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When you get a lousy waitress/waiter


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When it seems like the server was rude or inattentive (not just serving poorly because they were overloaded, or the kitchen was messing up), we've dropped back to what I consider a "minimum" tip of 15%.  Usually we tip 20%, and even more for exceptional service or if we were in any way a "hassle".  

I think if I were truly offended by something a server said or did (I've never been), I would take it up with the manager.  

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11 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

How does a nice, classy person handle this? I hate withholding a tip from a waiter. That just seems awful to do to a person whose just making a few dollars an hour. so what do you do?

Honestly, it depends.  If they aren't capable and frazzled by too many customers or something, I still tip the regular amount.  If they're ahole, I don't.  

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I don't eat out often, but I tend to tip 20 percent for decent service.  If the service is less than decent I will only tip 15 percent, and if it is particularly bad I will round down to the nearest dollar.

I usually try to give the server the benefit of the doubt.  They really don't get paid enough and everyone has bad days.

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I catch the server's attention by eye contact,, a wave,, or communication as often as needed.. If I can't get the server's attention or I don't see the server, I ask another server to let our server know that we have a need. I've only once asked to speak to a manager as we were leaving a restaurant to let them know of an issue with a server.. I tip every server whether the service is bad or good, but I give more for better service. 

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It depends on what you mean by bad service  I typically  just tip less.  I have occasionally not tipped at all  when someone has been out right rude. I live where servers earn actual minimum  wage before tips so I don't feel to bad.  

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There was a restaurant years ago in Cleveland that was known for its surly staff. The more surly the better, apparently. And the more surly, the bigger the tip. It was a very odd experience.

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Waiters can make a lot in tips - especially if there has been a lot of booze at the table.  Class of restaurants will vary in that.

 

It depends on the situation.  how big was the error?  was it within their control? did they try to fix it? did they at least apologize? did they send the message you just needed to suck it up?

yeah, I've withheld tips.  There have also been some times I've wished I talked to the manager because it was so egregious, and not only did they not even try to fix it, they didn't even apologize for MY inconvenience at their multiple mistakes that put a huge damper on the entire meal.

 

was it not within their control? e.g. understaffed, the kitchen running poorly, etc.   (if it's not within their control, I don't take it out on them - but I might the management). 

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4 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

This makes a big difference! Servers around here still make a base pay of less than $3 an hour. 

That's so crazy to me.  I was making $7 dollars an hour when I was server 20 years ago.  I really  don't understand  how that's considered okay 

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When I’ve received excellent service that causes me to tip higher than usual, I make the effort to let the server know how pleased we were. Money is definitely king, but everyone loves a genuine attaboy in addition.  A few years ago it occurred to me that if I don’t also speak up when I receive poor service the server will just think I’m a lousy tipper and that might make their service even worse for the next table.  It’s pretty easy to distinguish when someone is trying to do a good job vs just phoning it in. 
We so rarely have bad experiences, though. 
 

 

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57 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

This makes a big difference! Servers around here still make a base pay of less than $3 an hour. 

Here it’s between $12 and $14 per hour, depending on the part of the state. There is no such thing as a tipped minimum wage here. I can only recall once that I did not leave a tip for truly horrendous service.

During the pandemic with all of the staffing shortages, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where I would withhold a tip.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

There was a restaurant years ago in Cleveland that was known for its surly staff. The more surly the better, apparently. And the more surly, the bigger the tip. It was a very odd experience.

The same with one 30 years ago when we lived in Boston.

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If it is truly bad, I have once left a no tip. Otherwise,  I will go from 20% to 15%.  I am talking about the server who is just not into their job not for faults of the kitchen or lack of staff. The one time I didn’t leave a tip, the guy ( over 40) was more interested in fawning all over the table of young women and “forgot” about us.  He could have had a good tip as we were a table of 5 but he chose to be a waiter only to those 4 women.  So I wrote no tip and told the manager why. He didn’t seemed surprised about his behavior. Now his fellow servers who I flagged down and they did his job, I did give those a cash tip directly to them.  Hilariously,  the guy wrote in a tip and I caught it in the credit card.  He no longer works there. 

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Let me qualify this with.....I live in Washington where servers make at least minimum wage. Due to that I will tip 10% for sub-par service. For a waiter who is truly bad (ie the one I could see chatting in the kitchen and completely ignoring us...) I have tipped less but that has only happened once or twice in my adult life. I generally tip 20% for average to above-average service. Only a few times have I tipped more, but there are some people who are just phenomenal at thier jobs and really deserve it (especially staff who make my parenting life easier by bringing young kids drinks --including water-- with a lid and stack of napkins before you ask LOL)

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I note some are referring to bad service as slow service.  - that might lower a tip, but it would have to be beyond slow to drop it.  We've had times the manager came out and comp'd us dessert or an appetizer when it's been super slow - we didnt' ask, they offered.

to me, bad service is bringing the wrong item.  bringing it late - so dh was DONE eating when mine showed up. (and it was cold.) Not so much as an apology, but a "deal with it" attitude from the waiter.   dropping a tray (on the floor) next to our table with smashed glass (and water and ice) everywhere.    

at a celebration dinner, the table next to us where they kept serving them booze - despite how utterly sloshed they were already.  How loud  (had to speak loudly to be heard, , how profane - (this was on the management), and waiters being ordered to cater to them (including bringing them dessert from a different restaurant because they didn't like the dessert menu) because this was a 'group of high spending regulars".  The management should have given consideration to the rest of their customers (as you could clearly hear them on the other side of the restaurant).    I have zero sympathy this restaurant subsequently went out of business.  which is too bad, the food was good - but with management like that, good food (or good waiters) won't save them.

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The service would have to be *extremely bad* for me to consider not leaving a tip. Like, so bad that I was about to walk out. Bad enough that I want to complain to a manager.

It's only happened twice in my life. Once when my kid was coughing and coughing and coughing at the table for their birthday dinner for several minutes and nobody brought them a cup of water *even when we asked*. I would've left then, but they insisted on staying. And once when I was at a diner with my sister, and first the waitress flits about and doesn't take our order for 10 minutes, then she brings our food cold - and my food covered with the one food I don't eat, mushrooms - and then she says she'll take it back and get it remade and, 20 minutes later, pops back out with the same burger, mushrooms ineptly scraped off. She then proceeded to sob in front of us, which was really what drove me over the edge. I didn't even say anything, I just left. My sister felt bad enough to tip, but I sure didn't. I believed, and still do, that the public crying was manipulative rather than genuine. In neither case was the restaurant crowded.

I have a pretty high tolerance for slow service or mistakes, but those two incidents were beyond the pale even for me.

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5 hours ago, Seasider too said:

If they are a newer server that might just need more training, or a server that needs a little coaching/reprimanding, we have asked to speak to the manager before leaving. We then give the tip (15-20%, our usual minimum for satisfactory service is 20% and can be more at holiday time and for terrific service) to the manager, share our concerns and ask him/her to pass the tip on to the server with an explanation of why we did not give it directly to the server. It’s hard to do, though, if you aren’t carrying cash tip money. 

The minimum wage for wait staff in the UK is the same as for everyone else, so I don't feel bad reducing a tip. I have once waylaid the manager after a meal to suggest more training when the waitress used unhygienic practices. 

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I've struggled with this question. Most of the time, it's not a big deal. Poor service where orders are mixed up or staff is gruff happens, you just leave a basic 15% tip and let it go. But there were two instances that always stick with me where wait staff was genuinely horrible. In one, the service was fine, but the waitress said something that was deeply offensive in a very offhanded way. It was shocking. Like, massive bigot level. This was not in an area where I would have expected anyone to feel that such sentiments could be voiced so openly in a situation where a tip was on the line. I was so floored that I was speechless. We left soon after and said something to the management, but tipping is so ingrained for dh that he still left a tip, though a smallish one, and it's honestly always bothered me. Like, I remember it years later.

The other time was when the kids were small - maybe around age 4. We were at a nearby restaurant that's usually pretty family friendly. We had the in laws with us. The waiter took everyone's orders. I said, and can you bring the kids' food as soon as it's done. He said sure. Our food came, but nothing for the kids. Hey, we told the waiter, what happened to the kids' meals we ordered. The waiter looked disgusted with us and said something like, "Oh, they need to eat?" Like, are you bleeping kidding me?!? We were like, yes and we ordered food for them. It turned out he had totally ignored our order of kids meals for them and not put it in. And then he acted all offended that we wanted them brought out as soon as possible and was like, the kitchen is busy you know, you should have ordered something earlier. We were like we DID. Kids were getting cranky - they were hungry after all and we all had our food but they didn't have theirs. We ended up complaining to management, but no one ever apologized or did anything to try to make it right. We ended up feeding them parts of our meal, which meant we ended up eating the kid's food ourselves since we only got half a meal. I ended up getting in a big argument with dh. I was like, I do not want you to tip that waiter. I was so mad. Dh couldn't bringing himself not to do it. Finally he tipped around 10%. I feel like that message was probably that people with kids are bad tippers. Dh is usually a really, really good tipper. But it's not like they would know that. Sigh.

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7 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

Waiters can make a lot in tips - especially if there has been a lot of booze at the table.  Class of restaurants will vary in that.

I know things will vary by law, location, price point, etc.. Just keep in mind that wait staff will be “tipping out” to bartenders, often in addition to food runners, bus staff, host staff, and even dishwashers sometimes. Offhand, I don’t know of a place where wait staff keeps everything that’s on the table.

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I speak to a manager.  Politely, firmly, and tell them what was wrong with our service and ask to either be moved to a different area or have a different waitstaff.

We had an experience at Texas Roadhouse.  The first time we went was half the fault of the kitchen (never send out a kid's hamburger with blood oozing from the middle!), and half the fault of the server, who shrugged and said it was supposed to be that way and wouldn't do anything about it.  I eat my steaks rare and my hamburgers medium, and the state of this burger was making my stomach churn just looking at it.  I was not going to make a 4yo eat it, or the fries that were now sitting in blood.  So, yeah, I got the manager involved, got a different waiter, and tipped that person in cash.

The second time, because my family convinced me to try a Texas Roadhouse again, we were in a mostly empty restaurant and not one person was assigned to our table.  The waitstaff laughed and chatted for about 45 minutes, not one person coming to our table even though they could see us and we had been placed there by the hostess.  That didn't go down well.  My voice carries quite a bit when I mean it to, and I certainly meant it to that night when I called over to them and asked which one was our server.  We ended up having a manager wait on us, and I did not tip, because you don't tip managerial positions.

We tried Texas Roadhouse one more time, because dh is a glutton for punishment.  The busboy took his sunglasses from the table and wouldn't return them.

We don't eat at Texas Roadhouse anymore.

 

But honestly, a tip is a courtesy.  At least, it's supposed to be.  Unfortunately, many restaurants have come to pay their people horrific wages and expect waitstaff to be put in almost a begging position to survive.  It's not okay.  I've started avoiding most places that are especially egregious (I'm looking at you, Sonic), and dh and I do tip well when we do go out unless it's exceptionally bad service.  I liked eating out in Europe better, where we knew staff were paid a living wage.

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4 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

 

to me, bad service is bringing the wrong item.  bringing it late - so dh was DONE eating when mine showed up. (and it was cold.) Not so much as an apology, but a "deal with it" attitude from the waiter.   dropping a tray (on the floor) next to our table with smashed glass (and water and ice) everywhere.    

 

Yes---we don't lower our usual tip of 20% for slow service because that is almost always due to kitchen, or overworked wait staff.  About a month ago, we went to a German restaurant near our home where we have always had good service.  I guess it was a new waiter maybe.  Anyway, she never delivered one item, had another issue with a drink order where she had to return it ( and it wasn't something special we ordered), and then she ended up giving us less of a discount than we were supposed to get (dh is a member of a group this restaurant helps sponsors and we are supposed to get 10% off as a benefit too).  We lowered the tip to 15%,  

When I had a rude waiter who turned out rude from the get go (i.e we haven't ordered)  we have left- or at least we did that the last time in happened which was about 5 or 6 years ago, we leave and go someplace else.  That happened in Gatlinsburg for breakfast and we just drove down the road and had excellent service at Cracker Barrell 

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I think there was only one time when I left a small tip. The entire wait staff was engrossed in a sports event at the bar and we were basically ignored for the entire meal. It was obvious that we were being ignored and it was not the kitchen or due to being busy/short staffed. I can’t remember any other time when I’ve had truly horrible service. For mediocre service, I’d just leave a little less. 

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The thing about leaving a small tip or no tip…..so many people do that regardless of the service that it isn’t a good indicator of the customers actual level of satisfaction.

I think if service is so bad you want to leave a bad tip that you are better off telling the waiter why he/she is getting no tip.

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9 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

The thing about leaving a small tip or no tip…..so many people do that regardless of the service that it isn’t a good indicator of the customers actual level of satisfaction.

I think if service is so bad you want to leave a bad tip that you are better off telling the waiter why he/she is getting no tip.

Not tipping feels like stealing from the waiter, because they are taxed based on an assumption of a 10 or 15% tip, depending on the restaurant (state, computer system).

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Thank you al for your replies. I’ve been studying on kindness lately, and I know Christians who will stiff a waitress for poor service ( like the “regular waitress” gives certain sauces for free but this waitress charged them for it.) 

sorry, I didn’t mention it was a hypothetical situation. Y’all have helped me figure this one out. It would take a LOT for me to not tip at all and I was wondering where I fit in.

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18 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

Thank you al for your replies. I’ve been studying on kindness lately, and I know Christians who will stiff a waitress for poor service ( like the “regular waitress” gives certain sauces for free but this waitress charged them for it.) 

sorry, I didn’t mention it was a hypothetical situation. Y’all have helped me figure this one out. It would take a LOT for me to not tip at all and I was wondering where I fit in.

My dd worked at Chipotle through college. She said it was the after church crowd who demanded free extras and left the tables and area around them a mess. Their "tips" were religious tracts or cards with bible verses on them. She didn't like working that front of house shift because of the entitled attitudes.

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I waited tables all throughout college and a couple of years after.  It was a fascinating view into human behavior.  We always tip 20% and often more.  There have been a couple of quirky servers for sure, but at the end of the day, I don’t have to cook or clean and someone is bringing me things,  I get to sit and visit with whoever I’m with.  When we stay at our table longer than a typical eat and go, I tip more.  The server has a section and at the end of the night, they don’t make as much $ if their tables don’t turn over with a regular cadence.  I try to consolidate our requests - okay, when the server comes back, what do we need? Napkins, drink refills, more ketchup? Etc.  Keeping the server running around for one more thing every time they bring us one more thing means it will take their time away from other tables. 
 

I recently went with a friend and our kids who are friends with 7 of their friends (so 2 adults and 9 teenagers) to a pancake restaurant.  The kids all got milkshakes that were buy 1 get 1 free.  The mom and I decided to pay for their milkshakes so the kids wouldn’t have to figure the $ part out of splitting milkshake $ since the kids were each paying for themselves.  I asked the kids if anyone needed help calculating tip and said they should leave 20%.  The mom and I said we would tip well on our bill too at the beginning of our meal.  We were there for 1.5 hours because the kids were having fun talking and being together.  When it came time to pay, the kids didn’t trash the table, but there was a lot to clean up.  The other mom barely left 20% and I left 30%.  The extra 10% wasn’t a lot of money and the server did a good job on a larger party that stayed for a long time and was a lot of work.  

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38 minutes ago, wilrunner said:

My dd worked at Chipotle through college. She said it was the after church crowd who demanded free extras and left the tables and area around them a mess. Their "tips" were religious tracts or cards with bible verses on them. She didn't like working that front of house shift because of the entitled attitudes.

Yes, that was my experience when I was a waitress 35 years ago.  They would take up an entire area, sit for hours visiting, let their kids make a big mess and then leave a terrible tip.  Sunday night after church was the worst.

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And some of the very rich also leave small tips.  I was at a women's conference at a state park lodge.  Our meals were prepaid- part of the conference cost.  One woman in particular who lives in a very expensive house and I know she is very wealthy didn't leave tips.  I know our fees did not pay the service charges and she had been going to the conference much longer than I had.  

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Depending on how lousy, tip either "a little less" than 15%, or as low as 25c for those who really need a wake-up call.

It is extremely rare for me to tip less than 20%.  But the whole point of tips is to ensure decent service.  It does not follow that you reward horrible service the same as good service.

Never tip zero, because they won't get the point.  They will just think you forgot or are a creep.  25c says I didn't forget the tip, you just didn't earn it.

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12 hours ago, Seasider too said:

If they are a newer server that might just need more training, or a server that needs a little coaching/reprimanding, we have asked to speak to the manager before leaving. We then give the tip (15-20%, our usual minimum for satisfactory service is 20% and can be more at holiday time and for terrific service) to the manager, share our concerns and ask him/her to pass the tip on to the server with an explanation of why we did not give it directly to the server. It’s hard to do, though, if you aren’t carrying cash tip money. 

I really like this idea. It allows for a little managerial follow up with the waitstaff, but doesn't penalize anyone.

Because of the pandemic and loss of jobs, we've been trying to tip very well overall. Restaurants are running on fewer staff and we'd rather err on the side of giving too much than giving too little. I usually tip about 30% for good service and 20-25% for ok service.

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13 hours ago, Seasider too said:

If they are a newer server that might just need more training, or a server that needs a little coaching/reprimanding, we have asked to speak to the manager before leaving. We then give the tip (15-20%, our usual minimum for satisfactory service is 20% and can be more at holiday time and for terrific service) to the manager, share our concerns and ask him/her to pass the tip on to the server with an explanation of why we did not give it directly to the server. It’s hard to do, though, if you aren’t carrying cash tip money. 

I like this except I’d rather talk to the server myself.  It feels kinder than ratting her out to her boss.  Plus you never know if the boss will present it the way you intended.  But maybe that’s just me- when I was working I hated when someone had a problem and went straight to my boss. Give me a chance to explain myself and fix the issue. 

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35 minutes ago, SKL said:

We are often treated with little enthusiasm because we don't order alcohol.  We make up for it by being slow eaters.  😛

Interesting. We never order drinks of any kind and usually share a meal, but I’ve never noticed a lack of enthusiasm because of it. Maybe because we have no separate tipped minimum wage here?

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I'd withhold it if I was confident it was the waiter/waitress's own conduct causing the lousiness. (For someone obviously new, I'd expect less than of someone who appeared to be experienced). If asked, I concisely and politely note that this is not an instance where a tip would be warranted, but maintaining silence would be my preferred strategy on most occasions. This is not just because of the possibility that I may not be able to convey my objection in a sufficiently dignified way. A server having a bad day may not be able to receive feedback in a dignified way either, and pushing someone into a conversation they're not capable of having would be bad. I will try to discuss it directly if I think both they and I are up to it, though if I'm considering not tipping, it's likely one or both of us cannot really have that discussion. If it's serious enough to go to the manager, it's generally also serious enough that withholding the tip would be justified - and enough that I'd want to follow it up in writing. On one occasion where I did so, the manager agreed with me and offered to refund (disablist slurs had been aimed at me). I declined that - I'd eaten the food and it was good, it was just this one staff member who'd been a problem - though I didn't have occasion to revisit for quite a while, making it hard to ascertain whether that waiter's absence was due to the incident or natural turnover (restaurants get through waiters/waitresses pretty fast where I live, often for reasons unrelated to any specific place).

 

If it appears to be a throughgoing issue with the entire place (for example, service was slow and the waiter had been surly or the place had been condoning staff bullying and the waiter/waitress had snapped), I'd consider tipping if the waiter/waitress was better than the throughgoing issue indicated, provided I was confident the restaurant's policy allowed the waiter/waitress to keep their own tips (I've been in places where it was pooled - they admitted it on the menu - and one where the waiter let slip that the boss illegally got all the tips - in those cases, no tip was given). Being in an awful environment, or simply being in the midst of a restaurant-wide bad day, can do strange things to staff. (Of course, I would reconsider visiting again if I thought the experience was likely to be repeated!) If I tip, I tip the amount I would have done had the service been good in the first place.

(I must admit I find the concept of forcing people to make up the difference to minimum wage by tips - i.e. requiring more than the bare minimum to get the bare minimum wage - distasteful in the first place. Though in places where it's legal, it would be hard to establish which places don't engage in the practise in advance).

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We rarely eat out, and I don't think we've ever not tipped, but there have been a few times with bad service.  For a waitress, that means they do not refill drinks or ask about drinks during the meal, do not bring requested items, bring out cold food- actual services you expect from a waiter. 

I have had several times that we got bad food, though!  An item burnt on one side, with that side flipped over- this has happened to me several times,  and often I will ask for a manager.  Sometimes my food is free, often I have them bring out something faster, we don't usually have time to wait for an entire other meal to be prepared.  Once we were in a restaurant after a long day of travel with 4 kids, ages 1.5-6.  We ordered, later we smelled an awful burned smell- that was our food!  We were there forever, as they had to cook all new.  Very aggravating!  So, I think cook staff is more important than wait staff- that's where most of my issues happen.   

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On the flip side, if anyone is or knows someone who is looking for a waitstaff job... IME, a great spot to be is in/near any hotel that caters to business travelers. I can tell you as a waitress and as the spouse of a frequent business traveler, checks that get expensed or per diemed = bigger tips!  Quite often, their allowed expensable tip plus their own cash since they were getting a “free” meal anyway. 🙂 

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It was a new restaurant we tried, and we didn’t go back.

The server only earned a basic tip, which was left for them. They then chased us as we were leaving demanding to know why the tip wasn’t bigger.

After the poor service and being chased down, I had no desire to go back there.

Is there a better answer? I don’t know. Restaurants and tipping are hard. 
What is the purpose of the tip? To reward good service, or to pay their wage? Since it appears to have morphed into paying them for their labor, my only recourse seems to be just not going back to businesses with bad service. If the customers don’t “pay them for their work” the customers are shamed by both the restaurant and the public.

 

 

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In my area, servers are not an exception to minimum wage laws, which impacts my sense of tipping in general. I tip 10% for takeout or poor service, 15% for dine-in when my basic expectations are met.

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I was a waitress so always tip, give usually benefit of the doubt if it's slow since the kitchen is their own thing.

Good-great service: 15-20% depending on what was involved.

Okay service: 12-15%

There was service: 10%

On only one occasion have I had truly knockdown horrible service. She was obviously trying to be rude to us to get us to leave before we sat down, then she decided to punish us for staying, ha. 2 pennies underneath a water glass, and I hope I am never even tempted to do it again.

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Oddly timely topic.  My kids and I went out to lunch today and had really poor service, but it seemed to me more that the waitress was not well-trained.  She was nice enough, just extremely inefficient.  I tipped 15% because we had 45 minutes for lunch and didn't get the food until we'd been there 40 minutes.  If the food had been any later, I think we would have just paid for our drinks and left.

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I am a chronic over-tipper. I worked in restaurants in high school and college and know how crappy waitstaff are treated. There has been one time that the service was so horrible that I didn't tip. We went to a restaurant for lunch. It was almost empty, the waitress ignored us, we had to walk up to the host station to get our menus, after about 20 min, we went to the bar to order drinks and brought them back to the tabel ourselves. After many attempts to order, our waitress never came to take our order. We left, paying for our iced teas and I left a note as to why there was no tip. We have not returned to that restaurant since. 

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