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Mar 6, 2009 02:53 AM

"We can't be friends..." having worked in the "biz" for almost 10 years in various shapes and forms, I've developed a slight neuroses that I cannot shake. I can't seem to be friends...with people who tip poorly...and or otherwise have poor restaurant manners. There may be absolutely nothing else wrong with these people, and we may still maintain this facade of superficial friendship...but if aforementioned "friends" were to ask me out for a bite to eat or anything along the lines I will lie through my teeth like no tomorrow as an excuse not to go..
Anyone else in the same boat??

PS. I have also been known to end what would otherwise have been a great date, abrudtly...because said date tipped poorly...

am i insane?

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  1. I think yout tolerance threshold is a bit narrow, if you ask me. How would you feel if somebody avoided you because they think you tip too much? It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? In any case, a good friendship is one where people have enough in common to get along but enough to set them apart and the trust to share their little differences and nuances. Why not just tell your friend/s that you think it might be appropriate to leave a bit more as a tip? If they get offended, you can just say that it's one of your 'things' because you've worked in the biz for a long time. I know the culture in America regarding tipping is very particular (I am in the UK) but, personally, I only tip well if the service was good. Otherwise, I don't as I see it as an 'extra' and not a given.

    If you really value someone's friendship, to cut them off because of their 'poor tipping' seems excessive to me. I love food and yet have great friends who couldn't care less..but we respect each other's quirks and compromise. If it is that important to you, just explain it to them. If they're real friends, they'll try and understand or you can ofer to leave the tip yourself instead.

    30 Replies
    1. re: Paula76

      "How would you feel if somebody avoided you because they think you tip too much? It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?"

      That sounds ridiculous because it IS ridiculous. Waistaff do not earn a living wage without appropriate tips.

      I understand you don't live in the same culture, but you need to understand that in the U.S. undertipping is as if I employed you for XYZ services and then decided not to pay you - after you'd already done the work. It's not just a quirk, it's abusive and exploitative.

      1. re: Mawrter

        Quite frankly, I find this ludicrous. In the same way that I cannot rely on the 'goodwill' of my employer to receive a fair salary or in the nice morals of drivers to stop at traffic lights and not run me over, I find it shocking that people's anger is directed at so-called 'poor tippers' and not at the government or the food industry for exploiting their staff. Why do you not campaign for servers to be paid fairly instead of assuming that palming off this responsibility to customers is acceptable and therefore that they are the ones that should be 'punished' if they don't tip enough when, by definition, tipping is optional and not mandatory (except from places where gratuity is included in the check)?

        Would you rely on everyone to behave well and be civil and nice to one another if there were no regulations and laws in place? No; me neither...

        1. re: Paula76

          Huh? The law doesn't affect my decision to run you over or let you live if you walk in front of my car. Perhaps the law is the only thing keeping *you* from plowing people down in the road, but I suspect for most people the vehicular homicide charge is only incidental to the more personal decision of whether to act responsibly, morally, ethically - or not.

          The situation probably does seem ludicrous to non-USians, and actually, I agree that it's grossly unfair to pay servers less than a living wage. As it happens, I *am* angry about that state of affairs, but the fact is that we are a tipping culture. You can like it or not, and you can tip appropriately or not, but it's been that way here since long before I ever ate in a restaurant, and is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. I am not personally involved in lobbying to change that - as far as I am aware, there's no urgency around this issue, even among servers. And more to the point – however I feel about the custom or the law, it doesn’t affect how I treat servers.

          Maybe we are misunderstanding each other: the OP is talking about tipping in the U.S. I was and am responding with U.S. tipping customs as my operating assumption. Perhaps you are not; maybe you're only thinking about tipping in your own country where - hey, I've never been to your country and I defer to you as the cultural expert there. Service included, tipping extra, tipping sometimes - I don't know. What I do know is that it’s my duty to find out to I don’t go around screwing others because of MY ignorance. I certainly would never presume to tell you how to behave in restaurants in your country.

          ***When you are in the U.S. if you don't tip according to the tipping custom here, you are depriving the server of part of their compensation - that tip is part of the price of your meal.***

          If you are angry that foreigners in the U.S. may be judged harshly because of/despite legitimate ignorance (not bad intentions), well, I can understand feeling uncomfortable with that. Maybe you feel embarrassed because you didn't know and you didn't tip and now you can't undo it. Understandable - I know how terrible I feel when I've made faux pas in other cultures, especially those that made me seem unkind, unthinking, presuming, or grasping.

          There's a difference between a mistake born of ignorance and *knowing* the custom and the economic consequences and still choosing not to behave appropriately in the foreign culture. Wouldn't you think I was a giant tool for visiting your country and behaving badly according to your country's ways? I might not exactly GET why you do what you do, but I do my best to figure out the ways of the country I'm in so I can behave appropriately and not go around offending everyone in my path.

          If you are here and you know what is expected and you still choose not to tip, well... that doesn't make you a rebel or a social critic, it makes you something very much else, and that is precisely what the OP was getting at.

          And? The labor laws are shit in this country. I've done all sorts of consulting work I never got paid for and gotten shafted on pay and commissions more times than I can count. I will never see that money unless I hire someone to break knees or a lawyer whose hourly rate is more than I'm owed. I don't LIKE it; I certainly try to vote for elected officials who support better laws; but we live in the actual state, not the ideal state.

          You may not like or approve of the tipping culture, but your opinion doesn’t make one whit of difference to the people who wait on you. If you feel strongly about it, write letters to the editor, keep posting about it here, start a campaign of protest to U.S. legislators, or boycott U.S. restaurants – but don’t take it out on the people bringing you your food here. They are not responsible for the law or the custom, but they are subject to them.

          1. re: Paula76

            Consider the Us vs Brit custom this way: If, as a server, I know I am making a liveable wage where is my incentive to provide exceptional, or even serviceable, service (because 99% of people will not complain to management, so even if I'm a poor server I will not lose my job). On the other hand if I am being paid directly by the person to whom I am providing the service, then I have huge incentive to provide them with great service.

            Also, if the restaurant was required to pay waitstaff a higher wage, do you not realize this cost would simply be passed on to you in the form of higher priced menu items?? So essentially, it would be costing the same for you to eat at a restaurant whether you or the restaurant is paying the server.

            1. re: rpewter55

              This argument is one that is always given as a reason to keep the tipping practice, and I think it's ridiculous. Even if people do not complain to management, a server may lose his job if customers stop coming and the restaurant can't afford to keep a server who isn't doing anything. Furthermore, serving wouldn't be a salaried position with a set number of hours. A restaurant is free to cut a poor server's hours or put her on less desirable shifts until she improves her attitude.

              Not all UK restaurants include gratuity either. It is entirely up to the restaurant. I visited plenty while I lived in London that tacked on nothing at all, and this seemed to be more common in the low-cost restaurants. In my experience in Japan, I did not find restaurant prices to be any higher than the are in the US. In many cases going out to eat at a low-cost restaurant is cheaper than cooking at home.

              1. re: queencru

                If this argument is ridiculous then why do I hear from most of the Brits I wait on how much more friendly and accomodating American servers are. It can't be because Americans are more friendly as a whole, because I find Brits to be the most pleasant people I come in contact with day after day.

                1. re: rpewter55

                  Again, British restaurants do not always include service. Many do, but it is not a requirement. Some of the places there where I received the worst service did not include any tip at all. In my experience, it's just not something as valued as it is in the US, be it in a tipped position or in a non-tipped position. On the other hand, in Japan, service is valued highly and even without a tip, people are polite and helpful because it's culturally unacceptable to be otherwise.

                  In many places that do include service, it is still expected that you will tip more. In that respect, servers still have to work to get the extra because the included portion is relatively minimal.

                2. re: queencru

                  In Japan we had waitresses chase us down the street to give us back our tip money.

              2. re: Paula76

                all the money in a business come from customers.i find it amazing how many people, in this and other tipping threads, ignore that simple fact. Let's say that the law was changed and waitstaff made minimum wage or higher so tipping was not required. where do you think that extra money would come from? same place as the tip - your pocket. the price of the food would have to go up to compensate for the higher salary.

                so to pretend that tipping somehow shifts the burden of that money from the business to the customer is disingenuous at best.

                1. re: thew

                  So why not increase the price of the food by 15% and pay the waiting staff a decent wage, with benefits. As it appears that you pretty much have to pay 15% or people will think you're a complete idiot, it's not really discretionary, is it? And the restaurant is disingenuous by advertising its prices at a certain level, when in reality they are 15% higher. It may not be the American way of doing things, but it strikes me as more transparent.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    Interesting idea, tough to change the culture. Worthwhile article on restaurants that have tried or are trying to go with a flat service fee in lieu of "discretionary" tipping, with very mixed results, mostly not good:


                    An older, related article:


                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      What struck me about that article is the correlation between good service and tipping - around 2 percent, according to some academic or other. Which rather blows the argument that discretionary tipping = good service out of the water.

                    2. re: greedygirl

                      what people think of me isn;t the point. i don't tip well because im afraid of what people think.

                      and nothing is disingenous about it - if you know tipping is part of the deal, you know the prices are 15% than listed. nothing sneaky at all

                      1. re: thew

                        "if you know tipping is part of the deal, you know the prices are 15% (higher) than listed. nothing sneaky at all."

                        I think the key is knowing... as a Canadian who grew up in a bordertown I knew about lower wages for serving but didn't know patrons were expected to tip 15%+ to make it up. In some ways not advertising the tipping policy is somewhat sneaky, I can't think of any other product or service a customer would purchase where the price is x + 15%. I'm not expected to pay the car salesman's commission for instance. Once tipping is expected it's no longer truly discretionary.

                        1. re: thew

                          But if you're foreign, you don't necessarily know that. And it's not necessarily 15% according to a lot of folks on here, more like 20%. I don't like the idea that people are basically guilt-tripped into paying big tips. But then I'm from a different culture. :-)

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            I agree with you (but then again, I am also from a different culture). By assuming that it is the customer's responsibility to compensate for the servers' meagre salary without making it mandatory, they are shifting the blame from those who really should shoulder it and pay their workers a decent wage. That also means that the servers feel forced to fish for tips which can be degrading for them and annoying for the customers. In my outsider's opinion, this perpetuates the huge division between serving staff and punters as no other job seems to depend on tips in order to yield a basic living wage.

                            1. re: Paula76

                              as far as i know, servers are not in indentured servitude. they are free to work anywhere they and the employer believe it is of mutual benefit.

                              1. re: Paula76

                                There is always a choice of where/if/when a person decides to work within an industry where tips are their main source of income.
                                Always remember this is a business where the owner is the one who's making the profit and the servers are free to come and go as they please if they don't like the way the owner is operating their business.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  My view tends to be that most people do not choose to be servers out of pleasure but, rather, because they have no other choice at the time, be it because they are students and need a job that is flexible or because they are immigrants and cannot find other jobs. I know that this isn't the case with everyone but with many. Again, it is a culture I do not know or understand so I am just expressing my very humble opinion from an outsider's point of view in the same way in which I disagree with many of the things that go on in the British job market and even more so, in Argentina (where I'm from).

                                  1. re: Paula76

                                    "My view tends to be that most people do not choose to be servers out of pleasure"

                                    There is always a choice. I know many professional, lifelong servers who would be off offended if someone thought their choice of profession was anything but honorable and respectable.

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      Absolutely! And because it is honorable and respectable it should be treated as such and given the same status as other professions which means a decent wage that does not need to rely on tips to be of equal standard to everyone else. I've worked in pubs and restaurants but was paid the same minimum wage as my friends who were doing other jobs.
                                      I am originally from Argentina where you've got old restaurants with amazing professional waiters who are so skilled and proud of what they do. But they are paid a living salary before tips which are, true to their meaning, an optional extra given for good service and not an essential for the worker to be able to survive.

                                      1. re: Paula76

                                        An owner of a restaurant in this country must pay minimum wage.
                                        Beyond that it is up to the discretion of the owner to do as he/she pleases in order to make a profit.
                                        Servers have choices. They can be hired by an establishment that is known for bringing in high tips. After that it is up to the server to decide how much/how little they care to make in the way of extra income.
                                        A server who works hard for me, to make sure I have an enjoyable experience at the restaurant they're serving in, will surely be highly compensated for the work.
                                        A server who chooses to not work hard for me will not be compensated the same.

                          2. re: greedygirl

                            Then you'd have the people that "refuse to tip on the tax" up in arms because in effect they're being forced to do just that if the cost of a meal went up by 15%. The first and only time I heard that at my table it was for a $7 lunch. I couldn't believe she was actually complaining out loud about paying 15% of 8% of $7. For the original poster, sometimes things like that point out a disagreeable quality in somebody that you might otherwise not have noticed for a while.

                            But where does that leave those of us who usually tip 20% or more on a small or inexpensive meal? Do we slip the server another 5% and there we are, back to square one, only by now there've been a ton of taxpayer dollars spent ramrodding this brave new world for waiters through?

                            I wish the system was different, more like the European style, but I think legislators have bigger fish to fry (so to speak) these days than changing a system that, as thew points out, doesn't change much for the people it's supposed to benefit, only now every dime they make is reported to the IRS.

                        2. re: Paula76

                          The problem is that in this economy if the government mandated a fair salary for waitstaff, many restaurants would be forced to close.

                          1. re: NicoleFriedman

                            Or they could raise their prices by 15%, or include a service charge for eat-in orders. And explain this to their customers. The customers are paying about the same anyway, and if they complain, they're probably the classist, obnoxious kind of customers that waiters hate.

                      2. re: Paula76

                        "I know the culture in America regarding tipping is very particular."

                        You think so?
                        Why is it, then, I hear stories (not happened to me because I tip accordingly and it's mostly 20% unless the service was abhorrent) about waitstaff following customers, upon leaving, outside the restaurant screaming because they left below average tips?
                        The word is CHEAP. Cheap tippers always think up excuses not to take care of the server.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          Seriously? How terribly unprofessional of them...By definition, if tipping is 'discretional', it should not be demanded. If you work as a server in the food industry, you should be willing to accept that no everybody is obligated to leave 20%, especially if the service wasn't up to scratch. It is part and parcel of the job. I am not cheap but I am from a different culture. Of course, if I was in America as a tourist I would ask what the custom is and follow it, albeit reluctantly in this case and not because I am stingy but because I don't believe in hypocrysy. If you demand 20% as an obligation, then add it to the bill and do not pass it off as 'optional'.

                          1. re: Paula76

                            "Seriously? How terribly unprofessional of them...By definition, if tipping is 'discretional,' it should not be demanded.

                            Yes, seriously. The stories I've known to be fact are from friends and their experiences abroad not in the US.
                            One was in the UK and the other in Paris. In both instances the waiter was furious for what he believed to be insufficient tipping.
                            I automatically leave 20% unless, as I've stated before, the service was unacceptable. I feel the waiter deserves the tip as they're providing a service to me in order that I may enjoy my pleasure.
                            In response to your statement 'if you demand 20% as an obligation, then add it to the bill and do not pass it off as 'optional'.
                            Tipping is, and always has been, optional in this country. It was one nice gesture of appreciation passed on to another who provides a service and in all my experiences in travel in the US, whether it be in the food industry, the hotel industry or any place where there is a service provided I have never encountered anything but gratitude from the person doing the service.

                          2. re: latindancer

                            "Cheap tippers always think up excuses not to take care of the server."

                            You've got THAT right.

                          3. re: Paula76

                            I don't think this is that unreasonable. None of my friends are cheap tippers. Everyone I've ever known who was a cheap tipper were people I didn't generally like. The poor tipping wasn't the reason I didn't like them (though it didn't help their case much), it was more like a symptom of their overall poor character. So, no, I can't be friends with bad tippers, either, because generally they're cheap dbags in many other ways as well.

                          4. I too have worked in the "biz" from behind the scenes to out on the floor. As a waiter I never EXPECTED a tip from anybody, that is why I would go out of my way to insure my diners were treated well and that their meal was as pleasing as possible, hence, in my belief, I was never stiffed but have had poor tips from people. The poor tipping I have seen was for problems from the kitchen regarding the food. I have also had people return to the restaurant to "bump" my tip because they paid in cash and weren't fully prepared for the bill. Yes there are some people out there that make poor tipping a habit, thankfully i have never run afoul of them. There are so many problems these days that to cut off a friendship because of tipping seems very shallow to me. Maybe these people are boors, who knows.
                            A tip is a reward for professional, prompt service and a well cooked meal, nothing more. The career wait staff that i know personally do have some stories regarding bad tippers but they continually say that those people are a minor drop in the bucket and they make up for it by their big tippers. It's part of the game. On a side note... I wouldn't end a friendship because someone uses gas (of all things) to grill. I'm a hardwood guy, no charcoal either.

                            1. It sounds to me like you want friends who are considerate and thoughtful. I don't think there is anything wrong with that as long as you check your expectations, making sure you are not being unreasonable.

                              1. Maybe your friends who tip bad sometimes have reasons for tipping bad. They might be from somewhere else, learned how to tip differently, or while you were in the bathroom something happened. I'd much rather give the server a bigger tip on my part of the check than make mountains out of molehills with my friends.

                                1. I don't think you are crazy and I believe you are rational enough to realize you understand there may be future problems arising in a relationship where the other person is frugal when it comes to money and how it is expended. Like yourself, I have been in the business and have seen a wide range of people and their tipping history in both restaurants and country clubs........ classifying people into two groups, those who do tip or tip generously versus those who don't appropriately......I would much rather be in the group of people who tipped and tipped generously, rather than poorly or not. My observation is the generous tippers were simply more fun and less likely to complain about incidents or things I considered trivial.......combine that with the fact generous tippers actually pick up a check once in a while, without any other reason than that they want to is very refreshing.....While I do realize everyone's financial situation is different and in most cases their tipping philosophy is most likely a result of how well off they are......the observations I am basing my comments are have to do with people I know who are very well off financially......members of the Country Clubs where I have worked and have belonged to....or people I know or have met, whether they are friends or acquaintances. Some of these people are actually very nice people, but others in the non-appropriate tipping pool are very demanding and expect way too much for their money, e.g. saying things along the lines of....

                                  * They really should do this or that here for the money they charge.
                                  * What do you mean a salad or fries is an extra charge(this in a a la carte restaurant)
                                  * Only a 4 ounce pour in your should be at least eight

                                  This is to mean they expect things due to entitlement, like it should be a given.....and I simply do not believe anything should be considered a can agree with a policy or not, the choice is yours whether you wish to return or not......but please don't tell me how the place should be run.

                                  I also have *friends* (in the poor tipping category) who always invite me out for dinner and and to play golf. For the record, I am the least demanding person when it comes to eating out and I rarely ever make any special requests.....but, my some of my *friends* are quite the opposite, you know the type that ask for the wine list and wants to know every little detail before ordering, and orders everything he can imagine.....but for some unexplainable reason after dinner, the check always is presented to me and when it comes to payment time.....let's just say they have alligator arms........

                                  On the golf front, they invite me to play golf....but at my own club where I have to pick up the tab, which is fine......but they never offer to pay their green fee or reciprocate to take me anywhere for dinner afterwards on their own dime. So in the end, beat me up, but I too choose to limit my time with people I deem CHEAP.

                                  Let me put my head gear on now before you start throwing the punches