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Oct 27, 2010 08:50 PM

"Women are lousy tippers"--perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy?


I've heard that some servers assume that women are going to be lousy tippers, but I promise you, I normally leave a LOT more than the two cents I left tonight. I think that amount was generous on this occasion, but I wanted to be damned sure they knew that I didn't just forget.

Elysian Fields, a fairly upscale Seattle brewpub, was throwing a World Series party tonight. They had a special menu, and a retired ballplayer there giving autographs for a donation to charity. I really wanted that autograph (it's going to be a Christmas gift), so I left work early and arrived before 4 pm. The place was almost empty. I sat at the bar and asked for the ballgame event menu they'd advertised. It took over half an hour before I finally got one. It was another half an hour after that before I could get the bartender to stop again and take my order, and then he walked off with just my drink order--I still hadn't been able to order food. As the evening went on, different bartenders would stop and check in with the couples and solo men on either side of me, but even though I was doing my best to catch their eyes--eventually waving my hands, for god's sake, FROM A FOOT AWAY--all three of them (two men, one woman) at different times still walked away without acknowledging me. And this was all before the place even got busy!

You are probably wondering by now, so I'll tell you: I am a middle-aged white woman, and I was dining solo. I am much too large to easily miss. I was well-dressed and not behaving in any way strangely or inappropriately. I was not even slightly drunk. I wasn't ordering cheap-- a couple of $11 pints, and food (when they finally let me). I started out the evening being perfectly pleasant, polite, and patient with the servers. Oh, I did get kind of bitchy towards the end--after two hours of being ignored, who wouldn't? But it didn't make the slightest difference--my service (and only mine--everybody around me was getting adequate attention) sucked from start to finish. I never once got attention from any of the three bartenders without having to strenuously and repeatedly call after them and flag them down--even early on, when there were more servers than customer in the place.

I got the autograph I came for, and I left before the ballgame was even over. I will NEVER go back. I can't remember when I have ever left a restaurant this angry.

The only reason I can think of for this abysmal treatment is that bias I've heard that some servers have--against women, or solo women diners, or middle-aged women, or all of the above. Has this kind of thing happened to other women of a certain age?

(And before anybody asks--the very first thing I did was to email the general manager, from my cell phone, before I even left the place. I wouldn't rant like this to the whole world without first letting him know, so he can do something about it--and by that I do not mean offer me an apology and a freebie. I really meant it when I said I'll never go back.)

  1. That sounds awful, and while similar things have happened to me (also a middle-aged white woman, but perhaps small enough to miss), nothing that egregious. It might have been useful to make your complaint to the manager while you were still there, although I certainly understand why you didn't. There doesn't seem to be anything that will appease you at this point. But I hope you feel better, having vented.

    1. Gah! I feel so bad for you. Like you, I usually tip very well but, sometimes, we get the server who believes the myth that middle-aged women are bad tippers.

      Here's what I do in a fairly new place. If they have a bar, go there first. Pay for your first drink or two in cash. Tip nicely. Really, that's all you have to do. Servers talk. If they know that you tipped their buddy, they'll take care of you.

      It's a shame that we women have to do it that way but we're fighting rumor and history. We can fight the myth!

      1. MsMaryMc, sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. Iit was a good idea to email the manager to bring this incident to his or her attention. I (middle aged, white, solo dining/drinking female) have only been given superior treatment, as if the servers or bartenders felt sorry for me that I was alone. I have been given free drinks from time to time and always attentive service. However, I am in San Francisco. I am not sure if this factors into the equation or not. But, no matter where I have lived (East coast, southwest, deep south), I have managed to chat up staff enough that they feel protective of me and they have never neglected me. In your situation, it could have been that the staff was overly stressed due to the celebrity presence, not that it excuses the poor treatment given you. Keep dining solo and showing the world that lone females are not cheap customers and eventually things will change. Elysian Fields should be ashamed to lose your business. I have been a server in the past as well and do not understand these biases.

        1. Sorry for your treatment. I also agree that this is, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy: profiling guests as poor tippers tends to carry over into treatment/service and ensuing tip.

          I remember on more than one occasion, enjoying myself at a restaurant with male companions-- so much so I returned with other friends. The mistake I made was bringing girlfriends. Suddenly, the good service disappeared. We were tucked into corners are largely ignored. (Not middle-aged at this point.)

          I did the usual thing of at least trying to tip as if to prove that I wasn't a bad tipper, but the problem is this: Do we then contribute to the larger perception that it's ok to treat women like crap because either they will act exactly how one imagined they would, or they will be too 'nice' to call one out.

          It's been a relief moving back to Europe. Without the crazed tip mentality, the service ends up being equal (in places where people are not misogynists, racists or other sorts of bigots, of course).

          And for those who might try to discredit these observations, experience doesn't lie, and frankly, any suggestion that we are not behaving appropriately is kind of offensive. Unless, of course, by 'behaving inappropriately' you mean 'having a vagina'. (Apologies for the brief foray into biological definitions of womanhood.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lizard

            Amen! I feel the same way, every once in a while I get dismissed at my seat. I am obviously a 'young female who most likely doesn't like to tip'... because I don't act like other more bubbly or outspoken females. Obviously, I must be a bi@chy bad tipper who is inconsiderate towards mankind due to the nature of myself having a quiet and young nature... that is paraded around with a vagina. *Nods*

            Humans. Ugh. You don't wanna be too ridiculous towards me, I AM the at least 20% tipper! There was only one time I didn't tip the waitress biotch. She made a judgement call to try and intimidate me due to whatever impression she had of me. I was already going "WTF" in my head. First time in my life I never left a tip. Oy, her drinks were haphazardly mixed too. She sloshed most of it onto her feet I bet from what I kept seeing at the bar.

          2. I've experienced this, even when I wasn't middle-aged and large enough to be hard to miss.

            There was a seafood place in town I went to regularly. I mean like a couple times a week. There was one waitress there who always gave me great service and she got tipped liberally. But most of the time service was lousy.

            One day I was sitting at the bar when I heard 2 waitresses talking not 15' away from where I was sitting.

            1st waitress: Oh no, it's HER again! I hate waiting on her.
            2nd waitress: REALLY??? Well I'll take her off your hands!

            Guess which one was the waitress who always gave me good service?

            And I understand why someone made the recommendation to chat up the staff, but you know what, when I go out to eat alone, I pretty much want to be left alone with my book. I'm not there to chat up the staff. I understand that sort of thing works but really, why should I have to do that just to get decent service? And I don't even care that much about service, so guess how bad it has to be before I notice how lousy it is?

            The other thing that used to torque me into high was wait staff who turned rude if I happened to have my son with me. I know all the stories about kids running wild in public places and have witnessed quite a bit of that myself. But my son DID NOT do that sort of thing. Acting up was a good way to get a doggy bag and go home. He behaved himself. Two tables over there might be a group of half-drunk guys hiding their tip under a water glass pyramid, but there were no shenanigans at our table. I don't have a little kid anymore, but I've got one friend who HATES children and will say in front of the parents that children should not be allowed out in public restaurants. Needless to say I don't go out to eat with her if I can avoid it. She has other fine qualities, but that's a little psycho. Over the years I've run across more than one waiter who made it pretty durn clear that that was their attitude too.

            Oddly enough, I never had that kind of thing happen in Puerto Rico when we were living there. I don't know, must be a USian thing.