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Servers who ask if you need change...

Had an experience at a rare lunch out with my husband today and would love to hear others' opinions about this. Went to the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, NH, which has good food and uneven service of the tattooed hipster variety (N.B.: My stepson is tattooed and pierced, but since he lives in San Francisco he tends to save the attitude for those who give it to him first-- not so in the hinterlands of New England, alas). The bill was $29.90 (Portsmouth has gone from hippe haven to yuppie mecca over the past 15 years) and I put down $40 in the form of two $20's. The server, who had a total of three tables (it was late afternoon and the place was deserted) asked me if I wanted change. This really irked me. I suppose it's possible she had forgotten the total of the bill she had added up a few minutes before, but when I waited tables (admittedly this was only for a few summers and two decades ago) I never did this because it seems so presumptuous. Isn't it up to the customer to determine how much and whether they will tip you? And why would anyone assume that a $10 tip was in order for a $30 tab? We were polite, we didn't ask for substitutions, she was on shift and you'd think a hungry couple in the middle of the afternoon would be welcomed business. As it is, I left her $5.00 voluntarily. She stiffed me on the dime, so the total tip was $5.10. Not my customary 20%, but not punitive, by any means.

So, to repeat, thoughts about when or whether it's okay for a server to ask a customer if they need change? And note that in cases when I actually don't need change, I am careful to say clearly: "We're all set here, have a nice day".

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  1. I agree: presumptuous. Rewarded with a smaller tip.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ricepad

      Ditto Ricepad, the server should just bring change, unless told otherwise by the diner.

      1. re: ricepad

        For the life of me, I do not understand this mentality. A server says something that is somewhat annoying, so the reaction is to tip less. I swear there are people on this board that look for reasons to lower a tip--not saying this is the case here, but I read all too often about how certain standards weren't met, and in my book, not all that egregious, ergo, lower tip.

        And no, I am not, nor have I ever, worked in the industry.

        1. re: marcia

          I was going to write exactly the same thing, including "no I'm not a waitress". Too slow service, low tip. too fast, low tip, server spoke without being asked to do so, low tip, etc.
          If there's a post about tipping you can bet it's about reasons why the diner decided to low or no tip.

          1. re: marcia

            There are people who spend all day looking for slights against them. I think the reaction to a server asking if I want change would be, "yes, please."

            1. re: KTinNYC

              Well, I am a seasoned server, with more than 20 years in the restaurant business. If I see a check with money on top of it, I have NO IDEA how much money is there, nor do I usually remember the exact amount of the check. I therefore say, "Would you like change," and if the customer says yes, I promptly bring it to them. If they say no, I leave the entire stack on the table and wait for them to leave before I pick it up. I currently work in two restaurants; one is very, very busy and one doesn't have a cash drawer, which means that getting change means asking one of the kitchen staff to break a bill for me out of the cash bag. Seriously. Lighten up, people. You have NO IDEA what's going on the head of your server, and I can guarantee that 9 times out of 10 it has NOTHING to do with stiffing you.

              1. re: ctscorp

                When I worked in a restaurant without a cash drawer we were required to bring $50 in mixed bills and coins as our bank. I think that you'll find it easier to bring a small personal bank ($20 or so) than to ask someone in the kitchen for change You might need to ask sooner or later but it is a good way to start.. Just a suggestion from someone who has been there.

                1. re: ctscorp

                  This was my first thought....if the $$ was in a folder how was the server to know how much was there. A fair question I think...I'd be much more concerned about the general attitude of the staff / quality of the food.

                  1. re: ctscorp

                    When a server asks me, "Would you like change?" or "Do you need change?", in my mind, they're really asking, "Is the rest for me?" That figuratively puts their hand in my wallet, and I don't appreciate it. Just bring the change and let me handle the tip.

                    I've been on the other side, and I learned that, while some patrons don't mind being asked, others mind very much (as a customer, I'm one of the latter). In my experience, it was far better simply to say, "I'll be right back with your change." That way, I was reaffirming to the customer that I was attending to their needs promptly, and still gave the customer the chance to say, "Thanks, I don't need the change."

            2. It is never ok to ask. Never.
              When a waiter does this it signifies one or more of the following. Waiter is:
              Lazy, clueless, presumptuous, entitled, boorish, and/or greedy.
              To the Practicioners of this: "Just give me my change, smile and thank me, and give me peace and quiet to calculate the tip. If you interrupt my conversation, get in my face and put me on the spot, I'll make a hasty decision that will not be in your favor, trust me."

              By the way: here in Portland tattooed & pierced hipsters are the boring conformists!

              12 Replies
              1. re: Leonardo

                Ah, Portland. As lovely, diverse, and delicious as San Francisco. You are a lucky to live there.

                1. re: Leonardo

                  Never, eh?? Sounds like you have other serious issues than this--"If you interrupt my conversation..."??? But that is probably for another web site.
                  It is apparent to me you have never been in this industry, nor have you paid any attention to workers in this industry (from your obvious self-absortion), when you were out dining. Servers make hundreds of trips back and forth from table to kitchen, table to host stand, table to table, the list goes on. The good servers find ways to "save steps"...meaning to cut down the number of trips on the dining flloor. More than likely a server is asking if you need change because, as previously stated, they cannot see nor pay attention to how much you put on table. If this unlevels your world, ruins your chi, or in any other way makes your world a worse place to live in, I have one suggestion: Take the problem out of the equation---
                  PAY WITH PLASTIC!

                  1. re: Rob83

                    Your posting was just perfect! Some people are just too intense when it comes to differentiating between an honest quiery and some sort of intricate conspiracy concocted to harrass restaurant patrons. No rational person would ever think a Server was,
                    "Lazy, clueless, presumptuous, entitled, boorish, and/or greedy."
                    for asking a simple question...
                    And I thought NYC'ers were paranoid!

                    1. re: Tay


                      as a native NYer who has traveled the world i have to say we got a bad rap. NYers move quick, which is often mistaken for rudeness, but i find them (us) to be exceedingly helpful and understanding people

                      1. re: thew

                        Sadly, I feel for the most part, we've earned our reputation. Granted, we do tend to move at a faster pace, but in many instances we've allowed that whole,' NY Minute' thing to morph into brusque and often rude, behavior. I too have found lots of kind and helpful people in NYC,(I'd like to think I'm one of them) but I'm always amazed that so many of them come from other countries
                        I do agree that the poster I quoted is an extreme example. :-}

                        1. re: Tay

                          try this.. look like a lost tourist with a map in your hand - in new york, and in other cities in the US or internationally - see how quickly and how many people ask if u need help.... i think you will be pleasantly surprised how NY stacks up in this test.

                          ..and for my money, i don't care where your from originally.. if one is smart enough to make the global capital their home, they become NYers ( of course those of us born and raised here are naturally better sorts lol)

                          1. re: thew

                            LOL! Wait until global warming floods the place and you all end up in Nebraska! NYC, global capital of horseshoe crabs! '-)

                            But you're right. New Yorkers are very helpful! You guys just talk funny. Well, some of you. If I lived there, I would probably starve to death trying to catch the Cash Cab so I could win a "free lunch" at Tribeca Grill!

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              nah - we'll just build even higher, and raise the rents, cause every building will have ocean access

                              1. re: thew

                                I'm thinking I'll be able to serve lunch on my 6th floor patio which will probably be "river front" -literally, by then... Good idea, thew!

                    2. re: Rob83

                      Wow....corporate chain restaurant service mentality personified!!!!!!! Blechhhh.....

                    3. re: Leonardo

                      WOW, I used to be a server back in the 80's and I agree whole heartedly with ctscorp.
                      A server asks a simple question and you guys immediately lower the tip? So glad I never had to wait on you!

                      1. re: shorebilly

                        But you probably did and probably lost some tips that way....

                    4. We eat at the Friendly Toast regularly (we've been known to schedule any trip north of Boston to incorporate a detour to Portsmouth for breakfast at the Toast) and it's one of many places I go to where it's common to hear the waiter ask that question. It does not bother me, and I don't find it rude, for two reasons:

                      1. I can almost guarantee you that your waiter asked that question as he was reaching for the tab, and that he therefore had not looked at the money and your bill to calculate that there was a $10 difference. (Or do you somehow think that the server knew off the top of his head exactly how much your bill in particular was out of the dozen or so tables he was working? I've never seen more than two servers in the Friendly Toast, one working the front of the room and one serving the booths and the back tables: that's a lot of real estate for even the best waiters to cover.)

                      2. Eight times out of ten, my answer to that question is "No, it's all set." The other two times, it's something along the lines of "I just need a five back." Either way, I don't mind them having asked the question, because it seems like a logical one to ask. However, now that I know that it's frightfully rude, I'll be sure to give the next server who asks a good tongue-lashing.

                      Maybe we're just lucky, but as much as I've heard the "uneven service" line about the Friendly Toast, I've never had a bad waiter there. Would that question be rude in a white tablecloth restaurant where the bill will be in the triple digits? Unquestionably. Is it rude in a place like the Friendly Toast that has velvet paintings of monkeys on the walls and local punk-rock heroes The Queers playing on the kitchen stereo? Absolutely not.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps


                        She had three tables in a deserted restaurant, as noted clearly in the post, but your point that this may simply be the standard rule at FT is well-taken. Thank you for chiming in.

                      2. I agree that the server prob. was not thinking about how much the tab was when they asked. I work at the Stockpot in Portsmouth and I know many of my co workers ask this same question.. many people ignore the server for the most part, and it is more simple to quickly ask "are you all set?" than to go upstairs to the bar, get change, bring back to the customer, only to have them say that I should keep it. But, in reality, I always pick up the check and say that I will be right back with it, and leave it to the customer to tell me if i should keep it or not. Finally.. About the .10... do you really want the dime? It drives me crazy when people complain about not getting back their .7 cents... just take it out of the tip if it is that big of a deal. I always round wether it is in my favor or the customers, when it is under .25 cents. It always gets left for me anyways.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sarahelan


                          Yes, we really do want the dime. And not for the dime's sake. When we, as customers, deal with any money-exchanging situtaion, we want to know that someone has math skills. Sloppy accounting is not okay. If that situation were inflated a hundred times, you'd definitely think about that dime.

                          Servers, just say "I'll be back with your change" and let it go from there. If the till has to cough up a nickel and five pennies, so be it - mgmt should make certain change is available. Patrons don't like to be duped, and I call dropping a dime from the change duping. It's cheating the customer, and never good for business. Or tips. Math is your friend in business. Don't round, be accurate. Don't know if you've ever negotiated a mortgage, but that accuracy's very important then, no?



                        2. Perhaps it's just me, but does something as simple as, "May I bring you some change?" REALLY need to be hyperanalyzed? If you need change, say yes; if you don't, say no. It's really not a tough concept.

                          As long as your service is fine, is it really a big deal?

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            "May I bring you some change" is not the same question as "Do you need change". If I am presented a bill for which I pay cash, I expect the server to bring me back my change, regardless of what it is. Really not a tough concept. I then may leave the entire amount as the tip, add to it, or take some "change" outof it and leave the rest for a tip. If my intent at the outset is to leave the entire amount of the change as the tip, I will tell the server I am set when (s)he picks up the dough.
                            Asking me if I need change is a huge deal for me...and will result in a reduced tip.

                            1. re: Marge

                              Yes Invino, it is a big deal. It's confrontational, an unnecessary interruption. Sure many customers don't mind it. Good for them.

                              If by "over-analyzing" you mean I (and many others evidently) am simply annoyed by being unnecessarily bothered, so be it.

                              To me it is in point of fact a measure of service. Am I unnecessarily engaged in unwanted conversation? Does waiter when delivering food ask us who gets what? Does waiter butt into and presume to take part in our conversation? These are all part of what makes for good or bad service.

                              Would I be so stupid as to risk offending people and losing tips by doing so were I a server? No way.

                              1. re: Leonardo

                                It's confrontational to ask someone if they need change? I wish all of my problems were so trivial.

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  The question forces the customer to assert, "No, that money's not all for you, I want some back." It makes the customer (or this customer, at least) feel somewhat cheap, as a result. It's not gracious to force the customer to speak up for their change.

                                  1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                    Exactly. I shouldn't have to ASK for my own money. It puts me on the spot.
                                    And those who are defending the server by saying he has no way of knowing how much the bill & how much cash is in the fold, are missing the point. It doesn't matter whether there's $60 or $5 change due me. Just quietly give me my change so I can figure it out at my leisure. Your tip will be a lot higher, trust me, Mr Impatient Server. Not out of spite, but it's common sense that people will tip more when they don't feel they are being scrutinized. I'm not looking for any excuse to lower the tip, and often this ploy, while irksome, does not result in a lower tip.

                                2. re: Leonardo

                                  It sounds like you have social issues rather than problems with servers asking if you need change. I mean.."Unnecessary interruption"... "Unwanted conversation" It is people like you, that make me wonder what it will be like for my children when they are older. Do you see yourself coming off at all pompous here? Do you enjoy interaction with the human race? Will a 2second question with a 2 second response alter the course of your day? Please give me honest answers.
                                  BTW...you have now spent enough time defending your slanted view here, to waste alot more than the 4 seconds I stated earlier.
                                  P.S. My apologies for taking up your time.

                                3. re: Marge

                                  So you do this correctly... You tell the server when to just keep it, or you say nothing and wait for your change. You have to understand that many people do not do this. They say nothing, and when the server ends us counting out your change and returning it, and then the customer says "thanks, you can keep it." It saves so much more time just to simply ask or say something so that the customer will give you guidance.

                                  1. re: sarahelan

                                    The correct way that saves the most time and tips for both customers and servers is for the server to say "May I bring you change" or "I'll be right back with your change", which prompts those who want you to keep it to tell you that and avoids offending customers. The onus is on the server here, not the customer.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      Wait -- how is "May I bring you some change" different from "Do you need change"?

                                      1. re: ctscorp

                                        Cts, I was wondering that muself.


                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          I believe what is meant is, May I bring you some change" and "Do you need change"? are questions that require a response. That is somewhat different from, "I'll be right back with your change" which is a statement requiring no response.

                                          1. re: Tay

                                            Tay, we were responding to Karl S, who said:
                                            "The correct way that saves the most time and tips for both customers and servers is for the server to say "May I bring you change" or "I'll be right back with your change." One still requires a response. You're not the one I was pickin' on! :)

                                            1. re: ctscorp

                                              Ahhh... I see...
                                              Feel free to pick away. I'm used to it here, lol!
                                              This really has become quite an interesting post...

                                    2. re: sarahelan

                                      The situation you (sarahelan) suggest where time is "wasted" when the waiter or waitress counts out change only to have the customer say, 'you can keep it' is only "wasting" the wait staff's time. That's their job and what they are paid to do. Their job is to serve the customer, not to make their lives easier by asking presumptuous questions. I can't understand the mentality behind anyone asking you if you want your change back in a situation where customer service is the focus.

                                      What else are you expecting the customer to do to save the server's valuable time? Calculate the tab? Write down the order? Keep the order simple so as not to confuse the server? There seems to be a very warped view of "service" if the customer has to worry about "wasting" the (server's) time they're paying for.

                                      1. re: Orchid64

                                        Great point. Maybe I should be picking up my own food and clearing my table. Wouldn't want to waste any server's time with my expectations of what constitutes service.

                                        It's clear that most of the new people who are posting now have not bothered to read any of the earlier posts, so people now are just shouting past each other.

                                        1. re: Leonardo

                                          At least then you wouldn't be bothered by the server asking you questions!!

                                        2. re: Orchid64

                                          I would suggest that in some situations, especially in the sort of place that was the topic of the original post (yes, I have eaten there on numerous occasions), the time saved by asking a simple question actually benefits other customers and their service experience as the server can move on to SERVING their food instead of running around getting change that possibly isn't needed. The place in question is often packed, few servers covering many tables, on weekends there is a collection of people outside waiting, often impatiently - it's a zoo. It is a high turnover place, not a high end place. It so happens that the food is pretty good, but truth be told, it's only a small step up from diner status.

                                          Many seem to expect high dining service from these places, and that is just silly.

                                          It is not a crime to find ways to be efficient in high turnover situations - wanting to save time is not the same as accusing customers of WASTING a server's time. But maybe I am not reading enough into sarahelan's post.

                                          1. re: Orchid64

                                            Orchid, be one of the other customers in the dining room this person is serving . He/she is rushing a mile a minute, your waiting...for whatever, and they need to walk whatever the distance is to make change, calculate change, then bring it back to the table. You are still waiting. And it is a proven fact in this industry, customers feel they have been waiting alot longer than it really is. Maybe your food is sitting in the kitchen window. That extra 2, 3, 4 minutes, can make a huge difference. Now they have possibly lessened service at another table. Look at the big picture...Everyone that adamantly feels that this question is taboo, is only looking from a SELFISH viewpoint. How it effects my world.

                                        3. re: Marge

                                          I'm sorry, that is a very snobbish approach. So the service is impeccable, water glasses stayed full, never had to ask for anything, they kept tabs on you without being overbearing...and you throw that out the window...decide to lower the tip because of what you BELIEVE is an err in verbal etiquette? Souns a little holier than thou, doesn't it?

                                      2. "I will be right back with your change"

                                        If the bill was $33 the custo can say, "No need please keep it"
                                        If the bill is as presented inthe OP the custo says "Thank You."

                                        But since you were the only one present and we have no idea about the tone, the body language and all those things that one can only see not write, we can only assume if the server was presumptuous or did not remember the toal or some other reason.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Food, I agree that "I will be right back with your change" is much more appropriate verbiage. However, it just seems so INsane that people would get upset over such an INane thing.

                                          If my bill is $40 and I pay with a hundred, does anyone really think the server believes he's keeping the change? I think it's more of a programmed question, a la "How is everything?". The server doesn't care how everything is, just if the food's okay. Just like he wants to know if you need some change.

                                        2. There have been oodles of thread comments on this topic before if you want to search, btw.

                                          Bottom line: what's dispositive is not a matter of the server's intent but of the effect from the customer's perspective, to which tips are by their very nature held hostage. Wise servers understand this and change approach to avoid getting nicked in the tip. Unwise servers argue this (and life) is unfair and continue to get nicked in the tip.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. I have been up since 3:30 A.M. EST and I had to re-read the original post (and responses) several times to fully understand why kali43 felt a little disturbed by the server. Each time I had come up with a different interpretation of why the server asked if the original poster wanted change.

                                            1) The server didn't know the price of the bill off hand. Even if the server did know the price of the bill due to various circumstances their math skills may not be 100%
                                            2) The server may have been inquiring if you wanted change of a $10 bill.
                                            3) The poster didn't really describe the way the server asked if they wanted the change. The wording, the tone, or a jfood mentioned the body language wasn't really described.
                                            4) The server should bring back change unless otherwise asked.

                                            I wound up agreeing with everyone that commented so far, as well as kali43 for being irked. I guess it all depends on the situation (all though I am now leaning more towards if nothing is said bring back the change).

                                            1. Of course, as others mentioned, you are the judge of the situation... But having served at restaurants before, I can tell you this, as a server, when seeing that the guest is ready to pay, we DON'T look closely at exactly how much you put down..that's just rude. When it comes to the bill, we do it discreetly if it comes to cash. Therefore, whenever I saw that cash was involved, I would automatically take the billfold, and mention to the guests that I will be returning shortly with change, not knowing at all how much they put down... then its up to the guest to say if they don't need any back.

                                              I guess to put it in simple terms, it may have been that your server saw the cash but was not sure of how much you put down. If I were a guest at a restaurant, I sure wouldn't want the server looking and counting (or even trying to peek and count) the amount of cash I put on the table whether or not I needed change.

                                              and lastly, a lot of the time servers don't "memorize" the price of the bill in their head after printing it out. Myself for example, I will look at the bill and kind of note to myself, "oh it's in the 30 dollar range" or something like that, and even so, bills are generally not memorable for the moment unless they are ridiculously high.

                                              1. As a server I was taught never to say "Can I get your some change?" or even "May I please get you some change?"
                                                Instead, to state in a pleasant voice "I will be right back with your change!"
                                                A brief pause gives the customer the chance to say "We're all set here, have a nice day." At which point you tell thank the guests sincerely and tell them you hope to be able to serve them again. Then you know you don't have to return with their change, make a credit card transaction or watch what they might leave on your table. Those tables were my favourites!
                                                Also, some restaurants policy is to round the change up to the nearest .25, .10 cents. This .25 rounding up on customer change was only a policy in a shady bar I worked. All of the other places told us to give back all the change. I'm not sure if that is an ethical practice?
                                                I also have to confess that sometimes I would accidently phrase the statement "I will be right back with your change!" as a question. Afterwards I was embarassed. Another guy I worked with in a very corporate place asked a person from our head office if he needed change and there was a very bad review from the big cheese about our store. We had huddles and the not asking for change thing was mentioned a lot for awhile.

                                                1. I got this question once in a small place where I had put down $20 for a $7 tab.

                                                  To be fair, the server was actually working, while my real server was busy eating two meals and sitting around talking to staff, so he didn't know the exact amount of my bill. But this was the kind of place where a meal might cost $10 tops unless there were way more plates on my table than there were.

                                                  I dinged my original server on the tip because she only showed up at the last minute to say, "And how was everything?". Not because of the question from the poor guy trying to do his job.

                                                  Still, the question bothers me because it implies (as said) that my tip is already taken care of and why am I hanging around taking up table space when someone else can sit down who we like better?

                                                  1. if you're a server the best way to check in on your customers' change needs and save yourself some legwork when you could be waiting on your other customers is to say "i'll be right back with your change," and smile, making eye contact with all at table. this gives them a chance to say "it's all yours, thanks" or "just a five back, please" or "we need one dollar back in quarters for the meter" or "we'd like to talk to a manager about renting out this place for our daughter's wedding" or whatever. you get bigger tips if the customer isn't pressured face to face with your tip.

                                                    the server asking if the customer wanted change was probably not intentionally rude, just inexperienced or untrained. not something i'd ding them for if the rest of the service was good.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      But the worst thing is when server silently takes the cash and never returns, assuming change was to be kept as tip.
                                                      I'm not kidding. This has happened several times, necessitating my having to endure the hassle and indignity of chasing down the server!
                                                      Needless to say, this special brand of chutzpah I reward with zero tip.

                                                    2. i have ZERO problem with that question. Waiters are often busy. Im not easily embarrassed, so if the answer is yes, i simply say so, likewise with "no, keep it."

                                                      saying one or two words to your waiter is hardly a big deal, and lets try not to forget that waiters, in the US, at least are paid less than other workers because their tip is part of their income. These people work hard to serve us. They have to deal with idiots and ingrates all day. get off your high horse. Tip them, and tip them well.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        "and lets try not to forget that waiters, in the US, at least are paid less than other workers because their tip is part of their income."

                                                        I'm sorry if this comes off harsh, but It really bugs me when people here talk about how little waiters/waitresses make and how we should tip them excessively ( I usually do tip 18-20% myself btw). But first of all if they are all making such little money, and the job is that terrible. "Working with idiots and ingrates" as you put it, why would anyone choose that as a career?
                                                        Secondly, (In NY anyway) I have known people that made more money waitressing than they would as a first year teacher. So the actually take home salary is obviously not as bad as some would have you believe.

                                                        1. re: SweetPea914

                                                          wow. the same reason people sweep streets, clean toilets, or work in unfulfilling jobs of any sort. because they need to eat. let them eat cake?

                                                          im also in new york, and while a few waiters in the most expensive places get a decent salary, for most of them the reason they earn so well is that 20% of several 200 and 300 dollar tabs is better than 20% on several 20 or 30 dollar tabs.

                                                      2. I'm completely on the side of those who have flamed the waiter. Yes it's a big deal. Don't make assumptions. Bring back the change. Don't put me in that position. If you've provided good service, you will get a good tip. Period.

                                                        A true story - my husband and I went out to a somewhat casual deli a few years back. When we got the bill, the itemized portion didn't reflect our orders whatsoever, and it was about $10 more than what ours should have been. It turns out the waiter ran our card and the next table's card at the same time and rang up their order on our card and vice versa. When we pointed out the discrepancy, he went to talk to the other table, returned to us and said - it's not that big of a difference. Do you mind? They don't. Yes we mind. Good grief.

                                                        It's unfortunate for patrons that restaurants have set up tips from patrons to subsidize the otherwise too low rates they pay their staff. Because now we feel like we are putting someone out on the street if we don't shoulder this burden. But I believe that tips should reflect service, and service is about attitude and respect as much as not dropping your plate or screwing up your order. I'm not looking for an excuse to tip low, but if you give me one...

                                                        10 Replies
                                                        1. re: sasha1

                                                          Put you in the position of saying you'd like change? The horror!

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            To each his own. I happen to think the question is presumptuous.

                                                            1. re: sasha1

                                                              But why over-analyze it? Just relax and say you'd like change.

                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                It's actually much more efficient to train servers in correct service than to modulate the relaxation of customers - there are so many more customers than servers....

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  Karl, I agree that "I'll be right back with your change" is certainly the best option. I just don't see why people get upset and ding their waiter's tip if they use "Do you need change/May i bring you some change?".

                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                    It hasn't with me, though I take it as a sign of improper training (servers should be trained not to say that, among many other things) or a lack of awareness. But I understand that, as a descriptive matter, it may do so with others and we do no service to servers to pretend or wish that away.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      I don't ding the tip just for that question. I get annoyed inside. I tip on the rest of the service during the meal.

                                                                      1. re: Pincus

                                                                        I wouldn't knock a tip if this were the only thing. But I don't like the attitude. There's this sort of casual, sloppy, whatever attitude taking over that I just don't believe is in line with what a service profession should be.

                                                                        I'm in a service profession, and if a client asks me to do a project, I would never respond "you don't need that anytime soon do you - cause I'm swamped." Same thing. Most professions have clients/customers. And you treat them politely or they go elsewhere.

                                                                        Another true story - although my standards for a walk up are certainly different than a sit down. I went to a place for lunch and ordered at the counter a tuna sandwich. It was described as being made with a secret sauce. I asked the youth at the counter what was in it and his reply was "I don't know, I don't eat that crap." So when managers are training their restaurant staff, where do you draw the line?

                                                                        1. re: sasha1

                                                                          i dont see it as the same thing at all/// but this conversation has been pretty much beaten to death..so... whatever

                                                            2. re: sasha1

                                                              That incident reminded me of a time when we were out at a new place, and when the bill came, the four of us looked at it and realized that it belonged to another table. Although it was just about what we all believed the meal should have cost (or maybe just a little bit more!) - we called the server over and pointed out the mistake. At which point she came back with our REAL bill, which was TWICE that amount. Oh, well...

                                                            3. My question would be, was your money visibly showing inside the check presenter? I was trained never to ask if people wanted change, but I was also taught that if people want change, they will leave the money sticking out and if there is no credit card or cash visible, they either haven't paid and shouldn't be bothered or they don't need change. Maybe the server thought that the OP was all good, but then realized (if they were still sitting there after awhile) that they were waiting...hence the question.

                                                              Really, I can't imagine how this is such an intrusive question. To me it is much more efficient and to the point than "I'll be back with your change", which I often have to use even though I KNOW the person does not want change/will leave their change for me anyway. Especially if the restaurant was slow, the server may not have HAD change and had to go get it from the back, which could take forever, and would be a waste of time if the OP had simply not wanted change. Not a huge deal of harm done in asking.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Olallieberry

                                                                Actually, that's a good point, Olallieb. Where I work now, we don't have check presenters, just trays, so we can see if there's money down. But at previous restaurants, I never knew what to ask when there was a presenter, nor did half the customers know how to deal with them. If there was money or a card visible, it was usually clear, but a lot of people just put the tender in the presenter and close it and wait for you to psychically know there's some sort of currency in there. I never knew how to deal with that. What irked me the most was when they then got pissed that I hadn't yet divined that there was payment in the presenter and they'd rudely interrupt me and say, "Well, are you going to get us change"? Thew is right up there; customers need to get off their high horses and treat servers as people, not psychics or slaves.

                                                              2. This is a question that always irritates the life out of me! One time, I was caught in a really bad mood and replied, "Yes. Please bring it in dimes."

                                                                1. It absolutely amazes me that waitpeople are held to such a high standard of job performance, that no matter what else they did right and proper, a few words at the end, affects their entire "salary" from you. I agree that every time I see a "tip" topic, it is something on the order of "please help me justify/make me right to have left a smaller tip".

                                                                  I can't really think of any other job where such a high and constant standard if being enforced. Can you see it, oops you are a teacher, you mispelled a word today, 10% less of your daily salary, or you kept me waiting 5 mins longer for the Parent Teacher conference. Not that I am picking on teachers, it was just the first job that came to mind...Feel free to insert any job in that concept.

                                                                  Yes, I grew up in the business, have done all sides of it and just as well, spend alot of dining out time. I think I have pretty much seen all of the spectra of it.

                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                                    Well, be amazed, Kiddo. There are a LOT of us here who are experience on both sides of the water glass. And asking if a diner wants change goes far beyond mispelling a word. It is the unspoken implication of the question that ticks me off. It's the same as saying, "Excuse me, but I think you may well be an ill mannered poorly educated idiot who doesn't understand tipping, so would you like me to bring you your proper change, or would you like to just make up for all of the other times you've probably stiffed someone by letting me keep this ridiciulous amount in return for the services I've rendered?"

                                                                    I've never been asked if I'd like change when the cash overage doesn't amount to 30% or more of the bill.

                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                      "It's the same as saying, "Excuse me, but I think you may well be an ill mannered poorly educated idiot who doesn't understand tipping, so would you like me to bring you your proper change, or would you like to just make up for all of the other times you've probably stiffed someone by letting me keep this ridiciulous amount in return for the services I've rendered?"

                                                                      Good lord. The world is this full of such evil intentions?

                                                                      1. re: lisa13

                                                                        the question is real or just perceived.......?

                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                          I'm not going to address your first point because that has been debated to death but you are mistaken if you don't think people send back food. I've sent back food when it was not prepared as advertised and I've seen people send back food for all types of reasons some legitimate some not. I worked at as a barista and I had a customer come back to tell me that the milk in her latte was sour. I was alarmed because I had made a half-dozen other drinks with the milk from that container. I brought out the milk I had been using and poured some into a cup and gave it a sniff. Smelled fine. I tasted it. No problems. I asked her if she would like another latte with a new container of milk and she said, "no, maybe the milk wasn't sour but the beans were too bitter." This may be the case but we use beans from a very well know local roaster and I've never had any complaints before. I ended up comping her a tea.

                                                                          Any one who has worked in the service industry will tell you that there are customers that are definitely not shy about returning food.

                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                            My question is more than half sincere. I am fascinated and somewhat dismayed that several respondents here seem to perceive so much ill intent behind a fairly simple question, that may well just be a gaffe on the server's part. I am as jaded as they come (or so I thought =), but I just don't see how "do you need change" can be interpreted as so inherently malicious.

                                                                            1. re: lisa13

                                                                              i don't even think it's a gaffe, much less evil intent. It is a matter of convenience on the server's part. Not an attempt to guilt you into paying more money, just checking to see if they need to go through the entire process or making and bringing u change or not... to make it ant bigger than that is evil intent... on the part of the customer in question

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                ummmm... It's a matter of convenience to ask for a 40% tip? Why is it so difficult to understand that the AMOUNT of change due (beyond a reasonable tip) is what makes the question offensive? A dollar over, okay, ask away. Ten bucks. DON'T ASK!!! Just bring me MY money!

                                                                                I'm through.

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  ummmmm....i'd have to say that as far as i can remember the server DID NOT EVER check the amount of money ze picked up before asking this question.. so they wouldn't know if they are talking about 5% or 50%. Ze could as easily be screwing hirself as screwing you. It always seemed to me it was a mater of time and distance travelled over a shift. Nothing more, nothing less.

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    I think a certain fact that doesn't seem to be seeping through is that an overwhelming majority of waitstaff do not go around calculating the difference between the money you put on the table and the price of the bill (if they even remember how much you owe) and are not waiting for the opportunity when some dupe puts a 100 dollar bill on the table to pay for a 3 dollar sandwich and going "Aha, I'm gonna get a 97% tip... muahahahahaha" *twirl evil moustache*

                                                                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                      Of course I meant a $97 tip, which is in excess of 3200%.

                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Caroline, if your money's inside one of those black check presenters, how does your server know how much is inside?

                                                                          2. re: Quine

                                                                            If you think this is a high standard for table service, I am sorry. It's represents a decline in service that this is acceptable - it once would never have even been a question.

                                                                          3. I am actually surprised to realize that it has never bothered me when a waiter has asked me that question, in any of its forms.

                                                                            The question that irks me, though, is when I am in a restaurant, and I am clearly done ordering what I want (I also very often say "that is all", to be clear) and the waiter still asks: Would you like to order some sides with that? (In a manner that says: Are you REALLY not going to order some sides!).
                                                                            That, in my opinion, is low class, and done just to jack up the bill -and the tip.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FoodWine

                                                                              While I completely agree with you, I am also aware that some restaurants press/require their Waitstaff to "push" the high ticket items like liquor and sides. It's wrong, but it may be beyond the Server's control.

                                                                              1. re: Tay

                                                                                You are right, Tay. I thought of that, too, but forgot to put it in.

                                                                                I have never said anything to a waiter about this, and -of course - have not ever used it as an excuse to tip less. I actually rather tip too much than too little, that's just the way I am.

                                                                                1. re: Tay

                                                                                  Last night the same waiter at the same restaurant, again, asked/pushed if we "want some sides with that" -when we were clearly done ordering. Grrr. He is the only waiter in this restaurant that has ever asked us that, so maybe that's why I originally (internally) reacted to that, and still do.
                                                                                  But I just smiled and said: "No, thank you". In my mind that is much easier -for me- than getting (even more) annoyed or complaining, i.e. getting engaged in something that I am not interested in wasting my time with. No reduction in the tip, though, absolutely not.

                                                                                  But next time we will ask for a table that is our favorite waiter's station that night, and not this guys.

                                                                                  Btw, some posters discussed this earlier and I never said anything, because it is a given: of course it is not OK for the waiter to round up. And as I have said in another thread, if we are being charged too little, we also let the waiter know, even if it is just about pennies.

                                                                              2. I rarely pay with cash for meals, I prefer to use my Visa card tied to my checking account.

                                                                                However when I do pay cash. It does not bother me if the server asks if I want change. It does not affect their tip in anyway

                                                                                1. The server should simply say, "I will be right back with your change" and then do so. What if I accidentally left an extra $20 with the bill? If I feel the amount enclosed is correct and includes a 20% tip, I will take the initiative and say "you are all set" as I hand the bill to the server. Otherwise, take the amount I give you and bring my change. What if I left the bill with payment on the side of the table and continued the conversation with my tablemates? Would it be proper for the server to interrupt that conversation to ask if I wanted money back? No. If I handed a credit card with the bill, the server wouldn't say "shall I just add 20% when I run this through?"

                                                                                  1. Quite a thread everyone and pretty emotional from both sides of the presenter. And seeing the rage, the assumptions, the psychic abilities from both servers and custos, jfood is extra-special happy he always pays with plastic.

                                                                                    But after reading both other people's opinions and his own post he now thinks differently and he thanks everyone for teaching him a valuable lesson.

                                                                                    When a server asks jfood "would like more water" he will answer, "Yes Please"
                                                                                    When a server asks jfood "can i bring you more water" he will answer, "Yes Please"
                                                                                    When a server asks jfood "can i fill your water glass with more water" he will answer, "Yes Please"
                                                                                    When a server asks jfood "are you OK with the water" he will answer, "Please may I have some more"

                                                                                    A simple question should elicit a simple answer. Since jfood is not expecting a psychic conversation at any point in the meal, it seems a bit unfair to raise the bar to such a high standard at the end. If the server uses syntax, phraseology, incorrect noun-verb sentence structure, or anything other than "Wow, this cash in the tray means you're given me a 40% tip, thanks buddy" it's now offically overlooked in the Jfood Guide to Dining. The phraseology of such a simple question should not be a "gothca" on reducing the tip.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                      Food, I'm sure i had nothing to do with changing your mind, but it's sure nice to be on the sime side of the street as you for once. :)

                                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                        It's always a pleasure to read your 's and jfood's well presented postings. I may not always agree, but I respect your opinions and love to read what you two have to say. :-} This time, I completely agree. I cannot imagine calculating the amount of the tip based on the way the server asks a simple question.

                                                                                        1. re: Tay

                                                                                          Thanks for the kind words, Tay. Right back atcha!

                                                                                          1. re: Tay


                                                                                            All posters have their faves and enjoy reading T and I all the time

                                                                                        2. re: jfood

                                                                                          My wife and I would never reduce a server's tip for the "Do you want change back?" phraseology. We do comment on it though. To us it's simply good salesmanship to speak to your customers in a way that elicits positive feelings. We always pay for dinner in cash and we have often left a $100 bill on top of the clam shell type check holder to indicate that we are ready to pay. When we hear "Do you want any change back?" we look at each other after the server has departed and my wife will say "Why Mr. Gates, would you like to give the nice server a $50 tip tonight out of those Microsoft stock options you just cashed in?"

                                                                                          The one thing that probably gets my dander up is when I open up the check holder to get my change out to leave a tip and find only $20 bills and a couple of ones (whatever the combo is that will be sure that I now have to hunt down my server again and ask them to go off and break one of the 20's into more "tip friendly" denominations).

                                                                                        3. I'm somewhat surprised that this posting inspired such intense responses. It just doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me, but obviously it does with many Posters.
                                                                                          Last night, we went out for a quick dinner at a local favorite. I asked our Server what she thought about it, She has been there a number of years. She's very good at what I think is a very difficult job She replied that she never looks at the bill before taking it from her customers and always says, "I'll be right back with your change" She felt that a customer should get all of the change 'down to the penny.' Interestingly enough, she felt that a good tip is double the tax,(There is no hard liquor served there)
                                                                                          I'm very surprised that some Posters would let their annoyance at being asked what is a harmless question, (and clearly not meant to annoy them) influence the amount of the tip they would leave. It sounds very petty and childish to me.

                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Tay

                                                                                            I agree again, Tay. I have read, with amazement, through threads where many people almost go out of their way to come up with excuses not to tip properly.
                                                                                            It is very, very rare, that we do not tip well. The wait staff has to be really rude, for us to lower the tip.
                                                                                            I mentioned above, I rather tip too much than too little: I actually once made a miscalculation and tipped too little. When I came home, I called the restaurant and asked for my waiter and told him I would make it right next time, and I did. I felt really bad.

                                                                                            I know many people who work in the restaurant industry (and have become friends with them), some of them waiters/waitresses. I have a family member who works in a restaurant while in college, and a close friend put herself trough college by waiting tables. It is a hard job, even without (some) patron's bad behavior. I have high respect for people in this profession.

                                                                                            Also: I find I am really fortunate (we all are) and am grateful that we are able to (afford to) eat in restaurants as often as I/we do, and because I am often aware of this (feeling of gratitude) it would be hard for me to try to stiff the staff for small reasons / minor annoyances.

                                                                                            1. re: FoodWine

                                                                                              1. it is unacceptable for this question to ever be asked -- unless otherwise instructed, change should be brought without additional comment
                                                                                              2. it is unacceptable to ever round up or down
                                                                                              3. to suggest that the patron is the one behaving badly here is clearly ludicrous
                                                                                              4. the difficulty of the job is not relevant to any of this
                                                                                              5. I, too, feel fortunate that I am able to eat out as often as I do -- this also is not relevant to any of this
                                                                                              6. if a server pisses someone off by asking a question that should never be asked, an unfortunate, though understandable, result may be a tip reduction. Knowing this should be motivation enough to finsih the patron's meal on the expected pleasant note by returning the exact change without further comment

                                                                                              1. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                "to suggest that the patron is the one behaving badly here is clearly ludicrous".
                                                                                                If you referred to my post, I was talking in general. There ARE patrons out there that are behaving really badly. Once I got so upset on behalf of a friend/waiter that I felt like walking over to a table and let them have it.

                                                                                                "I, too, feel fortunate that I am able to eat out as often as I do -- this also is not relevant to any of this"

                                                                                                Sorry to have to inform you this, Steven, but you are not in a position to decide for all of us, what is relevant here. And if you truly felt fortunate, maybe you weren't so quick to find excuses to reduce a tip.

                                                                                                Having said all that I said above, I want to add that there unfortunately are waiters/waitresses that never should have entered the industry, and I do not have respect for them. But neither have most of their co-workers.

                                                                                                1. re: FoodWine

                                                                                                  Actually, we normally tip 18-20%, even for mediocre service, which is pretty much the standard in the NY metro area (the service, that is). Truth be told, I've forgiven more bad service and tipped 20% than I care to remember. I'll be more precise -- it is not relevant to me, and in my opinion, it is not germane to the question itself. And to imply that I (or anyone that agrees with me) is looking for an excuse to reduce a tip is a bit condescending, don't you think?

                                                                                                  1. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                    And being offended that a mere server dared to ask you "a question that should never be asked" somehow isn't condescending?

                                                                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                      Steven, I don't know you so I haven't a clue as to what your tipping standards are. All I can say is that as long as I've been reading this board there are always some people who declare, for whatever server slight (real or imagined) the writer did, or would have, left a lower tip. Now, a lot of times this is reasonable, but a lot of times it's not.

                                                                                                      In this case, I think it's not. I am not easily offended unless someone is intentionally rude, something for which I have little tolerance. What it boils down to, for me anyway, is that the server is not being rude when asking if someone wants change.

                                                                                                  2. re: FoodWine

                                                                                                    FoodWine...Very well stated.
                                                                                                    On more than one occasion I have actually spoken to some customers who were so rude to their Server that she was almost in tears over their obnoxious behavior. I have also spoken with Mgrs when I felt a Server was being badly treated. We, as Patrons expect to be well treated and in turn we also have the same obligation to behave in a polite and civil manner.
                                                                                                    I'm puzzled by all of these punative postings. None of them indicate anything about the quaility of the service, which, after all is upon what the tip should be based... Very strange responses

                                                                                                  3. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                    1) Although I think, "I'll be right back with your change" is the way to go,
                                                                                                    I also believe It's always acceptable to ask a politely respectfully phrased question.
                                                                                                    2) Agreed
                                                                                                    3) Patrons who adjust their tip based on whether or not the Server asks then if they require change, are just plain silly.
                                                                                                    4) Agreed
                                                                                                    5) Agreed
                                                                                                    6) I agree that the precise change due should be returned to the patron, but again, reducing the tip based on the way a Server inquires about the change is as foolish as increasing it if they come up with the phrase you deem as acceptable. We all need to accept the fact that Servers are human beings with varying levels of education/training/experience. If no insult is meant, none should be taken. If you object to the way the Server makes the inquiery, or even that an inquiry is made, it should be taken up with the Mgmt, not used as a punitive excuse for dunning the Server
                                                                                                    In reading your post above, I find it hard to believe that you admit to tipping well, even for what you refer to as "mediocre service" as for "Truth be told, I've forgiven more bad service and tipped 20% than I care to remember." My question would be: WHY???
                                                                                                    That's where the amount of your tip should legitimately reflect your pleasure/displeasure regarding the service you do or do not not receive.

                                                                                                    1. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                      Well, put Steven.

                                                                                                      Honestly, I don't care how poorly a restaurant is set up to take cash. It doesn't really seem like it's my problem as a patron.

                                                                                                      So, I like to pay in cash. I don't see how restaurants have any special reasons not to be like any other business and return the difference between what cash I have and what the bill is.

                                                                                                      I realize tht "do you need change?" may very well be an non-thinking, automatic question--which is the very reason it should be stopped. Because when I pay for a $12 meal with a $20, I'll probably tip $4. but I'm not going to tip $8. And when I hear "do you need change", I can't help but hear "Is this all for me?" or "are you really going to make me bring you back that other $2?"

                                                                                                      Sorry folks, but it is just not acceptable to me. And if I was a server reading this page, I'd determine that it's not a phrase I'd regularly use. It seems to be either neutral to very bad.

                                                                                                      1. re: Orange Julius

                                                                                                        I think typically the only comment that isn't construed as either neutral to very bad is "The meal's on me" and even then I think some people would be offended.

                                                                                                      2. re: stevenb30


                                                                                                        As you can see from jfood's post above he is modifying his feelings on this and you bring up some interesting points, so he is trying to expand his opinion on the various touch points between server and custo..

                                                                                                        Although jfood does not agree with your number 1, he does see and understand your position, life goes on. But he is curious as to how far this may go. Is it OK for a server, seeing that a meal is not completely finished to ask if you would like to take the remainder home?

                                                                                                        For full disclosure, jfood never takes home leftovers (99.9% of the time there are none) but some people may take offense to this type of question as well. Jfood was wondering if the server should assume that the custo also always wants the leftovers and should automatically bring them back to the table and then the custo can either take with of leave behind. Some may feel that hey it's my food of course bring it, while others may feel that hey you don't think i can afford to buy fresh food for tomorrow. Interesting quandry.


                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          "Jfood was wondering if the server should assume that the custo also always wants the leftovers and should automatically bring them back to the table and then the custo can either take with of leave behind. Some may feel that hey it's my food of course bring it, while others may feel that hey you don't think i can afford to buy fresh food for tomorrow. Interesting quandry."
                                                                                                          Do we start a fresh thread or am I allowed to post here? Apologies if not. I would say the server would do exactly as they were told to do by their manager. They would follow the restaurants policy on this.

                                                                                                        2. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                          I don't know what you mean by rounding "down" or "up", but it's often easier to round change up--

                                                                                                          e.g. bill is 23.55. customer gives $30.00. Server returns $6.50.

                                                                                                          If it saves the server 5 minutes to give the customer an extra nickel, then what's the harm? The customer isn't being cheated out of anything and the time saved can be used to wait on other guests.

                                                                                                          Rounding can never work the other way--a server can never give the guest less money back than owed, but i don't see any reason why the server can't give back more.

                                                                                                          1. re: stevenb30

                                                                                                            These points are closest to my thoughts. I was a server for 21 years and have been a manager for over 10. I try to find a reason to go upwards from 15%. I tip on the service prior to the whole check issue but if the server does ask the question about change I make it a point to explain how and why it is inappropriate, in a friendly tone of voice naturally. I believe that most of these issues of service arise from poor training. Some servers are naturals about the nuances of successfully dealing with the public and some would never realize these things without being told.

                                                                                                            On another note, it is also not always clear what a customer means when they say "that's all set". Sometimes that just means that they are ready for you to take the payment. That's why saying "I'll be right back with your change" is the safest response.

                                                                                                            As for saving a server from the inconvenience of having to make an extra trip back or having to come up with change from a bank, I should not have to concern myself with the inner workings of this particular establishment. I do my part by being clear about my order and trying to ask for whatever I might need all at once and not run the server ragged with multiple runs to my table.

                                                                                                            I would be incensed if a server "rounded up or down". I expect MY money back from Shaw's and CVS and wouldn't accept rounding from them either.

                                                                                                            Having been a server for so many years I do understand what servers have to deal with but that is the nature of the business. My job as a customer is to be clear about my order, to be polite with any complaints and to understand the difference in poor service due to kitchen/seating/management deficiencies and those due to the poor attitude or lack of effort by a server. The latter is what affects my tipping, up or down.

                                                                                                            1. re: upbeat

                                                                                                              Excellent posting. I think many, many sources of Server/Patron disatisfaction/miscommunication are the result of poor training or lack of Management follow up to see if the training is being effectively utilized.

                                                                                                              1. re: upbeat

                                                                                                                I still don't understand why a server can't round the change up--that is, in the customer's favor. Can't the server give you $5.50 when you're owed $5.41 if it saves him a few minutes? is there some reason he can't give you an extra .09 or even return $6 and give you an extra .59? The money would be coming out of his pocket and the time he saved in hunting down the 9 cents could be spent providing service to other tables.

                                                                                                        3. It's really funny how easy it is to forget the main question behind a post and get caught up in the details. I know I did with this one and I have a feeling some others did as well.

                                                                                                          When I first read the post I focused on this portion...

                                                                                                          "So, to repeat, thoughts about when or whether it's okay for a server to ask a customer if they need change? And note that in cases when I actually don't need change, I am careful to say clearly: "We're all set here, have a nice day".

                                                                                                          My answer to that is I don't think it's ok and I would much prefer that the waiter/waitress just bring change. As others have said, if I don't need change I will let you know. I especially hate it when the amount I have set down is just a few dollars more than what I would leave with the tip. I do tend to feel obligated to just say "no, keep the change". When in fact I would like my money back.

                                                                                                          I think a lot of what has people upset is the notion of "stiffing" on the tip. I actually never have when asked this question and I even sort of forgot the question was in the OP when I answered. (Shame on me for CH'ing while running after my 7 month old!)
                                                                                                          However, if you do the Math, the OP left a 17% tip (that's if you tip on the tax as well as the total bill since I don't know what tax is in her state). So I really don't see how that is such a terrible tip to warrant the comments about people "looking for reasons" to short change their waitpeople.

                                                                                                          What we really have is 2 different issues, one re: tipping, and one regarding the phrasing of bringing someone change. I think I'm going to take a cue from people that use plastic, suddenly that seems so much easier!

                                                                                                          1. Oh my goodness

                                                                                                            I guess this all boils down to how much people like power and control.

                                                                                                            When I worked in a restaurent, (it wasn't a great one, but I tried hard) I was the only person on the floor and usually worked with one semi deaf bartender who managed the cash drawer. He had to check me out with cash, and I usually had to yell over the band to make sure he saw my checks waiting at the end of the bar.

                                                                                                            Me asking if people needed change was a way for me to improve service to ALL of my customers. If I could have dumped the money in my pocket and move onto the next table versus yelling at the bartender, getting the change, delaying a food and drink order and making sure my tip didn't get stolen off the table well sorry for me trying to be good to ALL my customers.

                                                                                                            I guess I've noticed the better I treat people working in restaurants, the better I get treated in return. Restaurant Karma is probably the strongest form of Karma. When I go out now, at new places and my regular places, I chat up the staff, always tip well and treat everyone like a human being. Usually I get free drinks, a good table and have a good time.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                                                                              Power or control -- yes.

                                                                                                              The question is, why take the question, "Would you like to have your change back?" and its ilk, PERSONALLY?

                                                                                                              In a restaurant setting, servers and customers are functional/situational/legal/etc entities -- not PERSONAL entities. There really is no reason to take any question asked by the server so personally. The server does not know the customer, nor does the customer know the server.

                                                                                                              Asking a question whether you want change back -- and answering such question in the affirmative or negative -- does not imply a personal judgment against the server and/or the customer.

                                                                                                            2. Usually, the server will ask if I need change if they know cash is in the billfold but not how much which I can of course respect. It would be different if they went back with it, added it up, and then asked the question.

                                                                                                              Just this past weekend, the bill was $45 and left a $100 bill and she asked me and I kinda grinned and said yes please. That was because she didnt know what was in there so usually I will give the benefit of the doubt.

                                                                                                              I will caution this and admit that I have worked in the industry and have done the same without realizing that things may have been rude. Hands down, the best thing to have as a server is an amount that leads to rounding up to a solid tip for a group that is easy to divide. Example would be $90 bill for 6 people- chances are if I were at the table it would avoid frustration and just leave $20 each to keep it easy and therefore a solid tip.

                                                                                                              In terms of bars, thats when its all about the service.

                                                                                                              1. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine. I have been a bartender for a while and I just immediately give change, unless they wave me off. HOWEVER, if I am at a resto, I expect the server to take the folder, and if it holds cash to say "I will be right back with your change"

                                                                                                                If they asked me if I needed change I would immediately say "yes please" and grind my teeth.

                                                                                                                what is so hard about saying "I will be right back with your change" if they do not want change they will tell you "it's all set"

                                                                                                                1. I can almost recall the first time I was asked the question about needing change. It was back in the late 80's and in a casual restaurant in Manhattan. The waitress seemed perpetually rushed and doubly so when she took my check. About 10 feet away from my table she then turned around and asked "need change?" I nodded yes and thought it was just her. Now years later I see this is a common question among certain wait staff.

                                                                                                                  I find this question to be posed mainly as a ploy to get a higher tip. Similar to pushing bottled water. I've never had a waiter/ess ask me if I want change when they can visually see they would get a small tip if they kept the change.

                                                                                                                  To 'hounds who are offended by this question, I'd say it's part of the game but don't leave a lower tip just because the question was asked. It's like the question "are you still working on that?" grates some people. I say laugh it off and move on and tip for overall service.

                                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Beau711

                                                                                                                    I don't think asking if the customer needs change is a ploy to get a higher tip. I think it's lazy and presumptuous, and that's why it annoys me. The money I am paying for the tab belongs to the restaurant and the rest belongs to me until I decide to use it to tip the server. Using my money to pay the tab does automatically mean that whatever may be left over belongs to the server. The correct phrase to use is, "I'll be right back with your change."

                                                                                                                    I was a server and bartender for many years. I know exactly how difficult customers can be. I am a very good tipper and do not look for excuses to stiff servers. I don't punish a server by reducing the tip for asking the change question unless the service has already been poor and it's the last straw.

                                                                                                                    For servers, if the way your establishment is set up makes it too onerous to get change for a customer, tell the management its a problem, or better yet, keep your own bank of change as suggested above. Hell, back in the day when I was a server, we were REQUIRED to furnish our own change bank.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Ashforth

                                                                                                                      Thank you! I think the server should never assume that the change is theirs unless the customer clearly says "Keep The Change" which should be clear enough for any idiot to understand. If the waitperson does not hear those magic words, then change should be made and brought back (however - I don't really care how it's done, why should it be such a problem??). Then I, the customer, will leave a tip. Which may or may not include the change brought back by the server.

                                                                                                                      Of course if the bill is $15 and I plan to tip $5, the I'll give the server a $20 and say Keep the change.

                                                                                                                      So easy. And no hard feelings aroused.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Ashforth

                                                                                                                        Don't a lot of dining/eating places in Austria have servers running around with little change belts for this purpose, lol? :D

                                                                                                                      2. re: Beau711

                                                                                                                        "Are you still working on that?" If people would learn to put their knife and fork at 4:00 when they're done with their meal that "annoying" question would never have to be uttered again. Please people - learn how to dine!!

                                                                                                                        1. re: ostracario

                                                                                                                          I've been asked the equivalent of that question while my fork was in my hand and poised to descend for another bite of food. I doubt that putting, or not putting, my knife and fork at any position on the "clock" will end this particular problem.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                            I second that.
                                                                                                                            I have put my knife and fork in the right position since I learned to use them, and still I have been asked this question stunningly many times when I have still been eating ... and a couple of times bus boys actually have GRABBED my plate trying to remove it, when I was not done yet!!! I yank the plate back and give them quite a glare, and let them know, not in a very friendly tone, that I am not done yet, and hope they will be too scared of me in the future to do that again.

                                                                                                                            A few more times of this and I WILL lose my temper -or ask for the manager.

                                                                                                                            1. re: FoodWine

                                                                                                                              WHY are you guys being asked if you require change when you're still eating? Call me strange, but I don't get a check until we're through with coffee and dessert. Are you eating in cafeterias?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                They're not being asked if they require change; they've drifted to another annoying server question, "Are you still working on that?", and describing having their meals cleared away before they're done eating.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                                                  I wondered how last night's waiter got those tine marks in his hand! '-)

                                                                                                                      3. I don't think its okay.

                                                                                                                        When I want the server to keep the change, I tell them as they pick up the folio with the tab/money.

                                                                                                                        When I need the server to make change for me, I tell them exactly that.

                                                                                                                        I don't like being asked "Do you need change?". I don't know if its a misguided attempt to sound "proactive" or what but I don't like it. Thankfully it is more of an exception than the norm.

                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Cat Chow

                                                                                                                          I am a bartender with 20 years experience and I was a waiter for 6 years prior to that.

                                                                                                                          As a bartender I put my hand over my heart and perform a slight head bow ar about an 80 degree angle when a tip is given.

                                                                                                                          The bar tends to louder than the dining area so non-verbal communication works best.

                                                                                                                          I aim to be appreciative and deferential at the same time.

                                                                                                                          As a waiter I always returned all change with sufficient 1's to enable the guest to leave a gratuity.

                                                                                                                          Yes, I brought 1's for that reason.

                                                                                                                          Nowadays creit cards make up so much of the volume that the point is often moot.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Cat Chow

                                                                                                                            More than 100 comments...wow! Don't we have more to worry about? What's wrong with a server asking if you need change? I used to serve tables in a very, very busy place & it just saved steps. Thankfully I never had a negative reaction to this innocent question. "Do you require change?" Yes or no, then get on with your day. How about we start a thread on customers who look for problems when they go out!

                                                                                                                            1. re: ostracario

                                                                                                                              Wow indeed. The more I read, the more I admire good servers. For what they put up with, they should make more than doctors.

                                                                                                                              The issue of tipping certainly seems to push a lot of buttons. Being asked if I require change isn't one of mine.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ostracario

                                                                                                                                There is nothing really wrong with saying "Do you need change?" but it's more professional and perhaps a little 'classier' to simply say "I'll be right back with your change"

                                                                                                                                1. re: Tay


                                                                                                                                  Most well said thing on this thread. You sum it up incredibly well!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: yankeefan

                                                                                                                                    I'm taking a virtual bow :-}

                                                                                                                                    1. re: yankeefan

                                                                                                                                      ITA. "Do you need change?" is tacky. "I'll be right back with your change" accomplishes exactly the same thing but is less presumptious, and only 3 more words.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Tay

                                                                                                                                      When I was a "newbie" in the US (some 18 years ago), I actually thought that the question "Do you need some change?" was very thoughtful.
                                                                                                                                      - See, I thought the waiter/waitress wanted to help me - so that I had enough small change to give a tip (and did not have to endure an additional wait to get the needed small bills & coins) ;-DDD

                                                                                                                                      But even after I realized it was not about that, the question has never bothered me. A polite "yes, please" or "no thank you" is always my answer.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: ostracario

                                                                                                                                      I just started a new thread..."What to do when you know the customer is wrong....it happens."

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Rob83

                                                                                                                                        Rob, what an amazing idea! Some customers think that they can never, ever do anything wrong and they actually go out of their way to look for problems so that they can justify leaving less of a tip. Or, said in a different way: many people just aren't that nice. It's really just a semantics game:
                                                                                                                                        "Do you require change?" vs. "I'll be right back with you change." Either one seems fine. I'm starting a new thread as well: People who have nothing better to do with their time than look for things to complain about!