubby and I have both worked service jobs where we relied on those tips. We almost never leave less than 25%, and we’ve left as much 50% for exceptional servers. When we use a Groupon (which I knew servers usually HATE because people feel they only have to tip on the discounted amount! Ugh!) if the server is great, we usually give him/her the amount we saved. They way we see it, we would have spent that if we didn’t have the Groupon, so why not!

  37. sally

    I have only stiffed servers for rude or snarkey comments. And I always make sure to let the management know, hopefully anonymously, because I don’t want any gift certificates or crap like that. I’m never going to use them anyway.
    Because I waited tables for so long myself, I can put up with a lot–cold food, incompetence, indifference, slow service, no service, wrong orders, goofing off, fucked up bills, etc.,–as long as you are nice and polite and at least try and ACT like you don’t despise your job and the customers. But say something rude or pointedly act like a bitch and you will get nothing.
    And far from feeling bad about it, I usually feel quite vindicated and proud of myself.

  38. David

    I’ve waited tables for 13 years and consider myself affluent in my craft. That being said mistakes do happen and I do my best to accommodate the guest when such instances occur. When I eat out with my girlfriend (who is a bartender), we are very laid back and just like to be very low profile. If a server is friendly and goes above and beyond for us, they are getting a 30-40% tip. If a server has decided that we aren’t worth his/her time or is not being attentive, I involve a manager right away. We all have our bad days,but I don’t believe in confrontation on the floor. A good manager can rectify the problem via getting the server help or just having a small conference to see what the issue is. All in all, waiting tables can be a mind fuck and if people can just follow the golden rule with there attitudes as well as their wallets, then the night will go just fine!

  39. Linzi

    I once received a dreadful tip from a vile table who ran me ragged all night and monopolised my time so I couldn’t get to any of my other tables and the other waiters had to carry me. The table had a 15% ‘local’ discount and tipped some appalling amount, so I told them I didn’t want their tip. They told me the service was terrible. I told them, in that case, don’t tip me at all. But don’t insult me. I worked my ass off all night for you, just you, and if you still don’t appreciate the service then I’d rather you didn’t pay for it at all, and next time I won’t serve you.

    I’m also the person who, when the service isn’t great, looks for the reason long before i look for the server or manager, and still insist on tipping.

    1. Linzi

      PS I’d like to clarify that there were no mistakes in the service, it was just that they were ordering one drink at a time and one meal at a time, so it would be “Can I have a glass of wine please?” and you’d bring it and someone else would say “can I order a salad please?” and you’d bring that and someone else would say “can I order a salad please? And a beer?” then you’d bring the beer and they’d go “where’s our salad?” and someone else would ask for a dessert menu… and the waiters had to make all their own drinks, the desserts, the coffees and the salads…

  40. Megan

    We were on vacation recently, and received sub-par service at two different restaurants in the span of three days. The first place, we sat outside and although we couldn’t see it from where we were, the dining room inside was jammed and our server was the only one there. She was extremely apologetic and did her best to make sure we were happy. I tipped her well over 20% because first, I know how it is, and second, she really was a sweetheart.

    The second restaurant was just a disaster. We were a part of a 6 top, and although I expected a bit of a wait because of it, I didn’t expect to stand at the door for almost a half hour, all the while staring at a 3/4 empty dining room and our to-be table empty right in front of us. Once we finally sat, we were never offered drinks other than the water that was at the table. The server was fine almost the whole time, even when my roommate and I decided that we would share a plate (I know, but we were exhausted from climbing a mountain and not really hungry). It wasn’t until we asked to split our checks that she got extremely rude, telling me she could bring me the WHOLE check but she couldn’t split it, even though I could see she was using the same POS that I use at my restaurant, so I know it was possible. She came back, said “here’s the WHOLE check” with an attitude, and slammed it down on the table. It was only then that I discovered we had been charged a $10 plate fee for sharing the meal. I could have understood if she had told me about it when we ordered, but it just seemed dishonest to not say a word about it until we saw it on the check. I went to talk to someone about it, and he said I would have to discuss it with my server because the owner was too busy to talk to me. I left this woman about 10%, but I would have stiffed her if I had smaller bills. I’ve never stiffed anyone before in my life, but her attitude warranted it. Ugh.

    1. Jackie

      I worked at a very big name breakfast chain that uses micros. Theirs was set up so we could not split checks without a manager. I’ve worked at several other places that use the same pos, and we can split but not combine checks. She should have asked if it was one or separate checks, though, if that was the case, and not given attitude when she did bring the check. You definitely should have been told about the shared plate charge ($10!? I’ve heard of $2 but that’s it!).

  41. Stace

    I have only ever stiffed a server once. It was a Chevys on a Friday night. Now I understand that Friday is a different situation, but it still didn’t excuse our server! We all ordered after 10 minutes of waiting for drinks. She forgot 2 and it took 10 more minutes to get them! After waiting 45 minutes for our food, my brother in law never received his meal! Like ever! No one ever checked back on us. We tried to flag down the server as she zoomed past us 10 times. She gave me the “1 minute” finger when she finally saw me! That put me on the edge. Especially when she never stopped back. So after we all ate a bidder cleared our plates and I asked to see a manager. At that point the girl dropped the check and walked away quickly. We looked at our bill and we were charged for the food as well. Finally we had a manager come over and we told
    Him what had happened. He apologized and comped everything but our drinks (which I felt bad about cause that’s a shitty situation) and we were happier. He cashed us out and that was it. We left NO TIP. I’m sorry this girl didn’t deserve one because we saw her once (well twice) for our drinks. We did find out later that our $30 for drinks with no tip ended up having a $6 tip added on after we left. I don’t know if my brother on law ever called, but it showed up later on his credit card statement after the original $30 posted, so we know she added it. I don’t even feel bad about it as a server, that’s how awful she was!

  42. Molly

    I’ve worked as a waitress and I’ve made some dumb mistakes that the people were – for the most part – really forgiving about. I’ve also given great service to people who just don’t tip period!

    When I go out to a restaurant and the service is seriously lacking, I take into account whether the person is new or if it’s particularly busy or whether the mistakes are tiny and don’t really affect my meal. However, when a server is just downright terrible – and more importantly, they just don’t care whether they’re offering good service or not – than they are lucky to get 10% out of me.

    The last time my family and I had awful service, the waitress kept sending the wrong table’s food over to us – appetizer, salad, entrée and drinks. Then, when she put in the wrong order for my mom’s food and we sent it back, she came storming to the table like my mom was lying. She got exactly 10% – we basically paid for the tax she would have to pay the state, but she didn’t earn anything off of us. Since she didn’t care about our experience at the restaurant, I didn’t care about her going home with any extra cash that night.

    When I was a waitress, I worked hard for my tips and on occasion, I made nothing for it, but I still worked hard. There’s no reason I can’t have the same courtesy when I’m out spending my money.

  43. A.L.

    My standard is 20%; I go higher or lower depending on the service. I’ve worked at a very popular restaurant where I did practically everything except tend the bar and manage. That said, I have a good idea of how a restaurant runs, and what a good server should do. There was one time when my husband had to get up to hunt down a water pitcher to refill the glasses at our table. It took forever for our food to arrive, and when it did, we had to get up to search for silverware. The food did not arrive together; by the time my order arrived at the table, all my party guests had finished their food (I told them to go ahead and eat because we were all starving). The kicker was: WE WERE THE ONLY DINERS! The food was good and the employees were polite, but I couldn’t understand how that place is still in business when they don’t even prep their kitchen or know how to handle an easy party of 3. I almost didn’t want to tip anything, but my husband (who has no clue about customer service) kept singing the praises of his meal, so I tipped 10%.

  44. Paulina

    There can be so many reasons why a server sometimes might not be able to provide the service he or she normally would provide. So, I leave a decent tip, even if I am not really happy with the service. But I remember one occasion, where I did not tip. The waiter seemed to think I was not good enough for his fine restaurant and was quite rude.

  45. Mark W

    It’s very, very ,very rare that I won’t leave a tip. If I receive horrible service, we’ll only leave 15%, but I’ll also ask to speak to the manager, and I’ll let him/her know how bad the service was. I always make it clear that I’m not looking for any comps, just better service the next time I come in. We usually tip at least 25%-30%, so 15% is really low for us. Now, if the server is just bitch in general AND bad, then I’ll consider no tip at all.

  46. Ellen

    Ive only stiffed a server once- and it was horrendous service. Took a long time to be greeted, wrong drinks, wrong food, incorrect bill, etc. i felt really guilty but i did leave a note for her saying “poor service”. We eat at this restaurant often and she has waited on us since then. I think we make her nervous but her service (and tip!) has improved.

  47. vjones830

    We received terrible service recently. Our server was never around. I went to the hostess to ask for some things we needed, since we couldn’t even get another servers’ attention. When I got up, I saw our server sitting in a booth with a co-worker, shooting the breeze. I wish I could leave 0% in a case like that, but I’m too easy going, so I left 10%. Should have left a little less…..

  48. Bek

    I am an overtipper. I have tipped 50% on several occassions. One time, I completely stiffed a server, and I don’t feel bad about it. There was one other table in the restaurant. They had their food and pitchers of water and soda on the table. The waitress sat us herself then walked away. It was 7 minutes that we sat waiting for her to take our order. She didn’t come, so my husband got up and found her. She was talking to one of her co-workers. We gave the order, she brought it out, then NEVER came back. We were done, we wanted our check and boxes. We have 3 small children who are well-behaved but their time limit of being quiet was nearing its end. My husband had to get up and request check and boxes. (We had been done eating for a good 15 minutes). Ten minutes later she still hasn’t brought either one. So, I get up to find her (talking with a coworker). I told her to give me boxes and my check. She said, “I need to fix something on your check still.” Then THREW the boxes at me. I paid the check with exact change, and told her my tip to her was to get a new profession. They had no MOD that night, but I was sure to go back to talk to him the next day. I have been serving for 12 years. I have NEVER stiffed a server until that day. I’m sure I never will again.

    1. james

      i have been the lone server with no MOD at a diner in the CUT of corpus christi texas . on a grave yard shift. and damn! i am with you 100%. only time… if i got treated like that it would be everytime. feel no shame. feel no loss. feel no guilt. some things are unacceptable. you did right. you did good. i need silverware and a drink more than half full for 25%. either one of those is missing. you get whatever i feel is justified. i have done this game for 20 years. and my standards for 20% are low. so you did right to teach a lesson.

  49. Jacey

    Ugh… I still almost always leave at least 20%. My mother raised us on the tips she made and I was a terrible, awful, horrible, ungrateful bitch of a teenage girl. There were many nights she left for work in tears and I am sure that her stress over what to do with me sometimes affected her job performance. So whenever the server is just completely terrible, I always wonder if it’s because they are distracted/worried about a problem in their personal lives.

  50. Erica

    I usually try to give the server the benefit of the doubt, because I’m a server and I know what its like – you never know what’s going on behind the scenes…newbie, helping out another person, triple sat and behind, problem table, et cetera. However, as a server, I would like to know what I did wrong to get a bad tip because it happens from time to time. Maybe you’re just cheap? Maybe I didn’t keep your drinks full enough – I want to know and take constructive criticism very seriously. Waiting tables is not my career but it’s my job for now and I want to do the best I can and make people fat and happy. So PLEASE, if you’re going to tip according to service, let me know what you were unhappy with. Everyone is different and I’m not a mind reader!

  51. Jessica

    Once worked in a restaurant where the management refused to order silverware. 30 setups for a 100+ seat restaurant. Seems logical.

    Also refused to hire a dishwasher on weeknights. A small rush and I was back running silverware for tables who already had food. Where was the manager? Usually eating in the office.

    Our printer paper also ran out frequently, but the extras were locked in a closet- to which the manager had a key. Of course then he was nowhere to be found.

    The waitress in question was most likely at fault here, but sometimes you just work in a shit hole.

  52. chacha1

    I have gotten up to get my own silverware and to refill my own water glass from a pitcher at the wait stand. I was not particularly discreet about it.

    Generally I also start off with the intention of tipping 20%; if the service is extra good, I have gone as high as 30%. I deduct from the 20% for poor service, but I try to take the circumstances into account.

    At the place where I had to set my own table, it was completely jammed and the manager had insufficient staff on the floor. That’s not the server’s fault. The food was good and was delivered hot, so the server still got 20%.

    1. Megan

      I love people who get it! I’m sure the server appreciated that tip and probably felt bad she couldn’t have given you the proper service! I have received 20% tips when that exact situation has happened to me and I’m always thankful and sorry. Thanks for getting it!

        1. james

          thank you for that. as a server/bartender for 15 years now… i appreciate the abandonment of pronouns. i leave at least 25%. however… not having clean glasses or silverware on the table is a deal braker

  53. Megan

    I have been a server for 12 years. I have had my bad service days. You always feel terrible when you drop the ball. The worst tip I have ever left is 10%. Our server greeted us and then said “my other two tables just left I’m gonna be in the weeds.” Seriously? So we ordered frozen drinks by the time they got to us they were melted. Service was slow and horrible. It took a long time to get the check as well. This server just shouldn’t have chosen serving as a job option. So I left 5 on 50. It still haunts me though, being a server. I felt bad but justified. I usually leave 15% for poor service so that tells you how bad she was. I’m a serial over tipper though so its hard to say. Service and food quality are two separate issues I just wanted to add! Some people don’t get that! Steaks being over/undercooked are out of a servers hands. Thanks for this blog! It makes being a food and bev lifer a little more tolerable! 🙂

  54. Maho

    I’m of the same mind as you. A server starts at 20% and usually goes up from there, and you really have to work at it to get less than that from me. I tend not to ding a tip, though, for perceived incompetence, especially if they try to make it right quickly when a problem is pointed out to them, even one as blatantly obvious as silverware.

    The biggest subtractor for me is always attitude. If a server is surly or just completely disinterested in providing service, then the tip drops.

  55. Karin Wolchko

    I’ve been doing this for awhile. Some places are lax in the training of their servers. Some of the new ones really don’t get it. There is more to a servers job than to take an order and bring it. They need to pay attention to the little things too. I occasionally get a new hire that claims they have served before…and they have BUT they have never had any instruction. They are thrown into the dining room…..a sink or swim kinda thing, so of course the way they choose to do things might not be the correct or best way to do them. That’s where the manager has to step in an correct the situation. So by all means let the manager know so they can correct it.

    1. NoCommonSenseNEMore

      Keep in mind we as servers only make 2.13 an hour.. we live off tips and we cant make bills on10%. If its something simple, forgot to bring butter or ketchup, I usually let it slide. Only in extreme cases would i ho to 10% or less. Also pay attention to their actions, remember you are not their only table, so sometimes its gonna take a few minutes. Silverware and certain condiment should be no more than a minute or two, not 5-10. I understand that sometimes there are servers who are clueless and just all around bad but if you can tell they’re at least trying, please tip 15%. Ihave only ever not tipped and that was because we were sat and left for awhile and our waitress took our drink order, then never came back till after our check. Our refills, food order, condiments and check were all brought or taken by the manager we had to hunt down… all whilewe watched our so called server in the back flirting with some teenage guys. I guesa maybe I just understand too well how it feels to get stiffed when you know you’re a little slow but trying like hell.

    2. Stef

      Yes. I feel the same. Shitty service=equals no tip. Their bad day is not my problem and even mcdonalds staff are expected to put personal drama away for work.

    3. Mattie

      My restaurant is smaller and doesn’t always have clean silverware so we may have to wash it ourselves in between taking care of our tables if the busboy isn’t there.

    4. Brandon b

      Personally, if the service is starting to go down hill, I may ask a few probing questions (no more than one per time I see them, lest they fall further behind due to my questions). How long have you worked here, is it usually this busy? Etc. I still baseline 15% regardless of how bad the service was, but I’ll toss out something like hey, I know it’s been a tough shift, you weren’t on your best game today. I thought these things were wrong, but we all have rough days, restaurants are always one dropped tray from a Trainwreck, I hope your day gets better and keep doing your best, hell, maybe step into the walk in and yell it out for a minute, it’s what I do. And that’s if the service was truly bad.. normally 20% is my benchmark, if I like them, 25-30% (and I mean more than I normally like servers, which are part of the very select group of people I don’t think should immediately go to hell. I’m kind of a dick and think everyone sucks, while also realizing that everyone else thinks the same and we all have to put up with each other, so why not play nice. I have had a few servers who blew my mind, like at echo and rig in Vegas where I took my in laws out for my father in law’s birthday. We ordered 3 apps and 5 entrees to split amongst the four of us and, regardless of the fact my father in law is a servers worst nightmare, he treated us wonderfully. The guy earned a 150% tip because I know how terrible it is to take care of him and the guy did better than even I could’ve, on the way out he offered to comp us some champagne next time we came in (I imagine he was likely to use some of the tip for some champagne of his own after dealing with us). On the plus side, my in-laws now top 20% avg, but he is still that ketchup on file overly vocal obnoxious diner that all the servers wonder if he just doesn’t know they have other tables. Hell, I got off track, if you suck to wait on, tip high, if the server is trying their best tip 18-21%, if they suck, at least 15%, I mean, come on, if you’re reading this, you probably know how it is. Hell, I had to work one day after losing someone very close to me, I was totally spaced out the whole shift and struggling, and every bad tip just made it more obvious that I shouldn’t be there and deepened my misery…


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