It’s not uncommon to see a photo taken of a tip-less check go viral on the Internet. Typically the server that posted it gets featured on Ellen and receives $20,000 to pay her debt. Often time these stories are inspiring, tear jerking, and typically anger-inducing. Who has the right NOT to tip? Sure, its internationally absurd that servers make less than minimum wage and are forced to rely on tips as means of income. On the other hand, could it be said that some servers feel they are entitled to the 20% tip. After all, their livelihood is in the hands of the customer, and they should recognize the significance of making a reasonable living.
My mother was a waitress when I was young, and both of my sisters serve at our family’s restaurant during summer break. I understand how challenging the job can be, how rude customers can be towards servers, and how a tip-less bill can send someone into tears. I have friends who have worked at “tourist trap” restaurants in Boston, many of them express disarray about international guests who are unfamiliar of American cultural norms— or at least they pretend to be. I myself work at the front desk at a hotel, I’m well aware of how difficult mankind can be at times.
BUT there have been a few occasions where I was extremely tempted not to tip, and it wasn’t for lack of impression— ever. I would never “dine and ditch” and I would NEVER go out to eat without the financial means to tip 20%. I don’t respect those who do.
Today I went to brunch and my food was awesome, we sat outside in perfect weather, my bloody Mary was strong. The only problem was I didn’t leave thinking about how awesome my steak and eggs were, I was pissed off that I had to tip our waitress.
Great food. Perfect atmosphere. Strong drink. And all I could think about was how annoyed I was by our server! She was in her early twenties, just like my friends and I, and she seemed completely disinterested and annoyed at our existence. I felt as though I was burdening her by eating at the restaurant. She rolled her eyes, let our drinks sit for 10 minutes (seriously) on the bar before giving them to us. It took 15-20 minutes on average to get drinks served, and the small restaurant wasn’t even half full. She didn’t smile, nor did she apologize for the delay.
I understand that its difficult to work under short-staffed situations, and perhaps she was new! I know what its like to be new. A servers job is to be polite and accommodating. I’m not saying that there aren’t challenging aspects to the job— customer service jobs can be exhausting. I believe transparency is under-valued. If there were insinuating circumstances that negatively influenced our experience, it would have been nice if she told us. It is no big deal to say “sorry the bar is really backed up, it might be a couple extra minutes!” Most people are going to understand completely. It is another thing to give someone a watery drink after they’ve finished their food and are clearly trying to leave the restaurant, 20 minutes after they ordered it, with no explanation.
Of course there have been a number of times where I have frustrated guests. There are miscommunications and unfortunate situations that are not always possible to avoid. Some people are definitely ridiculously challenging and borderline batshit crazy. I get into at least one argument a day with someone staying at the hotel I work at whose mind works in ways I simply cannot fathom. People are sometimes mean, dysfunctional, disorganized, and unable to vocalize their needs. This isn’t that.
An average server deserves the 20% we plan to spend on a tip prior to even arriving at the restaurant. A slightly-below-average server deserves the 20% we plan to spend on a tip prior to even arriving at the restaurant. But where do we draw the line? When you find yourself leaving a restaurant pissed at how poorly you were treated? Fortunately I think its a pretty rare situation, but when it does happen, its hard to know what to do about it. People have bad days, but I was having a good one until I met my server. Her service was essentially a middle finger to the group I was with; negligent, rude, and slow. I didn’t feel any better knowing I tipped only 15%.
So serious question, world. Do situations exist that validate not tipping the server? Is everyone entitled to the 20%? I don’t believe our server was out to get us, but I know if her service were a tangible product– I would have returned it.