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Mar 14, 2008 08:08 PM

Tipping: Decent Food-Terrible Service

Went out to dinner tonight. Should've known better that going on a Friday, but was tired and hungry...
We were seated righted away.; The waitress showed up in a decent amount of time and proceeded to ask "what can I getcha?" hmmmm drinks maybe? So we ordered drinks, she him-hawed around and eventually came back to us. Finally got our meal least 30 minutes later, we still haven't gotten our food. In the meantime, there are about 3-4 tables who sat down after us (anywhere from 10- 20 min), getting their food. One couple even got their food, ate, and were leaving. So..we grabbed the first person we could see. Told him we were wondering why we haven't gotten our food. He said he'd find out. He walked right past our waitress, didn't say a word to her, didn't come back. Asked for a manger. Manager arrived just as our food arrived. He proceeded to tell us that some orders don't take as long to cook and that's why other people got their food first. (what a bunch of BS). Then he said our order took longer to get out and he would take care of a part of it. (Geez, thanks big guy!) The waitress is finally around, asking if we needed anything else. Yeah, silverware! "Oh well I didn't have enough hands" she said. Got our silverware, at least our food was hot and tasted decent (steak was ordered meduim rare- came medium-well, but not sending it back, never know what would happen to it). She brought back one refill, never asked how the food was, and brought our check. Looked at the check, wow, they only charged us for drinks. (2 sodas). That was better than I expected. I still don't feel like the manager cared what the problem was. He didn't even take time to talk to us, just ok I'll take care of it. (makes me wonder how often this happens) The waitress' attitude was not good to begin with and after the manager came it was even worse. So we didn't leave a tip. I always tip, and if I must say, I am a damn good tipper too. I like to take care of my servers and know that they will take care of me. I feel a little guilty for not leaving anything, but you know, she really didn't deserve a tip. It just irks me when I go out to eat and end up disappointed (yet again). Eating at home sometimes seems like a pain, but in the end the food and service are always better!

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  1. You know from what you describe I tend to agree with you. Sometimes it is not the falut of the wait staff but the chinzy owners for not hiring enough staff. I usually tip well but if it is obvious that the waiter/ress just doesn't care or is rude then I would be doing a disservice to my fellow restaurant patrons by encourging lousy service by leaving a tip. I once had such rude service that I left a penny so they didn't think I just forgot. If you didn't get results from the manager an even better ploy would be to send a registered letter to the owner at the restaurant and tell him of your plight.

    3 Replies
    1. re: malibumike

      jcattles, are you saying that they only charged you for the sodas and comped you for both meals? I don't want to comment until I understand the whole scenario. I can say that I would not have left no tip under the circumstances described. I can see leaving a tip that reflected poor service, such as ten percent, but I would save zero tip for someone who is offensively rude or argued with me.

      1. re: Val55

        Yes they comped our meals. The drinks came to just under $5.00. We left a five, so I guess we really did leave a couple of cents as tip, but we didn't tip anything above the change.

        1. re: jcattles

          I think the Mgr did the right thing. Comping the 2 meals was more than reasonable and was his way of "taking care of" AKA: Apologizing to you. Whether or not his story about some meals taking longer to prepare than others was true or not is unknown, but he did offer some sort of explanation. I don't know what else you expected of him. As for your Server... Hard call. I tend to think I would have left her a minimal tip, but I can understand why you felt compelled to leave nothing.
          The frustrating thing about situations like yours is that the Server sees no tip and somehow feels justified in thinking the customer is a cheap jerk. I wonder if any Servers take a minute to self examine and wonder what role their actions (or lack thereof) caused the end result?

    2. That meal goes into write it off and live and learn. Service lousy, manager couldn;t care less so just comped the whole thing (probably easiest and best solution for him) and the food was not served as ordered.

      Jfood would have left a Lincoln as you did nad thanked the MOD on the way out and place on the DNR list. Jfood had a similar situatiuon and left a 10% tip with a note on the charge slip to give all the tip to the bussers and runners (none to the server) who did all the work and mentioned it to the MOD on the way out.

      8 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Odd, jfood, that you would have tipped poorly in this situation but take extra money over to a screaming delivery guy in another thread.

        Jcattles, the manager comped your two meals, really what more did you want him to do? I realize you had a bad experience but beyond comping your meal and giving you an excuse/apology what more could he have done right then and there?

        I'm certainly not an overtipper but no way would I have left no tip after a free meal. The server sounded busy or like she didn't want to be there, but she at least provided SOME service. Don't see how at least 10% of what the total should have been wasn't at least warranted.

        1. re: Rick

          not really R. Inthe other thread the first domino in the bad set of facts was the poor tip, in this case it was the bad service. If in the other thread the delivery was late then the root cause would have been the delivery not the measly $4.

          One must find the root cause to correct the underlying reason for the following dominos to fall.

        2. re: jfood

          Jfood did not do a very good job of reading this the first time so he would like to retract and amend.

          - The server asked for a drink order and they were delivered (OK OP did not like the syntax)
          - jfood does not know what him-hawed means
          - Thirty minutes if apps are not ordered on a Friday night is not great, but it is not terribly awful either
          - Can't blame the waitress if the other person just walked by her. If the OP saw this why didn't OP stand up and go over to the waitress or try again?
          - It required 30 minutes for the OP to notice no silverware?
          - "Didn't have enough hands" if these were the actual words, then not a good syntax either
          - manager comped both dinners (What more could you ask for?). Again OP did not like syntax

          But the waitress
          - took the order,
          - brought refills,
          - brought utensils
          - brought the check
          - did not ask how everything was (who knows maybe the manager told her not to after the complaint telling the server to lay low)

          So jfood would now take the position that altough the server was not stellar, she did most of her required duties. Was this a Ponderosa or Outback, sorta sounds like it.

          But the server deserves ~15% on the cost of the entire meal pre-comp.

          1. re: jfood

            Thanks for making my point in your usual, logical way. I couldn't seem to get my thoughts together clearly enough (it IS St. Patrick's Day, after all) to say what I was thinking.

            1. re: jfood

              "But the server deserves ~15% on the cost of the entire meal pre-comp."

              NO, because she was rude. You don't tell someone you can't get utensils right now, because your hands are full. That's just mean.

              You act like the waitress did all of those actions *CORRECTLY*, when she didn't. Just because someone takes an order, brings refills, brings the check, brings utensils, etc. doesn't mean they deserve 15% just because the meal was free. Thank the MANAGER for your free meal. If you want to tip him or her, tip the MANAGER since he or she gives a free meal. The server is not taking out of her own pocket, so WHY act like she gave free food to the customers unless she admitted a mistake and asked for her manager to comp something?

              My husband and I for instance have had major overcharges before with NO apology. I don't care if the server SERVED us, there was no tip due to no apology. Sometimes there were comps, sometimes there wasn't, but they had NOTHING at all to do with the SERVER since they didn't even apologize, so it's not like they asked their manager to give us the comps when we did have some. No apology = no tip for major mistakes such as large overcharges.

              1. re: Springs131

                wow, that's very harsh.

                Since the waitress had her hands full when the utensils were requested (i.e. no runner) let's assume this is not FL. So custo asks for utensils when the waitress might have had three plates up one arm and a fourth in the free hand and the custo asks for utensils. The waitress responds "i'll get them for you right away as my hands are a little full right now." And that constitutes a stiff on the tip? Nope, can't get there.

                Jfood is not acting like the waitress gave them the free food, the MOD did, no argument. The waitress did her job, the MOD did her job and the waitress deserves the tip and the MOD deserves a thank you.

                "Just because someone takes an order, brings refills, brings the check, brings utensils, etc. doesn't mean they deserve 15% just because the meal was free" - uh, yes it does.

                But no apology = no tip seems like a fairly harsh policy from the custo.

            2. re: jfood

              Yep, as a former server myself, that's the way I've handled it when we get lousy service. I leave nothing but buttonhole the manager on the way out, explain what happened, and that's why I'm not leaving a tip for the waitress, but here's $5-10 for the bussers, cooks, dishwashers, etc. who all normally share in the tip pool. Since many places - especially chains - charge a percentage of total sales to the waiter for the tip pool, leaving nothing for the server actually costs him/her to serve your table. This way, the manager will at least give the server a break on your table.

              1. re: KevinB

                I think tip pools are more common in Canada than the States because servers in Canada actually make a wage. And in the story mentioned, the busboy was not helpful.

            3. Man, you guys are tough customers, or hunger just makes you cranky, jcattles. You basically got a free meal for your inconvenience. The waitress sounds like she was harried, but still got you your refill. It was likely not her fault that the kitchen was late with your order. She may not have been as attentive or apologetic as you would have liked but it was a busy Friday night. Personally, I would have cut her some slack. I think under the circumstances, after being comped two meals, I would have gratefully tipped 20% on what the bill should have been, and been happy with my bargain. It was extremely nice of the manager to comp two meals. It sounds like you brought some attitude to the table also.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Val55

                . The Mgr wasn't being 'extremely nice' he was correctly correcting a bad service situation. To be appreciative, yes. To be 'grateful" as though he was doing the OP a favor?....Uhhh ..No
                While I agree that some tip was perhaps in order, tipping 20% would have been missing the whole point and just reinforcing the Server's belief that her poor service was not the problem. It might even have given her the impression that the customer was happy with her service and just out for a freebee meal.
                You're saying that b/c the OP saved on the cost of the meal he/she should pass on some of those savings to a bad Server...

                1. re: Tay

                  I see your point. It is still what I would do, but not necessarily what should be done. I guess my problem is that I don't think the OP describes a situation that warrants two free meals or leaving no tip. Yet despite receiving two free meals, he is still not mollified. The manager and waitress were not sufficiently apologetic for him. I do not doubt that the OP received poor service and waited too long for his meal. But the fact that he indicates that he is often disappointed suggests that perhaps the OP may have set his standards for service a little high for what sounds like a moderately priced restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised if you could make the argument that the manager was rewarding the OP's poor behavior. For the service as described, I think the OP should have left no less than 10%. The OP did not describe a no tip situation, which IMO should be reserved for only the most extreme situation.

                  1. re: Tay

                    Has it occurred to anyone that maybe the server was embarrassed that something had happened (maybe she forgot to order the food, or some special order had not been relayed to the kitchen :ie no seasoning on jcattles chicken so it had to be remade before it got to the table) and ASKED that the meals be comped off. All to often managers take the high position that they are the one there for the guests best interest, when the server was the one who asked for something to be taken off the bill, or that a free dessert be given to the customer, whatever the case may be.

                    Also, as a part time server, I know what she probably still had to pay tipshare on your comped dinner. For instance, if I ask that $100 be taken off my customers bill for whatever reason, I am still charged $3.60 for tipshare at the end of the night for that food. If they don't leave me any tip on that food amount I still have to pay the tipshare. I don’t think anyone should ever have to pay to wait on their customers.

                    Because it is an automated system, there is no "changing" a servers tips for the night and if you give the manager the tip he is either going to hand it back to you or hand it to the server.

                2. Just to clarify... They manager comping the meal was a surprise, I actually thought he would take some off, not all of it. That was not my complaint. What bothered me most, was the fact that manager acted as if this was a normal thing and didn't even bother to listen to us. As for the waitress, she didn't even acknowledge there was a problem, just kinda ignored us and her attitude sucked. Maybe my standards are high, but when I go out, I expect to be treated with courtesy and if there is a problem I expect an apology, not be brushed off. Is that to much to ask?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jcattles

                    >>Is that to much to ask?

                    No, not at all.

                    >>when I go out, I expect to be treated with courtesy and if there is a problem I expect an apology, not be brushed off.

                    You are a 1000% correct. Any restaurant which does otherwise should go out of business.

                    1. re: dolores

                      I always give 15% even if it isn't great service and more if it is better, we are in the service industry not food and I just think it is fair. We all have bad days even if you are a CEO of a company and they still get there trillion dollar bonuses. help out the little guy.

                      1. re: nbermas

                        A little OT, but years ago we had a guest speaker at work who spoke amongst other things about the "i'm having a bad day" cop out (he didn't call it a cop out)....he referenced generalizing this to all professions..and gave the example of airline pilots and brain surgeons....just imagine the state we'd be in if they decided to do less of a job because they were "having a bad day".

                        I think of this every time i hear this statement. And try to remind myself of it as much as possible.

                        1. re: im_nomad

                          im nomad
                          Bravo! Well stated and very, very true. Anyone can do a good job when things are going smoothly. The sign of a true professional is one who maintains that same level of service/dedication, when things are not going well.

                    2. re: jcattles

                      I understand. I think you would have felt better about your dining experience if you had received a sincere apology instead of a free meal. Sometimes words speak louder than actions. By comping the meals, he acknowledged by deed that the error was the restaurant's, but somehow was unwilling to do it verbally. That is frustrating. And the waitress displayed the same attitude. I find that a simple apology disarms people. I am surprised that more people in service industries don't utilize this powerful tool. I am sure tips would improve.

                      1. re: jcattles

                        Would it have been better if you got a sincere apology from both the waitress and manager and not compt'd on the meal? I think sometimes people think they are the same thing. OTOH too many people say sorry without really meaning it. If it's a choice between an apology and a comp'd meal I would choose the latter since my time has been wasted and at least I dont have pay for terrible experience. I would probably put that place on DNR list and be done with it. If they are really interested then I would expect to invited back with an incentitive to try again fresh start.

                      2. I think that your story is somewhat wanting. However, I understand the difficulty of stiffing a server. I had a similar experience where the waitress kept walking past our table (we were right next to the door to the kitchen) and though both my companion and I were looking straight at her, she never once looked at the table. She resolutely avoided eye contact. I find that completely unacceptable.

                        I think that I'm projecting my own experience on your story in my opinion that you are justified in not tipping. I just think your story needs more. And I fully understand about the apology vs. free food. Empathy goes a long way. But as for the "some food takes longer to prepare than other food" explanation, I thought kitchen expedited in order of time, not simplicity. I understand that a burger can take about 10 minutes, whereas a chicken breast could be 20, but I don't see how the difference would be so gross that the other party would be leaving before your food arrived.

                        One thing I will say, however. I think it's possible (though unlikely) that the second person you spoke to was on his way to talk to the kitchen staff about your meal, instead of the waitress. Perhaps he also knew that the waitress was in the wrong line of employment, and tried to deal with the problem himself. (Although not returning to your table is an indication of his general apathy.)

                        But I don't think that you could, in any way, be mean spirited. I think that you tried to see the best of a bad situation. (I feel this way because you called the food decent, even with the error on the steak. If the service had been excellent, would you still have called the steak decent? Or would it have been downgraded? I know that I would not describe a restaurant's food as decent if my steak was anywhere near well done.) I think I would have written a note explaining WHY I didn't tip, though. Or at least explained myself to the manager. (Why so much effort? It's the educator in me. I want to help everyone in any way I can, whether they like it or not.)