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Do you leave a sympathy tip when someone in your party is rude?

We often find ourselves dining out with a family member who is embarrassingly rude to the waitstaff. Consequently, we leave a larger than normal tip when this happens. I also try to give a sympathetic nod or say something gracious to the server, whenever it is possible without exacerbating things.

If you are in a similar situation (a badly-behaved child, an unusual mess, etc.), do you leave a sympathy tip? If so, what percentage above your normal tip? Not that you can ever compensate for unkindness, but since money is the only way I can make up for this family member's behavior, that is the means I use.

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  1. If I think that our table has been more trouble than it's worth, yes, I tip more. Probably about 10% more, depending. I don't think of it as sympathy so much as hazard pay. Some of my dining companions can get a little over-exuberant, and quite frankly, I'd like it if they would compensate *me* for putting up with them. But that's probably too much to ask.

    1 Reply
    1. re: small h

      Hazard pay, I like that. But honestly, I don't think any waitperson can be compensated enough for putting up with my, um, family member. If they wanted a job like that, they'd be serving in the military or as a firefighter. They battle fire-breathing dragons, right?

    2. Oh, so you've met my mother?

      Yes, I do add more, unless the waiter/waitress responded in kind. The amount depends on how much of a pain/bitch she's been. Usually another 10%. I once walked over to the waitress, handed her a $20, and thanked her for being so patient.

      1. Heck yes. What small h said. Heh. Hazard pay. Maybe even more than an extra ten percent depending on how great the hazard.

        2 Replies
        1. re: givemecarbs

          Dang, this is gonna get expensive if we keep having to dine out with her! When we must include her (about once a week) we are trying to do more family dinners at home, but sometimes I get tired of having to leave out all the ingredients she says she can't eat.

          1. re: Isolda

            I responded below, but if you can't or don't want to tip a larger amount, be sure to take the time to speak to the manager on the way out and compliment the server if they were able to deal with your crazy family member in a gracious way.

        2. Honestly, it depends on whether I feel responsible for the person who is acting boorishly. Large mixed groups where I was not the one who organized or invited - I'm just tipping for me and operating under the "shit happens" school of logic. If I invited people to a place I like and frequent and one of them behaves badly, then yeah I tip more, especially if I'm already friendly with the servers. Don't have any kids yet.

          Story time - I once met up for dinner with a high school friend a few years after high school. She was always a bit of a drama queen, but now she was way over the top and she gave the poor waiter a hellish time keeping her happy. When the check came (we went dutch, paid cash), she laid out her money on the table, complete with an under-sized tip. I paid after her, and feeling bad for the waiter, I left a very generous tip to make up for her slight. As we were getting our coats on to leave, I noticed that she saw the large tip I left, frowned, and pocketed 2 of the 3 measly singles she had already left. I very nearly flipped out right then and there. We don't hang out anymore.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cowboyardee

            Yeah, that's where my sympathy lies, with the server, even when I'm not hosting or responsible for the other person's bad behavior. This is an adult, who really does know better, or should, but I still feel really bad and embarrassed for anyone who has to put up with her crap.

            Years ago, the summer after I graduated from college, I worked as a waitress at a very nice Vermont resort. For about four days, I kept having to wait on this rude drunk man. He pulled every stunt you can imagine, ordering "well-oiled virgins" with his eggs at breakfast, groping people, leaving lousy tips, etc. Although I didn't think any amount of money would have compensated for dealing with this perv, my story would have had a much nicer ending if one of his dining companions had just paid a little extra.

          2. I don't think you're my sister. :P Whenver my mother was in a restaurant on one of her alcoholic nasty binges, yes, I would always tip more, as she lurched away from the table.

            1. Yes, I've done it once. New Years Day a few years back went out for a late sushi dinner at one of the few restaurants that we found open. Friend of friend (pretty wealthy) got drunk beforehand, ate a few sushi rolls, ordered more then went to the bathroom to vomit. While in bathroom my friend canceled the order. So when friend of friend came back to table he got angry that his order was canceled and refused to pay for what he ate/drank. The waiter/ bartender didn't want a scene so they just let him leave. BF and I (now embarrassed and ready to leave) got our tab. The waiter/bartender was near tears because she now was stuck w/his bill. I didn't want her to start of the new year with such a bad experience so we gave her a large tip and I paid his bill. Once we were outside we overheard him telling our friends that he likes to argue to get out of paying and that it was something learned from his father.

              Luckily a situation like this hasn't happened again.

              1. Years ago, I was stuck travelling frequently with an incredibly rude co-worker. She was very demanding about making special requests on everything she ordered and would throw a fit if they didn't get it just right. I once saw her pick up a loaf of bread off a sandiwich line in a cafeteria and throw it at the woman who didn't get her sandwich just right. She was the same way with hotel personnel, cab drivers, etc., etc. It was humiliating! I always tipped heavily and often tried to apologize (off to the side) for her behavior. After several of these trips, I finally told my boss I wolud rather lose my job than be forced to travel with this person again. I'm still there, 10+ years later. Rude co-worker is long gone.

                1. Definitely. I have an aunt that is incredibly rude to all around her, especially wait staff, while giving her crazy special orders, sends everything back for no reason, is insulting, etc. I always put down an extra tip when she's not looking if we go out to eat together. I used to do this frequently with grandparents, but the rude ones are no longer living.

                  Whenever I eat out with my kids I leave a "baby tip", which is an extra 10% or so on top of a normal tip for the mess factor.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: milklady

                    We invoke a 'baby tip' as well. Seems the right thing to do.

                  2. Yeah, sure, absolutely I would. I might have done it at least once in my lifetime. I'd probably leave 25-35% depending on the bill and the occasion. Like you indicated, the money alone may not be enough although the waitperson may surely infer that it's for ruffled feathers. A discreet, kind word can surely smooth things over and remove any doubt.

                    1. I worked for a server long enough that I'd have to be under serious duress to allow someone to treat waitstaff this way. It would have to be my high-paying boss or an important political figure for me to ignore it.

                      When I would serve a table with one evil person and the rest of the group sitting quietly, it was extremely stressful. My restaurant had such high expectations of their servers, having one guest complain could result in being written up or fired. Spending the next few days hoping that this crazy lady doesn't make a phone call or send an e-mail that will affect my livelihood isn't something anyone should endure.

                      I'm very calm and would never argue with guests. I was there to make them happy and get my tips, not to win a debate. I remember one extremely rude, you-can't-make-me-happy-no-matter-how-hard-you-try type of guest complained on the way out that I ignored him and was a terrible server. My saving grace was that I was able to show my manager that the person who had paid for this lunatic to eat had given me a 30% tip.

                      Whew. Glad to be out of that industry.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: Azizeh

                        Your post made me remember one dining occasion. A pizza that wasn't ours was mistakenly delivered to us. I knew immediately it wasn't ours and told the food server so (not our waiter) - the table next to us was 2 young ladies, one of who said, "Hey, isn't that our pizza?" At this point the server was asking us if we were sure it wasn't our pizza because the printout he had said it was for us. No 2 of the other table then exclaimed, "Hey!! That's our pizza!" The server rechecked the printout he had and asked us again to be sure. No 2 again said loudly, "That's OUR pizza."

                        Finally, he dropped the pizza off at the other table, totally flustered. Shortly after, our mutual waiter returned and the other table insisted on speaking to the manager. When he got there, No 2 complained that the food server was 'incredibly rude' and 'totally inexcusable'. She made such a huge deal of it, you would think the server dumped the pizza all over her lap.

                        I didn't want to comment while the other table was still next to us. By time they left, DH was dying to ask to me what the big deal was, since as far as he could tell, it was a minor issue. As I was trying to explain the fuss (quite unsuccessfully), the food server was cleaning the next table and asked us, alarmed, "Is everything ok?" We assured him everything was just fine. He sighed a huge sigh of relief and explained that he got written up for the last table (he would get fired after 2 write-ups).

                        At the end of our meal, before we paid our bill, we told our waiter to relay to the manager that the server was really not to be blamed and the situation was not as dire as had been described.

                        1. re: raebmv

                          Unrelated, but the last time something similar happened to me, we were at a WAY understaffed restaurant. We waited about half an hour after ordering before seeing any food, and then they delivered it to the table next to us, who had ordered about 5 minutes before. We were wondering if it was possible if they really ordered the same thing, and then, as they took their initial bites they said "this isn't what we ordered." And "I know." Munch munch.

                          Then they informed the server when he came back 10 minutes later that they got the wrong order. It was about 1/3 eaten.

                          We were the only two parties in that part of the restaurant. At the banquette. Can you say awkward?

                          1. re: raebmv

                            Interesting story. Although I'm not going to defend rude behaviour, I do wonder about the circumstances you've described in which two women are virtually ignored by the server who directs his attention to a heterosexual couple (I presume your DH is a Dear Husband). It's nice he was checking, but you told him that it wasn't yours, the girls at the other table were saying it was theirs, but he continues to faff about, and from your account, speak to your table only.
                            I don't think it merits 'totally inexcusable' behaviour or a complaint, but this struck me.

                            1. re: Lizard

                              Sometimes people can read too much into things. A server was merely double checking things as they should. Doubtful that he was debility ignoring the table because two woman were seated there.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                Or sometimes a person just gets flustered and confused and they need a moment to thinnk. At least I do. According the post, he didn't yell at them or said anything rude to them. In fact, it sounded like he left confused. He just needed a moment to collect his thoughts.

                                1. re: Lizard

                                  LOL. Yeah... I really don't think that was the case. It really did say on his printout that the pizza was meant for our table. Poor guy was just delivering the pizza, don't think he cared too much who the pizza went to, hetrosexual or otherwise.

                                  1. re: Lizard

                                    i think the tickets name the table number, not a description of the customers.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Yes, but that does not account for what also sounded like the runner ignoring the women at the other table.

                                      As I said, i wasn't there and more to the point, I don't condone rudeness on anybody's part, but as a female diner, I am very aware of the differences in service between the times I am out with a man and out with a woman-- even at the same place!

                                      1. re: Lizard

                                        And where has anyone condoned rudeness, but that goes both ways...and in this case it sounds like the customers were the rude party.

                                        The runner has a job to deliver the food to the table on the ticket. How many times have boisterous customers yelled at the server? From the limited information from the post it was the "2 young ladies" at "the other table then exclaimed, "Hey!! That's our pizza!" followed by "again said loudly, "That's OUR pizza."" Exclaimed? Said loudly?

                                        Sounds like it was the customers at the other table that were rude, the runner was performing his tasks. If you could point me to where there is any reference to the restaurant staff being rude I would appreciate it. Heck, the poster came to the aid of the runner / server.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Easy there, Jfood. I meant that I didn't condone the rudeness of the women at the other table and was thus not writing my comments as a knee-jerk defence, but simply observing that their upset may have been a result of a dynamic that the poster did not see.

                                    2. re: Lizard

                                      Anyone who continues to interrupt and yell out to a person who is otherwise occupied with someone else is rude, bottom line. They sound like a pair of gulls or whatever it was in Finding Nemo. "mine!..mine!!!.... mine!!!!"

                                    3. re: raebmv

                                      Good for you that you said something to the manager. If my wife and I see a customer being completely unreasonable and being rude to the employee even if the employee is being really calm and understanding, we try to make it a point to mention it to the manager. If we see the customer start complaining about talking to higher ups, then we go talk to the manager too or try to leave a business card and tell the employee to have the manager call us for a third party version.

                                      We absolutely loathe how unreasonable some customers can get and some employees can get written up even though they were polite and calm. We figure its the most we can do to try and inject another viewpoint for the manager.

                                      1. re: raebmv

                                        Good for you. Hopefully the message got relayed.

                                        It's a tough business. You never want to be one strike away from losing your job, especially in an industry that's known for writing you up if you are too sick to work (but because of your line of work you don't have insurance) or you're tending to someone you love while they're on their deathbed.

                                        I left with the realization that some folks really enjoy tormenting people that have to take it if they want to keep their jobs. It must be the only power they have in their lives. Some think they're cute when they do it.

                                        1. re: raebmv

                                          I think it would have been more helpful to your server to speak with the manager yourself.

                                      2. Fortunately, the question has never arisen. I don't have family members who are rude in restaurants and, if I did, they would quickly cease to be regular dining companions.

                                        However, no I would not leave a sympathy tip - I always begrudge tipping and leave the bare minimum to conform with social norms wherever I am ( on this subject, I am never happier than when visiting particular restaurants or parts of the world where service is included in the menu price)

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: Harters

                                          "I always begrudge tipping and leave the bare minimum"
                                          Perhaps your dining companions are occasionally leaving a bit extra in your wake.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            I'd doubt it - I'm regarded as the generous one in the family. LOL.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Ah well, I think the previous poster assumed that you might also have a few *friends* that you dine with. Ahem.

                                              1. re: Raids

                                                I'm the generous one amongst everyone I regularly eat with. I take the view that it's an unfortunate, but necessary, part of eating out to conform to the tipping norms wherever you are.

                                                Few folk that I dine with would generally agree and will often either not tip or tip only nominal amounts (even when the norm in that part of the world is to tip higher than "nominal"). Perhaps they eat more often than I do in places where tipping isnt expected

                                          2. re: Harters

                                            Like you, I have been fortunate enough to never be in this situation.

                                            However, if I was, I would certainly leave a sympathy tip. I never begrudge tipping as servers make below minimum wage (here in the states) and generally bust their butts trying to keep the diners happy. Of course if the server was equally rude back, that would probably change the answer.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Ah, you sound like my Father. My Mother would always give me money and I'd go back in and leave more money to make up for his "begrudging" of tipping.

                                              1. re: Linda VH

                                                LMAO - some people just really dont get it! I have long held that there should be a rule in place that one must work (in some fashion) in the customer service/restaurant/retail industrie(s) at some point in their life to gain entry into a restaurant.

                                                And buyer beware if you are going to abuse the staff, they are more than likely going to get even with you without you even knowing.

                                                1. re: joe777cool

                                                  Yep, I saw this happen on more than one occasion, including watering down whole milk and adding a drop of blue food coloring to create "skim" milk for a woman who always chewed out the servers when the restaurant ran out.

                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                    I have seen both FOH and BOH employees add their own saliva to the food of customers who crossed the line. If you come back, forget getting the seat you want, or getting anything other than minimal attention from the staff, or anything extra - restaurant employees have a photographic memory when it comes to PITA's (Pains in the Ass).

                                            2. Why would anyone ruin a lovely dining experience by including a troublesome lout? Even a relative? Life is too short.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: beevod

                                                Alas, the "troublesome lout" is my mother in law. For the sake of family harmony, we do have to include her on occasion, but we are increasingly trying to just invite her over for dinner here, rather than going out. I have to confess that we never bring her anyplace where we are likely to become regulars.

                                              2. I remember once my mom and I were eating at the Lobster House in Cape May, NJ. My mom noticed that the family next to us had been very demanding and the waitress (also ours) had jumped through hoops of fire practically to make them happy. She did lots of extra nice things for them. When they left my mom noticed that the tip on the table was very stingy and asked the waitress if that was all they really left in a voice of disbelief. If anyone could pull off a question like that with grace it was my mom. The waitress sighed and comfirmed the bad news.
                                                My mom sympathized with her, listing a few of the exceptional things the waitress had done, such as making up a parfait for the daughter who wanted one badly even though it wasn't on the menu. When we left my mom made sure to leave an extra big tip for the waitress to make up for the other family's unfairness.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                  That's a lovely story. Your mom sounds like a beautiful person.

                                                2. If you keep bringing this person out who you know is just going to purposely make things difficult for someone and cause problems things need to be made right. A something little extra and perhaps some kind words would not go amiss.

                                                  I would certainly leave (and have) an extra amount to make up for a dinning companions boorish behavior. I have also made a point of thanking the server for their help and apologize for for the ruddiness. Fortunately it has not happened too many times.

                                                  I then make it a point never to put myself in such a situation again with the loutish diner in question.

                                                  @ OP Do you seriously have to go out with this person once a week?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                                    I don't think she purposely makes things difficult. . It's more the result of her narcissistic character than of her desire to mess with somebody. One out of every three or four occasions, she's perfectly fine. Dining out with her is like playing russian roulette.

                                                  2. Hmm, yes and no. I hardly ever go out with those I do not care for or those that I care for but drive me and others crazy. I have in the past though.

                                                    My gram was a horrible tipper and she thought that her $1 tips were generous. She did not mean harm or insult, she just had no clue. It never helped to try to change her view so I just started sneaking in additional tips.

                                                    And, once, it happened by surprise. Our landlord offered to take us to lunch so, naturally, we accepted. He seemed nice enough... Well, he wanted to pay and we did one round of "oh, no, really" then let him get the check. This was at a place we frequented. I looked at the check amount and the amount left and realized he'd left a ten cent tip!! Gee, maybe it was 90 cents? Either way, we did not want to appear judgmental or rude to our host so we came back after we left and asked the server if the person we were with really only left less than a dollar. She acknowledged this and I apologized and offered more tip. Not really a sympathy tip but similar.

                                                    I'm not sure what I'd do if it was my family member AND they were very rude. Really, this has me stumped. I hope you post what you decided to do, maybe it can give us all ideas in case this thing happens to us. We don't always expect this kind of behavior but it can happen...

                                                    1. If you have a friend or family member that regularly behaves badly at restaurants, yes, you should include hazard pay, and, honestly, I have to agree with the other posters who have said that you should stop subjecting unsuspecting servers to this person and their boorish behavior.

                                                      If I had a disgusting uncle who constantly made passes at 17 year olds, I wouldn't bring him along to a high school graduation, you know? It's the same thing: if you have a relative or friend that likes to abuse authority, don't subject people in the service industry to this person.

                                                      1. I always do. I'm a self-employed professional and the fee that I quote a person for my services is based to some extent on the "pain in the ass factor." If I judge that the person is going to be a pain in the ass, I quote a higher fee; if the person is charming, I quote a lower fee.

                                                        Seems only fair I adopt the same system with waitstaff, if a member of my party is being an ass, I will go from 20% to 25%-30% depending on the degree to which he or she is being an ass. And by "being an ass" I don't mean making a pass at the waitress, I mean being somewhat less than pleasant ... everyone should be pleasant to other humans.

                                                        The poor waitstaff shouldn't have to put up with boorish behavior, and if they do so, imo a larger tip is a nice way of saying "Sorry about that, our bad."

                                                        1. Hehehe got a chuckle out of this but it is kinda true.

                                                          I have a friend who doesn't tip well sometimes even leaves no tip if the bill for lunch is under a certain amount. So I always tip far better when when we have separate checks. I don't mind if the service is good.

                                                          If I'm paying and there is a difficult person with me, Someone who's picky, orders things that really aren't on the menu, has extreme food allergies, or just a person that gives the server a hard time. If that server takes everything in stride I usually reward them with a larger tip.

                                                          1. Always! I used to have a friend (she moved away, I didn't unfriend her) who insisted on bringing her kids aged 2 and 4 anytime I asked her to join me for a meal. And because of that, I usually selected Applebee's or Chili's so we didn't disturb people looking for a really good meal. These kids where horrid. One screaming, one running, food being thrown, etc. I always asked her to calm them down but she'd respond that they're just children. After those meals I would tip up to 50%. And go home feeling like I'd made the right decision in remaining childless, lol!!

                                                            1. I don't get alot of these stories that just basically say dishing out a couple of more bucks makes everything okay. My cousin would bring his kids and they'd make havoc and his simple reply was "I'll just leave a bigger tip" instead of addressing the issue at hand, which is the problem diner/s. Problem diners are not only a problem for the wait staff but often also for other diners... are people going to start paying for other people's meals? Also, if this was going to be a regular happening then it would totally have to be addressed at the root and not glossed over with a few dollars.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: chickenbruiser

                                                                I agree, my sister was a huge PITA. On one occasion I confronted her about it, in the middle of a restaurant, saying something to the effect of "can you please stop being so condescending and rude to the waitress, she is just doing her job and honestly I dont want my food/experience to be ruined because of your ignorance." (we no longer speak-seperate situation but similar reasons)

                                                                Speaking of kids - I always appreciated the parents who would ask for a rag or a brrom to help clean up the mess. I would always thank them but let them know I would clean it up without a problem. Sometimes just the offer to clean up or an apology is all that a server needs/wants. But the extra tip $ sure is appreciated!

                                                                1. re: chickenbruiser

                                                                  I agree with you when it comes to children, but this is an older, slightly psycho woman. I definitely don't think handing a few extra bucks over to a server who has been screamed at makes it worth the trouble, but it is a gesture of goodwill and it's better than nothing.. It's easy to not bring kids out if they don't behave, but it's much harder to tell your MIL, "unless you can be nice, you can't come."

                                                                  As much as I pity the server who has to deal with her, I do value family harmony a lot more, and the cost to my children's relationship with their grandmother would be significant if I started telling MIL off every time she has a crazy attack. Seriously, she gets much worse if you confront her. We've all learned to ignore her until she calms down. In a restaurant setting, I try distraction (of the server). I just call her to my end of the table politely, even as my MIL is spouting off.

                                                                  And I decline any invites (although we are usually the ones to pay, since they are on a more limited income) to dine out with MIL for several weeks after she misbehaves, not to punish her, but because I just can't take it. I thnk anyone who has a mentally ill family member gets this.

                                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                                    In the end you are doing the right thing. I know its sad to say but I really dont like that particular sister, and never really have. Confronting her behavior didnt have the complications that your situation does. Maybe you can find some middle ground.....extra tip AND, in a nicer way than I would, remind her that the waitress is just trying to do her job and that if your mil was in her shoes she would want to be treated in a nicer way.

                                                                    The extra $10 and a "Im really sorry about the crazy old bat" will do just as fine for the server, but it will not fix the situation and in my case would not make me feel that much better!

                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                      your case is obviously much more complicated... in that addressing the problem to your MIL probably won't solve anyhting...
                                                                      thus... I'd find a couple of restaurants she likes... explain to the wait staff or manager before hand not be offended or take personally anything your MIL says or does... leave some extra tip as you do now... if you return on a regular basis then there would be an implicit understanding to the situation which would probably ease some of your anxiety.

                                                                  2. My parents always tipped extra when we were young, and we were fairly well-behaved and went to restaurants where kids were expected.

                                                                    I did have one friend of my fiance, who was pretty well off, who tried to leave a really stingy tip. Service was great and he thought so too, but he's just one of those jerks who believes that you should always pay the bare minimum and get out of paying whenever possible. I just kind of looked at my fiance with a dangerous look, and he said, "Oh, hey, looks like you forgot a couple bills here!" When the guy explained he didn't want to pay more than that, my fiance acted like it was sarcasm and made a sarcastic remark about how shitty tippers don't get rides home. They went back and forth for a while, my fiance stubbornly refusing to "believe" that it wasn't all a joke, and the guy slowly wearing down until finally he paid more just to get out of there. Now he does at least tip well when we are with him, and yet he hasn't made the connection that maybe the improved service he gets when he eats with us is connected...