March 1, 2010

  • Would you like a side of guilt with your meal?

    Today I had a wonderful brunch with my wife at a local Brooklyn restaurant, Rosewater.  We had some great food and wonderful conversation, and as new parents it was really nice to get out of the house.

    As we left, I left a 20%+ tip, because honestly my tips start at 20% and go up from there.

    But 12 hours later I am feeling cheated and here are four reasons why:

    1) The Long Wait:

    The wait was 45 minutes, which was fine.  But after 15 minutes the Hostess said we’d be seated in the next few minutes, and it took another half hour.  But it wasn’t the waitress’ fault – it was the Hostess who underestimated the wait time.

    2) The Cold Coffee

    As soon as we were seated, I ordered coffee right away – I had woken up early for brunch and was beyond groggy!  Someone from the kitchen delivered the coffee, but without any milk or sweetener.  I asked the waitress for both, so she apologized and asked the busboy to go get it: alas, he brought only milk.

    So I asked her for sweetener the next time she walked by, and she had him bring it from the kitchen. This was about 20 minutes after the coffee had come, and it was getting cold.  She felt bad that the coffee had taken so long so she told an endearing story about how she hadn’t gotten her coffee this morning either, and so she understood that coffee was important and she felt bad about it.

    But my coffee was cold by the time the sweetener came and she didn’t offer to reheat it or to get a new cup.  I was so tired I didn’t think to suggest it.  But I’m sure it wasn’t her fault – it was the Busboy’s for not bringing out the milk and sweetener like he was supposed to.

    3) No Dessert for You!

    That was ok, because I was going to order a espresso after my meal so I could enjoy a nice warm cup before I went home.  There were plenty of tables, so I didn’t feel too bad about holding onto our table for another 10 minutes.  Besides when I order dessert or coffee after my meal, I usually add 5% to my tip for taking up the table for longer.  But the waitress brought our check without seeing if we wanted dessert, and another waitress cleared our dishes.  I just gave up and paid the check.

    Of course, we tipped over 20%.

    Then came the final straw.

    4) Missing Takeout!

    We had ordered a doggy bag to go, with some extra food for a friend who is staying for us.  A pulled pork sandwich, and some Apple Pancakes for dessert… yum.  We talked up the meal to our friend when we got home, so she was practically drooling by the time she opened up the doggy bag. 

    And surprise surprise, only the sandwich was there.  The apple pancakes were missing.  I don’t know whether or not we were charged for the apple pancakes – I didn’t keep the receipt so I can’t say either way.  But either way, it was too late to fix it and our guest was disappointed.

    I guess that was the straw that broke this camel’s back.  Or in any case, it got me irritated to the point where I wrote this blog.

    I really love to eat a nice meal now and then, and I love to tip generously.  But sometimes I just feel like there’s no accountability any more.

    I’m sure every snafu in my meal today could be attributed to someone besides my waitress today.  But in the end, isn’t she the person who is most supposed to soften all the mistakes of the kitchen and staff?

    We’ve been so conditioned to tip 20%, and so conditioned to believe that being a waiter is the Hardest Job in the World and food service is the Most Underpaid Job on Earth.  And of course, if anything ever goes wrong – you’re not allowed to lower the tip.  That 20% makes up for below minimum wage, and anything below that is unacceptable.

    But sometimes I sense this air of entitlement when I eat out, like “I am the waiter and I am working so hard for so little that I am going to start laying on the guilt as soon as you sit down so that you will be forced to treat me as a human being.”

    And yes waitress, I totally understand that other customers have made you feel like this.  But I don’t think I am part of the problem?  I regularly tip 25-30%+ for my meals, and I am super polite when I eat out.  And I don’t reduce my tips even when I really really want to, because I’ve been indoctrinated to always tip well and because I was in the service industry for six years (delivered newspapers in the morning through snow, sleet and rain) and know how a good tip can save your month and salvage your faith in humanity.

    But I feel like you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say it’s pure evil to not tip well, and then deliver bad service in a nice establishment.  I just feel like I am regularly made to feel bad for having any kind of expectations when I eat out.  Like somehow even though I am polite and tip well, I am participating in a system of oppression that is so awful that it is completely unreasonable to have any expectations of any kind.

    Does anyone else feel constantly guilted when they go out to eat?  And what do you do when you feel service isn’t up to snuff… do you dare lower your tip?  Complain to the manager?  Leave a bad review on Yelp?

    I am just feeling a bit powerless here, and wondering if there’s something I can do or if I should just give up on eating out altogether!

Comments (42)

  • Well there is one local restuarant near us my parents before me and my sister were born and since we were born being going for the last 30 years.   However the last time my parents went there were pretty disappointed with the service and the meal.

    We now go to another local restuarant which we prefer better.

  • I usually manage 15. I wouldn’t go up to 20. i love being broke :)

  • If the service is bad enough, I leave an extremely low tip.  On a recent occasion, it was worse than bad, and I left zero, and complained to the manager.

  • you and the wifey need a trip to asia. the service, especially in japan, is excellent and there’s no need to tip either!

  • that’s sucky. i would be on the phone and talking about this or at least making the mister do that. if you left a good enough tip, they’ll remember you. now about the oppressive diner/waiter relationship, nobody is forcing them to work there. they are not slaves. they chose this job. i’m not saying treat them poorly. just don’t feel bad about their situation.

  • I would definitely send a letter via snail mail or email to the manager and follow-up with a call. The letter will definitely let you air your grievances more objectively and also prove that the experience bothered you enough that you had to write about it. If the restaurant really cares about customer service, they will definitely invite you back to attempt to show you better service and win back your business. I am a big champion of the well-worded complaint letter!

  • wow, you’re a generous tipper.  personally, i don’t have any hangups at all about tipping between 15-20% for average service.  the standard of tip starting at 18-20%+ is a recent phenomenon around me, and, quite frankly, i resent the rate inflation.  not personally, but you know what i mean.  there’s also the question of tip being a % of the post-tax amount.  on principle, i think it should be pre-tax, since i don’t think government tax is a service that i should be paying someone else for.  i’m also too lazy and self-conscious to actually tip on the pre-tax amount so the waiters get a little break when i tip on post-tax numbers. 

    not that this is any motivation for me, but i remember watching an interview with the author of one of those “7 habits of the rich and powerful” books and one thing he noticed common among rich people is that they are all crappy tippers.  ha!

  • i totally agree with you on all points! i’ve worked in restaurants for years and i will tell you that most servers do feel entitled for bigger tips, no matter how bad the service is. if you tip poorly because of constant mistakes, they will go to the back and complain about what a bitchy customer they’ve had to deal with.

    your server should’ve just gotten the creamer and sweetner for you instead of asking the busboy to do it. and if you order takeout, the server is the one to place the order and pack up the bags for you (which is why servers expect a small tip for takeout – and which is why all servers hate takeout because they never get tipped on it) so it is her mistake that you were missing the pancakes. it’s her responsiblity to make sure everything is in there with all the condiments, napkins, and plasticware before she hands the bag to you.

    i dont know if they do this in NY, but some restaurants force servers to give a percentage of their tips (maybe 5%) to busboys and they hate it, so if there’s a busboy in the restaurant they tend to treat them poorly and refuse to clean any plates from a table because they think they’re too good to clean tables or retrieve creamer  (and if they’re paying the busboy, then why should they do his work?) . somtimes they dont even serve the food and only take your order. i always did my best to take care of my table, and i’d rather clean off plates for my customer than to stand there twiddling my thumbs and wait for the lone busboy to finally get around to it. but i’ve seen so many self righteous servers out there.

    i guess i can see both aspects because i’ve been treated poorly by customers too and so have so many others. and there are some customers out there that treat waiters like slaves and are just so rude and demandingl but i guess all that just comes with the job….

  • Just as petitetokio had mentioned, there is no tipping system in Japan… When I’ve gone out to eat when living in and/or visiting Tokyo, I’ve noticed that the staff is always on point, super polite, and very timely. They have no incentive to be more polite and presentable than they need to be; they just have to treat the customers like royalty because that’s what their job requires of them.

    It makes it that much more infuriating to dine out in the US, because the only incentive for most staff to work hard is the hope for that nice, fat gratuity (which, quite often lately, is already calculated into the total on the check). Does the restaurant staff genuinely want to give customers good service, or are they just doing it for more of your cash?

  • All of those experiences together sound like a miserable time!  I would probably have been grumpy enough to reduce the tip, and I would definitely have called about the missing item in the takeout.

    On the other hand, I would think carefully about my actions if it is a place I frequent; you don’t want to tick off the people who are handling your food!  : )

  • I have an uncle that always hands 25% of what he expects his bill to the waiter as soon as he is seated.  I usually have really good service when I go eat with him but there isn’t a middle ground and sometimes the server will just ignore us.

    As for myself, I rarely go to restaurants with waiters so I haven’t really developed any kind of routine.

  • A pet peeve of my wife’s (with good reason) is when the food comes and she asks for a condiment, or silverware or something and has to wait a long time for it.  There’s no point in having the food if you have to wait for something you need to eat it with.  And that IS the waiter/watresses fault, whether she asks the busboy or not – unlike waiting for a tablet, or when the food comes out late, which isn’t their fault (unless it was ready and she didnt bring it).

    I think its totally reasonable to complain.  A good way to have politely complained, without seeming like it was to ask for a hot cup of coffee, since it got cold while you were waiting for your milk and sugar, and if she refuses or takes a while, then SHE’S BEEN WARNED – and a reduced tip shouldn’t be a surprise.  Sometimes bad service is a factor of having too many tables to service, but in that case, she’ll make more from volume, even if her tips are lower, so you shouldn’t feel bad about it.

    My wife worked as a waitress for a little while, and she said she made decent money.  I actually think a good waitor or watress can make good money at a nice restaurant – and get away with declaring less than all of it on their taxes too.  I don’t think it’s the worst job in the world at all (unless they are working at Golden Corrall or some low end place). 

    On the other hand, if you are making good money, and as founder of xanga, I don’t know if you are or not, and you want to be generous, then forgiveness is divine – but know what to expect next time you go there – and feel free to be a bit of a pain to communicate what you want, and then if they are polite about it back, go ahead and reward them for putting up with you (if you still feel guilty).

    I know some people who get annoyed and stiff the wait staff just for them not refilling their drinks right away.  I think that’s someone looking for an excuse to save money, but that’s not what you’re talking about.

    One last thing:  I once called Pizza hut cause they put olives on my pizza after I specifically said “no olives” (it was delivered).  “I hate olives!” I declared, and they put $15 in the system for me for the next time I came in.  I said, “that’ll do.”

    Don’t be shy about asking for what is fair to you (now that you have a child, you’ll need to remember that – it took me awhile to get that in regards to my children – they expect us to serve them, if we nurture that expectation).

  • i complain and leave a bad review on yelp

  • I usually tip pretty big too.  For me, I start off at 20%, but if the service is noticeably bad I will decrease it little by little.  Even if they messed up but tried their best to make it up, I will take that into consideration and usually tip them well.

  • tip definitely should reflect the service!

  • to insure pompousness

  • I will lower my tip considerably, depending on the service I receive from the waitress/waiter.  I give them 3 chances before I let the tip decrease, then I use my own judgment to determine the tip. I figure, when I eat out, the waitress is my guide, she’s responsible for my comfort while visiting. I don’t ask for a lot, just get what I ordered and politeness. If they can’t deliver on that, they earned a minimal (very minimal) tip. I tip very well (for average to great service) and I tip VERY little for poor service.

  • You should email them this blog haha. I also usu tip at least 20% because I worked as a busboy when I was in hs. There was this one time that the service was so bad my friends and I only tipped a little over a dollar for the tip. As we left the restaurant I turned to see the manager run out looking for us. If looks could kill we all wouldve dropped dead. To this day I kinda wish she did find us. I wouldve ripped her a new one.

  • Brunch where you took me and the some people to: awesome place.

  • Obviously the staff was poorly trained and did not have enough enthusiasm to correct each other’s mistakes.  I usually leave 20 % also but at one of our poshest restaurants here on the Monterey Peninsula we had terrible service.  They apologived at the end and offered free after dinner drink or coffee.  I just wanted to be gone.  It was a special anniversary dinner at the $$$$$$$ restaurant and it had gone bad.  Bruce said he would have the coffee.  When we received our check they had charged us for the coffee.  NO TIP and a very PRECISE note on the bottom of the tab!  Needless to say when I worked in the Aquarium and people asked where they should eat…this restaurant was never mentioned by me!

  • @mrcolorful - I wonder if your Uncle ever demanded a refund of his 25% tip?
    I go to small eating places because the service is excellent there. And I am spoiled by fast food places because the service is fast ( and sometimes friendly)

    The shish Kabob place is next door to my place and so after I order I can wait 25 minutes at my place for my shish Kabob to be ready. Doesn’t TIP stand for TO INSURE PROMPT services?

  • @PPhilip - Not that I know of.  He does occasionally go talk to the mananger as he’s leaving though.

  • I wish you’d come to my bookshop cafe, we’ve never had as good a tipper as you!  Tips here start at 10%, good service is 15%, 20% it had to be exceptional and you had to have had a couple of glasses of wine as well.  Your waitress was lousy, she told you a funny story instead of getting you a fresh hot coffee with milk and sweetener. She didn’t offer you dessert because she wanted you out – she thought you wouldn’t tip highly because of the crap service from her, the busboy and the hostess, so she wanted you out so she could get new people in.    Then she didn’t check if you had the correct food for takeaway.

    In a restaurant everyone is paid a salary to do their job, but the wait staff have the responsibility of co-ordinating the whole experience and making sure its a good one and for this they get a tip. If things go wrong beyond their control, they have a manager they can ask for help to repair the situation. Your waitress did nothing whatsoever for you and deserved the same back – zilch, or possibly a couple of dollars for embarrassment’s sake.

  • I tip 20% unless the service is poor. Then it goes down to 15%. I usually, would say something about it and then tip 15. If the service is terrible, I tip 10. It hasn’t happened often, but it does every now and then. I don’t even complain when it’s that bad. But when the service is above average, I tip 25 and when it’s exceptional, I tip 30. 30% is pretty rare for me–maybe just as many times as 10%.

    I think tipping more than 20% for bad service is overtipping and it’s not good for anyone. Lastly, I think tipping over 30% is crazy and unnecessary.

    -ray leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • In order to feel some power back, you need to stop tipping so high or not tip at all when a situation like that happens. If you must tip, there is the reduced tip of 10%-15%. No one asked any waitress to become one and really why don’t restaurants paid the at least the federal minimum wage. Some argue that you should tip them so high because they are getting your food for you, but hey it’s not like they are cooking it or serving it!

    20% + is for excellent service, not what  you got that day!

  • It’s a tricky thing. I agree, the entitlement is really there sometimes. Makes you think whether a no-tip system (like they have in parts of Asia) would be better. 

    Also, I only tip badly when I’m prepared to burn my bridges and not visit the place again. It’s a good think I live in a place with so many restaurants. 

  • Oddly, providing poor service can take longer than providing excellent timely service.

    There were so many points and so many people involved in your frustrating dining experience that it seem to be an institutional thing particular to that restaurant, not just a hostess misjudged this and that thing.

    A fixed supposed to tip amount does not do anyone, you or any restaurant staff/owners, any favors.  IYou end up frustrated and they didn’t get a collective jolt of a message, via a bunch of small or nonexistent tips, that they need to shape up.  And that could help the restaurant stay open and ensure a bunch of people get to keep their jobs.

  • my mentality is that if you tip waiters/waitresses low for things that aren’t their fault, they’ll heckle their coworkers to stay on the ball so that they stop receiving low tips.

  • there are only a few places I go to regularly where I tip above 20% because I know I can count on them for good service and good foods. 99% of the time I would tip at least 16% if the service is bad but I will never go back there again.

  • As a server myself, I would not have felt upset if I got a 15% or under tip from you (and I normally avg around 20%).  When things go wrong, it costs you money, its a fact of life you have to get used to in serving, that’s why we try so hard to make it right.  Most places make the servers tip out to the busser, bar, and host so mistakes on any end will cost them money too.

    When I’m waiting tables, a perfect dining experience gets me a 20% tip, if anything goes wrong, I start subtracting points in my head before the check even hits the table. 

  • Just thought I would report this site to you for shutdown: Thought it seemed like useless and hurtful drama to an Xangan out there. Probably a 12 year old made that site. Just reporting it for violation though. Thanks :)

  • only give what they deserve!

  • Come to where I work and eat =D I’ll provide excellent service!

    Other than that though, I tip according to service because I know what it is like to be on the other side of the table too. Minimum wage is @ $9.00 so it can’t be too bad if I tip 15%… but in some cases, I know the servers don’t receive the tip we give them. Instead, the establishment tells them their pay is $9.00, and that tip is approximately $5.00 so they get paid a total of $14.00 an hour. Places like that, I don’t tip because in the end my money goes to the owner and not the servers that provided me with the service.

  • 20% tip is waaaayy too much for this bad service O_o

  • I tip 15%…which is the norm where I live.  I like to tip more if the service is good.  I have only tipped less when the service was atrocious.  Sorry your experience was less than mediocre.

  • I just wrote (ranted) about this on someone else’s blog.  I think the real problem is that we’ve allowed the system to be set up this way.  Waitresses should get at least minimum wage like the rest of us – and tips should be just that – TIPS.  Not part of their salary.

  • I’d usually just let it go and tip 20 percent.  Maybe sad, but true.

  • @SavonDuJour - I agree entirely! This waitress did not do a good job. She had many opportunities to make this right but was not willing to do so.

    I used to be a waitress and I would NEVER have expected 20% plus on tips. I think it is wrong that restaurants expect their customers to pay for both the product (food) and the salary of their staff while they rake in the money.

    When it comes to tipping, I give 10-15% typically. I live in the UK where tipping is not as consistently done so I think that this is viewed as generous. I do not change this habit when in the US. Waitressing is a really hard job but at the end of the day, if someone doesn’t like doing it, they can do something else. I have to say, I made far more money as a waitress at Applebees (being tipped 10-15%) than I did earning minimum wage at many other places. I knew some people who were better at it than me who made an absolute fortune, especially on friday and saturday nights.

  • I like living in countries where tipping is not required and when a tip is left, even if it’s small, it’s greatly appreciated with a warm, friendly smile and kind words.  Or someone runs after you indicating that you forgot your money on the table when in fact it is their tip.  Can you imagine that ever happening again in America?

  • I definitely would have complained and I seriously would not have left 20% as a tip! Hardly any restaurant I go to ever offers us dessert, but some do. About the only thing most of them do right is bring me refill after refill of water (because I drink at least 3 cups before my meal even arrives and then another 1-2 with it). 

    It is really frustrating to go to places that mess up like that! It’s as if they’re not even paying attention or care.

  • A friend of mine who graduated from Cornell’s hotel management school can’t remind us enough that you should NEVER tip a standard 20%. The tip is the only way for a patron to communicate to the staff and management how the service was. So he always tips very little (if anything) if service was horrible, and very generously (well over 20%) if service went above and beyond (refilling drinks before you ask for them, describing dishes and making recommendations, etc). I still feel bad tipping poorly when service was really bad (especially when you ask for a doggy bag and they forget and throw your leftovers out… the worst!! there goes tomorrow’s lunch!!) but I always remind myself that usually the tips are split up between the server, bartender, busboy, etc. so I don’t feel as bad. I love when service is great and tipping 30% because hey, it’s just another $5 or so for me, totally worth it when I’ve just had a great dining experience! :)

  • wow. if i was a waitress, i wish you would eat at my restaurant everyday! lol

    20% tips is too much for me to afford…

Post a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *