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?

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

TheVapors January 10, 2012 at 4:56 am

When I first read that the waitress got “stiffed for a $150 bill”, I -thought- they meant the diners had run out on the bill in its entirety! Thank goodness not…

Regardless, I can see the waitress’ frustration in all of this. Expensive bill. Hectic work night. No tip. She’s human. It blew over, and she vented to a co-worker.

That all being said, she was still in front of customers. I’ve no doubt that she wouldn’t have vented to a fellow waiter/waitress if they were in the middle of the floor surrounded by people dining, so there’s not really a good reason why she vented near anyone having a drink at the bar.

There might be a little place in EHell for venting like that in front of customers. BUT, in my mind there’s a special place in EHell for the customer who didn’t tip on the $150 bill.

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Cobbs January 10, 2012 at 6:54 am

The server was wrong to complain about a customer within earshot of another customer. And, her remarks were selfish and personal. So, I’ll bet she was unprofessional to the person who stiffed her.

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anonymous January 10, 2012 at 8:07 am

I know it’s not the main topic of the letter, but why would it be strange for a wedding party to be held at a Japanese restaurant?

I think it’s pretty awesome.

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Katy January 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

Without dragging up the whole ‘do you tip for bad service?’ debate again, I really think that the waitress and the bartender should have known better. If I were a waitress I’d be upset about being stiffed, too, but I know the bar is hopping with patrons who may not have been seated for their meal yet. If I were seated and had this woman as my waitress I’d feel uncomfortable enough through the whole meal, possibly enough to speak to the manager about getting another waitstaff to help us. What would she say if I dared complain about a drink or an order was wrong? Would she go badmouthing me if I asked for a condiment or a refill or something? A customer who stiffed her for a tip is on their way out the door, but if she’s willing to loudly complain about them in front of customers, what’s to stop her from complaining about me while I’m still there? I might just be paranoid, but I’d be wondering if anyone looked over at us if she was saying what a wreched guest I am and they were just trying to get a glimpse of the guest from e-hell.
On the other hand, someone might consider taking pity on her and giving her a larger tip to help make up for it. But they might be expecting that she had earned the no-tip by being a poor waitress, and no one wants to sit at the table of ‘that’ waitress.

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jess January 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

I am from Australia where, except for some places in the big city, tipping is strange. If you were in a restaurant in a smaller city and handed the waitress cash she would give you a funny look. I cant understand how this works so I cant really judge. Dont waitresses and waiter get paid a wage in America? I am not being rude, I honestly dont know how it works!

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GroceryGirl January 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

She shouldn’t have been telling the story loud enough for others to hear (especially since she was cursing) but having been on the other side of that issue I imagine she was so enraged that she just couldn’t hold her tongue.

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Enna January 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

That wasn’t professional to say what she said in public – menitoning it once is one thing but going on about it and using bad language is unprofessional when it is in front of guests.

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Lerah January 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

Working as a server is a demanding job. You work an opposite schedule to the rest of the world, you are on your feet and moving the entire shift, you get blamed for mistakes made by the kitchen, and there will always be some poor mannered people who believe it is acceptable to treat you as less than human. Being stiffed on a big bill is beyond galling. You did your job and will make less than minimum wage for the time you took to serve that table.

However, it is always bad form to complain where the customers can hear you.

Maybe your manager is a psychotic alcoholic who constantly expects you to work double shifts on demand even when he knows you have to leave to pick up your kids. That is terrible. Feel free to vent your frustration to another coworker when you are out back on break, and no one else can hear you. Also, be prepared for that coworker to tell your crazy manager everything you said.

But it is never ok to sigh, vent your frustration, or curse where customers can hear you. They are at your place of work to enjoy the food and company. Part of your job is to be pleasant and observant (note: if they have to ask you for a refill, you aren’t doing it right) no matter what is going on behind the scenes.

The people at your table may be a captive audience, but they are not there to hear about everything that has gone wrong with your day. They don’t care that two people called in sick on the holiday, or that the hostess is too busy selling coke in the bathroom to do her job, or that the manager’s nephew is using his job as busboy to steal tips, or that the bartender is a pig who won’t keep his hands to himself… You get the picture.

Working as a server is hard, but you can make decent money when you do it right.
Find your rhythm, be pleasant but professional, be observant, and be willing to work. If the dining room is slow, get your side work done. If your side work is done, roll extra silverware. If all the silverware is rolled, start cleaning. There is always something that needs to be done.

Occasionally you will have big tables that refuse to tip. This may also be the table that had four little kids who completely trashed that area of the restaurant. In addition it might be that same table which showed up 10 minutes before closing and proceeded to sit around talking for the next 2 and ½ hours meaning you couldn’t go home until 4 hours after normal closing. We all silently curse those people and hope karma strikes quickly.

But if you spend the next day regaling the hostess or bartender with the horror story about “that awful table” the night before and customers can hear you, you are in wrong.

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Wim January 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

I’m also from a country where tipping is not that common. I sometimes leave a tip, especially if the service and/or the meal were very good. But in no way is it expected or obligatory, hence not tipping is not considered especially rude. That being said, on special nights like New Year’s Eve, people are more likely to tip, as they are likely to feel sympathetic towards those who can’t go partying because they have to work…

But when you think of it it’s kind of strange… giving people money for doing the job they are paid by their employer to do. I don’t see people giving tips to a friendly post office clerk who’s just sold them stamps, or to a pleasant check-out girl in a supermarket, or to a nice receptionist who’s just shown them the way to a meeting room, or to a good-humoured dentist who’s just pulled their tooth… so why is it that tips in the hospitality industry seem that more common, and in some countries apparently even obligatory?

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b-rock January 10, 2012 at 11:19 am

@ Jess,
Most serving jobs in the US (at least in my part of the country, and I think this is pretty consistent everywhere) pay an hourly wage of about $2.13/hr, and the expectation is that the rest will be made up in tips. When servers file taxes, it is generally assumed that they took a minimum of 10% in tips, and they are taxed accordingly. So even if the server doesn’t get tipped, then he or she still has to pay taxes on it, and is essentially losing money. That rarely happens b/c even if one jerk doesn’t tip, the people who did tip probably tipped more than 10%, so it evens out. But anyway, the point is, wages are set with the expectation of receiving tips.

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Ticia January 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

When I was very young, just out of high school, I worked at a movie theater in the concession stand. One day there was a mix up over a customer paying for a pickle, which was around $1. One of my fellow workers chased the customer down, demanded the $1, and then loudly complained about our other coworker not getting the $1. She was swearing up a storm in front of other customers about how incompetent our coworker was. I felt really bad for this poor girl.

Anyway, about 10 minutes after she had calmed down, swearing coworker asked me if I’d thought she’d done anything wrong in her tirade. Being very timid and unsure of myself at the time I said “Well, I don’t think you should have sworn in front of the customers…” You would have thought that I suggested that coworker had been killing puppies and kittens. She exploded at me this time, marched to our manager (they were best buds) and then our manager proceeded to chew me out for making coworker feel bad.

I look back on it now and just laugh at how silly it was. All over a $1 pickle!

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anonymous2 January 10, 2012 at 11:46 am

Also OT: anonymous, I thought that was an odd comment, too. We had our “wedding rehearsal dinner” (sans rehearsal) 28 years ago at a Japanese hibachi restaurant, and as far as I could tell, a good time was had by all. (And the waitstaff got a generous tip.)

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Kylie January 10, 2012 at 11:54 am

@Jess from Australia. I too am Australian, but am married to an American. I always wondered about the tipping thing too, as I’ve been brought up to tip for exceptional service, but I couldn’t understand this idea that a customer *must* tip. My husband has now cleared this little mystery up for me; or rather, we have cleared it up for each other, since he did not understand when he first moved to Australia why waiting staff always seemed so surprised when he left them a tip at restaurants and cafes! He even admonished me on a couple of occasions in our early days for not leaving a tip, which surprised me, until I understood why tipping had been such a big deal to him. Yes, waiting staff do get paid a wage in the USA, but it is generally a pittance. And I do mean a pittance!

Here in Australia, there is an award wage for every occupation, and waiting staff are paid pretty much the same as other blue-collar workers. They clock on, work their shift, go home, and collect a normal wage each week. Tipping generally only occurs if the service has been exceptional, or if it is a high-end establishment, and is considered very much a bonus. But in the USA, the hourly rate for waiting staff is so dismal that tips are almost the only way a waitress or waiter can make even a basic living. I don’t really know exactly what that rate is, but I understand that it is probably only 25% of the hourly rate in Australia for waiting staff, maybe only $5 an hour or so – or possibly less. This makes tipping an essential part of the American waitress/waiter’s pay, and a customer who does not tip is seen as having poor manners.

With this in mind, it does make me wonder how many innocent Australian tourists in the USA have been considered selfish or rude for not tipping, when they may simply not realise how things work over there!

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Gilraen January 10, 2012 at 11:59 am

No matter what the circumstances complaining about your customers about another customer is bad form and plain rude. As a customer I would think I would be next to receive such a verbal stabbing in the back no matter how I would behave.

As for the tipping thing. It is in fact cultural that service is paid in the form of tips, most countries have a service charge and pay staff from there and only excellent service receives a tip. Mentioning that it is not part of the bill I think is also rude IMO.

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WildIrishRose January 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Jess, in answer to your question, tipping is customary here because waitstaff generally are paid roughly $2 to $4 per hour; the tips are supposed to make up the difference between that and a “reasonable” wage. My understanding is that if wages are increased, prices go up, and then people stop eating out. Servers and bartenders (who for some reason are paid a LOT more money than servers) depend on tips. Being a food server can be a lot of fun and if the place is busy the time goes by fast, but you must know going into it that your hourly wage is going to be very low, so the expectation of tips is dependent on your manner, efficiency, attitude, etc. And even if you’re an award-winning server, you’re going to get stiffed from time to time. It happens, and my experience and observation have been that people who don’t tip fall into a few distinct categories: Foreigners who are unaware of the custom; older people who are insistent that the management should just pay more so they are NOT ABOUT to tip; young people who just don’t know any better; and your basic run-of-the-mill boorish jerk. None of these categories is definitive; it’s just my experience.

That said, this waitress was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of line and if I were the manager I would have given her a formal reprimand or her walking papers. Seriously. She alienated countless customers who may or may not ever even come back to that place because of ONE PERSON, and I don’t mean the cheap customer. If I had overheard her remarks, I would have quietly complained to the manager. There’s absolutely no excuse for blowing steam while on the job. Go have a drink with your co-workers after work, and vent then. But NEVER in front of customers or other staff at work.

I used to work for an attorney who constantly bad-mouthed his clients behind their backs. I finally called him on it and reminded him that they came to him for help, and if he didn’t want to help them he should refer them to another attorney, but they represented his bread and butter and he needed to rethink his attitude toward them. Amazingly, he did so and I never heard him say another unkind word about a client. This waitress needs to keep in mind that one bad customer doesn’t define us all, but those who hear her rants may revisit their opinion of her as a server.

And incidentally, Admin, it’s “conscious” effort, not “conscience” effort. :)

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Violet January 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I definitely empathize with the server but discussions of an unprofessional nature should rarely take place in front of patrons. I’ve worked food service (and retail, which is its own brand of horror) before and definitely understand, but this is just one of those “grin and bear it” situations. She could have vented in the break room to her heart’s content or after the establishment had closed and its patrons were gone.

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Lizza January 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Jess: here in the states, most servers are paid way below minimum wage. Like in my state, they’re paid $2.40 an hour, with the expectation that they will make up the difference with the tips they make. Which doesn’t always happen, sadly. I’ve never been a server, but my best friend was one for a long time, and she’d get paychecks that were for $0 because of taxes and everything taken out.

As to this story, I feel for the waitress. Was it the best place for her to rant and rave? No. Should she have made sure other customers didn’t hear her? Yes. Was she still justified in being angry? Yes.

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Ashley January 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I have worked in the wonderful world of food before so I know for a fact that yes, the restaurant employees WILL talk about you if you are anything other than a polite normal customer. But for goodness sakes, WAIT until you are out of ear shot of customers, otherwise you wind up looking just as rude as the customers.

As for the no tip thing, there was one time in my life I didn’t leave a tip, and that trip was so awful I don’t even want to relive it here. I tip because wait staff is often made to split tips now a days. Leave SOME kind of tip

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Margo January 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm

@anon at 8.07 – I read it as the OP thinking it was odd to have a wedding on New Year’s Eve, but I may be wrong!

I agree that the server should not have discussed this so openly in front on customers, but I think it is understandable, considering how busy she must have been!

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RigaToni January 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Jess: Servers and sometimes bartenders in the US get paid a wage far below minimum wage, which the government deems allowable because of customary tipping. Tipping 15% is the accepted number for adequate service (although you will have people who will say 10 is for adequate, and 15 for pleasant, etc). Some wait staff will make $2.80 an hour where minimum wage is $7 or more.

It is always at the discretion of the diner UNLESS the restaurant has a policy for large tables. Some restaurants will add 15% tip (gratuity) to the bill of a table with more than 8 people, for example.

So wait staff who are incredibly pleasant and skilled SHOULD make more money than those who are less competent.

In this case, we’re assuming the server was professional, pleasant and competent and yet she is now out $20 or more. It WOULD be irritating, but still not appropriate to speak so loudly about.

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GroceryGirl January 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

@ jess: in America servers make minimum wage (usually, I’m sure there are some exceptions) which is barely enough to live off of in most states. They make the majority of their money from tips (a percentage of the bill that ranges depending on the quality of service and the generosity of the patron) and they usually work longer-than-average shifts (9-12 hrs) so they can get more tables and make more tips. To not get a tip on such a large bill is a big deal.

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Tiffany January 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

@jess In, I think most places in North America, waitstaff are paid an hourly wage, but it’s often below the state or provincial minimum wage, because it’s expected they’ll be tipped. That’s roughly how it works in North America, I don’t know so much about other parts of the world.

If you ever travel around here, a good rule of thumb (though some will debate this) is to tip the waitstaff 15% of the bill. That’s what I give for average service, anyway. More for good service, less for egregiously bad.

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Calli Arcale January 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

jess — in the US, the custom is for the server’s wage to essentially be paid partly by the restaurant and partly by the customer in the form of a tip. This is also true of many other service people, such as hairdressers. This legally allows their employers to pay them less than minimum wage. I do not like this system, but it is the system I live in, and I will *never* take it out on the servers. (Note: not all restaurants encourage or even allow tipping. You don’t generally tip at McDonald’s, and they are paid at or above minimum wage. Which means the gal wearing the headphone in the drivethru at McDonald’s has a bigger salary than the woman who works her feet off at Applebees. The Applebees server gets tips, though, and hopefully will end up with a larger income as a result.) My standard tip is 20%. If I’m using a coupon, I calculate the tip before the coupon is deducted, because it’s the original price that reflects the work the server did for me.

In theory, this system encourages servers to be your advocate, because they are actually working for you; they are working to get paid directly by you. (And they have to keep track of how much and report it to the federal government on their tax returns, which has got to be a nuisance.) In practice, it’s just a way for employers to justify low salaries. A good restaurant will keep the same servers for years, and they’ll get very good at what they do, earning consistently good tips. A bad one will simply rotate them once they start to complain about the low income or poor working conditions.

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Rae January 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm

This is to Jess…. Here in the States servers are paid around $2.83 an hour (that’s what it is here in Pennsylvania). The point of tips it to make up the difference to at the least, minimum wage (which is $7.50 here).

Most severs are lucky. Guests tip them 18-20% of the bill, sometimes higher. Then they get the guests that think tipping is wrong and they make a point by stiffing their server. That’s fine, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Those that tell servers to “get a real job” most likely have never done it before. If they have, they obviously weren’t good at it so they are bitter.
It’s a great job, especially for students and those that need a flexible schedule. Where else can you work that you can call up a co-worker at the last minute and have them work your shift for you?

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Tiamet January 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Jess,

In the US servers are often not paid a living wage. They are expected to make up the difference in tips. They are then taxed as if they have received those tips and also may have to share the presumed tips with other staff members.

This means that on a $150 bill, the server is effectively paying for serving the customer.

It doesn’t work like that in every state, but it does in a lot

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Invalidcharactr January 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Jess-

Waiters and Waitresses do get paid a wage, but it’s MUCH lower than minimum wage. I think it’s somewhere around $2.50 an hour, where the US minimum wage is $7.25. The assumption is that they are supposed to make enough money in tips to bring them up to minimum wage. Employers are expected to compensate them if they don’t make enough in tips, but usually that doesn’t happen.

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MoniCAN January 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Ah, good ol’ tipping. For Jess from Australia (sorry if a dozen others have already replied), servers in the United States can legally be and usually are paid well below the minimum wage under the assumption they make tip money (which they must report at the end of their day in most cases). Some rare restaurants pay them full decent wages, but most don’t. There are many many other industries in the United States that also expect tips despite employees being paid well above minimum wage, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, the server was rude/tactless and needed to not complain within earshot of the OP, especially with the cursing.
As for the OP, I don’t think a person is ever in the wrong if they can hear another conversation from where they were already seated in a public space. Now if they cup their ears or move closer, that would be another story.

I once had a waitress CHASE me out into the street because I “didn’t bother to tip!” according to her. I really enjoyed my entire party turning around and yelling that I had left the tip in cash on the table. I had paid at the counter by card and left the tip line blank on the receipt (..the cash left was a generous tip too…wish I had known how crazy the waitress was first!). Food service is stressful and servers do need to vent, but a good waiter/waitress will know to calm down, get the facts right, and air his or her stresses in the appropriate place and time.

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Xtina January 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm

It’s nice to find solace and commisseration with others who can understand your grief, but it is highly unprofessional to vent about customers in earshot/in front of other customers. Yeah, I’m sure everyone, customer or not, would agree that that particular customer was a BAD customer, but no matter how right that may be and how many say they agree with you, it still detracts from the way you, as the complainer, look to the general public. Keep your rants off the sales or dining floor.

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Xtina January 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

@ jess: in the U.S., employment laws allow certain professions to pay less than minimum wage and for the employees to make up for it in tips. Waitstaff are generally paid something like $2-something/hour (normal minimum wage is at least $7.25/hour per federal goverment, more in some states) and they make the rest in tips. If you’re a good waiter and work in a restaurant where tips are generally good, you can make a very good living–but it’s always a gamble that you might fall far behind some weeks, too. Sort of like a job working on commission, but with a small guaranteed wage thrown in.

In the U.S., it is considered in very bad form not to tip servers unless they do a bad job.

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Shalamar January 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm

This story reminds me of one time when I was dropping off some drycleaning. The clerk was on the phone to a friend and was complaining about her boyfriend. And when I say “complaining”, I mean that she was criticizing every facet of his personality and calling him every name under the sun, throwing in an f-bomb every other sentence. This went on for a good five minutes before she deigned to notice me and take my drycleaning.

I realize that a drycleaner’s isn’t the same environment as a nice restaurant, but it’s still a place of business. I don’t deliver profanity-laced monologues about MY personal life at work! (I’m not a saint, and when I’m having a bad day, I occasionally let some salty language slip – but I try to do it very quietly.)

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Steph January 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

@Jess: Here, the average server makes about $3/hr. (I made $2.13 when I was a server.) Minimum wage is $7.50 and servers are expected to make up the difference in tips. Theoretically, if they do not, the restaurant is to pay them the difference. Most of the time they get fired for “not working hard enough”. It could be true, or the economy could just be garbage and the restaurant isn’t very popular and the customers are terrible. It’s a terrible system and I wish it would go away.

In regards to the post, I completely empathize with the server, but she should know better than to discuss this stuff in front of customers. It is unprofessional, and people have been fired over less.

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Tara January 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I can see this is going to get into a discussion about tipping, but I have something to add unrelated to all that, but somewhat relevant to the story, re: wedding party at sushi grill.

When I got married (at the courthouse cause it’s cheaper) we went to a sushi place that had a grill, with our parents afterwards. One of those places is reasonably priced enough for everyone, and offers a bit of entertainment if your family has strained relations (my husband’s mother and father didn’t get along at all after their divorce). So anyways, there’s a very good reason for wedding parties to show up at a sushi grill. :D

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The Elf January 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Yeah, a bit unprofessional to discuss this in front of customers. She should have at least dropped her voice a little.

That said, I’m completely on Team Server here – I bet she was just so enraged at being stiffed that she couldn’t contain herself. I can’t really blame her for that. Though we don’t know what went down, leaving $0 tip is pretty bad. It would have to be the worst service imaginable for me to leave $0 tip. I have done so only once, when we waited 20 minutes without even anyone coming by to take a drink order. Never saw the server. We had a time constraint, so we just left and told the manager on the way out what happened. Not sure that counts, as it was also a $0 bill.

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FerrisW January 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Having been the recipient of a waitress’s expletive laden rant, I feel bad for the waitress in this story, but I find it incredibly unprofessional of her to swear in front of customers.

In my case, at least, I don’t believe the expletives were justified. I am from a country where tipping is abnormal, but while on holiday in New York I understood tipping culture and we had been doing so on preceding meals. We stopped at a restaurant for dinner and decided to eat off a set menu which had dinner and dessert for a set price. Before ordering I checked with the waitress that none of the desserts on that menu contained certain ingredients due to my allergies, and she confirmed there were two options (out of five) I could eat. The service throughout the rest of the meal was spotty at best but the worst part came at dessert time. I ordered something, reminding the waitress of my allergy and when the plate came out it was covered in the food I was allergic to. When I pointed this out, the waitress sighed in annoyance and snatched the plate away, returning a minute later with a ‘clean’ plate- although she’d clearly just removed the dessert and placed it on a new plate, which didn’t help as it still had patches of the food on it. We tried to flag her down again and she pointedly ignored us until one of my friends walked over to her. She took the plate away again and returned with a fresh dessert, then proceeded to lecture me about how it wasn’t her fault I’d decided to be picky and claimed I hadn’t mentioned my allergy at all. She returned with the bill, which had gratuity included, despite the policy clearly stated on the menu that that was only applicable to parties of 6 (we were 4). I took the bill up to the manager and explained why we were unhappy and asked for the gratuity to be removed. He offered to remove the price of my dessert which I hadn’t touched in the end due to being unsure whether it was safe for me to eat, but I declined and paid the rest of the bill, leaving a small tip.

We left the restaurant and were surprised when the waitress ran out after us, screaming obscenities and demanding I give her ‘her money’. We walked away with her following us for a block shouting out very rude things about us. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable and I felt bad for anyone who may have overheard (the restaurant had outside seating filled with customers).

Now I can’t help but being suspicious of servers who swear as they complain about customers, as I always picture that New York waitress.

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Mojo January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I agree with the poster – that’s not right. I overheard two guys in a shoe shop last week discussing how ‘retarded’ they looked in their work-shirts. When they started miming and acting out ‘retarded’ I said something to the manager and left.

When you’re in front of customers, you are a professional, and act accordingly. Simple.

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alli_wan January 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I was under the assumption a sushi/hibachi place would be odd for a wedding since a) you might not want to get a WHITE wedding dress, flammable bridesmaid finery and rented tuxes that close to an open grill and b) sushi is generally not the sort of food that tends to please a large, heterogeneous, intergenerational crowd the way generic chicken/beef/pasta does.

As for the waitress/bartender/staff, the rudeness comes in griping in front of customers, not in griping in and of itself. Still, with that kind of rudeness on the part of the initial customer, I can understand why common sense and etiquette may have temporarily left the building.

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MellowedOne January 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm

@moniCAN – a good suggestion to help prevent dramatic waitress showdowns and retorts of like kind…on the bill, where the tip line is, write “cash on table”.

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Shiksagoddess January 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm

@b-rock (and others): The rate servers must pay in taxes is 14%. The sales are usually tallied on the computer, and the tax rate automatically taken 0ut of the paycheck.

That $150 bill cost the waitress $21. So yeah, I’d be more than steamed over it.

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Elizabeth January 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I think Jess gets it now

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OP January 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm

OP here!
First @anon1, anon2 & Margo: I think I mentioned the wedding to show it was a special occasion place. I’m also planning my own wedding, so I think I have Bride Brain (All weddings, all the time!).

We live in the Midwest US, where roughly 92% of weddings have a large dinner reception afterward. The newlyweds’ compact car was in the restaurant’s parking lot with a “Just Married” sign in the back. Members of the wedding party (in matching dresses and suits) were standing around awkwardly in the lobby/bar area of the restaurant. So, either they stopped there for drinks before the reception or were eating there. If they were eating there in lieu of a large reception, why weren’t they seated immediately? (Part of Bride Brain means I’m also nosy about others’ plans…although I wouldn’t actually quiz them about it.)

@Ticia: If our movie theatre sold pickles at the concession stand, I would be there every weekend!

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Melnick January 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Hmmm. Another Aussie here. I think you Americans should just change the award rate for wait staff so that it pays a decent wage and tips are no longer required from customers. The theory that prices will go up is somewhat negated by the fact that prices are already inflated if you are expected to pay a tip. An employer should pay an employee to provide a high quality service. I know some will argue that service won’t be as good but the reality is that an employee shouldn’t only provide fabulous service because they believe they will be rewarded with a tip.

Given the fact the customer said he realised that the tip wasn’t included in the $150 AND the way she reacted (completely and utterly unprofessionally – you NEVER swear in front of customers no matter what industry you’re in), I would say that the group believed that they did not receive an acceptable level of service. It could also have been that they were international guests who come from a country where all staff are paid appropriately by their employer (as they should be) and it is not up to the customer to pay their wages. Obviously that sucks, but it can’t really be helped sometimes.

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MakeMineRed January 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I agree that the waitress was totally wrong in venting in front of customers. Vent to your co-workers away from the customers, then realize that stuff happens in life and carry on.

However, I think there may have been an ulterior motive here on behalf of the waitress and bartender since I can’t believe how unprofessional they are being. Maybe this “story” was told in front of customers to generate lots of tips and to give notice to those in earshot that tips are expected.

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grumpy_otter January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm

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.

I waitressed and bartended to put myself through college and I would never chat with co-workers about ANYTHING in front of customers unless it was directly related to the customer, such as where we had stored the martini glasses.

I recently had to sit in a hospital emergency room with my mom, who was in excruciating pain, and listen to two doctors discuss how they had enjoyed the latest football game. The rule applies to ANY industry.

Okay–that’s my rant.

As for tipping–15% in the United States no matter how bad the service was. And I mean that. People are trying to live on that crap pay. If you can afford to go out to dinner or for drinks, you can afford 15%. That server who was mean to you might just have had a bad day. But they still have to pay the bills. (But they get one chance–if you go back next week and they are obnoxious again, you still tip 15%, but then you speak to the manager. )

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Angel January 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

If the waitress’s behavior in venting about the lack of tip was any indication of the type of service she provided the large party, then I honestly don’t blame them for not leaving her a tip. I have zero sympathy for wait staff, it’s not like they go into the profession not knowing how low their salary is going to be–they know this and yet still choose to do the job. It is an entirely service-based job, tips are not a given, they are extra for decent service. It is almost expected that at times you may not receive a tip, sometimes for a good reason, and sometimes for no other reason than the customer is just a complete a-hole who never tips at all, for any reason! It’s a mixed bag for sure, but it goes with the job. And the fact that the waitress was venting, in a loud voice, using profanity in front of customers, that is offensive to me personally, and I probably would be offended enough that I would not go back to the particular restaurant.

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MonkeysMommy January 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I once worked waited tables during college. One day a fellow server realized he got stiffed, and proceeded to chase the couple to the door. He said something along the lines of “hey, you forgot my tip” to the couple. We were all shocked when the guy actually reached into his pocket and pulled out a few bucks for the server. Was it rude? Yes. Did I blame him? No way! Tip your servers people! They work hard for so little as it is!

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Stacey Frith-Smith January 11, 2012 at 1:10 am

The waitress might have shown imperfect form for venting to a colleague so emphatically and where it could be heard BUT- for some waitstaff a large missed tip is money they will be paying out of their own pocket (a portion of it anyway) into a pool that may be shared with several other classes of employee, depending on the establishment, ordinances governing this in the area etc. Truthfully, I have no sympathy for people who don’t tip. If you receive horrible service, call a manager before the meal progresses beyond the first problem. Give them an opportunity to make it right. If it doesn’t improve, reducing a tip is the move that lets it be known that you have taken the quality of service into account. But to literally decline to tip and to remark, perhaps flippantly “yeah, I know” in response to a statement that gratuity is not included? Well, if I had any influence in ehell, such a person would occupy a very low level indeed. If the service or food are truly that unsatisfactory, a manager may reduce the charges or even remove some of all of them from the ticket. It does take some communication, however, along with a realistic view of what is possible on a good night in your chosen establishment.

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Rug Pilot January 11, 2012 at 1:54 am

In the U.S., wait staff are paid the minimum wage which is at the Federal level $7.75 per hour and in California $8.00 per hour. No longer may employers discount the minimum wage for tips. They used to be able to do this to the amount of $.25 per hour. There were signs at the front disk of restaurants announcing that servers’ wages were below minimum and expected to be made up with tips. The IRS, our taxing agency at the Federal level, has gotten legislation passed that allows them to assume that all wait staff are tipped at 8% of sales. Servers are required to keep a log of their sales and tips, and report these amounts to their employer each month. The presumed tips reported or calculated based on sales is included in servers’ wages on their annual W-2 which is sent to the taxing agencies. They are expected to pay tax on these sometime imaginary tips.

I have eaten at a restaurant which changed its practice for a while to applying a 17% service charge to all bills without relying on customers’ tips. The service declined tremendously. It took me over an hour to get my water glass refilled. I ended up doing it myself. It took an hour and a half to get my bill. I knew what was going on so I spoke with the owner. The next time I ate there the service charge was gone, the tip was optional, and the service was much better. In this country waiting tables is not usually the fine and noble profession it is in Europe and other areas of the world. It is a way to pay one’s college tuition, keep body and soul together while waiting for that big break in Hollywood, or support one’s child without an education.

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Kendra January 11, 2012 at 2:17 am

@Jess
I can’t really say how tipping is handled in North America as I haven’t a clue how tipping is handled in Canada or Mexico. I understand that in the US, there are many areas that allow restaurants to pay their servers less than minimum wage with the excuse that they’ll make up the difference in tips. Restaurant owners fight raising their servers wages saying that if they pay a living wage, their customers wouldn’t be able to afford dining out. I can tell you, that in Nevada, the minimum wage is the minimum wage for everyone, by law. So a typical server earns $8.25 per hour plus tips, and people still seem to be able to eat out. That said, I typically tip 10% for normal service and 20% for exceptional service.

As for the submission, it is always bad form to complain about customers in front of other customers. We have no idea if the customer was a boor or if the server was horrible. She did show herself to be unprofessional at the least. As a customer, had I been witness to that outburst, then found out she was my server, I wouldn’t be comfortable. I would probably ask the manager for a different server, but that’s me.

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Angeldrac January 11, 2012 at 5:21 am

On the subject of global tipping practices:
I don’t believe that coming from a different country excuses a person from tipping, or behaving in any way that is not inline with that culture’s traditions and practices.
I’m Australian, and when my husband and I went to Egypt we did out best to research and read our guidebooks in order to understand what was customary in that country. Issues such as not showing too much skin and tipping (giving ‘baksheesh’) were just two cultural differences we had to deal with. We felt it was our responsibility to do so, as guests in the country.
When we eventually travel to the US, we will certainly be researching tipping practices, so we behave in accordance to local customs there, too, despite the fact that tipping for anything other than exemplary service goes against my own up bringing.
I don’t think that coming from another country exempts a person from behaving appropriately. It we really want to talk “etiquette”, let’s consider being a considerate and thoughtful visitor that does his or her best to understand their host and act accordingly.

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MellowedOne January 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

@moniCAN– That type of melodramatic waitress situation can easily be avoided. Next to the line where you list tip, put, ‘cash on table’ . It hasn’t failed me yet :)

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