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Bad Service - How much to tip?

Recently, at a restaurant, a friend and I had an amazingly long wait for what should have been fairly simple food. The place was not particularly busy, so it made the wait all the more egregious. When the waiter stopped by to apologize for the long wait, I asked about our appetizer. He laughed and said "I'm sorry I forgot to even put that part of the order in."

We'd come in very hungry - it was a very late-in-the-day lunch and we'd had early breakfasts. Our blood sugar was crashing at that point, and we'd stopped in this restaurant based solely on the fact that it was right in front of us. Needless to say, we weren't laughing. Our appetizer actually arrived AFTER we'd finished our meals.

The waiter took 50 percent off the bill, which was nice, I guess. It was my friend's turn to pay for lunch, so I didn't pay attention to the tip - he said he didn't leave a very nice one though. How much would you have left? I normally tip 20 percent for decent service, and rarely less than that. But honestly, I've never had an experience like that.

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  1. When the bad service is from the waitperson--as in this case, for the apps, at least--I don't feel guilty about not tipping.

    If the place is slammed, and the waitperson tries to be attentive with drink refills and updates on the kitchen's lateness, that's a different story, and I'll tip just a little less than usual.

    1. I would tip less than normal amount for the appetizer mishap, but not by much. If there were several faux pas through out the meal in reference to service, that would require a bigger dent in tip percentage. As far as the wait on food, I never consider that the fault of the server. They are not the ones preparing the lunch. For that issue, I would have taken it up with the management.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodieop

        I agree, unless the dish is not hot. Then I do blame the server, as obviously it wasn't served in a timely manner.

      2. Well, I'm from the old school. If it obviously was the waitperson's fault, I would leave the quintessential "penny" which in my day suggested the service was lousy. But I don't know if that still applies or if the waitperson would even "get it". But I almost never get that kind of service. But I would still leave a penny. :-)

        1. I've never left nothing. They usually make way less than minimum wage and they're going to be taxed on 15% of the bill no matter what. That being said, there's bad service and rude service. I will often cut bad service some slack as, who knows, maybe it's their first day or maybe it's just an "off" day. If they're being nice and appear to be trying - he apologized for the wait and was able to get 50% taken off the tab - I'd probably leave at least a 15% tip. The laugh might have been a nervous response rather than him laughing it off. At least he took the blame and didn't say it was someone else's fault. Partial credit for that one.
          Now if the server is downright rude - totally different story. Then the tip will suffer.
          And as pine time points out - who's at fault? It's often the kitchen that dropped the ball. The host might have sat too many people at the same time. The computer might have crashed. Who knows? Well, actually someone does and should communicate that to you. It appears he at least tried to keep you updated.

            1. I would probably have left 10% in this instance, i.e., it was clearly the waiter's fault that he hadn't placed your app order.

              I would never leave a penny. How insulting. Says much more about the patron than the waitron.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jay F

                "I would never leave a penny. How insulting. Says much more about the patron than the waitron."

                The penny is intended to send the message that the patron did not forget the tip. I've done this on rare occasion, when getting especially bad service, only when it was clearly the waiter's fault, not the kitchen's.

                1. re: Steve Green

                  Good for you, Steve. You and Boy Zoma can give each other recommendations.

              2. I would have left a very small tip at best. And, probably, nothing at all.

                1. The laughter would be upsetting to me but the server does have to make a living. Based on the server not putting the order in, I'd tell the server to not bother to put the order in and ask for the check. I'd go 15% with a personal comment to the server.

                  1. I would not tip, and on my way out the door, set fire to the server's trousers.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Thanks, I needed a good laugh :)

                    2. Depends on the area of the country. 15% in the Northeast in a nice restaurant, since the appetizer mix-up was the waitstaff's fault. Were it the kitchen's fault, I would expect the slash in the bill and the offer of an extra drink or something like that.

                      1. Server error? very low or none but I would never leave without talking to the manager/owner first to let them know the reason.

                        Kitchen error? Wouldn't impact the tip unless the server didn't handle it correctly. ie: didn't try to make it right, argued with me, made lame excuses. Again, would talk to the manager/owner on the way out.