I can’t believe they did that! Overworked servers dish on the time they chased a customer to tip them better. Content has been edited for clarity.
“I worked as a bouncer at a seafood bar and grill for six months. Two waitresses who worked at a chain diner less than a tenth of a mile away, not only skipped on the tip but on the 150-buck tab.
The waiter and manager were obviously really upset. I told them not to worry and I knew where they worked.
I went to the diner the next day where they worked and spoke to the manager. It was a soft-spoken matter-of-fact dialog. A couple of days later, we got the bill plus a 20 percent tip from the two waitresses who had given the money to the manager. They never ate at the restaurant again.
It was one of only two times I saw that. The other time was a zero-bucks tip on a table of five. The waitress asked the table how she could have been a better waitress. They tipped her about 20 percent on the spot.”
This Is Absurd
“I had approached a customer at his table while he was still entertaining the guests he brought with him.
The bill was over 200 bucks and he tipped fivebucks. He and his five other friends sat in the restaurant for over two and a half hours. He was a regular and very demanding of servers but always tipped very poorly.
I must confess, at the time, I was the manager.
The server was one of my best servers. She had all the important qualities necessary to be excellent at the job. When the customer came in I gave her the table because I knew she could handle his over-the-top needs.
I watched his table like a hawk and even helped with service. My server did an excellent job making sure he had everything he wanted in a timely and professional manner.
Near the end, the server came up to me and said if he tipped poorly she was going to ‘freak out.’ I understood and assured her I would handle it if he did.
This customer tipped five bucks on a 220-bucks bill. She lost it. She was in the kitchen, red-faced and cursed like a sailor.
I. Have. Had. Enough.
The conversation went like this:
Me: ‘Sir, may I speak with you a moment?’
Customer: ‘Uh…sure, I guess.’
Me: ‘Would you mind stepping over here with me, please?’
I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of his friends.
Customers: ‘Yeah, I mind. I’m having a conversation with my friends. What’s the problem?’
Now, I was absolutely going to embarrass him in front of his friends. As much as possible. Tact. I had it in spades. I used it then, not for his benefit but to help his friends understand how this guy was a tool.
Me: ‘Okay sir, I’ll try to make this brief. As the manager, I have to keep an eye on many things. One of those things is the quality of our service. One of the ways I could do this is by knowing the amount of tips my servers receive. I noticed over the last few months you have tipped well under twenty percent. In fact, you tipped five bucks on a 220-bucks tab tonight.
I let this hang there for a moment. I watched his face redden. A split second before he could speak his extreme displeasure, I interrupted.
Me: ‘I only bring this to your attention because I am concerned my servers are not doing their job well. Low tips mean one of two things. Either our service is not up to par or..’
I let the sentence trail off and slowly scanned the faces of his friends. A mixture of incredulity and realization was readable there.
Customer: ‘This is outrageous..I…how dare you…’
Me: ‘Exactly sir. This is outrageous. Have my servers done such a bad job that you can’t even bring yourself to tip five percent?’
Customer: ‘How dare you confront me like this in front of my friends…I will never…’
Me: ‘I’m sorry sir, but you left me no choice. I did give you the opportunity to talk in private. You declined.’
Customer ‘..Come back to this place!’
I scanned the faces of his friends again. I mostly saw understanding and acceptance. They got it and mostly approve.
Me: ‘That’s fine sir, I’m not sure we want to serve someone who doesn’t appreciate the skill and hard work of our employees anyway. Sorry folks, for the interruption, I hope you understand.’
And I walked away, the customer was still sputtering and trying to argue a case that was very obviously lost.
The very best part of the story happened the next day. His wife came in and asked for me. When we spoke she asked if the server from the night before was available. Turned out she was. When the server arrived, the wife apologized for her husband’s behavior and bad tipping. She then handed the server a crisp 100-bucks bill and turned to me with a second bill of the same denomination. She wanted me to split it up with all the servers in the restaurant. She apologized again and told us her husband would absolutely be coming back and would never tip less than twenty percent again.
‘For the rest of his life’, she said, as she turned to go. ‘If he wants to stay married to me!’
I couldn’t have been happier. Sure enough, a week later he was back. He was more polite and tipped exactly twenty percent. I mean exactly.
When he finally made eye contact with me, he smiled an awkward smile and gave me a slight nod. I mouthed the words ‘thank you’ and nodded in return.”
“I was once tipped seven bucks on a 300-bucks bill. Before the client left the restaurant, I brought the tip back and handed it to the client.
I smiled and said, ‘It was a pleasure serving you this evening. I’m sorry if my service was not up to par.’ I returned the money.
I said, ‘I hope you do not let my service keep you from visiting the establishment. I need the job to support my children, one of which is very ill. I’d hate to get fired because you had a bad experience. Please come back and I’ll see that you have the waiter or waitress you deserve.’
With that, I left.
At the end of the same week, the same group came and requested my area. We were cordial and my expectation was low in the tip department. I asked if they would prefer me or have someone else tend to their service. When they left, my tip was embarrassingly high for the ticket. Along with it was a note that said they had a long drive home after our last encounter. Their daughter was a waitress and they called her only to realize they had been tipping so low for so long out of sheer lack of knowledge of both how wait staff got paid and how those funds are split.
They became regulars and good tipping clients.”
“I was a waiter at a nice steakhouse while in college. The restaurant had linen tablecloths, candles, and a Napa Valley drinking list. You get the idea. As a general rule, a competent waiter or waitress typically has a pretty good idea of how things are going at a table. Food and drinks should arrive on time, as ordered and cooked right. Ladies are served first, with each plate placed in front of the right person. For example, without having to ask ‘who ordered the ribeye?’ The garnish should be facing away from the customer, and decent chemistry between the waiter or waitress and the folks at the table.
On this particular night, two young couples were sitting at one of the tables in my section. We would call the table a four-top. Their dinner went great. After paying, the four of them were still sitting and chatting a bit, and I could see that they left cash on the tip tray amounting to a 20 percent tip. Nice.
Then the two ladies excused themselves to go to the restroom, after which they would meet the two guys in the lounge area before they left the restaurant. Once the ladies were out of sight, the guys remove all the bills from the tip tray and left some pocket change as the tip. Then they went to the lounge area to meet their dates.
Bait and switch. The guys gave the appearance of being solid tippers in front of their dates but then stiffed me when the ladies weren’t looking. Ugh.
I waited for the ladies to exit the restroom and met their guys in the lounge.
Then I walked into the lounge and put the tip tray, which was a few coins, down in front of the four of them, looked the guys in the eyes, and said, ‘That’s okay, fellas, no thanks, I already did my laundry this week.’
At which point I turned and left.
It worked. One of the guys skulked back to the empty dinner table with the tip tray now holding a 25 percent tip. Shamed the guys into acting in an honorable manner.”
Change Of Plans
“I waited tables in college. I had a lot of jobs in college that made me realize how unsuited I was to most service jobs. On the last day I waited tables, I had two six-tops that were together but seated next to each other so they didn’t get the automatic gratuity added to their bill for a large party. For two hours, they ran me ragged getting them napkins, and drink top-offs. They complained the rolls weren’t fresh enough. It was never ending and I couldn’t cover other tables because it was so ridiculously constant. But it was the job and I did it with a smile.
Together, the twelve of them left a bucks tip.
I ran after them to the parking lot with my manager hot on my heels — because he knew me well at that point — and handed it back to them.
I told them, ‘Thanks very much, but I don’t have any change, so keep it.’
I said it smiling that Southern US ‘Bless your heart’ smile which meant anything but a blessing.
They puffed up.
I didn’t wait around to hear it. I walked back inside, took off my apron, and the manager and I agreed I should probably try back-of-house for a while. Turned out I could cook, and I was mighty fine in the prep department. But no more front-of-house for this gal. Not with people like them running unsupervised across the landscape.
And for two bucks and nine cents an hour. Which Uncle Sam took almost completely to cover non-existent tips. That was what the wait staff made when I waited tables that summer. We survived on tips. Tips were the difference between paying rent and not, between walking to work or driving, between eating something healthy and day-old scraps.
Insane. We didn’t have the internet back in the 1980s, but people knew wait staff made peanuts. Anyone who says otherwise was willfully and woefully ignorant.”
“I was not exactly undertipped. But it was pretty close.
I did have a family once, a mom, dad, and three young teenage boys. The parents were super easy, and said please and thank you for anything they asked for. The boys on the other hand were a bit annoying. They kept making sly remarks about us not having certain things such as honey mustard and cheddar cheese. We were at an Italian restaurant.
As they were leaving, I handed the mother her receipt and card back. She quickly jotted something down on the receipt and pulled out a 20-bucks bill on the table. I was watching them carefully because they were my last table and I was waiting on them to go so I could finish cleaning and leave.
But, as they were gathering their belongings, I noticed one of the boys stayed back a little as the family left the restaurant. He motioned to them he would catch up as if he was just getting the last sip of his Coke.
Would you know just as they turned their back he took the 20-bucks tip off the table and started to head out?
I was in complete shock. I couldn’t believe some punk kid would do that.
But lucky me, as he was stuffing it in his pockets, his father came out of the restroom and saw exactly what he was doing. I hadn’t even noticed he was still in the restaurant.
He made the kid hand the bill directly to me and they both left.
I just acted as if nothing ever happened when they approached me. I didn’t want to make things even more awkward. But man was I glad he caught him.”
“I waited tables at a medium-sized restaurant through college. One night we had a large party of 12–15 people, and another waiter served them. I helped her with some of the food services so it all came out at about the same time. Everything went smoothly, and the customers seemed to enjoy themselves.
When they left, she went to the table to collect her tip. This was before you could add it to a credit card total., She found they had stiffed her. She was upset because she had worked really hard to keep them happy, and didn’t understand why they had stiffed her.
The restaurant manager saw this and immediately ran out of the building after the customers.
When he caught up to them, he said in a very forceful manner, ‘I want you to tell me what that waiter did. Tell me and I’ll fire her right away!’
The customers were taken aback and said she had been perfectly fine.
The manager seemed to get angrier and said, ‘Nobody stiffs a waiter on a large table like that unless they did something terribly wrong. I demand that you tell me what it was, and I’ll fire her!’
The customers were embarrassed and somewhat taken aback, and started mumbling how they thought one of the other people was going to leave the tip. They couldn’t get their wallets out fast enough and produced a generous sum. They apologized and asked the manager to reassure the waiter she had done an excellent job.
I followed my manager out and got to witness the exchange. Afterward, I complimented him on his use of psychology. Rather than shame the customers for not tipping, he acted as though they were good people, and had been justified for not leaving anything for the waiter. The threat of firing the waiter for the imagined offense made them feel worse than any name-calling could have, and produced a generous tip for the waiter.”
The Next Generation
“I wasn’t a waiter.
But as a manager, I once had one of our waitresses come into the kitchen in a huff telling me, ‘Some customers want to talk to you.’
I went out to find out what was up. They were an elderly couple and they wanted to complain because their waitress had chased them out the door and threw her tip at them and yelled it wasn’t enough. They were also not happy I was so young and they wanted to talk to someone older. I explained my uncle owned the restaurant and he was training me to take it over so he could retire. And I was the person they needed to talk to.
After asking some questions, I found out their bill was 39.57 and they left her a 0.43 cent tip. I told them their waitress was way out of line, but so were they and they really should have tipped more. They explained it was all they could afford because they were on a fixed income and took a trip to a vineyard country. And how everything was so much more than they expected. I pointed out that one of them had veal and the other had lasagna and they shared a bottle of fine ‘grapes.’ If they didn’t have enough to tip, they should have ordered something cheaper. At this point, they turned and left saying something about the youth having no respect for their elders or whatever.
Next, I had to go back and talk to the waitress who was sitting in the kitchen with her arms crossed and ignoring her tables. She was waiting to be fired. I had to tell her what she did was wrong, even though I really wanted to high-five her. She should never do anything like that again, but they were on vacation and were never coming back again anyway. So no harm no foul. This was in the late ’80s before the internet.
It was stuff like this that made me decide I didn’t want to run a restaurant.”
“This was a story my ex told me from her bartending days.
A waitress at the restaurant/pub where she worked served a large business party one day for lunch, large enough that they had to pull several tables together to seat them. My ex said the waitress, a friend of hers, busted her booty to make these guys happy. She hoped to earn a huge tip from the well-off businessmen.
As they left and she went to clear the table, they had left less than a bucks’ worth of change as the tip. Totally rude. She was so angry she ran out into the parking lot after them and threw their change back at them.
The head of the business party came back inside and demanded to see the owner.
After hearing from the waitress and the businessman, the owner told him he deserved to have the pennies thrown back at him. And he was banned from the restaurant from then on. When he protested that he spent a lot of money there, the owner said he can always find other guests because of his exceptional staff. But it was much harder to find good workers like her.
It doesn’t seem to happen very often, but isn’t it wonderful when your boss has your back? I wish I had been there to see it.”
Not What I Had In Mind
“When I was young and in college, I worked as a waiter in a rather upscale restaurant. On a particularly slow evening, a couple came in and were assigned to me.
They were rather demanding and they ran me hard. Since it was slow, I did not mind and gave them excellent service. They got up to pay and I immediately went to bus their table.
They left me a business card with a scripture verse on it as a tip. This was after nearly two hours of service. I felt like somebody punched me in the mouth. I took it very personally.
I looked through the window and I saw them walking towards their car. Without any regard for my continued employment, I marched out and confronted this couple.
I yelled at the guy to wait. I walked over and waved the offending card in his face and asked if this was a tip.
He puffed up and said, ‘Yes it is. Never assume you will get a tip in actual cash.’
I ripped the card up and threw it in his face along with some choice words.
You know, I never assumed I deserved a tip. It was the card with a scripture verse on it. How arrogant. How disgustingly cheap.
Now and then, I had people who obviously forgot to leave a tip. It happens. I did not think any less of the people; this was different. Just plain offensive.”
“I didn’t leave the restaurant but I would have.
I used to work at a soccer bar. It was a German restaurant, however, we didn’t get much business besides during soccer games. During these games, the servers tipped out 20 percent of sales.
Now, before I tell the story, I need to give you some background on the work environment. The owner was a bad guy who underpaid everyone, hired political refugees from Venezuela, and exploited them. And he didn’t pay overtime. No matter how long we actually worked, he adjusted our hours to 40 and didn’t pay a legal minimum wage to anyone. I was lucky to get five bucks an hour because some people were only getting three bucks. The minimum was five bucks and twenty-seven cents. The only good thing that came from working there was I finally got a c-PTSD diagnosis. The owner was rude, crude, and made inappropriate comments to all of us. He allowed his friends to get very touchy. And don’t get me started on the uniforms. We had been sent home if we weren’t showing enough skin. He was often wasted and made a pass at one of us before blacking us in his office. With that said, any problems we had with customers could be taken care of by his son, who could also be found blacked out in a closet or bathroom somewhere. Anyways.
We had a rule no one could bring in outside food. On one really busy game day, a kid walked in. A spoiled rotten entitled kid. By kid, I mean a 17-year-old momma’s boy who truly thought he was gods gift to the world. He walked to my section with his backpack and a bag from burger king. He sat down, spread out across the table, and waved me over. My coworker pulled me into the kitchen.
Ella: ‘Good luck with that guy.’
Me: ‘What? The kid?’
Ella: ‘Yeah. He’s a stupid spoiled doofus who always brings food and never tips.’
Me: ‘He can’t be that bad.’
Ella: ‘Good luck. Ask Anna. He never tipped me or her and I don’t like him.’
I walked over to the kid and gave him a menu. He brushed it away and then asked for a coke. I went and got his soda. At this point, I had 30 tabs open and I did not have time to waste. I gave him the soda, and he asked for ketchup for his burger. I came back with ketchup. Then he wants mayo for his fries. Then he wanted a refill on the Coke after he confirmed refills are free. Then more ketchup. Eventually, he finishes his Burger King and Coke and asked for the check. I brought the tab for two bucks and ninety-seven cents. He gave me a credit card and I ran it. I watched him take his card and get up towards the bathroom. I go to the table and look at the check. Nothing. By nothing, I mean no total, no signature, nothing.
Ella: ‘Did he tip you?’
Me: ‘He didn’t even sign.’
Ella: ‘That’s what he does, always. Takes a seat from someone who will pay and then leaves without leaving a penny.’
Me: ‘Watch my section, he’s in the bathroom. I’ll let you know what happens.”
I walked to the hallway where the bathroom was and waited for the kid for ten minutes.
Me: ‘Excuse me, I’m going to need you to sign the receipt, restaurant policy.’ I said this holding out the check for him the second he opens the back door to leave.
Without making eye contact, he said, ‘Sorry about that,’ and scribbled his name.
Me: ‘Oh, and if you can also fill out the top part too. You know we don’t get paid much here and we all work for tips, I know you’re a regular and know this already, but wanted to point that out.’
Kid: ‘Look I would tip you but I don’t have any cash on me.”
Me: ‘Oh that’s okay, we get tips from credit cards too.’
The kid looked defeated and wrote zero on the top line, followed by his total. He closed the book quickly and walked out, never making eye contact.
Now, I would like to say he came back in and apologized or we had some explanation as to what the heck was going on in his head, but nope. The light at the end of the tunnel was he never came in again.
So if you’re reading this, Burger King eating, soda drinking, soccer watching, not tipping demanding entitled brat, I hope adulthood has woken you up to life and you’re not half the bad guy you used to be.”