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He tipped me $2.03.

Last night I was apalled by the actions of a wealthy customer. I would really like some advice as to handle a similar situation in the future.

I have been serving at a small, family owned restaurant for a few weeks. We have a steady stream of customers come in. I do my job with a smile and everyone so far has said that I do the job well. Last night a table of 5 came in. Everything was business as usual, refilling drinks, food came out promptly, smiles, they made a point to tell me they enjoyed the food, etc. At the end of their meal I gave them the check. The older gentleman in the party paid. The bill was $2.03 shy of $50. As I handed him the billfold he told me to keep the change. I thought to myself, "ok he must be leaving more on the table". Nope, he didn't. My manager and busboy (whom I share tips with) were justifiably upset. The service I provided was great and they enjoyed the food. Everyone in the party was pleased.

I ask you, was this man just cheap or did I miss something? Short of chasing him out to the parking lot and demanding money equal to the service provided, what should I have done?

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  1. There really is nothing you can do. He either made a mistake, maybe he was foreign and isn't used to our tipping practices, or he is very cheap. Maybe he thought gratuity was added. In any of these cases it would be rude to say something to the customer, so you should just hope it was a mistake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sarahelan

      Where is the restaurant? This reminds me of the old joke "What is the difference between a canoe and a Canadian?" "A Canadian doesn't tip."

      Before anyone takes offence, I'd like to say I am a Canadian myself, living in Toronto. And I try to give adequate to generous (if merited) tips.

      1. re: ekammin

        The customer is American. He is from the neighborhood where the restaurant is located (Pennsylvania). I know he checked the bill so I am hardpressed to say it was an honest mistake.

    2. This is quite common in many situations with older customers. Just accept the tip and keep doing a good job. You will also encounter the opposite with some truly generous tips. It tends to even out as long as you continue to provide good service.

      1. as jfood always gives the server the benefit of the doubt in numerous responses, he will do likewise here. He may have thought he placed $60 in the register. Or he may have felt that something was amiss but, like many on these boards, did not want a confrontation, who knows.

        But a table of 5 for <$50? Is this a pizzeria or a small ethnic in which tips are not expected? And why would you assume he was "a wealthy customer"? does not sound like we have all the info.

        But in any event you can do nothing other than move on and forget about it and focus your attention on the next table.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          I agree. How do you know he's wealthy? Have you seen the balance sheet that shows his net worth?
          Sometimes "older" people tend to tip less, especially those who lived through the depression and the war. But to you, "older" could mean anyone over 35.
          Just get over it. It happens. As others have said, if you are good at what you do and work in a good place, it will all even out overall.
          How to handle it in the future? Tackle him in the parking lot and demand to be fully compensated I guess. Just kidding.
          Your manager should have controlled himself and not been so upset. He did not model proper professional behavior and set a good example of taking these things in stride.
          15% would have been $7.40. So over a $5 difference the whole staff went ballistic over this? Life's too short.

          1. re: Leonardo

            >>I ask you, was this man just cheap or did I miss something? Short of chasing him out to the parking lot and demanding money equal to the service provided, what should I have done?<<

            I love tipping threads.

            Yes, he was cheap. Very cheap.

            No, you did not miss anything. He was just cheap.

            No, you couldn't chase him out to the parking lot. I imagine, in a server's life, there are miserably cheap people like this guy and generous people who recognize that a server performs one of the hardest jobs on the planet and should be rewarded accordingly.

            Now, IF he comes BACK to your restaurant, what will you do? Give him rotten service or be your usual professional self? I bet the latter.

            If I were paying, I would have tipped $10.00.

        2. If a few drinks were involved and he was elderly, do you think there's a possibility that he may have meant to leave three twenties and left two plus a ten by mistake? I must confess, I've done this after one martini too many. Fortunatly, after a cleared head and billfold check, I've been able to correct the oversight on my next visit.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SonyBob

            I tip according to my wait staff. I'm sure some of the servers I have had thought they were doing a great job. But I am very picky. It's not all about what the waiter or what waitress thinks, It's what I think. I am paying for a service. And if I don't get the service I expect, It is not rewarded. I think I do a great job at where I work, but I am sure not everyone agrees. Just because a waiter thinks they are doing a great job , it is not always so. The one think that really irks me is after I am done with my meal is "WAITING" for my check.Hey, I am ready to go, Don't walk by me 4 times and tell me you don't see my empty plate there. I am a great tipper if the service is what I expect.If it is not what I expect, Don't expect it from me

            1. I would've brought him his change and said (loudly enough for his guests to hear), "here's your $2.03 change on your $50 bill, sir". If it was a genuine mistake, he'll fix it. If he meant to leave that little but became embarrassed his guests found out, he'll fix it. If he's a cheap pr*ck and doesn't care, there was nothing you could do anyhow.

              9 Replies
              1. re: invinotheresverde

                I disagree, invino. If I was cheap, and a server did that to me, I would leave nothing.

                There's no getting through to cheap people. I've dined with them, I'm no longer friends with them, and I dislike them still.

                1. re: dolores

                  Thank you everyone for your replies. Two quick asides, I know he's wealthy from my day job (background info. that I didn't feel was necessary to go into details). The restaurant is a small BYO and two people in the party were children.

                  My point was not to complain about the tip, I'm practical, these things happen and I take it in stride. I just wanted to know what a good response was, since I know chowhounds love tipping posts.

                  UPDATE: My mgr. called me. The guy came in today. He apologized profusely, he didn't have his glasses on and misread the bill. He left me more money. My faith in humanity is restored. And I am a good server. ;)

                  1. re: dream_of_giusti

                    Nice dream.

                    Always give the custo, the server, the MOD or anyone else the benefit of the doubt. calling people cheap, calling servers lousy and calling MODs inconsiderate is too easy.

                    Jfood is glad it worked out and you have your step back and your confidence restored.

                    Good holiday.

                    1. re: dream_of_giusti

                      I'm with jfood. While I was reading this thread it struck me how often people jump to conclude the worst. I'm just beyond babyboomer age and maybe have a generally non-confrontational personality, but my mother, who was really a very tough woman, always used to say that "you get more with honey than with vinegar' (not that she always practiced that credo herself).

                      I've found that most people ARE generally well-intentioned. Aggressive confrontation of someone with an attitude only has value if you are willing to walk away from the situation with nothing (or worse). It may make you feel better but it usually doesn't get you what you really want. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a good initial strategy.

                      1. re: dream_of_giusti

                        The gentleman showed class by returning and apologizing.

                      2. re: dolores

                        I'd take no tip and the personal satisfaction over $2.03 any day.

                        I'm glad he came back with more money for you, dream.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          I am with you there all the way invino. I had a customer at my bar once order several frozen muslides and frozen margaritas for a table, and when the bill was paid she left the CHANGE and I mean like COINS only! I said HEY YOU LEFT YOUR NICKELS! To a bartender frozen drinks are the bane of your existence, trust me if you order them in a slammed friday night, we hate you.

                      3. re: invinotheresverde

                        To in vino re your suggestion that waiter loudly return the "change": That will most certainly work, humiliating him. Classy. If I witnessed such boorish behavior I'd tell the owner.
                        Remember that others are watching. Based on what they witness, they will return or not. And one of them could be a great tipper.

                        1. re: Leonardo

                          Why would you care if the server returned the change to the guest? Yes, it was done with dual motives, but it's between the server and the customer.

                      4. I haven't read the other responses left but what I usually do is go ahead and make the change for him and bring it back, without the "book" and put it down next to him saying, "here's your change, sir, thanks again so much for dining with us." One of two things will happen:

                        - He realizes the change is dreadfully short of a proper tip and adds to it
                        - He thanks you and leaves the $2, and it's just one of those million tables where you just didn't get a great tip, doesn't matter the reason why, dismiss it and move on.

                        I've found that most of the time it's #1 and the person who told you to keep the change didn't realize that they were offering you such a small sum and this gives them an opportunity to add to it.

                        You cannot chase him out or demand to know why he doesn't want to give a bigger tip if it's choice #2. It *is* optional and he could have just left nothing at all because he doesn't believe in tipping or whatever. But if you bring back the change the way I mentioned, it gives you the opportunity to have the nagging question answered for you so at least you're not wondering all night WTF happened.

                        {edited to add that I just read your update, that's great news.]

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          I waited tables for so long, and I completely agree with this. It works every time. You don't always get a good tip, but this always gives people a graceful chance to correct their mistakes.

                        2. Late to the thread, sounds like this particular situation has already resolved, but the underlying question has not been answered. That is, is there something you could have done to address the situation on the night in question? I think there is.

                          Years ago, at a dinner that involved lots of animated conversation and copious quantities of wine, I made an arithmetic error that resulted in a 6% tip. As we were leaving the restaurant, the MOD pulled me aside and very politely asked if there had been a problem with our server. Surprised, I told him there was not. But his question caused the ol' brain to engage, and I was able to correct the charge slip on the spot.

                          The way my mistake was handled allowed the server to receive an appropriate gratuity without causing anybody unnecessary embarassment or sparking a confrontation. Obviously this approach requires the server to realize the problem and bring it to the manager's attention before the customer leaves the restaurant. But if the party is getting ready to leave and the MOD isn't around, a polite inquiry from the server could also be appropriate.

                          By asking if there was a problem, you alert the customer to the fact that something is amiss. And by starting with the premise that the server must have done something wrong, you avoid putting the customer on the defensive. I realize that servers are human and bound to make an occasional mistake. When they do, I point it out and give them a chance to correct it. As a customer, if I make a gaffe I'd like the same opporunity to fix it.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            This has actually been helpful to me for future reference. I once rather severely undertipped a perfectly competent, pleasant waitress just through having bad math skills, and didn't realize it until much later when I dug the credit card slip out of my wallet. (I think it was $10 less than it should have been, on a $75 total, which means I really screwed up.) It was a couple of days later and I didn't remember her name. I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing, but have regretted it ever since. I wish someone had pointed it out to me at the time. (Maybe I got pilloried on bitterwaitress.com -- certainly I deserved it...)

                            1. re: misterbrucie

                              One of these sites (don't recall the name) was actually posting the names and credit card numbers of bad tippers a couple of years ago. I don't know if it is still going on but it is no wonder people have charges show up unexpectedly on their credit cards when stuff like that goes on.

                              1. re: Hooda_Guest

                                (bitterwaitress allows people to post names but not CC numbers)

                          2. I'm glad this worked out. As a server, you usually will know if you messed something up or if you were just too busy to meet all of their demands. Oddly enough, the few times I really have messed up (a guest ordered Prime Rib, but in my head I kept thinking Ribeye, and that's what I sent him) my patrons were understanding and polite, still tipping over 20%. Of course, how you fix and handle the situation is part of it. So, I have realized that some people are simply bad tippers and there's nothing you could do. My own philosophy is to do my best. If I'm gonna go home with, say, 1/2 of what I usually make on a night, I'd much prefer it to be out of my control. I'd regret it if my laziness and sour attitude was making me broke. It still stings when someone shafts you, but what can you do?
                            In my restaurant, if someone stiffs you all together or walks out, the management will often comp something off the bill. They wind up eating the cost of our tip, so that we didn't work in vain. I'm sure many small businesses can't do this, but it does help us not build resentment.

                            1. glad this worked out for you.

                              But, when I had a restaurant this kind of thing happened on a fairly regular basis, some customers would leave 10% others would leave 25%. Overall it probably balances out.

                              1. Speaking of coins for tips, when I met my friend at the Frankfurt Flughafen a few days after 11 September (she was bringing my cats over from Mexico), the plane was 5 hours late. I had coffee in the restaurant by the gate where passengers from the overseas flights come out. The waiter appeared to be Arab and knew I was American because I was reading a book in English and spoke very little German at the time (I don't look like a foreigner here). He was rude and provided poor service for the multiple cups of coffee I had while waiting. So, I got even. I paid the bill with the smallest coins I had, 1 and 2 pfennigs, 5 pfennigs, 10 pf, etc. and left NO extra tip. He didn't like it, but the coins were legal tender and he had to accept them.

                                1. Thankfully he returned,

                                  otherwise I would have said he was being cheap, especially during the holiday season.

                                  perhaps it was an honest mistake.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                    swsidejim, I did say he was 'cheap' and it 'was' an honest mistake. Thankfully.

                                    But seriously, with a table of five, wouldn't YOU have asked for assistance from one of your table mates if you didn't have your glasses on and needed them to see the bill or your money or duh, realized you didn't have them on and put them on?

                                    1. re: dolores

                                      my post was not directed at you. I was just chiming in with my opinion, not commenting on anyone elses.

                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        No, that's okay, I understood swsidejim, I had been meaning to come back and do a 'mea culpa' on my original post for awhile now.

                                        The second paragraph was just me, extemporizing.