Restaurant Guru: Tipping Point

Dear Restaurant Guru,

My husband and I were out to dinner recently and while the food and atmosphere were great, the service was lousy. Our waitress ignored us to start with, then forgot our drinks. She didn’t check back after she brought out our food and never offered us dessert. When she brought the check, I didn’t want to leave her a tip. I thought that would get her attention and maybe she would do better for the next customer. My husband thought not tipping would be mean and reminded me she makes less than $3 an hour. What’s the right tip when your waitress or waiter sucks at their job?

Sincerely, Miss Tipping Point

Dear Miss Tipping Point,

When we go out to dine, we have high hopes that the cuisine will remind us of our childhood: The environment will feel like a vacation, and the service will be so good we don’t even think about it. Let’s be honest, that’s the best service of all. But when the server is so bad that you’re compelled to take action, not leaving a tip is the wrong move, and here’s why:

Tipping presents a sense of power over another person’s income, and not leaving a tip seemingly gives us the last word. But let’s think about what actually happens.

As a server, I was taught to never look at my tips during the shift and reconcile all of my checks at the end of the night. Because regardless of good or bad tips received, it wouldn’t affect my demeanor throughout the night. It’s a way to stay cool and calm during a crazy shift. So the bad server may not even know whether you tipped or not.

Also, tip pooling is common in today’s restaurant culture. That’s where all tips are collected at the end of the night and divided among the staff. President Trump recently made tip pooling legal again, so the lack of tip will affect a whole group of people’s incomes, not just your server’s.

Finally, that bad server isn’t going to learn their lesson based on your actions. They might not have been trained properly or were having a bad day or simply suck at their job. Either way, you’re not fixing the problem by not leaving a tip.

Here’s the solution: Tell a manager. You can discreetly speak with a manager before you leave, or for those that get anxious about confrontation, send them an email. I have been on the other end of well-written emails with constructive critiques that helped me manage my service team. Businesses love feedback, even when it’s not completely positive.

But for the sake of humanity, PLEASE leave the negative online reviews for some other jerk to write.

Here’s a tip, always leave 20 percent.