My wife and I are retired. We are active and financially secure, and enjoy dining out three to five times a month. For a variety of reasons, our appetites are not what they used to be and we don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Normally we split an entrée and an appetizer, and have iced tea or water. Dessert is out of the question. We know to tip on what the bill would have been for two people eating “normal” meals with the result that our tips are in the 30-50% range of the actual meal charge. Usually this isn’t a problem; the wait staff have generally been polite throughout the meal and pleasantly surprised with their gratuity. However…
Recently we went to a familiar restaurant on a slow night. A lot of the staff had been released for the evening and there was no one there we recognized immediately. Our waiter was new and started off being courteous and attentive.
When we let him know we were going to split one meal between us, though, his attitude changed noticeably. His visits to our table became perfunctory and infrequent. The entrée we ordered, one of our favorites, usually takes 15-20 minutes to come out, but that night it took 35. The dish was not hot and barely palatable; I believe he deliberately left it sitting before he brought it out as there were not enough other customers for the kitchen to be backed up. And he never came back to see how the meal was or to refill our waters.
We were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a person having a bad night, lowering our tip to 30%. But at the end, when he dropped off the bill we both heard him mutter under his breath, “Cheap old <bleeps> should stay home.”
At that point we called the manager over. After describing what had happened and relating our usual habits at his restaurant, he offered to comp our meal. I refused but also declined to tip the culprit.
We haven’t been back to see if the waiter is still on staff. I wonder, however, what we could have done differently to avoid his attitude. Announcing at the start of the meal “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you” is well-known code for “You’re going to be stiffed.” Any thoughts?