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Do You Say Something Or Not?


PLangfordJr
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Aha!  a relatively financially successful server, great to know it can happen.

So would you attribute your success more to:

A) working 40+ hours a week at a busy place and being careful with your income

or

B) chasing down living-in-the-'50s-octogenarians, clueless foreigners, and the unrepentantly cheap to try to get an extra six bucks after they left only 9%?

I would attribute it to both, actually, although I never confront guests directly about tips. As I said before, the managers do this on a regular basis at my place of employment, and the policy works very well, and not just for an extra six bucks here or there.

I've seen a number of different reactions to this policy, and contrary to the expectations in this thread, most often the patron does not choose to get angry, storm out and never return. In some cases, the person who paid the bill is looked at in disbelief by his friends who say, "Dude, do you really not know that's a bad tip?" or something to that effect, after which they have a good laugh and someone from the group chips in the difference to make up a proper tip. Or sometimes foreigners admit that they've been feigning ignorance of tipping in America just to save a few bucks now and then.

One time, a father with his family expressed shock at being confronted about a tip, since he swore that he had left a reasonable tip. At that point, the teenaged daughter reached into her pocket and pulled out a $20, admitting that she had slipped it off the table as they were leaving the restaurant. I'm sure she was embarrassed, but dishonest behavior should be embarrassing, frankly.

This whole discussion seems moot, really. Everyone here seems to think the policy at my place of work is outrageous, so clearly I'm not going to convince anyone, and yet I see this policy work beautifully over and over again, all the time. The end result is that I work in a restaurant where far more often than not, people tip at least 15-20%, so that it really is out of concern for the state of service when someone leaves a shocking and out of the ordinary tip less than 10%. And the restaurant is enormously successful and popular, having been there for over 30 years, going on a wait for every single meal period served during that time. People don't want to get kicked out of this restaurant (Holly Moore aside), and so they want to behave in a manner that will ensure that they will be welcome there in the future. It is literally one of the most profitable pieces of real estate in Atlanta per square foot of space in the building.

So OK, I lose, you win. You're all right and I'm wrong. I'd still much rather have the situation where I work right now than win a pointless argument on the Internet.

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So OK, I lose, you win. You're all right and I'm wrong. I'd still much rather have the situation where I work right now than win a pointless argument on the Internet.

It's not about winning or losing.

Don't get all butt hurt.

And if it's so pointless, why have you invested so much time and emotion over it?

In your situation, with the policy clearly explained on the menu, then it is acceptable for Management to question the customer in the manner in which you laid out.

That doesn't translate into a server being able to do the same, especially in an establishment that doesn't clearly explain that particular restaurant's policy.

I know that in CA (not sure about elsewhere), the IRS operates under the assumption you are making 8%.

That is all that many servers claim, regardless of their actual tipped income.

As long as those servers are recieving the 8% they are claiming, they shouldn't whine.

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Servers shouldn't chase down and berate crappy tippers, even though it could be terribly fun to do so. I have, however, commented on a zilch tip on a big bill, and it has always turned out to be a drunken oversight or miscommunication. I have also double-checked with customers who have left exceedingly large tips.

As has already been noted, FOH workers take the good with the bad, see the big picture, hope it all evens out. It usually does, and there's the key: the fact that it does even out means that the majority of customers ARE tipping 15-20%. Not just our fellow servers and bartenders, not just rich people.. depending on the restaurant, maybe 95% of regular folks tip appropriately. To choose not to tip is ethically exactly the same, as Philadining said, as not stuffing your dollar into the coffee fund jar at the office. Everybody else is doing it because it's part of a trusting understanding we have, so it's not really one's prerogative to abstain. For whatever reason, customers are entrusted with the responsibility of tipping, and just because no one is there slapping you on the wrist for a stingy gratuity doesn't mean it's not compulsory.

A lame tip is quite a personal affront and show of disrespect, because the expectation is made so clear in our culture. I don't think US restaurants should print the expected gratuity on the bottom of the menu to clarify the "contract" with the customer.. leaving 15-20% is expected and normal. including a set gratuity is not expected and normal in the US, and THAT should be printed on a menu if it is the case.

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It may be the system in some parts of the US, but not in most of the civilised world.

A polite notice of explanation would make the system a lot more legitimate Strictly that notice should be displayed with the menu outside so that it forms part of the contract.

All of the US. And every country has their own way of doing things, in the US, tipping is an understood part of dining out anywhere but some place that is counter service. If you don't like the system by all means open your own place, pay your servers what you consider a fair wage, and encourage customers not to leave tips. Until then remember the fact it is part of the price of dining out.

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I used to work with a bartender who, when a large bill was met with a tip left in change, would occasionally pick it up and throw it at the customer on his (the customer's) way out the door.

Ah, the old days...

"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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We have a long-time line cook who works in our restaurant during the day, and in the evenings he works front of the house at a fine dining Italian restaurant on the north side of town. He is capable of doing both jobs, he speaks enough English to do both jobs and he is aware of the difference in pay rate for the two. Still, he likes working in the kitchen at my restaurant because back there he doesn't have to put up with the guests. Having worked every position that there is to work in a restaurant, I see his point.

Some of our other cooks would not be able to work as servers because their English skills are not good enough, or in some cases, their personalities simply would be disastrous if they were allowed to mingle with the guests. We also have a dishwasher who has worked for the company for a very long time who would be unable to be a server because he cannot read or write. He has many friends who help him out, and I'm certain many people would help him to learn to read, but he clearly doesn't want to, nor does he have any desire to be out on the floor dealing with guests.

So are you saying that because you need to have literally the most basic skills known to man, you should get more as a server? I mean, honestly, citing the necessity to be able to read and write as justification for higher pay? Give me a break.

Edited by whatsaMcGee (log)
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So are you saying that because you need to have literally the most basic skills known to man, you should get more as a server?  I mean, honestly, citing the necessity to be able to read and write as justification for higher pay?  Give me a break.

I have more than once stated my objection to tipping (although I do tip 15-20% on average and yes, I have worked as a server), but to say that you need "literally the most basic skills known to man" to be a server is in my opinion, incorrect. To be a good server[/g], you also need a high level of people skills--you need to be able to read your customer, buffer and resolve complaints, etc. etc. Those can be difficult skills to develop, and many many people in this world do not possess them at all.

But does being a server mean a person already making minimum wage should make 15+% in addition to their base wage while those in similar positions (retail sales) don't get tips? I don't think so. For those working in states paying less than minimum wage, then sure.

As for chasing down customers who don't leave good tips, it's wrong to do so if your intent is to ridicule them or make them feel embarrassed or bad. I think that just makes the server look bad as a person in addition to as a server.

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So are you saying that because you need to have literally the most basic skills known to man, you should get more as a server?  I mean, honestly, citing the necessity to be able to read and write as justification for higher pay?  Give me a break.

But does being a server mean a person already making minimum wage should make 15+% in addition to their base wage while those in similar positions (retail sales) don't get tips? I don't think so. For those working in states paying less than minimum wage, then sure.

Those in retail sales must make at least minimum wage, though. Servers are the exception, because they get tips.

I think the point that many are missing is that, while servers may not get more than minimum wage from the restaurant itself, they often end up making much more as a result of tips. Waiting tables is often a very lucrative alternative to working at McDonald's or pushing carts at the grocery store.

I can understand the argument that the pay lacks stability, and for the people concerned about this, it's valid to fight for more stability. However, unlike many other countries, waiting tables here is not treated with the level of respect afforded other professions. Waiting is generally regarded as a low-skill position, and while that may or may not be true, depending on the venue, it is nonetheless an obstacle to overcome in the fight for more stable pay.

All that said, I think it is ridiculous to tip poorly unless a waiter failed to perform basic duties, such as bringing your food in a reasonable period of time, checking at least once to see if everything's ok, or possessing a basic level of courtesy. I feel very strongly that a tip is an expected compensation, which is only to be denied when the waiter hasn't performed the job they're to be compensated for.

Having never been on the flip side, I think it's unacceptable to chase someone down for a tip, and morally reprehensible to allow a customer to leave what is obviously a mistakenly large tip. However, I can say that I'm sure it would throw me into a rage if a customer left a tiny tip after perfectly good service.

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People should tip.  They should base their tip on service. 

Servers or management should never, no matter how tactfully, inquire about a low or missing tip. 

Bad math happens.  Both ways.  Breaths there a server with soul so true that he will chase down a diner who screwed up the math and left a fifty percent tip?

Holly:

I've certainly checked with a customer that left a HUGE tip before, most particularly if the check had a gratuity already added for a large group or party (although truthfully, I'd likely have pointed that out when the check was dropped to avoid confusion in the first place) and to make certain that any excess left was intentional. And I agree bad math works both ways, but almost inevitably, DRUNK math works against the servers, not for them. I speak from much experience on the latter example.

So you really don't think there's any polite way to inquire about a low or missing tip? Not even a sincere and not-loaded-with-sarcasm, "Was everything satisfactory this evening, Sir??" Is it because the customer might accidentally back themselves into a corner and say "Yes, of course. Why do you ask?" and the server/manager/whomever would have to answer with "well, the gratuity would seem to indicate you were somehow displeased with your experience here...", leading to the uncomfortable standoff? Or do you just object to asking directly about a low or missing tip? Not sure what your aversion to inquiring under any circumstances is. Please clarify that for me, if you would. I feel I might be misunderstanding your intent on this issue.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

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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If you were to ask me, which is unlikely, I would politely explain that while the tipping system may be locally widespread, and your service perfectly adequate, it is not my responsiblity if the restaurant choses to under pay you; it is a matter for you and your management. I support honesty in advertising and am happy to pay any advertised price. Indeed I tendered the amount on the bill as I am legally required, and no more.

If you are an independent contractor supplying server services direct to the customer I would have been happy to negotiate the fee for such services before the meal, but I understand you are on the restaurant's payroll with duties as a server.

Further since the practice of not reporting the full amount of tips to the IRS is widespread you are asking me to collude in tax fraud, which is a felony offence.

If your case is that you plead poverty and are begging, then I can reccomend several charities.

We will then no doubt have a flaming row and shouting match, including your manager and several other patrons, to the amusement of all.

Restaurant patrons of the US stand up for your rights! Support honesty in advertising and proper wages! Stop acquiesence in this dishonest, immoral and possibly criminal system!

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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....

Holly:

I've certainly checked with a customer that left a HUGE tip before, most particularly if the check had a gratuity already added for a large group or party (although truthfully, I'd likely have pointed that out when the check was dropped to avoid confusion in the first place) and to make certain that any excess left was intentional.  And I agree bad math works both ways, but almost inevitably, DRUNK math works against the servers, not for them.  I speak from much experience on the latter example.

So you really don't think there's any polite way to inquire about a low or missing tip?  Not even a sincere and not-loaded-with-sarcasm, "Was everything satisfactory this evening, Sir??"  Is it because the customer might accidentally back themselves into a corner and say "Yes, of course. Why do you ask?" and the server/manager/whomever would have to answer with "well, the gratuity would seem to indicate you were somehow displeased with your experience here...", leading to the uncomfortable standoff?  Or do you just object to asking directly about a low or missing tip?  Not sure what your aversion to inquiring under any circumstances is.  Please clarify that for me, if you would.  I feel I might be misunderstanding your intent on this issue.

Katie,

It all boils down to hospitality and the server's responsibility to provide guests with as pleasant an experience as the server can. Questioning, no matter how subtly, why a tip is low or missing, is just plain rude and unprofessional.

Neither the server nor the floor manager should need to ask, even sincerely, "Was everything satisfactory this evening Sir?" They should know all along if the customer's experience was anything but excellent and they should have already zeroed in on improving the experience or atoning for it.

Cheap customers, mean customers, percentage-calculating-impaired customers, ignorant customers, poor customers, militant anti-tipping customers all happen. Sometimes they were born and raised that way; sometimes they are just having a bad day. No matter how skillful the no/low tip confrontation the customer's experience will be diminished. The vast majority of confronted customers will leave angry, embarrassed or feeling guilty. They might make a scene in the restaurant. They might make bad-mouthing your restaurant their raison de etre. In New Jersey they might shoot the server. There are few happy endings to confronting a customer about a low or missing tip.

Any savvy server knows that in the course of a day, week or month that there are going to be guests who leave little or no tip. It goes with the territory. Accept it, complain to fellow servers, and move on. Such customers are the exception, and the rounded up tips that end up at 25 or 30 percent that are left by many customers easily balance things out.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I've been following this thread since it began, and I think there isn't going to be any end to the debate, but after Holly's reply, I couldn't help but wonder:

Has anyone here ever been asked about this?

Have you, as a customer, left a tip you thought was fine, and then been asked? What happened? What did you do? Why do you still remember it? Is it because you were embarrassed at having left a small tip or because you felt the shame of being called on it? Or did it serve to educate you that your tipping practice was out of date?

As a customer, if my experience is less than satisfactory during the meal, it's my job to let the server know so my experience can be improved. If I don't tell them, but pretend that everything is "just fine" then give them a small tip, how does that help them not repeat the offending behavior if it was the server that is contributing to my less than satisfactory experience?

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I've been following this thread since it began, and I think there isn't going to be any end to the debate, but after Holly's reply, I couldn't help but wonder:

Has anyone here ever been asked about this? 

Have you, as a customer, left a tip you thought was fine, and then been asked?  What happened?  What did you do?  Why do you still remember it? Is it because you were embarrassed at having left a small tip or because you felt the shame of being called on it?  Or did it serve to educate you that your tipping practice was out of date?

As a customer, if my experience is less than satisfactory during the meal, it's my job to let the server know so my experience can be improved.  If I don't tell them, but pretend that everything is "just fine" then give them a small tip, how does that help them not repeat the offending behavior if it was the server that is contributing to my less than satisfactory experience?

I have, on occasion, intentionally left a poor, very poor, or no, tip. I have never been confronted about it, even subtly. I never expected to be, either, because I always figured that when the server thought about it, he or she would know exactly why. And would neither need, nor want, to hear it again from me.

In fact, I think just the opposite. They were in a hurry for me to leave and would have done nothing to hinder that. The last thing they wanted would be to receive a loud, indignant and attention-drawing explanation from me.

But again, I don't leave a poor tip for no reason. And I often leave a large tip partly because I am usually a woman dining alone. I know we get a bad rep, and I want to do my bit to disprove that stereotype.

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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A bit more insight, Katie.

Maybe 10 years ago I had lunch at the Italian restaurant at 17th and Lombard, Bistro La Baia. It was my first time.

I end up with a waiter who seemed to resent my presence. I don't know if it was because I was a table for one, I ordered only a plate of pasta (no beverage, dessert, or app), or that he considered me too Plebeian for restaurant and his efforts. He gave me attitude the whole time. The check came to around $10.50 including sales tax. I left $1.75 and headed home.

I was halfway down 17th to South when I heard steps running towards me and, "Sir, Sir." I turned to see my server and wondered what I had forgotten.

"Here Sir, you need this more than I do." He handed me back my $1.75. Stunned, I took the money saying something like, "You sure?" One of those occasions where five minutes later I came up with a dozen better retorts.

What I did do was call the restaurant when I got home and ask to speak to the owner. He wasn't in. Later that day I stopped by, again asking for the owner. The waiter was still there and ignored me. I left my card with the maitre d' and asked that the owner give me a call. He never did.

Over the past 10 years I have cost that restaurant a lot of business - both from me and friends heading out elsewhere and by bad-mouthing the place whenever given the opportunity. They opened up a second restaurant a half block from my old business - the closest restaurant to it and I never ate there and steered my customers away from it. When I drive by La Baia in the evening I take glee if I see they are less than half full. It is the only restaurant that I have wanted to see fail.

My holding a grudge for ten years speaks volumes about my psyche and maturity. I should have gotten over it long ago and should never wish such bad things on a restaurant. But I still do and am always happy to tell this tale.

Writing this I got curious and checked out their reviews on City Search. There seems to be a common thread concerning service and ownership.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly:

Well that explains a lot, doesn't it? I can see how that experience might leave a really bad taste in your mouth, both literally and figuratively. I'm really more surprised by the lack of proactive response from upper management. But perhaps the waiter is an S.O.B. (Son of Boss) or a cousin or something. You'd think he'd have to be to get away with such blatant disrespect and such a sense of entitlement.

For what it's worth, I've never eaten at La Baia, and now I most certainly never will. That guy gives the rest of us working stiffs in this town a bad name. No big shock that there's a common (bad) service experience there.

Now if you could just help me understand the perverse intransigent digging in of heels of those who insist that not tipping appropriately/customarily will somehow change the system through the force of sheer will, our work will be done. :smile:

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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Now if you could just help me understand the perverse intransigent digging in of heels of those who insist that not tipping appropriately/customarily will somehow change the system through the force of sheer will, our work will be done.  :smile:

It will change if enough customers want it to, and are fed up with not paying the advertised price.

If enough people, the people reading this for example, make a fuss, then the media will pick it up and the snowball start. Soon servers will complain to their management that they are not getting paid, and hey presto notices advising of service charges (an easy change) will rapidly appear... Of course these may well be in excess of the 8% IRS assumption

I remember not that long ago 10% was the standard tip. Who decided it was 20%? Where next? 25%? 33%? 50%? Why is it a fixed percentage anyway? It takes no more to serve a $200 bottle of wine than a $20 one.

We can change the system

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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If you were to ask me, which is unlikely, I would politely explain that while the tipping system may be locally widespread, and your service perfectly adequate, it is not my responsiblity if  the restaurant choses to under pay you; it is a matter for you and your management. I support honesty in advertising and am happy to pay any advertised price. Indeed I tendered the amount on the bill as I am legally required, and no more.

If you are an independent contractor supplying server services direct to the customer I would have been happy to negotiate the fee for such services before the meal,  but  I understand you are on the restaurant's payroll with duties as a server.

Further since the practice of not reporting the full amount of tips to the IRS is widespread you are asking me to collude in tax fraud, which is a felony offence.

If your case is that you plead poverty and are begging, then I can reccomend several charities.

We will then no doubt have a flaming row and shouting match, including your manager and several other patrons, to the amusement of all.

Restaurant patrons of the US stand up for your rights! Support honesty in advertising and proper wages! Stop acquiesence in this dishonest, immoral and possibly criminal system!

You're clearly just rationalizing your own cheapness, and it's a little sad.

More to the point, what's the difference between you leaving a tip and having menu prices be 20% higher? Why is one more honest, moral and legal than the other? At the French Laundry, they build an 18% service charge into the menu. It certainly didn't make my meal and less expensive or more enjoyable.

Save a small handful of tourists and rubes, everyone in America knows that a tip is expected. Your refusal to leave one is intellectually dishonest and your attempt to wrap yourself in a higher cause ludicrous.

Edited by Busboy (log)

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Thinking about the government.

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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.

I really think that this is a very good opinion. It is a different approach to resolving the issue of tipping all together. It also raises questions to the real reason behind a tip driven pay incentive. Obviously it is, in a way, an ideal plan to cut labor expense of the business. It is an easier approach to place the responsibility on the servers and expect to have a high employee turn-over rate than it would be to create an environment where the servers would appreciate the environment enough to take ownership and help support it on their own.

I have had several experiences that have been very disappointing, and I find that being tipped without a proper pay incentive is depressing enough. I would rather work at a place where I was paid in anticipation and trust that I would have good work ethics.

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Katie, I'm very sorry that the industry is the way it is, however, I don't think I as a customer am required to make up your wages.  If tipping is voluntary, then it is voluntary.  There are those who will tip and those who won't.  You do the job because you love it, that's great. 

But VOLUNTARY is the key word here.  If the industry continues to not want to pay a decent wage to their staff then maybe there needs to be an organized effort to get it to do so.  If the industry wants the customer to make up the difference, then start adding service charge of 15-20% to the bill and make that known on the menu.

Then people will not have to tip, it's included up front, and the industry doesn't have to pay you anymore money.  And call it what it is, a service charge.  And then no one should complain when people don't give extra over that required amount.

Marlene, my point is that it really ISN'T voluntary.

If it isn't listed on the menu then it is indeed voluntary.

It is a bad system that needs to be changed!

Do you need a note at the bottom of the menu that says, "Please use the bathrooms. Do not defecate in the soup bowls..."?? Not taking food off the plates of the people at the next table isn't printed on the menu. Not spitting water at your tablemates isn't either. But it's "customary and expected", just like the tip, unless the service was poor enough to warrant a conversation with the manager.

you know, what I find most interesting here is that there are so many people who seem to think that they don't have to live up to social customary expectations, and then turn their backs to criticize it after having used the service to their advantage.

The womans opinions about the voluntary tipping is true, but social and cultural standards govern the livelihood of the poorest to the richest, and if you can't respect an individuals morals and standards, then you shouldn't intermingle or use their services.

Furthermore, it makes no sense to support an establishment that supports a corrupted industry standard. Those who say and believe that it is wrong, should seek out establishments where managers support their staff and no tip is expected. Placing the responsibility of changing industry standards and customer's expectations solely on the servers is an inadequate approach. Diners, Managers, and Servers need to support the ideal working environment. That is the only solution that I see to this problem.

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