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"Is the tip okay?"

Have you ever asked your server if the tip you left him/her was okay?

I served a table tonight and the woman who paid asked me that flat out but I didn't feel that it was right to say "No, $25 on $270 is not okay, especially since you and your mother were very high maintenance and I brought you everything you asked for very promptly and with a smile on my face the whole time."

They were a very nice table and but I just find it very odd that people periodically ask if they've tipped properly. I understand if someone else at the table asked if the tip was alright because they know their dining companion doesn't always tip properly but what is a server suppose to say when they are asked by the person who is paying? I just said that it was fine and left it at that because I didn't want to make the situation any more awkward or make the woman feel cheap.

Now, this was not the diner's first visit to the restaurant and she actually used to date someone who used to work there so she definitely knew the price point well before receiving the bill. She dropped names of other staff whenever I went to check up on the table and she kept asking for different cutlery, plates, etc. after I brought her the usually things. I understand wanting things that will make your visit more comfortable and I am more than happy to bring you those things but I thought that she should have requested these things at the beginning instead of making someone make two trips considering she was familiar with the restaurant.

I know some people will say that the service may not have been up to par but I definitely know that it was (servers know when they're giving crap service).

Should I have told her that her tip was below average?

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  1. I'm sure there's a nice way to let her know. Perhaps something like "I haven't had a chance to check. If it would make you more comfortable, I can get you a calculator to help determine percentage."

    4 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      Wow, tough one. Does she usually ask this question? Was she sincere?

      If yes to both, I guess you could answer a question with a question and ask her what percentage she meant to leave and then tell her that 20% is the norm. Or should be.

      1. re: dolores

        This was the first time I've served her table so I have no idea if she asks this to all the servers. She seemed more clueless than sincere but either way, if you're asking your server that question, you probably know the tip isn't really okay.

        1. re: wildphoenix

          You're dead on. She knew perfectly well that the tip was inadequate.
          By saying that to you, she put in an uncomfortable situation while giving the rest of her table the impression that she tipped well. What a miserable thing to do!
          If anyone ever has the nerve to do that again. Turn it around. Smile politely and say in a voice able to be heard by the rest of the table. "I hope you were plaesed with my service. Most of my wonderful customers/patrons generously leave me leave me the standard 20%, but by all means, you do whatever you wish". You have one of the most difficult jobs. Anyone who would put you on the spot by asking you that ridiculous question, more than deserves that kind of response.

          1. re: wildphoenix

            I completely agree. She would have never asked that question if she knew the tip was okay. How low!

            I believe the best response to that is just as Mojo said "20% is standard but I can get you a calculator if you'd like".

            That is AWFUL to ask a server. She is just cheap and trying to make herself look good in front of her guests.

      2. I don't think there is an appropriate,professional way to say that someone's tip is not good enough. I would have said, "of course, ma'am. Thank you." then i would have sighed in the back and hoped that next table went better.

        1. No. No. No.

          You thank her. You can ask if there was anything you could have done to improve the service. That's about as close as you can get professionally.

          1. Tough question, but I feel like I would have had to say something. "Well, honestly, based on the tip you gave me I would have to assume you were very dissatisfied with the level of service you received from me, or with the food itself. I apologize for whatever you perceived my shortcomings or those of the restaurant itself to be. Thank you and hope to see you again." Smile, and walk away.
            This woman was familiar with the restaurant, it's food, and employees enough to name-drop during the entire meal. She thought enough of her position to keep you running. And that name dropping was not innocent; it was to keep you on your toes. Yet, she thought so little of your service, she didn't even leave you a 10% tip. You say you didn't want the woman to feel cheap, but in fact, she is cheap of her own doing. I don't know how it works at your restaurant, but if you can, I would ask your manager to refrain from placing her at your tables in the future. You sound like a thoughtful and sympathetic person; you deserve better treatment than you were given by this person.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mschow

              I totally agree with mschow. I think it is polite and probably the only thing you could say besides doing nothing.

            2. Without implying what she left wasn't satisfactory, I would simply reply, "A customary gratuity for good service is 15-20%" and walk away. That way you're not specifically saying her $25 was too little, but letting her know what people regularly leave you. Maybe she adds to it, maybe she doesn't.

              I agree that if someone's asking you if the tip was okay, he already know it's not.

              1 Reply
              1. re: invinotheresverde

                Not that you really could or would do this but, I would say, "You know, it hadn't occurred to me to look but typically 15 -20% for good to great service is customary". I still think you handled it very gracefully. You're going to win a bunch and your going to loose some whether in a service industry or life.

              2. Answer a question with a question. "Why do you ask?" Let the answer be your guide. It may be that the woman doesn't know what is customary.

                Then you can reply, I haven't looked/noticed what you left, but a customary tip is 15-20%, more if you think the service was exceptional.

                No reasonable person could take offense at that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jase

                  When I have been asked this question -- which is, thankfully, not often -- I usually say, "I usually calculate tips by percentage. What percent did you intend to leave?" If she then says, "Oh, I don't know, 15%?" I would tell her how much that amount is. The few times that this has happened, the customer seemed to genuinely not know the answer. A few times, admittedly, I have simply said, "It's fine," because I didn't feel like dealing with it all. And a few times, also, customers have come back to leave more when they realize they've undertipped.

                2. Since she asked, assuming it's not a rhetorical question (such as "how's everything" from a server), I would not be opposed to say, "Well, normally my customers leave a 15% tip."

                  1. Given that we're not talking about a foreign visitor, a 16yr old out for his
                    first prom etc, I can only assume the woman is stupid [maybe she cant compute
                    15% of $270, but obviously $25 < 10%*$270 = $27] or is engaging in some kind
                    of cognitive dissonace or mind game type thing ... "well i asked the waiter how
                    much the tip was and he/she said it was fine, so it must be fine". I personally think
                    it was probably a case of the latter.

                    They were high maint and a "nice table"?

                    Sure, this is a case where you really cant answer, but again my theory
                    is she wasnt really asking. I dunno anything about resto operations,
                    but in my business, when somebody more junior has a billing issue
                    or other problem with a "customer", we turn negotiations over to a
                    manager or other senior person... to make an assessment if there was
                    a communication failure, if we screwed up something etc. Would it not be an
                    option to send a manager over after briefing him on the situation ... for
                    him to say something like "the person running the bill asked me to
                    come over and make sure there wasnt a problem during dinner
                    or something was unsatisfactory with the food or service ... we usually
                    only see <10% tip when there is a serious problem". If the customer is a
                    sincere moron, presumably she'd take that at face value. If she's disingenuous,
                    I dont think being called on it or taking some heat is unreasonable. Of course
                    if management declines to confront the customer for fear of alientating her,
                    i guess you are not worse off than you are now.

                    p.s. I assume this wasnt some unusal case where the food bill was really something
                    like $100, and $170 or it was caviar or wine etc. If the bill was somehow "off piste"
                    there may have been good reason to ask, but given the details you chose to provide
                    I'm sure you'ld have mentioned something like that.

                    I personally think the funniest response would have been "ask your mother".

                    ok tnx.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: psb

                      "Given that we're not talking about a foreign visitor, a 16yr old out for his
                      first prom etc, I can only assume the woman is stupid [maybe she cant compute 15% of $270, but obviously $25 < 10%*$270 = $27] or is engaging in some kind of cognitive dissonace or mind game type thing"

                      For the OP: There is at least one more possibility: Is it at all possible that she asked you that AFTER you looked at the payment slip; ie could you have unconciously reacted to the amount with a frown, or whatever? The answer to that question would have an impact on my answer: if it is possible she was reacting to your body language I think the only acceptable answer is to assure her it was fine,. If not, it could be she genuinly wants to know, and in that case might consider using the indirect approach others have mentioned, ie 'most of my customers leave XX percent'.

                      But then I am not even sure about that; not being a server myelf...

                    2. I'm not sure there's any other way out of this situation than to either simply thank and walk away, or ask simply what the diner meant to leave. The "well TYPICALLY" statement or something along the lines of "Well, honestly, based on the tip you gave me I would have to assume you were very dissatisfied " type statements, could be perceived as snotty or passive-aggressive.

                      I think you have to be very careful not to make assumptions about what other people are thinking or meant (in general in life, it doesn't help to "mind-read"). Also, you mention that you know alot about this woman, but yet this was your first time serving her. Again making assumptions about what others have gossiped about, isn't good either. Just because she dated someone in the restaurant doesn't mean she has a clue about what goes on there either.

                      as a side note....sometimes people have difficulties tipping when they're with their older relatives....My parents who were born in the 30's tend to cringe over the prices of a lot of stuff in general, but I admit i sometimes tip after they've left the table so that i don't get into discussions about how i left "too much".

                      1. Nah, I don't think, not in this case. One hesitates to assign motive without more information, but it sounds to me like she was trying to do the old "friend of the band" routine... (even though, of course, real friends of the band don't have to and rarely do - just like most people at all familiar with the restaurant business tend to tip a bit on the high side, if anything outside the usual range.)

                        Short of having someone escort them from the building, there's really not much you can do about people like that if you don't have the option of just walking away, as a restaurant server obviously does not. It sounds pretty unlikely that she'd have plunked down more $$ if you'd said it was inadequate, so saying something would have made a slightly annoying situation totally awkward IMO. If you were (hypothetically) willing to deal with making an idiot of her, you could always have said "no, but I'll hit up <name-she-dropped> for the rest." roflmao