Monday, April 12, 2010

Tipping: a right or a privilege?

Yesterday we had lunch at a 'breakfast all day' diner. It was a delightful retro diner with artwork that made us smile and music that had us bouncing in our seats. The food was delicious!

The only downside was our waitress. She was not very experienced (she'd worked there for a month--we asked) but it was more than just not knowing the menu well. She rested her knee on my booth bench as she took our order, failed to bring drink refills, acted put out when we told her we needed ketchup and then still forgot to bring it to the table. She never once smiled or made us feel as if we were valued customers.

Jennifer and I were really looking forward to eating lunch at this particular restaurant because of the coffee refills. But we didn't really get what that--we only had one refill and we had to wait quite a while for that one.

I'm used to poor service. Waitstaff in Africa do not work for tips. They are given a salary and an automatic 10% for service is added to your bill regardless of how you, as a customer, were cared for. We will still leave extra on the table if we are pleased with the service but I don't know that it is received as a compliment or how they look at it. It makes us feel better, however, to try to give something.

My daughter is a waitress and my brother has worked in the service industry for years so I know how hard waiters and waitresses work and do my best to help them by leaving a good tip but it is aggravating to receive service like we did yesterday. Eating out is such a treat for us after our time in Africa and it is disappointing when someone ruins it with a poor work ethic.

My tip calculator on my phone suggests leaving 18%. My waitress daughter usually leaves 20% and the other daughter leaves 15%.  Despite the poor treatment we received we left a good tip. But it left us feeling cheated.

At least we didn't do this

Here are my questions: If you are not happy with the service you receive in a restaurant what do you do? Do you reduce your tip? If you do, do you let the waiter/waitress know why or do you just leave it at that? Would it be perceived as bad behavior by them if you just left a smaller tip without saying anything? Would you speak to the manager?


  1. I am a very good tipper, I usede to live on tips so I know how important they are...but having said that, I also know how important it is to treat the customer I always tip, but the amount always depends on the service recieved.

  2. I leave 20% if the service is good, but only 15% if it's not. 10% for absolutely horrible service. I wish it was really based on the service, but because of our system where waitresses are not paid the same minimum wage as others, I can't leave less than that. I know that they make less than $3 an hour & I can't consciously enslave them just for poor service. I wish the laws would change, but Americans demand our cheap food, even at the expense of those who bring it to us.

    As for Zambia, wait staff appreciate tips. (Some of them only make 10pin per day) Joshua taught me, though, that you can't leave the money on the table. The owners will take it from the staff. If you slyly put it in the waiter/ress's hand, then the owner won't know & can't take it. I hate that they pay so little, so I always make sure that the tip is for the staff and not the owner.

  3. Bwahaha! I love that last photo! Wonder what the story is there?
    Yes, I waitressed in college and believe me I tip and tip well if it's deserved. But I have, upon occasion, spoken with the manager upon leaving and left a quarter, (two bits for a two bit waitress), on the table.

  4. I agree with Raven. You must ALWAYS tip... it's rare that you should leave 10%... that's when it's obviously bad attitude.. as far as service, there's always excuses like "wonder what's going on at home." and maybe she's new, or maybe she's old with a poor memory and she's doing the best she can. (by the way, you don't have to be old to have a poor memory).. they don't get paid enough, and they ARE waiting on us, even if they don't get everything right... so I say, give them between 15 and 20%. My husband ALWAYS gives 20% no matter what...
    Who knows? it might just make their day.

  5. I waited tables for a number of years so I always overtip - 20% or more. It has to be absolutely atrocious service for me to tip less. I always remember meals that went badly and I thought for sure I wouldn't be given a tip and then when I was, and a decent one at that, it would really make my day. It's the little things.

  6. I agree with the previous comment; 20% for pretty good service, 10% if I was ignored. There was one time when the waitress was openly hostile. I left three pennies and I still don't feel badly about it. I'm reasonably certain she spit in my food.

  7. Okay, I'm gagging now..."she spit in my food."

    I agree with the majority here...20% if the service is good....less than good, less money. And yes, I've done my time waiting tables.

  8. Amy's AdventuresApril 13, 2010

    Thanks for all the input. Raven, I appreciate learning that about the Zambian waiters.

    My daughter wanted me to clarify that she tips 15% rounded up. Meaning if 15% is $3.45 she'll give $4.

    Maybe I should wait some tables. It seems that nearly everyone has 'done time' this way. LOL! I'm feeling left out.

  9. Oh my goodness! That pic is funny!

    Customer service isn't what it used to be...I just can't figure out why, why, why?


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