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Good Food \ Bad Service Question

Four of us attended an Easter Brunch buffet at a downtown hotel. We have eaten there on previous holidays and have always had great food and as well as great service.

This year, we were looking forward to having another wonderful time. Price was $50 per person. We were one of the first people there when they opened and the room was only about 1/8 of the way filled.

After about 10 minutes, our server comes over. So far fine. We request 3 mimosas and 1 coffee. We were informed that our server would not get drinks and that we should go to the service bar set up in the corner. We asked for orange juice thinking that it's only the alcoholic drinks that he can't get and were told no on that as well - He states that he can however get coffee only. We say yes please to coffee and two of us head up to the bar to get the rest of our drinks.

Bartender was suprised that we were getting our own drinks as he had been instructed that servers only were to get drinks. However, he happily makes us our drinks and we return to the table. When we get back to the table, no coffee has been poured.

We do our first run thru the buffet and arrive back at the table. Still no coffee. We flag down our waiter and again request coffee. He does not respond verbally , but does take the coffee cup from the table and disappears into the back room. He comes out and starts waiting on another table. When he passes by us about 10 minutes later, we again request coffee and now maple syrup. It takes another 10 minutes to get the coffee and another 15 minutes after that to get the syrup. In the meantime he's got 2 other tables and has been bringing them mimosas, juice, coffee, etc.

I go to the hostess and ask to speak w. the manager and am assured that he will be by to speak w. us. Manager never comes over. We continue to enjoy our brunch food wise, but each request to the waiter is met w. a blank stare and must be followed up on at least twice with at least a 15 minute interval in between before the item is received - i.e. fresh coffee, clean silverware.

Room was half full by this time and we again asked to speak w. the manager to request a new waiter. At that time, we were told that they were slammed and could not accomodate our request to speak w. manager or to provide a new waiter.

To make a long story short, we were there for about 3 hrs, made 3 seperate requests to speak w. manager with no response except for a round of mimosas sent to table at the end of the meal ( by a different server!) .

On our way out, a manager ( and here i thought they didn't exist!) asks us how we enjoyed our meal? We responded w. great food but bad service. We were asked why we didn't bring it to their attention and responded that we did 3 times with no response. They took our name and phone number and promised to look into it - No response as of today.

My expectation for a buffet server are:

1. Take drink orders & bring them within a half hour's time
2. Clear dirty plates between trips to buffet within a reasonable amount of time
3. Bring fresh silverware if needed.

I know everyone on Chowhound will give me an honest opinion - Do you think we were unreasonable in our expectations for service and what should we have tipped ??

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  1. Addendum......And what, if anything should the Manager have done about it

    1 Reply
    1. re: Trufflebaby

      At the time, the manager should have made a huge attempt to improve your service, even if it meant waiting on your table him/herself. Post meal, they should send you an apology and perhaps a gift certificate for dessert/drinks/apps upon your return.

    2. 30 minutes for drinks? i'd get upset long before that. initially, the waiter may have been confused about drink service, and perhaps got the message. but i'm extremely confused why he was accomodating other guests and not your party. that makes no sense.

      i'm torn about not wanting to make a commotion, but his behavior would have ruined my meal. i would have waited at the front until a manager was found. i don't care how busy they were.

      i'd call or e-mail the general manager today and see what happens.

      1. I would expect a response from the restaurant today or tomorrow. If you hear nothing, I'd make a phonecall and try and get hold of the person in charge. Perhaps 'manager' doesn't mean anything at this particular place. Emphasize that you've had wonderful meals there in the past, and that this instance was profoundly different due to the poor service. I find that adding a compliment to a complaint can get better results. Don't return until and unless you get an appropriate response.

        You certainly were very reasonable in your expectations, and I am sorry they weren't met. I hope you enjoyed the time with your friends/family.

        1. totally unacceptable,

          I would have tipped the server a penny, just so they know you didnt forget.

          I typically dont waste my time speaking to a manger if service is poor, since I feel the staff reflects the management. I dont have the time, energy, or desire to debate, or complain to a manager to get a comp, or a server in trouble. I simply will not return to a place with poor service.

          1 Reply
          1. re: swsidejim

            Absolutely agree with swsidejim, totally unacceptable - tip a penny so they knew you didn't forget. I dissagree about speaking to management though, this server could be new and no one knows how terrible they are and could ruin their business and since you've enjoy this place before, a discussion with management is important to them and to you (because it sounds like you'de like to return again and not repeat this experience). If someone doesn't call, a letter is very professional and you have an opportunity to get everything you want said without any interuptions or emotions getting in the way.

          2. The rules for buffets are as different as the foods presented. I have been to buffets that are full sel-service, semi-self-service and in between. This one sounds like no service. But to be fair it was Easter Sunday and the "A" team was probably not there. But that is no reason for the service you received.

            I think the key comment to the inexperience of the server was the Bartender's comment. This was the key message that there was complete confusion in the ranks. After your venture to the bar, the bartender probably corraled the server and told him he did not want to have every tom, dick and harry coming to the bar and to please take the drink orders for the other tables. So now we have an inexperienced waiter, who told you to serve yourselves, got scolded by the bartender and figures your mad (which you were). So now the embarassed server goes after the other tables since he sees you are mad, has written off the tip for your table and goes to maximize the others. Obviously just a theory, still unacceptable, but giving some thoughts.

            Now onto the Manager. Hostess dropped the ball. But once again, probably a fill-in for a fill-in. Not acceptable, but it is a holiday weekend.

            Mystery Mimosas. How would you know another server sent them. And given the quality of the service up til that moment I'd probably bet that they were delivered to the wrong table and some other table was getting angry waiting for their Mimosas. Another server sent you a round of Mimosas? That's a first. Did he say anything when they were brought over such as "I am very sorry for the inconvenience..." or did he just drop them off? If the latter probably another mistake. How would he know that there was a problem? The hostess probably did not tell him and I bet the original waiter did not either.

            On to what you should expect. Today is Monday and I would expect a call today, and in worst case tomorrow. You have to give management a chance to find out what may have occured from their end and a full business day is a reasonable time for their investigation. Best case is they will invite you back for a buffet brunch at your convenience, worst case they will give you a coupon for a comped dessert or drink. In any case you absolutely should hear back from them and if not, call and ask for the GENERAL manager of the hotel. Hotels have so many managers you need to speak with the on in charge. Go to their website, the name may be listed.

            59 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              IMO, the fact that it was a holiday (for some folks) should have nothing to do with level of service received. As a matter of fact, I would think the hoted would want to put out their A Team on a holiday, considering more people probably go out to brunch that day with their families. But, that's just my opinion. Obviously, that's not what happened in reality.

              It sounds like the whole place had a horrible lack of communication.

              This is what you should expect:

              1. Take drink orders and bring them back within five minutes time.
              2. Clear dirty plates within a reasonable amount of time (was this done?).
              3. Fresh silverware if needed.
              4. Access to speak with someone in charge within five minutes of your request.

              Personally, I'd see #4 as most important. If you don't hear from someone by tomorrow, get on the phone and call the hotel manager. You want the guy who runs the whole shebang. Don't settle for less. If they refuse to talk to you, or give you a run-around, you have the option of looking into contacting someone higher-up and writing a letter to them, or give up and basically don't go back ever again. I guess you also have the option of just writing it off as a bad day and continuing to go for brunch. I wouldn't feel very good about that myself, but you may be ok with it.

              I'm glad your food was good, but I'm sorry to hear you had a bad server. You should expect nothing less than an apology for the way you were treated. Your expectations were certainly not out of line.

              1. re: QueenB

                I can see your reasoning that a restaurant would want its best team out on a holiday, but that's often not the case, especially for brunch. Most people don't like to work holidays, and most servers don't like to work brunch. If someone is going to get the day off, (and maybe they won't, often *everyone* works on busy holidays,) management will usually give preference to those with seniority.

                1. re: nc213

                  I see what you're saying. Good point.

                  1. re: nc213

                    I came here to say much the same thing as nc213-
                    In fact, I worked at an Easter Buffet myself. The ENTIRE regular staff was there plus a handfull of rented servers, bussers and cooks (me!). This buffet happenned to be a new country club's dining room (their first Easter). The rental staff tends to be "a" listers- staffing firms use these holidays as a make/break with new clients.
                    My bragging aside, Trufflebaby- you had a dud waiter, a dud host, and a pretty weak manager. I think you should keep on them to let them know about your experience. The staff was probably overworked and looking forward to going home to their families, but every professional knows if you do your job well and quickly- time goes faster. If the facility knows their staff was underperfoming, they can start making decisions about future holiday staffing.

                2. re: jfood

                  Great, jfood. I agree with you 100%. Holidays are not the time when restaurants are at their best. Restaurants are often extremely busy and likely as not to be short-staffed (yes, many employees also want the day off to spend with their family or go to church). The top guns in the restaurant have seniority and first dibs on time off so that what you're left with a staff who is not so experienced.

                  As for tipping a penny? If you do, plan on never returning to that restaurant and don't bother to follow up with your complaint. If when I was a manager a party had complained and the server showed me the penny tip, that would be enough for me to do as little as possible to resolve the complaint to the guest's satisfaction. You'd get lip service and nothing more. Why? Anyone who does this to one of my staff is clearly not the type I want coming back.

                  Anyway, after years in food service I avoid restaurants at holidays.

                  1. re: tokyorosa

                    If a restaurant cannot provide decent service on a holiday it should not open. If any business is going to be open to the public, it has a responsibility to provide the service for which the customer is paying. What is truly unacceptable about what the OP describes is that there was no response from management at the time of the complaint. I can't believe the OP stayed around for three hours. I would have been out of there much sooner.

                    1. re: ddavis

                      In a beautiful and perfect world, no restaurants would be open on holidays so that employees could spend the time with their families. Of course, in a perfect world, there would only be perfect employees and perfect service in every situation in every workplace around the world.

                      Anyway, on holidays the attitudes of many people take a nosedive. Have you ever been in a retail setting at Christmas? Certainly it's no excuse that its a holiday, but I think people are better off being informed that, yes, sometimes in our imperfect world things do go wrong at all levels in all workplaces with all employees.

                      1. re: ddavis

                        Oh, I wish it were so...
                        (Can't believe I'm posting twice in the same thread at the same time)

                        Like Tokyorosa says below me, customers and restaurants undergo changes on these big holidays. Again, the buffet I worked on Easter was excellent and the guests all seemed happy. The kitchen, however, was a different place than usual- a dining room that regularly feeds 100-150 on a busy Saturday fed 450 in just over 4 1/2 hours. And I'm going back on Mother's Day...

                      2. re: tokyorosa

                        by tipping a penny, I believe the decison has already been made by me to not return to this restaurant. Being concerned about how the manager or the server who did a terrible job might react isnt in my thought process. They have already lost a customer, and most likely will go out of business eventually. There are too many good restaurants out there that work hard, and do a good job to waste time/money on ones that are run poorly.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          Yes, my point being that if you do choose to tip a penny, then that's your final word and don't gnaw at the complaint like a dog gnawing on a bone. Rarely do servers set out to purposefully ruin a meal for anyone, but people who leave penny tips seem to be passive-aggressive types who actually are looking to ruin someone's day. Good riddance to those types.

                          1. re: tokyorosa

                            I dont bother talking/complaining to managers( its not my job to police their employees, and I am not going out to eat to get a "comp"), as I said typically the staff is a relfection of the management, if the server is bad, so are their managers.

                            As I also said too many good establishments to go to who employ professionals, and get the 25%-30% I tip on a regular day.

                            BTW I have only left a penny one time in my life, and I dine out 3-4 times a week. Bad service is so rare if not non existant in the places I go to eat that the hard working servers/bartenders are tipped very well, and they deserve it.

                            1. re: tokyorosa

                              I disagree, leaving a penny is my communication to the server not to management or the owner of the restaurant. I may have every intention of returning to a great restaurant with a great chef but I'm communicating that I better not get the unacceptable service that I recieved from this particular idiot!!! I send a letter/or communicate to management to explain why I left a penny and why I think this particular server is terrible and bad for their business. I tip extremely well for great service but communicate (in my tips) for extremely unacceptable service as well!

                              1. re: lexpatti

                                leaving a penny or a quarter, no matter how bad the service, is passive-aggressive. rarely do even terrible servers realize quite how bad they are. they'll just write the customer off as a jerk, and spend the rest of the shift grumbling about the cheap idiots on table 85. it's simply not an effective method of communicating. in a perfect world, managers would be all-seeing and all-knowing, but they're not. especially on a day like easter where they might be doing 3 or 4 times normal volume.

                                leave 10% or 12% and speak with the manager. speak with him or her before you leave. waiting to call or write the day seems like you engaged in a bit of groupthink and got yourself worked up over something on the way home.

                                especially considering the op has dined at and enjoyed this place previously. obviously something was amiss. maybe it was the waiter's first day, maybe he misunderstood steps of service, maybe he was a busser bumped up because they were short-staffed for the holiday. i could come up with many more reasons.

                                a manager would much prefer to deal with the situation on the spot. they can mollify the guest somehow and also speak with the server asap, rather than having to track him down several days later. there are 2 sides to every story. what if he's only scheduled for sundays? then an entire week goes by before resolution.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  amen, hotoynoodle. Like you, if given horrible service, i would tip AND speak to the manager, as you suggest--but sadly both these these actions seems to be an advanced application of restaurant patronage.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    Nope, I still believe it's my little way of helping this poor sole understand quickly that this is not their line of work (again, if we're talking extremely unacceptable service). They learn quickly to either get better or get out. We are talking extreme here. I tip very good on average and rarely do this one penny thing, but it is way of communicating particularly if you back it up with communication with mgmt so they can do their job. Tipping is a communication tool. "I think you were an awesome server, here's $$$$$ - I think you were not a good server, here's $$".

                                    In any business, tipping is a form of communication. A customer thanking someone for a job well done and how much you decide to tip is very much a part of that communication. Some businesses more than others, but I believe in the restaurant business it should be a direct coorelation. Service is an extremely important component to my dining experience.

                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      Here's a good link that spells out good standard philosophy on tipping.

                                      http://www.tip20.com/div/con/articles...

                                      1. re: lexpatti

                                        "This poor little soul" Right. That's hardly paternalistic at all.

                                        Tipping isn't a form of communication. (Using money to "communicate" reminds me of all those parents who buy their children everything they want as a way to show love. That works, too, right?) And if the restaurant servers pool their tips, as happens in many places, your penny "communication" is rendered completely moot.

                                        Those two cents are actually *worth* about two cents, though.

                                        Edited to add: It's been awhile since I worked in restaurants, so I just remembered what I used to do as a manager in the case where the table didn't complain and tipped poorly (including, yes, penny tips). I'd take the check and cash it out at a 10% discount (the discount the customer might've gotten if s/he had complained directly to me) and give the cash to the server. And this was done with the blessing of the restaurant's owner.

                                        1. re: tokyorosa

                                          actually, you may be a bit mistaken as in other threads about this subject when rest. mgrs chime in from places that pool tips - those managers speak to those servers who fall below the rest. tip average to find out what the "issues" are - particularly if that server is consistently below average. Sounds like a good mgr. Since they are causing an issue for other servers on the team. So, it is a communication tool. Great servers get paid great tips. They share that information with each other, so if a server isn't getting what their fellow servers are making, they know they need to step it up. It's all communication.

                                          So not the same as your comment with parents that buy for love - it is a form of miscommucation, the problem is - parents are communicating one thing, kids are hearing something else.

                                          1. re: lexpatti

                                            Yes, just as when one leaves a penny tip, one may think one is communicating one thing--whereas the server has a whole different idea about the person leaving a penny tip--and that idea is rarely, "There's someone from whom I can learn a valuable lesson about the service industry!"

                                            Honestly, I'm not trying to tell anyone how things *should* be--I'm just explaining how thing actually are.

                                            1. re: tokyorosa

                                              In the service industry "one penny means - really lousy service", so those in the industry KNOW how things actually are - there isn't any guessing as to what the customer meant. This has been around for a long time. Not sure how long you've been around.

                                              1. re: lexpatti

                                                I worked in restaurants for 12 years. I know I was a good server, and if anyone ever left me a penny I would NOT think it was for bad service. Even on an off day when I wasn't at my best, I would think they were jerks.

                                                1. re: mojoeater

                                                  truly. how many times did a guest fall all over you, tell you they had the best time, best food, best service, etc. and leave a crappy tip? compliments don't pay the rent.

                                                  lexpatti:
                                                  "those managers speak to those servers who fall below the rest. tip average to find out what the "issues" are - particularly if that server is consistently below average."

                                                  this is something that needs to be recognized as a pattern. which takes time. if you talk to the manager before you leave, the issue can be addressed immediately. if it is a pooled house, you're taking money out of a lot of people's pockets via your method of *communication*.

                                                  i've been a server, a bartender, a manager and now am a sommelier. i've worked in fine dining in boston for 17 years. i think i have a pretty good handle on how restaurant workers think.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    I do advocate talking to management, I always have in all my comments. But come on, you all seem to agree that leaving 10% when service is poor is a customer's way of communicating just that. I'm only taking it a step further that when service is extremely poor, communicate it as well with a point "a penny". You can't tell me that the rest of the team isn't aware of why this person got the penny? If they are pooling, they are going to assist em in getting better if they are truely a team or push em out. The server is taking money out of his fellow team members by miserably doing below average job, not me the customer. Put the accountability where it belongs. If all the servers are above average and everyone is making good tips, who is accountable for that - they are!

                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                      Although this has been an interesting thread I will add the Jfood perspective.

                                                      I left a penny, and only once when I was 23. I have felt the following for over 25 years since that night. It was childish and obnoxious. Then I grew up.

                                                      If I have bad service I try to correct during the meal, first with the server and if that does not work, quietly with the manager. At the end of the meal I decide on the tip. A penny sends a message all right, and notone that is favorable to the custo. Crew gets together and says "did anything happen?" everyone says "no, no one knows anything." Ah the guy must be a jerk.

                                                      If you sit there for a full meal, say nothing and leave a penny, do not expect the server or anyone else to read your mind. A reasonable man might understand but some may not. A quick chat with the manager (less than 1 minute) is all it takes.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Agreed! Having tried to speak with both your server serveral times and still nothing, and having tried several times to speak with a manager and still nothing (as the pster says) - Then your penny does finally get your word out. Then when you follow up with your letter, if Management still hasn't called you back after leaving, you have all the opportunity to explain in that letter. No one is guessing "guy/gal must be a jerk".

                                                        On the rare occasions that I have this one penny, I can gaurantee you that my server knew exactly why he received one penny. There wasn't any question when I left. Or management for that matter (if they were around to care).

                                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      I always thought leaving two or three pennies on the table was self explanatory. Would servers prefer we quietly communicate our displeasure with pennies or loudly speak to the manager? The penny routine gives the server the benefit of the doubt perhaps just a one off.

                                                      1. re: tom porc

                                                        Servers would prefer to talk to them. If that doesn't work, talk to the manager. Not loudly. Politely explain your disappointment. It's the manager's duty to resolve the service situation while you are still there.

                                                        In the OP's case, he did not have the opportunity to do either. This was complicated by the fact that it was a buffet, so the server had nothing to do with food service. And if the server was that distracted, he/she would have shrugged a penny off.

                                                        Trufflebaby - I wonder if there's been any resolution from the restaurant yet?

                                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                                          Yes! I hadn't received a call from anyone by this past thursday so I called the General Manager as suggested by one of the chowhounds.

                                                          GM initially offered to comp us for upcoming Mother's day brunch but we already have plans for that day (at a different restaurant) so he offered us dinner for 2 at their restaurant - which we accepted!

                                                          Thanx for your help everybody !

                                                          1. re: Trufflebaby

                                                            I'm glad they responded to you in an appropriate manner. Enjoy your free dinner!

                                                            1. re: Trufflebaby

                                                              Glad to help. Experience has shown that the general manager is the proper level. go with a positive attitude and enjoy

                                                            2. re: mojoeater

                                                              "Servers would prefer to talk to them" that is not an option in my household. As I said previously we dont wish to complain, berate or criticize the wait staff as we dont know if they are having an off day or its their way of serving. And I am definately not going to seek out a manager to say that I am leaving a poor tip because my server didnt refill my water glass or provide clean flatware. We also dont let a poor server ruin our evening by overemphasizing the situation with all this explaining//complaining. Leave an appropriate tip (or pennies) and forget it.

                                                            3. re: tom porc

                                                              That's one of my points: a low tip of say 10% could be taken as either bad service or really lousy tipper but "one penny" has always meant one thing - "really bad service"! But my other point is always communicating to both server and management, particularly when you want to come back/like the place/etc. as the poster has said.

                                                              1. re: lexpatti

                                                                Wow. It takes a strong will to stand up to mature diners and a combined 100 years + of experience in the restaurant business who all agree that a one penny tip conveys the message, "Look at me, I'm a passive-aggressive jerk!" You've convinced me, lexpatti--from now on, I'll be leaving a penny with every religious tract. (Those work too, you know!)

                                                                Jfood, I know you hear it all the time on these boards, but I very much heart you!

                                                                1. re: tokyorosa

                                                                  Just difference of opinions here - not everyone agrees with you tokyorosa - or me - it's what makes the world go round. This coming, as well, from a mature diner, experienced as well in the restaurant business as well as a successful business owner that continues to grow a business through increased customer service by talking/listening to customers & continued training of employees of a high standard of service.

                                                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                                                    I'm sure your employees are very happy with a boss like you. One suggestion: Maybe if they don't meet your high standards, you can cut their pay down to a penny as part of your training program.

                                                                    1. re: tokyorosa

                                                                      Thank you I'll keep your suggestion in mind, I think employees who actually give their employers gift certificates and thank you cards about loving their job is communication enough about how happy they are about the job and how I choose to manage. Both customers and employees are very happy coming to my business - because that's my goal.

                                                                2. re: lexpatti

                                                                  Maybe the one penny thing is a regional message?

                                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                                    Whoa Tommy.

                                                                    I'm from NJ as well and please do not broad brush all of us into this bucket. We all know the TP "pay for the experience" policy and whether we agree or disagree with it, that's a policy that you are comfortable with, that's up to you. We're just giving differing opinions.

                                                                    Sitting there for a whole meal, receiving bad service (in your opinion), not mentioning anything to a server or a manager can be viewed as looking for the tiniest excuse to ding the server, as you have mentioned many times. If that's your MO, so be it.

                                                                    Many of us are more in the "guide and teach" and leaving a penny with no feedback is not a "mentor the world" attitude to make dining a better experience for all (including the resto staff) that many of who grew up in NJ fostor or promote.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      Bravo once again, jfood. How do you do it? Based on your good sense, objectivity and sound judgment, I'd listen to your advice about good service--even if you've never given table service *and* even--ha!--considering you are from NJ! But seriously, you're absolutely correct about how people who leave their poor tips are percieved by the waitstaff and the managment of restaurants. I mean, if someone apparently doesn't know how to tip or communicate? That's not a customer we're looking to learn anything from. Period. Doesn't matter what their rationale for their practice on Chowhound, still not listening.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        Sorry, I dont understand your post. I was agreeing with lexpatti that leaving pennies was self-explanatory. In such an extreme case the server knows why the pennies were left on the table.

                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                          tommy

                                                                          my response was to your "its a regional thing" comment. We all know the tom porc tipping scenario and although you will find many do not agree (me included) you are more than entitled to do as you please. I am very much a "free market" believer and good things will come to good people.

                                                                          That being said I believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow resto-people whether on the custo side or the server side. Heck how much time do we all spend on these board offering advise and wisdom, and others say we can not be bothered helping in real time on the scene?

                                                                          But look carefully at the adjectives and adverbs in your posts on this thread. "we dont wish to complain, berate or criticize", "I am definately not going to seek out a manager to say that I am leaving a poor tip because my server didnt refill my water glass or provide clean flatware", "Would servers prefer we quietly communicate our displeasure with pennies or loudly speak to the manager". Do you truly believe that leaving a penny is a "quiet" response (sounds pretty loud and in your face to Jfood) , could you not speak "quietly" to a manager and why do you believe offering advise needs to "berate or criticize". Likewise leaving a penny for your describe poor service of "didnt refill my water glass or provide clean flatware" is still, IMHO, a "poor" excuse for a "poor" tip.

                                                                          That's the TP school of thought and be it as it may, but it is not a NJ or a "regional" school of thought. BTW - school equals teaching.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            I completely understand where you're coming from and agree jfood. Although some may have misunderstood my penny tip comment, 1) it's been very rare 2) I always communicate and start off very polite about what I ask for, etc. TP is passive aggressive by not saying a word and then leaving a penny but it's not passive aggressive when you've communicated your dissappointment earlier enough in the situation for it be resolved (somehow, even with attitude) 3) Knowing the difference between a server being swamped, an off day, etc or just really not doing their job and speaking to someone in management about that is important to the success of that server (or fail if it's not really their line of work) and the success of the restaurant. I've tipped on the high end for a server that didn't meet my standard expectations because I could see they were swamped but doing a phenominal job with what was handed to them. But I'm ripped when a server completely ignores me, won't make eye contact, can't find him, won't come near our section because it's been 45 min. since we ordered and nothing - come to find out, someone in the kitchen never showed up for their shift - There's bad management/bad service in my eyes because servers should have been instructed to communicate that major issue to us as customers before we sat or ordered. As a good server, I would be upfront with all my customers, tell them what happened and it could be a bit wait tonight for that reason - maybe even suggest dishes that would come out faster, etc.

                                                                            I whole heartily agree with you regarding communication. I developed my own "secret shopper" program to both re-train and reward my employees. As a business owner, I need to know what my customers think of my business, my employees when I'm not there. We leave our business alone in the hands of our employees and the success of it depends on leaving it in the right hands - our customers communication is such a key to that - therefore I advocate it as well at the businesses that I visit. If the owner/management cares about their business and wants it to grow, they want to know how customers feel about their business and employees.

                                                                            1. re: lexpatti

                                                                              Nicely put Lex.

                                                                              Here's my point on "the penny".

                                                                              - If you leave nothing and speak with the manager, as you say politely (good news), and say the service was blah and the reasons were blah and I could not in good conscience leave a tip, they will understand. The action of leaving a penny, versus nothing, is IMHO childish and basically throwing oil on a fire.
                                                                              - Yes, I agree that leaving a penny is probably known in the biz as a "did a bad job" but to say nothing and leave a penny is, what, a confirmation of what the server already knows? If the server does not know he/she did a bad job is the penny suppose to represent an epiphany? It will always come a cross as "what a jerky custo", especially if there was no communication.

                                                                              But how to handle, no right or wrong answers as we see on the board but many good (and some bad) insights. For example, one time, the server said hello, took my order and I did not see him for the rest of the night but the support staff was fantastic. Did the server deserve any tip? Or, if the server did that bad a job and the suppoprt staff did great to compensate how should the custo respond and handle? I suggest leave "zero," go to the manager and give the manager some cash and tell him to give to the support staff so they do not suffer because of the waiter's dropping the ball. I've even gone to the busboy and water boy and given them tips directly (have no idea how this was handled internally after i left).

                                                                              I do not think anyone has yet to suggest any of these latter approaches so the entire wait staff does not suffer because of one of their team dropped the ball. Maybe I'll start another thread on suggestions to compensate for a bad waiter.

                                                                              There are so many ways to handle, but the penny just creates so much ill-will that I just won't do it.

                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                Definately creates ill-will - I agree. At this point, the penny to me (after my communication and still nothing or rudeness) I just refuse to allow a server to make me feel obligated because its standard to tip. It's natural consequences of their job if they are going to be that bad, that rude - it will hurt them - they shouldn't just slide. I think awesome servers are rewarded by awesome tips and mediocre (sp?) servers get mediocre tips and bad servers should GET OUT or Learn quick but not slide (and get bad tips). I know a few who tried, made lousy tips and got out - of course they said they didn't like it, wasn't for them. Bet ya, they were really not good - good way to find out fast is lousy tips - I just disagree with people that don't have a scale and leave 15% regardless of the service. When I served in fine dining (years ago), my goal was always to keep making more tips, continue to get better - so tips was part of my training and comparing tips with others was also part of my training. My son is in fine dining and does the same - always striving to make the best tips in the restaurant, fine tuning his skills with the customers/rest./est. Maybe we are different because tips do communicate to us.

                                                                                1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                  So, knowing that you are "definately (sic)" creating ill will, you go ahead with your little scheme? Why should servers listen to someone who is intentionally creating ill will?

                                                                                  1. re: tokyorosa

                                                                                    Tokyorosa, I think you misunderstand me. Let's put it this way. I think basically when I communicate to a server when I'm disappointed and I'm still ignored and still rude to - I don't have a "little scheme" going on! - I think the server does and I don't play into that or pay into that. And you're right the server isn't listening to me at that point but I didn't create the ill-will, they did - I basically continued it though. We are talking extreme, as I've said in the beginning. This is a server who shouldn't be and it's the reason I'm communicating to managment as well. All I'm saying is that penny does communicate something back to that server, at least in my situation it does because when I leave the place both my server and management knows what the penny meant - there isn't any guessing. It's not a scheme. It's old fashion "what goes around, comes around - you get what you put into".

                                                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                      I'll add only one more note. Some people, (small %) want to get paid for doing nothing, these are the servers I'm talking about - I think I know the difference. Unfortunately, they shouldn't slide - I don't feel I should pay them but my penny. I have unfortunately had to fire several people in my business that are just like these servers, they want the job but don't want to work - I give them the opportunity and a couple chances but once I realize they really just want to get paid to do nothing - they must go. Funny, those people are always looking for work, always out of work or maybe haven't found the right work for them - who knows - at a certain point you can't continue to teach or train them. That's my one penny! :-)

                                                                                  2. re: lexpatti

                                                                                    The issue I have with someone leaving a penny and not saying something is that sometimes - I really don't know why you're leaving me a penny. I know you were unhappy, but I don't always know WHY.

                                                                                    the server in the original post should know, but maybe they're really dense, or were super busy, or whatever. If you never say anything at all? If you say everything is fine when I ask how your food is and then leave me a penny? (Or my favorite, once a lady left me a 2% tip on a credit card and wrote "Jnstarla, you have a long way to go before you'll be a good server." They got the right food, their waters were refilled... still don't know about that one).

                                                                                    Then I have no idea what's wrong except that you're an asshole. And as j-food said, that's not a good way to improve service, for you or anyone else.

                                                                                  3. re: jfood

                                                                                    You make it sound I routinely leave penny tips. It's not true. And certainly not for nonrefills. However, in those rare cases when its warranted the reason is obvious to all. The server expects it.
                                                                                    Again I am not going to tell a server or manager that the reason I am leaving only 14.3875% tip is because she didnt greet us with a smile, etc,etc,etc. To me that is childish and will generate the "jerky custo" remark. A manager should be observant and notice when a waitress is not up to par. Other servers, runners and busboys can also monitor co-workers.
                                                                                    And as far as my "regional" comment goes, I thought maybe other parts of the country had another way of voicing extreme displeasure like ripping your napkin or pointing your knife to the SW.
                                                                                    And if I'm "more than entitled to do as you please" and you believe in "free market", why do you keep harping about my tipping method? It's getting tiresome this continued bashing. I believe I said previously that on average my tip % is higher than yours and most ppl on this board because of my "method" and where and what we chose to eat. However, if I receive poor service I leave a poor tip (not pennies that's no tip). And not refilling water is important to us. We dine out for food & drink. If we are not offered the "drink" and I have to get up and get my own water I basically served myself. How can I possibly leave the server 20%?

                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                      because that penny has to be shared with the server's support staff, who also live on tips.

                                                                                      i have had a couple of waiters whom i wanted to strangle. once had a bartender who was so rude and abrupt and hostile to other staff, i left before my food came because she made me so uncomfortable.

                                                                                      i left 10%, not wanting to punish the other staff members and talked to a manager.

                                                                                      it really was quite simple.

                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                        When did I ever say I left a penny tip?

                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                          I your post you state, "You make it sound I routinely leave penny tips. It's not true. And certainly not for nonrefills. However, in those rare cases when its warranted the reason is obvious to all."

                                                                                          I think the words "in those rare cases" notice plural on "cases" gave all of us that impression. And "certainly not for refills" gives the impression that there are instances as well. Just a point of reference TP.

                                                                                      2. re: tom porc

                                                                                        I guess I am just barking up the wrong tree. As I have learned from others on this board I was hoping to teach, but alas i guess I have failed. :-((

                                                                                        - If you feel the need to fill your own water glass and ding the server, oh well, that is your perogative
                                                                                        - If you would like to calculate tips to the fourth decimal point, your a better man than me charlie brown

                                                                                        So I guess i'll just stay in my comfort zone in which the servers and the owners hug the Jfoods and call when we do not show for several weeks and the TP's can get their own water and the servers think "OMG he's back." I'll grit it out and hopefully you can as well.

                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                          Jfood, you haven't failed. It's just that you can't impart knowledge, compassion, or understanding to the penny club members.

                                                                                          That said, you're definitely the kind of guest who's always in demand, and the kind of person restaurant owners, managers, and staff listen to when it comes to ways to improve service. It's not your money that talks, not your tips that we're listening to, it's your objectivity and ability to communicate.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            I dont know what you were trying to "teach."
                                                                                            I already tip %-wise more than you and most others. We never give the server a hard time even when the service is poor. Maybe (s)he is just having a bad day. That's understanding and compassion.
                                                                                            And I agree we each have our own comfort zone. Since your situation is vastly different than mine its only to be expected that we each have by necessity a different zone.

                                                                                            1. re: tom porc

                                                                                              You and I (and many others) will agree to disagree.

                                                                                              C'est la vie.

                                                                                              Have a nice weekend, weather is supposed to be unbelievable this weekend in NJ.

                                                                      2. re: mojoeater

                                                                        I put in fifteen years myself, and my thoughts would echo yours, Mojo.

                                                      2. re: swsidejim

                                                        SW

                                                        your pretty reasonable so why would you think that a bad day by the employee means the resto and the management are a no-return type. That's why there is turn-over at restos, and they are not always the choice of the employee, but the employer has a say as well. If you have multiple bad experiences with different servers at a resto then, yeah, i'd agree that the manager is probably at fault, but not going back sounds pretty draconian.

                                                        If you like the food, give it another shot. I've gone back up to five times at one local resto, before deleting from the Jfood list. And I am glad you do not leave a penny. I view that as some infantile, it's frightening. Just speak with the manager as to the issue on the way out so he can try to fix the issue with the server or get rid of him.

                                                        Remember life is a series of learning and teaching experiences.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          I agree Jfood, as I said I have only had an experience once where I tipped a penny( a larger transgression than having to go get my own drinks, etc), and wrote off an establishment after one visit. I can understand a server having a bad night, etc. I dont complain to managers becasue 99 times out of 100 there is nothing to comlain about, and the other 1 time out of 100 the issue isnt a big deal. Like I said I eat out 3-4 times a week, and the spots where I am a regular I get great service because I tip on the higher end of the scale 25% - 30%.

                                                          I am 37, when I was younger I worked in restaurants(back of the house) for 10 years, so I know it is a hard job, but there are some folks, as in all professions that are bad employees, and these bad employees shouldnt expect to be payed/tipped for simply showing up.

                                                          I have said all I am going to say on this topic.