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February 04, 2011


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I will tip less only when the waiter/waitress deserve it. While I understand tipping is a large part of their salary, that does not give license for the waiter/waitress to offer bad service and still expect a decent tip. I agree if you are being given bad service, you should make it clear with the offender, or the manager, so that you are being upfront. This way, a poor tip, especially if the waiter/waitress doesn't make up for the bad service, should not be a surprise. However, I would like to note that I will leave a tip if the reason for the bad service is not the fault of the waitress/waiter. I do not blame them for slow service (if they make a point of recognizing it's slow) and if the food is bad (if they make a point of taking it back/improving the situation).

Wow, FMF, you seem a bit "peeved" lately! First the whine about Sears and now this. Must be the weather...

I'm afraid that I'm a restaurant's worst nightmare if I get bad service. I don't say anything, I tip lower than normal--around 10%, and then I leave and never go back.

I go out to have fun and enjoy myself with friends. I'm not there to do their customer training or feedback for them. If figure if the restaurant owners are so clueless that they don't even notice they have a terrible server, the who knows what the sanitation in the kitchen is like?

I can't believe tips have been so standardized to have no meaning anymore other than a strange way to split salary with the owner of the place. I dont think people are sending a message when they 'only' tip 10% for the lousy service at the expensive restaraunt and then tip 20% for the great service at my very inexpensive (and tasty) local diner. That works out to a bigger tip for the lousy service (and bad deal) at the expensive place for the same service performed. If I pay $100 for dinner and the service is lousy, I dont tip (and still feel quite ripped off). Yes, that person may be having a bad night, and if thats the case their good nights will more than make up for slight.

At my local diner, where I amazingly can get a huge breakfast for 2 for $10, and the staff is like family, it only makes sense to leave a tip equal to the bill. My tips have very little to do with the bill, so even stating it as a percentage is weird (0-200% is I guess the range)

BUT WARNING - Not tipping the garbage man is different. You can't take your business elsewhere and those guys have good memories.

There is a risk in complaining to the server. People in the business will tell you how they spit in the food or do other things when they have "problem" customers. That is one reason why I would lower the tip. Second, why pay someone a full tip when they did not do the job right. If we hired someone to mow the yard and they only completed half the yard, would we pay the full amount? Not me.

I have problems when people saying we should give a decent tip because their job only pays minimum wages. I would like to see how figures support it. I don't agree the tip should be based on how much you eat. If I order expensive meals doesn't mean the server needs to do more work to serve me than cheaper meals.

They may be making minimum wages but tips are on top of it. Even in a normal restaurant, just about 30 minutes, they can make additional about 2 to 5 dollars from tips per each person per table. Do a calculation.

There are many people who have good education and experience but couldn't find a full-time job and making even less of minimum wage. And even though people have a better-than-minimum-wage job, doesn't mean they can afford decent tips to servers.

I would say to give whatever amount you feel comfortable based on the service and your financial situation.

IF someone decides to work as a waiter, or any other business where your meat and potatoes are service tips, you should not expect to get a good tip even if you provide a rubbish service.

Want a tip? Work for it. It's not hard. Take the order in a timely manner, refill drinks as needed... It's hard to give someone a reason to want to stiff you.

I wish the whole tip thing was just done away with.

If the waitress is obviously trying, but is just stuck with too many tables to manage, then I cut her a break. (Not her fault if someone called in sick.)

If the food is bad, I don't blame the waitress either.

In the case of your buffet, I would have been tempted to just leave a dollar too. However, even in the worst cases, I almost always leave at least 10 percent. (I leave 20-25 for good-great service).

i agree with KH. i am not there to provide a review of their service or tell the manager or cook or anyone how to do his or her job better. i am there for a meal. if a restaurant is relying on customers to review its service and quality, it has a problem from the start.

I ALWAYS leave a tip -- otherwise they may think you just forgot -- but I've once gone as small as $0.01 left through my credit card. I sent a letter to the owner (no response), I've never been back to that restaurant (nearly 10 years), and told everyone I know how bad it was. I'm not miserly about tips though, I always give my barber a good tip (even though he owns the place, and I've been told you don't need to tip in that case, but he does a great job!) and I've tipped waiters as high as 50% on a "normal" bill (or more when it's a very small bill, as per Strick) when the service is really good.

@hello: Tipped employees can be paid a lower minimum wage (I think it's $2.13 nationally, and $2.65 here in Michigan) as long as their tips bring their total hourly earnings up to at least the regular minimum wage. If the tips don't bring their earnings up to the regular minimum wage, the employer is supposed to pay them extra to get to that point, but I'd imagine that part of the law is often ignored.

A car salesman may make most of their income from commissions, but that doesn't mean I'm going to pay more for a car just because they're nice. Same with tipping, I know they get a lower minimum wage and depend on tips, but I expect at least average service (stop by when I get there to get a drink order, deliver drinks efficiently, take the real order when appropriate and deliver and check up at appropriate times), and then they get an average tip. I will tip more if the service is better, and I make sure to know that if service isn't great, whether or not it is the server or the cooks, or someone else. When I get bad service I'll leave little to no tip (has only happened once).

I wouldn't even know how to tip the garbage collectors. Do you go to the truck as they're emptying your stuff??

I do not penalize wait staff when there are problems with the kitchen (though honestly, having workled in the industry before a truly good wait staff will demand the meals in a timely fashion and catch problems before the ever leave the kitchen) but I will penalize them for not attending to our needs. That is why tipping is in place, to reward excellence and punish ineptitude. Nothing is more fustrating than having to ask another wait person to find your wait staff for you. At a minimum, the staff should taker your drink order, return for your food order, check in at least once prior to the food arriving to refill bread/drinks, deliver the food, check within five minutes of the food arriving to ensure the customer is satisfied with the meals, refill drinks, and finally clear the plates once eating is complete and deliver the bill. These are bare minimums and it is a lot of hard work. That is why I tip well for average service (20%), less for below average service (10%) and leave the "statement" tip ($1) for poor service [Note never leave nothing for a tip as the assumption will be that you simply forgot].

Money Beagle --

I'm thinking you would. We have to "catch" our mailman and newspaper lady each Christmas to get them their gifts.

I never skip a tip. They may think I'm cheap or forgetful. If the service is lousy, I tip a 5-10 cents, so they understand why.

I'm not difficult. Keeping my water full and not making me wait 20 minutes to order food is enough to clear 15%.

Buffets? No tip. I'm not tipping someone JUST for bussing tables and pouring water. If I'm serving myself, I'm the one who is earning the tip. If my kids make a mess, that changes the rule.

Also, their tips are estimated based on the amount of food that is served. So if they have a large table and they get stiffed on the tip you are actually taking money away from them because they still have to turn around and pay taxes on what the assumed tip was.

Unless the server is flat out rude or mean I always tip a minimum of 15%. Even if the service is bad, there are so many factors that could be causing it that are out of that person's control. For example, being new, too many tables, slow kitchen, having a bad day, etc.

If I have a bad day at work and perform poorly, I still get paid the same amount, and as long as it doesn't become a trend my employment is not affected. I think we should give servers the benefit of the doubt, sometimes they just have a bad day, aren't feeling well, etc. and can't afford to take the day off since they won't get paid.

These people are at least showing the intiative to have a job. If they don't do it perfectly every time cut them some slack, do you do your job perfectly every single day?

If the service is poor, I will tip 15%, if it is good I will tip 20%, if it is GREAT, I will tip 25%. Plus I always tip a minimum of $5, becuase a server works just as hard bringing my $1.99 egg breakfast as they do my $20 steak.

Curious as to the logistics of tipping the garbage collectors.........?

I absolutely agree that management should be contacted if service is bad enough to drastically reduce or even eliminate a tip. Simply leaving a "bad" tip or no tip at all doesn't really convey what the issue was, and doesn't give management the opportunity to address the problem (and I would bet that most people providing poor service would write you off as a jerk, rather than consider what they could have done better). I have never left no tip, but I have given a tip directly to the manager and asked that it be given to the support staff rather than the offending service person.

Tipping isn't a firm part of the culture here in Britain where they are entirely clueless about service. As an American, however, and especially as a former waitress, I have strong views. I've been known to get up and hunt a waiter/waitress down to ask for what I want. If that doesn't work, I'll sometimes ask for the manager, if it's a place I would like to return because other things are nice. Otherwise, I leave a few small coins: a slap in the face that indicates I didn't forget, I just wasn't impressed. There are many places where I'm not particularly assertive, but a restaurant - particularly with today's prices - is not one of them.

Here a question - it's really popular for casual pizza joints and hamburger places to have you order at the counter but someone brings out your food and cleans the tables. They won't fill your drinks as you have access to the fountain. How do you tip this type of establishment? I usually leave a buck a person but not more since the service is not full. Anyone have experience with this type of service? What do you tip?

Regarding bad experiences, I'll tip 10% or less. Service has to be real real bad for 0%.

Also recognize places have bad days just like each of us. I'll usually give a restaurant a second chance if the visit didn't go well.

Todd --

See my response to Money Beagle. you have to know when they are coming, then "catch them" when they stop at your place. If you're never home at that time, then I don't have any options...I guess you could call the company, ask who picks up your trash, and mail them a gift.

Wait, I'm supposed to tip my garbage man now? Tipping is getting out of control. How about just setting the fee for something at what the person wants to get paid.

Am I going to have to start tipping the guy who drives the snow plow?

In my point of view, a tip should be something over and above your normal a BONUS! It should never be part of the standard compensation structure for pay.

For the most part a tip is a bonus (mail man, day care, etc.) but in the case of food services it is compensation. Its written into law that way, and as much as we don't like it, that's the way it is.

Because a restaurant is set up that way, when deciding to go out to eat, the standard tip amount (15-20%) should be part of the calculations of what it is going to cost. I can understand tipping less because someone is deliberately rude, but if the wait staff is slammed they are probably working harder even though it is taking a little bit longer for a specific order.

Another unfortunate side effect of compensating people like this is that there are always slow days where the waitstaff is being paid $2.50/hr total.

I can understand people not liking the system, but by going out to eat at a restaurant with waitstaff you are participating in the system.

"I can understand people not liking the system, but by going out to eat at a restaurant with waitstaff you are participating in the system. "

Which is why I rarely do! :)
Overpriced, unhealthy food combined with poor service in a loud (often cold) setting makes it an easy decision to stay home and make something. Or just get takeout from that same restaurant.

Nobody is entitled to tip money. Of course tips should be dropped if service is bad. The entire system of tipping is based on the tip being based on good service. If you get bad service then the tip goes down. If you want me to give you more money to help pay your wages then I get to decide how much you get.

If you want to ensure a certain amount of wages then lets abolish tipping and raise their pay.

Its not my job as customer to make special efforts to complain to the 'right' people in the 'right' way. If a business can't manage their own employees thats their problem. If an employee can't add 1+1 to see that their crappy service causes low tips then thats their problem. Either way they get rewarded with low tips and lower likelihood of repeat business.

cmadler said: "Tipped employees can be paid a lower minimum wage (I think it's $2.13 nationally, and $2.65 here in Michigan)"

Thats how its done in most states I believe. But it depends on state law. I think there are about 7 states that mandate that everyone get paid minimum wage regardless of tips. So wait staff in those states get $7.25 + whatever the tips are and all the tips are on top of minimum.

I've never tipped my trash guy. Don't know him. Not sure if its even the same person from one week to the next.

I tip at restaurants when service is what you expect. On time and done correct. If its poor service I don't leave a tip. However after reading this I think it will be better of me to leave a few coins to let them know I didn't just forget. As for complaining in a restaurant...don't do it until you have all your food and drinks in front of you. Trust me on this. I worked at many restaurants as a teenager in the Myrtle Beach area. The locals don't think highly of the tourist in the first place and if you complain about something, they're not worrying about you returning or not. Lets just say some people can be not very nice. ( not me though... I was always either a dishwasher or busboy. no tip for me anyway.)

Ha, good luck trying to get through life in NYC w/out tipping just about everyone you interact with. Especially if you live in a doorman building. You'll never see your packages again if you don't give the recommended amount.

@brooklyn - what are you supposed to give doorman to get mail?


Good point! Yet another reason I live in a low cost midwestern city with affordable spacious housing close to my work.

I spent the first 16 years of my professional life in the food business, and for that reason have been generous and long patient with this issue. By and large they are not waiters or waitresses anymore, they are food servers. A professional knew all of the above and understood their responsibility in assuring the TIP was earned. We have allowed an industry to take us hostage on this and I determined a while back that the only way to assure good service is to both complain as the issues occur as suggested and, if appropriate TIP accordingly; which may be nothing. Until the customer takes control of this problem all we are doing is perpetuating bad service.

Based on how much it costs to eat at a decent restaurant these days, I think a tip is not something that should be required or expected of the customers. It is not the job of the customer to pay the salary of the wait staff; it is the job of the restaurant. The only time a tip should be left is if the service was truly exceptional.

Case in point - Applebees charges about $8-9 for a hamburger that does not really taste all that much better than the "premium" hamburgers served at fast food restaurants. However, the Applebees hamburger costs at least twice as much. The restaurant should take that extra markup and use it to pay their wait staff.

There was (or is) a restaurant in Chicago, next to the 2nd Federal Bldg. that fixed the problem of bad service. All waiters had to pay for the meal at the counter where they picked up the food for the customer. If no good service, they got no pay. Seemed strange at first, but you definitely got absolutely marvelous service.

I also worked as a waitress for a number of year (years and years ago) and I do not believe in tipping. The owners say if they charged us enough to pay their help well, then prices of meals would go sky high. Well, aren't they now when you count all the tips received?

I will tip, however, in our small town. It is hard to make a living on $2.50 an hour and it is usually young mothers or people who have little to begin with. AND, I know them personally.

I hate that tipping is considered part of someone's salary now because it makes me feel obligated to tip people even for poor service. I wouldn't mind paying more for goods and services if they made tipping completely optional. For example, in many European countries the tip is already part of the bill (called a "service charge"). So anything you leave above that is for good service. Glenn Beck's "An inconvenient Truth" has quite a funny chapter on tipping and how ridiculous it has become.

In regards to the 'always tip at least a few coins or they might think you forgot' crowd, if the service was so poor that you want to leave 0% (and most said they've only done it once or rarely; I myself have done it exactly one time), the waiter will most likely know that you left 0% because he/she screwed up. If there's a chance he might actually think, "oh no, he forgot to tip me, it couldn't have been my great service..." then he probably didn't deserve 0% to begin with.

In regards to the issue, FMF just posted yet another debacle at Sears and we all generally agree that customer service has taken a dive and there's not much we can do about it. Well, here's something we can do about it. Tip according to service, and service (where tips are expected, at least) will get better and/or you'll save money. Win/win/win. If the Sears' CSRs/managers/CEO's etc. got minimum wage (OK, the CEO can get a little more) plus tips based on their service, FMF would not have had any of the problems we've read about.

I was taught that the meaning of the TIP is To Insure Promptness. You pay for the added attention; if you don't get the attention you desire, you tip accordingly. It's also common today in a restuarant for a waiter to take your order, for a server to bring the food to the table, for a third person to clear dishes and refill drinks. So there might be 3 people involved in the service. If all three perform well, I tip my usual 20%, if there's a problem I lower that amount. But I rarely complain before the food comes out because I don't like spitburgers, and I agree with the above comment that it's not my job to train the staff. Either they hire well trained staff, or they hire staff that results in bad service and ultimately a failed business.

TIPS - To. Insure. Prompt. Service.

Sarah said:

"Also, their tips are estimated based on the amount of food that is served. So if they have a large table and they get stiffed on the tip you are actually taking money away from them because they still have to turn around and pay taxes on what the assumed tip was."

This statement is not really correct.

Here is what the IRS states is a servers responsibility:

Basically, you have to keep records on what you receive and report it to your employer.

As for an employer, here is the responsibility:,,id=98401,00.html

Where Sarah is probably getting her information is that the employer must report, at a minimum, 8%. However, the ultimate amount will be based on what is the actual reported tip amount from the employees. The employer can request a lower tip allocation amount, but it cannot be lower than 2%.

In the end, the tax that is ultimately paid is what is actually reported. Therefore, if the server is not receiving tips on some orders (more than likely still receiving tips on other orders), the tax is still based on what is actually received.

I totally disagree with talking to the person rather than leaving a smaller tip. Like others, I don't want somebody spitting on my food because I complained. A tip is supposed to be an extra incentive for giving good service, so if you give the same amount regardless of the level of service, then what's the point? Also, it is a pet peeve of mine when a restaurant "automatically" adds 15% or whatever to the bill as a tip. That gives the server no incentive to do their job if they are guaranteed of getting 15%.

I worked as a server for years, and I'd just like to make a few points/observations.
- I shudder at how judgemental people are when they discuss service in a restaurant.
- Maybe you would get better service if you treated your server as a human being, used please/thank you, and answered his or her "Hi how are you?" with anything other than, "I'll take a coke." Servers are human too, and we all find it harder to do our best when we are treated as inferior.
- You bet food prices would go up by at least $2/plate if servers were paid a living wage.
- Leaving me no tip just made me think you were a jerk. There is no system to tipping anymore. I've been left generous tips when I knew I didn't provide the best service, and then I've been left a very poor tip despite my amazing service because of some of the philosophy that has littered this comment thread.

Tommy Z says: Applebees charges about $8-9 for a hamburger that does not really taste all that much better than the "premium" hamburgers served at fast food restaurants. However, the Applebees hamburger costs at least twice as much.

But then Applebees also has waitstaff that brings you the hamburger, brings you drinks, advises with questions on the menu, brings you extra mayo for the fries your friend from Germany wants, etc etc. The servers DO provide a service, even if you do not recognise it. If you don't want to tip, go back to your fast-food place with the "premium" burger.

I understand where you're coming from, but if you compare Applebees to fast-food, what are you expecting?

My BF depends on tips (he's a hair stylist) for a fair chunk of his income, so I generally tip 20 percent for good to great service, and even 25 to 30 percent for outstanding service and at 'our place' where we are treated like royalty. If the service is average to slightly below, I'll leave 12 to 15 percent. If it's really bad, they're getting 10 percent or less, and I might just ask for the manager or call later to complain. Generally, I try to respect how difficult a server's job is.

By the way--your hair stylist REALLY appreciates it when you tip 20 percent!!! :)

PS My mom liked to leave a small stack of pennies for exceptionally bad service.

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