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Jenny and the Missing Ten Dollar Bills

Recently I got together with some friends from college and during this reunion we talked about a night during our senior week that was an etiquette hell twofer that fits in everyday etiquette and business, so I’ll call it just plain tacky.

Seniors were left with four weeks to kill between the end of the semester and graduation.  To help with this the school organized various activities one which was a harbor cruise.  A bunch of seniors piled on buses which took us to the city.  Once there we had an hour and half before we had to board the boat. Everyone used this time to grab dinner. The restaurants near the drop off point filled up quickly, but a friend of friend, “Jenny”, said she knew a great place near by.  As we were all broke college students (who also had to budget for drinks on the cruise) we said sure as long as the place was cheap, which she assured us it was.

So we begin to walk to this “near by” restaurant which turns out to be about a mile away with all of us girls in heels.  We get seated and open the menus to find the entrees are all above $25, which is not cheap by broke college student standards.  But we can’t just get up and leave because no one wants to be rude and we won’t have time to get in someplace else and make it to the boat on time.

Jenny ordered an expensive meal while the rest of us ordered soup or salad with water. All through dinner Jenny tells about how she has been interning for the CEO of a major international financial institution and is basically going to help her run the company once she graduates (none of which I believe), how much money her boyfriend’s new job pays, and offering us financial planning advice.  Then the check comes, she asks the waitress to give her a separate check because she wants to use a credit card.  The waitress then brings back her card saying it was declined, the financial wizard then opens her wallet revealing at least 10 credit cards and asking the waitress to split her bill between two credit cards she thinks are below their limits.

After making us hike in heels to this place and  monopolizing the conversation with her bragging, she then proceeds to throw one dollar on the table for her portion of the tip. The rest of us pay for our meals and Jenny’s portion of the tip, leaving over a 15% tip which was pretty good for us being broke and the amount of the bill.  We leave the check and get up and visit the restroom before setting out on the hike to the boat.  While the group was by the restroom the second entrant of Etiquette Hell, the waitress came up to our group and demanded to know at the top of her lungs why we left her hardly any tip.  We were confused by how irate she was as we had left her a tip and embarrassed that she was yelling at us in the middle of the restaurant.

My friend “Amy” who had collected the money said we had left her a tip for X amount and as Amy was graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering I trusted her ability to do simple math.  The server screamed that was not the amount we left, we left X $20 bills, Y $5 bills, and Z $1 bills.  At this point I stepped in and said part of my contribution had been two $10 bills.  The waitress accused us of lying and said there were no $10s.  Knowing I had paid with tens we went back to the booth to see if the money and fallen somewhere, all the while the waitress standing over us like were trying to dine and dash.

We check the booth, we check the floor, we check all around our table, but no 10s.  Finally my friend Amy asks to see the check folder, we open it up and the amount Amy had said we paid was in there including the tip we left.  At this point the waitress just says, “Oh, I counted the 10s as ones,” and walks away without apology.  We should have asked for the tip back.

Thankfully the rest of the night was better, we ditched Jenny once we got to the boat and had a great time.  We still remember that night and laugh if anyone uses $10 bills when we are all out together. 0715-10

My ornery evil twin probably would have been very tempted, when the waitress began to walk away with no apology, to stop her (getting the manager involved, if necessary) , take the check folder from her, remove $20.00 worth of tip while saying, “My compensation for the pain, suffering and public humiliation you mistakenly put us through with no thought of apologizing for your error.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bellawitch July 20, 2010, 5:21 am

    What is this with the waitress yelling at customers. When I waitressed years ago part of the job was dealing with customers that didn’t tip or hardly tipped.

    I think my next move would have been to ask for the manager, esp. since a decent tip was left. The waitress was way out of line. She probably thought since the girls were younger she could bully them and get more money. The restaurant needs to realize in a few years these same people will be older, in jobs and making more money. After this experience I would think none of them would consider going back, which in the end will hurt the restaurant.

  • josie July 20, 2010, 5:57 am

    The waitress definitely owed you all an apology and I’d really of been tempted to mention it to the manager. How many other customers get reprimanded by her? You didn’t need to cover Jenny’s tip…she could of put it on one of the pocketful of cards that still had breathing room. Walking a mile in heels….no thanks. I’ll pull up a bench, maybe grab a hotdog and wait for you to come back. But it all made for comical memories 🙂

  • Tana July 20, 2010, 6:13 am

    Last time I checked, tipping wasn’t mandatory. Sure, you’re expected to tip and a certain percentage is standard, but it’s not like not paying your bill. Who did that waitress think she was to even speak to you about the amount of the tip, much less yell, scold, and make a scene? I would have taken the whole tip back after a performance like that.

  • Sarah July 20, 2010, 7:10 am

    wow, and the whole time i thought Jenny took it!

  • Izzy July 20, 2010, 7:12 am

    Ah, I think everyone secretly wishes they’d spoken up and taken the tip back, but I can totally understand if you were just fresh out of college/not used to such pricy restarunts and kinda new to all this, you wouldn’t think to stand up to a waitress (especially one so scary!)
    Still, that’s just bad business, I hope she got fired 🙁

  • ferretrick July 20, 2010, 7:31 am

    Sarah, that’s where I thought the story was going as well.

    Definitely should have taken the tip back, and gotten the manager involved.

  • Tiffany July 20, 2010, 7:47 am

    I’m with Jeanne, I would have taken $20 out of the total.

  • Alexis July 20, 2010, 7:55 am

    Actually, not tipping is exactly like not paying your bill. A server earns less than minimum wage and tips are SUPPOSED to make up the difference. Not tipping is just plain rude, unless of course, the server comes and screams at you and humiliates you in front of the entire restaurant. In that case, I (a former waitress and bartender)would have felt no qualms about taking back the tip.

  • SammyHammy July 20, 2010, 8:03 am

    That waitress should have been fired on the spot.

  • gramma dishes July 20, 2010, 8:54 am

    @Sarah ~~ Me too! 😉

  • Laura July 20, 2010, 8:57 am

    Sarah- I did too!

  • DGS July 20, 2010, 9:24 am

    Sarah, I’m with you – I thought that Jenny, “the financial wizard” took it. It’s unfortunate that the girls had been bullied into walking a mile in heels to the restaurant or paying for a meal that was way above their price range – had they been a little more confident or had a little more life experience, they would have felt more comfortable with doing what they probably fantasized about doing, which is grabbing a hot dog by the harbor, as per Josie’s suggestion, or at the very least, once they opened the menu, excusing themselves on the grounds of not being able to afford the restaurant and leaving Jenny to sup there alone if she so chose. Hopefully, Jenny has also grown wiser since this incident and manages her money better than relying on a bunch of maxed out credit cards and living way above her means.

  • Skoffin July 20, 2010, 9:25 am

    Heh, I also thought it was heading in the direction of Jenny taking it.

    Yelling at customers is not on, particularly as tipping in not compulsory. Tipping is supposed to be a representation of how you appreciated the service. After being treated like that the waitress lost any reason to be tipped. I would have taken the tip back and asked for the manager. Although I can understand not wanting to get the manager involved if you had to get back to your boat, however getting the tip back was the least that could be done to show the waitress that her attitude is not acceptable.

  • Twik July 20, 2010, 9:34 am

    Yes, I was expecting the denouement to be that Jenny snagged the tip. At least she wasn’t that bad!

    And I think the guests would have been completely justified in removing the “found” tip when they opened the folder (not to mention, of course, leaving a complaint with management). The waitress’s behaviour was appalling.

  • Elizabeth July 20, 2010, 9:56 am

    I want to start by stating, in many states in the U.S. tipping is very important because the servers make well below minimum wage. AND in many cases they have to share a portion of there tips with hosts, busboys, bar tenders, ect.

    I would have demanded the entire tip back and asked to speak to the manager immediately. As a former waitress, I have been short tipped before and know that making a scene is no way to fix the situation. Bringing it up even quietly can make a bad situation worse many times. Making a scene and embarrassing the customers, especially since they did tip, is completely unacceptable.

  • yarngirl July 20, 2010, 10:06 am

    Count me in with the folks who would have taken the tip back. I probably would then have asked for a manager and left a separate tip for any busboys, hosts etc after asking how tips were split. Just to make it extra clear that it was only the waitress.

    I just can’t imagine that gall. As if yelling at you would make you say “gosh, now that you’re yelling at me, I totally think you earned more money that is left for courteous and professional wait staff! Here’s a bonus for the great service!”

  • Cady July 20, 2010, 10:11 am

    I would definitely have talked to management, regardless of whether I demanded the tip back. Demanding a tip is inexcusable. I had a waitress in L.A. chase me out of a restaurant once demanding to know why we “didn’t” tip her. We’d left 10 percent after she took forever to take our order, screwed up several orders, and never returned after bringing our food except to bring the check. I think we told her she wasn’t a very good waitress and walked off.

  • jan July 20, 2010, 10:23 am

    “not tipping is exactly like not paying your bill”
    NO, a tip is a gratuity to thank the server, bartender or whomever for good service rendered. It is not required. To not leave a tip for good service is rude. To leave a one cent tip is to tell the server the service was below par. To leave a good tip plus one penny is to say the service was above par and greatly appreciated. At least that was the “language” when I was a waitress

  • Interestingly Laura July 20, 2010, 10:59 am

    I notice that some people incorrectly feel that a gratuity is mandatory. While I certainly agree that if you can’t afford to tip at least 15%, you shouldn’t go out, my tip is a gift for a job well done (and of course I tip more for any service above and beyond). If you do not like making less than minimum wage, don’t work in an industry that pays in that manner. I’ve worked many, many minimum wage jobs during both high school and college, so yes, I’ve been there.

    From the Harper Collins English Dictionary: Gratuity
    1. a gift or reward, usually of money, for services rendered; tip
    2. something given without claim or obligation

    I am not obligated to ever give a gift, and it is rude to feel entitled to a gift.

  • Enna July 20, 2010, 11:06 am

    You should get the manager involved and say because of the rudness of the waitress you’d like the tip back: tips are for good service not unprofessional rudness. This waitress doesn’t deserve any tip whatsoever. As for “Jenny” choosing a restuant too expensive I’d be inclined to say “sorry I can’t afford these prices, I’ll find something else”. Her b.f can’t be earnign that much money and she can’t be that good at her internship if she has 10 credit cards up to the max.

  • TychaBrahe July 20, 2010, 12:03 pm

    By law, tipping is not required, but by social custom, tipping is required in some places. If you are in the US, and you do not tip, you are stealing from your server, who is often REQUIRED by the place of business to tip out busboys, bartenders, and/or greeters. If you do not tip, you are forcing the server to pay these people to help attend to you. Not fair in my book.

    In addition, the IRS taxes servers on some portion of their income (I think either 15% or 12%) over their stated wages, on the basis that they will receive that much in tips. Again, if you do not tip, you are forcing the server to pay the government for the pleasure of attending to you. Again, not cool.

    Now you can argue about the definition of the word and say that a tip is not mandatory, but I’m sorry, according to the social contract, it is. If you do not like it, you can try to establish facilities where servers are paid over minimum wage and tips are prohibited. You can try to change the social contract; after all, tipping is very rare in many countries. But if you are going to dine in a country where tipping is the norm, YOU MUST TIP. If you feel that the service received was not worth a tip, then talk to the manager.

  • TychaBrahe July 20, 2010, 12:05 pm

    Interestingly Laura, you said you have worked “many minimum wage jobs.” In some states, servers can be paid as low as $2.35/hr, well below minimum wage, because tips will make up the difference.

  • BeenThereDoneThat July 20, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Jeez, Jan. Skip the penny.

  • Shayna July 20, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Tipping is not mandatory. A state stupidly allowing waitresses or others in the service industry to be paid less than minimum wage is absolutely appalling. I always tip, unless the service was extremely poor. There’s only been one time that I never tipped, and it was because the waitress was rude, didn’t smile, threw our water glasses at us, threw our plates at us, and never once came back to check on us throughout the meal. I had to go and ASK for more water. Then we got our check folder thrown at us, too. She had a huge smile on her face, though, at the thought of a $15 – $20 tip (I tip 20% of the bill when service has been excellent, 15% when it’s been great, %10 when it’s been adequate) but it was quickly wiped off her face when I pressed “No” to the tip option on the debit machine.

  • AS July 20, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Like Sarah and some others mentioned, I too thought that Jenny took the money!

    The whole experience sounds awful!

    This waitress should have been fired on the spot! What were the hotel staffs doing? You are not required to pay tips if you don’t get good service – and incase a customer does not pay tips, either the service was not good, or the customer very mean. Even if it is the latter, a good wait staff will swallow it up, and hope other customers are not as mean. Her behaviour is way off the mark. You did not mention it, but you people were probably worried about being able to get back in time for the cruise – with all of you wasting time and all looking for potential missing bills – and hence probably did not have the time to take it up with the management. Hopefully they saw what happened, and put the waitress in her place. Otherwise, the restaurant will suffer because of her!

  • RP July 20, 2010, 3:12 pm

    For the record, employers have to bring tipped employees back up to the normal/real minimum wage if their tips aren’t enough to get them there. If they’re not then they are breaking the law (this is US law, BTW).

    I agree that the tip should have been removed when it was found. They should have taken out the tens and said, “Oh, you’re right, there aren’t any tens in there!”

    As for Jenny: Semantics matter. The OP and friends should have said the range in price they could afford instead of saying “cheap” because what’s cheap for one person is not cheap for another. Of course, I may be giving Jenny too much credit in thinking this part was a misunderstanding and not Jenny simply being selfish. She was certainly selfish to make them walk 2 miles in heels.

  • Kelly July 20, 2010, 3:18 pm

    I have a story that went the other way with a server. My husband, myself, and another couple stopped in a small farming town after a golf outing to get a bite to eat. We found the only restaurant in town, a nice little diner with great “diner food” and very good prices. Our service was good, not exceptional, but good. As our server was also tending the cash register, I handed her a pretty generous tip (around 30%) after received change for the bill. She handed me back all of the tip and said “We don’t work that way here”. She looked insulted so I took the money back and left.

    I think that she though we may be big city people trying to show up the small town folk. Little did she know that I live in a small town myself.

  • Interestingly Laura July 20, 2010, 3:23 pm

    Respectfully, I did say that if you don’t like making less than minimum wage, get a different job. This is simple logic. As I went on to say, I’ve worked in many minimum wage jobs – I chose those over jobs that paid less.

    Where did you get your information on how the IRS taxes waitstaff? Box 7 is for “Wages, Salaries & Tips.” They have the opportunity to get a refund on taxes withheld just like the rest of us.

  • Chicalola July 20, 2010, 3:43 pm

    It may be the social custom to tip, but if the server is rude and just plain horrible….they deserve nothing. You need to work hard for your money, just like everyone else. Being a waitress isn’t just easy money….the good ones make great tips. The bad ones hopefully end up leaving.

  • TheBardess July 20, 2010, 6:05 pm

    TychaBrahe- so, basically, no matter how unbelievably awful my service is, I should still tip?

    Sorry, not happening.

    I understand that waitstaff often make below minimum wage, with the expectation that the “difference” will be made up in tips. Essentially, tips form part of their income. In my book, income is something that is *earned.* If you do a good job, I am happy to leave you a generous tip. However, if you provide rude/poor/sub-par service, sorry, but I am not going to pay you when you did not do your job. The idea that YOU MUST TIP no matter what is basically a license for waitstaff to perform as poorly as they choose and still expect compensation. Honestly, I think it is that attitude towards tips that contributes to attitudes like that displayed by the waitress in the story. She has it in her head that she is entitled to X amount in tips, no matter what, and doesn’t care how poorly she behaves as long as she gets it.

  • Casey July 20, 2010, 9:34 pm

    Labor laws state that if tips and wages combined don’t equal the state minimum wage their employer must make up the difference.


    You aren’t stealing from a server when you don’t tip and there is no reason to ever tip a rude server.

  • PrincessSimmi July 20, 2010, 9:40 pm

    I live in Australia, and we aren’t required to give a tip as all waiters/waitresses are paid at least minimum wage. However, I regularly give a 5%-10% tip at one restaurant I frequent because the food, decor and servers are all wonderful. If any waiter or waitress ever yelled at me for not giving a tip I would definitely call the manager, ask for a refund of any amount paid over the price of the bill, and leave them a negative review on their website.

    As for Jenny, well…. two things. One, when I saw the price of the meals, I would have walked out. And two, a minimum ‘limit’ on a credit card is about $2000 – if she had 10 cards that means she would be in at least $20,000 debt. I have a credit card with a limit of $8000 so she could be in up to $80,000 debt! That’s half of my apartment! I’d really like to slap her, purely for being an idiot when it comes to money.

  • Emily July 20, 2010, 9:41 pm

    @AS, the only proper place for this waitress is E-hell.
    Or the unemployment line.
    I agree with you100%.

  • Tara July 20, 2010, 11:31 pm

    Princess Simmi….

    I have a credit limit of over $10,000 on one of my cards. The first credit card I ever had, which I got in college, had a credit limit of $200. So we really don’t know HOW much debt she really has. But it doesn’t matter, because if your card is maxed out, there is something wrong.

  • Amy July 21, 2010, 2:29 am

    I agree that tipping is part of the deal when you go out to eat…..but, my server must earn her tip. I tip by how the server does. If my order is wrong, if they forget to bring something, if my food is cold….I do not complain….I stiff the server and tell them why. A biggie for me is if they do not keep us with beverages…..I will leave a tip by how well they do. If the dining experience was adaquate/delightful, the server gets their 15%, if it was not…..I do not give good tips. If the server is a good server, they will get plenty from all the tables they wait on that night have a good chunk of change to show for it….if not, it is the server that should look as his/her service to figure out why the tips were shotty. I go to a sit-down place to get waited on, and I should get that service I opted for.

  • Tana July 21, 2010, 2:43 am

    No one but the employer is responsible for paying their staff. A customer’s only financial obligation is to the restaurant, otherwise the amount required for the tip would be listed on the check, not just a blank space. Additionally, how is a random stranger supposed to know how much the server makes? Unless there’s a sign on the table to the effect of “Hi my name is ____, I make X an hour and therefore need you to tip no less than X to bring me up to minimum wage”, most people are just going to assume the restaurant is paying a decent wage. The social expectation to tip in the US is strong enough to make it seem a requirement, but lack of a tip isn’t going to involve legal action whereas refusal to pay the bill would.

    That being said, I know waiting tables is exhausting and frequently frustrating and do my best to treat my server politely and tip well. I think people too often lose track of the fact that their server is an actual person and not their slave for the duration of the meal. I’ve been out with people who made me want to crawl under the table in embarrassment from the way they were treating the person who had the misfortune to be our server for the evening. Those were times I felt that not leaving a hefty tip would condemn me to the lowest level of hell.

  • Typo Tat July 21, 2010, 3:30 am


    Isn’t it against the law to pay your employees below minimum wages? Restaurant owners shouldn’t expect their customers to pay the staff’s salary in their place!

    The tipping culture is so ridiculous that some restaurant owners pay their employees no wages at all, and others pay minimum wages but appropriate all the tips. I know people who actually ask the wait staff, “who gets to keep the tip?”, before deciding whether to tip or not.

  • Xtina July 21, 2010, 9:55 am

    I wonder if Jenny’s purpose of taking the group to that particular restaurant was to “show off”, since she was now working and supposedly earning money (judging by the credit card declination, I guess overspending her paycheck, though), and she wanted everyone to know that she could supposedly “afford” a place like that…..something of a subtle face-rubbing to her student friends?

    At any rate, that whole scenario was pretty bad; rudeness by Jenny all around, and the waitress that complained about the tip should have had her tip taken away and the manager should have been called.

    I tip for good and adequate service. No tip, or a penny or nickel left on the table, to make the point, for truly awful service (I’ve only done that once in my life). If a server doesn’t like being paid below minimum wage and essentially working for tips, then he or she should find another job that has a more steady paycheck.

  • Livvy July 21, 2010, 11:15 am

    I wish they would abolish all the ridiculous rules allowing taxation on someone’s “assumed” wages. No one should be paid less than minimum wage – ever.

    I wish all “expected” tipping would be eliminated. Seems to me like it’s gotten out of hand, where I’m expected to tip anyone who provides me any service whatsoever – whether it’s the cashier who hands me my takeout food, or the assistant in the beauty salon who I’m assuming is getting paid at least minimum wage to wash my hair.

    The expectation of tips makes me crazy – if someone provides the service I’m paying for, and does a satisfactory job, but no more, why should I automatically cough up an additional amount over any above? (I do understand for wait staff, because it’s become built in to their paycheck) Seems like so many different professions are now bucking for tips on top of the advertised rate for the service. At what point do I need to start tipping every cashier, every sales representative, and generally any person on the street who so much as gives me directions? If I need to pay staff salaries, include that cost as part of the fee you advertise for the service.

  • phoenix July 21, 2010, 1:02 pm

    The point behind the tipping structure is that it puts the paycheck of the server in the hands of the people they are serving. Doing the job correctly means getting tipped, and therefore paid the wage you earn. Doing a lousy job means not getting that money. The system is odd, but designed to force staff to earn their paycheck from every customer. It lets the restaurant have a way to ensure that the staff is always motivated to do their best, instead of relying on customer feedback on how the staff is doing.

    think of it as instant raises or paycuts from your boss.

    There are jerk customers, true, but if your server is lousy they have not earned the tip, just like if I goof off at work I don’t deserve to be paid for it.

  • The Cat Whisperer July 22, 2010, 12:48 am

    I can top “Jenny’s” bad behavior.

    Some years back, a bunch of us who all worked together used to go out to dinner together after work. We would pick a place with decent food at a decent price and split the check. There were usually 6 to 8 of us.

    Well, one evening one of the young single women in the group brought her date with her. This was a guy who worked in the same company, and we’d seen him around. He was young, blond, good-looking– think golfer Jack Nicklaus when he was young. Let’s call him Chris Hopper.

    We ate, we all had a good time, and then then the waitress brought the bill. Usually the way we handled things was we all gave ten-15 dollars and then whoever was handling the bill would make change as necessary to even things out. The young lady who handled the bill this time around started to pass the folder with the bill around the table. Chris Hopper was the last person before the lady dealing with the bill to get the folder, and when it came to him, he looked at it and then passed it on to the lady handling the bill. He didn’t put any money in for his share.

    The lady who was handling the bill was clearly startled, and she handed it back to him. “Chris, you didn’t put your share in.” she said.

    “Oh, there’s enough to cover the bill,” he assured her. We all stared at him, sure he was kidding. “Uh– Chris, you didn’t put in our share,” his date said, smiling.

    “But there’s enough there to cover the bill already,”he assured her. “But I can round it out for the tip,” and he got $2 out.

    We were all stunned. He meant it. There was some pretty intense conversation with him and the group to convince him that even though the folder had come to him with enough to cover the tab, he needed to put in the share. So he finally put $10 in, which was not enough to cover the tab for both him and his date. It was pretty clear that was all he was going to put in, so his date dug in to her purse and put the rest up. And Chris just sat there smiling benignly as if all this was hugely enjoyable and nothing was wrong.

    His date later apologized profusely for the embarrassment. We found out later that this behavior was actually typical of the guy. Needless to say, he never had another date with the lady he’d taken out, and we didn’t include him in any more of the dinners the group went to.

  • Calliope July 22, 2010, 2:36 am

    Ah, the tips are mandatory/tips are unnecessary; I give tips out of the goodness of my heart argument. I’ve found, both through working in several restaurants and through eating in hundreds more, that the best course of action when service is unsatisfactory is to speak to a manager. Don’t just withhold a tip; the slow service may have been a result of a back-up in the kitchen, or an overly demanding customer who was monopolizing your server’s time, or any number of other things that you, as the customer, don’t see. Just talk to the manager. Any good restaurant manager will listen to you and do whatever s/he can to make up for any inconvenience. Talk to the manager, then tip your server. Believe me, if your complaint has to do with the server’s behavior or competence, s/he will hear about it from the manager.

    And Interestingly Laura, I hate to say this, but your “if you don’t like working for less than minimum wage, get a different job” argument is pretty insensitive and naive. Of course nobody likes working for less than minimum wage. Unfortunately, the way restaurants are run in the US, people have to work for less than a living wage; tips are customary, and they’re expected. Of course, restaurants could include the cost of a living wage for each employee in the menu prices, but I’m sure people would complain about that, too.

  • Jillybean July 22, 2010, 9:25 am

    Calliope, you make a good point about the service not always being the fault of the server – particularly when then service is slow. The food being terrible also isn’t the fault of the server and certainly shouldn’t be held against him/her. I tip, nearly entirely, based on attitude – which isn’t to say I expect my server to be all happy happy. But, if I’m seated, and it’s 10 minutes before the waiter gets to me to ask me if I’d like water – it doens’t matter to me that I can see that the place is swamped – I expect a, “Sorry to keep you waiting…” As long as I get that basic courtesy, I’m perfectly fine with understanding that they are overwhelmed and I might need to flag them down to get something I need. But I absolutely can’t stand when I’m seated, and see the person that turns out to be my waiter walk by my table 150 times before coming over and not once acknowledging my party. A simple, “I’ll be right with you,” goes a very long way in my book.

  • TheBardess July 22, 2010, 10:49 am

    Jillybean- I completely agree with you! While I’ve never worked as a waitress, I know enough people who have and have heard enough horror stories to know that it can be a real pain of a job, and I always try to be as understanding as possible. I know that, lots of times, mistakes, errors, or a longer-than-preferable wait may not be the fault of the server, and I would never not tip because of that. Like you, I tip based on the attitude and courtesy of the server, and the way he/she treats me. If I’ve been waiting a long while for my food, and the server finally brings it to me with a smile and a remark along the lines of “Here you are, and I’m so sorry for the wait, we’re absolutely swamped tonight,” that’s perfectly fine, and I would still leave a customary tip (or maybe even a little extra, since it would seem like a rough shift.) If the server brings me the wrong dish, but, when I point this out, simply says “Oh goodness you’re right, I’m so sorry, let me fix that right away-” hey, no problem, mistakes happen. Tip. But if the server is rude, neglectful, surly, argumentative, refuses to fix a wrong order, snaps at me, etc.- yeah, no tip.

    In other words, I understand that not all mistakes/poor service are the fault of the server, and I will factor that in when I tip. But there are times when it really is nothing more than a bad server, and in that case, I will not tip (although honestly I don’t think I’ve ever had such poor service that I didn’t tip).

  • Shayna July 22, 2010, 11:57 am

    Good points, Jillybean. I’ve worked in restaurants, owned two of them myself, and have eaten in many more. I have never, ever judged my tipping upon food arriving slowly or water glasses not being filled promptly, unless the dining room is practically empty. I have always based the amount of a tip upon the attitude of the server. No, s/he doesn’t have to be bubbly, but a smile, acknowledgement, and politeness are required and expected, and apologies if the kitchen is backed up or the server is dealing with a lot of customers. Doing all of those will ensure a 20% tip from me.

  • The Cat Whisperer July 22, 2010, 12:10 pm

    I gotta add regarding the discussion on tipping: I was taught, and I believe it to be correct etiquette, that unless the service is shockingly horrendously awful, you tip a minimum 15 to 18%.

    If there is something about the service that is so awful that you feel justified in either not tipping at all or giving a tip less than 15%, you don’t just leave a small tip or no tip. You first ask to speak to the manager and explain to him/her why you feel that the service merits no tip or only a token tip. The reason for this is first to give the manager a chance to make things right, and also so he knows that there is a problem and can correct it; and second, to avoid exactly what happened to the party in this story– having the waiter/waitress come after you.

    I am also a firm believer in telling the waiter/waitress as soon as something is wrong. If they aren’t giving my party refills on the drinks frequently enough, I’ll catch the eye of any restaurant employee I can and ask them to go find the waiter/waitress or to give our party drink refills. If there’s something wrong with the food (it’s cold when it should be hot, is incorrectly prepared or there’s foreign matter, or the order is wrong), I call an employee over and explain what the problem is immediately. And how I rate the service depends on how they correct the problem. My husband and I eat out a lot, and virtually every decent restaurant will bend over backwards to fix a problem. Typically they’ll either take the item off the bill or offer a free dessert or drink as compensation. If something has gone wrong, what I look at in determining the tip is how the problem was dealt with to try to make it right.

    My husband and I also take into account what is happening in the restaurant when we go in. If the waiter or waitress seems to be trying to be in 16 different places at once, we’ll ask if they’re understaffed or if there’s some kind of problem. If things are slow coming out of the kitchen, we’ll ask if there’s a problem. Sometimes restaurants have to deal with the unexpected: the waiter who didn’t show up for his shift, the waitress who got burned and had to go home, equipment that broke in the middle of the busiest time, an emergency of some kind involving a patron or employee. Things happen. People are human. As a customer, you try to take those things into consideration.

    I also have to say that when I’m with someone I don’t know very well and we’re eating out, I pay close attention to how they treat the waiter/waitress. Are they polite? Do they treat the wait staff and bus staff with respect? Do they make eye contact with the waiter/waitress when speaking to them? Are they looking for faults and flaws? Do they say “please” when making requests and “thank you” when things are done for them?

    Courtesy is a two-way street. As a customer, you want to try to be courteous to the staff that waits on you.

  • Bonnie July 22, 2010, 6:36 pm

    Amy: “If my order is wrong, if they forget to bring something, if my food is cold….I do not complain….I stiff the server and tell them why. ”

    So, in essence, you don’t give them a chance to fix the problem and then you lecture them. Nice.

  • Chris July 23, 2010, 6:27 pm

    I am a poor student myself and have worked as a waiter for a number of years, so I find this debate quite interesting. I should point out that I live in the UK, so any opinions I give were formed specifically in this context.

    Personally, I see tipping as rather a non-issue, and one that has been compounded by the peculiar mystique (American) society has created around the waiting profession. Waiters/waitresses are just like any other service staff: they turn up for work and receive a wage for doing so Here in the UK, this seems to be a truth universally acknowledged. (Unfortunately I can’t comment about below-minimum-wage earners in certain localities, as certain others have; clearly this is a contributing factor to the culture difference.) As far as I’m concerned, we all know we’re not doing it out of the kindness of our hearts, so why pretend otherwise? Courteousness, attentiveness and a nice smile are of course fine, but excessive chumminess (e.g. a first name introduction when presenting the menu) always comes across badly, in great part because the British mentality is hardwired to perceive such behaviour as insincere or even intrusive. In fact, I do wonder, as a hardwired Brit, whether the stereotypical American ‘waitperson’ (whom I present as a purely hypothetical character) does not think himself a bit above serving other people for money… Does he give his treasured guests the ‘sunshine-and-smiles charity food outlet’ treatment as a strategy to protect his own fragile ego? If my hunch is right, it’s a very transparent ruse indeed – especially if he gets haughty about the tip afterwards!

    That’s not to say that tipping is completely out the window in the UK. It’s just not mandatory. 10% seems to be the unwritten rule if a tip is offered, but I’ve never seen anyone get visibly indignant, let alone confrontational, about the issue. I have been tipped on many occasions (and often not); when the boot’s on the other foot I make a point of tipping waiting staff when I can afford to, especially when there’s great service. However, I have never felt the sense of entitlement that the waitress in this story seemed to demonstrate, nor have I felt obliged to tip as a matter of course.

    In some establishments in the UK, though by no means all, a service charge is included in the bill and no more is said about it. This is standard practice in Italy and elsewhere on the continent, and I’m all in favour. That way, every time you pay a bill, you can see in black and white (as if the physical presence of staff were not evidence enough) that part of your expenditure goes directly into somebody’s pay packet. Of course, I’m working on the reasonable assumption that a fair wage is paid at the end of the day. If the service isn’t outstanding, I’m hardly going to ask for the charge to be removed; the waiter still turned up for work, so fair play to him. I just might not be encouraged to come back. In the meantime, the world/karma/the capitalist economy continues on its merry course and we all go home without making a scene. Lovely.

  • Kendra August 2, 2010, 1:33 am

    Most everything I would say has already been said, so I’m not going to repeat all of it….except for a few things.

    1) Tipping is reward for good to exceptional service-not mandatory. If the service is awful, I don’t tip (and it has happened) I will also speak to management. Put me with the others that would have taken the entire tip back when the waitress yelled and embarrased the OP and friends. “You think I didn’t leave enough of a tip because you can’t count…..(removes tip from folder) you’re right, now I didn’t leave a tip.”

    2)The only cost I am obligated to pay is the price stated in the menu-if a gratituity is automatically added to the bill as stated in the menu, then the customer is on notice and can choose to continue patronizing said establishment.

    3)I am a customer of the establishment-it is their job to ensure they are paying their servers a proper wage, not mine. It is not naive to say if you don’t like the pay, find a different job. If businesses couldn’t get servers for the wages they offer, then they would have to offer higher wages.

    4) the tipping percentage keeps going up, when will it stop? When I was young, an appropriate tip was 10% of the total bill before taxes, then it went up to 15%, then 20%. Now, I’m being told that a proper tip for acceptable service is 25%. While it’s nice that other people are trying to be nice to servers with my money, I believe 20-25% for not amazingly exceptionally wonderful service is nuts and expecting way too much.

    5)NV law is that minimum wage is minimum wage for everyone which is what now..$8.25/hr if health benifits aren’t offered. It is illegal here to pay servers below minimum wage becaue they get tips. Their tips are over and above their wages. I know several people who are servers who either don’t receive a paycheck or get negative paychecks because they make so much in tips their checks go entirely to taxes. If you are so concerned that servers be paid at least minimum wage, maybe you should work to change the laws in your state to be more equitable rather than getting mad at people for not feeling obligated to do themselves what the employer should be doing.

  • Izzy December 5, 2010, 5:04 am

    “Of course, restaurants could include the cost of a living wage for each employee in the menu prices, but I’m sure people would complain about that, too.”
    We have that in Australia, it works fine. Turns out if someone’s a crappy waitress, customers will complain to managers and get them fired (or managers will notice) so most waitstaff will be attentive anyways. At the end of the day there’s probably very little to no difference ($10 for a meal as written in the menu as opposed to $7 in the meal plus 10% tax plus 20% tip…which would be $10 anyways). More power to the assertive customers that will politely complain to a manager, less power than the passive agressive non-tippers that don’t explain why and even less to the nonsensical agressive ones (yeah you can stop yelling, or you can leave before I call the cops you crazy person)
    Oddly enough, I lived in hongkong for awhile and there are tips in some places but not in others. Always weird, but doesn’t improve standards at all. In fact, I’d say taxi drivers in hongkong can be downright rude if you decrease the tip (driver took the wrong route!) while the ones in Australia are more reasonable/friendly (although apparently that’s changing, people have been telling me