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Do You Say Something Or Not?


PLangfordJr
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I've been going back and forth with my staff over past few months on an issue, and I wanted get some opinions to check my way of thinking.

If a table leaves a less than average/normal tip (say 10%) on an experience that was what they expected, or possibly even better than what they expected, is it better to question the guest if everything was alright with the meal, or do not say anything at all? If they say everything was alright, do you then call them out on why they left such a small tip?

My opinion is that for the small tips left behind, you will always get those who leave generous tips....it all evens out in the end.

I am not one for calling out a guest on this, as I do not want to offend someone to the point that they will not come back. Unfortunately, there are people out there who might tip below what others will (usually those who've never worked in the restaurant industry) and from the house's point of view, it's better to have return to have another meal and leave another small tip, than never to return again.

Does anyone share my opinion? Disagree? I'd love to hear some horror stories or other points of view.

thx

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Asking if they enjoyed the meal/experience = good.

Asking why they were cheap with the tip = bad... bad to the point that a server that worked for me would suddenly find themselves unemployed for doing so.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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From the tipper's pov:

If my experience is poor, I tell the manager. I would not tip. I would not engage the server. I don't want to have a fight. This happens very, very rarely, that I don't tip well.

If my experience is good, I tip well. 25%, rounded up. Having bt,dt in the my black pants and apron, I would never want to be a crappy customer for a hard working waiter. I have also tipped well for good service, and then complained to the manager over some other aspect of my experience. It's not the wait person's fault when the kitchen, or other customers, or whatever, ruins my meal.

If a server chased me down and asked me, I would never ever go back. Ever.

And if you can't afford to tip, don't go out.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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Absolutely not. We have a restaurant in town that's been known to follow people down the street and into other businesses to find out why they tipped so low. The fact that they did that answers the question in my book. If the customer wants to tell you, and you've made it possible for them to (a friendly manager, attentive serve, comment cards), then they will.

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Once (my first 'real' serving job) I followed a guest--one who had been quite demanding, changing each side on every entree, letting her children play with the bread basket [and subsequently asking for more bread after they had molded toys from the first], sending wine back to the bar several times--after she had left the coins left from her paying the bill as my tip. There had been four guests, not including the children, and I received less than a dollar for my time. At the time, was considered one of the best waiters in the house (I can still make this claim 12 years later) and asked if the service or food was bad. "Not at all," was the reply, "we had a great time." Well, I told them, if they were going to be demanding, have a good time, and leave a terrible tip, they should never come back, since no one would wait on them.

It didn't help that several off-duty servers, out of uniform and drinking on our patio, yelled at her, "He said don't come the f*** back!"

The next morning, I found out that she was the local paper's restaurant reviewer, and a friend of our owners (twin brothers, I'll mention).

Last shift I worked there.

No matter how bad they were, though, I still know that I was wrong.

Felt really good, though.

Bartender @ Balliceaux, Richmond, Va

"An Irish Lie is just as good as the truth."

- Egan Dean, Table 6 cook

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If the local restaurant reviewer doesn't know better than:

a) to tip properly because they're getting reimbursed for it

b) to tip the staff properly at a supposed friend's restaurant

then you did her a service pointing out her shortcomings. Allowing the children to play with their food in that manner is appalling enough. Less than a dollar? Ridiculous and just insulting. You confronted her in a calm voice and with reasonable and valid points. The waiters that were yelling at her were the ones that should have been fired.

I'll bet it felt good....

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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A tip, at least here, is voluntary.

If it is not voluntary it should be included in the price or clearly stated as a service charge on the menu.

Personally I think restaurants, like better clubs, should pay staff properly, charge honestly to cover the cost and not expect tips. I hate having the staff beg.

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Once (my first 'real' serving job) I followed a guest--one who had been quite demanding, changing each side on every entree, letting her children play with the bread basket [and subsequently asking for more bread after they had molded toys from the first], sending wine back to the bar several times--after she had left the coins left from her paying the  bill as my tip. There had been four guests, not including the children, and I received less than a dollar for my time. At the time, was considered one of the best waiters in the house (I can still make this claim 12 years later) and asked if the service or food was bad. "Not at all," was the reply, "we had a great time." Well, I told them, if they were going to be demanding, have a good time, and leave a terrible tip, they should never come back, since no one would wait on them.

It didn't help that several off-duty servers, out of uniform and drinking on our patio, yelled at her, "He said don't come the f*** back!"

The next morning, I found out that she was the local paper's restaurant reviewer, and a friend of our owners (twin brothers, I'll mention).

Last shift I worked there.

No matter how bad they were, though, I still know that I was wrong.

Felt really good, though.

I'll bet it felt good!!

So, did she ever write about the experience or what? :wink:

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The next morning, I found out that she was the local paper's restaurant reviewer, and a friend of our owners (twin brothers, I'll mention).

Is she one of those "pretend" restaurant reviewers like in my local papers? Everyone knows who they are, they post their faces on their column, and they basically talk up the food without actually doing any real criticism (e.g., "The Veal Parm was lovely!"). Seriously, how can you even pretend to write an unbiased review when you're friends with the owner? And what real reviewer would make their presence so conspicuous by not leaving a tip. Hell, you should be writing an article about her!

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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A friend of mine was a waitress here in NYC. A problem in cosmopolitan cities in the U.S. is that some foreign tourists just don't get the whole tip thing.

If a customer shorted one of the waitresses at the restaurant, they'd assume this was the case. One of the other waitstaff would follow them onto the street, and ask sincerely if there was any trouble with the meal. If the patron said no, the waiter would explain, "oh, I was worried that there was a problem. Perhaps you didn't know, but in the U.S. servers get paid by tip, and if it's less than X% we assume you were dissatisfied. We want to make sure everything's ok." Usually this would result in the patron returning, leaving a real tip, and thanking the staff for the education.

Notes from the underbelly

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Usually this would result in the patron returning, leaving a real tip, and thanking the staff for the education.

Nope, still not acceptable. I guess I'm just an ass.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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A friend of mine was a waitress here in NYC. A problem in cosmopolitan cities in the U.S. is that some foreign tourists just don't get the whole tip thing.

If a customer shorted one of the waitresses at the restaurant, they'd assume this was the case. One of the other waitstaff would follow them onto the street, and  ask sincerely if there was any trouble with the meal. If the patron said no, the waiter would explain, "oh, I was worried that there was a problem. Perhaps you didn't know, but in the U.S. servers get paid by tip, and if it's less than X% we assume you were dissatisfied. We want to make sure everything's ok." Usually this would result in the patron returning, leaving a real tip, and thanking the staff for the education.

Let me assure you that if anyone chased my dad out onto the street and harangued him for a bigger tip, it's the staff that would get an "education."

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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A tip, at least here, is voluntary.

If it is not voluntary it should be included in the price or clearly stated as a service charge on the menu.

Personally I think restaurants, like better clubs, should pay staff properly, charge honestly to cover the cost and not expect tips. I hate having the staff beg.

This is absolutely correct. It IS voluntary. And the restauranteurs are the ones in charge. They created this system. Anytime they don't like it, they can change it.

But until they do, it IS UP TO THE CUSTOMER how much to tip. People that don't like it should either figure out a way to change the system or go find another line of work.

And I speak as someone that has waited tables, and had three children, all of whom also waited tables at one time or another. It's not the customers' job to set your restaurant's policy. It's the restaurant's job to set policy and the customer's job to follow it.

And right now, a tip is "voluntary," which means voluntary. And as long as it is voluntary, sometimes it's going to be a nice big fat tip. And sometimes it ain't.

You don't like it? You want 20% all the time? Then institute a service charge so that the policy is clear. I can tell you that in the restaurants where I and my kids worked, every time management said they were going to have a flat service charge, the waitstaff said they didn't want one. They were afraid, and probably rightly, that the big fat tips would disappear and that the net result would be a lower overall income.

I guess taking the good part of any job for granted, and grumbling about the drawbacks is just human nature. But chasing customers out into the street? Unforgiveable.

Let me ask you this. Have you ever been given a really big tip that you honestly didn't think you particularly deserved? Maybe they were drunk. Maybe they were flirty. Maybe it was their birthday and they were feeling generous. But you really did nothing above and beyond your usual standard of service in order to "deserve" such a large tip.

Tell me, did you manage to resist the urge to follow the customer out onto the sidewalk and return some of it?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm going to agree with Jaymes on this one. I don't know about everywhere else, but in California, the state that I most frequently dine out in, waitpeople are paid the state minimum wage (the same minimum wage that other types of employees get), and tips are extra.

So the "poor me, my wages are mostly from tips" doesn't fly with me.

Cheryl

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I don't know about everywhere else, but in California, the state that I most frequently dine out in, waitpeople are paid the state minimum wage (the same minimum wage that other types of employees get), and tips are extra.

I was just in San Francisco and saw small, small print at the bottom of the menu that the meal would include a mandatory 3% tax, which is used for uninsured restaurant's medical expenses (stated it was California law). So -- we had 18% tip plus a 3% surcharge -- 21% no matter if service was good/bad/indifferent/whatever.

Edited by PopsicleToze (log)
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I totally agree that chasing someone out to their car for a tip is very bad behavior. But considering an $8.00 minimum wage and a 37.5 hour week, that person's gross pay is $15,600 before taxes. The US poverty line for one person with no dependents was $14,840 in 2008. It's true that not all a server's income is from tips, but without tips you are living at or below poverty.

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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I totally agree that chasing someone out to their car for a tip is very bad behavior. But considering an $8.00 minimum wage and a 37.5 hour week, that person's gross pay is $15,600 before taxes. The US poverty line for one person with no dependents was $14,840 in 2008. It's true that not all a server's income is from tips, but without tips you are living at or below poverty.

I don't think anyone is arguing that, under our current system anyway, servers shouldn't be well-tipped. I'm pretty sure we all agree that they should be. I certainly do.

I think the issue being discussed here is what is the proper behavior when a server doesn't receive the tip they think they deserve.

I think that like any job, when things don't go as you'd like, rather than be rude and confrontational, you keep smiling, keep working, take the good with the bad, and hope for better next time.

And as soon as you decide that the bad outweighs the good, find another line of work.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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From a customer's point of view: I think you can ask if the service was OK, as they are leaving. Sometimes people have forgotten to leave a tip or done the math wrong. I have been in parties where someone said they were leaving a tip and didn't, or left a truly lousy one. And, there are those individuals who will take money from a stack left on the table by their own party, either because they misunderstood the math of how the tab was divided, didn't agree with the tip, or because they are really that dishonest. Our group was once confronted by a server; one member, who had taken the money off the table, ponied up quickly but in a way that suggested to me that this is something she habitually does. Horrible thing to find out about that person but I'm still glad we were asked.

Don't mention about the tip. If someone doesn't get what you are driving at, it was likely not one of those types of screw up.

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Let me assure you that if anyone chased my dad out onto the street and harangued him for a bigger tip, it's the staff that would get an "education."

And why might your dad have chosen not to tip?

If he's actually unhappy with the service, than the waiter in the street would be giving him a chance to say so. If he truly doesn't understand tipping, then he's getting a chance to make things right. And if he's just an asshole, then what education, exactly, does he have to offer?

Notes from the underbelly

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Let me assure you that if anyone chased my dad out onto the street and harangued him for a bigger tip, it's the staff that would get an "education."

And why might your dad have chosen not to tip?

If he's actually unhappy with the service, than the waiter in the street would be giving him a chance to say so. If he truly doesn't understand tipping, then he's getting a chance to make things right. And if he's just an asshole, then what education, exactly, does he have to offer?

They would receive an education as to who is the greater asshole: an 89 year-old man that is a guest in their establishment, and has been told all his life that tipping is VOLUNTARY and does not expect to be coerced or bullied into leaving one, and who was told all his life that 10% is appropriate and believes it still to be.

Or some jerk that has run out into the street to tell him it's not.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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i cannot imagine a situation where i'd find it appropriate for a server to "call out" a customer about the size of a tip.

For every bad tipper walking to the parking lot, there is a good tipper walking in the door. I've been in situations where tipping is a big part of your livelihood, and found that it (usually) all balances out in the end.

Oh, and remember what happened to that server on The Sopranos who chased Ralph and Chris out to the parking lot to complain about a tip. Poor fellow got shot for his trouble. :huh:

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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We were having a similar discussion about casinos last night - I worked paying off jackpots for a half year. I generally got lots of thanks and hugs, but few tips. Others took home heavy tips every night. I never figured out the system, just gave everyone my best smile and service and took home my little paycheck and a few bucks extra.

There was a quiet old regular that everyone avoided after never being tipped. I gave him the same service week after week. When he hit a couple of good payoffs in one week, guess who was there with a smile and congrats? Guess who got the biggest tip of the summer? It usually works out in the end.

It's unfortunate that the IRS has to make assumptions about how much servers are tipped - it's where the voluntary part of tipping becomes a bit more of an issue. I somehow doubt anyone is really paying tax on more than they receive, but it is a real possibility unless the rules have changed.

There is also the rare occasion when I only have cash on me unknowingly and the bill is just a little short of my funds. I think this led to undertipping twice. But I told the server my mistake and made it up later. Someone else might be embarrassed to do that.

To answer the original question - if you see the poor tip in time to ask if everything was alright before they hit the door, fine, but don't mention the tip. You never know the circumstances behind it and you've given them a chance to rectify IF they are so inclined. No way would I confront a customer other than if they were trying to skip out on a bill.

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