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Is it ok to not tip in this situation? [moved from Manhattan board]

I would love to hear what people think about this. I went to a favorite E. Village Italian the other night that is well regarded on this website. When ordering, the waiter failed to recite the evening's specials. When asked if there were any, his response was simply "No". A few moments later my partner and I heard a waiter at an adjacent table expertly reading an elaborate list of specials. Shortly afterwards I called this second waiter over and asked him why we were not read any specials. His response was that the chef had just released the specials for the week (it was about 7:30 pm on a Sunday night) and they had not been previously available to order. I have never heard of anything like this before so a few moments later I called our original waiter over and asked him why we were not read any specials even though we asked, but other customers currently where. His answer was, "the restaurant was really busy". He offered no apology. I told him I was a regular customer, was very dissatisfied and would appreciate it if the restaurant could do something to appease us. A few moments later a server brought us out a single dessert to split, which looked like a tarimisu. Nevertheless, I was really annoyed about this. The first waiter just didn't feel like reading us the specials, and it was clear that the second was covering up for the first. It didn't look like there was any management on staff that night so I'm not sure there was anything else to do. Although they brought us a free dessert, we actually didn't want more food. But we would have loved to have heard the specials. We hadn't been out to eat in while, and I had been talking the restaurant up for some time. My partner wanted all their heads on a plate. I was content just to pay the bill to the penny and not leave a tip but I really was pissed about it. The blatant carelessness, the lying and the meager attempt to compensate more or less ruined our meal. Was I justified in not tipping?

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  1. I should mention however that the food was really good. I'll still eat there.

    1. I believe you were justified in not tipping. The waiter claiming that he was too busy to read specials is suspicious. Maybe he didn't have them memorized and didn't feel like looking them up. Either way, it doesn't take much time to describe specials. Plus, bringing a dessert that you didn't ask for isn't great if you don't want it. It would have been better to discount your final bill.
      If I were in your place and never planned on returning, I may have left no tip. If I thought I might return, I would probably be shamed into leaving 10 percent.

      1. I wouldn't have tipped either; it's not rocket science to be nice to someone when you're waiting tables...passive aggressive behavior drives me nuts!!

        1. Since you are planning to eat there again, perhaps you should have left a small tip--like 10%. If you were never planning to go again, then, yes, I would have said you were right in not tipping. However, servers often have long memories when it comes to customers who didn't tip. In all my years of dining out, I can only count 3 times when the service was so bad I didn't tip. Of course we never went back to those restaurants either. Perhaps since you do plan on going back, why not call the restaurant when the manager is there and explain what happened and why you didn't tip. Then ask him/her to convince you to return.

          1. Devil’s Advocate – Maybe he was someone so preoccupied with the drama in their own life that they cannot do their job properly. Which is fair enough, maybe his house/car was just robbed, maybe he was just crushed and has a broken heart, etc.; sometimes you still have to go to work and do your best; and this was the best he might have had to offer that evening. At least your food was good….. he could have still apologized though.

            If it wasn't drama; and he was just being a jerk…. Well then he won’t last long there anyways. Too many people in that town looking for a job.

            It's sooooo easy to apologize if you are new and don't have the specials memorized. After that behavior I'm sure he did not expect a tip anyways. Don't stress over it. This seems to be more his drama than yours... And once again, at least your food was good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lemonii

              I wouldn't tip... but I agree with "MizYellowRose". You are taking your chances going back if that particular waiter is still there! When it comes to food preparation and delivery ... well... who knows what might happen between the kitchen and your table!

            2. anywhere from 5-10% at most plus a discussion with the MOD on the way out. This happened to Jfood at Striped Bass in Philly. Left a 5% and made sure the MOD knew why on the way out. If the server is having a bad day, not the custo's problem and when he said he was too busy, thump goes the tip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jfood

                Bingo. If you're unhappy, you HAVE to let the manager, or whoever's in charge, know. Simply leaving no tip, or a small tip, isn't sufficient, particularly if you would like to continue eating there.

              2. His excuse was a sorry one (too busy? what?) but I certainly have worked in restaurants where we were not allowed to mention specials until they were ready, and the chef would let us know when. (this might happen if they were roasting or braising something for a long time and it's not ready at opening). So it definitely happens. Being too busy is lame though. I also get upset when I don't hear the specials, but wanting all their heads on a plate when you don't hear them seems a little extreme to me, especially if you were happy with the food you got. Almost like you only wanted it because you couldn't have it. If the service was fine except for that lame excuse, I still would've tipped, and spoken with the manager. I wouldn't let missed specials ruin my meal, as it sounds like it did yours.

                1. I agree with jfood that you should have tipped a little something and then spoken with a manager on duty on your way out to explain the small tip. It sounds as though the waiter was probably just having a bad night, and though that is not your problem, we are all human beings here and I think that one slip up from a place you like and frequent should not induce total wrath. Wanting "heads on a plate" is extreme. You enjoyed your food. I am sure we've all been in situations where we havent been on our best game for whatever reason and so our work suffers. You were definitely right to be annoyed, and leave a small tip, but remember servers are only human (and no, I'm not a server...). If the 2nd waiter was trying to cover up for the first, its probably because he knew something you did not about why the first one was acting the way he did.

                  1. Not to tip? No. You didn't leave, you sat there and were served.

                    Lowered tip? Certainly. I might leave maybe 10% in your circumstance - message delivered. And I'd speak with the manager.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: wayne keyser

                      I disagree. The OP sat there, was served and paid for the meal. The waiter's failure to list the specials for the evening was not an oversight and failure to apologized when asked about them was an insult to his customers.

                      1. re: MobyRichard

                        Thank you MobyRichard for that comment.

                    2. I would have done the same. I've worked for tips too, but if you don't do at least the bare minimum, that's what you should expect.

                      1. How disappointing for you. The specials are often the best items to select and, of course, the chef has gone to the trouble to purchase ingrediants and prepare for making those specials. From what you've written, there are different possible scenarios of what happened and why. Your story is why restaurants should write down the spsecials -- either on a chalkboard or a separate one-page menu.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bite Me

                          I agree with you Bite Me. I hate going to a nice resto and having the server rattle off 5 or 6 specials, cooked this way, with that sauce, etc. By the time I am ready to order I have no clue as to what fish had which cooking method and sauce etc.. Needed is a seperate sheet with specials or a chalkboard describing all. Unfortunatley, I can only remember once or twice of having the specials written down so I could make a correct decision and not have to ask a second time about them. That just wastes everyones time!!!

                        2. What I'm amazed at is that your post got many people to say that they agree you shouldn't have tipped. Yet at other posts, where I think the waiter is more rude, the poster got yelled at about how he/she should have tipped. Interesting.

                          There are times when I don't hear the specials while other tables do. I'm not sure why that is, but generally, I think it's things like I didn't dress up enough or I don't look I can afford the $30 fish. Really! I'm going to keep an eye on this, but I know this has happens to me several times a year and definitely more when I was younger. Gonna ask the DH about this tonight.

                          1. Food for thought...

                            There are times when my restaurant will run a special and not sell out of it. The following day, with a few orders left, one server in a busy section will be assigned to sell-off the remaining four orders of, lets say, veal chop. That way, that one server will be able to keep track of when it is sold out.

                            Unless things are so terrible that you speak to a manager and explain your concerns, you should always tip.

                            #1 You give the restaurant an opportunity to explain themselves.

                            #2 The restaurant may be looking for a reason/incident to get rid of someone who was a "bad hire". Trust me a server will always find another job, perhaps somewhere better suited to them.

                            I get paid $2.63 per hour in MA . I don't care. You should always tip.

                            Don't forget that may restaurants are pooled houses. Your tip to the server is often pooled and split between an entire front of the house staff (food runners, bussers, barback, ect.).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: naughtywaitress

                              It doesn't matter if it's a pooled house. If one waiter is being an ass and so consistently bring in less money and not making up for it in other ways (sidework, anyone?), the other servers should complain and the bad apple should be fired.

                              It's total BS to say that you have to tip in order to support the rest of the house -- then the craptastic waiters just get to keep being awful without any sort of consequence?

                            2. So you got a great meal that you really enjoyed plus a free dessert. I'd have tipped 10% and been glad that I loved the food. Not tipping at all doesn't just affect the person you're angry with, it also affects others who worked hard and did their jobs well.

                              1. I've read this thread and can relate to it from my own experience....to a point. DH and I have noticed over the years that this happens to us somewhat frequently....not being told about the specials, then overhearing them being offered to another table. (In fact, I had started a thread on this but the mods apparently didn't like the topic and removed it.) When it happens we look at eachother and wonder aloud why we weren't deemed "worthy" of hearing about the specials - are temporarly miffed - and then move on with our dinner.

                                It hasn't really occurred to me to take the server to task for not telling us the specials...although I suppose that would clear up the mystery. Certainly in your case the lack of tip sent the intended message about your feelings at being treated the way you were. However I would agree with others on the idea of offering a significantly reduced tip since you're a frequent diner there.

                                The core issue still remains (beyond this particular server's reasons): Why do some folks get to hear the specials and others not? Is there profiling going? Is it general laziness on the server's part? I'd be interested in hearing what folks in the industry have to say.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: HungryLetsEat

                                  There are times when my restaurant will run a special and not sell out of it. The following day, with a few orders left, one server in a busy section will be assigned to sell-off the remaining four orders of, lets say, veal chop. That way, that one server will be able to keep track of when it is sold out.

                                  1. re: naughtywaitress

                                    First of all, I love the word craptastic! Secondly I agree with those who said don't tip the lousy waiter and let management know. That guy/gal could be ruining this restaurant's experience for more patrons than you and should not be rewarded by any amount of tip.

                                    1. re: Texchef


                                      Zippo-tippo seems rather harsh here.

                                      1 - the OP should not have asked waiter 2 why they were not offered the specials but should have immediately asked if he could send over waiter 1. do not play one server off againstthe other, no good can come of that (heh server 2 may have been pissed at server 1 for something or other)
                                      2 - there is no reason for the attitude of waiter 1 if he said, that the resto was too busy. here's major mistake
                                      3 - at this point instead of asking for something comped, which makes custo look like a goniff, he should have asked to hear the specials
                                      4 - if there was something on the specials that was something the custo wanted instead of what he ordered he should have requested a change of order. if not no harm no foul.
                                      5 - if waiter 1 said no then call the MD over and ask him

                                      Both the custo and the servers handled this situation unprofessionally. the custo enjoyed his meal but got caught up in the "off with their heads" partner's shtick.

                                      Reduced, yes, zero, no. Just can;t get there when custo is not acting professionally as wll.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        The customer was not there in a 'professional' role; the waiter was. The waiter failed to live up to a minimum standard of professionalism. A tip is still a gratuity for excellent service. This waiter wasn't even phoning it in.

                                2. I would have asked for the manager first, to explain the situation. If the manager was as unhelpful as the wait staff, I would strongly considered omitting the tip - with no intention ever to return. Otherwise, I'd tip 10% - maybe give the tip to the manager to split up with the busboy and others who were not involved in your lack of service.

                                  For me, a restaurant that blatantly does not care about the dining experience is not worth going to, no matter how good the food is.

                                  Since you didn't talk to the management, you can send a letter explaining how bad that waiter was - hopefully the waiter's name is on your copy of the bill - and let you know when the waiter has been fired or left. Once the waiter you stiffed is gone (or all the service staff from that night is gone) nobody will remember that you stiffed someone.

                                  It sounds like there's a chance that this place has high wait staff turnover. You say you go there often - yet you don't know any of the wait staff? If this is the case, wait a month or two and go back - with any luck, there won't be anyone there to recognize you.

                                  1. there are consequences to one's actions:

                                    the waiter gave bad service, he received no tip

                                    you chose not to tip; therefore you should not return to the restaurant.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      I fail to understand the logic in this. I would state it as:

                                      the waiter gave bad service, he received no tip

                                      you chose not to tip; therefore if you return to the restaurant, you should ask for a table being served by a different waiter.

                                      1. re: soupkitten


                                        are you sure you believe that if you receive such service and leave no tip, you write-off the resto? If you return just ask for a different section. Is jfood missing something?

                                        Seems a little harsh.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          yes, on the 1 or 2 times i've been so ticked off by BAD service not to tip, i've completely written off the restaurant in my decision not to tip. it is really really never okay not to tip in my book. when encountering poor, or even rude service i take it with a huge grain of salt, and if i feel truly neglected i'll leave a smaller token tip and maybe say something to the mgmt or another member of staff. otherwise i'm a very generous tipper. i don't forget that dining in someone's restaurant is to a certain extent like dining in someone else's home. i make an effort to conduct myself well no matter what. the op says he's a regular customer of the restaurant-- but he doesn't have a favorite server, doesn't know the name of any staff member, the bartender's name, anything? his behavior is not the conduct i expect from a regular customer.

                                          i think that one single omission on the server's part (and the op's deciding that the other server(s) were conspiring to deprive the party of the specials menu-- sneaky, dastardly servers!) does not constitute poor service. there could have been something else going on--what if the server knew something about the special & didn't feel he should rec it (something i've done when the seafood looked less than fresh to me)?!? it's just not something i would get all worked up about, especially if my party and i enjoyed the rest of our meal. i agree with other posters that it does sound as if the op is looking for something to get all in a huff about.

                                          what seems harsh to me: "my partner wanted all of their heads on a plate"; and the op not tipping when full service was given, with the one omission (glaring or not). the server brought a free extra to the table, making an effort to make up for the perceived slight--what else could be reasonably expected in this situation, after the orders were already fired and maybe even served? servers and other restaurant workers are human beings, and they have to serve the public every day. not everyone is going to be at the top of their game during every single encounter. if you want a relationship with the restaurant, it starts with your treatment of your servers, hosts and bar staff.

                                          the op gave a clear message to his server and the restaurant by not tipping those who served him. it was probably not the one he intended, however. he shouldn't return to the restaurant.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            Thanks SK, jfood guesses that if the total service is such that a goose egg is the end result there is definitely more than just some bad server miscues.

                                            Thinking back on the 1 time jfood can remember a zippo-tippo, there were server, food, manager, hostes (not a memorable evening) and lots of other miscues that eventually led to a total comp by the manager.

                                            and the example jfood used above for the small tip at Striped Bass in Philly was more than just the lack of offered specials but a total lack of attentiveness by the server et. al. as well, and he still left 5%, but jfood would return to try another section because the food was good.

                                            So now that you phrase it such that there needs to be extraordianry circumstances for the zippo-tippo, it probably does reach the level of no-return resto.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              yes i think we agree-- gotta be a bad scene indeed for no tip at all, with multiple mistakes and no empathy, effort, or caring from server, mgmt, other staff as well.

                                              this server screwed up, tried to make up for it, op would not be mollified. doesn't sound like the server's or the restaurant's problem-- there is only so much you can do when someone "wants your head on a plate" over one mistake.

                                              if you like the restaurant and want to return, you gotta leave the server *something*, and explain your position to mgmt, or you just come off as a jerk.

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                Amen, I completely agree with (the wonderfully named) Soupkitten. You said exactly what I was trying to say earlier, but was unable to put into words.

                                      2. If the waiter doesn't mention specials, I'll always ask if there are any. People do sometimes simply forget things in my experience. Lighten up!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          For what it's worth, I vehemently disagree with not tipping. Was your food served to you? Did busboys refill your water and clear your table. Why should those individuals not get compensated for doing their job just because the waiter didn't read you the specials?

                                          1. re: dmleo

                                            I'm just catching up on all these reponses. Thanks a lot for chiming in.

                                            I have to mention that I'm totally willing to forgive mistakes in service. I can even bear total incompetence and still be willing to tip at least 15%. I eat out all the time in NYC and am really very forgiving about service. But what I couldn't except in this situation was the dismissive attitude and the carelessness our waiter had about it. He didn't even try to cover up his crappy attitute with a perfunctory "I'm sorry". I'm sure that some customers can be self-righteous pains-in-the-asses but frankly, I don't think I'm one of those customers. I have friends who are waiters and I've heard plenty of horror stories about how nasty customers can be. I go out of my way with servers not to be that person. But this waiter made me feel like I was being a jerk for asking why we weren't read the specials.

                                            Again, it wasn't the mistake. It was the attitude.

                                            1. re: psawce

                                              as with many posts on these boards it is always difficult to understand the "attitude" of the poster/server. But you asked him to "appease" you and he brought you a comped dessert.

                                              As jfoods grandmother used to say "there are two sides to every story and then what really happened." OK you did not like the response and asked for something and received. Then your companion "wanted their heads" and you erred on the side of your companion versus doing the right thing and left no tip. If you've come to CH for approval, many of us can't get there with this scenario, especially for someone who describes himself as a "regular" yet no one there seems to know that.

                                              So jfood would suggest chalking one up for experience, try or don't try the resto again. You should understand that your server has and will characterize you and your companion as "geez i gave the guy a comped dessert for not reading him the specials and he screwed me on the tip" head's up to the next server if you return. you may have an uphill battle ahead of you getting a good shake of a server then as well..

                                              1. re: psawce

                                                I think the problem with your OP is that only you saw the waiter's facial expresssions and body language, and heard his voice; we can't. Only you are in a position to judge whether or not he was deliberately rude, or simply made a mistake. If a mistake, you should have left a tip. If deliberately rude, no.

                                          2. While that was definitely not the best service, it is no justifiable not to tip. Likewise, if you go back there again in the future I would beware. The house did offer you a dessert, even if you didn't want it. The tip should have been lowered, but not entirely discarded. This, to me, continues to support my theory that anyone who eats out consistently would really benefit from having worked as a waiter at some point in their life.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: jdream

                                              Just my opinion, of course, but I did work as a waitress in the past and I firmly believe that there is no reason for a waiter/waitress to bring a crappy attitude to the customer. Lying about specials when asked just doesn't cut it in for me. One thing I kept in my mind when waiting tables was that no customer stays forever. You only have to put up with any one person for a finite period of time. Of course I did wait years ago, and not in Manhattan, so my experience was probably much less stressful, however I stick with my opinion that it is the waitstaff's job to take care of the customer and when that is missing the tip should be in jeopardy.

                                            2. the way you present this, it does sound as if the server's answer was lame. however, the "restaurant being really busy" could have meant any number of things, including the possibility the chef was late in getting the specials out and he was never told what they were. as others have already mentioned, they could have been assigned to certain servers and he felt slighted. whatever it was, i do think he should have been more solicitous and not taken his attitude out on you.

                                              HOWEVER... asking for "appeasement" was tacky. it sounds like you already were done with your meal, since they brought you a free dessert. what should they have done? comped food you already ate and enjoyed, simply because you didn't hear the specials?

                                              if his behavior really sullied your meal, then perhaps a reduced tip was warranted. zero? no way. you enjoyed your meal AND got free dessert. i find it impossible to believe no management was on duty with whom you could have spoken. if that was truly the case, you could have called the next day if you were still so peeved.

                                              honestly, it's just dinner. lighten up.