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Is not tipping illegal?

I was out last night at a restro with my family, and the table next to us was a large family of 12. The service they had was horrid. Missing sides, a missing entree, they waited , and waited and waited over an hour between the appys and the entrees, drinks left unfilled... etc etc.. They constantly were asking our server to get thier server. When the bill came the patriarch was furious the server added 20% for service to his final tab, he deleted it and paid in cash, sans tip... the server and the manager tried to stop him at the door, the manager said he was going to call the police. Needless to say the patriarch said GO RIGHT AHEAD.. you ROBBED me of service!!

I honestly sided with him on this one... his service was atrocious and not worth what they demanded from him.

We left before we could see what happened in the end.. but now my curiosity is piqued.

Is it illegal to not tip?

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  1. Not per se for all tips, however: it is highly likely that on the menu it said something to the effect that all parties larger than 6 will have an automatic 20% tip added to the bill. If that is in fact the case at this place, then yes, if someone refused to pay they could be breaking the law just as surely as if they tried to leave without paying for food. On the other hand, the customer could argue that no service was provided so 20% is not indicated no matter what the menu says, just as if I am not delivered the food I ordered and they refuse to make it right then I'm not paying for the food.

    That being said, any decent restaurant would not hold the diner to this were the service truly that bad. One time my party of 10 had unconsciounably horrid service and there was an auto-18% tip included. I had words with the manager and it was reduced by half. They didn't have to do this. It was the right customer-service goodwill common sense move.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Leonardo

      "On the other hand, the customer could argue that no service was provided"

      One could argue this if one wanted to be a liar and a cheat. Seated and served dinner - no service was provided?

      1. re: FrankJBN

        the seat, the food, the heat/AC, lights, muzak,etc...are in the price of the food. "service" as it is commonly used, is the hospitality your waiter has(not)provided.

        1. re: nkeane

          Actually, Leonardo is right. You enter into a contract with the restaurant when you are told up front that service is included and you make the agreement when you order. What you can do is to talk to the owner or manager about the service and ask for the tip to be removed or reduced - depending on the circumstances. My bet is that even if the manager does not agree, he/she will do it even if they have to partially eat it. Too many times with a fight over the added tip for a server means they are fired because there is a reason for customers objecting. Restaurant owners want happy customers - period.

          Heat/AC, Muzak - is built into the cost of the food. It is not what you tip on.

          If I had a terrible experience, you can bet your booty I would not be sucking it up and paying the full tip. Nope. If I HAD to, you could not KEEP me off the internet talking about it. Owners know that. Servers want to keep jobs... it all works out if there are no complete idiots involved.

    2. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that the automatic gratuity added to a check for large parties is nothing more than a convenience for the customer so they don't have to calculate the tip. It's not illegal to not tip, especially when the restaurant is obviously, as in this case, using the auto-grat as an excuse to provide crappy service.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead

        "I'm pretty sure that the automatic gratuity added to a check for large parties is nothing more than a convenience for the customer"

        You don't really believe this, do you? If you do, I'm selling a car that doesn't run. It's not a rip-off, it's a safety feature I provide to my customers so they won't have to avoid accidents.

        1. re: FrankJBN

          I'm not sure what your analogy is meant to imply. What I meant was that I don't think the auto-gratuity has any legal standing, that just because a restaurant prints that on the menu doesn't mean you are legally obligated to pay it. If I'm mistaken, then tell me.

          If the OP's account of the meal in question is accurate (missing dishes, hour-long waits between courses, etc.), then I don't see how the restaurant can expect 20% gratuity, no matter what their menu says.

          1. re: Buckethead

            I don't know whether or not the auto-grat has legal standing. But the reason why a lot of restaurants tack on 17-20% for larger parties is that larger parties involve a lot more work than dealing with a 2 or 4 top. Turnover is also a lot slower with larger parties. If the waiter is stiffed on a larger party (for whatever reason), it can be very frustrating.

            Now, in the scenario that the OP posts, I probably also would have disputed the 20% charge. Maybe not 0% (as they did do some work), but it would leave a bad taste in my mouth to leave 20.

            1. re: Buckethead

              "What I meant was that I don't think the auto-gratuity has any legal standing, that just because a restaurant prints that on the menu doesn't mean you are legally obligated to pay it."

              Its clearly printed on the menu, along with the prices of the food. If you didnt like your food you cant then suddenly decide you were going to pay 1/2 price or not pay anything!

              That having been said, and as others have stated, many restaurants will comp the food, or offer a replacement - be it for bad food or service, but by no means are they required to.

              1. re: joe777cool

                Just because they put it in writing, it's true? I think not. Think gravel trucks that have a "not responsible for broken windshield" or any establishment that displays a "not responsible for accidents". Both in fact are responsible. I guess they just think maybe you're dumb enough to believe them and not sue if they cause you harm.

                1. re: silvergirl

                  I dont have the foggiest clue how you made that leap. The menu is a form of contract. You agree to say said dollar amount for said hamburger. If you dont pay said amount THE POLICE WILL BE CALLED. There is an exchange of goods and services here and the customer has every right to deny the auto gratuity by taking their business elsewhere.

                  1. re: joe777cool

                    Now that you say it that way, this whole "mandatory 18% gratuity thing" just reminds me of those tourists traps (really, traps in the real sense of the word) that they warn people about in the red light districts of Europe - where they automatically charge you $100 for a drink (enforced by large thugs) just because you step into their establishment because "that's what it says on the menu".

                    The philosophical difference is really a fine line here.

                    1. re: HungWeiLo

                      so you are equating 18% added gratuity to a shake down by street thugs?

                      Lets just say I am glad that I have never been to the parts of Europe you have been to.

            2. re: Buckethead

              >>>...I'm pretty sure that the automatic gratuity added to a check for large parties is nothing more than a convenience for the customer so they don't have to calculate the tip.<<<

              Actually it is the other way around. It is not uncomon for a large party to run up a bill in he hundreds of dollars, even at a moderately priced establishment. (A part of 10, average of $25 each is not hard to hit with entrée, beverage, & dessert.) Then the $300 check comes and the one paying the check figures out a 20% tip will be (GASP!) $60, s/he quietly slips a 20 on the table and slinks away, and the server, who had to work extra hard to keep everyone happy, gets stiffed. This happens more often than not. That is why you see a "mandatory tip" charged for large parties. People don't seem to mind 20% on a modest lunch tab, but once the price approaches 3 figures sticker shock sets in, even if the service was great.

              That being said, a tip is also *earned*. Having worked in the industry and was taught by the chef/owner what kind of service is expected, I am anal about service. If the service is below par, (or worse) I would definitely deduct the mandatory tip and pay what I thought *was* earned. I would also ask to speak with the manager privately to explain my actions with examples of the poor service. If s/he makes excuses for the server, than I would withdraw the entire gratuity.

              1. re: Buckethead

                I am right with you, although the other thing the pre-added tip serves to accomplish is hoping that the party does not notice and further tips on top of the already high-percentage tip. I had a 20% pre-added at a respected LA establishment and when I paid the exact amount the server gave quite the frown. Thanks buddy, not coming back.

              2. Interesting question...i'm not sure, but i did find this online


                3 Replies
                1. re: iluvtennis

                  From that link:

                  "As for the legality of the practice, at one time, it was generally considered that a diner entered into a “contract” with the restaurant by virtue of ordering food, and was obligated to pay according to the terms of the contract, including any added gratuity (as long as the policy was stated in writing on the menu). However, in 2004, a New York restaurant owner sued a man for not paying the mandatory gratuity. In a surprising decision, the judge ultimately decided that “gratuity” by definition means “discretion,” and therefore payment could not be forced. As a result, don’t be surprised if that disclaimer printed on menus now says “service charge” instead of “gratuity.” "

                  1. re: iluvtennis

                    That was exactly my thought - The word, "gratuity."

                    I kinda like the party that said, "NO!" to the restaurant. It just seems to me that over the years tipping has shifted to something that you're supposed to do, instead of something that you want to do.

                    1. re: iluvtennis

                      that's why so many restaurants now call it a "service fee."

                  2. There is no law requiring you to tip. A tip is not an entitlement, it needs to be earned. Contrary to alot of 'Hounders here, I never tip on poor service. I don't want to hear how hard servers work, blah, blah, blah. I work hard to earn a living too. Kudos to the patriarch for having the cajones to stand up against this kind of nonsense.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: BiscuitBoy

                      "I work hard to earn a living too"

                      And when you make a mistake of any kind, does your pay get docked? If not, do you refund it to your employer?

                      1. re: FrankJBN

                        Any kind of mistake? Of course not. However, missing dishes, hour long waits, etc. is pretty major. Let's not make servers into unsung heroes. Tipping on poor performance is ridiculous, and will only perpetuate the problem....Kinda like welfare

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          "And when you make a mistake of any kind, does your pay get docked? If not, do you refund it to your employer?"
                          This is comparing apples and oranges. The server is judged by each and every table - not one consistent employer - and that table contributes by way of tips to the server's salary.

                          At a regular job, if one makes a mistake they are not docked that one time. However, if the mistakes keep piling on they'll be passed over for a raise or promotion or get fired whereas the server can make up their 'mistake' at the next table they serve.

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                        2. re: BiscuitBoy

                          "I work hard to earn a living too"
                          Do you make half of minimum wage and then only get a bonus if your performance is above the standards of the fickle customer?

                          As to the original post, I doubt that the police could do anything, but I'm sure it would be an interesting/entertaining situation none the less (assuming you are observing and not involved). I would have tried to stick around to see how it was resolved!

                          1. re: pollymerase

                            I'll go out of my way to please "fickle" client of mine, to make a sale. That's the difference, that makes some people driven, and some people deadwood. And yes, my pay decreases with poor performance...Doesn't yours? Fickle is one thing, outright neglect is another.

                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                              I love how some people pretend that servers are the only people in the world that depend on the "fickle" nature of their customers for a paycheck. The vast majority of companies are sustained by a sales force that caters to their customers and make or break the bank based on what their customer does. If a real estate agent "sells" a house and does all of the work up to the point of obtaining the mortgage and the customer has bad credit, guess what, the realtor doesn't get paid! Please quit acting like servers are the only people dependent on their customers and therefore should always be tipped well!

                              1. re: Rick

                                Well said Rick, I watched my hard working Mom give 37 years to fine jewelry buying for a major chain only to be told her Christmas sales receipts for the sixteen stores she covered had to be X amt. of dollars if she expected a raise or year end bonus. The entire holiday season sales ruled her annual sales totals. So if diamonds didn't sell, or the gold was not as popular with customers that year-her income reflected it. Try guessing what customers will buy for 37 years without a tip!

                                I know servers and restaurants don't have it easy. I applaud those of you who take pride in your work & business, but every profession has it perks and pitfalls.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  But this is a food related board. Of course there are similar professions where the cheap customers stiff hard working people in the service business.

                                  That said, servers have to deal with the public in all its glory and still face getting stiffed.

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    of course dolores. We agree, similar points can be made across the service industry. It was the folks working in service who might/do feel they are the "only ones" getting stiffed that I was referring to. I see the irony. Servers are also customers..and depending on what side (or both) of the irony discussed the "who" is getting stiffed changes.

                            2. re: pollymerase

                              Objecting to poor service is hardly "fickle." If a waiter is clearly drunk, can't remember which table ordered which dishes, and spills clam juice on the table, is it "fickle" to regard that as poor service?

                              1. re: mpalmer6c

                                the things you mention are objective.
                                However, if you read this board, you'll find people who think it's bad service if they are asked for a drink order within a minute or two of being seated and people who think it's bad service if they are not immediately asked for a drink order.
                                You will hear from people who expect servers to clear their plates as soon as they are finished, and others who think it bad service when the servers do not wait until everyone at the table is finished.
                                You will find people who complain that servers did not offer separate checks and others who complain that they were kept waiting when servers figure separate checks for others.

                                There have been debates over dozens of service issues where one side claims that one action is bad service and the other side insists on the opposite. So while it may not be fickle to object to bad service, there is no clear consensus on many service issues (or their is a consensus but there is a vocal minority who argues against that consensus), which ultimately results in the same thing.

                                1. re: nc213

                                  It goes both ways. You also have people who figure that the server deserves a 25% tip (post-tax) just for showing up to face another day of the hardest job in the world.

                                  Personally, not much bugs me when it comes to servers doing things. I think that people who complain about the things you mention are pretty petty. OTOH I expect servers to *really* give me good service if they expect a good tip. If they're just average, they should be paid "just average".

                              2. re: pollymerase

                                Well, it seems that many in the "public" feel it's OK to call 911 if McDonald's misses the pickles. Maybe the police would find this at least a level above that?


                              3. re: BiscuitBoy

                                THANK GOODNESS, the voice of reason.

                              4. This is a good reason to bring enough cash to pay for dinner on the remote chance of something like this happening.

                                This was resolved the correct way - as a business rather than legal matter. Resorting to the law here would have been the depth of silliness.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Karl S

                                  >>This is a good reason to bring enough cash to pay for dinner on the remote chance of something like this happening.

                                  Good point, Karl S.

                                  gryphonskeeper, the head of the party of 12 did exactly what I would do in such a situation. Kudos to him.

                                2. If the menu provides that a 20% SC will be added, then it is a breach of contract to leave without paying, the same as decicing that you didn't like the fish and leaving without paying. If the state has a theft of services statute, then it could be criminal as well. When there are issues such as missing entrees and sides, that is the time to bring up those problems with the manager. not when the check comes. A good manager should have addressed those issues and done some adjusting. However, those matters may not be problems that the server was responsible for. Kitchens are quite able to screw up an order, especially when it's for a large group. Punishing the server isn't fair when this is the reason. It also doesn't send the message to the responsible person. The server isn't paid minimum wage because tips are presumed. when they get stiffed because of something that may be beyond their control, it isn't performance-based pay it's just getting screwed.

                                  47 Replies
                                  1. re: chazzerking

                                    Nothing more interesting than watching non lawyers argue the law! First: there is no one law. Each state and province will have their own rules although there will some common elements.

                                    The notice given and wording used will be the most important element.There is a difference between a tip and a service charge. A tip is voluntary and, at worst, the preset tip is nothing more than a suggested amount. A service charge is, indeed, part of the offer that a menu represents.

                                    The menu offers to sell you a product for a price (with a service charge if noted clearly). When you order, you accept the offer and, voila, a contract is born.

                                    The service charge must be obvious from the menu or the diner could argue it is not part of the contract.

                                    Once the contract is formed there are many ways to challenge part or all of the charge. If the service is less than reasonably expected (which varies from place to place with a certain range...McD cannot be expected to have the same level of service as Bouchon) then the contract is breached by the restaurant and damages flow. Same thing if the meal itself is not prepared accoring to objective standards. If the chicken is raw or the steak is the wrong cut or overdone, I would argue that the meal did not deliver the contract specs. None of this is an exact science and it goes beyond "I liked it" or not

                                    There is no criminal element to any of this because, unless the diner INTENDS to leave without paying for product and service provided, there is no criminal intent (which we in Canada still call mens rea). The illegal act (if that is what it is) is not enough.

                                    I am sure there is a legal exam quesiton in all of this, but the reality is no self respecting cop is going to care about any of this. Except for the actual attempt to avoid payment as opposed to disputing the value given, this is a civil contract dispute not a criminal matter.

                                    In my view, the patriach leaving without paying the service charge (assuming that was not a tip - in which case he was merely exercising discretion) was assigning damages to his poor service. It was below the contracted for standard and he offset his losses against their contractual right to payment. I would have done exactly that.

                                    1. re: foodiesnorth

                                      Sorry Foodiesnorth, I've only been practicing law for 30 years, 20 of that as an elected District Attorney. but when there is a notice posted, then the intent can be presumed and it then becomes a jury question. I didn't realize that the discussion of this question would involve an appellate brief. While I understand that a particular officer in a particular jusisdiction may have different ideas, but that does not make the conduct legal. the OP asked if this was legal or illegal and I replied that under certain circumstances in some states it may be a crime.

                                      1. re: chazzerking

                                        No disrespect intended and I do forget that the US uses juries for everything! We save them here for the most serious offenses....and we don't elect our justice officials :-)

                                        Of course, with juries anything is possible. As a litigator with 20 years behind me (first criminal defense and then civil), I would not want lay persons reading this post to think they are in any real jeopardy if they refuse to tip bad food/service. One might say (as the wife did) that my analysis may have been a bit pendantic, obtuse and even, gulp, lengthy, but the intent was simply that. Tip or don't tip, you won't be charged and you won't go to jail....in any sane system. But, as you correctly point out, anything is possible...but very little of what is possible is probable. 'nuf said...back to the regularily scheduled broadcast.

                                        1. re: foodiesnorth

                                          You bet. I still think that a tip has been turned into something more than an appreciation for good service by the restaurant business. Posters above talk about other jobs where pay is performance based. I would say to them that in none of those cases is that performance pay determined by the customer. Either we need to go to a european system where the service is included in the price of the meal, or diners are going to have to understand that their evaluation of what are server contolled issues needs to be reframed when they go to figure the tip. I've worked both in the front of the haouse and mostly in the kitchen. I definitely prefer the kitchen. it's ironic that the diners who seem to expect the most service in exchange for their paltry tips are also the rudest and hardest to deal with. Anyway, that's what I think.

                                          1. re: chazzerking

                                            chaz, the (non food) example I gave is directed by customer purchase and satisfaction. The customers most certainly played a large role in performance & sales results. Just saying.

                                            1. re: chazzerking

                                              I will regale you with one somewhat relevant story from a Vegas trip last year. We were at the Wynn and ate at SW Steakhouse...it was a disaster that actually provoked a long letter co written by the wife and I. We left no tip as there was a combination of bad food and bad service. I did write my comments on the visa slip that evening. We then had a fabulous dinner at Isla the next night. We took the unearned tip from SW (I think it would have been about $150) and paid it the staff at Isla...which resulted in the tip being marginally more than the whole bill. Even for Vegas, I am guessing that is a rare situation.

                                              It is never my intent to keep tips to save money. I do like the idea of having a way to express pleasure or displeaure in a rather time honoured fashion.

                                              1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                Your action is a rare one. I agree that the server and the management needs to be made aware of problems or there's no chance that they will be corrected. My point is that in many instances, the lowest paid and sometimes least responsible party is the one punished.

                                                1. re: chazzerking

                                                  "My point is that in many instances, the lowest paid and sometimes least responsible party is the one punished."

                                                  If that was your point, than I agree with you 110% percent!

                                                  1. re: chazzerking

                                                    in this instance the manager was involved, in fact he help serve the VERY late (and missing) entrees ....He knew, yet ignored it.,, better yet CONDONED it by making no gesture to the patriarch.

                                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                      If you weren't in the party and actually sitting at the table, how do know exactly what was done and said and what wasn't? Did you see the bill and verify that nothing was deducted from it?

                                                      1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                        If management was aware, then it would seem most logical that they would step forward, and make everything "right." OTOH, the diner is definitely free to vote with their patronage. Without litigation, that particular instance might be moot. Still, if one is in the "hospitality industry," much should be considered.

                                                        Were I management, given the stated details, I would have come forward with some comps, and would have waived any policy on "added gratuities," but that is just me.


                                              2. re: chazzerking

                                                Gah! Chazzerking, you really think Average Joe 1) notices the fine print at the bottom of the menu and 2) a meeting of the minds actually occurs?

                                                I seem to remind that law school contracts case about the tiny print forum selection clause on the back of the cruise line ticket. What are we really holding average folks to?

                                                I think "service charge" needs to be in BIG letters somewhere. Gratuity still means gratuity in my book.

                                                I don't think there's a contract. Of course, I'm just a young pup.

                                                1. re: Vetter

                                                  I don't know. I do read all "fine print," and prepare of the outcome. Maybe others are just different.


                                              3. re: foodiesnorth

                                                Sounds like I need to always invite my attorney (on retainer) to accompany me, if I am dining with six, or more persons.

                                                It does seem (via my faulty memory), that the word "gratuity" is most often used on menus, but I had better pay close attention to that.


                                                1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                  "Nothing more interesting than watching non lawyers argue the law"

                                                  Oh yes there is. Watching a lawyer accuse another lawyer of not being a lawyer. Classic.

                                                2. re: chazzerking

                                                  But what is the definition of "service" for the SC to be calculated? Is it take the order and then nothing else and the customer needs to go to the kitchen to pick up the meal or is it white glove, soup to nuts.

                                                  When one looks at the menu and reads "chicken marsala" the customer assumes that s/he will receive the chicken marsala s/he has received elsewhere. but three chicken fingers arrive and the customer says, "hey this is not chicken marsala" and the response is "my wife's name is Marsala and this is the chicken she made."

                                                  The point is there is a point of reference standard that is expected when one orders chicken, steak, coke, or service. And if there is a disagreement about what is delivered then arguments and lawsuit follow.

                                                  So the breach may not always fall on the customer's side if the restaurant does not deliver "service".

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I would argue thought that "service" in service charge has long ago lost a separate meaning. The reality is that it a charge unrelated to service except as an overall charge for the meal. It is no different than the multitude of pre noted charges attached to more and more things in life. This is no different than "shipping and handling"...I don't think anyone still believes that it is really for "handling"! If someone does...I think Frank JBN above may have a car to sell them!

                                                    1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                      Sorry F but jfood can not agree in the least. Service today should be at least, if not better than service five years ago and if the restaurants have now determined that a separate charge follows, they sure as shooting better have a reasonableness standard.

                                                      Likewise jfood argues strongly that there is absolutely "handling". The time and aggravation of shipping items absolutely leads to a cost to the business and the handling means more than two hands pulling off the rack and placing in a box.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        I appreciate (and agree with) your view that service should be better, but that is not relevant to the legal issue posed by this post.

                                                        You have no more choice when confronted by a service charge than you do with any surcharge, fee, assessment or other amount of which you have prior knowldge when entering into the contract. My only point is that as a term of art, "service charge" is merely a charge by another name, added to the bill. It is not a voluntary or variable rate. It is not related to service. It is not a tip or gratuity (which of course finds its origin in the French word "gratis" or free!). It is part of the cost of eating at such an establishment. Your only choice is to stay or not. If they come through with food and service to an objectively reasonable standard you are stuck. If the service is absent, you can value the loss and offset it against the charges of the meal. It would be naive (and no disrespect is intended) to think the charge is value based.

                                                        FYI: It is not realistic to suggest that the handling charge in my example is factly connected to handling...of course it helps offsets the returns of rejected product so that the buyer never does get it "risk free". It also ensures a higher profit margin confined to the small print.

                                                        1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                          "Nothing more interesting than watching non lawyers argue the law!" except stating a binary conclusion followed by qualifiers to that conclusion!!

                                                          Jfood, the non-lawyer, is interested in how thes two statements align:

                                                          1 - "You have no more choice when confronted by a service charge than you do with any surcharge, fee, assessment or other amount of which you have prior knowldge when entering into the contract"
                                                          2 - "If they come through with food and service to an objectively reasonable standard you are stuck"

                                                          Number 1 is very binary and number 2 has the reasonableness standard.

                                                          Likewise jfood would agree that " the charge is value based."

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            It is linear, not binary ( I prefer the phrase "two step") process.

                                                            First, do you have a choice as to whether or not to pay the surcharge? In other words, is it like a true tip or is it an integral part of the contract. In my view the answer is: it is a contracted surcharge based on the food price. If you decide it is not a surcharge, but is merely a tip, the linear analysis ends. You may or may not pay, reasonably or not.

                                                            The second step (if you agree it is a contract) is to determine whether the contract is honoured by the restaurant or not. If it is, you must pay the contract price.

                                                            If no, then the customer can set off or "charge back" its loss against the contract price. The set off is not related to the service charge which itself is not related to actual service. Although a tip (a true measure of service when effected reasonably) can be expressed as a percent, it can also be calculated empirically without reference to the food price.

                                                            The reasonableness standard is related to the second step and is not relevant to the first step. Understood in that fashipn, the two statements align and, I hope, make sense.

                                                            Like many legal issues, this is a linear solution (which has internal binary steps...the but/for test in tort law is a good example).

                                                            I make much more sense when I am at my desk and not sitting on my couch with my laptop concurrently watching the Olympics. I hope this makes sense.

                                                            In the end, as mentioned above, this is a merely cerebral exercise, as the business solution trumps any legal analysis. I am merely answering the original post. Cheers

                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                      Disputes of this nature are always fact and situation specific, and there can't be a hard and fast rule. I have on many occasions reduced the amount of the tip when I have received lousy service. I have also always told the server or manager why I reduced the tip. If you receive an item that is not what you ordered, that is the time to address the failure, not at the end of the meal. send it back and get what you want or leave. but don't accept the wrong or bad item and then stiff the waiter who didn't cook the wrong thing.

                                                      1. re: chazzerking

                                                        Yup agree 100%. Jfood does not want a gotcha at the end of the meal by harboring these issues. If something arrives incorrectly , point it out immediately and if unresolved, move up the chain of command, but nicely and without making a scene. A quiet conversation is better than steve martin and the escargot scene from The Jerk.

                                                    3. re: chazzerking

                                                      This is a business matter, not a legal matter. Good sense is what's needed here, not legal analysis (any good lawyer will tell you that anything that can be disposed of business grounds should be so done rather than resorting to legal grounds). No court would entertain this very long.

                                                      1. re: chazzerking

                                                        Not MY contract, chazzerking. My contract stipulates that I get good to very good food, the seat I want within reason, pleasant and timely service, and for that I will pay the price the restaurant asks (without any surprises not agreed to on the menu).

                                                        IF the restaurant deviates from the contract, I have the right, nay the responsibility, to leave 0% tip, inform the server and manager and owner why I am leaving the 0% tip, IF they are interested, to never return, and to talk about my negative experience wherever I can for the rest of my life.

                                                        Sound reasonable to you?

                                                        It does to me.

                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                          Very interesting.

                                                          1 - If you do not "get good to very good food" you believe you should leave zero tip
                                                          2 - If you do get "seat I want within reason" you believe it is your "responsibility" to leave zero tip
                                                          3 - If the server is not "pleasant" you believe it is your "responsibility" to leave zero tip
                                                          4 - If you do not receive "timely service" you believe it is your "responsibility" to leave zero tip

                                                          "Sound reasonable to you?" To jfood is sounds like the exact opposite, totally unreasonable since 1, 2 and 4 are probably outside the control of the server and 3 is purely subjective.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            jfood, jfood misunderstood my post.

                                                            The tenets of my contract are not individual, they are a group. I expect ALL of the expectations of my contract to be met, and if they are not, the tip is degraded accordingly.

                                                            If the service, as described in the OP's post, is non-existent, then the contract is null and void, and the server gets 0% tip, absolutely.

                                                            I'm happy that jfood rewards for zero service. dolores does not. Dining is both subjective, personal choice, and measurable. Tough work, is it not?

                                                            My contract is 100% reasonable.

                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                              But the bad food is due to the fault of the kitchen staff, not the servers. With exceptions of certain places like sushi restaurants, the tip is split just with the servers. Dolores, if you were happy with #2-#4, but were not happy with #1, would you reduce the tip?

                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                This is a good point, and one that commonly arises. I have encountered servers, who just make an excuse for the BOH staff. But, I have had many (most?), who take it personally, and see to it that all is made right. Those are the evenings that I remember, even if the kitchen was not up to the task. In those cases, the server gets additional reward for trying. They have fulfilled my "contract" with them, even if they were unable to fulfill my "contract" with the restaurant.

                                                                Just my way of approaching things - especially things that go wrong.


                                                              2. re: dolores

                                                                fair enough but jfood still disagrees.

                                                                He NEVER dings the tip for the food or table location. There may be a ding if the timing lapse was the server's fault (almost impossible to ascertain so that probably is also VERY rare) and jfood is not there to make friends with the server, so pleasant is not as important as efficient. Unpleasant is a different issue.

                                                                Jfood never stated he tips for zero service, but he also believes in cause and effect and these examples do not justify taking it out on the server. But as you have always said, your money your choice.

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  jfood, this server had to be hunted down with hounddogs.. seriously, it was almost comical. That table sat with empty drinks, empty plates, and empty stomachs for a while and the ONLY time the waitress was even there, was when she was hunted down and forced to come over and get drinks, etc.. and when sides were missing, and an entree never shows at all? That is beyond poor service. Her excuse was that she was new, but I can tell you she reeked of cigarettes every time she walked by... so my guess is she was spening more time in the alley smoking, than in the galley getting food/drinks.

                                                                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                    nt sure why this is directed at jfood, but jfood agrees with a zero tip for the dinner described. it sounds just horrid.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      I know...that is why I said it...I am with you 100 percent

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        Hey, you were probably just the "target of opportunity." I highly doubt that it was directed at you, though it did seem to be.


                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                  Except it actually works out reasonably when you count in tip-pooling, which is a mainstay of the industry. Often 30% of a waiter's nightly tips are taken from him and pooled to hostesses, busboys, runners, kitchen staff. So, what if the waiter is very pleasant, busts his tail to do everything he can for you, and the service is still bad because the hostess is clueless and the kitchen staff aren't efficient or cook bad food? If you say the waiter's not to blame, and therefore give him a full tip, you are also rewarding the hostess and kitchen staff in spite of their failings because he has to give part of that tip to them. That's not fair to you, to the waiter, and doesn't incentivize the others to improve their service. The practice of tip-pooling acknowledges that restaurant service is a TEAM effort, and as in most teams, if the team fails, everyone fails.

                                                                  PS, jfood - the illeism (refering to yourself in the third person) makes you sound like Elmo from Sesame Street.

                                                                  1. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                    One should not tip on the lowest common denominator. That strikes jfood as looking for a gotcha. And jfood couldn't care less about inside baseball with a restaurant. But the post that jfood responded to states that if she does not "get good to very good food, the seat I want within reason, pleasant and timely service" then she will leave a zero tip. That is just wrong.

                                                                    1. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                      A "gotcha" is when someone is looking for a reason not to do something, they stand up and yell "Gotcha!!!" Then they feel justified in their action, in this case not leaving a tip because the hostess did not give them their entitled table.

                                                                      "Inside Baseball" refers to things that occur behind the scenes. For example, how a restaurant decides internally how tips are pooled and split are of no concern to the customer.

                                                                      BTW - jfood believes if one does not know the answer to a question, all one needs to do is ask politely..

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        Okay...can you do me a favor and confer with jfood (and any other personalities or voices that might be rattling around up there) and ask him how he reconciles his comment that "inside baseball" - the behind the scenes operation of the restaurant- is of no concern to the customer, with his comment to dolores that acknowledges that seating and the quality of the food and timeliness of service might be beyond the control of the waiter? Certainly the latter perspective MUST assume some understanding of the restaurant business, while the former perspective feigns a complete ignorance of the restaurant business.

                                                                        Basically, you have submitted that providing a fair tip requires the patron to separate the waiter's quality of service from the quality of service of the rest of the staff. If doing so were just a matter of acknowledging that the waiter did not seat you, nor that he did not cook the food, it would be simple. It doesn't work that way, however. Did your salad and entree come out at the same time because the cooks and runners screwed up, or because your server forgot to make the correct entry in the positouch to have the salad come out first? Did your food take an hour to come out to you because the kitchen is backed up, or because your waiter forgot to put your order in until just 15 minutes ago, or just forgot to go check if it was ready, so it languished in the kitchen for 45 minutes? Most customers do not have enough information to decide. They also do not have the ability to selectively reward one employee that performed well while penalizing another who did not.

                                                                        Your method (sorry, jfood's method), of absolving the waiter of all service problems that may have been out of his control (but some also may have been in his control per above) is problematic in several ways. First, it requires simultaneously acknowledging the way a restaurant functions (division of responsibility) and ignoring the way a restaurant functions. In situations where the service was bad but you decide it was not the waiter's fault, it wrongly overtips the cooks, etc, for doing a bad job since they get part of his tips. In situations where you decide the waiter was at fault (even if the rest of the house performed impeccably) and thus reduce his tip, then you are wrongly reducing the tips of all the cooks, busboys, hostesses who performed their job correctly. That's what happens when you feign ignorance of tip pooling, which is as bad as not tipping because you refuse to accept the reality that we, the customers, directly pay the restaurant's employees. The only fair and even-handed way to deal with this is to acknowledge both that the service and food you get at a restaurant is a team effort, and that the tips you give the waiter are shared by the team. Thus you are not tipping the waiter, you are tipping the team, and it is perfectly acceptable to reflect your satisfaction with the performance of the team as a whole in the amount of tip you leave.

                                                                        Another thing, dolores gives four criteria for tipping -
                                                                        1 - Quality of food
                                                                        2 - seating location
                                                                        3 - Pleasantness of the server
                                                                        4 - Timely server

                                                                        It seems like a comprehensive list to me. Now jfood says that 1,2,and 4 may be out of the server's control and therefore, it seems, he should not be held accountable when tip is decided. I will agree that 1 and 2 are almost always out of the server's control, but 4 may or may not be hard to determine. That leaves 3, the server's attitude, which is the only thing we undoubtedly is in his control. Now jfood says that this is purely subjective. Could you ask jfood if this means that the waiter should never be penalized for the customer's "purely subjective" opinion of the waiter's attitude? So, if one can't tip on seating, quality of food, attitude of the server, or timeliness of the service, what does that leave the customer to base his tipping decision on?

                                                                        So where does that leave us? It means you have to always tip the same percentage, which apparently is now up to 20% according to most waiters (not the most disinterested party).. That makes the entire concept of gratuity in restaurants a farce. It is no longer an extra for service well-done, it is an entitlement. When some people suggest that the US system of restaurants paying their waiters less than minimum wage and passing the payroll responsibility on to the customers through tips should be abolished, and tips only being a small amount for outstanding service, others decry that suggestion, saying without tipping, American waiters lose incentive and service suffers. The logical conclusion of jfood's argument does the same thing - if the customer is not entrusted to make his own assessment of the waiter's performance and base his tip upon that, and instead is expected to tip the same percentage every time, then that tip becomes an entitlement and there is no incentive to give better service for better tips.

                                                                        1. re: Reefmonkey


                                                                          What you described is a perfectly reasonable approach if that is what you feel comfortable with. But jfood never feigns ignorance when coming to a conclusion.

                                                                          He understands tip-outs and how a restaurant works. He also understands that things go wrong in a multi-variable equation in which numerous unconnected independent variables can lead to different conclusions. Yet he may not go all the way to believing that the Butterfly Theory effects the steak coming out well done when ordered medium-rare.

                                                                          And again you are correct to cite four criteria that another poster placed on this thread that are some of the independent variables in the equatio. But you failed to cite the totally unreasonable conclusion to this poster arrived at, namely "IF the restaurant deviates from the contract, I have the right, nay the responsibility, to leave 0% tip". The responsibility to leave zero tip if any of these tenets were missed. Read again ZERO!!!

                                                                          In fact even that poster came back seven minutes, yes 7 minutes after jfood mentioned that unreasonable position and changed it to "The tenets of my contract are not individual, they are a group. I expect ALL of the expectations of my contract to be met, and if they are not, the tip is degraded accordingly." Now it went from zero to degraded.

                                                                          If a customer has a problem with the table, tell the hostess when she gives it to them. Has a problem with the food, tell the waiter when he comes over and asks how everything is. If a customer waits in the weeds and then crashes the tip, then this is a sign of entitltement and cowardess on the part of the customer and is the epitome of "gotcha". There should not be entitlement on either the customer nor the server's side.

                                                                          Jfood totally agrees with you on the biased inputs on these threads for the 20% tip being standard. It ain't. For jfood to leave the 20, not only do those four criteria need pretty close to perfect, but there are others as well, but not for this thread.

                                                                          Ciao RM

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            I see, and your response is reasonable. You and I were looking at the issue from two different angles. I was focusing on the issue of overall service, including the hostess and the quality of the food being reasonable criteria for tipping when you take into account tip pooling. I pretty much ignored the idea of tipping zero percent if any one of those criteria isn't acceptable, because I consider it a ludicrous idea. You were mostly focusing on the idea of tipping nothing if the overall dining experience is not, in essence, perfect. On that issue, you and I are in complete agreement. It is an extremely rare situation that justifies leaving no tip, and in such a situation, the manager should be called over to the table.

                                                                            1. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                              Re - your last clause. Absolutely agree.

                                                                              Anyone who leaves zero tip and fails to have a chat with the MOD on the way out is about as self-absorbed and entitled a response as possible.

                                                                              By that time of the night (i.e. if the tip gets to zero) so much would have had to go wrong that a MOD would have been at the table prior to this.

                                                                    2. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                      I have left, money under my plate for the busboy, when I reduced my tip due to poor food and/or service. You do have a little control of where the money goes.

                                                                      1. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                        Ah, tip-pooling. Not THAT long ago, we had marginal, or below, food service. Our busser, however, was top-notch, and did care greatly. He did far more for us, than I'd wager was in his job description, and MUCH more than our server did. I tipped lower than my normal on the meal and the wines. I then slipped the busser a $20, and a big thank you. Had it not been for him, the evening would have been in complete shambles. Hope that I was discrete enough, and that he did not "pool" that $20, as he earned that.


                                                                  2. re: chazzerking

                                                                    "If the menu provides that a 20% SC will be added, then it is a breach of contract to leave without paying, the same as decicing that you didn't like the fish and leaving without paying. If the state has a theft of services statute, then it could be criminal as well."

                                                                    That is if a reasonable person beleives that service has been rendered up to standards expected of the situation. The issue of minimum wage is irrelevant. Most FOH people make more than BOH. The party in question received a less than enjoyable experience to say the least. Honestly, would you really want to prosecute that case, or be the restaurant owner going to trial (small claims?) suing for damages?

                                                                    1. re: junescook


                                                                      I cannot. In fact, were I involved, I would have attempted to step up and make things "whole."

                                                                      It's not quite as bad as a hospital, where your hip surgery goes horribly wrong, and they offer you a free gall bladder operation to make amends.

                                                                      OTOH, the US (and some other countries) are such litigious societies, that there would probably 1000 attorneys, who would gladly take the case (though not on a contingency), and many county attorneys, who would want to prosecute, especially if they were running for some office, and the diners were from out of town. Maybe Court TV could offer a new program, "Food Court," with some celebrity justice adjudicating... ?


                                                                  3. For what it is worth, I will use the visa slip to note my concerns in the hope that someone higher up will see them. More immediate than a letter, which while often intended to be written, almost as often is not! A zero tip and a note that cannot be destroyed can make a stement to the server or the chef. A good server with a bad chef can still get a tip while my notes will be directed the the chef.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                                      That is a great idea - it covers it on every level!

                                                                      1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                                        Wow, foodiesnorth, what a GREAT idea! Now there is something no server or manager will throw out.

                                                                        Excellent, thank you.

                                                                        1. re: foodiesnorth

                                                                          I've heard this before, and had the unfortunate opportunity to exercise this at a Maggiano's last evening. If your theory is correct, it'll certainly be entertained more readily than some online survey that they want you to do. As a point of reference, we dine out in all classes of dining establishments 3-4 times a week, and have never felt the need to tip below the customary 15% until last evening.

                                                                          We wanted to take our out-of-town in-laws to a "safe" chain that's comfortable to just dine and chat - a place where dear MIL will not look at the menu and throw her hands in the air and say she doesn't know what she can possibly eat.

                                                                          We're _far_ from picky service people - we actually prefer the European style give-me-my-food-then-leave-me-alone-approach. And we almost never complain or send stuff back (except if it's bloody meat or something) as we're irrationally afraid of waiters/cooks spitting in our food - I've worked in a kitchen before and know it does happen.

                                                                          - Waitress promptly takes our orders for drinks, and bread and bevs appear 45 minutes later (despite assurances every 15 min that it's coming, and while she serves these promptly to neighboring tables.

                                                                          - Apps, salads, and half the entrees appearing simultaneously after another 40 minutes - kind of like a mall food court.

                                                                          - My and my wife's entrees appear another 30 minutes after that. 5 minutes into my entree, waitress comes back and asks if we'd like boxes for our leftovers and if it's all on one check.

                                                                          - In over 2 hours - no refills of drinks or "checkups" that one would expect from a chain (we didn't exactly go there for the food).

                                                                          So we left $1 for each person (we agreed that was a fair amount because she did physically move food from the kitchen to our table - and we figured this sent a clearer message than just $0) and left a short note that said the service was not commensurate with reasonable expectations or something like that. Did not talk to the manager or the waitress - we know some folks feel the need to "justify" their tipping decisions - but I disagree with that notion. Why should I use my time and energy to provide free employee training to a private business enterprise?

                                                                          1. re: HungWeiLo

                                                                            "higher ups" never read the credit card slips in any restaurant I ever worked in. If the note you leave is seriously bad the server would probably just claim he "lost" your credit card slip. SOP for a lost credit card slip in a restaurant is that that the server gets no tip for the table without the slip, but nothing else usually . When the slips are kept they are handed over in a big stack and then thrown into a box to never be looked at by anyone.

                                                                            The point of sales systems etc used in restaurants now make it so pretty much nobody other than your server ever sees your slip unless the customer calls to dispute the charge, in which case the slip is then dug out and examined.

                                                                        2. A decent restaurant manager/owner would agree with the guest and apologize for their awful experience and not only waive the gratutuity, but adjust the bill as well ! Afterwards, if it is determined that the server was not at fault, the restaurant could provide compensation for the lost tip. Does this happen ? Probably not as often as it should but that is exactly how I would handle the situation as a manager/owner. I mean let's assume the bill for the party of 12 was $500. 20% is $100. Is it really worth the headache to call the police for $100 ? Suck it up and learn form the experience. It sounds like this place (name and location please grphonskeeper !) has no clue. Where was the manager/owner during this whole debacle ? Probably hiding from the difficult situation and allowing a server to take the heat and then, like a coward, using the threat of poliice intervention as a solution. That, my fellow Hounds, is disgusting.

                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                          1. re: TonyO

                                                                            True, TonyO. And let's hope they go out of business, really soon.

                                                                            1. re: TonyO

                                                                              Never have I worked at a restaurant which provided compensation for a lost tip, for any reason. Some still require the server to tip out the bus boy, etc. based on the bill total even if there was no tip left. Once in a while, if you are working with a good crew who watches each others back, the other servers might all chip in a little to help ease the pain of a bad night. Same as how servers will often contribute when someone is unable to work for a while. When you work in a situation without benefits you often become each others insurance.

                                                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                                                It is rare but here is a night that I did compensate for a large lost tip;

                                                                                We had large group (15 or so) in for a holiday dinner. The night started off ugly and just got worse. They ordered 12 bottles of wine when they sat down (6 red/6 white all the same brand, kind of high end). We did not have the 12 bottles as ordered but offered similar wines. UNACCEPTABLE ! was their response. OK, we got past that hurdle. Next came the food. Ticket time approached 1 hour (250 + seats filled to capacity and an hour wait). I was pulled aside by the host of this party and had his index finger planted in my chest repeatedly until I had enough and asked him to return to his seat so I could work with the kitchen staff to expedite their meals. The food arrived, and round three started. Again, I was waved over and told, I quote" My f----- steak looks like a pe--- (male anatomy)." He then stated that he wasn't paying the bill (about $2,700). As I was new to the restaurant and area, I inquired about this individual who was with a locally based company and had been in before (sometimes with incident). I said, if that will end this ordeal, then leave and this will be handled at a later date. It was decided to reduce their bill by about $250 and reduce gratuity to 10%. As a manager, I decided to pay the difference in gratuity to the staff for suffering through this evening.

                                                                                I never saw that individual again but I had the respect of a very professional staff.

                                                                                1. re: TonyO

                                                                                  You deserved the respect of your staff! Your action and management style is unfortunately a rarity in the restaurant world. Thats part of the reason I stopped doing that work, the managerial variable was just too crazy.

                                                                                  There is much I love and miss about waiting tables, but that aspect made me finally move back into other areas.

                                                                              2. re: TonyO

                                                                                BRAVO !! The only time we were firm about service and tip involved worse
                                                                                than the original post and 3 tipped,spilled by the staff stems of expensive wine.Replacement of wine was denied,half of a $200.00 bottle.Dry cleaning bill or full cost to replace any clothes the wine stained permanently,also denied.Our host thought to call the credit card co.,they intervened.The poop
                                                                                of a manager was all for waiters position,until we showed him PICTURES,then
                                                                                very reluctantly compromised.It was an ugly evening.

                                                                                1. re: lcool

                                                                                  Sounds like an interesting break away thread. Who is responsible for the cost of spilled beverages?

                                                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                                                    I won't say who I think is.When expensive wine is lost,lands in food and on people.IMO the customer isn't out of pocket if the waiter was
                                                                                    100% at fault.This was a "fine dining" establishment,big money investment,lasted 7 or 8 months.

                                                                                    I would love to hear other thoughts on this.I am trade (consulting) and
                                                                                    feel REASONABLE things should always be made good with,for the
                                                                                    patron,client.Most people only ask for half of what you are willing to
                                                                                    give,if you offer them the chance to be part of the solution.

                                                                                    OK meatn3,question,how long should co-workers and staff support an
                                                                                    employee that clearly is a liability,not just a rare effup day?Bonus and
                                                                                    tip pools need to be a level field.

                                                                                    1. re: lcool

                                                                                      The playing field gets leveled out pretty fast. Generally a tight team is formed if all the servers have a similar work ethic/style. You tend to bond with the ones who work like you do - when you see a person who you know pulls their weight in the weeds, you do what you can to help them. The favor is repaid. Every one has an occasional difficult night where things outside of their control happen and they get stiffed in a bad way. If the team is strong they often help each other out in this circumstance.

                                                                                      If someone is new, there is a period of assistance most servers will offer by way of stepping in to help with side work, difficult orders or a table which is out of the norm. Financial help is not offered or expected - people realize a training period = lesser take home.
                                                                                      If someone just sucks at waiting tables, the help (non-financial) from their co-workers will dry up extremely fast. They need to find something else to do. Their ineptitude makes everyones job harder and does not reflect well on the entire restaurant.

                                                                                      I know of one situation where a co-worker was injured quite badly - was carrying a coffee pot when an unattended toddler ran in front of her. She slipped and fell while trying to avoid the kid, got hurt and has never been able to work full time since then. Her situation is one of those where the individual slips through the cracks in our social service system. Many of her co-workers from the time (7 years ago) still pass on physical help or financial help as they can. She was a hard worker and was always there for her team - one of those situations where you realize it could have easily been you.

                                                                                      Regarding your question - it's not really a "should". It is more an attitude of comradeship which often develops between coworkers who respect each other and have formed a tight, well run team. When you have that type of group you don't need to even say a word - just a glance can relay volumes and each member is very aware of what is going on with the rest of the floor, so things get covered quickly and efficiently. That is really one of the biggest pluses of restaurant work, the closeness and cooperation that a good group can achieve.

                                                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                                                        GREAT,I do agree with you.Well written,my thinking is you are fine manager.
                                                                                        My example was not iffy,the waiter was ?high,stoned?and the manager could not pass 20 minutes w/o a smoke.(missing)

                                                                                    2. re: viperlush

                                                                                      technically, it's the server, although sometimes (independents not chains) the house will cover it, if the server isn't regularly a horrible clutz. if there were circumstances like a collision with a drunk customer or an uncontrolled toddler (both of which i've seen) it can get dicey as to responsibility. in the latter case the house ate about $65 worth of drinks because they didn't want to get into it with the parents, who paid no attention to their kid until they heard breaking glass. ime the establishment will pay cleaning bills but not replacement costs for clothing.

                                                                                  2. re: TonyO

                                                                                    Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, Bedford NH.

                                                                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                      Thanks. I have limited experience with that chain (mostly in upstate NY).

                                                                                  3. I totally sympathize with the patriarch, I'd be pretty steamed about a 20% service charge being tacked on when he got horrible service, but he could have handled this in a different way that would have worked much more to his advantage. When he got the check and saw that 20% had been tacked on, instead of not paying the service charge and getting up and leaving, he should have called the manager over, complained about the poor service, and then demanded that the charge be removed. A smart manager would do that, and on top of that give them anything from coupons for free entrees all the way up to comping the whole meal. If the manager refused to take off the charge, I would persist, first by reminding him that lots of people read Citysearch member reviews and if he is not satisfied he would post a bad review, and if that didn't work, raising your voice and making a scene is appropriate - the last thing the manager wants is all the other diners seeing an ugly scene with an unhappy customer, so he may just say "fine" just to get you out the door.

                                                                                    If none of that works, the customer has two options - either begrudgingly pay the service charge and then write to the owners of the restaurant about his terrible experience, or do what the patriarch did in this case - pay cash less the service charge and walk out.

                                                                                    As to whether or not doing what this patriarch did constitutes theft of services and could get him in legal hot water, I can't say for sure. I doubt that the police would care to get involved. It would be a low-priority call for them in any case, and the family could walk out before the police arrived. If the manager tried to hold them there he would be opening himself up to a charge of unlawful detention. If the guy had tried to leave without paying for anything, it might be worth the risk, but not for a tip. The manager's only real option would be to sue the guy in court (tough to do if he had no identification to tell him who to sue since the guy paid cash), but that would involve more time and money than a tip is worth, even if he won.

                                                                                    As a response to those who say that the diner, by ordering, enters a contract with the restaurant, accepting the terms on the menu including service charge, I will mention that a contract works both ways, and so that would also make the restaurant contractually obligated to provide adequate service. If they did not, the contract is breached, and thus null and void.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Reefmonkey

                                                                                      The guy paid cash and the manager had no ID. However, there was probably a reservation made, and if caller ID was available, the phone number may have been logged as well. Also, I doubt that the family walked to the restaurant, so at least one license plate would have been gotten.
                                                                                      As for the call being a low priority for the police, this is not necessarily true. In smaller towns where the police are not running from call to call, a call from a restaurant that a party is leaving without paying would most certainly bring a quick police response.

                                                                                    2. If the statement regarding the service charge or gratuity was printed on the menu (boilerplate language), does that constitute a contract of adhesion? Do the diners have equal bargaining power with the restaurant? If the service charge is a term of the contract, and the service provided falls below the standard for that type of establishment in that community, has the restaurant not breached that term of the contract? If the aggrieved party seeks legal redress, is the contract construed against the drafting party (here, the restaurant)?

                                                                                      1. Even if the menu stated a "mandatory gratuity" if the service was not up to par, as in the case outlined by the OP, I agree that no tip was earned and should not be paid.

                                                                                        As I have stated in other posts here and in other threads, I am ANAL about service, but my expectations are scaled to the class of the restaurant. DW & I are going to a nice place on Friday night and I will expect a higher level of service than we got the other day at Chili's. I also do not punish the server for the sins of the kitchen...provided the server tried to remedy the situation in some way. (My fish is over-done. When the server asks if the meal is ok, and I tell him/her of the problem, I would expect the fish to be replaced with another portion. Points added. If the server fails to ask in the first place, it's points off.)

                                                                                        Contrary to what is put out at every training class for people dealing with the public, the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes we can be real a**h*les. While there are people who are just waiting for an excuse not to tip (or "gottcha" as another poster put it), I am not one of them. It sounds as if the patriarch was not one of those either.

                                                                                        A good server works hard and is on their feet most of the evening and deserves to be properly compensated. But it works both ways. If a server is to be given 20% they better provide commensurate service. As noted by other posters, whether not tipping when the menu says it is a requirement is legal or not depends on where you live. Apparently here in NY state a tip is still earned.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: al b. darned

                                                                                          Just a follow-up to my last post. Dinner last Friday evening was everything it was promoted as. The food was great and the service was as good as expected, despite a full house. The final check was (quite a bit) over $100 and the tip was 25%. After dinner I shared similar comments with the chef/owner. This place will get a repeat visit.

                                                                                        2. I would have stayed to defend the neglected customers.

                                                                                          1. Illegal? I'd guess (not being an attorney), that if there was a statement on a party of X will be billed Y as a gratuity, things would be legal.

                                                                                            Immoral? Sounds like it was, but that is just me.

                                                                                            Wonder if the server(s) was/were aware that they would get 20%, regardless of the level of service? I would like to think not, and that it was just a very bad night for those diners.

                                                                                            There are two sides to the "tipping" sword. Too many patrons in large parties pass on tipping anything. [I have had to make up the entire tip all too often, when my companions did not.] Then there is the guarantee of a 15 - 20% tip, and not sure how that always plays out.

                                                                                            Personally, good to great service will always be rewarded beyond a set gratuity in my dining. When it's added, I will often not go above, unless the service really does warrant it. Just me - I hate being told that something is going to be added, regardless.


                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                              Two of my favourite places make their policy towards tipping utterly clear on the menu. I like that it is clear:-

                                                                                              "10% service charge is added to all bills. Service charge is estimated at the full value of all meals before any promotional discount is calculated. Service charge is payable at guest's discretion and distributed to all staff and not to any part of the company."


                                                                                              "Our tariffs are fully inclusive of service. If they wish, guests may leave additional gratuities at their discretion."

                                                                                              For info, the former is a casaul bistro type place, the latter much more upmarket.

                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                Now, that covers most bases (US baseball cliches used). Sounds like a plan to me.

                                                                                                We just dined at one of the restaurant groups in Mayfair, that adds a "service charge" to the bill, plus the "gratuity." At least I was not paying. That additional "service charge" for dining with them still rubs this parochial Yank the wrong way.

                                                                                                Now, I usually tip on the full amount of the bill, regardless of the wines, the taxes, etc., but being nicked for an additional £10 - 20 / person, atop everything else, is just a major issue. I refuse to book with such establishments, but grudgingly will attend dinners there. That is life, but I do not have to like it.

                                                                                                For reference, and OT here - dining was very good to great. Love dining in London (mostly).

                                                                                                Hunt, the grouchy Yank

                                                                                            2. I have no idea about auto-grat, never worked in a place that had it.

                                                                                              Having said that I wish I would have LOL! I left my last server job because the locals don't tip, or tip very poorly (like 2 dollars on a 75 dollar bill) . The level of service didn't matter, often the people who have you running the most are the worst tippers. Neither did being well groomed or cheerful or prompt...I could have just tossed the plate on the table and gone and read a book with some of them, no tip was forthcoming in any case.

                                                                                              So although I don't think it is illegal IF (a big if) the service was good not tipping is tacky and rude, server minimum by itself is not a good wage. I have embarassed people I have been out with for not tipping a good server, there's no excuse.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: crazee

                                                                                                That is unfortunate, and should not be the case.

                                                                                                However, it seems to be, and I am sorry.


                                                                                              2. I know in NJ it isn't against the law not to tip. In fact, I was always told that if I chased after a customer who didn't pay their bill, even, that I could be fired. Basically, the servers hands are completely tied, and rely solely on the mercy of their guests.

                                                                                                Gratuity is something that most restaurants add onto any table of 8 or more guests. Sometimes it says on the menu that you can opt out of it, however, by informing the manager that you don't want to pay it. Usually it's 18%. 20% is awesome. I never heard of that anywhere I ever worked or ate. For the most part, I think it's unfair to allow the gust to opt out of it, though, unless there were extraordinary circumstances involving their service. 18% is not really that much.

                                                                                                In the case of the story told, I don't necessarily think it's fair not to tip the server. It's not easy serving 12 guests at a table. And if the server had other tables as well (which they often do at certain kinds of establishments) then that just makes it even more difficult. Food issues (quality and timing) aren't always the servers fault, either. The kitchen has issues cooking the food properly or getting into the server's hands in time. Sometimes other servers grab one of your table's dishes by mistake. I can tell you how frustrating it is when you're trying to do your job, relying on your guest for a tip so you can pay your bills this month, knowing full well that any mistakes made by anyone else on the restaurant staff fall directly on your shoulders, and you'll be the one punished for it. To make things worse, at some restaurants (most corporations) the servers have to take a percentage of their tips and give it to the bartenders, the hosts, the food-runner if there is one. The way that percentage is calculated is taken from your food sales (this is how their taxes due are also calculated.) So, in effect, that table like the one mentioned could have not only cost the server his/her tip from them, but also, the server will have to PAY out of their pocket to cover their tip-out costs. Not to mention that they might be paying taxes on money they didn't even make. Now, is this fair to do to a person? For everyone else--the manager, the corporation, the cooks, the bartenders, the hosts, the food-runners--to get paid the same amount they always get paid regardless of whether or not they contributed to or caused the problem, while the server has to shell out dough to take the blame for everything that went wrong?

                                                                                                I'm not saying this is exactly the case in the scenario described. But in my opinion, it's better to err on the side of graciousness than to risk treating someone unfairly. I use a rule of thumb about things like this. If a server is friendly and gives good service, they get a great tip 25%-100% depending on the check amount. ($10 tip for a $10 check for awesome service is not too much, to me.) If a server is friendly and makes a few or a lot of mistakes, but is apologetic for them, and tries their best to correct any mishaps, they still get a good to awesome tip. Everyone has their bad days, and I know from experience that not everything that goes wrong is the server's fault.... Actually, I only give 18%-20% tips for decent service by a decent server. And I never give anything less than that unless they're just completely rude and/or giving me poor service. This has happened only twice in my entire life, though. 99% of the time, servers get at least 25% to 30%.

                                                                                                So, to sum it up, it's not illegal to not tip (in most places, anyway) but you better have damn good reason not to if you don't. And 9 times out of 10, the tables have no good reason not to. It SHOULD be illegal, in my opinion. For $2.00 an hour wage, the serving industry is really unconstitutional.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                  Amen! Eff them--lousy service gets a lousy tip.

                                                                                                2. I did not read every post on this thread but I will say that I doubt the prosecutors in my area would take a case such as the one described by the OP. I also think that most cops would decline to make an arrest and suggest the parties work it out themselves or take it up as a civil court matter. In Minbeapolis the cops don't even go after drive-offs from gas stations (yes, most of our gas stations still allow people to pay inside after pumping the fuel).

                                                                                                  1. Doubt it's illegal, but a serious case could probably make a civil suit out of it.

                                                                                                    I've been a waitress before, and despite the fact that I know how little they get paid, I still refuse to tip for horrible service. I don't refuse tips for honest mistakes, bad cooks, or anything else. But I refuse to tip someone who did nothing other than bring my food to my table with a bad attitude. If I don't see my waitress for my entire meal, if I have to drag her over to "serve" me (i.e. refill drinks, bring condiments, etc), if she acts like she's doing me a huge favor by appearing at the table to present me with a bill, after not having seen her for an hour, yeah, she doesn't get tipped. I only give actual tips for actual service.

                                                                                                    1. I am not sure about whether it's illegal or not. I only know that servers at least in some states get taxed on a percentage of their earnings.

                                                                                                      We got stuck at a real popular resto in Baltimore Md. with wanting to split a meal but add sides. We knew we couldn't eat two large portions so we opted to split an entree. It wasn't noted anywhere on the menu and even asked the manager but got charged for 2 entree's because 'verbally' don't allow splitting a meal. What are you gonna do, we paid and will never go back. < Was that illegal? Don't know but I side with the family of 12

                                                                                                      1. The whole point of the service charge for large parties depends on a lot of reasons. Most of the time large parties want separate bills, and as a waitress who works at an establishment that doesn't impose a SC, usually it's one or two bills out of a party of 16 that will tip, which as someone pointed out is frustrating especially when you worked hard all by your self for such a large table. Or you'll get big families on one bill and sometimes they figure since the kids shared a few entrees, the tip doesn't have to be great even though they don't consider 8-14 year olds drink soda an iced tea like it's going out of style. So I'm down with the SC, but I'm not down with crappy service. My solution, especially for the SC is if something has gone wrong more than 3 times, be it the server hasn't refilled drinks, been to the table or is taking wayyyyy to long to get back to you for whatever reason, GET THE MANAGER! because they are the only ones with the authority to do something, like cut the SC and in that situation, your providing some kind of proof that that 18-20% SC is not being justified by that server, and if they're not an idiot, they'll know exactly what to do. I think if you don't make an effort to talk to the manager or get someones attention as soon as you see that service is gonna be a piece of shit, you deserve to pay the 20%

                                                                                                        1. Restaurants routinely tack on 18-20 percent for bigger parties..( over 6 or 8). Since it was added as part of the bill..then I would have spoken to the manager directly before paying the bill and insisted that it be removed.
                                                                                                          That being said..let's get this straight..a server provided horrible service...then cried foul when the tip was omitted..and the manager backed up the server over the customer??? What is the name of this restaurant.? Because I want to be sure I never go there. I mean..where was the manager while the lousy service was happening? Or the server?

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: BlueMagic

                                                                                                            yea if you don't contact the manager or some one in charge what do you think is gonna happen?

                                                                                                            1. re: BlueMagic

                                                                                                              Of course they backed up the server. Many customers look for a reason not to tip, it's like a game they play. Why do you assume the customer is right? They rarely are when they act like this. A tip is not an option in this case, it is part of the cost of the meal. IF something was wrong bring it up much earlier when there is opportunity to correct whatever it is, do not use it at the end to try to pocket 20% you owe. Is the customer sometimes right, absolutely, but many times they are just being cheap. Always remember, you can't spell customer without cuss.

                                                                                                              1. re: Tibbar

                                                                                                                You seem to have missed the fact that the OP observed this situation from a neighboring table and was not part of the party with the bad service. In this situation, we don't know for sure if the party with the bad service contacted the manager before the bill arrived or not. Personally, if I were the victim of this poor service as described I too would deduct the service charge that is in lieu of a TIP as well. If they wanted to call the cops, I would tell the manager to go ahead and make the call.

                                                                                                            2. If the wording on the menu is "tip" or "gratuity" you can usually get out of it.

                                                                                                              If it says "service charge" then you are legally obligated to pay it as there is no implication of something being at discretion or voluntary or as a matter of gratitude.

                                                                                                              A service charge is just that- a charge for being there and being served. It makes sense to have this charge for large parties which are usually a lot more work and the tables tend to turn much more slowly. If the menu says service charge you are being charged a surcharge for being a party of a size the restaurant finds less than ideal.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: RichardBreadcrumb

                                                                                                                You mentioned all that is required of the customer in this situation but you did not mention that good service is required of the server. It seems possible that this server may have decided that since the service charge is already there then the best service is not needed in this situation.

                                                                                                                If the server in the situation described by the OP could not handle such a large group then another server should have been added "to ensure prompt" service. The kitchen might have been screwing up as well.

                                                                                                                1. re: RichardBreadcrumb

                                                                                                                  "If it says "service charge" then you are legally obligated to pay it as there is no implication of something being at discretion or voluntary or as a matter of gratitude."

                                                                                                                  That may the case where you are in the world. However, where I am (and other countries I visit regularly that also have service charges), it is entirely discretionary as it is regarded as being the tip. Indeed, restaurants will usually specifically mention on the menu that it is discretionary.

                                                                                                                2. I probably would have paid the tip to keep it from escalating into a battle of wits. Then posted bad reviews on places like Yelp. And take my business elsewhere and recommend others do the same. And on the flip side, restaurants that go out of their way to make it a dining "experience," give them absolutely glowing reviews and recommendations.

                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: TerryAley

                                                                                                                    So instead of discussing it with the manager/owner and trying to resolve the situation civilly, its better to avoid it and bash them in the community/online?

                                                                                                                    1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                      The question states that the police are going to be called if he doesn't pay the tip. Civil is long gone. Directly home to Yelp for online bashing.

                                                                                                                      1. re: TerryAley

                                                                                                                        Neither of us were there, but the way i read the op is the table got the bill, crossed out the automatic gratuity, and left cash on the table. No discussion with the manager or anyone else and left. I can see why the manager would be looking to call the police, he/she had no idea that the customer had a problem with the service. COMMUNICATION was clearly lacking here, on both sides. If it was me I would have asked to speak to the owner/manager and made it know exactly how bad the service was and that I would not be leaving a top. Most likely this entire scene would have been avoided.

                                                                                                                        Added - and this is not aimed at anyone in particular - but I just find it cowardly when people dont at least give a restaurant the chance to fix a problem. Shit happens, everyone is human. Calling corporate to complain or going to Yelp to bash a restaurant vs having the decency to speak to the person in charge to get it taken care of right there on the spot. It is very discouraging and frustrating when customers go over my head to complain when i would have been more than happy to make things right for them if they had simply told me there was a problem.

                                                                                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                          You have no idea whether or not the customer complained about the service or not. Why are you assuming they did not complain?

                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                            "Neither of us were there, but the way i read the op"

                                                                                                                            I am not assuming they complained because the op never mentioned complaining only the crossing out of the tip and the discussion with the manager/server as they were leaving. Im not going to assume things that arent written, just offering my opinion based on the information given above.

                                                                                                                            1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                              And yet you are assuming things that are not written. The OP was not the person withholding the service charge, simply someone who observed only a part of what happened. You're assuming complaints were not made. I'm assuming we don't have much information about what really happened.

                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                "You're assuming complaints were not made"

                                                                                                                                Im not assuming anything, the op didnt mention the party complaining so therefore that is what I am basing my opinion on. If we had a video of the incident it would be alot clearer, however all we have is the 12 lines of text above.

                                                                                                                                1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                                  Exactly, that is why you cannot assume they did or did not complain. The OP was not the person with the bad service. The person who wrote this post also left before the end of the situation. You are assuming more about this scenario than I am.

                                                                                                                                  "rereading (4 year old) op replies, it looks like the manager did/should have known about the terrible service so I agree with you. If the manager did know about the terrible experience and still tried to collect the sevice fee then shame on him/her"

                                                                                                                                  Thank you for this post.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                    for the last time, there was no assumption. period. the op gave a scenario (original post only) where certain facts were given. Since there was no mention of complaining to management so i gave my opinion. If you want to be delcared the winner in the assumption contest, then congrats, I concede. Im not interested in further arguing semantics especially when other op posts have been (re)discovered and its a moot point.

                                                                                                                              2. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                                Upthread, OP says in a comment that the manager was involved in serving the very late food. My guess is that he/she knew exactly what was going on, but it's possible the manager didn't. However, if the manager did know, I think it shouldn't require a complaint from the customer. This seems like one of those situations where a truly poor server (whether because of poor work ethic, lack of training, inexperience, whatever) gave obviously bad service, the manager knew about it, and both demanded a tip anyway. I rarely tip below 20%, and even then it's 15% - but in this case I would have been hard pressed to leave any tip at all.

                                                                                                                                1. re: SAHCook

                                                                                                                                  rereading (4 year old) op replies, it looks like the manager did/should have known about the terrible service so I agree with you. If the manager did know about the terrible experience and still tried to collect the sevice fee then shame on him/her

                                                                                                                    2. I was in St Johns NF a few days ago. Dinner was good but the waitress made my meal special.
                                                                                                                      Credit card used to pay bill but all sorts of stuff that I had to tap on (on) credit machine. I said I'd never seen that and didn't know what to do with it and she explained one thing it wanted was my % for a tip. "Wut?" I said can't I tip in cash and she said yes.
                                                                                                                      Returning to work couple days later I was talking about my good dinner and told of crazy credit machine. My coworker said, "Tipping is an American thing you only tip in America no where else." "Wut?"

                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                        I hate it when the restaurant has set up the card machine so that there isn't a tip option. Means you've always got to carry enough cash to tip in cash.

                                                                                                                        Still, it's not as bad as the rip-off places that have a service charge added to the bill, and they've still set up the card machine to ask if you want to leave a tip. They must catch a number of unwary customers with that.

                                                                                                                        Still, that's not as bad as the local place that had added a service charge and then said to us "press here to leave a tip". "Isnt that a service charge there", we replied pointing to the bill. "Service charge is not tip", was the response. "Yes, it is", we said, concluding that conversation.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                          In my experience, there when programming your credit card processing machine/software, there is a button to click for "add gratuity line" or "dont add gratuity line" and then EVERY credit card slips is then printed with or without that line. The credit card machine doesnt know that its a party of 8 or more and a servie charge has been added, and it certainly isnt some shady attempt to defraud the public.

                                                                                                                          Plus, its common for people to leave a tip on top of the service charge, especially if its 15% or if the service is exceptional.

                                                                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                            Correct. As I said, a restaurant can choose how it sets up its machine. Most offer a tip facility if the restaurant is not one that routinely adds a service charge. What I find disreputable are the places that add service charges and still set up their machine to ask if you want to leave a tip.

                                                                                                                            It's a modern equivalent of the old scam they used to run back in the old "pre chip and pin" days when you signed a credit card slip. That became such a "cause celebre" that eventually the consumer protection agencies pretty much stepped in to stop it. Mercifully there are only a very few places that still try to get away with it now.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                            one thing that drives me bats is Denny's and their way of getting a tip out of you.
                                                                                                                            you leave the table and take your bill up to the desk at front of Denny's where the cash register is. you hand them the bill and your CC and they ask do you want to add a tip to this.
                                                                                                                            how dare them ask. why do they assume it's not left in cash on the table? how presumptuous of them to assume you even want to tip. and what are your options?
                                                                                                                            yes, I'll leave $5
                                                                                                                            no thanks, don't want to tip on CC
                                                                                                                            I already left my cash tip
                                                                                                                            what's a tip?
                                                                                                                            she/he was awful
                                                                                                                            my food was horrible
                                                                                                                            I never got my drink
                                                                                                                            never saw the server after they brought my food
                                                                                                                            I didn't order 'that'

                                                                                                                            this tipping thing often gets my goat which is why even if it's my credit card, I give my husband the final bill and let him figure it out.

                                                                                                                        2. I read most of the posts and was surprised when no one mentioned what the acronym TIPS stands for. I waitressed many years and understood it to mean To Insure Prompt Service. That having been said I always understood that the amount of my tip was based on the accuracy and promptness of my service.
                                                                                                                          I have no idea of the legality.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                                                            I think that suggestion about it being an acronym was comprehensively debunked many years back and continues to be debunked at regular intervals. Rather than repeat the evidence here, may I suggest you Google. But here's just one:

                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                              It does not matter if the word TIP started out as an acronym or not. Everyone in the U.S. believes it to mean cash for good service. In fact, that is what it means.

                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                I doubt whether there's anyone in the English speaking world who doesnt understand the meaning of the word "tip", in this context.

                                                                                                                          2. Are you kidding? Heck no, it's not illegal to not tip. If they didn't earn it, they don't get it. But the service has to be really, really bad for me to not tip anything.

                                                                                                                            1. It is time that the myth of servers being paid poorly be debunked. Servers love to point to their "salary" portion of earnings in this facade. It is true that hourly WAGES can be lower than minimum wage law requirements when tips are expected. The true story of EARNINGS is a totally different story. For example, a server at a busy place like PF Changs can earn about $250 - 300 during a six hour shift. There may be before and after shift duties of table set up and the like. Considering the lack of educational requirements, and the fact that server jobs at decent places are very hard to obtain, the pay is way more than ample. A high end steak house server can make upwards of $2500 a week.

                                                                                                                              I would greatly welcome a move to the European system where restaurant management pays servers what they are worth, prices the meals based on supply and demand, and customers decide where to go for what prices listed.

                                                                                                                              Why not just choose a date, say January 1, 2013 and all stop tipping. Restaurants will have plenty of time to adjust.

                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                                As a European, it's perhaps not surprising that I tend to prefer our customs to those in other continents and, certainly, I tend to prefer our general style of restaurant service to the general style of service often encountered in north America.

                                                                                                                                That said, I'm also aware that we do not have a common tipping culture across the varied countries that make up Europe. Although it is a given here that "minimum wage" and "employment rights" means minimum wage and employment rights for everyone, tipping varies from, say, France, where it is generally not expected, through Spain, where it may only be a few coins, to other countries where a cash tip is expected, or a service charge is added to the bill instead of a traditional cash tip.

                                                                                                                                1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                                  I worked as a server at a chain restaurant with a menu similar to PF Changs price wise, and I never took home anything close to $300 in a single shift. The best I ever did was about $150, and that was very rare. $80 was closer to the average. You are making up numbers in order to justify your behavior/beliefs concerning tipping.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                    Then you did lousy. I used to wait tables at a small 50's diner in Reno on graveyard shift and averaged around $150 a shift with spikes during special events of around $300.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                      Years ago Mad Magazine had a feature of "Business Cards You Wish You Had" One said, "We looked for you throughout the meal, now look for your tip!"

                                                                                                                                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                        Good for you. Nonetheless, the average server at PF Changs does not take home $300 every night.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                          $300 means $2000 in receipts for the night @ 15% tipping average. Assuming 3 hours of peak activity, you're looking at $666 / hour. If you're bussing at least 6-8 tables of 4 or more, the tab from each table should be in the $60-$100 neighborhood which is not unreasonable at a place like PF Chang's. Some places split that with the busboys/other staff so who knows what it really is, but $300 is still "in the neighborhood".

                                                                                                                                          1. re: HungWeiLo

                                                                                                                                            We're talking about servers, not bussers, but the real problem with your post is that a server will not have 6 to 8 4-tops...more like 3 or 4. Not to mention some of those tables will be occupied by couples or even singles.