Stiffed For Tip And She’s Going To Tell The World About It

by admin on January 10, 2012

The more I think about this, the number of culprits seems to grow.

My fiance and I went out on New Year’s Eve. We had reservations at our city’s sushi restaurant, which also has a hibachi section. It’s generally a place for special occasions. There was even a wedding party there that night (which I found strange, but I digress).

Our reservations were at 7pm, but we got there early and had drinks at the bar. It was pretty crowded and the bartenders were constantly busy. One of the servers came up to the end of the bar and told the bartender she just got stiffed for a $150 bill. She proceeded to tell the bartender (both were women in their early to mid-twenties and had camaraderie) how effing pissed she was about the whole thing. She apparently explained to the customer that gratuity was not included, and he said, “Yeah, I know”.

FH and I have both worked in food service, and we immediately empathized with the server. She was about five feet away from us, so we just overheard the profanity-laced discussion. Later, we overheard the bartender say to other servers as they came up to fill drink orders, “Yeah, did you hear what happened to Jill? She got stiffed on a $150 order!”

My first thought was, “Wow, what a jerk! I can’t believe someone would do that on a busy holiday!” Having worked holidays while everyone else seems to be partying I know it just isn’t fun. A customer who doesn’t tip is just insulting.  But then again, I didn’t witness the service. Maybe the server didn’t do a good job. I believe you always tip and just adjust the amount for horrid service, but not everyone shares that view.  From her retelling of the incident to the bartender, it seems she was polite when she told him gratuity wasn’t included.

But here’s the part that’s getting me: it’s also not cool to swear about customers in front of others at the bar. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who heard her, since we were lucky to snag seats in the standing-room-only area. And the bartender shouldn’t have gossiped about it in front of other customers, either. The bar is not the kitchen.

Am I right on this one, Miss Jeanne? Or do I also start down the path to eHell for overhearing the conversation?  0102-12

Some conversations are simply impossible to not overhear.   Husband and I were having dinner in a small Mexican restaurant two nights ago.  Normally I let things roll right off my back and rarely have much to report on Ehell.  But this man was an arrogant, very loud blowhard who could be heard in every corner of the restaurant (we were about 12 feet from him) and there was simply no way to avoid hearing every arrogant, insulting, factually inaccurate tidbits of blather he was spewing.   He was even making my normally passive blood pressure spike and I found myself grinding my teeth and having to make a very conscious effort to tune him out.  Dear Mister,  I really do not want to hear your miserably depressing, cynical, factually inaccurate opinions on life in general while I am eating.   But saying anything was out of the question and one just has to chalk it up as one of those outings that doesn’t quite go as well as one anticipated.

It was unprofessional for the waitress and bartender to discuss the tipping stiffing in front of customers.   While it sucks that some cad stiffed her for the tip, telling the tale loud enough to be overheard spreads the story to listeners who are neither part of the problem nor the solution.  How does one know whether her unprofessional verbal indiscretion wasn’t a symptom of other unprofessional behaviors that evening?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

--Lia January 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

Melnick– I agree with you! I’d love to be able to wave my magic wand and change the absurd tipping policy we have in the U.S., but do you know how hard it would be to get a few billion people to adjust? There’s no advertising campaign in the world that could do it. It seems to operate on a cycle. The paid wage starts at one rate, enough to give the server a living. Some customers would like to add to it as an extra for especially good service. More customers do it. Management notices that the server is now making more than enough (in Management’s definition of “enough”). Management lowers paid rate. Customers tip more. Management lowers paid rate more. And it goes on and on until you have the absurdity we have today. I’ve noticed it happening in other places other than restaurants. We were taken by surprise at a car wash where we were told that a tip was appropriate. We were getting a friend’s car washed in another city as a favor to a friend who had loaned us his apartment there. (He asked us to.) Since we don’t get our own car professionally washed, we weren’t sure how it worked. We still don’t know if tipping is normal. We didn’t want to stiff anyone, but we’re not sure if we got tricked into tipping when most people don’t.


The Elf January 11, 2012 at 9:08 am

Melnick, I don’t disagree with your idea about changing the way service industry wages are paid. Nevertheless, being unaware of the tipping procedures is not a valid excuse. When I travel abroad, I always take a few moment to look up basic etiquette, usually from a website or guidebook geared towards Americans so that it is couched in terms I understand. That is where I learned that in Mexico, it is not unsual for service industry employees to not be paid at all. Their income is entirely tip driven, so the number of tipping situations increases as a result. I researched who gets what and under which circumstances, and came prepared with what I called a stripper wad of $1s (American dollars were preferred over the equivalent amount of pesos). If I can do that, then people coming to this country can look up tipping guidelines and understand that a $0 tip is unacceptable unless the service is appallingly bad.


SlyDude January 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

I suspect it was a deliberate ploy to get better tips out of everyone in hearing. If all the waitstaff keep mentioning this all evening, I bet it over all increases their tips.

I start tipping at 20 percent, and adjust slightly downward for bad service, and greatly upwards for any sign of good service. . . And, I think in this situation, I would have been very careful to continue that plan so as not to fall into a trap.


Kitty Lizard January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

In reading Ferris W’s post, I felt inclined to add my favorite hostile waitress story:
We frequented a small diner (now closed, obviously) and one Saturday, took our daughter, son-in-law
and granddaughter out to breakfast. I ordered two sunny-side-up eggs and toast. I did not order
fried eggs. I detest fried eggs, because I was forced to eat them as a child, and I cannot stand them.
When our orders came, everyone got their correct order, but me. I got two fried eggs and toast.
I politely pointed out to the waitress that I had ordered sunny-side-up eggs. She started to argue
with me. My husband, idiotically, tried to back her up, even though he KNOWS I detest fried eggs.
I finally persuaded her to take the plate back to the kitchen and return with my sunny-side-up eggs.
She did. She returned with the same two fried eggs on a different plate. When she did, I got up and
went outside around the side of the building, and started laughing so hard I started crying. It took me
a good 5 minutes before I could calm down enough to go back inside. The whole thing was just too
funny. Did she think I was blind? I gave up and just ate the toast, which was the original toast which
came with, of course, the original fried eggs which were still kicking around the plate. I still laugh
thinking about it. And yes, we did tip her.




Ann January 11, 2012 at 11:47 am

Grumpy_Otter said it best … “Service personnel–in ANY job, in ANY role, should NEVER discuss ANYTHING in front of customers that is not a remark directed at the customer, or directly related to the customer’s request.”

That the waitress would inform the guest that gratuity wasn’t included, after he’s CHOSEN not to leave one, suggests to me that she simply doesn’t understand how to deliver the quality of service to EARN a tip. Nor, how to reflect quietly on why she didn’t get one.

And, frankly, if I’d been subjected to the conversation between the waitress and the bartender, I’d have been directing my best amazed, yet doleful, gaze until they ceased and desist’d. And, possibly calling the manager the next day.


sv January 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Unprofessional to swear, unprofessional to complain. As much as I might sympathise with the server I could never condone such behaviour, especially on a busy night when I have no choice but to hear. It would immediately lead me to wonder if the server was equally as unprofessional with her customer.


Sarah January 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Kitty, is your story dripping with sarcasm? If not, I don’t get it. Sunny side up eggs are fried eggs that just aren’t flipped over after cooking the one side.


delislice January 12, 2012 at 8:20 am

According to the OP, the story-repeater was telling it as, “Jill got stiffed on a $150 bill.” Now maybe waitstaff know the code words, but if I heard that a wait person was stiffed on a bill, it would sound to me as though the customer did not pay his bill at all. Does it sound like that to anyone else?

I agree that the guy should have tipped at least $30, and I’d have added more because it was a holiday, and it’s pretty sorry that he didn’t.

But (a) it’s not good to be retailing the story in a crowded bar in front of many other customers, and (b) she didn’t actually get stiffed on the bill, which is what I, The Innocent Customer, would have thought upon hearing.


Sarah January 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

I agree with delislice. To me is sounded as if the customer had walked out on the entire bill.


Reboot January 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

WildIrishRose – as I understand it, bartenders have to have an RSA or equivalent, which is probably why they’re paid more. Not that I’m claiming waiting tables is somehow “easier” than being a bartender, but it doesn’t necessarily require certification that you can serve alcohol responsibly, so it’s probably not seen as “skilled” the way bartending often is.

Of course, that’s how liquor handling works in Australia; if RSAs/similar certifications aren’t required in the US, then I’ll eat my words. 🙂


Linnie January 14, 2012 at 12:03 am

I’m sorry but servers… tend to be complete nightmares. Before anyone gets offended please note that I know not every single server is like this, but I’ve worked at many, MANY restaurants and it’s usually the same with 80% of them.
The restaurant I work at now is the worst yet. The servers scream at the hosts (in front of customers) and lie about how many tables they’ve had, and they’re RUDE to customers and then wonder why they don’t make good tips.

The bill was 150$. The person was there to have a good time, and spend money. Clearly they’ve been out before and know how tipping works.
The server obviously did not deserve a tip, and her behavior just fuels my belief.
I’ve also seen servers complain about their tips in front of customers, and quite frankly it’s embarrassing and shows just how self-absorbed they are.

As I said, I know not every server is a terrible person. If you work at a place where everyone is all nice and happy, then great. But I’ve worked at many different restaurants in many different positions (cook, host, server, even manager) and this is just what I’ve seen so far.


Angeldrac January 14, 2012 at 6:33 am

Reboot – in Australia, it’s legally required for anyone serving or selling alcohol INCLUDING waitstaff to have the RSA, it doesn’t just appy to people actually behind the bar, so no difference there.


Alwin April 13, 2012 at 3:17 am

Whining or complaining (or rude!) staff NEVER gets a tip. And I barely tip as it is. Of course I live in the netherlands where minimum wage is something like $11 an hour* netto. Not even 14 year olds have to work for $3 here. Still, servers need to own their tip, it’s not customary. and I would never (NEVER!) tip $30 on a $150 bill. Perhaps $10 at most. And I don’t care about what is expected (sometimes as much as 25% of the bill in tips), I have to work for my money too.

* of course living here is pretty expensive. My wife and me bring in $3400 a month but are barely able to save money. Mortgage alone (for a ’60’s’ house in a mediocre neighbourhood) is $1200.


erica September 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

No. If someone had walked. She would have said that. Stiffed is a term used when you are left a smaller than accustomed tip, if any. It is very rare to not get ANY tip. Most people will leave $1 or a handfull of change on the table if they feel their server underperformed to show they did not ‘forget’ to tip but to acknowledge to the server they felt they did a poor job.
Unfortunately sometimes kitchen mistakes get blamed on the server and it is reflected in their tip even though it has nothing to do with them.
If you order a Medium steak..and it comes to you Rare…but LOOKS medium. How is that your servers fault? It is always rude to complain in front of other customers or where they will overhear. Unprofessional.

We almost ALWAYS tip 20%. We would have to have a hot mess for a server to go less than 10%..and I mean multiple mistakes that WERE in his/her control. No drink refills. Lack of professionalism, inappropriate conversations, forgetting my child’s meal entirely…oh yes, all have happened but we STILL tipped them something.
They have to eat too.

Former server here.


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