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Should a server automatically bring change in denominations in accordance with standard tipping?

It's hard to believe there's a tipping question that hasn't already been bludgeoned to schist but I couldn't find this situation in searching.

I recently had a solo dinner at an ethnic restaurant which only had one other table occupied, by a couple. My tab came to just under $15. I put a 20 in the folder. The waiter did not ask if I wanted change. He took it, returned a little while later with the folder, then vanished. It contained the coins, and a $5 bill. Though service had been slow and inattentive, I was planning on leaving $3 but assumed the waiter would be bringing the change in singles. I only had two singles in my wallet. Adding that to the change brought the tip to $2.35, which was 15%, so that's what I left. Had the waiter reappeared, I'd have asked him to make change for the $5 but I have never before had a server who did not automatically break $5's or $10's in this type of situation.

Servers and other restaurant employees, what is the norm? Did I need to specify that I needed singles, or should he have foreseen that possibility and made change accordingly?

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  1. In my experience, it's rare that servers don't go the extra mile in terms of giving you change in denominations that will allow you to tip correctly. If they don't, ask for them to break whatever bill is the problematic denomination. If they can't, it's their problem.

    1. this young man was green, green, green.

      Most servers figure out pretty quickly that if you give the customer their change in singles, the chance of the customer leaving you some of them goes up pretty dramatically.

      I never gave the last $5 in change as change -- it was *always* singles -- the cashier would return the 5s as change, and we'd just swap them out from the singles in our aprons. Everybody was happy -- the cashier didn't have to keep a stack of singles, we lightened our load a little, and the customer had singles to leae as change.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        Au contraire.

        I would say the server was anything but "green".

        He knew exactly the type of denominations he was providing.

        It was, shall we say, change provided with "tipping aforethought."

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I agree, he was a greedy little devil. Yeah, sure if the service was fantastic, he might have gotten $5, but not giving the OP that choice . . . lets call it the coup de grâce. He never knew how lucky he was that the OP had $2 in hand.

      2. Yes, I do think a server should bring change back in denominations that facilitate tipping. This was the first thing I learned on my first day waitressing.

        Yet many times I need to send the server back to break up a larger bill. For example, if I put $60 in the folio for a $37 check and tell the server "I need change" probably 50% of the time, the server comes back with 3 ones and my $20 intact.

        1. Maybe they were low on singles? I've only been a server once for a very, very brief period of time, but in that time, I learned how ridiculously cheap people are. I would never presume that by giving someone change back in a higher denomination would mean I would get a bigger tip. I liked to make things as easy as a possible on people to ensure that I would receive a fair tip. Considering you said service was slow and inattentive, I probably would've left what you left if I could not get the proper change. Had the service been good, I probably would've left the 5. I actually don't think $5 on a $15 tab is that much.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SaraAshley

            I would leave $5 for tip if the service was great but in this case, service wasn't so good so I would not leave $5.

            1. re: Monica

              Yeah, I said in this case I would leave what grey did.

          2. Just leave the 5 and stop fretting over it; or if you want to stiff him/her that is your option too.

            7 Replies
              1. re: ospreycove

                15% may not be a generous tip, but it's hardly stiffing the guy.

                (And I have previously foresworn commenting (or reading tipping threads so I will stop there. LOL)

                1. re: ospreycove

                  I would have 'stiffed' him/her based purely on the fact that he/she didn't break the 5.
                  Stupid move.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    I can't imagine stiffing someone for this. Perhaps because I have actually dined with someone who stiffed a server for brining back five singles instead of a five. The reason? It was presumptuous to break the five--server was assuming she'd be getting a tip. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

                    1. re: debbiel

                      <I can't imagine stiffing someone for this>

                      The waiter obviously wanted and felt entitled to the 5.
                      The OP mentioned, "had he reappeared" eluding to the fact the waiter pretty much didn't feel it necessary to reappear because he/she was assuming the OP would leave the 5.

                      That kind of arrogant assumption, and the lack of coming back and asking if the OP needed anything else, deserves a stiff.
                      Different strokes.
                      In threads like this I always feel it necessary to state that I'm a very big tipper…
                      Normally I tip between 25-30%.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        That kind of assumed arrogant assumption. You do not know why the waiter did not reappear. You are assuming it was because they felt entitled to the $5.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          Right because the server couldn't possibly have been busy elsewhere? Talk about presumptuous.