Waiter Under-Tipped for Substandard Service

April 6, 2014

in Tipping & Etiquette Stories

I under-tipped recently and wanted to share my story.

My wife and I stopped at a popular restaurant for Sunday brunch. The hostess seated us on the patio; due to cool weather we were only the third table (of nine) to have patrons. One of the others was finishing up before paying their check, the other was in mid-meal.

My wife looked at the menu and told me that she wanted an omelet and coffee, then left to freshen up. While she was gone the waiter, who was working the area by himself, came over to take our order. I gave him the two orders, which he didn’t write down, and he left.

After my wife returned the waiter came over and asked if we’d be ordering food or just drinking. He looked confused when I told him that he had taken our order, but the runner was right behind him with two plates. He finally believed that he had taken the order and got my wife her coffee, but never brought me my drink.

One table paid and left and a party of six came onto the patio, so still three tables total. For the rest of the meal the server went to the other two tables several times to check on them but ignored us. I had to almost grab him to get his attention to bring us salt and pepper.

At the end of the meal our bill came to $31.25. I had exact change and debated about the tip, but in the end I threw down $4 figuring he’d been embarrassed by his earlier faux pas.

What would others have done? Stiffed him completely, asked him what was going on, talked to the manager? Just curious.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Johannsen April 6, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Considering the poor service, seems like you over tipped. No server should put a customer under the pressure/awkwardness of trying to figure out how to respond to their bad behavior.


frequent diner April 7, 2014 at 8:29 am

I might have left him exactly 15% (on the pre-tax amount) but probably wouldn't have stiffed him. It's hard to know if the bad service was the restaurant's fault (for seating arrangements) or the server's. In any case I'd have spoken to the manager or at least sent a follow-up email after arriving at home.


mbster April 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

talked to management. he may have had other tables inside that you were unaware he was serving. or maybe he was just a bad waiter. hard to say. but thank you for tipping. servers make almost zero per hour, and one doesn't know the circumstances.
that's why I say just speak to a manager,,,he may have been able to explain the problem.


ShaunaV April 21, 2014 at 3:00 am

I wouldn't have stiffed him because it sounds like the guy was really confused. I know when I waited tables, I checked the floor plan of the diningroom to see what tables were mine before starting work each shift. But all too often, the manager would come along and re-do the section assignments and fail to relay the information to everyone. Sometimes this would happen more than once a night and it caused mass confusion as to what table belonged to which server. It resulted in tables sitting and waiting for service because Sally thought it was John's table, but John was under the impression it was Larry's. Maybe assignments had been changed and he wasn't fully aware of what was going on. Maybe he was high?/ I dunno.


Jack May 1, 2014 at 11:05 pm

When you dine in a restaurant you should expect decent food and proper service. You didn't say how the food was, but the service was bad, to say the least. I never leave a tip based on the quality/quantity of the food, I tip based on service. If I notice a server is extremely busy Imake allowances for delays in service. With that said, poor service doesn't deserve a tip. In your case I wouldn't have left anything, he didn't deserve it. If his service is poor, and he doesn't earn tips maybe he'll take the hint and get a different job. Being a server is a hard job, everyone isn't cut out for it.


Robyn May 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I tip based on the entire restaurant experience. I know that sounds bad but I'm not one of those people who automatically tips, no matter what. I firmly believe that if you want a tip at all, especially a good one, you give excellent service. I the service is really crappy, I give no tip at all. If the service is excellent, I give between 15-20%. I REFUSE to reward poor service with a tip. Servers nowadays think they are automatically entitled to a tip simply because they are a server. I'm a believer in EARNING your reward.


Fryk May 28, 2014 at 10:57 am

Stuffing a waiter/tress leaves the possibility in their mind that you may have simply forgotten. I never just leave nothing. If they're that bad, I leave them a dollar, or warse, change. Wait staff HATE change, so my point is made.


donna June 26, 2014 at 1:43 am

O.K, First off sunday brunch = hung over waiter because the restaurant probably had the server work the saturday night shift as well. Seating you on the patio on a cold day= they played you as a fool who would take it (they are there to turn and burn). If you don't like anything that happens during you'r meal speak up, let them know , I am not happy with my seating , lack of affection of waiter, busboy, runner,host. Lord ,grow a pair and use your words, don't be passive aggressive and leave a crappy tip.


Leslie July 20, 2014 at 6:40 am

Why is serving the only profession in the world where your not allowed to have a bad day or make mistakes, it’s pretty silly, I mean everyone makes mistakes or has a bad day but as a server your pay is deducted for it, I wished everything worked that way. For instance if your at a gas station and you had to wait in a long line or the cashier wasn’t as friendly as they could be so you only pay what you feel like ” I know my bill is 20$ but because of the delay I’m only going to pay 15$”


jenis bisnis rumahan July 27, 2014 at 3:59 am

I checked the floor plan of the diningroom to see what tables were mine before starting work each shift. But all too often, the manager would come along and re-do the section assignments and fail to relay the information to everyone. Sometimes this would happen more than once a night and it caused mass confusion as to what table belonged to which server.


Eva of New York August 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

If this is your greatest concern, you are incredibly blessed. Whatever the reason was for poor service, it's one day out of your life. You realize 20% is $6 and you keeping the $2 doesn't make a profound statement to anyone, especially the waiter. Ihope this puts the occurence in perspective for you .. In short, move on. It's not that serious.


imworthmysalt September 12, 2014 at 8:06 am

I have to agree with Eva.

I don't have a problem with your tip, even as a former server, because if I became that befuddled to have forgetten I had put your order in, well, the onus is on me. Everyone is human and we have bad days, still it shouldn't be brought to the job.

Since you you asked, I will tell you – you should have talked to the manager if your concerns were that extreme [to you]. The server has no idea that your less than 15% tip is a reflection of your unhappiness with their service. Had you spoken to the manager [without demanding a comp or what not – which you don't seem to be the type, thank you] the server might have realized that their missteps were noticed.

Next time just talk to the manager.


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