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When do you tip low (10% or less)

Would like to see what others consider a barometer of bad service and how you compensate (or don't) in your tip accordingly.

Tell me your stories! And I will share as well.

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  1. It's a rare occasion in our area, NY Metro. The service has to be very poor in a restaurant where you expect better. Being ignored, waiting for menus, water, bread or anything you requested, lemon, cheese, butter etc.. Servers who let you know they would rather be doing something else. It's been a long time since I left a meager tip.
    One occasion I do remember: We were a large party seated at a big table in the back of a large restaurant. For the life of us we could not get the servers attention to get the check. Otherwise the service was good. I used my cell and called the restaurant from our table. "Hi, can we get our check?" "Who is this?" "The table in the back, I am waving to you." it was a riot.
    We didn't stiff the server.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Motosport

        Too funny--I may have to borrow that! I find that standing up usually gets their attention. Recently when we had waited an excessive time to order, I asked the bartender if we could order from him, and he summoned the waitstaff.

        Recently I didn't get my salad, but was charged for it. I gave the waiter my card, spoke to him about the mistake, and he agreed to remove the salad. I get my card back approximately two minutes after our conversation, and I've been charged for everything. I rounded up to the nearest dollar and left it at that (and wrote a reminder that we had agreed that the salad would be removed).

        1. re: foiegras

          Yes I learned the stand up and put on your coat trick long ago. But a couple of years ago I had sent my husband and young kid outside, stood up and put my coat on, and told the waiter I was ready to leave in no uncertain terms.. while he continued to buss dirty empty tables. Talk about not getting the hint.. this was after we had waited patiently for our order because we could see he was alone in the restaurant. But by then the other two servers (owners?) who left were back and I thought his priorities were off (I get not wanting tables to sit dirty but I was ready to leave 20 minutes before. Not to mention 9.5 months pregnant and not having much patience for anything, LOL). This was a dessert place btw so waiting 20+ minutes for our bill after eating for less than 20 minutes - I would feel more leisurely after a long meal with friends, but not cafe dessert with a toddler.
          So in that case I left about half a tip. It's really rare that I leave nothing, because I think that can leave the server confused (maybe they never tip?) or just dismissive that I'm an asshole. I think half a tip leaves the message that yes a service was provided, but not well.

      2. Unless the server is out and out poor at his job, I never tip below at least 15%. By poor I mean forgetting things, nonexistent service, rude behavior and the like. Poor quality food, surroundings or anything else out of the server's control never enters into my figuring the tip.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ttoommyy

          That's pretty much our policy, too. 15% means the service was adequate but not necessarily good. Our standard tip for a good server is 20% and up if we have made special requests and/or have felt especially well treated or note extra effort from a server with too much to do, etc.. Twice in our decades together, DH and I have stiffed egregiously bad/non existent service, so bad you couldn't believe you weren't on Candid Camera or something. I'm always on the server's side and it takes a pretty complete lack of service and awful experience to cause us to walk without a tip.

          We never hold the kitchen's foul up against a server, or anything outside his/her control.

          1. re: ttoommyy

            Same here: my typical tip is 20% but if the service is bad, I go down to 15%. Maybe I have good luck, but I usually have excellent service (I mostly eat out at home in Chicago, and while visiting my parents in San Francisco; maybe service in other cities isn't as good).

            Actually, I usually tip $1/drink if I'm getting them at the bar, which means that I'm not doing 15% for a $8+ drink, but it's 33% if the drinks are on $3 special, which happens fairly often. I guess it evens out.

          2. Only once did I tip virtually nothing. (This is not a comment of French waiters at all because except for this one occasion I have always been treated well by waitstaff in France.) We were are a restaurant in Paris and I had to keep on my prescription sunglasses because I'd accidentally left my glasses at the hotel. I mention this because I can't figure out any other reason for the waiter's bizarre behavior. I was on the banquette facing toward the bar where he stood and lounged actually making faces at me. When I asked what the soup of the day was--this conversation was in French--he informed me that it meant "soup." It got so bad I started crying so we got the check and I told my husband I would leave the tip. I found the smallest coin in my purse and as we got up and the waiter looked our way, I pointedly dropped the coin in the water glass.

            2 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              "...It got so bad I started crying."

              CRYING? You and your husband allowed a waiter/stranger to treat you so poorly you actually CRIED? There has to be more to this story.

              1. re: thegforceny

                Sorry, that's basically the story. Long difficult day, struggling with the language, nasty waiter. Guess you had to be there. (That was 30 years ago. Now we'd be gone in a moment.)

            2. I will tip low when the issue is the servers neglect and has nothing to do with the food. If it's a kitchen made issue I will always tip properly.

              1. The only time I can remember was in college (10yr ago) and we left the waitress no tip. The only time we saw her was to take the order. Didn't bring the drinks or food. Didn't check in on us. Only brought check after we had someone track her down. So she got no tip. However my friend went into the kitchen and gave a tip to the busboy who did all the above.