Why I Hate People Who Give Bad Tips

I recently read a post with an interesting theory on tipping. I like and respect the author of the post, Len Penzo, though I disagree with his opinion this time around. However, it was when I read the comments I wanted to scream and start punching people. Here is what you really need to understand about tipping and the service industry. [Warning, angry rant ahead]

Tipping is a Cultural Norm, and You are Part of the Culture

Whether you like it or not, if you live in the United States of America the average tipping amount when you visit a restaurant with a server that comes to your table, takes your order, and delivers your food has been 15% for a long time. Over the last decade, that has risen to 20%.

MSN recently declared that 20% is the new 15%. If you can’t even handle 15%, maybe you should move to Europe where the standard tip is 10% or not go to restaurants at all.

Don’t Say That Servers Should Get Another Job

In the United States tax code, minimum wage is lower for people with jobs that come with tips. If you are a waiter, bartender, valet, bell hop, exotic dancer, or any other tip based job, you are only going to get paid the minimum wage for tipped professions. That is how it works.

In Colorado, where I live, minimum wage is $7.64 per hour. For tipped employees, it is $4.62. Non-tipped employees have a minimum wage that is 65% higher than tipped employees.

You Can Tip Less for Bad Service, or Tip More for Good Service

If you go into a restaurant and your waiter ignores you or is rude to you, by all means tip less than 15%. I went to a restaurant a few years ago and ended up in a shouting match with the waiter. He got a quarter.

On the flip side, I went to a nice restaurant last month and had exceptional service and attention. That waiter got 25%.

Don’t hold up to a double standard and tip bad for poor service but not tip well for good service. If I have “average” service where I am happy with the wait staff but not blow away, I tip 20%.

All Problems are NOT Your Server’s Fault

Yes, sometimes a server takes too long to put in an order. Yes, sometimes a server takes too long to refill your drink. However, every problem is not their fault and you should realize that.

In my restaurant days, I remember apologizing to tables for food coming out slow, orders that were not followed correctly, and a slew of other problems. Yes, I did occasionally have a tough time keeping up on a busy night, but I never neglected my tables and always tried to keep my customers happy regardless of my mood or anything else.

Yet, twice (I remember both times) I had a bad tip when I busted my ass to make the customers happy. Don’t be those people.

Your Server Does Not Keep the Entire Tip

Despite what you may think, the server does not keep it all. We had to “tip out” to the bussers, bartenders, the guys in the back who arranged the food on the serving trays, and pay a flat fee for each shift we worked to the people who rolled the silverware into the napkins. These were not optional; they came out of our tips at the end of every single shift.

Your 20% tip quickly becomes a tip of less than 15%, and your 15% is less than 10. If you came in and left a 15% tip on a $40 check, to you it felt like leaving $6.00. For your server, that was a lot less.

Don’t Camp Out

I remember a dinner shift where I had two women order low price meals and water to drink. The bill came out to about $30. I don’t judge people for what they spend in restaurants. I am all about saving money, but then they sat.

And sat.

And sat.

And sat.

The entire shift, that table did not turn over once. It was those two women. They left me 20%, but that $6.00 was not really $6 and I did not get another table there the whole night. In a restaurant where you are used to getting 3-5 turns per shift and the average table had a bill around $50-$60, that cost me about $45 in tips.

If you are going to spend the night at a table, at least order a few drinks and tip accordingly. I once had a 2 hour dinner at a restaurant while visiting with a friend and left an extra $10 because I was blocking the table.

Be Frugal, Save Money, But Don’t Be Cheap

Your tip is part of your dining experience. The average tip in the United States today is expected to be about 20%. 15% is a bit on the light side, but it happens and I won’t judge you (too bad) for it.

However, if you regularly leave tips below 15% when you didn’t get bad service, you are a cheap fucking bastard and should stop going to restaurants.

Image by ineffable_pulchritude/Flickr

38 thoughts on “Why I Hate People Who Give Bad Tips”

  1. I always leave around 20% or more. I usually go to the same restaurants, and they usually remember me. So I definitely don’t want to tip bad if I love the place!

    1. Going to the same places again and again, it is important to build good relationships with the servers. One bar near me gives me free drinks from time to time as I am a good customer and they like me.

  2. It’s interesting.. when you go to any other country in the world, there is no tip culture!  Only in America.

    I’m happy to tip for good service, and I’m happy not to tip if the service is bad.  I admire those who are out there busting their asses working, no matter what!


    1. When I travel, I find that there are tipping rules, it just depends where you go. Most of Europe tips around 10%. In Latin America, it can vary but in Costa Rica it was usually included in the bill. You had an optional “extra tip” line too. In Hungry I found that they tip generously. I have read that most of Asia is a no-tipping zone.

      1. New Zealand and Australia is a no-tip place too.  We ended up asking the servers while we were there and they said that they love to serve Americans becase we would tip.  We tipped a small amount becasue of the stellar service, but knew it wasn’t a common practice from then on.

        1. I’ve never made it to the land Down Under, but that is good to know. Usually the Lonely Planet books tell you what you need to know, and I love those books.

  3. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

    You forgot that sometimes places to eat get busy, and you’re not the only one there.

    1. That is true. On a busy shift, I was always scrambling to keep up. Sometimes the servers are stuck covering more tables because someone called in sick or the manager just sucks at scheduling people.

  4. Jenna from Adaptu

    I’m guilty of this.  I just round up to a whole number usually between 15-20% (unless it’s horrible service).  I think it all balances out in the end.

    1. Rounding up means you are probably doing things right. Sometimes my rounding puts me around 18%, but I usually round up enough that I am over 20%.

  5. Also make sure to tip on the original bill amount, if you are using a groupon or other coupon the server should still be tipped 20% on the FULL amount of the bill. This includes if you get an item removed from your bill.

  6. I am part of the norm, but if you do provide poor service, and it is your fault as the waiter, expect no tip.  And then don’t be surprised by no tip when you couldn’t even refill my water glass!

    1. When I get bad service, I still tip about 5-10% unless it is really bad. Because the servers tip out, I don’t need them to subsidize my meal. However, I agree that if your water is full and you screw up, you are not getting the full 20%.

  7. Most people leave a bad tip to send a message to the waiter that the service was poor.  Unfortunately, the server isn’t likely to get the message and probably just assumes you’re a cheap jerk who doesn’t tip.  

    If you really want to get your message across that the service was bad – tell the manager or owner.  More often than not, it’s probably a training issue that they need to be aware of (server got too many tables, doesn’t know the menu, they’re having problems in the kitchen, etc.).  If you just stiff the waiter with a bad tip, that doesn’t really help the establishment learn from their mistake and fix it. I always leave a 20% tip, and if there was a problem with the meal or service I ask to speak to a manager/owner and tell them about it.  They deserve to know why you’re upset (maybe it IS the server’s fault and they can get rid of them after several complaints), and I find that I can get a gift certificate to come back again, or get some percentage off my bill just by telling someone.

    1. That makes way too much sense! Great idea. Sharing a problem with the manager is surely a better route to ensure a problem is going to be solved, assuming it is not an isolated incident.

  8. Hehe, I had to laugh at your last line, although you probably didn’t mean it to be funny 🙂

    I always feel badly because I don’t generally order expensive food when I eat out, but I do at least eat quickly! (And tip decently.)

    1. You don’t have to feel bad for ordering an inexpensive meal, and no reason to rush. But it is certainly courteous of you to the wait staff to head out quickly when you finish eating.

  9. “All Problems are NOT Your Server’s Fault” + “Your Server Does Not Keep the Entire Tip”

    When you tip, you are not just tipping your waiter, but also the rest of the staff. If the server really tries, but the kitchen staff didn’t cook your food fast enough or the manager didn’t schedule enough servers, at the end of the day, the customer was not provided good service. 

    If the rest of the staff are not able to properly provide for the customers, the tips should suffer as a result. And if this happens regularly, the waiter should probably seek other employment where there is a team who can actually support him/her.

    1. That is not exactly how it works. The servers don’t count their tips and give a fixed percentage to everyone else, they are charged a percent of total sales. If you sell $500 in food and the tip share is 5%, you have to give $25 regardless of how many tips you earned.

  10. ” However, every problem is not their fault and you should realize that.”

    MOST issues *ARE* though. Your server has control over MOST issues and you know IT.

    “orders that were not followed correctly,”

    Most of the time that’s your server’s fault or another server’s fault, not the kitchen staff’s fault in general.

    1. Not always true Jane. I did make an occasional mistake while a server, but it was almost always a speed issue. The entire kitchen staff did not speak English as a first language, and that was more often an issue.

  11. My husband’s in the industry so we always tip on the higher end for good service and speak with management when need be. I remember one time we went to a little lunch place and had French Onion Soup. My husband loves Dr. Pepper and the server always had his drink filled before he could ask. Our lunch was only $10, and he left a $10 tip. The next time we came in, she saw us and had his Dr. Pepper waiting for him right when the hostess sat us. People forget that tipping is a self-fulfilling experience. If you’re not a good tipper by reputation, why is someone going to spend time kissing your ass? There are far more profitable behinds in the restaurant!

  12. I needed a place to vent about this comment…”Unfortunately, there seems to be a more evident appearance of the
    ‘entitlement’ mentality & less of the ‘responsibility’ attitude…” Obviously you’re right sir, and you’re not entitled to an evening out unless you can cover the entire cost, including at least the customary tip that has been a societal norm for decades. Enjoy your home cooked meal!

  13.  That depends very much on the restaurant setup. In some cases, once the server enters the food into the “system” they never see it again until they come to check on your experience. Some servers also expedite and run their own food but that’s not certainly not always the case. Even if they are, they may be hogtied by restaurant policies that keep them from giving you the exact experience you want.

  14. Tips are a normal part of the experience of dining out. Why certain people can’t get that through their heads is beyond me.  If service is bad, I’ll still tip something. It’s a rare occurrence when I don’t tip. Maybe 1 out of 100, 1% of times out I’d leave no tip. I really don’t remember the last time.

    People that see tips are purely optional, only to be given for good service, are simply being unfair. 

    1. I have never left no tip. The one time I was so pissed that I wanted to make a point, I left a quarter on a $15 meal. I think that got the point across that I knew to tip, but I was not going to.

  15. 20% is the new norm!  If it’s bad service, usually less, definitely not zero.  If the server falls short, but the bartender and/or bussers are working hard, I may toss them the difference on the way out.

    1. I never thought about giving extra to someone other than my server. Interesting idea. But remember they get tipped out either way.

  16. Dannielle @ Odd Cents

    I never looked at it like that. Sometime the wait staff gets blamed for stuff that’s not their fault. If the food is taking long, the courteous thing to do would be to let your guests know. I don’t mind tipping, but if I get horrible service from the waiter, I’m not going to tip. I remember I went out to a restaurant. The waitress only checked on us twice – to take our order and to bring our meals. She did not refill our water or bring our drinks until we were almost finished our meal.

    1. Alcoholic drinks usually come from the bar, but other drinks are usually the responsibility of your server. If those are not filled regularly, they don’t deserve a great tip.

  17. that is so true. i worked as a waiter. i never kept the whole tip so when i got a bad one the whole crew got a bad one. i’m not going to lie i have stiffed a waiter or 2 in my day but i had my reasons and if i effed everyone in the path then so be it… other than that i am a really good guy. i swear. 🙂

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