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Skulking Out Of Tipping

Several years ago, when I was a Sophomore in High School, I joined the the school newspaper. At the end of the school year, it was tradition for the entire staff (around 10 people) to go out for a celebratory lunch. We usually chose a local restaurant, as there weren’t many to choose from in our small town. Unexpectedly, the restaurant we had chosen to dine at that afternoon was unusually busy for a weekday afternoon.

Our server, a man who appeared to be in his late 20s, had several tables to attend to. Consequently, the service was slow and a few of our orders were messed up. He was very apologetic, and we were all very understanding. None of us minded an excuse to return to school later than planned. As we finished up our meals, our server thoughtfully apologised again for the slow service and offered us free dessert. We were all very thrilled and a few of us went ahead and ordered a slice of pie.

It was at this point that our advisor, the Seniors and several of the Juniors announced that they had to leave early. They left money for their meals and promptly exited, leaving all of the Sophomores and one lonesome Junior at the table. After finishing our pie, the server gave us our bill and we all got our wallets out. It was then that we realized that those who had left early either left no money for a tip, or didn’t even cover the cost of their entire meal. Those of us who remained scoured our wallets for money and dug for change. The bill, almost reaching $100, was covered, but we could only pool $10 for the tip. We felt awful, but were mostly angry at the upperclassmen who had left us in the situation.

As the five of us walked out of the restaurant, our server met us at the door. As we turned to look at him, he began by saying, “Listen, I know the service wasn’t that great.” One of the Sophomores started to reply with, “That’s okay!” when the server cut her off, and said, “But 10% is a really shitty tip.” All of our eyes widened, and we shuffled out of the door, embarrassed and shocked. Yes, we understood he deserved a better tip, especially for the free dessert, but it wasn’t as if we’d left nothing. After all, tips ARE optional. And even though he wasn’t aware of our predicament, why assume we were trying to be “shitty” and jump straight to a verbal attack? What did he think he was going to accomplish by approaching us like that? Because all he did was steer us away from ever dining there again. Oh well, maybe that was his intention. 0827-10

There are going to be long time fans of this site who will wonder if this is a story submitted to troll for very adverse reactions.   Had the story contributor not only given her name but granted the right to use the story on TV and radio as well as her phone number to contact her, I might have been inclined to agree.

Down to business {cued to the sound of Miss Jeanne cracking her knuckles}…

You all were aware that the tip was insufficient and that the waiter deserved better. Knowing this, you had an obligation to take the initiative to either quickly figure out a plan to compensate him further (like someone running to an ATM machine while the rest wait) or approach him first in a very apologetic manner explaining the situation and offering a plan to compensate him. Here’s how that conversation would have gone:

“Waiter, there is a little problem. It seems that some members of our party that left earlier did not leave sufficient funds to adequately compensate you for your service.   What we now have collected in no way reflects our opinion of your service but we feel a need to make some kind of arrangement to give you more for a tip.  Will you be working here this week and if so, what days and hours so that I can drop it off while you are working?  If this is not feasible, is there an addrss I can mail you money?”

And then you bust your backside to make sure you follow up on getting that additional $5 or 10.00 to the waiter within the week because your integrity, honesty and self respect demands that you won’t rest until you keep your word.

Addendum:  It should go without saying that the waiter was rude.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see the faux pas in this.  However, often my emphasis I will take (and have taken) on this site is to address how we should respond to these etiquette blunders without making the situation worse or engaging in our own etiquette goofs.  Had someone taken the initiative to quietly approach the waiter to explain the situation, offer apologies and address the need to fully compensate him for his services, there would have been no reason for the waiter to react as he did.  It’s pro-active good manners to defuse a potential problem before it occurs.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ali September 7, 2010, 7:36 pm

    I think the upper classmen and the adult in charge acted abominably. What they did seems to be in the same spirit as a dine and ditch. Also, the waiter should have noticed that the majority of the party had left leaving the rest of the group to foot the tip. It is entirely unfair to expect someone to pay for the whole tip when they only partook in a fraction of the expenses if the whole bill was in fact paid.
    As for the waiter: It shouldn’t be acceptable to give out to the customers for a lack of a tip. I work in a fast food restaurant as a server and, since it is fast food, people feel they shouldn’t have to tip. Or I get the very leftovers of their change. I’ve also found the larger an order, the smaller a tip. I also only make around $3 an hour. My point: I could lose my job if I said anything to the customers about their tips. The customer is, unfortunately, always right when it comes to serving them, and it’s in extremely bad taste to say anything to them for not enough of a tip, when they could have given you nothing at all.

  • Bee September 8, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Being Australian, tipping is completely foreign to me (no pun intended!), apart from the occasional “keep the change”, to the taxi driver. But I can’t see how half the group should be responsible for the entire tip, especially if the half that left didn’t even leave enough money to cover their share of the bill.

    As for one of them going to an ATM – I didn’t even have a bank account when I was in highschool, so no ATM card. I relied on saving my allowance for meals out with friends, or borrowing from my parents.

  • T-Money September 10, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Bravo. Well stated, as most often you do. I use a lot of your words when explaining the tipping situation to others. Always with credit, of course! 🙂

  • T-Money September 10, 2010, 10:38 pm

    I’d also like to clear up a huge misconception about the word “tip” that I hear quite frequently.

    “To Insure Prompt Service” is NOT what that stands for. If it were, they would be called “TEPS,” as insure is the wrong word usage, “ensure” being the right one to be used if this example were to be correct.

    You are not *insuring* anything. Nothing will be compensated, monetarily, to you in the event you lose something., or something gets damaged, or you need to drive a car legally. It’s a very minute difference, but a difference all the same.

    Ensure means to make certain. And no, the etymology of the word “insure” has not evolved into “ensure.” They’ve always been separate words.

  • Tony September 12, 2010, 3:08 pm

    This whole scene is out of hand. Period. I’m a lifelong service industry guy and have done it all at restaurants. The high school event/outing is a common groaner to servers. Your group was not the first and certainly won’t be the last to execute this fairly common move. I myself have gotten a 4 dollar tip off a soccer team, complete with adults totaling about 30 people. Did I want to go running after them? Yes I did.

    So, let’s break it down then. The people in your group that left early, knew exactly what they were doing, when they did it, and will feign ignorance until they reach maturity; which might never happen. The fact that the restaurant was unusually busy when you entered is in no way the server’s fault and it sounds like he did the best he could to bear the load and keep your group happy. Americans tend to ignore this concept and blame the server for other diners, and uncontrollable circumstances. Any group over 4 during a hectic and unexpected lunch rush is a death knell for most servers and will immediately affect their ability to take care of the tables they already have.

    So after eating and acting all nicey nice, and no doubt frowning about having to cover whatever shortfall there was between the bills, your server has been watching you and the remaining members of your party drift off while counting the money from a very busy but dismal take from a miserable lunch time. It’s entirely possible that some tables also tipped below average as serving you took a substantial amount of his time and cost ‘quality of service’ to other tables. So in addition to the ten percent tip that he has to feel burning in his apron, he has to clean up what was likely an epic mess left behind from a table full of teenagers…

    So, rudely, he confronted you about it, no doubt supremely frustrated when you consider that your small tip might *actually* round out to zero when you add in potential loss from other tables. See how that works? Serving you, in the end, might actually have *cost* him out of pocket… Still though, making an ordeal out of it was actually completely insane of him to do, and if he worked for me, he would have lost his job over it on the spot.

    So, to wrap up! Tipping is NOT optional. The business pays servers little more than enough to cover the taxes on the tips that they claim to the government. Most people do not know this, or somehow forget this after several years out of the industry. Whether your server uses the money he makes to pay for his doctorate or to pay for his drug habits is completely inconsequential, tip money is how he gets paid, not his paycheck. So when you and your friends, or even just you and a lover sit down to eat, try to remember that every request you make, every second that you spend at that table or that your server has to spend at your side either adds or subtracts tip money from other tables. Everyone in the industry has a breaking point also, and just remember that you and your friends drove a stranger to that breaking point by not thinking about the impact that you have.

    Thank you for listening, end of tirade.

  • M September 12, 2010, 11:23 pm

    I used to serve in a restaurant, and nothing irked me more than when a large table came in during rush lunch and then left a shoddy tip. When a server has more than 3 or 4 tables, they are busy. You might not notice it while youre sitting and laughing with your friends, but theyre actually running around reciting orders and refills in their heads praying that they havent forgotton anything. The fact that your orders were messed up was not his fault; he does not make the food. Its the kitchens fault for not reading the ticket properly. You cant honestly expect the server to remember one or two small changes when the place is busy, as you claim. You also need to remember that not only does he serve you, he cleans up after your shit. Small family run joints often have no bussers except on weekends, so all your dirty napkins, plates, cups, and general shit lying around falls on him. Tip him accordingly. You should have stopped the people leaving until the bill came; your fuck all tip probably cost him out of pocket, because of income tax. YOU kids were the rude people, not him. Just sayin.

  • Tony September 13, 2010, 10:38 pm

    Either way, if this is a troll or not, it’s effective as it brought out the angry service industry types that have to serve all the disrespectful, or just ignorant (in the innocent sense, not the mean spirited) hungry people. However, M… I know we talk like that in the kitchen, but swearing calls the eyes to those words and not the point of the post.

  • Dannysgirl September 14, 2010, 11:18 am

    @M and Tony: I’m sorry you have had to deal with lousy tippers, but I think you both have missed the point of the post. These were *children,* aged 15-17, who were left behind by the adult in charge of the group. You both really expect these young teens to stop an adult and the older students until the check came? These students did the best they could in a lousy situation. They knew their tip was sub-par, but were unable to fix the problem. Perhaps explaining the dine and dash would have been best, but I do not think they should have gone to an ATM. Who had ATM cards at that age? You both have every right to be frustrated at people who *purposefully* under-tip. However, this isn’t what happened. Please do not direct your ire at the OP.
    To the pp’s saying tipping is optional: Several people have posted links stating that employers must make up the difference in waitstaff tips. Yes, tipping is optional. To say it isn’t, is to say that waitstaff can do a lousy job, and still get a 15-20% tip. I’m sorry, but I don’t work that way. You have to earn
    your money from me.

  • Shayna September 14, 2010, 11:27 am

    >>So, to wrap up! Tipping is NOT optional. The business pays servers little more than enough to cover the taxes on the tips that they claim to the government.<<

    Look. I tip well. Very well if I get exceptional service. I have also worked in the service industry. I’ve owned two restaurants myself. But, again, IT IS NOT MY PROBLEM IF A BUSINESS DOES NOT PAY ITS EMPLOYEES PROPERLY. The United States is the only country that allows this ridiculousness to go on. No where else in the world that I know of (at least not a first-world country) allows server staff to be paid less than minimum wage, on the off chance that they’re going to get enough tips to make up the difference. We most certainly don’t here in Canada. A tip is not a paycheque; it is an amount given by a customer to show appreciation for the service provided. The laws regarding this in the U.S. sicken me. Firstly, the government taxes you on tips (perhaps tips you don’t even get sometimes), and then, because the employee knows this, the mentality comes into play that “it doesn’t matter how I treat the customer, I still deserve a tip.”

    I’m a little annoyed at the justification that I sometimes see of “Oh, the server was just having a bad day because yadda yadda yadda.” So? As someone who works in the service industry, it is part of the job to always be polite to customers. If *that person* over there upset you and ticked you off, that doesn’t mean you should suddenly give all of your customers substandard service. I remember one time I went into a local restaurant and one of the waitresses had just been given a hard time by a previous customer. My friend and I sat down and waited. And waited. Finally, the waitress showed up with menus, looking very grim and understandably so. But, what did she do? Slapped our menus down on the table and walked away without even speaking to us. Next thing we know, she’s bringing over glasses of water, and plunking those down onto the table so hard the water spilled on me. We placed our order, and when that was ready, she threw the plates onto the table. I am not exaggerating or kidding here. I had to get up myself and go ask for drink refills, while she was standing right there behind the counter! Did she get a tip? You’d better believe she didn’t. On the other hand, my husband and I were out one night at our local BPs for our weekly date night. Our bill, including drinks, came to about $50. The waiter had been so wonderful, engaging in chit-chat without being intrusive, making sure our soft drinks were constantly full, and was never too far away if we needed anything. We were there about 1 1/2 hours and he walked away with a 50% tip.

    The laws in the U.S. need to be changed.

  • Shayna September 14, 2010, 11:31 am

    By the way, I should point out that I am not debating whether or not a server is considered busy with 3 or 4 tables. I’m also not debating whether a server working a large table should be adequately compensated for that. I am simply saying that tipping is not required. There are no laws stating that it is, because if there were, it would be included on the bill (which, by the way, I’ve generally not gotten great service at establishments that include a gratuity – including a certain 4-star hotel in Edmonton that I won’t name). I do, however, agree with a gratuity amount being added to the bill for tables of 10 or more. But usually when I’ve seen this, they have two servers posted to that table, and the service has been exceptional.

  • essie September 14, 2010, 12:37 pm

    Tipping in the US has always been optional. For those who say it’s not and complain that they can’t make a decent living without tips, here’s something to consider.

    People who are self-employed, running a business or providing a service, have the same problem with their income; it’s inconsistent. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not-so-good, and sometimes it’s not even enough to feed your kids, much less pay your bills. (Although if yours is consistently insufficient, maybe you should accept the problem is internal.)

    The adults usually say “What can I do to change this”, the kids usually say “It’s not fair! Somebody (besides me) needs to change this!”

    A wise person once told me (after I’d been complaining about my job for a while) “If you don’t like your situation, you can either change it or accept it. Either way, the choice is YOURS, so stop complaining.”

  • Tony September 15, 2010, 4:01 pm

    I agree with you and Shayna… to a point. It’s not your problem that the industry doesn’t pay well. But the breaking point is when you bust your hump doing your job, and doing it well for someone. And then they leave you a mediocre tip, if at all. The only thing that makes it worth it is the people who know that and compensate by tipping well and being easy to take care of as well. But to take the “it’s not my fault” stance is frustrating to hear; both from the server standpoint AND the customer standpoint. If my order is messed up, and it takes a while and I can see that the server is really working to keep up, while still doing their best to fix things, they’re still getting a good tip from me. But if I’ve been dehydrating for the last 15 minutes and that server delivers my refill while smelling of cigarette smoke, then they can kiss it goodbye.
    And Essie you’re right also, but being self employed you can choose to take a job, do it to the best of your ability and then STILL get paid a previously agreed upon amount. Servers don’t even get that kind of peace of mind. They take the job and do it all the way to the end, to the best of their ability under the assumption that the customer will pay, essentially, “whatever they want for the quality of service”. Would you ever, ever tell a customer to pay you whatever they want for your services?

    All I’m saying is that service work is very very hard on the mind, body, and spirit. And situations like the OP’s post (perhaps not so much the OP herself) are what make for burned out servers. And people who take an ‘oh well’ stance and choose not to look around them at the 4 or 5 or 7 individual relationships and interactions that their server has to maintain within one measly hour, fight with the kitchen, the busser, the managers, other support staff to keep those interactions running smoothly; are just as guilty as the people who don’t tip at all.

    Your server is working for that gratuity, from YOU, the dining party. That’s the way the system has been set up for nearly a century, and the only way to fix that is to eliminate tipping altogether, and pay the server a decent hourly wage. BUT be prepared to pay about 60% more for your meal when dining out. That would be assuming that the restaurant adjusts exactly, keeping the same profitability as before. In the end, it would still be considerably cheaper to pay the server a little respect and leave a 20 percent tip when they do the job well.

  • irish September 15, 2010, 5:40 pm

    Just wondering how people feel about the French system (possibly more countries in Europe) whereby a 10% gratuity has been added to each individual price on the menu so one doesn’t need to add a further tip. It’s convenient, but as a common point here has been that servers are not automatically entitled to a tip regardless of service quality, I wondered what etiquetteurs would think? Sorry for going off topic, but feel free to ignore me!

  • Shayna September 15, 2010, 7:39 pm

    @Tony: And I do agree with what you are saying. That’s why I pointed out that I am a great tipper, when the server has performed their job. Believe me, I know how hard restaurant work is. It caused me to have a mental breakdown. I couldn’t handle the stress. For six months I only left my house to buy groceries and to see my therapist. But what I’m trying to say is that many servers, in the US especially, seem to point their frustrations to the customer, rather than to the government, the state, or the business itself. What I’m saying is that tips are not, should not, and were never intended to be, a paycheque. Making them so puts pressure upon the server (who is already stressed enough as it is just trying to do their jobs) and the customer (who should not be under any pressure given that eating out should be a relaxing experience). I’ve worked in a very small town where a tip was the two pennies left over after a senior had paid for their cup of coffee. Even still, I offered nothing less than my best service to every customer that came through the door, nor did I ever pay my staff less than a decent wage (and yes, I paid them more than minimum wage).

  • Age September 16, 2010, 5:52 pm

    We should also remember that several years ago 10% was the general, expected tipping amount. I don’t know when it went up (Honestly, how do you find these things out? Do they announce it on the news or something, ATTENTION WORLD, IT IS NOT UNACCEPTABLE TO GIVE ANYTHING LESS THAN 20%) So actually, they weren’t in the wrong here.
    And, personally, I think the waiter deserved 10% just for that comment.

  • CherryBlossom October 3, 2010, 10:39 pm

    I can’t believe some of you people, attacking the OP and those who stayed for giving the waiter a 10% tip, AS IF THEY HAD ANY CHOICE. It was a school outing, apparently taking place during school hours, I highly doubt they had the option to refuse to go. Clearly they did arrive with enough money in their pockets to cover the cost of their meal AND give a fair tip, they got screwed by some classmates, but they still gave the waiter everything they had – money they probably intended to spend elsewhere. Before they had any opportunity to explain to the waiter or offer to make amends, he laid into them for leaving a tip that, in reality, isn’t all that sub-par. HOW could they possibly have handled this in a different manner? This advice about ATM cards is great for an adult, but I know it wouldn’t have helped me when I was 15 and my meager allowance money was in a bank account that only my parents could access. Doubtless they would have chosen McDonald’s had they known what their classmates were about to pull, but how could anyone anticipate that? They made the best of a bad situation, and given their age and relative lack of experience I think they could have done a lot worse than to give the waiter the last of their money.

    Look I know that serving is stressful, yes servers regularly get blamed for circumstances that are entirely out of their control, yes the compensation is often terrible, and yes it’s an abysmal system all around. But when did 10% become the kind of tip that gets a patron upbraided? (A f*** all tip, according to ‘M’.) This incident apparently occurred a few years ago, and things may have changed since then, but I expect that these kids were raised by their parents to tip 10-20%. Frankly if the server was expecting 20% from adults when the service was so slow then he has a remarkably well developed sense of entitlement. If a customer feels the server has only earned 10%, or for any reason cannot afford to give more than that, then he or she should not have to nervously apologize for it or try to run out the door before being verbally accosted. Tips are a social norm in the US, no one who is familiar with the system would fail to budget for a tip unless they had a burning desire for a trip to Etiquette Hell, but in NO way is a tip guaranteed the moment a customer sits down. Making a tip mandatory would defeat the entire purpose of the system.

    And @’M’ ~ Yes waiter IS expected to remember a few small changes, that’s part of his job, it’s what he is paid to do.

  • SoutherSugar October 4, 2010, 4:09 pm

    I’m not sure when it became appropriate to hold kids responsible for poor behavior on the part of adults. I’d have loved to have been able to run out to an ATM when I was a sophomore in high school. If only I’d had a bank account to draw from…

    Shame on the adults who screwed over the younger students!

  • Frustrated Young Adult October 4, 2010, 6:09 pm

    I think that the majority of people commenting on this post have a skewed vision of these “children.” Everyone keeps talking about how they didn’t have atm cards when they were that age. You also probably didn’t have a cell phone. Or a laptop. Or the internet. You also were expected to be an adult person by the age of eighteen, which these people are not very far from agewise. I am 21, and it feels like the age of maturity is constantly being pushed back, and it is FRUSTRATING. If you’re not expected to be accountable for your own actions by the time you’re legal to drive, how in the world are you ever going to be a polite, functioning adult in this world?

    And I’ve never worked in the service industry, but I still always tip at least 18%, usually more. If there is a real problem and they don’t deserve that sort of tip, then you should talk to the manager. Bad tipping will only cause animosity and then maybe next people to sit at your table will have an equally, if not worse time than you.

    The remaining students were treated unfairly by their peers who abandoned them, but they were still the ones responsible at the time.

  • CherryBlossom October 4, 2010, 9:06 pm

    @Frustrated Young Adult ~ Look I’m bang alongside you about expectations constantly being lowered where maturity is concerned, I would LOVE to see a higher standard out there. I’m in my early 20s too and it never ceases to amaze me how unschooled those in my own generation can be, and how readily people will excuse bad manners with relative youth. But I still didn’t have a bank card at 15 and neither did any of my friends, and even if we had been in possession of one the nearest ATM would not have been within walking distance for us. Just because 15 is almost an adult doesn’t mean 15 year-olds can spend money like adults do; regardless of mental and emotional maturity – and indeed any expectation of it – the age of these kids would likely be a limiting factor where access to money is concerned. Clearly they all understood the importance and the etiquette of tipping, the OP certainly expressed their shared feeling of guilt, I’m sure if they could have done more they would but I think the circumstances were out of their control and so they shouldn’t have had to explain themselves to anyone provided that they were able to pay the actual bill in full. If they had simply left a 10% tip because they didn’t know better or didn’t care then yes, by all means, let the heavens rain down and I will be the first to raise ruckus.

  • Nicole October 10, 2010, 7:03 am

    The opposite happened to me. We liked the service, and decided to leave a huge tip (we were a bunch of kids aged 7-12 eating at a Friendlys). We had to go, so we paid at the register and left a huge tip on the table. Like 50% or something. We were feeling rich (that and the bill wasn’t that high so we had money left over) and generous.

    The waiter didn’t realize we had paid at the register, and thought the tip was the payment. He came running out after us. Of course he felt bad when he found out what happened, but it deflated our feel-good generosity high.

  • gramma dishes October 10, 2010, 2:05 pm

    Oh, Nicole ~~ That’s such a sad story!

  • VoodooChild October 10, 2010, 7:15 pm

    As a former waitress who made $3/hour plus tips, I am constantly amazed at how tipping has gone from something that was considered just a nice thing to do for good service to something that is absolutely expected no matter how good service is. I tip well for good service, have been known to tip up to 100% if the service was exceptional. I also understand how the service can suffer when the restaurant is crowded or there are other circumstances beyond the server’s control. Trust me, I’ve been there, and 9 months’ worth of my being there involved being pregnant with twins. However, I refuse to tip 10% or 15% or 20% to a sullen, moody server with earbuds in his/her ears (that has happened, believe it or not).

  • Chelsey October 31, 2010, 12:25 pm

    @Bee: I was thinking the same thing. In the US, you have to be 18 to have a bank account or have your parents on it, too. Naturally, I didn’t have a bank account until I was a senior in high school. So going to the ATM would not have been an option.

  • Craig November 5, 2010, 1:43 am

    When I go out to eat, I generally feel an obligation to tip, usually 15% and then rounded up to make an even dollar amount out of the total, unless the service was unusually good or bad. However, recently starting college has made it harder to tip, leading to a lackluster tip and sometimes even no tip at all. When this happens I usually end up writing “sorry” on the receipt.

    However, tips are not mandatory in my opinion. I find it disturbing how people try to make you feel like it is. If it were mandatory, they would put it as gratuity on the side (how they do it for large parties) and have that be included in the final bill, with nothing being left at the table. This is how Europe has done it and quite frankly I feel that it is a better way of doing it. Tips are to show the waiter how good of service they had, unless you do not have the funds to do so. In this situation, I would simply leave a note for the waiter and leave it at that. If confronted, I would explain the situation and be done with it.

  • PO'd reader November 11, 2010, 12:53 am

    ADMIN NEEDS A REALITY CHECK. The OP stated it was sophmores and ONE junior left behind and one of them should’ve looked for an ATM. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? I don’t know any sophmore or Junior with an ATM card. The staff members shouldn’t have left them there alone to begin with and probably knew they were stiffing them. Sending sophmores for an ATM machine, what are you smoking so I can get some.

    • admin November 11, 2010, 6:40 am

      On the other, when I published a story of a 16 year old bridesmaid retaliating against her mother during the reception by exposing dirty family secrets, the category I placed it was “Rug Rats”. There were a plethora of commentators who insisted that a 16 year was not a “rug rat” but rather old enough to know better and take responsibility for her actions. If a group of 16 and 17-year old choose to patronize a restaurant, they are then old enough to be prepared to behave in the expected manner in a restaurant, i.e. tipping for service.

  • VorpalBunny November 11, 2010, 11:42 am

    @Craig. I’m sorry things are tight for you right now, but if you’re in the US and think “Sorry” is an acceptable tip, you’re sorely mistaken. When I was waitressing, if there was no tip at all and I hadn’t provided sub-standard service, I could allow myself to think the person forgot. But a hastily scrawled “Sorry” is worse than nothing. It’s a slap in the face. It means that, even though I provided excellent service and took care of the customer’s needs, I might not have enough money to pay my bills.

    Is the current system unfair? Abso-freakin-lutely. But not tipping doesn’t “stick it to the man”. It sticks it to me, and my co-workers. Remember us? We’re the ones that keep your glass full, cater to your whims and make your dining experience memorable.

    Your comment made me think of a recent SNL sketch. It was called “Don’t Buy Stuff you Cannot Afford”. Regardless of your personal financial situation, not tipping for acceptable or good service in the US is inexcusable. If you don’t have money for a tip, you need to scale back what you’re ordering or do take out. Don’t pay the financial hardship forward.

  • Shayna November 11, 2010, 11:54 am

    Respectfully, admin, I do believe this situation is a little different, though. In this case, the 16 and 17-year old students were there on an outing with an adult supervisor who 1) had no business leaving them alone in the first place, and 2) should have ensured the bill was taken care of, regardless of whether or not every person was chipping in for their own share. I really don’t think the students were at fault here. However, the girl that you termed a “rug rat”? She should have known better than to air dirty laundry like that, but even in her case, while I disagree with what she did, I feel for her because of the crap childhood that she must have had.

  • Aislinn Lujan November 14, 2010, 5:07 am

    But admin, they did tip, with about as much money as they could scrape together after they were abandoned by their supervisor. They probably would have had a better tip to give if the adult and older teen with them did not pull what is essentially a dine and dash.

    “It was at this point that our advisor, the Seniors and several of the Juniors announced that they had to leave early. They left money for their meals and promptly exited, leaving all of the Sophomores and one lonesome Junior at the table. After finishing our pie, the server gave us our bill and we all got our wallets out. It was then that we realized that those who had left early either left no money for a tip, or didn’t even cover the cost of their entire meal. Those of us who remained scoured our wallets for money and dug for change. The bill, almost reaching $100, was covered, but we could only pool $10 for the tip. We felt awful, but were mostly angry at the upperclassmen who had left us in the situation.”

    They probably had the money for their food and what would have been a substantial tip HAD THE OTHER PEOPLE PAID FOR THEIR FOOD.
    Would you or the waiter prefer that they left no tip at all?

  • kelly March 27, 2011, 10:06 am

    I am from Britain where tipping is optional, and service is included in the bill. All waiting staff get paid at least the national minimum wage, and tips are just an added bonus at the descretion of the customer. It is illegal for resturants to use tips to pay the staff their wage. It is the eating establishments responsibility to pay their staff, not the customers. I do not tip sales assistants for instance even though they earn the same if not less than serving staff. I assume the shop is paying them. If you know that the establisment is paying such pathetic wages to their staff that they survive on tips, then to be honest you should go somewhere else rather than encourage this abuse. I also fail to see what is wrong with a ten percent tip for rubbish service.
    In the UK it became common for the tip to be added automatically with a note to say that this was optional. However as many people paid by card, what happened was that the business kept the tip for themselves and used it to pay the staff their agreed wage. This is now illegal, but I suspect it still happens. I always refuse to pay the tip by card, and only leave cash, and only then if the service was good.

  • LittleRed August 4, 2011, 1:31 am

    After reading this, I would have to say that horrible manners were practiced all around. First of all, I would have to say that the upperclassmen were terribly rude. They should have considered a tip before they left. I don’t think its fair to put the underclassmen at fault here. Second of all, I am a 20 year old, working my way through college. I spend nearly all my free hours working at a little coffee shop. I understand the waiters frustration, because I know how important tips are. Tips are often what pay for my gas money, or for extra food, and bit of spending money. My whole pay check goes to bills and school. I can only assume that the waiter was in a similar situation. However, I also know that, while it’s the polite thing to do, tipping is an option- not an obligation. A tip is a nice way of saying, “Hey thanks for the great service”. I often remind myself after a long day with little tips that I am making a paycheck that covers my bills, and that I am lucky enough to have that. The waiter should have kept his mouth shut, and certainly should not have used the word “shitty” to describe their tip. I am almost embarrassed for him.

  • DB April 15, 2014, 2:37 pm

    This is an old thread but I’m going to chime in. Pardon the long post:

    I’m from Europe & currently live in the States. I’ve worked in & patronized restaurants on both sides of the pond and from my perspective, the US system of tipping is generally better for the guest.

    First off, it weeds out people who are just not suited to the difficult task of being a good or great waiter, so you’re more likely to have a pleasant & knowledgeable server experience because; Bad Waiter = Bad Tips = Bad Money = Finds Another Line Of Work. Good Waiter = Good Tips = Good Money = Guests Receive Excellent Care When Dining Out. Yes, I know everyone has a ‘Bad Waiter’ story but honestly, unless they own the restaurant or are part of a family that does, either those people (or the restaurant itself) doesn’t last. Those who have never worked in the restaurant industry often think ANYONE can be a server. Untrue. Not everyone can do this job well.

    For those who’ve posted that ‘The US tipping custom is confusing’ – If you’ve traveled to the States, that means you have the intelligence to book flights, get yourself to & from the airport, find hotels, change your money, navigate your way within the country, etc. And you’re going to tell claim tipping confounds you?!? Come ON! Pull the other one! It is NOT difficult to double the tax or work out how much 15%-20% of a bill is. If that’s too tough for you, perhaps foreign travel is not something you should attempt, as there are many places that have far more ‘strange’ customs. Admit it – ‘confusing’ is code for ‘excuse’. Every guide book will explain the custom of tipping, so please – Don’t be insulting. Saying it should be changed is ridiculous – Just for you? Why???? Would you expect your country’s customs to be changed for tourists???? That’s completely unreasonable. (And a little insane.)

    As for those outside the US who say that tipping in restaurants is ‘dumb’ or ‘unnecessary’ – You’re being flat-out rude. You don’t go to another country & presume their culture is something up for debate & for you to criticize. For example, unlike virtually anywhere else, free refills of soda/coffee/tea are the norm in the US and I’m sure you didn’t or wouldn’t refuse that part of US hospitality! There is a very different service style here; the majority of servers are smiling & friendly and they will get you your extra dressing, extra bread & butter, extra EVERYTHING (plus don’t forget the refills!) and/or will accommodate substitutions to dishes with a ‘no problem’ attitude (if they don’t, THEN that’s when the question of ‘to tip or not to tip?’ comes in. Surly server? Bad or no tip. You’ll get your point across.) Try running your server like that in Italy or France & you’ll get looks that will send you through the floor or they simply just won’t allow themselves to be run around like that. Here’s a clue as to why – They’re not being tipped by you.

    Fact is, getting rid of tipping would utterly change the US Guest/Server dynamic in a way that the US customer, in particular, wouldn’t like very much. In America, it’s usual for a good server to have regular customers. In Europe, that’s much rarer. Europeans care more about the quality of the food & less about the waiter. In America, both are considered equally important, and in some cases, the waiters’ performance even MORE so. I know of many people, inc. myself & hubby who will go to Restaurant A, even if it’s not as good as Restaurant B, simply due to the staff being nicer & more friendly. Service in the US is also less judgmental. My cousin is in a semi-well known band & dresses accordingly – dreads, ripped jeans, etc. He also happens to be pretty well-off. He can go into most restaurants decked out like this (bar the dress-code places, natch) in the US & know he’ll be treated the same as a preppy guy in a suit. In Europe? Not so much.

    America may be a ‘young’ country but it actually has it’s own set of social customs, so get with the programme & act the way you would want a visitor to behave in your part of the world. I am really tired of people visiting the US & feeling it’s OK to complain about the way things are done here. If an American tourist did that in your country, they would be (and are) rightfully called an ‘Ugly American’. Well, guess what? I’ve met plenty of ‘Ugly Europeans/Australians/Ect’ who pull these “That’s not the way it is back home!” shenanigans over here & are just embarrassing themselves & giving their fellow countrymen a bad name. When in Rome, folks. When in Rome.

    At the end of the day, it is, for the most part, astoundingly cheaper to eat out in the US (this is why Americans eat out far more often than Europeans) and part of the reason for that is because of the tipping system. Either way, you’re going to pay but at least when tips are involved, YOU get to decide what the service you have been provided is worth. In other countries, you don’t have that luxury. A meal out in Europe will often cost almost twice what you would pay for the US equivalent (obviously, it varies from country to country) & does not guarantee being served in a cordial manner, which you’re MUCH more likely to receive in the States. Since nobody is being asked to tip 50-100% of the bill, you’re coming out ahead. For the Europeans, factor in the exchange rate & you’re laughing!

    For the record, most GOOD servers here silently & mentally prepare themselves for a bad tip when they have a tourist table (without a dip in the quality of their work) because foreigners are famous for refusing to recognize this widely-known, prevalent custom. Instead of this arrogant thinking that the system should change in the country you’re visiting; man-up, understand that you’re a guest here, leave your ‘ways’ at home, grow up & plonk down a US-style tip for the good US-style service you get. Or feel free to enjoy your holiday elsewhere. Oh, and for the Americans? Know that when I worked in restaurants in Europe, the staff would fight over taking care of you. Maybe most Europeans & Australians don’t agree with tipping but the wait-staff in their own countries apparently DO!

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