“Bellini! Bellini!”

by admin on June 18, 2014

A few years ago a friend and I were going to visit the city where she was from on a long weekend. My brother and his wife lived there as did a lot of her friends and so we decided to have a dinner out as a group. There were about eight of us, it was my birthday and we went to what was known as a great casual pub/bistro. Since it was my birthday my meal would be free and we were planning on having a few drinks too.

After being seated we noticed that it took a long time for our server to come to our table. The place was busy but well-staffed and we began to notice other tables that had come in after us getting their entrees before we got our first round of drinks.

We soon figured out why when we saw our server (who had finally brought our drinks) doing shots at the bar. She returned to our table a while later to take our dinner orders and she knelt down at the head of the table, propped her elbows on the table and began to take our orders. This was new. I’ve never had a server kneel on the floor before. She was in a skirt and the floor wasn’t what I’d call spotless but maybe I’m being a germaphobe.

My brother mentioned that it was my birthday and she said that yes, my meal was free.

Dinner was fun for the most part. Our server went to the bar and did a couple more shots and we were all a bit amused and annoyed by her because we had each only had one drink at this point and we were the customers.

When she brought the check to us we realized that she had charged my brother the full price for my meal. He waved her over and asked her to please correct it. She argued that no one had told her that it was my birthday but she huffed off to fix it.

The service was so bad that a couple of people just drew sad faces where the tip amount was supposed to be. We all believe in tipping and most of us over tip but this was beyond bad service.

We left soon after and, as we were all walking down the street, we heard a woman shouting, “Bellini! Bellini!”, over and over. We turned to see what was going on and were baffled to see our server running after us waving a slip of paper in the air. She told us that she called us Bellini because that’s what a couple of us had been drinking.

She was waving the incorrect check with my meal at full price and telling us that we hadn’t paid for it. A few of us started to explain that that was the one with the mistake and that she had fixed it and we had paid the correct one. She was adamant that no, this was an unpaid bill and that we needed to pay it. Finally I told her that I would call her manager to make sure that her register balanced and that I would cover anything that we hadn’t paid for to get her to stop shouting.

I did call her manager. I called him to let him know that he had a drunk server literally chasing his customers out the door. Not one of us ever went back there but we’ve all laughed about this a few times over the years.    0605-14

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

mark June 18, 2014 at 2:43 am

There are many restaurants I don’t go to anymore due to horrible service. I’m not the type to complain to the manager, I let my tip and patronage do my talking for me. Though in this case I would have made an exception. I wonder how the management at this place was unaware of her swilling their booze if you all saw it so easily. I doubt she was paying for it and good booze is expensive.

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Kip's Tacos June 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm

You should complain to the manager. If you don’t leave a tip they’ll just think you’re cheap. It doesn’t do any talking for you.

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Miss Raven June 18, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Agreed. I never stiff waitstaff, even if the service is horrendous. If it’s bad enough that you don’t want to leave a tip, then the course of action is to complain to the manager so the issue is dealt with. Otherwise what they have is one side of the story, and it’s the server’s. She doesn’t know why you didn’t tip. How rude. Who goes out to dinner and doesn’t leave a tip? And on and on. You just look cheap.

The other issue is “tipping out” which is common practice at most restaurants. The server likely splits a percentage of her tips with the bartender, bussers, and possibly even the host. You don’t just stiff the server, you stiff a lot of other employees who were likely doing their jobs.

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mark June 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I never stiff waitstaff either. I only pay them if they earn it. And it is rare that I leave a tiny tip, the service has to be fairly horrendous. I feel for the other staff receiving a tip out, but they really need to take their complaint up with the server for poor service not me.

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Kendra June 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

If the service is that bad, why would I care what the server thinks of me?

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JenAnn June 18, 2014 at 4:56 pm

No, I disagree. No one is being “stiffed” here. I don’t think I’ve ever not tipped at all, but in this situation I think I might do the same – if not, at least it would be a very low tip.

Why pay someone when not only did she fail to adequately provide service due to being DRUNK ON THE JOB (holy cow!!), she also failed to remember conversation about the free b-day meal due to being drunk, then after correcting the check, harassed and chased them to get the original check paid on top of the corrected one (wow, look what being drunk on the job does to your ability to function, who knew?).

If tips are shared, then the lack of tip might be incentive for her co-workers to stop covering for an incompetent and customer-harassing co-worker who is permanently causing their employer to lose customer base. They owe it to their employer, and it may well cost them tip money if they don’t do the right thing.

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Tracy W June 19, 2014 at 3:14 am

My brother, a chef, if he’s not impressed with the waiter but impressed with some aspect of the server, or otherwise, will tip the people involved directly. He doesn’t trust waiters to split their tips.
(Once he did this when I took him out for lunch, hosting the meal, making all the arrangements, etc, and the waiter kept assuming that he was the host).

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Rin June 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

Tipping is for good service. Bad service = no tip. As a customer, you shouldn’t be paying premium for a bad experience.

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mark June 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I see where you are coming from, I just don’t like to complain to the restaurant manager. There are a lot more restaurants to choice from. I tip what I feel is appropriate for the service and then I don’t go back or at least not for a long time to give the current staff time to change over.

I would hope that management examines the tips of the server. If you have server that consistently receives a much small tip ratio, then the action to take is obvious. If they don’t then eventually another restaurant will likely take their place.

Though this case is exceptional, I probably would have spoken with the manager in this case.

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Lera99 June 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

In general, servers only claim the tips that were left on credit cards. Doing that means they don’t have to pay taxes on the cash tips. So it is entirely possible management would have no idea that you didn’t tip.

All managers care about is that the servers claim they made enough tips to make minimum wage so the restaurant doesn’t have to make up the difference.

So stiffing a bad server just means that server will bad mouth you to others – not that the server’s performance will be reviewed. That is why it is so vital to let management know about a bad server. If no one complains the manger has no reason to look at a bad server’s performance.

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Anonymouse June 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I would do both actually. As a customer, this waitress would be so far from deserving my tip it’s not even funny anymore. As a former manager, I would want to know about the waitress’s shenanigans BEFORE it costs me any more business or worse.

The only time I have ever not tipped was when the service was absolutely awful. We talked to the manager, who took care of my complaints, then we left the tip long enough for the waitress to see it there before we took it home with us.

In that case, we did offer a tip to the manager who helped us, but she refused to accept it.

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Cherry June 18, 2014 at 2:50 am

o_0
I have had customers who have made me desperately want a drink, but I would never DREAM of doing shots while on a shift!

What was she thinking? Did she really think that her manager wouldn’t find out/would be okay with this?

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Tracy W June 18, 2014 at 5:10 am

I’m glad you had a sense of humour about it and didn’t let her ruin your evening. I do wonder though what on earth the duty manager of the front-staff was doing to not notice she was falling down on the job. Then it ocurred to me that perhaps she was the duty manager!

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DGS June 18, 2014 at 6:51 am

Wow, what an odd story. A few things: you should have called the manager right away and told him that your server was obviously drunk. The manager could have reassigned a different server to your section, and the mishap with your meal would have been avoided.

I think it was pretty rude and passive-aggressive to draw sad faces by the tip amount. The correct thing to do would have been to speak to the manager. Also, if you were to tip at all, you would have tipped off the full amount of the bill (including the meal that was subsequently comped).

Certainly, the server was abominable, but the guests do not win any brownie points for passive aggression.

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mark June 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

On very rare occasions when my wife and I have received unusually poor service, we will write in 0.01 as the tip and then write on the receipt, “tip reflects service”. The reason for the one cent is to try and make it obvious that no we aren’t cheap skates and stiffed the server, but to point out that is what the service was worth. I don’t know if it really works.

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Annie B June 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

As a former server, I can tell you that this IS effective. A really bad tip is actually more of a sign of poor service than stiffing the server. From experience, I’ve believed that I got no tip because everyone thought everyone else was going to tip. When I got the occasional dollar (on a $50.00 ticket), THAT sent the message loud and clear.

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Brit June 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

Rude and passive-aggressive? In the comedy-bad scene going on, it was perfect. There are times to have a sense of humour, this was one of them.

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Kendra June 18, 2014 at 11:35 am

I don’t see drawing sad faces as rude or passive-aggressive. I think the sad faces were to show that the tip wasn’t forgotten, it was withheld for poor service, as is proper. It used to be 3 pennies tails up to show that you didn’t forget the tip, but since most tips are put on cards, sad faces in the tip line is a good alternative.

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NostalgicGal June 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

When I’d waitressed the first pass, it was a penny for the table or a penny per person, and face up meant bad service and face down meant bad service and kiss my *** to boot. The frownie on the tip line has become the equivalent now days.

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Kendra June 19, 2014 at 12:10 am

Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I always understood that face up meant that I was too cheap to leave a bigger tip and the service was fine. Face down was what indicated poor service, not a s***w you. The coffee shop I worked, some twenty-odd years ago, was popular with the seniors who honestly believed that a nickel tip for the breakfast special was perfectly appropriate, so a tip for just coffee could easily be a couple of pennies. As a busser, I typically took home a couple or three dollars. A day I got $5 in tips was a really good day.

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Library Diva June 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

I always thought a penny face-up was to be added on top of a regular tip as a compliment on great service. A penny face-down alone meant bad service.

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NostalgicGal June 21, 2014 at 2:48 am

Yes, penny face up (one or one per person) on TOP of a tip is compliment. Penny by itself or penny per person was an insult.

Snowy July 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Besides appropriate to generous tips, we leave notes for our servers, especially with large groups. I’ll write “Thank you for taking care of us!” on a slip of paper, and it gets passed around the table and everyone signs it. I just left one (for the third time) for a waitress, and found out that she’d not only kept the two previous ones, but she had them up on her wall at home. That made me feel like less of a dork for doing the notes!

Kathleen June 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm

When I was a waitress, I once had a customer who was INSANE, insisting that I was lying about the restaurant being out of a particular thing (I wasn’t) and that she saw other customers eating that thing (they weren’t). She shouted demeaning things, threatened to get me fired (my cowardly manager went and hid so he wouldn’t have to deal with her), and was overall awful. When she left, she left a single penny in the middle of her dirty plate. I’d never heard of this penny thing, but I bet it was tail up, too. One of the worst customers I’ve ever dealt with.

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PM June 18, 2014 at 7:09 am

I think the only thing you could have done here was to contact the manager during the meal to let him know that his server was spending more time fetching her own drinks than serving her customers.

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Jade June 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm

True, although I find it odd that the Restaurant Manager was so far removed from the floor that they wouldn’t realise their staff were drinking during work hours. Obviously they were absent though, if they could have walked past at any minute the waitress would not have chanced being caught drinking on the job.

I think in their position when she knelt down at the table obviously drunk I would have asked for a manager and politely let them know that their server didn’t seem quite up to the requirements of the job and could we have someone else handle our table. Stiffing her on the tip was probably not the best course of action because it opened the door for her to claim that you hadn’t paid the entire bill and now it’s your word against hers. Her haphazard work ethic, drinking on the clock and bad attitude are her manager’s job to control and correct, bring it to their attention and then let it go

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Anonymouse June 19, 2014 at 10:44 pm

In some restaurants, management is trained in multiple positions (front and kitchen) and goes to work wherever they need help that day. I don’t know how common that actually is, but that’s the way it worked in mine. So it may be that the manager was trapped in the kitchen and not able to see what was happening on the floor.

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Dominic June 18, 2014 at 7:22 am

It’s nice that OP can laugh about this and that they did not let the issues spoil their meal. I must confess, I probably would have been very upset and would have let it get to me. At the very least I would have gotten the manager once I realized my server was doing shots at the bar and requested proper service (a different, non-intoxicated server, if there was one). On the other hand, OP doesn’t say anything about the manager’s response when she called after the fact, so I’m guessing the manager wouldn’t have done much anyway, if it’s common for the staff to be partying up during work hours. Not going back was probably the best course of action, unless you wanted to go for the entertainment value.

As for the server kneeling on the floor to take their order, I have seen various permutations of this that range from the server (in a diner) actually sitting down in the booth with us, to a server in a bistro crouching at the side of the table. Apparently it’s supposed to make for a friendlier interaction, so the server is at the level of the diners and not towering over them. Here, though, it sounds like the server could have been kneeling so she didn’t fall over!

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Serena June 18, 2014 at 10:54 am

I also was about to say, the kneeling didn’t see odd to me at all. I’ve known many servers to crouch while taking orders, though I thought it was so they could have a hard surface to write on. Although, with the way the story was going, I thought the OP was gonna say she knelt because she was drunk to stand straight!

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vanessaga81 June 18, 2014 at 7:42 am

I would have called the manager after I realized my server was so smashed she couldn’t stand up to take my order.

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AMC June 18, 2014 at 7:46 am

Usually I would scold your group for not leaving a tip, but I actually think you were justified in this case. Drinking on the job is unconscionable and dangerous.

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NostalgicGal June 18, 2014 at 8:16 am

I have no idea how the server got to drink on the job. She and the bartender pouring for her would have been fired in most places.

This is just bizarre.

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DanaJ June 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

Back in the 1990s, my ex had a job in a 5-star hotel bar (this was a good decade before we met). The bar was designed as a semi-circle and the bottles of booze went up the semi-circular wall in sort of a spiral. The higher up the spiral, the more expensive the booze. There was an unofficial staff competition to see who could drink their way to the top of the spiral by closing time.

Apparently my ex’s sweat used to smell like gin, and a complaint from the then-GF put a stop to ex’s participation. So in a really busy place, it’s possible for staff to drink if the bartenders are in on it and the manager is clueless.

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NostalgicGal June 18, 2014 at 2:55 pm

On some particular booze types, the cost is high enough it’d be easy to notice that there is evaporation going on (3 shots sold but 8 missing from the formerly full bottle?). I would think the place would have caught on that the sales and the inventory weren’t jiving.

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DanaJ June 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Indeed! Particularly when the bottles at the top of the spiral were prohibitively expensive liqueurs. I do know that one manager ended up getting fired for sending too many complimentary drinks over to celebrities’ tables (it was a high-end place frequented by many VIPs). But the bar receipts must have been insane on a regular basis for it to have gone on at least for a full summer.

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Tracy W June 19, 2014 at 3:16 am

Perhaps the management was also engaged in the unofficial competition?

From what I hear, managing a restaurant or bar successfully is very demanding, and a lot of people fail at it the hard way.

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Lera99 June 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

Drinking on the job is rampant in the service industry. But usually the servers, bartenders, and line cooks are far more subtle than this.

In fact, it is one of the reasons you sometimes hear about a little kid being served booze by accident in a sippy. Usually management will allow servers to have free water/iced tea/soda while on the job. And the servers will put their drink in a sippy cup in the back to minimize spills. Over time it isn’t uncommon for booze to make its way into the sippy cup along with the soda. Then someone’s scrambling for drinks for a large table and they grab the wrong sippy cup for the kids.

I am NOT saying it is professional or even ok – but you should be aware it is VERY, VERY, VERY common if the restaurant has a full bar for just about everyone working there to be drinking.

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Ivy June 18, 2014 at 8:30 am

Why would someone think getting drunk at work would lead to anything good, especially as a server when the majority of your income for the night is based on tips? Weird.

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Serena June 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

In my experience, some servers expect to be left tips simply because its the polite thing to do. And on the occasion that they are not, they remain convinced that it was because they had horrible customers–not because they did something wrong.

Or maybe she just had such a bad day she couldn’t be bothered by anything, including being a good server and actually getting tips.

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Wild Irish Rose June 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

I agree with DGS about the passive-aggression on the part of the customers, but it reminds of a funny story about a friend of a friend. On an occasion when he received poor service, he *subtracted* money from his bill on the tip line, and wrote “The waitress was so *$@#ing rude that I think you owe me money for putting up with it.” Rude, yes; passive-aggressive, yes. But still funny.

That said, I agree with everyone who said OP should have notified a manager about the drunk server and the lousy service. I would have fired her on the spot, along with the bartender who kept the shots coming, and I would have made sure that she didn’t drive home. Can you imagine the liability on the part of the restaurant if a drunk employee had an accident driving home? Sheesh.

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Tanya June 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

The friend of a friend was not just rude and passive-aggressive, he was stealing. Not really all that funny. Tips are optional and he would’ve been fully within his rights to leave zero, but the menu price is something you commit to paying when you order and eat the food. Not to excuse the rude waitress, but you (general) don’t get to unilaterally decide to pay less than the listed price for things just because you don’t like the service. It would’ve been much better to speak to her manager and ask for a discount– same effect, without the criminal aspect.

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mark June 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

I really doubt that a negative tip was assessed. The receipt probably got thrown into the trash by the server, and the friend likely got bad mouthed by the server to all his/her coworkers.

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Kate June 18, 2014 at 10:52 am

Believe, he can write whatever he wants on the credit card slip, they did not take any money off of the bill.

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Dominic June 18, 2014 at 10:58 am

I don’t think Rose means her friend actually tried to pay less than the bill, though he may have wanted to. The restaurant wouldn’t have let him leave not having paid the bill.

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Marie June 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I highly doubt the actually payed less for his meal, as no restaurant would allow him to do that. It was a passive aggressive joke. Let’s calm down.

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Abby June 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

He didn’t literally pay less than the full bill. The server/waitress/owner would still run the full total through the credit card machine. It was just a jibe.

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Wild Irish Rose June 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Don’t panic! Of course, he paid the whole bill; the restaurant manager wasn’t going to let him reduce the amount he owed (unless, of course, he opted to comp the meal based on the bad service). The dude was just trying to make a point. I’m sure they got it!

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Asharah June 18, 2014 at 10:11 am

I remember a story where the OP went to a grocery store where the baggers were paid solely by tips. (Not sure if this was in the US or not.) She gave specific directions on how she wanted her groceries bagged, something like perishables in plastic, everything else in paper, don’t bag the laundry detergent, and two baggers started mocking her directions in falsetto voices. She deducted a buck from tip for every remark. After the groceries were loaded in the trunk, she went in and had a talk with the boss about their behavior and said by her calculation they owed her $3. Didn’t get her “negative tip” back, but the boys did get a reprimand.

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caro June 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

Your friend sounds entitled and rude. If he felt that the overall price of the bill should have been reduced due to poor service, he should have spoken to a manager, who would have been able to do that for your friend. By leaving less than the actual list price of the food, he was stealing. In a rather showy and boastful way.

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Abby June 18, 2014 at 2:42 pm

If you worked at a restaurant, as you mention below, I am surprised you don’t realize that the friend of Rose did not get away with leaving a negative tip.

By the time the patron gets their slip to leave a tip, the price of food, drink, and tax has ALREADY been charged to the credit card. The server would not be required to go back and credit the account for the negative tip. You could argue that he was rude, but he was in no way stealing from the restaurant.

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Lisa June 18, 2014 at 9:38 am

It seems to be more common than we think that staff would drink while on shift. I have a friend who was a chef in a nice restaurant and he would drink throughout his whole shift, no questions asked. Fast forward, he’s in AA now and it wouldn’t cross his mind, but many of his former co-workers acted as enablers.

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L.J. June 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

I would have left a half-tip, because servers get taxed on presumed tips. A 10% tip will cover the taxes she’ll have to pay.

It would feel risky to ask for a different server, because what if DrunkWaitress is replaced by her BFF, who now hates your table for reporting her friend’s failings? I’d probably have put up with the drunken service, left a partial tip, and not gone back again. Yes, I know, it’s helpful to the restaurant to be told about their bad employees, but it’s not my responsibility. The host(ess), owner, or manager should be supervising them.

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Phoenix June 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

But she got drunk on the job and tried to for e the group to pay a wrong bill.

I utterly refuse to shell anyone even a penney if they can’t be responsible to do their job correctly. Those people don’t need money, they need to get fired. Tips just enable their bad behavior.

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Kendra June 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Ok, since this allocated tip thing comes up every time we discuss tips, I went to the IRS website to see what that was all about. First of all, allocated tips apply only in establishments that must allocate tips AND your reported tips were less than your share of 8% of the total food & drink sales. Your allocated tip amount is figured by taking 8% of all food and drink sales minus all servers total tips reported. Whatever is left, if anything is left, is divided up among the servers. However, if the kept a daily tip diary and reported your actual tips to your employer, as required by law, then you only pay taxes on the tips you actually received. The only time you get taxed on “presumed” tips is when the server does NOT report their tips as required by law. Also, servers only have to report the tips that they actually kept and not the gross before they have tipped out.

So, in the OP’s case, I think I would have done the same thing they did and put a sad face or squiggle or some other indication that I did see the tip line and chose to withhold the tip. It is likely that a server getting drunk on the job is not reporting tips either, but her taxes are her problem, not mine. Just as my taxes are my problem, not my servers’. I can see what you are saying about it being risky to ask for another server, but I think I would have talked to the manager at the time it happened so that it could have been taken care of.

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Marie June 18, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I don’t think he’s under any obligation to leave the waitress a tip when she’s so drunk on the job she cannot remember one moment from the next. I’m against bad tipping in general because of the wages that servers have to live on, but there’s a limit. Hopefully this was not her typical behaviour because I doubt she gets any tips at all otherwise.

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Calli Arcale June 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

Tips are never obligatory. That’s the whole point of the tip. (Exception is if the restaurant discloses an automatic gratuity for large parties.) You don’t have to tip. I always bear in mind the financial situation of servers and I have always tipped. I have had some sub-par service, but to date it has not gotten so bad that I have to leave no tip.

But for this story? Yeah. I’d’ve left zero tip, complained to the manager, and never returned.

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caro June 18, 2014 at 10:14 am

Not tipping as a result of poor service won’t really fix any thing. The server just chalks it up to that table being bad at tipping. The best way to correct a situation like that is to, while the server is being rude/sloppily drunk/completely ignoring your table, find a manager, tell the manager, request either a new server or compensation (like a free drink or dessert or something) and then decide whether to withhold a tip. And if that crap server is the manager, immediately close your ticket and leave. Call later to speak to the GM. If the manager on shift can’t give you good service, the establishment is not worthy of your business.
So many people passively sit and receive poor service, without a peep, and then think that not leaving a tip is going to result in the server sitting down at the end of the shift to reflect on that table and why they didn’t get a good tip. As a former waitress, let me tell, you: WE DON’T. We just dismiss it as a table of people who think “get a better job if you want a fair wage” or “I left a church pamphlet on the table, that will save your soul, that’s the real tip” or “I’m saving a ton of money by not tipping!”.

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JenAnn June 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

All that sounds like work to me. Not my job as a customer. How the drunken waitress perceives the lack of tip is not my concern once I walk out that door (never to return). It’s the management’s issue, and if they are paying the slightest attention they should already be aware of what she and the bartender are up to.

This is an extreme situation though. My low tip in cases of bad service is typically 15%, so yeah, no point is being made at all since they don’t know they would normally get at least 20% from me if they did their job right. But again, I really don’t want to deal with educating management about their employees, I’d rather continue enjoying the company I am with and try not to let the service issues affect that enjoyment. Making an issue of it would stress me out and ruin the rest of my time in the restaurant.

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Anna Wood June 19, 2014 at 12:08 am

I would have left the restaurant. After paying for the drinks that had been served.

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NostalgicGal June 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Moving and driving back after delivering and unloading a load (if we were very lucky on a long day we could make one trip there, unload and drive back); and pulled in at halfway at a restaurant that had 5 minute lunch specials during certain hours and ‘salad bar’ as an option for lunch. Table of about six were there and ordered ahead of us, all salad bar. We ordered two of the lunch 5 min specials. We got our drinks and sat. Salad bar meant they had to bring you plates to go through.
The store had nothing else going on; nothing. Four employees and they just sort of loitered back there. Finally at 45 min (remember we went there for fast food and get back on road) we went to the counter to pay for the drinks and leave… and remember, the salad bar orders still hadn’t seen plates. There sat my and my hubby’s food on the counter, it had gone through the oven conveyer; and no anything about bringing anything out to any of us. I paid up the drinks, guessing (they tried to add it up later and got like 30% tax on it AND put a tip on it to boot) and started to leave, and they protested didn’t I want my food? Not anymore. Then they ran the tab WITH the food and I kept the slip and walked out, leaving enough to pay for the drinks we had been served-so watered down it was cold colored water. The other customers had all come up to the counter finally, they’d thought some dishes were going through the washer or something; and one of the server gals looked very put out to have to go to where a stack of clean plates was sitting and dole out plates. I happened to know somebody high up in the company and I called THEM about it. Tip, hah! Whoever owned that franchise I hope they got it in spades. It was a wonder it was still open and it gave the whole chain such a black eye….

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j-wo June 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

I once went for dinner at a local, casual restaurant, and it was pretty obvious from word one that our waiter was completely stoned. He couldn’t string together two coherent words, let alone take an order. After stumbling through trying to remember his name and the drink special, he disappeared into the back. About 15 minutes later, the manager came out to apologize, take our orders, and look after our table for the rest of the night. That was awesome service, and I remember it to this day though it was over 25 years ago.

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kingsrings June 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

The OP definitely should have contacted the manager and asked to be re-assigned to a different server. Although I have a strong feeling that this was allowed and considered acceptable in that restaurant. She did it repeatedly and with the bartender’s help. Sadly, there are some restaurants and stores where employees are pretty much allowed to get away with anything due to poor management. Sometimes that’s because it’s a popular, one-of-a-kind place, which makes everyone who works there very arrogant. Other times it’s because the employees have some kind of a personal connection to the management – such as being a family member, close friend, or significant other.

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Harley Granny June 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

I for one don’t think the sad faces on the bill was passive aggressive. I say it was a sure fire way of getting the managers attention.

A good manager looks at the bills and if any comments are made good/bad the issue is addressed. What good is leaving a 20% tip if you are going to complain about poor service? If I have poor service I have no qualms about leaving little to no tip. People seem to forget what the “TIP” is truly for. This doesn’t mean I’m a stingy tipper or a high maintainance patron. We start at 20% and go up or down depending on the service. Very very very rarely is it below 20%.

Now that’s out of the way….as soon as I saw the shots at the bar I would have found the manager and demanded another server.

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Lil June 18, 2014 at 11:17 am

I am a generous tipper and I absolutely believe in tipping correctly. It’s an unwritten social contract that one enters into when one walks into a sit down restaurant and has their order taken by a server. Diners should look at the tip as part of the total bill for eating out. Period. If they get great service they should give a great tip. But that contract does run both ways. The server has entered the social contract with the expectation that excellent service can mean a 30% tip but they do then tacitly agree that poor service can mean a poor tip and terrible service can mean no tip at all. It’s not passive aggressive to not leave a tip that wasn’t earned. No one should have to call over a manager for terrible service if they don’t want to and if they had called over a manager what would have been the result? They may have gotten an additional discount on their food but they wouldn’t have left a tip anyway. At that point they may not have wanted to get the server in trouble too. It was only after she chased them down that she crossed the line from amusing incompetent to beyond rude.

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DanaJ June 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I just wanted to say that due to the way my mouse scrolls, I initially misread your post as: “I am a generous stripper…”!

Not what I was expecting on an etiquette board ! :D

I also wanted to add that if I’d seen my server downing shots and thought he/she was impaired, I would probably feel that alterting a manager is the responsible thing to do. Restaurant kitchens have enough frenzied activity going on to risk having a drunk employee trip things up. A drunk librarian I might not worry about so much, but a server who goes in and ot of a busy kitchen and who carries hot food and sharp things through a sea of patrons should probably be sidelined by a amanger for the rest of the evening.

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AnaMaria June 18, 2014 at 11:25 am

Having waitressed during my college years, I always have full sympathy for a flustered server in an understaffed restaurant or for minor mistakes that may come up, especially things that are out of the server’s hands (such as the food being undercooked). I have seen people try to use the dumbest excuses to get out of tipping their server, such as the server’s hand coming into contact (just barely) with the food on the plate as they were serving it and now the entire meal is “contaminated”. I would also be fine with a server kneeling down to lower a heavy tray to a tray-jack (doing it any other way is asking to injure your back!), or to take an order from a soft-spoken customer.

However, I waitressed in a state that is known for having more laid-back laws and culture regarding alcohol, and drinking immediately before, during, or after your shift without changing out of your uniform were grounds for instant dismissal. Putting your elbows on a customers’ table and kneeling down for no reason other than laziness would have probably been a write- up. And arguing with a customer would also get your fired- if you felt there was a discrepancy in the bill, you went straight for a manager and asked THEM to straighten it out. No way did the server in this story deserve any sort of tip, and I hope management gave her what she deserved (a canning!).

Sadly, I found that there can be a LOT of favoritism in the workplace- in the restaurants where I worked, some servers got written up for dropping a fork and others could get away with murder. The server in the story could have been so careless because she knew how to butter up her boss and avoid getting in trouble. I do hope that justice was rendered, though!!

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Miss-E June 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm

The kneeling itself wasn’t so bad, I’ve seen places where it’s common for the servers to do that. A college friend served at Hooters and they had a rule that the girls had to sit down with their customers because it established more a bond between them. It isn’t like the waitress was serving them with her knees, it shouldn’t matter to anyone but her if they got dirty.

Everything else is awful though and she definitely did not deserve any tip.

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NostalgicGal June 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Yep, did this, four months before the fiancée of the manager who was the brother of the owner; pulled too many in about three days and we were NOT going to put up with her queenbitch ways anymore; the last one was a doozy (involving 14 hours of four abreast standing line and a cleanup from h*ll while still dealing with full to rafters, then she came on as morning shift and messed everything up in about 10 min, then demanded we do the entire three hour cleanup again before our shift could leave-and she refused a direct order to clean up the mess she’d made from the manager who wasn’t her fiancée and pulled the same 14 hours) The rest of us almost put a keg in the laundry shed when she got canned!

As for the table… no place I ever worked was I ever allowed to put anything on the table such as a tray, ever; lean over and put anything on the table to write on it; and I would have been fired to have put elbows on the table with a customer sitting there, yet alone sit down with them while on shift. Ever. If the tray was big you used a tray jack or someone would help you by coming to either hold tray or unload it… if the place was really full and we had no jack room we would have to team up to deliver, one hold tray and one unload.

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Ashley June 18, 2014 at 11:43 am

I would have found a manager right then and there and spoken to them and pointed out that their waitress was too drunk to stand.

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Skaramouche June 18, 2014 at 11:53 am

Lighten up, people!! :P

I am obviously in the minority here but I thought putting sad faces in place of the tip was a good, lightly humorous way to handle the situation. What is so passive-aggressive about it? I would like to present it another way: a server who obviously cannot hold her liquor drinking copious amounts at the bar is not something that should be taken lightly by management and it obviously was. I’m not saying it would have been okay to drink if she *could* have held her liquor. I’m saying that there was an obvious, hard to miss change in her comportment. How is it possible that NO ONE on staff noticed her drunken behaviour? It is not the customers’ job to police this sort of thing. In light of this, how likely do you think it is that management would have been sympathetic and actually done something about it? And what would the repercussions have been? The OP did complain, just after the fact. I think that was a smart thing.

Re: Wild Irish Rose’s story, also really funny to me. I don’t think he actually paid less than the bill amount…that would have been illegal. He just left the server in no doubt as to what his feelings were. I do complain to management if I think it’s going to make a difference. More often than not though, I’m met with indifferent apologies or offers for free meals. I highly doubt that anything is actually done. I’m not suggesting that they fire the server every time a complaint is made but I am very amazed when I return to the establishment and see the same surly/rude/slow/substitute own word here server there doing the exact same thing. I never return. I will say the same thing I used to repeat to myself when I worked as a part time cashier through high school. “You are in customer service. It’s a part of your job to be polite to even the rudest customers.” I’d say this is especially important for anyone who expects tips.

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yadayada June 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm

The only point I wanted to make was that we have a very nice Italian restaurant nearby and all the wait staff kneels down on the floor and writes off our table when taking orders. :-)

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rachel June 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

This is common but still considered unprofessional and would never be done at a fine dining restaurant.

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k2 June 19, 2014 at 7:38 am

I wonder how unprofessional this really is viewed as being though, since it seems more and more restaurants near me are adopting the practice of having waiters kneel to take orders or at least pull up a chair to the end of the table while taking orders. And for clarification, I live in a pretty cosmopolitan city so it’s not just mom and pop restaurants or chain restaurants that I’ve seen this practice at.

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Ashley June 19, 2014 at 10:32 am

The only time I’ve ever seen it done is at sports bars when the place is really loud and the wait staff either kneels to actually hear what is being shouted at them or misses part of the order

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Steve June 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

There is no point in contacting a manager when you see the servers repeatedly downing shots at the bar in full view of diners. Obviously the waitress had no fear of getting caught, so this was something that the manager condoned. All you’re likely to get in that situation is an extremely unpleasant foreign object in your food.

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Kendra June 18, 2014 at 1:37 pm

“All you’re likely to get in that situation is an extremely unpleasant foreign object in your food.”

Well, that would be highly illegal and, for the customer, something akin to winning the lottery.

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NostalgicGal June 18, 2014 at 11:39 pm

It’s happened often enough that I wouldn’t do anything other than terminate, aka get up and pay whatever bill I had racked up already; then go home THEN call back. And never go in there again.

You want snot or worse with your meal?

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Angel June 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Agreed. I probably would have gotten up and walked out the first time I saw the waitress at the bar doing shots. After leaving some $ on the table of course. I am certainly not going to eat there!!

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Abby June 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

True enough. You might get comp’d, but that’s not really a bargain if your food has been contaminated. Anyone who’s seen the movie Waiting knows you really have to be careful angering someone who has access to your food before you eat it. Since all servers pick up their food from the same location, even getting another server wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of her exacting revenge in the way you mentioned.

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rachel June 18, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Good for OP. She didn’t tip and she told a manager, hopefully OP’s actions helped wake up the staff there just a bit.

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drjuliebug June 18, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I would immediately complain to a manager, and demand a new server, if my original server came to my table sloppy drunk. If the manager had been condoning on-the-job drunkenness, a few complaints might actually change that situation.

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Cathy Hake June 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Wow, where’s Gordon Ramsay when you need him?? Or Willie Deegan.

The kneeling in front of the table while taking order thing is a BIG pet peeve of mine. I like the Chili’s chain of restaurants’ food but their servers all do this and it really irritates me. It’s so unprofessional. I guess owners think it creates intimacy or familiarity, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable. As for sitting in the booth or at the table while taking the order – NOOOO. I also hate it when they try to engage me in conversation. Just take my order. You don’t need to try to be my buddy. Sheesh.

I am in the “alert the manager” camp as far as bad service goes. No tip is fine in this case – I wouldn’t have left one either – but it’s better to let someone in charge know what happened. And if the manager or owner doesn’t care, then at least you’ve done your part. I would not return to a place with service like what you’ve described. If they do nothing about bad servers, they deserve to go out of business. Drinking on the job is inexcusable. I don’t care if it is common practice; it’s a really bad idea.

Incredible Waiter story: For my 40th birthday, my family took me and my husband to a really nice place. I was expecting it to have great service, great food, etc. but the level of the service was SO high that I’ve never forgotten it. The waiter was polite, professional, attentive, and didn’t even write anything down. Everyone’s order was perfect and it was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. It was so great that it’s colored my view of every other restaurant I’ve been to since. I wish other restaurants’ owners could take a clue from this place and up their level of professionalism a bit. Even a casual restaurant needs a good waitstaff who know how to behave towards the customer.

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David June 19, 2014 at 1:39 am

I’m another one who can’t stand the waitstaff kneeling/sitting at the table with me. If it happens, I never eat at the restaurant again. A waitress at an Outback Steakhouse ruined a dinner I was having with my wife by constantly coming over to our table, sitting down and touching my arm to get my attention every time I was talking with my wife. We’ve never been to that restaurant chain again.

And I will not tip poor service.

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kingsrings June 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I also agree with others that simply not leaving a tip and leaving a sad face or whatever on the tip line doesn’t make much of an impact with sending the server or restaurant a message about their poor service. Like others have said, the server and restaurant just shrug it off. Speaking to the manager on duty is much more effective. But I find that I’m kind of a wimp about that. The fear of confrontation, although I know that’s by far the best approach. Leaving an online review is also an option, although it’s certainly not as good as going directly to the manager.

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mark June 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Depending on your goal the online review may be the most effective way to deal with the problem. My wife and I will use online reviews all the time to determine if we want to go to a restaurant (or other places as well.) So a lot of places look at their reviews very closely because bad reviews can really hurt their business.

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cathy June 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm

I agree…it can be very effective.

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kingsrings June 19, 2014 at 10:43 am

Somewhat. I read Yelp a lot, and I’m amazed at how many businesses don’t respond to customer’s complaints, especially the really bad ones! That tells me that they don’t read them, which means they’ll never know their errors.

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Anonymouse June 19, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I’ve also found that many people don’t post reviews unless they’ve had a bad experience (for whatever reason). Nobody logs on to tell about the great food, or nice atmosphere, or that awesome waiter, but they will write a lengthy negative review about how their order was mixed up. About 3/4 of the places I’ve looked up on Yelp and Google Ratings in my area have a rating of 2 stars or less.

If I based my patronage solely on online reviews, there would be MAYBE 4 or 5 places in the city left to go to. And I live in a city that a few years ago had the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada.

Kendra June 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm

While I absolutely agree that people who are unsatisfied with the service should talk to a manager, I disagree that not leaving a tip and indicating why I’m not leaving a tip is useless. Putting a couple of pennies on the table or a sad face on the tip line indicated that I chose not to leave a tip due to poor service, not because I forgot or am “cheap” or don’t believe in tipping. What the server and/ or establishment chooses to do with that information is entirely up to them. They can choose to take a closer look at their level of customer service or they can blow it off. I’m not trying to make the server/establishment do anything, just indicate I was less than pleased with the service.

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WMK June 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Were I in this situation, the manager would have been called over to report that the server was, obviously, intoxicated and let him/her handle it. Though, I have to agree with some others, that it sounds to me that any manager that would allow this to go on probably wouldn’t do anything about it.

I’m sure that if this situation continues to go on, there will be others that let their feet do the walking, too.

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Cat June 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I want to know what the manager said when you told him/her that the waitress was doing shots during work and was evidently rather drunk. What kind of bartender serves shots to a waitress who is supposed to be working? You have left us hanging.

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Athersgeo June 19, 2014 at 7:38 am

More to the point: what sort of bartender serves shots to someone so clearly inebriated?!

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Rae June 18, 2014 at 9:08 pm

What a crazy story! Not going to lie, when it was mentioned that the server was drinking on the job, I thought of Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue and how angry he would be.

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Phoenix June 18, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Considering the OP didn’t tip AND talked to management, I think things wroked as best they could under such circumstances.

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Shannon June 19, 2014 at 8:57 am

Count me as another person who dislikes when servers pull up a chair or lean on the table. It’s too intimate. I have friends, thanks. It’s right up there with waiters who want to know all our names (only relevant if I’m a regular) or who chew gum while talking.

The worst I experienced was when I was sitting at a long table with a group of friends. The waitress plunked herself down at one end of the table, and had everyone shout their orders to her. It was incredibly lazy and unprofessional. One of my friends, exasperated, said, “Can you please just come around the table and take orders instead of making us yell?”

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DanaJ June 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Wow. That almost sounds like something you’d see AS A JOKE at the 1950s-style diner, Ed Debevic’s in Chicago. The serving staff is rude on purpose as part of their gimmick (the staff is also in costume and occasionally has to dance). It’s a lot of fun because they can be really snarky when they know you can take the joke. It was a hoot watching a poor teenager who was there for her birthday – her waitress was sitting at the bar, yelling from across restaurant and the birthday girl had to back and forth from her table over to the waitress to deliver each person’s order one by one, while the watiress bereated her for being so slow.

That you actually pretty much had that happen in a NORMAL restaurant is crazy!

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just4kicks June 21, 2014 at 5:32 am

Same here! Once my young daughter and I had a girl’s day out, ending with a lovely dinner, just the two of us. Our male waiter asked for our drink order and when he brought the drinks, plopped down in the booth next to my daughter with a “so…Hey…what’ll y’all have tonight?!?” The look on my daughter’s face was priceless, like “what the heck are you doing?!?”

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Twik June 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Tipping is a way to reward good service, and suggest to poor servers that they improve their skills or find another line of work.

If a full tip is mandatory even if the service is abysmal, then it should no longer be left to the discretion of the patrons but be made a line item. Servers would get the same amount, whether they did a good job or not. Somehow, I think this would not go over well in the serving community.

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MichelleP June 20, 2014 at 1:15 am

Worked as a waitress, never again. I tip according to service. I wouldn’t have hallucinated drinking on the job, any job, although working in customer service I have certainly wanted to.

Count me in with the dislike the sitting at the table. I don’t mind the kneeling down, but leaning over makes me uncomfortable.

Years ago I was with my ex at a pizza place, sit down restaurant. This was way before the kneeling to take the order became popular. The guy plopped himself right in the booth with us!

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MichelleP June 20, 2014 at 1:16 am

Other pet peeve: waiters, waitresses, or basically any staff complaining to me. Sure I’m sympathetic but I really don’t want to hear how many hours you’ve worked.

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Yellow Rose June 20, 2014 at 10:49 am

On the topic of complaining servers, our family tried a new restaurant that advertises itself as catering to the gluten-free trade. After checking with the owner/head chef, who confirmed it was geared toward those with sensitivities or celiac, we decided to give it a try. We made sure our server understood we needed the gf versions of the menu. Half way through the meal, he asked us how we were doing, and how the meal was; we answered it was great! Wonderful, in fact. He replied “I wouldn’t know, I don’t get paid enough to eat here,” and walked away. That made us feel like we were stereotypical ‘ugly Americans’ of popular culture usage. That also should have been our first clue as to what was to come. The next clue was as we were walking out the door, the server and rest of the minimal staff were standing at the bar, waving at and laughing as we left. Inevitably, shortly after arriving home, three of us were hit with what will not be described here. The next day, I called the owner/head chef, explained the ordeal and she was horrified! She said she wasn’t working the previous evening, and had she been, it wouldn’t have happened. She also told me that this was the final straw for the server – he had pulled the poor attitude on other patrons as well, but had never tried to poison them. The day after our call, I received a wonderfully written letter of apology, including assurance that the server was no longer employed and a full refund of our entire ticket in the way of a gift certificate, including the 20% tip. It’s been over a year, and I can’t bring myself to go back to utilize the gift certificate.

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mark June 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I’m curious, why did you tip 20% on the meal with an attitude like that during the meal?

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Yellow Rose June 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Because my DH is like that. I’d have left five percent tops (and a frownie face), myself.

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NostalgicGal June 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I’m now in no-gluten camp on top of everything else… it’s amazing how little can whack you a big one. It wouldn’t have taken much at all to spike that food.

Anyone doing that should have had a lawsuit as well against them. (the server). If you’d decided to sue the restaurant after that sort of treatment you probably would have won. Hence the apology is indeed lovely; and I would find out what night the owner was working and go cash the gift certificate in.

Only thing to DH’s credit, he tipped nicely not knowing the food had been laced. It was very nice of the owner to return the tip also.

just4kicks June 21, 2014 at 5:27 am

My teenage son is a “food runner” in a local restaurant. They do the “tip outs” there too. There is one young gal that is notoriously rude and complains non stop. My son hates going into work when she is working because she gives such awful service, she rarely gets tipped. There have been a few occasions where patrons have pulled my son aside and asked “do you pool your tips here?” and slipped a few dollars for his time and attentiveness to their table. Now, everyone has bad days when you just don’t want to be there, my son included, but this girl is ALWAYS miserable and rude, and the rest of the staff gets shafted because of it.

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Enna June 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

Wow. That is shocking. How on earth no other staff members realised what she was doing is beyond me. If I had noticed my waiter/ress drinking alochol whilst they were meant to be working I would be informing the manger right away. It is unprofessional but also that woman might need some advice that she gets help.

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