A few weeks ago Linda and I went out to dinner at a fairly nice restaurant. It wasn’t a five-star restaurant, but you could expect to pay $25-$30 per meal. We like to go out to eat, but in an effort to minimize our expenses, it is more of a special occasion when we dine out.
Once we were seated we started looking at the menus, enjoying the nice atmosphere and were chatting about what looked good to us. Our waiter quickly ran up, introduced himself, and told us about the wine specials they were having that night offered us a glass. Linda and I both said no and asked for water with lemon. He immediately turned on his heels and quickly walked away without any response – as if we had caused some terrible offense to him.
That pretty much did it for me. The contempt that I saw on his face before he walked away – without even acknowledging our request – was pretty insulting.
I should step back and say that I don’t drink wine and I don’t drink soda. I drink water just about everywhere I go. It honestly isn’t even about saving money, it’s just my beverage of choice. So when this waiter all but asked me to leave because of my choice of beverage, I was a little offended.
When I was younger I waited tables, and I know full well that the tables that buy a lot of alcohol usually tip more, since their bills are so much higher – and some because of the alcohol’s influence itself. So, it makes sense to me why a waiter or waitress would not want their customers to order waters to drink. But this guy didn’t even seem to try to hide his frustration from his customers.
The night went on and pretty much just maintained that same attitude with us. He would fill our water glasses (which was a plus) but when we would thank him, he wouldn’t respond. Not that I was fishing for a “you’re welcome”, but even in my frustration, I was trying to reach out a little bit – to no avail. Every interaction we had with him that night was rushed as if he was so annoyed by our presence. Not the best thing to do to the one who pays your salary.
So how much should I tip someone like that?
Waiters and waitresses make the vast majority of their money from tips. When I waited tables, my paycheck from the restaurant was often $0, because after taxes came out, there was nothing left. So essentially my tips were my take-home pay.
Knowing this I always leave some kind of tip – even when it is a bad waiter. But how much should you tip a waiter who clearly has no interest in making your experience pleasant? And to his benefit, he did refill my glass of water.
For good service I always tip over 20% and often a bit more to offset the fact that we didn’t order alcohol. But what is appropriate for bad service?
How much did I tip him?
Well I am not sure if I did the right thing or not, but I think I gave him right around 20%. On one hand it might have been better to “send a message” by giving him less. But I couldn’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt. He could have just been having a terrible day at work. Or what if he was broke and trying to scrape together enough to pay the bills? I will never really know.