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Mar 5, 2013 11:35 AM

A new wrinkle in discussion about tipping


While trying to avoid any political issues (either expressed in the article or other views) - what do you think about stiffing someone part of a tip for a political message or viewpoint expressed as an article of clothing? Based on what we know of the story, nothing the server said directly to the customers resulted in her docked tip - just the message on her t-shirt.

If you saw a server wearing a shirt with a view that was contrary to yours - would you do the same? Would you leave? Would you suck it up as an "experience" but avoid the place in future if you got a strong vibe that it was a place that encouraged those "contrary" views?

  1. "Busboys and Poets is open about its progressive leanings, and does not prevent its employees from expressing their political beliefs. "We actually encourage it," another restaurant employee says."

    That really sums it up. If you enter an establishment that encourages its employees and customers to express their political beliefs (check out the website) then you can hardly be shocked by an opinion that's not aligned with yours. This is a silly controversy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Best answer.

      It's up to the diner to perform a little due diligence!

      If you don't agree with the "politics" or the attire or whatever of a business, Do Not Attend.

      e.g.: I hate armpits+food. Just icks me out. I don't go to "Hooters"* or other bare-armpit-server-friendly establishments.(*The food, is, of course, another topic, ahem).

      Attending, dining, ~then~ stiffing the waitstaff?...never appropriate in my world.

      1. re: ferret

        These customers were not locals. They were here for a conference. They wouldn't have known that.

        When I was at U of MD, I used to buy lunch at the food coop in the Stamp Student Union. I just wanted a sandwich but I had to deal with an avalanche of political opinions - on t-shirts, the walls, etc. It wasn't necessarily that I disagreed, but I hate have other people's opinions, attitudes, religion - shoved in my face. Even when I agree with them. I just want a sandwich.

        1. re: Just Visiting

          It's a good thing you weren't wearing a pro-Israel t-shirt when you were there:

          1. re: Just Visiting

            The fact that the establishment allowed the shirt to be worn should have been an indicator to the customer, tourist or not. If you see a shirt like that and object then the best answer is to walk out before you order. It's a private enterprise and they have a right to espouse their philosophy just as much as you have a right to walk out. But if you stay, leave a tip.

        2. No, its absolutely not appropriate to leave a dimished tip because the server holds a different political (or social) view from yours. One tips for the service, not the servers political views or personal beliefs.

          45 Replies
          1. re: carolinadawg

            People boycott businesses because of the owners political beliefs. Why not boycott tipping a server for theirs?

            1. re: kengk

              Is it really necessary to explain that boycotting a restaurant and stiffing a server on a tip are 2 completely different things? A better analogy with stiffing a server on a tip would be leaving a restaurant without paying, after eating. Are you suggesting that would be ok?

              1. re: carolinadawg

                But the tip is optional, not legally required to pay it are you?

                Piss me off, you don't get a tip.

                1. re: kengk

                  No, the tip ISN'T optional. As I stated below, while there may not be a legal requirement to tip, there is an implied social contract (in the USA), one that we all know well.

                  There is no connection between "pissing you off" (which could mean anything) and the tip. The servers obligation is to provide the diner with a service. The diners obligation is to tip appropriately, based on the level of service provided. The diner doesn't get to lower the tip based on arbritrary, non-service issues that may "piss you off".

                    1. re: kengk

                      ??? You do what and guarantee what?

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        "The diner doesn't get to lower the tip based on arbritrary, non-service issues that may "piss you off"."

                          1. re: kengk

                            Optional is dependent on service, not arbitrary conditions. If you are going to make up extra rules you should let your server know before you order. Then the server can make an informed decision as to whether or not they will serve you at all.

                            1. re: ennuisans

                              optional is dependent on...nothing. that''s.optional.

                              1. re: linus


                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  Sure it is. If the service is bad, don't tip. Service doesn't seem to have been an issue in this particular case, but tipping is certainly optional.

                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                    Obviously, the amount of the tip is appropriate to the level of service. I've said as much already. That's not the issue.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      And sometimes that amount is zero. My point is that you're being rather free with your use of the word "required".

                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                        Others are being rather free with the use of the word "optional", as in, even if the service is good, no need to tip. And I've never had service that sunk to the level of a zero tip. That would have to be a situation so egregious that I can hardly even imagine it.

                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                          I wasn't referring to others, but, yes, tipping is technically optional. It may not feel so to you and may violate your idea of a social contract and that's ok. It's your choice. We'll agree to disagree.

                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                            It's not "my idea" of a social contract. I didn't invent the system. It's something that actually exists.

                                            1. re: carolinadawg

                                              if its not your idea, and its something that actually exists, could you provide some documentation by a recognized authority, please?

                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                Sigh. But it doesn't actually exist. I clearly didn't sign up for the same social contract you did. And, frankly, the very existence of the thread and CH goes to show we're all not aware of and/or adhering to the same social contract.

                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                  Do you ever tip in a full service restaurant?

                                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                                    Lol. Of course. And you're certainly aware that its nearly impossible to answer "no" to your question. I've no doubt that this answer will somehow convince you that you're right, but we disagree. That's all there is to it.

                                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                                          LOL. I'll answer for you. You leave a tip because there is an implied social contract to do so, despite your insistence in an earlier thread that no such contract exists.

                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                            Sorry, you don't get to answer for me. We don't agree and I doubt we will. That's ok.

                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                              Its not a matter of agreeing. Its a matter of ackowledging reality.

                                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                                      I will answer the question for myself. I'm 52 years old, in my entire life I only remember leaving less than the "socially acceptable" tip one time and it was because of horrible service.

                                                      I will also say that I am very easy going and don't blink at stuff that seems to get the average CHer's underwear bunched. "It took ten minutes to get my crumpet, should I stiff the waiter, call the owner or write a letter to the NY Times"?

                                                      All that said, I still reserve the right to stiff a waiter if they piss me off. Because.............tipping is optional.

                                                      1. re: kengk

                                                        So by your own admission you recognize that there is an implied social contract to tip for acceptable or better service. Where you go off the rail is when you think its ok not to tip for some arbritary reason that has nothing to do with the quality of the service.

                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                          My social contract requires waiters to not make me angry.

                                                          IMO, quality of service has very little to do with the amount of the tip for most people.

                    2. re: kengk

                      But boycotting a business does not mean going to it and then only paying 75% of the price for the goods you want to purchase because you don't agree.

                      The table knew the server's views when they sat down. They knew the management's views in that they were happy to have the server wear the shirt. To boycott would have meant to go elsewhere. Not to stay, order, and then tip less.

                      1. re: kengk

                        If you allow the server to serve you, you are morally obligated to tip them based on the quality of their service, not their views. When one boycott's a business, one avoids their services entirely. Get the difference?

                        1. re: Heatherb

                          you are not morally obligated to tip anyone.ever.

                          1. re: linus

                            Sorry - I should have corrected that to read "by the moral standards of people who aren't sociopaths." If someone does me a service in an at least adequate manner and I know that the bulk of their pay comes from what they make from their customers in tips, then by my moral code I am morally obligated to tip them.

                            1. re: Heatherb

                              So, you have a nice meal and good service. The waiter brings your check and starts dropping the N bomb or talking about how much they hate Jews or their opinion that women should obey their husbands no matter what; you are going to give them a nice 20-25% tip?

                              1. re: kengk

                                There was a fishmonger at the Giant in Rockville (of all places - a very big Jewish population in that area and the Giant was founded by and at that time, still owned by Jews). More than once he made anti-Semitic remarks and I finally reported it.

                                No, you should not give those people tips. And you should report them.

                                1. re: Heatherb

                                  @kengk, Just Visiting and carolinadawg, if you do not like the server's views as expressed on their t-shirt enough that it will affect your tip right out of the gate, you leave before placing your order. If someone is deliberately rude or confrontational or behaves in an unseemly manner while serving you, then yes, that would affect the tip. There was nothing wrong with this woman's conduct however - the customer just didn't like her t-shirt. Rather than engaging in a debate or confronting her (as was likely the purpose of the coffee shop), they just passive-aggressively docked her tip. I don't think that's good conduct from the customer.

                                  1. re: Heatherb

                                    I'm not sure why you included me with those 2...I'm in complete agreement with you. My "+1" was directed at your comment above.

                                    1. re: Heatherb

                                      And I agree with you. I've agreed with this premise - just leave - several times. But you seem to be refusing to recognize the possibility that this was not the waitress who took their order. It could very well have been the runner. Meaning that they may have ordered and received their food before the situation occurred. Now what? Pay for food you won't be eating, and leave and hope you can grab a bite elsewhere in time to return to the conference?

                                      And do you really want to be confronting people - waiters, other customers - in restaurants or other public places? Or be around when other people are doing it?

                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                        So what if it was a different waitress? Then it's worse - they're docking an entire team for the t-shirt ONE of them was wearing.

                                        As for "confronting" someone - it doesn't have to be an angry discussion. And it would seem that the cafe where this all went down would be specifically promoting that.

                                        1. re: Heatherb

                                          Heather B - I am not understanding why you are not understanding why it matters if it was a different waiter.

                                          Say the person who took their order was not the one wearing the shirt. So they ordered the food not knowing that there was going to be an issue. Now another person arrives with the food. They have to pay for it and further they need to get back to their meeting and may not have time to go elsewhere for lunch.

                                          So you are saying that at that point, they "allowed" this person to serve them and thus should have given a tip OR - as you put it - avoided their service entirely. Meaning, get up, pay for the meal you don't eat, and leave.

                                          Seriously? You think that's the customer's obligation here?

                                          And n.b. - if they do that, the waiter still doesn't get a tip.

                                          This is why it matters if it was a different waiter.

                                          And sorry but when you confront someone, you have no way of knowing if it will turn loud, angry, or even violent. In this day and age, usually it will.

                            2. re: carolinadawg

                              <One tips for the service>

                              Exactly. It's important for people to keep this in mind, what a tip was designed for, when dining out. It's about the *service* given, nothing else.

                            3. It's the servers right to wear what (s)he wants, and the customers right to tip or not...

                              I don't agree with NOT tipping, but there is no law that says if or how much of a tip is required. Tipping is the "right thing to do," but when you are in the hospitality business, not offending your customer is pretty darned important, too.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: ChefJune

                                There may not be a law, but its much more than the right thing to do. Its an implied social contract. A tip in exchange for service. Providing that service has no connection with political or social beliefs, and neither does the tipping. Would it be ok to not leave a tip because you think your server is gay and you think homosexuality is wrong, for example?

                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  The more I think about this, the more this just confirms my distaste for the practice of tipping as it is in the US. Because if the take home message is that wearing a shirt to work that is approved by management can acceptably result in less pay - then this to me is no different than deciding to tip someone less because you don't like their haircut.

                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                    it is o.k. to not leave a tip for any reason you want. it may not be nice, but it's o.k., and there's a VAST difference between the two.

                                    1. re: linus

                                      No, it really isn't ok, at least not in the USA. Servers are paid less than minimum wage, with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. Its an implied social contract. Restaurant prices reflect that system. If tipping was purely optional, restaurant prices would be higher, and servers would be paid a full wage.

                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                        if tipping wasn't purely optional, there would be legal recourse to pursue if you didn't do it.

                                        the cashier at the grocery did an excellent job checking my groceries and telling me how much everything was. i didn't tip her. am i immoral?

                                        it is not my responsibility or moral imperative to pay servers. they don't work for me. i tip because i choose to do so.

                                        implied social contracts are not legally or morally binding. one could make an argument they don't exist.

                                        is there a social contract organization i could consult on this matter?

                                        1. re: linus

                                          There is a pretty large area between legally required and purely optional, no? And cashiers are different from servers...cashiers make a full wage. Servers base wage is very low, with the expectation that tips make up the difference. And actually, because of the way he system is structured, servers essentially do work for you, like it or not.

                                          Surely you know all this?

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            they dont work for me. if they did, i could fire them and hire them and pay their witholding etc..

                                            it doesnt matter who makes what wage. no one is required to tip.

                                            surely you know the meaning of require, right? you and i tip because we want to, not because we HAVE to. thats just a fact.

                                          2. re: linus

                                            So here's an experiment; go to the same full service place where servers are paid less than minimum wage to account for tips. Go two or three times in quicke succession and don't tip.

                                            See what happens and report your findings back here.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              what does this have to do with the current discussion? we're talking about obligations, not quality of service.
                                              do you get better service if you tip? sometimes.
                                              do you get worse service if you tip? sometimes.
                                              are you REQUIRED to tip? of course not.

                                  2. Ridiculous and poor behavior on the part of the customer. They could have engaged in a debate with the server. Instead they chose to accept her services and then dock her based on her views, not the quality of the service she provided. Ick.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Heatherb

                                      Right. That's exactly what I want to do when I go out for a meal - argue with the waitstaff.

                                      Hey everyone! Free floor show over at Table 17!

                                      Personally, I would have walked out. However, it is entirely possible that they had already ordered. In many restaurants, different waiters serve a given table. One person takes the order, another (a runner) brings it to the table. Perhaps she was the runner. In which case, they'd not only have to pay for food they wouldn't be eating, but would then have to find another quick lunch so they could get back to their conference on time.

                                    2. People wear provocative clothing to provoke a reaction. It might not always be the reaction one intended, as here.

                                      29 Replies
                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Out of curiosity, then you think that this situation is different from the recent case of the woman who said "I only give God 10%, why should I give you 18%"?

                                        1. re: cresyd

                                          Wasn't that weird? Yes, I think the situations are quite different. In the "God case," IIRC, the server did nothing to provoke such a response (other than not being God, I suppose).

                                          FFIW, If I were very deeply offended by something printed on a server's clothing, I would leave at the outset.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Where I think the situations are similar is that the server is essentially taking the abuse for the decisions of management.

                                            In the 10% situation, the policy of the 18% tip for parties of 6 or more was set by the management. In this situation, the political/discussion oriented vibe of Busboys and Poets is set by management. In both cases servers show up to work thinking that it they perform good service under guidelines set by management they will be compensated (by tips) "fairly".

                                            In both cases, the diners rewarded the management by paying their bill in full. But then stiffed the person not making those decisions.

                                            1. re: cresyd

                                              I don't know anything about this restaurant. Is it really their business model to require servers to wear clothing with offensive (to some) slogans? If so, very strange.

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                From the article:

                                                "Busboys and Poets is open about its progressive leanings, and does not prevent its employees from expressing their political beliefs. "We actually encourage it," another restaurant employee says."

                                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                                  Don't you think that there is a difference between requiring something and not preventing something? One is a condition of employment (management decision), the other is optional (server's decision).

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    If you read the "about' Busboys and Poets ( it's definitely not the same as a store just not caring what servers wear.

                                                    Now you could say that the server could have chosen to work to a more corporate place. But she works in an environment that really goes out of its way to say "this is our ethos, our values, and our ethics".

                                                    Now I don't think that the attendees went there because they knew the place - but just because it was close to their conference/hotel. Nevertheless, the idea that essentially how someone looks is enough to dock their pay is odious.

                                                2. re: pikawicca

                                                  I don't think they REQUIRE it, but from their website:

                                                  Busboys and Poets is a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted...a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul...a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide...we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.

                                                  Many issues are complex and not really suitable for t-shirt politics. I myself am no fan of occupation but I also understand the constant fear that Israelis live with every time they get on a bus, go out for pizza, go into a store. And no - pulling out of the occupied territories will not fix that. So occupation is not pretty, but neither is terrorism. When the waitress wears a shirt that says that, she'll get a tip from me.

                                                  I seriously doubt that this waitress actually knows anything about this complex situation and I find it doubly offensive that people pick sides without any real knowledge. It is just in the "correct column" on the liberal/conservative menu.

                                                  1. re: Just Visiting

                                                    While you are entirely entitled to your opinions. As well as the members of AIPAC, Busboys and Poets, and the server - I really rather this discusssion not go into the validity of her opinions but rather just the act of tipping or not.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      As they say, never talk politics or religion in polite company. The waitress chose to do so. People here chose to discuss what she did, and what the customer did in response. I agree that the specific issue and her specific views are not the issue.

                                                      So let me generalize this at the risk of repeating myself: I go out for a meal, spending MY MONEY, to enjoy myself. Not to have someone shove their opinions - on any topic, on any side of the issue - in my face. Whatever their issue, whatever their views, it will distract from the enjoyment of my meal.

                                                      I once went to a Cuban restaurant in Rockville. We walked in and it was immediately and abundantly clear that we were going to be served a healthy heaping of politics with our meal. We are no fans of Castro and repression, but we still didn't want to have these political views shouted at us (from the photos, articles, and slogans on the walls). We left.

                                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                                        And leaving prior to ordering is fine. But ordering, eating your food, and then leaving a lousy tip just because you feel offended, when the service was fine, is not ok.

                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                          I think that's really the point. Convention dictates tipping as a requirement, if not a legal one, and we all know that without it servers earn less than the minimum wage. Food prices we are charged are based upon the expectation that we will also be compensating the server.

                                                          Restaurants certainly require it, just try to go back somewhere you are known to have not tipped.

                                                          It's wrong to accept the service without complaint, then not keep up one's end of this convention, same as it's wrong to clean your plate and then say your meal was unsatisfactory and you'd like to swap or be comped.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            restaurants do not require it. if they did, they would call the cops if you didn't tip. they would make you tip before they gave you any food.
                                                            restaurants like it if you tip. restaurants may or may not treat you better if you tip. i have never been in a restaurant where i was asked to tip.
                                                            if you go in again after not tipping, they have a right not to serve you.
                                                            but if they serve you food, you do not have to tip them. it's a fact. "require" doesn't enter into it.

                                                            1. re: linus

                                                              "i have never been in a restaurant where i was asked to tip."

                                                              You've never seen something like "A gratuity of 18% will be added to all checks for parties of 6 or more" on a restaurant menu? (and I'm exluding McDonalds and In 'n Out in this example)

                                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                that's on the bill, and noted, in my experience, before i order. they may call it a "gratuity," but that's a misnomer and it's a service charge.
                                                                i'm not a lawyer (can one chime in here?), but a restaurant bill is a contract of sorts. an actual, physical contract that is signed.

                                                                when i am billed for something i am informed about beforehand, it is a requirement. like where it says, "cobb salad...$10.95"
                                                                that's absolutely true. i am required to shell out the money if i order the salad.

                                                                a tip is different, however. there is no menu i have seen that says, "you must tip."

                                                              2. re: linus

                                                                Restaurants not only post mandatory tips on menus, they often will not serve you on return visits. It's about keeping their employees.

                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                  while i have seen signs in restaurants that read, "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" i've never actually been refused service for anything other than things like, 'we're closing' 'we're full'.
                                                                  i do know someone that was thrown out of a restaurant before even sitting down, but that had nothing to do with tipping and more to do with an idiosyncratic owner.
                                                                  i have never experienced nor know anyone else who has been refused service because they didn't tip.
                                                                  i don't believe restaurants are required to serve anyone (though i'm happy to be corrected here), any more than i'm required to tip when they do.

                                                                  1. re: linus

                                                                    Are you saying you've made repeated trips and been welcomed specifically in places where you didn't tip on previous trips?

                                                                    That's the only relevent point, and you haven't addressed it.

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      actually, i don't think the point is relevant at all to the topic, but never mind that.
                                                                      to quote me:
                                                                      "i have never experienced nor know anyone else who has been refused service because they didn't tip."

                                                                      to quote you:
                                                                      "Restaurants...often will not serve you on return visits."
                                                                      have you experienced or know anyone that has experienced this? enough times to qualify as "often."

                                                                      the moderators have made it clear this thread is about how wearing controversial t shirts affects tipping behaviour, btw.

                                                                      1. re: linus

                                                                        You didn't answer the question.

                                                            2. re: carolinadawg

                                                              What if this was not the waitress who took their orders, but the runner who showed up with their food?

                                                              Record, broken.

                                                              1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                I don't understand your point, sorry. My point is that regardless of who's wearing a shirt, the tip should be based on the quality of the service, not the political views expressed on the shirt.

                                                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                  OK, let me break it down for you.

                                                                  You said they should leave prior to ordering. I agree. That's what I would have done.

                                                                  But you and others seem unwilling to even consider the possibility that the person with the t-shirt was the runner who delivered the food.

                                                                  Leaving prior to ordering is now no longer an option, is it? Now your choice is to leave without having had lunch, having to pay for a meal you won't be eating.

                                                                  And I refuse to believe that you wouldn't be affected - to some extent - if you were in the same situation, and leave a smaller tip than you otherwise would have.

                                                                  1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                    Believe it or not, but its so, at least for me. Again, I don't care who's wearing the shirt. Docking the tip because the shirt upsets you is not acceptable. Period.

                                                                    And if you read the article, its clear that the shirt was worn by the waitress who served them.

                                                                    1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                      By your logic, if the music were too loud, or you don't like the art on the walls, the server gets stiffed.

                                                                  2. re: Just Visiting

                                                                    I honestly think it's no different. At the time of seeing the shirt and being offended - had they already ordered in my opinion the party had two options. #1 Suck it up. #2 Ask to speak to the manager. Say that the shirt worn by the server deeply offended them and then ask for their inital server or another server. If it was the server who specifically offended them (and not the rest of the cafe) - then ask for another server and be free of the offensive message.

                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                      Another group did speak to the manager:

                                                                      "But the party that left the note along with the substandard tip was not the first group dining at Busboys and Poets yesterday to take offense to Kalifa's attire. A group dining at an adjacent table approached the manager to say her shirt's messaging was offensive, but they were rebuffed when the manager said that it was in line with the beliefs of Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal. Kalifa says she has not suffered any fallout from the incident; after all, Busboys and Poets is a restaurant that dishes out left-wing politics along with its coffees and sandwiches. "We're a restaurant with a specific political point of view," Pamela Pinnock, the restaurant's marketing director, says."

                                                                      Then post a sign on the window saying "Customers should be warned that we encourage our staff to shove their personal views in your faces. If this bothers you please take your business elsewhere."

                                                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                        Here I agree with the management. Their position is well publicized, and there is no need to post anything in the window. It is their business, and they

                                                                        Is there anyone here who has not been in a situation not to their liking? You either get out of the situation, chalk it up to experience, or gov with flow.

                                                                        It is their business, and they are allowed to run it to their liking. They seem willing to accept the advantages and consequences of their position.

                                                                        As for the original question, whether or not tipping or lack thereof is acceptable in this situation, it is a personal choice. I probably would tip. And not go back.