I had a disagreement with a friend this weekend. I had been with friends at a bar watching basketball all day. Our waitress had our booth of between 6-8 people for around 3-4 hours. I was not drinking, but everyone else was. There was no disagreement that the waitress in question provided good service while we were eating, drinking, etc. — to the point where when one guy spilled some of the jager bomb she was bringing over, she went back to the bar to get the bartender to top it back off.
One couple asked for their checks as the rest of us were signing ours. The waitress took his card, ran it and brought back the book. When my friend opened it, his bill was there but his card was not in the
book. Keeping in mind the couple was a little drunk, the guy’s girlfriend was quite distressed. The couple told the waitress who grabbed two hostesses and began looking for it between our table and the waitress station (literally about 15 feet apart). Five minutes later — at the most — the waitress brought the card back and handed it to the girlfriend.
The boyfriend went to pay for the tab, which was over $100, and put down a $20 bill as tip. His girlfriend immediately grabbed the twenty and started telling him not to tip her because she lost his card and didn’t “say sorry” when she returned it. At this point I said something because: 1) I think the waitress deserved to be tipped for the work she did. Nothing was actually lost (I think the card was in her apron pocket); and 2) I and the boyfriend frequent this restaurant/bar frequently, and I don’t want to be associated with someone who doesn’t tip.
So my questions on tipping are this:
1) Do most people feel obligated to tip? Do you start off assuming you’ll tip between 15-20% and go up or down from there based on service? Or do you start at 0 and only tip for satisfactory/good service? I believe that you tip not only for services rendered, but if you’re in a place you go to frequently, you’re tipping based on future expectations. The girlfriend in question thinks that you tip solely based on services rendered that time, and that a tip is a “bonus” and shouldn’t be expected.
2) What are offenses that would keep people from tipping? And do you tell the waitress or manager why you didn’t tip or just leave nothing? — Tipped Off
The girlfriend in question is one tacky hot mess. Was she raised in a barn? Or, perhaps Europe (where tipping isn’t as customary as it is in other parts of the world)? Otherwise, I cannot fathom how she has made it to legal drinking age without understanding the rules of tipping, which are thus: ALWAYS TIP! I mean, what kind of cad doesn’t leave a tip after hours of loitering? There’s no excuse! Servers work damn hard for their tips, without which they typically don’t even make enough to cover the cost of their commute to and from work. Unless a server is entirely out of line, as in: spits in your food in front of you, calls you or your friends names, or sexually harasses you, a tip is always expected. Generally, a tip of 18-20% is customary, with the lower end going to those servers who aren’t as attentive and the higher end going to those who are fast with refilling water glasses, taking orders, and carding you when you’re a 35-year-old mother of a newborn who hasn’t slept in 10 weeks and just ordered a glass of Pinot.
So, what do you do if you happen to be with a group of people and the check comes and your lame ass friends don’t leave enough of a tip? You call them out on it. You count the bills and announce, “We’re five bucks short. Did everyone make sure to leave 20% for the tip?” If no one ponies up — the cads! — you shame the jerks. You sigh, dig into your pocket or wallet, fish out a fiver and say, “Fine, I’ll cover it this time. Our server was great and doesn’t deserve to be shorted.” Then, the next time you’re out with said friends, ask for separate checks.
In your case, LW, since you frequent this bar regularly, I would have approached the waitress after your friends left, handed her a 20 and apologized for your comrade’s bad manners. Even if it weren’t a bar that you frequent regularly, the right thing to do would have been to urge your friend to please leave a tip since you all know how hard the waitress worked serving your drunks asses all afternoon and that the lost credit card was a simple mistake that anyone could have made, especially after a long day of dealing with a bunch of obnoxious drunks, and it didn’t cost anyone anything except five minutes of anxiety. If they refused to leave an appropriate compensation for a job well done, I would have left it myself and then have been sure to not go out with those friends again.
In the event that the service sucked, you could opt to leave a smaller tip (say, 15%), and/or ask to speak to a manager about the server’s behavior.
Readers, what are some of your more memorable tipping experiences (either as a tippee or a tipper)? Have you ever not left a tip on principle? How have you handled bad service? Have you ever been out with friends who were stingy with the tipping?
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.