General Question

intrepidium's avatar

Is it ever OK to not tip at all?

Asked by intrepidium (1225points) July 22nd, 2011

Not that I’m a skin flint but I’ve encountered pretty bad service before in a diner, and even though I did end up leaving a minimal tip after my dining partner argued with me about it, I felt it was unfair because the wait person was not only petulant but actually made remarks under her breath as she walked away after serving us. It was a small neighborhood diner and we doubt if we’d go back that way again, which was partly why we decided to let it go

BUT how can it be right when a gratuity that is ostensibly a token for service (in the original sense of the word) rendered has become something that’s pretty taken much for granted these days and that wait persons feel entitled to regardless of how little they do for you? 10% seems the absolute bare minimum where I am but at times like my experience, even that seemed way too much. Way I see it, I worked hard for my money and they should too…

P.S. Just to add, the diner wasn’t busy at the time – it was a 7 or 8 table place and there were maybe only 3 tables occupied, so I could discount the possibility that she was rushed off her feet

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34 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

It’s only okay, if your pockets are empty.

You can write an I.O.U or I have given a $2 dollar scratch-off winner along with $3 cash. That was acceptable by the waitress.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t tip for bad service. Not much else to it.
I also take into account if the place is super busy, or if the server looks frazzled but attempts to be nice (or at least polite.) When I get the poor service/poor attitude combo… then I don’t leave a tip.

picante's avatar

I believe that a gratuity is absolutely proportional to the quality of service received. I have no problem not leaving a tip for horrible service; and I love to tip generously for outstanding service.

I think the twist we’ve put on this in modern times is our knowledge that the waitstaff depend on the tips for a decent wage, and we feel some innate obligation to help them make a living. However, if I don’t do a good job, I don’t have a job, and I don’t get paid. @ANef_is_Enuf makes a good point—If I can see that there are circumstances that are beyond the server’s control, I certainly factor that in to my decision.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I disagree with you 100% @john65pennington . I spent a lot of years waiting tables and there is no reason ever to be rude to the customers, even if they are awful. If a server is rude and does the stuff @intrepidium described, they don’t deserve a tip. There are some basic rules of thumb I go by. If the food is late but hot, it’s the kitchen’s fault. If it’s late and cold, assess the crowd, but even at the busiest, it doesn’t usually have a chance to get cold unless the server screws up. If the server doesn’t even acknowledge me when it’s very busy, that’s bad service. If the server has an attitude, that’s bad service. If the server is ever less than polite, that’s bad service and doesn’t deserve a tip. When it’s really bad I make a point of telling someone, so they know why I’m not coming back. If life in the server’s world is so bad that they can’t manage civil, they need to be taking care of it, not serving.

intrepidium's avatar

@picante I get what you mean – that seems like a form of self-imposed or self-assumed sense of social justice or even guilt, and I do feel that sometimes. Then again, a part of me chafes at how the onus seems to be put on paying customer to somehow take automatically into consideration how they needed tips for a decent wage. I wish my wait person had considered that she should EARN her tip by doing more than the bare minimum (take order, bring food). It was her job to make me feel comfortable and welcome as a customer after all…

From what I could tell, the diner was a family-owned place and the wait person could well have been a family member, so I don’t know how it would have gone down if I had tried to complain about it at the time. I really don’t get it though – they clearly could use more business (small diner in a smallish village along a state route) yet they don’t act like they cared very much

funkdaddy's avatar

Bad service is never ok…. buuuuuut

Servers at most places tip others from their tips for the day. The busboy, bartender, hostesses, food runners, etc. Whatever the crew is at that particular place, part of their salary comes from tips. All those people didn’t necessarily suck, so I hate punishing them for having a bad member up front. The servers hourly rate is also well below minimum wage in most places (here, it’s $2.13/hr).

So, if you leave nothing at all, they’ve essentially lost money for your time there.

For that reason, if the service is truly horrible, I’ll leave around 5% and ask to speak to a manager on the way out to let them know what was wrong. I hate complaining, I hate being “that guy”, but that seems the only effective way to handle it.

Honestly, leaving no tip and saying nothing usually doesn’t get the point across. It’s usually dismissed as someone who doesn’t know better and almost always isn’t communicated to anyone other than the server. Speaking to someone is the only way the establishment knows you’re unhappy.

marinelife's avatar

I have not tipped before after complaining to the management.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t tip bad waitresses. However, there have been times my order was screwed up, but the waitress was awesome. I’d give her a full tip because it’s not right to punish the waitress for something the cook did.

Jellie's avatar

Of course you shouldn’t tip for bad service. The purpose of a tip is to appreciate the service.

Bagardbilla's avatar

As different people have said in various combinations, I do not tip for bad service, (and as a business owner), I make it a point to let mgmt know. They can’t fix something that they don’t know is broke… And as @funkdaddy rightly said, there are other folks who depend on tips, so I usually give a little something to the owner for them, (not the waiter/ess).

Ayesha's avatar

For me, a tip should only be given to a satisfactory service. That too a generous one. It’s either that or no tip at all. One does not have to give a tip, if you are dreading the place and service provided. The ‘tip’ suggests or rather implies how satisfied you were, if not then no tip. Simple. The waiters are already doing their jobs and getting paid for them. You’re giving or not giving the tip gives them a fairly good idea of what they should and shouldn’t proceed with in the near future.

filmfann's avatar

Certainly, for bad service.
If I am a regular, and I am strapped for cash, I might ask the waitress if I can tip her extra next time.

ejedlicka's avatar

What most people don’t know is that servers (like myself) end up making minimum wage either way. If, as a server, we make below minimum wage combining tips and our hourly wage, we will receive compensation for what is missing to make minimum wage. Sure, it comes out of the company’s money, but honestly (even as a server) If the company has hired someone that is inconsiderate to serve, they deserve to lose money for it.

What else I know is that servers don’t consider what they did wrong half the time a poor tip is given, they take the defensive and believe that it isn’t their fault (however telling them all they did wrong also is the wrong thing to do because servers get offended). I agree that speaking with a manager (with a level head) and explaining what happened is the most responsible way to handle the situation. Heck, sometime they give you cards to redeem next time so they can make it up to you.

As a server, I believe that if I do a poor job I do not deserve a tip. I go to every table as if they are my friends and give them my best. Someone who doesn’t do this should not be in the serving business and doesn’t need to be tipped.

One last thing I need to say though, If you are considering a extremely small or no tip please consider the environment. Is there a reason you received poor service? are they busy? Did you receive a server that just started a week ago? Is the problem actually the server’s fault or is it the kitchen? The tip is a reflection of the service the server gave you, NOT the restaurant as a whole. If you have a problem with other functions or members of the restaurant, take it up with the manager and not out on the server.

Bellatrix's avatar

Goodness, if I ever visit the US I will have to put a stamp on my hand or something to remember to tip. We don’t routinely tip in Australia. If someone does a good job, I might tip, but here people aren’t paid below the minimum wage and so it isn’t part of the culture.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes @Bellatrix. Minimum wage here might be $7.50, but waitress are only paid $5, or whatever. They assume tips. When I started working the min. wage was $3.00 an hour, I think. I worked at Sonic for $1.00 an hour.

jerv's avatar

I believe that horrendous service is worth not tipping, but if it isn’t worth speaking to the manager, I generally leave ~10% (about half my usual). I don’t really want to reward bad behavior, but they have bills to pay too, so not tipping will cut into their livelihood more than I feel is justifiable.

That said, most of the time I’ve gotten bad service, it was because the floor was under-staffed; if the waiter/waitress is busy servicing a lot of tables and just doesn’t have enough time to serve us better, I take that into account and may actually tip slightly more in order to make their shift suck a little less.

@Bellatrix My wife used to clean hotel rooms, and they hated foreigners simply because most of them assumed that they didn’t need to tip because gratuity was already included and/or that the staff earned enough to not rely on tips.
IMO, it’s one of those things that visitors from abroad need to realize before they visit.

Bellatrix's avatar

@jerv perhaps hotels/establishments that attract a lot of customers could also include that information in their sinage or in the hotel information. If I didn’t tip, it wouldn’t be about being rude as much as not remembering and needing a reminder. I tip very rarely.

funkdaddy's avatar

@Bellatrix – Honestly I tip just about everyone and had no idea you tipped at hotels.

When someone told me to I was confused… where do I leave it? Is the amount based on the cost of the room? Why does how many nights I’ve stayed matter? Does it go to everyone or just the cleaning staff?

I still don’t know the etiquette, so generally just put $10 somewhere obvious and call it cool.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Like @funkdaddy, I still leave a tip and ask to speak to the manager for all of the same reasons. Fortunately, this doesn’t come up often. More times than not, I’ve told the server how pleased I was with the food and service and asked that they point the manager on duty in my direction, if the person has time. The positive feedback shared with the manager might help them realize how good they have it by having caring, attentive employees.

@ejedlicka also has several very valid points. Thank you for sharing them.

@Bellatrix Thank you for chiming in from a perspective outside of the US customs on tipping. My SO lives in the UK, where tipping isn’t the norm for many types of businesses. It can be confusing to them upon payment when someone ‘overpays’ or even considered offensive. Maybe this is because it comes across as flashy?

As for the hotel tipping, the people that clean the rooms are paid the minimum wage if not more. They are not reliant upon tips like restaurant employees are. Despite this, they tend to make less than the other hotel line level positions, despite doing the most laborious work. If a room attendant’s services meets or exceeds your expectations, a tip will be appreciated.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My apology friends. I just thought of another reason to leave a tip in the US. We still do not have a national health care system. Many service establishments do not offer a medical plan to their line level employees.

jerv's avatar

@Bellatrix…and Chinese people in Hong Kong rarely speak English amongst themselves. Different places are different, and each culture has it’s own things. That is why we had little briefings before every port we went into when I was in the Navy; to learn those little things.

@Pied_Pfeffer Umm… no. They get paid by the room, which may or may not net them minimum wage. Even if they do get it, they don’t work 40 hours a week, many not even 30. They really don’t earn much more than waitstaff at many places.

scarletheels's avatar

I have never worked as a waitress but I used to hang around the restaurant where my best friend worked at. It was a small town diner filled with a few tourists and old men who liked to grab her butt every now and then. She put up with A LOT. You may not see it but these people endure way too much to get paid less than minimum wage. There are some differing opinions here but, unless a waitperson literally punches me in the face or defecates in my food, I will leave at least one dollar.

You mention the restaurant was not busy and there didn’t seem to be an obvious reason why the person was giving you less than the service you were expecting. Do you realize the horrible pay they make? It’s one thing to try to make it on a slave wage, er I mean minimum wage, it’s quite another to make even less that that. I don’t advocate crappy customer service but dining managers are known to be some of the worst bosses. A quarter would be better than nothing, especially in this economy.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jerv I just sent you a PM.

King_Pariah's avatar

If it’s terrible service, it’s fine in my book to not leave a tip. (Seriously, you sneeze in the palm of your hand and have the gall to pat me on the shoulder with the same hand while calling me sweet? I’ll show you “sweet”...)

jerv's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I replied :p

@scarletheels That is why I generally leave something unless they were truly horrid.

Raven_Rising's avatar

I’m generally a good tipper. I also believe that if you can’t afford to give a good tip, you shouldn’t go out to eat. However, in the situation described by @intrepidium, I wouldn’t have left her anything either. A poor attitude is simply unacceptable in the service industry.

@Bellatrix @funkdaddy It had never occurred to me to tip in a hotel until I became a room attendant for a hotel chain. The hotel I worked at paid room attendants $3.00 per room and you had to be able to clean two rooms per hour, which was equivalent to minimum wage at that time (this was regardless as to what kind of drunken debauchery took place in said room. To give an example, I once had to peel chocolate donuts off of the stucco ceiling).
Tipping generally isn’t mentioned in most hotel brochures or travel magazines so people who don’t travel much are generally unaware. I also think its easier to remember to tip one’s server because they have more face to face time with their customers whereas room cleaners don’t.

jerv's avatar

Just an FYI; I haven’t looked up other states, but the minimum wage in NH for service workers is pitiful.

”..A tipped employee of a restaurant, hotel, motel, inn or cabin who customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips directly from the customer will receive a base rate from the employer of not less than 45 percent of the applicable minimum wage.”

As NH has their minimum wage set at $7.25 (the federal minimum wage), that means that it’s possible for them to earn as little as $3.26/hr…. and many do. Also, the section of NH RSA 279 (their minimum wage law) that prohibit substandard wages was repealed back in 1995, not that there aren’t plenty of loopholes there. Yeah, they’re supposed to make up the difference between your actual income and minimum wage if the tips don’t come in, but the Titanic was supposed to survive it’s maiden voyage too.

Bellatrix's avatar

Ponders on why anyone would think Chinese people speak English amongst themselves? Good that the US navy is taking cross cultural communication and sensitivity seriously. I am actually aware people in the US tip more than here, but since it isn’t the norm for me or for some international travellers, I was merely suggesting a reminder message in places frequented by international visitors might be a helpful thing if their money is required to ensure US hospitality employees are paid a fair rate of pay.

funkdaddy's avatar

Minimum hourly wage for tipped employees by state for those who are interested.

That said, at one point I had to leave my software quality assurance job and go back to waiting tables because the software job wasn’t paying enough. At the right restaurant, with the right outlook, it can be a great job.

Raven_Rising's avatar

@Bellatrix LOL…don’t mind @jerv…he’s been a bit punchy the last couple days. I agree that reminders for our international travelers might be helpful. Perhaps the industry thinks adding a reminder to their travel brochures be a bit uncouth?

Bellatrix's avatar

Thank you @Raven_Rising :-)

Perhaps it would be uncouth, but that might be better than unsuspecting international tourists upsetting people left, right and centre, purely because they are unaware or have forgotten the difference. I think I would prefer a gentle reminder than to realise after the fact that I should have tipped. I still remember a situation many, many years ago in an Indian airport where I didn’t tip (because I didn’t know I was expected to and it wasn’t the norm for me) and wish I could go back and give that lady a tip. Not quite the same in the US of course, but I think most people want to do the right thing. Of course, we know some people will still not read the messages and even if they do, they won’t tip.

LostInParadise's avatar

I have heard that the nastiest thing to do is to leave a very small tip, like maybe a quarter or a penny, because no tip means the customer might have just forgotten.

jerv's avatar

Here is an article on hotel tipping.

@LostInParadise I’ve heard that too.

@Bellatrix Most places, it was a quick and simple affair, but when we were getting ready to pull into the UAE, we got a lot of rules on how to be a responsible visitor, which was kind of moot since you had to be of a certain rank/paygrade to even allowed to leave the pier and go into town.

dalepetrie's avatar

Since the restaurant often pays a server less than minimum wage (because they make tips they can do this), and then STILL takes 8% of every check the server rings up out of their “tips” whether they are tipped that much or not, anything less than 8% is costing the server money. That said, it should be a conscious decision if you tip or not. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to tip 10% for technically “poor” service, 15% for average and 20% or more for excellent service. But 10% is no more the “floor” than 20% is the ceiling. Someone who goes the extra mile can get a much bigger tip…I’ve been known to give 40% if it was warranted. Conversely, someone who give you service that is not just “bad” but beyond unacceptable, I choose to penalize that person. The way I see it, I’m doing them a favor by telling them they’re in the wrong line of work.

In fact, if I REALLY want to make my dissatisfaction known, I’ll tip a penny…that way they know I made an effort to tip badly and didn’t just “forget”.

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