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When is it permissible to not tip?


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#1 jrshaul

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 10:15 PM

As one of the younger participants in the eGullet forum, I experience restaurants somewhat differently than the majority of individuals present. My choice of venue is limited by my wallet, and I often order towards the more frugal end of the menu. However, above all else, I'm not served in quite the same fashion.

I can understand, to an extent, the lack of service. I don't order appetizers, I dine alone, and by demographic I'm not likely to tip well. The waiter - not unreasonably - chooses to fawn over tables with the potential for more robust compensation.

However, I've recently encountered a steadily growing list of reasons why I've not left a tip at all. These include:

1. Inattentiveness. Requiring a few minutes' wait is fine; however, it should not be necessary to flag you down with orange cones airport-style to place an order. My metric for acceptability is the wait at an over-capacity bar during World Cup finals. If you can't equal their quality of service, then you're just not trying.

2. Short-changing. A few dollars is fine. Accidentally tripling my bill, not so much. Either you're dishonest, inattentive, or flat-out stupid; regardless, no tip for you.

3. Serving the wrong food. This is of particular significance as a good friend of mine is vegetarian and several others have mild food allergies. Accidentally serving me a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare is excusable; giving a devout Buddhist a plate of carpaccio, not so much.

4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough. While a crying infant or boisterous drinkers aren't a big deal, if I'm paying $17 for a steak I expect to enjoy it without water dripping on my head. (This, sadly, has happened. In the last week.)

5. Not serving me at all. A few days ago, I was informed that may waiter forgot to dispatch my requests to the kitchen in the forty minutes between when I made them and when it closed, leading to significant embarrassment in front of some rather nice people I had hoped to impress. This falls into the category of "I want telepathically strangle you in the manner of Darth Vader" level unacceptability. (Thankfully, I occasionally am privileged to write a newspaper review for a student paper, so I suspect the loss of reputation will be soon repaid in turn.)


I don't think I'm an unreasonable customer. I've had excellent service on the few occasions I can afford the more elegant restaurants in town, and left a gratuity accordingly. But if I'm dropping (what is for me, anyway) a significant amount of my income so that I might have a nice evening, I'm not rewarding anyone for making a hash of it.

Edited by jrshaul, 22 July 2011 - 10:30 PM.


#2 Mjx

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 01:58 AM

I know some people are thoroughly incompetent at waiting tables, but I don't not tip for incompetence alone, if the waiter is truly trying (I don't encourage them to continue in a job they're lousy at by overtipping, either). And I'd never not tip for decisions or actions of the chef, or whoever is responsible for seating (if seating is determined by someone other than the waiter). If a waiter ignores me/is rude, that will affect my tip (but here too, I try to not take things to personally, and differentiate between someone who is monosyllabic because they're rushed off their feet, and actual rudeness).

I worked very, very briefly as a waitress (a morning to be exact, then begged to switch to bus-kid/dishwasher), which does affect my perspective on the whole tipping issue.

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#3 Qwerty

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 02:46 AM

As one of the younger participants in the eGullet forum, I experience restaurants somewhat differently than the majority of individuals present. My choice of venue is limited by my wallet, and I often order towards the more frugal end of the menu. However, above all else, I'm not served in quite the same fashion.

I can understand, to an extent, the lack of service. I don't order appetizers, I dine alone, and by demographic I'm not likely to tip well. The waiter - not unreasonably - chooses to fawn over tables with the potential for more robust compensation.

However, I've recently encountered a steadily growing list of reasons why I've not left a tip at all. These include:

1. Inattentiveness. Requiring a few minutes' wait is fine; however, it should not be necessary to flag you down with orange cones airport-style to place an order. My metric for acceptability is the wait at an over-capacity bar during World Cup finals. If you can't equal their quality of service, then you're just not trying.

2. Short-changing. A few dollars is fine. Accidentally tripling my bill, not so much. Either you're dishonest, inattentive, or flat-out stupid; regardless, no tip for you.

3. Serving the wrong food. This is of particular significance as a good friend of mine is vegetarian and several others have mild food allergies. Accidentally serving me a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare is excusable; giving a devout Buddhist a plate of carpaccio, not so much.

4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough. While a crying infant or boisterous drinkers aren't a big deal, if I'm paying $17 for a steak I expect to enjoy it without water dripping on my head. (This, sadly, has happened. In the last week.)

5. Not serving me at all. A few days ago, I was informed that may waiter forgot to dispatch my requests to the kitchen in the forty minutes between when I made them and when it closed, leading to significant embarrassment in front of some rather nice people I had hoped to impress. This falls into the category of "I want telepathically strangle you in the manner of Darth Vader" level unacceptability. (Thankfully, I occasionally am privileged to write a newspaper review for a student paper, so I suspect the loss of reputation will be soon repaid in turn.)


I don't think I'm an unreasonable customer. I've had excellent service on the few occasions I can afford the more elegant restaurants in town, and left a gratuity accordingly. But if I'm dropping (what is for me, anyway) a significant amount of my income so that I might have a nice evening, I'm not rewarding anyone for making a hash of it.


God, I hate topics like this. This kind of stuff really grates on me. Why is just about every topic in the restaurant forum about negative shit that people experience in restaurants. This isn't the restaurant life forum, it's the restaurant complaints forum. Seriously, eGullet needs to create another forum just for people to whine about all the life ruining experiences they have out to eat.

Does it make you feel good to write bad reviews about a place because a waiter made a mistake and forgot to put in the order? Yeah, it's boneheaded, but should the entire business of the restaurant be flamed in a negative review so that you can "repay" them. By all means, acknowledge the mistake, but don't use your phony-balony high horse to get some sort of mediocre revenge because some college kid forgot to put in your order at 11 at night.

You want to get back at them? Don't ever go back there. There is a reason that something like 90% of restaurants fail--most of them aren't any good. Chances are it'll work itself out, and you won't ever spend your 17 dollars there again. Vote with you wallet. And hey, if the place is still there in 5 years, chances are they are doing something right and you caught them on an off night. Even chef's restaurants like Daniel Bolud have off nights.

Serving carpaccio to buddhists? What planet are you on? Most people don't get served stuff they don't order...the only scenario I can think of is if someone else besides the waiter brings out the wrong food to the table. Hey guess what...mistakes happen. If someone orders a vegetarian pasta and gets a load of bacon in it, sure, that is a mistake. How do you know who's mistake it was? Maybe someone grabbed the wrong pasta for another person and took it to the wrong table. It happens. To summarily decide that a server doesn't deserve any tip based on a mistake like that says more about you. I chalk it up to some sort of elitist attitude.

You ever work in a restaurant? I really wish diners had a bit more perspective when the go out to eat. I don't understand the plague of impatience and entitlement that seems to permeate dining nowadays. People somehow act like there is no room for error if they are somehow paying for a meal. Jesus--it really irks me. I can't think of one other job where no one ever makes a mistake. Cops arrest the wrong guys sometimes, cashier's miscount change sometimes, lawyers lose cases, business people accidentally delete the slide show, students misplace homework...etc etc.

I would love to put you on the floor of a restaurant and see how long you can go without making a mistake. I swear to god people want servers to be mind readers. The water dripping on your head? I'm 100% sure the workers had NO idea that the ceiling was leaking. Nobody in their right mind would seat a person under a drip. How could they have known that would happen? Seriously? You get dripped on in an unforseen event and then wouldn't leave a tip to the waiter? I can understand if they flat out refused to move you or something...but come on. Any good restaurant would apologize profusely and attempt to make amends. It's not like they were all..."well, table 6 is leaking, but I'm sure this jerkoff won't care."

Get over yourself, dude. Short of any type of flat out rudeness, or a tragically bad experience, there is absolutely NO excuse for not tipping. It needs to be factored in to your budget for dining out. I'm sorry...that is a fact. I understand that, if you have a truly horrible experience, not leaving a tip (I've done it once in my life) but for honest mistakes? Come on. Imagine if someone docked your salary every time you missed a deadline or made a typo at work.

Seriously, folks, how about a thread about the best dining experiences you've ever had? Something positive for this forum instead of all the whining/negativity? I can't take anymore of the "restaurant made me sick, what annoys me the most about eating out, worst short cuts, chefs can't cook, restaurant is too loud, giant peppermill smacked me in the face, the air is too cold, the air is too hot, the table is too big, the table is too small, my server doesn't write down the order (idiot), sucky websites, server made me feel wrong, blah blah blah"

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

#4 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 03:41 AM

When is it permissible to not tip?

The literal answer to that question is, of course, that it is always permissible not to tip. They won't stop you at the door to take it from you.

As for when not tipping is warranted, that's a personal decision. Nobody can decide that one for you. In most cases I tip on effort. Sometimes a new server makes mistakes that someone who's been doing it a long time might not even though they're putting way more effort into taking care of you than the more experienced person. Sometimes even the experienced person makes a mistake, they're human. How they react to being asked to correct the mistake is a factor for me. I never punish the server for kitchen mistakes unless the server gives me grief over correcting the problem. Really, the only thing that can cause me not to tip at all is a bad attitude... and even that has to be offensively bad, not just obvious they'd rather be somewhere else. They don't have to like being there, they just can't make it clear they don't like me being there.
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#5 jackal10

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 03:49 AM

Its cultural.

In many places, such as China and some places in UK a tip is considered an insult, an attempt to bribe to gain unfair advantage and a slur on the establishments hospitality and staff.

In the US you just accept the price of the meal is 25% more than the menu and adverts say.

Edited by jackal10, 23 July 2011 - 03:53 AM.


#6 hathor

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:01 AM

I"m with Qwerty all the way.
jrshaul, it sounds as if you are looking for reasons not to tip. All of us have or have had cash shortages. The fact that your wallet is lean is your particular problem.
If you go out, you do need to factor in a tip, that's the nature of dining out. If, at the moment, you can't afford it, that's the way it is. We've all been there.

#7 Mjx

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:13 AM

I'd also add that if a waiter is rude or otherwise a serious problem, a quiet word with management seems more appropriate and effective than slamming the establishment for the errors of one staff member.

. . . .

Seriously, folks, how about a thread about the best dining experiences you've ever had? Something positive for this forum instead of all the whining/negativity? I can't take anymore of the "restaurant made me sick, what annoys me the most about eating out, worst short cuts, chefs can't cook, restaurant is too loud, giant peppermill smacked me in the face, the air is too cold, the air is too hot, the table is too big, the table is too small, my server doesn't write down the order (idiot), sucky websites, server made me feel wrong, blah blah blah"

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!


Wrath and disappointment apparently make for more interesting reading and writing.

There are plenty of very pictorial and enthusiastic write-ups of meals at various restaurants, but if you look at the number of responses these get, it's pretty clear that most people seem to be more drawn to the negative stuff (seriously: I recently had an absolutely fantastic meal at a restaurant, documented it in detail here, and it got no response; I've seen the same thing with plenty of other positive write-ups).

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#8 Dakki

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 07:41 AM


When is it permissible to not tip?

The literal answer to that question is, of course, that it is always permissible not to tip. They won't stop you at the door to take it from you.


I think I remember a thread about some people getting arrested because they refused to pay a service charge?

And, I think this is a perfectly legitimate topic, and some people need to switch to decaf, immediately. If a topic about bad waiters makes you this mad how do you deal with people who disagree with your politics, religion, sports team, computer of choice or favorite band?
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#9 jrshaul

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 07:53 AM

In response to the immediate comments about negativity, I would request that you look at my contribution to my area's restaurant discussion thread. I've posted heavy compliments for several of the area's restaurants. Most of the reviews I write for publication are glowing; the exceptions almost always being chain restaurants I was asked to review. (And let's face it - who goes to a place called "Fuzzy's Tacos" anyway?)


Short of any type of flat out rudeness, or a tragically bad experience, there is absolutely NO excuse for not tipping. It needs to be factored in to your budget for dining out.


And this is where we get to the largest problem of all:

These restaurants wereexpensive.

At each of the above restaurants, I placed a total order exceeding twenty dollars. While $20-$25 might not be much for New York, it buys quite a lot in a small Midwestern town. I can count on one hand the restaurants that exceed it - and at all of those, I've been treated just fine.

In contrast, I've had nothing but flawless service at the less spendy restaurants in town. I can walk into the local gastropub and order a burger during the dinner rush and expect flawless service, and I've never had a major quibble in the many times I've visited my favorite taquería. If my standards for service are set by a place where you can get lunch for $4.50 and caters to drunkards at 2AM Saturday morning, I don't feel they're totally unreasonable. (In fact, often tip as high as 50%. Of course, on a $4.50 tab, that's not difficult.)

I genuinely suspect that the poor treatment was a function of lack of interest. I've never had any of the above problems occur when I was dining with someone of middle age and apparent wealth. However, when I choose to dine out alone or with friends the same age as myself, I've had horrendous problems at the same restaurants that so politely served my parents the month before.

I'd also add that if a waiter is rude or otherwise a serious problem, a quiet word with management seems more appropriate and effective than slamming the establishment for the errors of one staff member.


I did. They couldn't be bothered. I've had less than pleasant service out of the same restaurant twice. Having your order mislaid at ten P.M. is reasonable; having it ignored at a quarter past eight, not so much.

One should note that almost all of these apply to two specific restaurants, with the same owners. Not coincidentally, I believe they were recently done in for tax evasion. Again.

Serving carpaccio to buddhists? What planet are you on? Most people don't get served stuff they don't order...the only scenario I can think of is if someone else besides the waiter brings out the wrong food to the table. Hey guess what...mistakes happen. If someone orders a vegetarian pasta and gets a load of bacon in it, sure, that is a mistake. How do you know who's mistake it was? Maybe someone grabbed the wrong pasta for another person and took it to the wrong table. It happens. To summarily decide that a server doesn't deserve any tip based on a mistake like that says more about you. I chalk it up to some sort of elitist attitude.

You ever work in a restaurant? I really wish diners had a bit more perspective when the go out to eat. I don't understand the plague of impatience and entitlement that seems to permeate dining nowadays. People somehow act like there is no room for error if they are somehow paying for a meal. Jesus--it really irks me. I can't think of one other job where no one ever makes a mistake. Cops arrest the wrong guys sometimes, cashier's miscount change sometimes, lawyers lose cases, business people accidentally delete the slide show, students misplace homework...etc etc.


One man owns roughly half the restaurants in town. I've been to almost all of them - some, dozens of times. The food is inexpensive, the waiters are frequently overworked, and the crowds are often enormous. And not once in the last eight years has any of his restaurants made a mistake larger than serving me the wrong salad dressing. I tip them 20%, no trouble.

However, I do question why I'm obligated to pay someone for completely screwing up my evening. If a tip is a gratuity, it seems strange to provide it in the complete absence of gratitude; if it is a mandatory payment, then I question why I should pay it in the absence of services rendered. My father, who served as a waiter for over fifteen years (during which he was lit on fire at least twice) was horrified by all events mentioned above.

Edited by jrshaul, 23 July 2011 - 07:58 AM.


#10 Jenni

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 08:38 AM

I don't always tip. If the service is really really rubbish and staff just don't seem to care even when I politely draw their attention to the problem, I will tell the waiter at the end that I am disappointed with the service and then I don't tip.

And btw there are no set rules about buddhism and vegetarianism. The majority of buddhists actually operate on the principle that it's ok to eat meat if an animal wasn't killed specifically for you. And of in many countries were buddhist monks still live in the traditional way, monks accept whatever they are offered to eat when they do their alms round. On the other hand, I know many "western" buddhists who are vegan. So there you go, don't assume anything!

#11 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:06 AM

10% is factored into the bills here as a basic service charge, which is split evenly among the restaurant staff. This leaves one completely free to add gratuity or not based on service. I'd say that I generally do tip at least a little bit unless I'm treated like crud or things are really messed up by the fault of the waiter/waitress.

I'll also heartily second Jenni's words about Buddhists and dietary restrictions. I'm a Buddhist, and I operate on the principle that it's always OK to eat meat if the animal killed is providing food for more than just you, and that in rare cases it's also OK to eat things like shrimp, where many lives are given for your meal, as long as you treat the meal with proper respect and don't do it very frequently.
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#12 slkinsey

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 09:07 AM

The problem with many of the situations you describe, is that it's difficult to be certain whose fault it is, exactly. Unfortunately, the only people you can "punish" are the waitstaff. Many times, however, it's not their fault. Looking through your described complaints...

1. Inattentiveness. Requiring a few minutes' wait is fine; however, it should not be necessary to flag you down with orange cones airport-style to place an order. My metric for acceptability is the wait at an over-capacity bar during World Cup finals. If you can't equal their quality of service, then you're just not trying.

I would say that this depends upon the price point and the style of the restaurant. I've been in plenty of busy, low-cost restaurants where it took a long time to get service. Meanwhile, I'm curious as to what timeframe you're talking about. It could easily take 30 minutes in an over-capacity bar to wait for service (in fact, I'd suggest this would be a good wait time). Are you saying that you've experienced waits of 30+ minutes for service at restaurants of a high-enough price point that this should never happen? (I don't know where you live, but in my world 17 bucks for a steak doesn't exactly equate to an expectation of flawless service.)

Also, sometimes the wait for service is long because the restaurant is under-staffed, or because someone is in the weeds and the waitstaff has to cover, or because the table was seated and the appropriate server wasn't notified properly, or due to a whole host of other reasons other than "this is the fault of this server, who I am now going to punish by stiffing on the tip." I'm not saying that it's never the fault of the waitstaff, I'm just saying that it's not always easy to determine whose fault it is.


2. Short-changing. A few dollars is fine. Accidentally tripling my bill, not so much. Either you're dishonest, inattentive, or flat-out stupid; regardless, no tip for you.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. "Short-changing" means that you weren't given back the appropriate amount of change for your purchase. In other words, your bill was 15 bucks, you gave a $20 bill and got back only $3 in change. You were "short-changed" to the tune of two bucks. This is something that should never happen, of course. But, again, there is a question as to whose fault it is. In plenty of places, the waitstaff may be dropping off your money with someone else, bringing out food to another table (or whatever) then swinging back to pick up your change. Depending on the restaurant and how it operates, it seems unreasonable to expect busy waitstaff to re-count your change on the way back to your table when someone is already supposed to have done it for them. So, again, it could be the server's fault but isn't necessarily the server's fault. How can you tell? I don't know. But you know who you're punishing: the waitstaff.

3. Serving the wrong food. This is of particular significance as a good friend of mine is vegetarian and several others have mild food allergies. Accidentally serving me a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare is excusable; giving a devout Buddhist a plate of carpaccio, not so much.

Again, this depends on how the restaurant is set up. Generally speaking, you pick up the order for Table 4 at the pass and bring it out. Especially if it's busy. Are you saying that the carpaccio wasn't ordered by your table at all? Or that it was simply served to the wrong person at the table? Either one is not so great, but hardly a hanging offense. Meanwhile, your "devout Buddhist" friend can't get over having a plate of carpaccio set down on the table? Really? I note, by the way, that you magnanimously state that you wouldn't punish the server for an error 100% attributable to the kitchen: a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare steak. So, again, we have a situation where it's not always clear who is at fault, but you know who you're punishing: the waitstaff.

4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough. While a crying infant or boisterous drinkers aren't a big deal, if I'm paying $17 for a steak I expect to enjoy it without water dripping on my head. (This, sadly, has happened. In the last week.)

What makes you think that moving tables is at the discretion of your server? I can think of very few situations in which this would be the case, and certainly not in any restaurant at a price point where flawless service could be expected. But, again, you know who you're punishing: the waitstaff.

5. Not serving me at all. A few days ago, I was informed that may waiter forgot to dispatch my requests to the kitchen in the forty minutes between when I made them and when it closed, leading to significant embarrassment in front of some rather nice people I had hoped to impress. This falls into the category of "I want telepathically strangle you in the manner of Darth Vader" level unacceptability. (Thankfully, I occasionally am privileged to write a newspaper review for a student paper, so I suspect the loss of reputation will be soon repaid in turn.)

This is the one instance where I think you have a legitimate and unequivocally attributable grievance -- although this is a mistake anyone could make. However, since you weren't charged anything (presumably) you can't punish the waitstaff by stiffing on the tip.
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#13 jrshaul

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 12:24 PM

I would say that this depends upon the price point and the style of the restaurant. I've been in plenty of busy, low-cost restaurants where it took a long time to get service. Meanwhile, I'm curious as to what timeframe you're talking about.


I'd say that half an hour to take my order is not reasonable given a mostly empty restaurant on a Tuesday evening. Mostly, though, it's receiving markedly inferior service compared to my visits with presumed parent-figures. I really hate that.

Curiously, this never happens at less expensive venues, nor at the really high-end options. If I'm paying upwards of $30 or less than $12, I never seem to have any trouble at all; in fact, I can name offhand several extremely affordable places that have provided really excellent service.

Maybe I am being unreasonable. I can't afford to eat out very often, and when I do, I expect a minimum of hassle. However, given that my standard of reasonable quality is set by an overpacked family restaurant on a Friday evening with entrees starting at $7.50, I'm less than pleased when restaurants fail to meet it.


times In other words, your bill was 15 bucks, you gave a $20 bill and got back only $3 in change. You were "short-changed" to the tune of two bucks.


The problem is that I've actually been shortchanged to the tune of $11 on a $6 tab. It's not frequent and the tip in question is quite small, but it's sufficiently commonplace that I now double-check my change every time I pay in cash.


What makes you think that moving tables is at the discretion of your server? I can think of very few situations in which this would be the case, and certainly not in any restaurant at a price point where flawless service could be expected. But, again, you know who you're punishing: the waitstaff.


This is really in response to the place where I was seated under a water leak. I did manage to get another table, but going that far out of your way to make me feel unwelcome is not acceptable.


This is the one instance where I think you have a legitimate and unequivocally attributable grievance -- although this is a mistake anyone could make. However, since you weren't charged anything (presumably) you can't punish the waitstaff by stiffing on the tip.


Funny thing, though - I *was* charged, if only for the cheese plate I had already received. Admittedly, I had a Groupon, but I ended up having to use the thing to buy a bunch of of desserts. (They were pretty good, but passionfruit foam does not a supper make.) This is the event that brought on the rant.

#14 slkinsey

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 12:32 PM

times In other words, your bill was 15 bucks, you gave a $20 bill and got back only $3 in change. You were "short-changed" to the tune of two bucks.

The problem is that I've actually been shortchanged to the tune of $11 on a $6 tab. It's not frequent and the tip in question is quite small, but it's sufficiently commonplace that I now double-check my change every time I pay in cash.

You gave them a $20 bill and only got back 3? This seems unlikely to me. More likely that you were shorted ten bucks, which makes some sense if you figure that they made a mistake and thought you had given them a $10 bill.
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#15 Tim6

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 01:06 PM

Its cultural.

In many places, such as China and some places in UK a tip is considered an insult, an attempt to bribe to gain unfair advantage and a slur on the establishments hospitality and staff.

In the US you just accept the price of the meal is 25% more than the menu and adverts say.


No where I know of in the UK is tipping considered an insult. There is however a different mentality to tipping here.

#16 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 01:44 PM


The literal answer to that question is, of course, that it is always permissible not to tip. They won't stop you at the door to take it from you.


I think I remember a thread about some people getting arrested because they refused to pay a service charge?

Possibly. I think of an automatic service charge the customer is aware of up front and a tip as two different things though. An automatic service charge is basically just higher prices in a halloween costume. A voluntary tip based on the customer's satisfaction or lack thereof is done by choice. I've very rarely encountered a server that earned a zero tip, I rarely come across a server that earns a reduced tip... but when it happens I have the option to let my tip do the talking.
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#17 ermintrude

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 02:18 PM

In the UK where it is common for 10 - 15 percent of the bill to be added as service charge.
If not then you normally add around that into your bill.
If you wish you can also add more for exceptional service.
However under UK law you can remove the service charge is the service was not good enough, in fact you can also challenge the price of the food and reject their price.

With regard to service charge I have deducted it from the bill twice and the service was so bad it had to be, and I had made. One of these got to the stage of "I'll call the police" my reaction "Fine, I'll call the press, I am within my rights"
and trust me in 30 years I have only done this twice so we are talking extremely bad service.
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

#18 Qwerty

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 03:49 PM

In response to the immediate comments about negativity, I would request that you look at my contribution to my area's restaurant discussion thread. I've posted heavy compliments for several of the area's restaurants. Most of the reviews I write for publication are glowing; the exceptions almost always being chain restaurants I was asked to review. (And let's face it - who goes to a place called "Fuzzy's Tacos" anyway?)




Short of any type of flat out rudeness, or a tragically bad experience, there is absolutely NO excuse for not tipping. It needs to be factored in to your budget for dining out.


And this is where we get to the largest problem of all:

These restaurants wereexpensive.

At each of the above restaurants, I placed a total order exceeding twenty dollars. While $20-$25 might not be much for New York, it buys quite a lot in a small Midwestern town. I can count on one hand the restaurants that exceed it - and at all of those, I've been treated just fine.

In contrast, I've had nothing but flawless service at the less spendy restaurants in town. I can walk into the local gastropub and order a burger during the dinner rush and expect flawless service, and I've never had a major quibble in the many times I've visited my favorite taquería. If my standards for service are set by a place where you can get lunch for $4.50 and caters to drunkards at 2AM Saturday morning, I don't feel they're totally unreasonable. (In fact, often tip as high as 50%. Of course, on a $4.50 tab, that's not difficult.)

I genuinely suspect that the poor treatment was a function of lack of interest. I've never had any of the above problems occur when I was dining with someone of middle age and apparent wealth. However, when I choose to dine out alone or with friends the same age as myself, I've had horrendous problems at the same restaurants that so politely served my parents the month before.

I'd also add that if a waiter is rude or otherwise a serious problem, a quiet word with management seems more appropriate and effective than slamming the establishment for the errors of one staff member.


I did. They couldn't be bothered. I've had less than pleasant service out of the same restaurant twice. Having your order mislaid at ten P.M. is reasonable; having it ignored at a quarter past eight, not so much.

One should note that almost all of these apply to two specific restaurants, with the same owners. Not coincidentally, I believe they were recently done in for tax evasion. Again.

Serving carpaccio to buddhists? What planet are you on? Most people don't get served stuff they don't order...the only scenario I can think of is if someone else besides the waiter brings out the wrong food to the table. Hey guess what...mistakes happen. If someone orders a vegetarian pasta and gets a load of bacon in it, sure, that is a mistake. How do you know who's mistake it was? Maybe someone grabbed the wrong pasta for another person and took it to the wrong table. It happens. To summarily decide that a server doesn't deserve any tip based on a mistake like that says more about you. I chalk it up to some sort of elitist attitude.

You ever work in a restaurant? I really wish diners had a bit more perspective when the go out to eat. I don't understand the plague of impatience and entitlement that seems to permeate dining nowadays. People somehow act like there is no room for error if they are somehow paying for a meal. Jesus--it really irks me. I can't think of one other job where no one ever makes a mistake. Cops arrest the wrong guys sometimes, cashier's miscount change sometimes, lawyers lose cases, business people accidentally delete the slide show, students misplace homework...etc etc.


One man owns roughly half the restaurants in town. I've been to almost all of them - some, dozens of times. The food is inexpensive, the waiters are frequently overworked, and the crowds are often enormous. And not once in the last eight years has any of his restaurants made a mistake larger than serving me the wrong salad dressing. I tip them 20%, no trouble.

However, I do question why I'm obligated to pay someone for completely screwing up my evening. If a tip is a gratuity, it seems strange to provide it in the complete absence of gratitude; if it is a mandatory payment, then I question why I should pay it in the absence of services rendered. My father, who served as a waiter for over fifteen years (during which he was lit on fire at least twice) was horrified by all events mentioned above.


I had a few beers last night and was admittedly less than tactful in my response last night. There was probably a better way to say what I was trying to say.

All my words weren't necessarily directed at you, because seriously, if you look at the first 2 or 3 pages of this forum, it's a few pro. chefs and people asking question, then a bunch of topics about people doing nothing but complaining about dining experiences. It just grates on me because I think, no offense, most people have no idea how difficult it is on a day in, day out basis to pull off a great restaurant. Hell, even a decent restaurant.

It irks me to hear you say things like "I did manage to get another table, but going that far out of your way to make me feel unwelcome is not acceptable." when the most egregious thing seems to be seating you under a dripping ceiling that I'm sure the restaurant had no idea was dripping. I mean, if they KNEW about the leak, then it's obviously unacceptable, but I highly doubt it.

Again, my issue is you seemingly asking permission to punish the waitstaff for a variety of mistakes that may be beyond their control. Everyone makes mistakes dude...do you want some of your money back if you go see a play and the actor flubs one of his lines? Of course not. Did it RUIN your evening if the actor forgot a line? I certainly hope not.

Now, I'll repeat, if the waitstaff is straight up rude then yes, it is probably permissible to not tip. But if you're looking for validation about why it's ok not to tip when a restaurant brings you the wrong food on accident, then I hope that you don't find it here.

I'm glad to hear that you frequent that guy's 12 restaurants, receive good service and tip accordingly. It sounds like there is a reason the guy owns 12 restaurants--he knows what he is doing. He knows how to train staff and run a solid restaurant group. That's good. There is a reason he owns 12 places.

I'm hard pressed to see anything in your initial list of "reasons" that would "completely screwing up my evening." If a couple drips on your head screw up your evening, then I feel sorry for you, quite frankly. Nobody should be that high strung. The exception may be when the server forgot to place your order...in that scenario, then I would say yes, even with the cheese plate, I would not tip. But since the server didn't really perform any services, I wouldn't feel bad.

Anyways, again, I do apologize for my initial response. As a dedicated restaurant professional, it irks me to only hear and read about negative things all the time.

#19 Edward J

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:18 PM

When is it O.K. not to tip?

From a different perspective (and we all need those, right?) let me count the ways:

1) When the guest deduces you are the owner or manager of the place.

2) When the guest deduces that the server is a family member of the owner

3) When the guest deduces that the server works too hard. This one needs a bit more explanation

Let's say you go into a Deli, you order a custom made sandwich, a Latte or some other hot beverage, and a dessert with some kind of modifier, like whipped cream or a side of ice cream.

Total bill is $15.85, including taxes.

Now the server not only takes your money and gives you change, prepares the drink, but prepares the food as well. While doing this, s/he makes a new pot of brewed coffee and seamlessly takes orders from other customers.

What do you tip?
Most customers? Maybe loose change, nothing over a dollar. If paying by Visa, maybe a buck and the fifteen cents.

But it's apples and oranges, right? It's a self serve deli, un-clothed (albeit clean) tabletops--not fine dining.

Meh, fruit is fruit. Server is putting in the same amount of effort--probably even more,
and it's still dining, granted not fine dining, but still dining.

D.A.M.H.I.K.T. ......................

#20 slkinsey

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:25 PM

The reason it's apples to oranges is that the deli employee is being paid at least the going minimum wage directly by the establishment. The restaurant server is not, and relies upon tips to make up the difference. So, in New York State, the deli employee is being paid a minimum of $7.25 an hour by the deli whereas the server is being paid $2.13 an hour by the restaurant.
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#21 heidih

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 04:27 PM

As to the server being a family member - my friends and I eat at a family owned diner once a month. We stay for a LONG time eating slowly, chatting, drinking gallons of free re-fill iced tea. Several of the waitresses are family members. They are incredibly efficient and remember our preferences. We usually tip on average 25 to 30%. We do not linger if there are folks coming in the door that would generate new business and our tables are needed.

I suppose the entire tipping concept boggles my tiny mind. Yes I appreciate that someone at the deli or even at Starbucks is extremely efficient and pleasant, but when did that sort of tipping become the norm? I have heard the oft repeated underlying premise for tipping in general but there are loads of jobs that fall into the same framework. Call me confused.

#22 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 05:25 PM

2) When the guest deduces that the server is a family member of the owner

I'm not with you on that one. I know a person who owns a small restaurant. She has a cook and one server working at any given time. During one of those shifts, her daughter is the server. She does the same work as the other servers, gets the same pay as the other servers and has the same living expenses as the other servers. Why is she less deserving of a tip based entirely on her being the owners daughter?
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#23 Dakki

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 05:34 PM


2) When the guest deduces that the server is a family member of the owner

I'm not with you on that one. I know a person who owns a small restaurant. She has a cook and one server working at any given time. During one of those shifts, her daughter is the server. She does the same work as the other servers, gets the same pay as the other servers and has the same living expenses as the other servers. Why is she less deserving of a tip based entirely on her being the owners daughter?


I think he means those are the cases when customers usually won't leave a tip, not that they're justified in not leaving a tip.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#24 Tri2Cook

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:29 PM

I think he means those are the cases when customers usually won't leave a tip, not that they're justified in not leaving a tip.

My reading comprehension has apparently abandoned me for the evening. Thanks for the clarification. :biggrin:
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#25 haresfur

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 04:30 AM

If someone orders a vegetarian pasta and gets a load of bacon in it, sure, that is a mistake. How do you know who's mistake it was? Maybe someone grabbed the wrong pasta for another person and took it to the wrong table. It happens. To summarily decide that a server doesn't deserve any tip based on a mistake like that says more about you. I chalk it up to some sort of elitist attitude.

There are mistakes and mistakes. I think a diner should be sympathetic but it isn't their responsibility to second guess the cause of a restaurant's problems. How is that elitist?

I had a similar experience as a young poor student. Took my vegetarian girl friend to a restaurant, checked with the waiter that a dish is (or could be served as - I forget exactly) vegetarian. She was served a dish with meat slices in it. We sent it back and the waiter brought the replacement - the same dish with most of the meat picked out, except for the pieces overlooked at the bottom of the plate where she discovered them while eating. Maybe not the waiter's "mistake"??? I don't care - he is our contact with the kitchen, and responsible for our service. He should have been aware of what was going on, he is the one who should be providing a proper fix for the problem once he was informed. And if it wasn't his problem he should engage management to fix the problem and smooth ruffled feathers.

Oh, and I did tip, anyway. There are few circumstances I can think of where I wouldn't leave a tip.

I think the OP asked a reasonable question that should be taken at face value. If I was seated at a table with water dripping on it I would ask to be moved. If that didn't happen, I'd probably walk out. He has reason to be annoyed if his order isn't taken in reasonable time - particularly if it is clear the place isn't that busy or that others are getting much better service.

Under the North American system, shouldn't the tip should reflect the service? It sucks for the waiter and it sucks for the customer. But overall if the service is good the waiter will do ok. Why else would the dollar value be higher at a fancy place than at a diner? Perhaps if a good waiter is working in a place that is so poorly managed that they can't present a quality meal, then they should look for work elsewhere.
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#26 patrickamory

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 09:07 AM

Under the North American system, shouldn't the tip should reflect the service?


Yes, but only to the extent that it's greater than the minimum for exceptional service, and less than the minimum for truly awful service.

95% of the time you will be leaving 20% (arguably 15% away from the coasts and Chicago), because the employers and the state assume that that amount is part of the waiter's living wage.

Edited by patrickamory, 24 July 2011 - 09:09 AM.


#27 Edward J

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 10:02 AM

[Under the North American system, shouldn't the tip should reflect the service?


This is a question that ranks up there with "What is a Chef?"

Here are my thoughts on tipping:

The guest tips a percentage of the entire bill, right? That is to say, a percentage of the entire dining experience. Now, the server works very hard, but every one in that establishment is responsible for the entire dining experience.

Doesn't make sense for me, in perfect world the tip would be split up.

But Patrickamory brings up some very good points.

Firstly, I mst declare that I never really have been to the States--other than an obligatory pilgramage to see the duck and the mouses when the kids were small.

Currently, in B.C. (British Columbia, Canada) the minimum wage is $8.25/hr. Provincial Gov't will raise this to $10.00 in the next two years, probably in two "jumps" or increases of a dollar each. There are no "minimum, minimum" wages for waiters, they get the eight bucks plus tips. With the recession, a new law on lower blood alcohol levels (.05%) and now the new minimum wage, many of the restaurants are screaming--a triple whammy. A proposal for a "minium, minimum" wage for servers that will be cheaper than the minimum wage will be given to the Provincial Gov't.

I am set dead against this, and I wrote to the lobbying group with a letter in which I made two points. The first was about tips itself, same as what I wrote in the above paragraph--the waiter can not possibly claim a percentage of the entire dining experience. The second point I made was that there are no standards--no benchmarks or qualifications for waiters, so how can you have a special wage for a singled out trade that doesn't even have standards?

#28 Jaymes

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 10:40 AM


2) When the guest deduces that the server is a family member of the owner

I'm not with you on that one. I know a person who owns a small restaurant. She has a cook and one server working at any given time. During one of those shifts, her daughter is the server. She does the same work as the other servers, gets the same pay as the other servers and has the same living expenses as the other servers. Why is she less deserving of a tip based entirely on her being the owners daughter?


There was a Chinese restaurant in our small town. It was run entirely by the family - mother, much older dad, two teenaged boys.

The dad basically hung around and did absolutely nothing, other than (very) occasional cash register duty. The mom did all the cooking and much of the cleanup and often dashed out of the kitchen and over to the cash register, while the dad sat on his rear at a corner table, reading and keeping an eagle eye on the diners. The sons waited tables and helped with cleanup.

I always tipped 20%. But very few locals (if any) other than I tipped at all. Those two boys went to our local high school and everyone knew them. They said that as soon as they got a table bussed, and picked up the tip, they had to hand it over to the parents who were about as miserly as it's possible to get.

After that got out, nobody I knew was very much in a mood to tip them. I owned a small business in that town, though, and tipped very well in local restaurants, regardless as to service, etc. Part of my marketing ploy, I figured.

Elsewhere, although I will adjust the tip based on aspects of service, the only reason I have ever not tipped at all has been because my server was not only incompetent, but surly, rude or insulting. So, no money on the table, and a word to management on my way out.

And that's only happened a very few times over the years.

Edited by Jaymes, 24 July 2011 - 10:42 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."

#29 jrshaul

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:31 AM

Here's a question for you:

What defines unacceptable service?

I'm hazarding a guess by stating that most eGullet participants have the mannerisms and appearance befitting someone of means. Regardless of your actual level of income, your speech and clothing suggest that you present an excellent investment of a waiters' time and energy.

However, this cannot be said of all diners. Patrons guilty of looking broke or foreign are given lower priority than more statistically lucrative tables, and the service is perceptibly inferior.

I'm living with my parents this summer to save money towards tuition. I find it infuriating when I receive markedly inferior service at the same restaurant, compared not only to other customers but to a visit made with my father six weeks before. This problem is especially prevalent at midpriced establishments; restaurants with high-end menus having enough professionalism to serve me regardless while the budget end of the spectrum not particularly concerned.

Am I out of line? I recognize that for the majority of my classmates, eating out means free bacon on Tuesdays at Wando's Bar. As someone who uses a lot of coupons and never orders alcohol, I'm a low-profit customer; while I do tip 20%, it's usually on a very small bill bereft of beverage or appetizer. Perhaps I do in fact perceive random accidents as intended slights, but given the visible decrease in quality of service, it's difficult to distinguish. Should I accept reduced service as the penalty for spending a third the sum of the man at the table next to me, or are my grievances justifiable?

Also, on an unrelated note: I'm not much of a journalist; for me, it's really just a hobby. However, I think I do a fairly good job of it. Despite circulation of at most a few thousand, I've made a noticeable difference in patronage at two especially remarkable establishments, and presumably created equal damage at those I've maligned. While both my praise and criticism are poorly restrained, the end result is actually read and perceived as relatively untainted by sympathy for the damned or (more commonly) the need for advertising dollars.

Edited by jrshaul, 25 July 2011 - 09:33 AM.


#30 Jaymes

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 10:21 AM

Here's a question for you:

What defines unacceptable service?

I'm hazarding a guess by stating that most eGullet participants have the mannerisms and appearance befitting someone of means. Regardless of your actual level of income, your speech and clothing suggest that you present an excellent investment of a waiters' time and energy.

However, this cannot be said of all diners. Patrons guilty of looking broke or foreign are given lower priority than more statistically lucrative tables, and the service is perceptibly inferior.

I'm living with my parents this summer to save money towards tuition. I find it infuriating when I receive markedly inferior service at the same restaurant, compared not only to other customers but to a visit made with my father six weeks before. This problem is especially prevalent at midpriced establishments; restaurants with high-end menus having enough professionalism to serve me regardless while the budget end of the spectrum not particularly concerned.

Am I out of line? I recognize that for the majority of my classmates, eating out means free bacon on Tuesdays at Wando's Bar. As someone who uses a lot of coupons and never orders alcohol, I'm a low-profit customer; while I do tip 20%, it's usually on a very small bill bereft of beverage or appetizer. Perhaps I do in fact perceive random accidents as intended slights, but given the visible decrease in quality of service, it's difficult to distinguish. Should I accept reduced service as the penalty for spending a third the sum of the man at the table next to me, or are my grievances justifiable?

Also, on an unrelated note: I'm not much of a journalist; for me, it's really just a hobby. However, I think I do a fairly good job of it. Despite circulation of at most a few thousand, I've made a noticeable difference in patronage at two especially remarkable establishments, and presumably created equal damage at those I've maligned. While both my praise and criticism are poorly restrained, the end result is actually read and perceived as relatively untainted by sympathy for the damned or (more commonly) the need for advertising dollars.


Two thoughts:

First, nobody has more of a reputation for being a poor tipper than a single old gray-haired lady pushing 70 and dining alone. That's me. And I'm on a fixed income, so rarely order extras such as appetizers, desserts, or drinks of any kind (don't routinely drink a lot of alcohol and not a fan of sodas or other sweet beverages with meals). When I perceive that my server would like to put me on the back burner (speaking figuratively, of course), I just get even more friendly and pleasantly insistent that my service be as good as anyone else's. And I tip well enough that they remember me on my next visit.

Second, I find the title of this thread to be disingenuous. After reading your initial question, subsequent posts and questions, it appears to me that you are not so much interested in our opinions as you are in proving your own.

Which seems to be that it's okay to publicly malign a restaurant for what you, rightly or wrongly, have decided must be intentionally insulting service because you are a college student.

Edited by Jaymes, 25 July 2011 - 10:58 AM.

"And you, you're just a stinker."