Tipping…how do you decide how much to leave?


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Recently, we had a terrible experience at a restaurant. The waiter never came by to check on us, he was bothered when we asked him for anything, and he waited almost 15 minutes to put our umbrella up..after we asked him because it started raining. The food was cold when it came out, and I even had to get up to get my own coffee after waiting a VERY long time to get a refill.

Normally I can put up with this kind of thing, especially if the place is very busy. But this time was different, especially given his attitude towards us. It was almost like we were a bother to him just by sitting in his section. So, we left a very small tip, to make sure that he knew we weren’t happy. Some people don’t leave a tip at all for bad service, but I think the waiter might then just assume you forgot. Leaving a small tip insures that he or she knows that you were not happy. I am not saying it changes their attitude to other patrons, but it just might make them think twice with the next customer.

What is your opinion of tipping? Do you tip everywhere there is a jar out in front of you, or are you selective on where and whom you tip? Do you tip at places like Starbucks or fast food joints, or just at real restaurants? Some people dont tip at coffee places because, well, they are just making coffee. But we tip in bars, which is almost the same thing. Anyone? Bueller?

technorati tags:money tipping restaurant

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  1. Yes, thats what I should have done, but this time we just took off. Normally I do say something to a manager, be it at a restaurant or any other service-oriented business. And usually, there is some kind of solution that a manager can offer.

    Living in Los Angeles, its hard to develop any relationship with anyone in a restaurant, as every time we go back, there are different people. The only place we are “known” is a local pizza place, and they always take care of us.

    Cold Stone…what a funny place..I almost dont want to tip because I dont want them to have to sing to me!

    Thanks for the comment!

  2. Sorry you had such a negative experience. I would have approached the manager prior to departure. I calmly would have explained that the service was grossly subpar, and that you would neither return nor recommend the place to others. The burden is on him to make amends for your poor experience, both immediately in the form of a refund or a free future meal, and for the future by disciplining the waiter. The point is not to get the waiter fired; you are assisting the manager in offering the best possible service and, thereby, staying in business. If he’s any sort of a decent manager he’ll recognize you’re not out for a vendetta but to help him. As for the waiter, if this attitide is a sustained trait and not just him or her having a bad night, there’s enough help-wanted signs in America’s restaurant windows that he or she will get employed again soon somewhere . . . possibly having learned a lesson.

    As to tipping: I eat out fairly infrequently ”” once a pay period if that ”” and tend to do so at one of a small number of places, so at these restaurants I tip 20%. For those few places I visit, it’s worth it to develop a relationship and to be remembered when I return. That way, if I need a reservation on short notice, or for a big party, I tend to get hooked up. Not dining out a lot frees up the extra 5% to pass along to the waitstaff. I genuinely enjoy not having to cook for myself those nights when I get the hell out of the house, so why not go a straight 20 instead of 15?

    I tip for takeout food, and food that’s delivered, which tends to be closer to the usual 15% or rounded up to the next big bill (e.g., $20), whichever helps the other party more.

    I don’t patronize coffee bars all that much, and the few fast food places I visit don’t accept tips. I did tip at Cold Stone Creamery once, and the entire counter staff started singing!! How terribly dehumanizing for the staff to have to sing some company-written thanks rather than a simple “thank you”?

  3. I was a server for more years than I’d like to remember! So I might have a different perspective. At the time servers made about 1/2 minimum wage. So I usually tip 10% for below average service, 15% for adequate and 20% or more for good. I also try to be aware of circumstances like you mentioned, being unusually busy or others errors etc. That is a managment problem and servers should not be penalized.

    Your guy sounded like a jerk and I would have tipped low too. Did it send a message? Well maybe if he was just having a bad day, but if that is his normal it probably just gave him something to complain about to the rest of the servers! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the comment, Stephanie. While I do feel for servers and their TERRIBLE wages, I do believe that it is a service industry and tipping is not mandatory. We usually leave 20% at least, but in this case, you are right, he was a jerk and should have recognized his problem. I am sure though that he just went back inside and complained to his buddies!

  5. We usually don’t give a tip if the restaurant has already charged us for service change (usually 10% in my country). If no service charge was given, I would sometimes live a tip amounting to a portion of the change.

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