How to Avoid Paying a Mandatory Gratuity for Bad Service

Like most people, I have very strong opinions when it comes to tipping rates for various services that expect them. For example, I staunchly believe that 15% is completely acceptable for good restaurant service.

It used to be that tipping was meant to reward and encourage your server for exemplary service. Unfortunately, with the advent of tipping pools, mandatory gratuities and general tip inflation, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Indeed, one of my biggest pet peeves with respect to tipping is the “mandatory gratuity” (talk about an oxymoron) of usually 18% that most establishments now tack on to any bill for large parties.

What is the logic behind enforcing a mandatory gratuity, especially for large parties comprised of at least six to eight people, and just how did this practice ever come to be in the first place? Anyone? Anyone?

Have rigorous academic studies been conducted that conclusively prove the collective intelligence of large parties drops to such a degree that they become incapable of figuring out a proper tip based upon the service they received? Bueller?

Several years ago, one restaurant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had two people arrested for refusing to pay a mandatory 18% gratuity. The diners had to endure an inattentive waitress who spent more time smoking than serving, and they had to wait more than an hour for a simple order of salad and wings.

That sounds like crap service to me too. They should have walked out 30 minutes after placing their order.

It’s hard to believe that these dubious scofflaws had criminal theft charges filed against them for failing to leave a tip — but they did. That doesn’t mean the two diners didn’t have options available to them; they just chose the wrong one.

As a customer, you have a lot of leverage — especially with respect to the highly competitive restaurant industry.

Here are several suggestions you can use to avoid paying a mandatory gratuity for diabolical service:

1. Request the mandatory gratuity be waived. As a preemptive move, you can ask the restaurant if they’ll waive the mandatory gratuity. Why would they do that? Because you have a large party and they may not be willing to risk losing your business, that’s why. Here’s another reason: Some restaurants may jump at the chance to see their servers earn an even bigger payday. Suggest to the manager that, in lieu of waiving the mandatory gratuity, your party will tip more than 18% for excellent service.

2. Break up your party into separate tables. Breaking up your party into two or three smaller adjacent tables is another preemptive move that has the added benefit of ensuring you’ll probably get better service. Think about it. When you’re with a large party, a table for eight has to wait longer than a table for four because more meals have to be prepared. A table of 16 requires an even longer wait. And let’s face it: If you are in a party with 16 people, are you really able to converse with Aunt Edna who is stuck at the far end of a chain of four tables? The reality is, most people only socialize with the folks who are sitting adjacent and across from them anyway.

3. Talk to your server. Okay, enough for the preemptive suggestions. Let’s assume you’ve already sat down with your large party and your server is off to a bad start. Tell them about it! Of course, do it tactfully and with a smile (as the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar). In my experience, this step is usually enough to nip any problems in the bud before they get too bad and you’re forced to pay good money for bad service.

4. Inform the manager you’d like a different server. So you’ve talked to your server but you’re still not getting results? Then talk to the manager about the poor service and request another server. Although it is doubtful the manager will comply with your request, the odds are you will get him to help ensure the rest of your time at the restaurant goes as smoothly as possible. Often times, when well-founded, a talk with the manager will result in some sort of compensation for your troubles such as one or two comped appetizers or meals — which often offsets a portion of the mandatory gratuity.

5. Dispute the tip with your credit card company. Let’s assume the manager has been unsympathetic to your plight, your meals were delivered cold, you never got those drink refills, and the server had an attitude. Now you’re looking at an 18% mandatory gratuity for the, um, fine service.   Calmly pay for the entire bill, including the mandatory gratuity. Just make sure you use your favorite credit card. When you get home, immediately send a polite letter to the offending restaurant complaining of the poor service you received and requesting your tip money back. Then call your credit card company and dispute the mandatory gratuity.

Those Philadelphia diners aren’t the first people this has ever happened to. A similar event occurred in Lake George, New York, but charges were dropped when the District Attorney said the man couldn’t be forced to pay a gratuity even though the restaurant said tips of 18% were mandatory for parties of six or more.

By the way, the charges were eventually dropped in the Philadelphia case too.

So the next time you’re faced with potentially having to reward incompetent servers with an 18% gratuity for pitiful service, don’t be a martyr and expose yourself to a potential criminal or civil trial by withholding the tip.

Remember, there are plenty of other options available — you just need to plan ahead.

Photo Credit: Adikos

This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on December 8, 2009.


  1. 1


    If you go the last route, I would add one thing:

    Sign, but circle the tip and draw an arrow down below your signature and write “Under protest of mandatory gratuity for subpar service.”

    That will give you a lot more leverage when you go to dispute the charge. You won’t look like a person just trying to get a few bucks back that you aren’t due.

    • 2


      @CCC: Yes! Very very deceptive!

      @MLR: Didn’t think of that! Good idea!! Your suggestion is a quick and dirty way to document your dissatisfaction that people might find more palatable that my more formal suggestion to write a formal letter. If you ultimately protest the charges, the credit card company will ask if you have first tried to resolve the problem with the merchant – they usually won’t start an investigation unless you say yes. I’m not certain, but I suspect both avenues (formal letter and protest message on receipt) should be adequate to meet that requirement.

    • 3

      ross says

      Do you lose out on your salary for subpar performance? You probably don’t… give the waiter or waitress some slack they are trying to survive!!

  2. 4

    carlye says

    have you ever been a server? i agree that you should not HAVE to tip for bad service, but i used to be a server at the air port… i worked in the international terminal, i would get large parties from different parts of the world, (ive made a lot of money being a server because of my great service…) anyway, in china and the UK i guess they just dont tip, or they always think its included… i was very thankful for the gratuity in cases like this :)but unfortunately many times when there was only a party of 4 and they all ordered the most expensive steak and drank alot of beer, i didnt get a penny from them, because there werent 6 or more of them…. not fun at all busting your butt for a table that didnt leave you a penny :( if you get bad service you should tell the manager, enough complaints on someone they will eventually get fired

    • 5

      Bobby says

      I work as a restaurant manager and tonight was a perfect example of why a lot of places add gratuity onto parties. I had a party of 30 people walk in 20 minutes before we closed. My servers did an exceptional job waiting on the party and the party’s bill came in at nearly $300. Now my restaurant does not have the ability to add on gratuity, but by my estimation, the two servers, who served them, had absolutely no mistakes, were extremely friendly and helpful to the part of 30 people only received a $20 tip to split between them. Even at 15% they should have gotten at least $45 and if I had the ability to add on the gratuity, I most certainly would have. Why? Because in general large parties do not tip well. And servers are working for their tips. In most restaurants, they get paid below minimum wage, because of that fact. And a large party is usually not the easiest thing to deal with, and serving them their drinks, meals and desserts tends to be a mess because people tend to jump from table to table, and everyone needs something at the same time from 1 or 2 people. And then cleaning up after them is disgusting. Now, as a manager, if you had bad service or a bad experience, and you make it known to me, I’ll do whatever it takes to make it right, and if that’s the case, then I’d most certainly take off the gratuity. But if a server hasn’t done anything wrong, then there should be no problem paying the 15% gratuity and, yes I dare say, and then some. And if anyone thinks that’s unfair or wrong, then I challenge you to work a Friday night shift at a busy restaurant. Do everything you have to and then some. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Provide the most exceptional service you can to all the large party’s you can and see if your opinion changes.

      • 6

        Bobby says

        Also I do think there should be a mandatory gratuity in every restaurant. But if the guest does get bad service they should be able to request it be taken off by the manager, so this way the manager is aware of the situation.
        I have a lot of servers come to me and tell me they got crappy tips or none at all, and maybe it is because the guest received bad service, but I highly doubt that. Nine times out of 10, a guest will request to see a manager if something’s wrong that the server can’t resolve.
        But a 15% gratuity is a minimum of what you should leave a server in most cases, and a lot of people do leave more than that, but almost never when they’re in a large party, I’m sorry to say.
        @the server, who made the comment about ppl from foreign countries not tipping; most countries do have gratuity built right into the check so many Europeans and other ppl, not from this country, are not aware of how we tip here.

        • 7

          RJ says

          What do u expect for just bringing out a food????? Do u have to be educated? No. Do u have to have a special skill? No. Can my 10 yr old daughter bring a food out on a table? Yes. Maybe not as fast and accurate as professionals who gets paid, but still yes. How difficult is the job? Yes, I know it can be very stressful when its busy, but that applies to ANY job!

          Btw, I did serve food before, and work at as a hair stylist. So far this month, I got 3 clients who tippef 100+ tips on a single service. I just don’t do hair, I go beyond what is expected. If the client wanted a latte, I would go get it. If they wanted to find a nearest shoe store, I would go to my computer to print out a map. Someone told me her heel broke. I took the heel to the nearest shoe store to get it repaired. Since my clients fly in to see me, I sometimes take them to the airport. I know all of these don’t apply to certain industries, but that is my commitment to serve very fine clienteles who tips me 100, 130, or 20. I treat them all the same, no BS. You guys probably say ” o, that customer tips like $hit, so don’t give him good service.” That’s not me. I deserve what they decide. I do get no tips time to time, but I still give them exceptional service for being my client and allowing me to earn their business.

          • 8

            Server says

            Hey RJ…. You worked as a server? Where? You have no clue what you are talking about. I would love to see you “serve” at my restaurant and tell me that your 10 year old daughter could do it. We treat EVERYONE the same and go above and beyond to provide service for people who are too lazy to cook for themselves. We don’t just “bring out food” as you state. People run us RAGGED all day and night and then don’t want to pay for the SERVICE provided. That’s what the tip is for. And if people can afford to go out and buy the most expensive food on the menu, order several expensive cocktails and desserts, they can afford to tip their server. We are doing the job that you are too lazy to do for yourself. People these days have no idea what being a server entails and combine that with the fact that a good percent of people have a holier than thou attitude make our jobs that much more difficult. Anyone who feels that they shouldn’t have to tip for service should stay home or go to McDonald’s…. where the server “just serves food.”

          • 9

            Maggie says

            We’ll ignore the fact that there are many grammatical errors in your statement first off.

            Second, no, your ten year old daughter would not be able to stand and serve the general human population for 6-10 hours at a time. Managing tables, interacting with customers. It’s not about how “difficult” the job is. It’s kind of insulting in the economy we currently live in to imply that just because a job isn’t “difficult” (as you see it), they don’t deserve an income. If it wasn’t industry standard to underpay your servers, then the servers wouldn’t have to expect tips.

            A server is usually expected to have a vast knowledge of the menu they are serving. They need to have the ability to answer questions, make recommendations. They typically need to be pretty personable (which for some people is not a trait they possess). They’ve got to be able to multitask – manage several events and orders going on at once. They are the liasons between the kitchen and the customer. They need to be able to work long hours with little to no breaks, on their feet, serving people.

            Can you 10 year old daughter do all that?

            • 11

              Dave says

              I bet you tip the burger flippers in McDonalds. Why should people be forced to pay for bad service? If the tip is included in the bill then where is the incentive to give good service for the wait staff?

      • 13

        RJ says

        I don’t have to because I have skills that pay much more. If I didn’t, then maybe I have no choice but to serve 30 people and clean up their mess on the floor. I never do it on purpose, and I always try to pick it up with a paper napkin if i can, but not everyone. Someone’s gotta do it. That’s life and that’s their job. Servers are employed and paid by the business owners, not customers. Gratuities are not guaranteed and we don’t have to pay it cuz its not required by law. Only when it’s stated in public view. Even if 200 people comes in, u can’t impose unless stated clearly.

        • 14

          Mack says

          RJ, FIY…
          Most servers make 2.15 dollars an hour. I live in Illinois for fortunately I get paid 4.95 an hour. Servers relay on tips to make a livable wage.
          And because you make more than a server… you don’t have to tip them? I don’t understand.

          • 15

            Andy says

            Dear Washington Residents,
            Servers in WA get paid Min. Wage, so don’t buy that BS about only getting 2 an hour in IL or ID or wherever. Washington has almost the highest min. wage in the nation ($9.19 in 2013) and no state income tax. So we definately should not stand for manditory gratuities here.

            Working for tips only is a terrible idea. It reminds me of the homeless guy that cleans your car windsheild and then hopes for a gift.

        • 16

          Volfram says

          You have clearly never worked a tipped job.

          Having worked multiple jobs which included tips, I know how it feels to get a generous tip, and I try to leave a generous tip myself. Before you go saying “I don’t need to give a tip,” why don’t you try working one of those jobs that you claim takes no skill.

        • 17

          Chef says

          You obviously have never waited tables. These people are waiting on you, all you have to do is sit there. Most of the time the server has other tables on top of the large party. They get ran to death! If that doesnt take extreme organization skill than i dont know what does. My ten year old daughter can cut and style hair ( not really at the top of the list when it comes to skill either). Also to the person that wrote this article. Thinking that you will get your food faster because you split up your party into multiple tables is an amazing concept! Yea, your food will come out quicker simply because the tables are not touching. Obviously you also have never worked in a restaurant! These people bust there butts for less than $3.00 an hour! They have families and make all of there money on tips. If the service is absolutely horrible, then ask to speak to the manager. If it isnt, then RESPECT your server for what they do and tip them. I dare anyone that hasnt waited tables to do it for one weekend and i bet you will never bitch about tipping again. Also dont be an ahole and talk down to them and treat them like they are your slave, to many people do this. Word of advice if you have never worked in a restaurant, watch the movie Waiting, and never piss off the people that cook your food or handle it before you do!

          • 18

            Chef says

            Also DO NOT walk into a restaurant ten minutes before they close and ask to be seated. Guess what, you just pissed off everyone that works there (and trust me that is NOT good). If anyone wants to come back at me saying they dont get mad at there restaurant or what kinda place do i work for cause its wrong or whatever, then they are lying or totally oblivious to what is going on in there store. I have worked everywhere from Mc ds to 5 star to off the charts fine dinning. You piss off the people in charge of cooking and handling your food and things happen period. Just a dose of reality.

            • 19

              Len Penzo says

              So, Chef, you’re saying there are two sets of operating hours? The ones posted on the door, and the unlisted ones that the waiters and cooks keep? Unbelievable.

              • 20

                Samantha Beck says

                I think it’s kind of common knowledge that for any place of business that interacts with the public like stores, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. that there are tasks that must be done to clean up and shut down shop at the end of the day.

                By coming in right at closing and extending the hours of operation significantly past what they might have been, you delay the time that those clean up tasks can be accomplished and make the task of closing up and going home take longer than it would take otherwise. For a coffee shop where transactions may take 5 minutes, it’s no big deal, but for a meal where the transaction will likely take an hour, how do you indicate the hours of operation transparently? If the closing time is 9, and I have my dining experience from 8 to 9, then I’m certainly in the hours of operation. But if the closing time is 9, and i ask to be seated at 8:59, then I’m plausibly going to have the vast majority of the transaction occurring well beyond the hours of operation. The restaurant can’t really win either, because if they set the closing hours to 8, most people will assume that they shouldn’t come in around 8.

                The choices here are certainly something of a judgment call, but coming into a restaurant 5 minutes before closing when clearly all the other diners are wrapping up their meals definitely plays towards the selfish end of the spectrum in my book. I make an attempt to be courteous and considerate to my fellow humans in the choices that I make, and that includes customer service personnel on phones, customers who have run into trouble, and service staff in restaurants.

                Yes, this seems a little ambiguous, but “Chef” is just pointing out where the general rules of etiquette lie. They’re not printed on the hours sign of restaurants because many people would find that rude, and restaurants are definitely not in the business of trying to appear rude (although I would agree the mandatory gratuity is.)

          • 21

            Len Penzo says

            Let me see if I have this straight: Your definition of respect is paying somebody a bonus (a.k.a. “a tip”) regardless of whether or not they do their job properly? Got it.

            Seems to me that you’ve got it bass ackwards. I guarantee you that servers who RESPECT their customers will get rewarded more often than not. As for the servers who, sadly, expect their CUSTOMERS pay them a tip regardless of how those customers are treated … well, they’re the servers who end up mad at the world because they feel shortchanged (or writing angry comments here about “cheap customers” and intimating that they do pathetically unspeakable things to food if they don’t get their way). They’re also the servers who need to figure out another job to do for a living.

            By the way, I don’t know how many times I’ve been told by servers that larger tables have to wait longer for their food because of kitchen logistics. Or is that just another excuse for the lousy service you expect everyone to pay for?

            • 22

              Samantha Beck says

              Personally, I find the idea of people working (primarily) for tips fundamentally disrespectful. In my (admittedly sort of arbitrary) opinion, tips should not be a majority of a person’s income, nor should they be in a position where a zero-tip day leaves them short of basic income level.

              In short, I far prefer the European-typical expectation that tips are frequently not provided, and are often left in small amounts as a “thank you”, and only sizable amounts when the situation calls for it. Examples of large tip situations in that world would be a server who notably complements the meal (knowledge of the cuisine, etc), or handles problems with aplomb, or simply when the customers know they’ve been demanding or problematic.

              In that world, servers get reasonable salaries in the first place.

          • 23

            Nobes26 says

            Yeah, while the “10 minute before we’re closed” thing tends to upset many servers/staff, it’s rather ridiculous. It’s not like you’re being forced to work there. I always found it interesting that there are some servers who will complain that “I’m not making any money,” then turn around and complain when they get a table 10 minutes before close. As a server, you don’t dictate your income; it’s dictated for you. So you have to stay an extra hour. Big deal. But sometimes a larger table may have to wait a little longer for food. Trying to time it so 16; 20; 30; whatever; meals come out at the same time is more difficult to do than say 2 or 4, especially if it’s a walk in. Remember, the grill only has so much room and a stove top only has so many burners (especially if items with sauces; alfredo, marsala, etc are cooked to order). However, unless it’s an extremely long wait, (over a half an hour), if you’re engaged in good conversation, you shouldn’t notice the time.

          • 24

            Chef says

            Len, it is what it is, im just tellin you what happens real world be upset if you want. YES tip them unless the service is so bad that you need to talk to a manger. You receive your entire paycheck each week correct, or are you paid based on your performance on each and everything you do? Work as a server for just one weekend and get back to me. Otherwise you are just another person writing and article about something of which you have no experience or understanding about.

            • 25

              Len Penzo says

              Well, Chef, I do get paid based upon my performance on each and everything I do — my raises are based entirely on my performance. I can also get fired for not doing my job. And I do tip servers for poor service — but not 18%. Servers tips, however, are not part of their wages. They are simply tips. And they knew that when they took the job.

              “Work as a server for just one weekend and get back to me. Otherwise you are just another person writing and article about something of which you have no experience or understanding about.”

              I’m an aerospace engineer. If the plane I design ends up breaking up in mid-air while you’re on it because I wasn’t on my A-game the day I made my calculations, do you have to be an engineer to understand you’ve been screwed over by my poor performance?

              That being said, I have plenty of experience as a CUSTOMER — I don’t need to work as a SERVER to understand that poor service is NOT entitled to above par tips.

              And I’m not upset. I’m just disappointed at the entitlement mentality that runs rampant in so many people nowadays. Look, I’m smiling! :-)

          • 26

            Cody says

            this really is pretty simple. This sounds an awfully lot like the “Minimum wage needs to go up because I can’t support my five kids on it at McDonald’s” argument. When you take a job you sign a contract, saying you agree to the conditions. If there are tips possible you go into it knowing you will need to earn them. Taking out the necessity to earn them does the very same thing that increasing minimum wage does… takes away the necessity to work hard for the money.
            Anybody that thinks a mandatory gratuity should be necessary has no more run an actual profitable business than some one whom thinks they shouldn’t tip has been a waiter.
            If you impose a mandatory tip WHY would a waiter work as hard as they would for the other guests? WHY?
            The thing is that without it, there ARE people that will not tip. That is a given. But those same people will fight the tip regardless. By not having it you force employees to work even harder. Just human nature.

        • 27

          Nobes26 says

          RJ…Two things regarding your post. 1). Either you never waited tables and only said so to try to strengthen your argument or 2). Were a terrible server. “Bringing out the food” is only a very small part of the job. A good server will refill your drink before it’s empty (or ask if you’d like another before it’s empty on alcohol), buss the area around you; napkins, side plates, empty glasses, straw wrappers; laugh at your dumb jokes, communicate with the kitchen to prepare a special order b/c the other 45 options on the menu are not good enough for you, being more efficient than the customer (running to grab something else after I just went and grabbed something else you needed, but failed to tell me all at once.), etc.

          If the server is good…you’ll never know they’re there.

          By your logic, all you do is use scissors. Pffft, if I can cut paper, I can cut hair.

          • 28

            Doug says

            Its obvious RJ is a “Canadian” or a “spo ta”. Its funny how pple complain about being stereotyped, but in their case its for a reason. 75%+ dont know what 15%+ is.

        • 29

          Angie says

          Your great skill is that you are hairstylist? I thought you were going to say you were a professional with an actual degree from Harvard. Just because your clients are rich & can tip you 100.00 doesn’t mean you can act like a snob. Get off your high horse, because at the end of the day your just a servant in your clients eyes. If you couldn’t hide their graying hair… I doubt they would give you the time of day…

      • 30

        katy says

        Yes, this is why I as a restaurant owner add a service charge for parties of eight or more. Basically it is because when I have my waiters and waitresses working several tables at a time I know there may be the occasional cheapskate that stiffs them, but it generally balances out with those who are generous at another table. For a large party though I generally dedicate that server (or servers depending on size) to just them to ensure they are well taken of. So if the table stiffs them they have spent that hour or two working for almost nothing.

        As alluded to large parties are horrible tippers. Generally I think everyone thinks since everyone else is tipping they can leave only a dollar or two regardless of their cost cause it will “work out.” But everyone does that so it “works out” to be very little. So to combat I do add the 18% service charge for parties of eight or more.

        Generally I am proud of my servers (and don’t keep poor ones on staff very long), but it has happened a couple times in the past that a customer was unhappy with his service and didn’t want to pay the service charge for a large party. My managers know that if the service complaint is valid to waive that fee. I’ve even had one complaint as such made when I was in the restaurant and was quite sure that it was invalid and that the group’s waitress had done a great job and they had just had a tab of nearly $600 with drinks and all and wanted to save the money. I waived it anyways since it wasn’t worth bad internet reviews etc. I also paid the waitress the 18% out of the business since an unhappy staff is bad for business in the long run.

        Tipping is very delicate balance. I certainly don’t want my customers feeling like they have to pay for bad service. At the same time there are cheapskates out there. Everyone knows that when eating out it is expected and generally what they should tip. If the service is good and you are not giving a reasonable amount to the waiter I must assume you are selfish and cheap. If you don’t want to tip your server, then eat at places that don’t have servers.

        • 31

          Kyron says

          I think the restaurant owners are especially (and very conveniently) missing the point.

          Katy, you are a restaurant owner.

          Despite the title of the topic, believe me when I say this. Neither Len nor I nor anybody else really want to know why you add mandatory gratuity.

          What we really want to know is why you don’t pay your waiters a decent wage and give us plainspeak menus with plainspeak prices that reflect the higher wages so we deadbeat crabby lazies who can’t make our own food can make rational decisions on whether to visit your restaurant or not.

          And there are restaurants like this. Some time ago, I went to a very pricey restaurant with outstanding food and live music in India where the waiter (not the manager) came running out of the restaurant looking for me and returned the “american” style tip I left for him and said, “Sir, we don’t accept tips”. I said it was for him but he refused and said it was their policy that they didn’t accept tips and gave the tip back to me.

    • 33


      Just to be clear, the point of this post was how to avoid paying mandatory gratuities for bad service. Not how to avoid tipping your server, period. :-)

      @Carlye: Nope, I’ve never been a server – but does it really matter anyway? It looks like you and I are in complete agreement that imposing mandatory gratuities on people is wrong. :-)

      @Ashley: If you were my server I’d always give you 25%! Promise! :-) I take it that you aren’t bothered by mandatory gratuities? I do completely understand that even servers who perform flawlessly will get shafted on occasion – so I completely sympathize with servers in that regard. I just don’t think the fact that there are poor tippers among us justifies the restaurant industry practice of imposing mandatory gratuities on the rest of us.

      • 34

        Server says

        I do agree that you shouldn’t pay for bad service.If I provide you with horrible service I do not expect to be tipped a decent percentage. On the other hand…. there are people who come in with large parties and expect things to be done right away and have no idea that it takes longer than 30 seconds to get drinks for 20-30 people and then say that it was terrible service. There are also times when things are out of my control (such as kitchen errors… long ticket times due to those errors or it being a super busy night.) Usually the meal gets comped by the manager when it gets extreme, but I’m still doing my job and providing excellent service on my end.

        Also about splitting up the party… You’re still going to get the same server and have the same level of service if you come in together and want to sit in the same section. You’re just going to make the server have to go to that many more table to do the job they could have done at one. And the meals won’t come out at the same time so everyone will be eating and finishing at the same time. Just my opinion and experience in the situation.

        • 35

          Len Penzo says

          “I do agree that you shouldn’t pay for bad service.”

          Perfect. That was the point of the article!

          It’s too bad a lot of other servers commenting here erroneously believe:

          A) they ARE entitled to an 18% tip when they give their customers crappy service, or
          B) the article was about how to screw your server even after they provide excellent service

      • 36

        Doug says

        Actually Penzo you are lying about not trying to avoid paying mandatory for bad service becasue you tell them to sit at different tables so they wouldnt get the GRAT. Chicken move. CHEAP. I would still put a grat on every table if they did that bc that tells me that you are not willing to tip. T.I.P.S.= to insure proper service. You are trying to tell pple not to tip. I get it.

        • 37

          CK says

          He did not say that at.. The tactic was a way to allow the people getting service, the choice of tipping based on service quality. Not how to skip on tipping.

      • 38

        Bar Tender says

        First of all, the $2.25 I am paid an hour (minimum wage in NJ) goes to cover my taxes…PERIOD.

        A tip should not be thought of as a “reward.” Because I may or may not be good at my job, does that mean I should be denied the opportunity to live/eat/pay my bills?

        No, it’s not a reward, it’s PAYMENT FOR A SERVICE. Go order from a restaurant that doesn’t provide table service if you don’t want to tip. Your gripe should not be with mandatory gratuities but rather with the fact that people in hospitality are not paid in accordance with the minimum wage designated for other hourly positions.

        Hey haircut lady, imagine not being paid a salary and having to rely solely on those people you provide service to. “My bangs look bad, I’m not giving her a tip.” How would you feel?

        Yes, your raises and bonuses are paid contingent upon your performance but your weekly salary is not. If you have a horrible day and perform at a sub-par level one day, are you paid less than the days you are on top of the ball? Do food service people receive “cost of living,” wage increases? No, the “15% gratuity,” has been the standard since my parents were young. We don’t receive inflation adjustments.

        My point is this: Food service employees’ hourly wage is low in some states because the federal government knows that tips are the primary sources of income. Usually, working on a large party of 8+ people can be incredibly time consuming. So much so that management usually will not give that server any more tables to work on. In essence, I can work on your party for up to half of my 8 hour shift. That 8 hour shift usually nets me about $24 in my official paycheck (before taxes and mind you, I’m taxed in accordance to the amount of tips my restaurant reports—I consistently do not receive any money in my check, usually $5-$6 per week). So if you decide not to tip me, I essentially spent the entire evening working for nothing. Because you have a problem with being told how much to tip, does that mean I should work for you for 4 hours for $20?

        I earned a degree in Management (Summa Cum Laude) and I choose to work in hospitality because I love it and it’s what I’m good at. For every table filled with people like you, there’s always another one that makes it worth it. Worth it in ways beyond simply the financial side.

        Bottom line: if your service sucks simply complain to the manager and 9 out of 10 times, that manager will absolutely make up for the less than stellar experience. But don’t assume that because your water glass wasn’t filled fast enough that your server should not be afforded the ability to sustain his or her life.

        Again, a tip is not a reward (unless it’s something in excess of 20% for superior service). If that server is truly terrible, he or she will not last long trust me. For all you know, that person is having a terrible day and you just made it worse.

        You’re paying for service rendered. The quality of that service will determine the %, but anything less than 15 is, in my opinion, wrong.

        I’ve worked in all fields and in my opinion, there’s white collar, blue collar, and restaurants. It’s an entire profession that requires a method of thinking that, while not rocket science, is by no means easy. I see the best and worst of society on a daily basis. Don’t treat us as lesser citizens.

        Thanks for an enlightening debate.

          • 40

            Kim says

            Well said Bar Tender. Finally someone who can explain to the cheap people on here how things work. Even if I received crappy service and the 18% gratuity was added on I would still pay it but would make sure that the manager was aware of the problem. The servers are there to “serve” you and should be tipped regardless.

  3. 41

    carlye says

    i would just like to add, that if you had ever been a server you would probably LOVE the mandatory gratuities! :) thats why i asked, because i dont know one server that would say they didnt agree with it haha

    • 42

      RJ says

      You are only looking at ur end.
      Of course any servers will like an mandatory tip. That’s like an automatic raise. If a slacker gets an automatic raise, that person will slack off even more knowing that he/she will get paid either way, don’t u think? And u work hard and still make same tip as a slacker? That’s not capitalism, and that is not our culture. It will bring the overall quality down.

    • 45

      RJ says

      How do u dispute something that is mandatory? If the manager decides to take it off, then that is not mandatory anymore. Is it like ” just take it more from people who don’t complain” kinda attitude?

  4. 46


    I just want to say, before everyone here decides to start whining and complaining about “bad service” and getting the mandatory grat taken off the bill – The service is NEVER as bad as people make it out to be, however, when one thing goes wrong in a meal that suddenly snowballs into everything and every part of said meal being horrible, meaning it’s time to screw the server.

    Keep that in mind when you’re thinking just how horrible your service really was!

    • 47


      Well, I agree and disagree, Ribeye. Sometimes, the service can be really bad. But generally, I have to agree with you – most of the time, things aren’t as bad as they may seem. The “bad” service most people receive is very rarely worthy of handing out a 0% – 5% tip. Ten percent, yes. Zero, no.

  5. 48

    carlye says

    if you left it up to the customers how much to leave as a tip when you have a big party you risk getting screwed… i agree with your suggestions if you are really that against the gratuity of course if you are willing to tip fairly….i promise just ask any server what THEY think, you should do a poll, you would be surprised :)

    • 49


      Carlye, I realize 95% of servers would agree with you – but don’t you think they’re just a bit, um, biased? 😉 LOL

      Let me give you the same analogy I gave to Ashley off-line…

      Most people don’t donate their “fair share” of their income to charity. Let’s say “fair share” is defined as 10 percent of your salary. Should the US government take 10% of your pay – and everybody else’s too – and give it to charity to ensure the charities don’t get stiffed? To argue for mandatory gratuities because not everybody tips like they should is to also argue for government confiscation of some amount of of our pay on the grounds that most people don’t give their fair share to charity.

      Think about it. :-)

      • 50

        Server says

        The gov does take more money from our checks… We automatically have to claim our tips (it’s the law) and it’s a minimum of 12% of our sales. And there are nights when we don’t make 12% so we lose money. I can work a 40 hour work week at minimum wage and my 2 week paycheck is less than 300 dollars

  6. 52

    carlye says

    the people that donate to charity arent actively seeking a service, if you sit down at a restaurant your expecting to be served, your analogy doesnt have to do with this situation, its your perception…. think about it :)

    • 53


      I don’t follow. Both are examples of forcing people to pay for something they feel they shouldn’t have to, be it rotten wait-staff service or a charity. In fact, the more subtle point I was trying to make was that mandatory gratuities are essentially “server charity.”

      • 54

        Bar Tender says

        No, it’s not a charity. It’s a safety net so people like you do not decide on a whim not to pay for the services they’ve received. The ONLY reason restaurants (owners mind you who are in my experience, always on the side of the guest rather than the employee) institute this policy is so as to protect their employee. If it wasn’t a problem, it wouldn’t be a policy.

        • 55

          Len Penzo says

          Whoa. What do you mean, “people like me,” sir?

          And you incorrectly assume that customers are obligated to pay for a waiter’s services. That is patently false. Like it or not, the menu prices include the price of the restaurant’s servers transporting the food from the kitchen to the dining table — or the back of the bar to the customer.

          So, if you’re being intellectually honest, yes, a mandatory gratuity IS charity. In fact, if the service you provide me is exceptionally bad, I’d go so far as to call it extortion.

          But you can’t have it both ways. Either a mandatory tip for lousy service is not a tip at all, or it’s waiter welfare.

  7. 58

    carlye says

    what you dont seem to understand is that like ashley said, when you dont get tipped or you get a horrible tip, you still have to tip out bartenders and bussers a percentage of your sales…. why is it ok for a server to have to pay them out of their pocket because of all the bad tippers out there? like i said its perception, you havent been a server so you couldnt truly understand

    • 59


      I do understand that Carlye. Is it fair servers have to tip out bartenders and bussers a percentage of their sales? No. (Why isn’t it a percentage of their tips, by the way?) But it’s also not fair to ask customers to pay an 18% mandatory gratuity when they are given crappy service.

  8. 60

    Amanda says

    I have been a server and I am biased in that regard… but my argument is not considering that.

    The fact of the matter is: if it says it in the menu then you have to pay it. You are CHOOSING to enter into a contract that is clearly stated on the menu prior to you ordering. That part is your prerogative.

    I mean, would you walk up to a kid at a lemonade stand selling cups for 25 cents and drink one and then tell the kid “there wasn’t enough sugar in it so I’m going to give you 10 cents because that’s all it’s worth.” No. It would be absurd. The reason I chose such a silly analogy is because refusing to pay the server for unfortunate circumstances (I’ve never seen a server be rude of their own will; they are, after all, working for tips and are not stupid) would hit them as hard as it would the kid at the lemonade stand.

    There are set prices in restaurant menus. When you order a hamburger at the menu price of 7 dollars, you are agreeing to pay the 7 dollars for the hamburger. If you don’t like the price then you don’t enter the contract. Now, if the hamburger is sub-par, then you may negotiate with the manager for a discount or some consolation… but you don’t just get to say “I’m only paying 4 dollars for this hamburger.” And… a restaurant discounting you is no skin off their backs. But to a server to take a “discount in their tip” it makes a world of difference.

    What if your boss decided to dock you pay for a day because you had a bad day and made a mistake?

    If you have a problem with mandatory gratuity then you have a problem with the restaurant, or the culture who accepted the custom, but not the server. The servers are not the ones who made the choice to lay the burden of paying their wages on the consumer, so don’t punish them for your distaste of it.

    Deny the restaurant your patronage if you see it printed in their menu. Be mad at the masters if that’s how you feel… but don’t kick the cat over it.

    • 61


      Amanda: Thanks for your passionate comments! :-)

      I never penalize a server for errors out of their control – like a slow kitchen. Usually, my tips come down to quality of service provided.

      I’ll agree that it is rare for a server to have a bad attitude. But you can’t assert that there is no such thing as a server who is rude of their own will simply because you’ve never seen one before. That is a purely anecdotal argument; I know for a fact you’ve never seen my dog before either, but I assure you he exists. 😉

      Maybe you just haven’t been around long enough to encounter a server who happens to be having a rotten day and they, either consciously or unconsciously, end up being rude to their patrons. I have. Believe me, it happens – we’re all human beings, after all. So on the rare occasion it does happen, why should I reward a server for a bad attitude (who also manages to ruin what was supposed to be a pleasant night out for me)? Simply because it would hit them as hard as it would hit a kid at a lemonade stand? That is absurd.

      You believe servers are “entitled” to be paid a subsidy by the customer, regardless of the level of service provided: “The servers are not the ones who made the choice to lay the burden of paying their wages on the consumer…”

      But if I can negotiate the price of a $7 hamburger down to $4 when its quality is below par, why can’t I negotiate an oxymoronic “mandatory gratuity” from 18% to 10% or 5%? After all, aren’t tips (mandatory or otherwise) paid in expectation of decent service – just as I pay money for a hamburger with the expectation that it will be of decent quality? Of course, they are!

      You can’t have it both ways, Amanda. You can’t argue that it is okay to renegotiate “a contract” for a $7 hamburger, but not okay to renegotiate “a contract” for an 18% mandatory gratuity simply because the poor server would be “hit hard.”

      Nobody forced servers into their jobs – at least I hope not. If they don’t like the fact that there are customers out there like me who absolutely refuse to give an 18% tip for poor service, then maybe they should be mad at themselves for agreeing to become a server in the first place.

      But maybe that’s just me. :-)

      Thanks again for your comments. I do know servers work very hard for their money.

    • 62

      Ali says

      I work as a server and am not totally opposed to the mandatory gratuity. But where I work, it is soley at the discretion of the individual server to “add” that grat option to the check before presenting the bill. I gauge my customers. If I feel like I can get better than 18%, I don’t insult them by putting a mandatory grat on there. And if I get the feeling from them that I won’t get much, I add the gratuity. But not all restaurants are created equal.

  9. 63

    Ben says

    Here’s an idea. You go work a job that pays 3.33 an hour to deal with the ego of the typical American to be judged by every action you commit in the scope of their experience in an establishment. When you deal with that kind of lunacy for a prolonged period of time I would love for you to propose the idea that gratuity should be waved. You may be a considerate enough person to at least tip, but I assure you there are people out there that are not. So when someone screws you out of 50 bucks because they don’t believe in or understand gratuity you may think again.

    If you want to dispute the gratuity, simply tell your server to have the manager take it off and then explain to the server why you are giving them less money. The server should know if they gave you bad service. If they don’t they should not be serving for they are incompetent, void of intuition, lacking in empathy, etc.
    At this point the manager will get involved and you can explain it to them as well if you like.

    P.S. 15 percent is not a great deal of money to give someone who spent an hour trying to read your mind. Up the ante to the servers who try extra hard to genuinely please you. If they see you again they’ll even try harder. (Or tell another server to do so as well)

    Thank you.

    • 64


      Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective, Ben. I just went out to dinner with the family last night and gave our waitress 20% for exceptional service. Out of curiosity, if you spent an hour providing exceptional service and got a 20% tip would you be disappointed with that?

      Unfortunately, we disagree on the definition of gratuity. I maintain that gratuities are not an entitlement. You can rationalize your position any way you want to, but at the end of the day you think they are entitlements.

      Servers are not the only folks judged by every action they commit in the experience of their customer’s experience. All of us are judged that way – be it by our boss, or our customers. And like you, sometimes we work our butts off for a whole year and come raise time we get under-compensated for our efforts – maybe no raise or even a pay cut. That’s business – and life. All you can do is get back up on the horse and work harder – or find another employer or line of work.

      I don’t mean to be disrespectful here, but your comments regarding the customers from who you look to for your gratuities seem more than a bit harsh. Do you enjoy your job? If not, maybe it’s time to find another line of work that doesn’t depend on tips. I know I would.

    • 65

      RJ says

      Here’s an idea. You go look for a job that pays more than 3.33/ hour since u sound like u hate ur job. Why don’t u look for a job that secures minimum wage like fast food chains?
      In reality, industry will only pay what is fair. If hospitals decides to pay 3.33 to doctors, NO ONE will replace that position. I really thinks its unfair to get paid below minimum wage since tips are not guaranteed, yet, u still do it by choice, just like how rest of servers do. If u decide to leave, someone for sure will replace u, and that person for sure will not be a doctor that demands 200k, but someone comfortable enough to make 3.33/ hour + tip. I am not talking $hit about being a server. It’s all about supply and demand. Some are real professionals. I know I wasn’t one when I was serving food part-time back in college, but still expected people to leave big tips.

      Lastly, I do leave pretty good tip (18-20%, sometimes more) because I’ve been on the other side too. But for a crappy service, I still leave about 10%. I would try to avoid going into places with mandatory gratuity. I would end up saving money in most cases, but I hate restaurants that are unethical like that.

  10. 66

    ken says

    Now, I’m not against servers but I am against gratuity where it is not deserved. Every worker has a job to do. If a server does their job and manages their customers properly Then they obviously deserve a tip. But I have noticed servers at mandatory gratuity restaurants do provide mediocre service largely because they have that safety net to fall on and will get paid their 18% regardless if they refill your drinks or not. There was a vacation resort I went to which not only over charges but when I ordered a cup of coffee, I was handed an empty cup and was pointed in the direction of the coffee machine and then robbed for the cost of coffee and 18% for handing me a cup and lifting a finger.

  11. 68

    Macs says

    December 9th, 2009 at 8:30 am · Reply

    “anyway, in the UK i guess they just dont tip, or they always think its included… ”

    We don’t have a tipping culture, it is very much emphasised on the definition of gratuity that headed the post. You give a tip for something truly OUTSTANDING (or for hotel porters or taxi drivers, but that’s about it…)

    We do expect everything to be priced in (so I’d actually have less of a problem with the mandatory 18%, but for goodness sake call it a ‘service charge’ not a ‘gratuity’!) It wasn’t until too late I discovered that servers in the US are expected to live off tips rather than wages. It’s just cheapskate employment practice in my eyes, a way to pass off taxes and administration to the customer by way of guilt-tripping.

    You want a tip? UNIONISE!

    • 69


      Oh, God, Macs – please don’t use the “U” word around here. LOL

      By the way, the Honeybee and I had probably the greatest meal we’ve both eaten in a long time last night at a very high-end restaurant in Huntington Beach. We raved about the food and sent our sincerest compliments to the chef. Our server was absolutely fabulous and she even ended up comping us our dessert because she said she “got a kick out of our enthusiasm for the food.” We tipped her 30% – and she deserved every penny of it. :-)

  12. 70

    Brownie says

    I appreciate the fact that gratuity should be based on the level of service. What I can’t figure out is how restaurants can pay their servers less than minimum wage and expect the customer to pay for our food as well as pay the employees in the form of tips(mandatory or not). We don’t pay the worker at the department store extra for being friendly and helping us pick out the perfect gift, or the bagger at the grocery store for not squashing the bread and helping us put the groceries in the car. The stores pay their wages and if they do a bad job, they get terminated. Servers do a bad job and we only give them 10% as opposed to 20% and management says Oh, well, you should have given better service…try harder next time. I am the first person to take the time to complain about poor service…..but I also ALWAYS Tell the manager when I’ve had EXCEPTIONAL service.

    • 71


      Well, Brownie. The reason restaurants can pay their servers what they do is the law of supply and demand. There are simply more people willing to be servers than available positions – that forces their pay rates down into the weeds. Conversely, engineers and accountants can command much higher pay on average for the same reason – there are simply fewer people willing and able to put in the effort and work required to do those jobs. As a result, they get paid more money because employers are willing to pay a premium for their services.

  13. 72

    Server says

    Wow it looks like who ever wrote this article had absolutely no idea what is like on the server side of this. So let give all the ignorant writers and tippers out there the reason as to why gratuity is added to large parties.

    Most people do not tip even 15% for for great server, most people will tip 10% or think that 5$ on anything is a good tip. Not taking into consideration the tip out, ( the amount of money a server must give based off his/her sales to the bus boy and hostesses ) which is usually around 3-4% of their sales that 10% you are leaving quickly drops to about 6-7%. For those who think 5$ on anything is good, sometimes the server just ends up paying out for your table and you’ve done nothing but waste their time and hard work.
    As far as a large party is concern and it being mandatory for you to pay what is the accepted gratuity, that’s because yes; severing you and 10 of your friends is time consuming as the rest of our section will be forced to wait as we serve you and your 10 friends who do not ask for things at the same time (run the server for something every time he passes by), will usually only tip based off their meal and not take in to consideration the tax (which servers tip out on), making the biggest mess that the server will clean up at the end of the night, ext. By having you as a large table and causing the other tables to wait for service brings the tip down on those other tables as well.

    So that one table of the night that came in and paid gratuity just helped that servers entire night out and probably made it worth it to be there, instead of working at a fast food joint, making the same money.

    • 73


      What it’s like on the server side of this is immaterial, Server. Completely irrelevant. It’s all about what it’s like for the customer, who is being forced to pay an 18 percent (or higher) gratuity regardless of whether you are doing a job that deserves it.

      The fact that you feel you get shafted by some customers on your tip does not justify mandatory gratuities on the rest of us. Customers should never be forced to subsidize a server’s income regardless of their performance.

      I’m curious, would you be happy if you were forced to tip a hair stylist or barber, for example, 18% even though they botched your haircut?

  14. 74

    A waiter says

    I’m assuming the person that wrote this article must be black and not a college graduate. If you don’t want to tip the mandatory gratuity or an any gratuity, that’s what grocery stores are for. Go buy your own food and cook yourself for your party. Waiters make way less than minimum wage and in this economy have to do everything they can to survive.

    • 75


      Oh boy, it looks like I caught a live one here…

      “I’m assuming the person that wrote this article must be black and not a college graduate.”


      “If you don’t want to tip the mandatory gratuity or an any gratuity, that’s what grocery stores are for. Go buy your own food and cook yourself for your party.”

      Who said anything about not paying a gratuity? The premise of the article is that nobody should have to pay a mandatory gratuity for BAD SERVICE. Or do you just see your customers as nothing more than a source of charity for you – forced to supplement your wage with tips regardless of the level of service you provide? (That is a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious.)

      “Waiters make way less than minimum wage and in this economy have to do everything they can to survive.”

      Including taking advantage of their customers by forcing them to pay tips even when they are not deserved? Right.

    • 76

      RJ says

      You just made a fool out of yourself fot commenting like that. We go to restaurants to eat good food that someone cooked for me, not for a food that someone “brought” to me.

  15. 77

    igounfazed! says

    I think the major problem with ideas in this thread is the lack of understanding to the “tip” aspect of servicing.

    People that are servers are under the misguided mindset that ‘tipping’ is a mandatory thing to compensate for the lower wage they agreed to work for their employer at the time.

    Employers use that same train of thought to misguide their employees further with illusions of larger incomes.

    All while not understanding that ‘tipping’ is in NO WAY mandatory, a necessity, or even a required consideration. And this statement is mostly for us Americans, because in some countries tipping isn’t even allowed, or it is looked down upon.

    If you fool yourself with the belief that ‘tips’ are an ACTUAL part of your agreed upon income WITH an expected amount, then you did just that: fooled yourself.

    Do I tip? Yes. Do I feel it to be Mandatory? NO. Does it have to occur? NO it does not.

    Why all this? Although the discussion revolves around ‘gratuity’, the bill / receipt includes both the ‘gratuity’ and the ‘tip’ section. If gratuity is already included: then a tip definitely does not have to be given, as it was already ‘charged’.

  16. 78

    Elizabeth says

    Once I was a server at an establishment that served a buffet til a certain time, and then went to regular menu meals. Just after the buffet closed down, I was sat 4 tables – in a different room from the buffet. I took their orders, put them in the computer, and brought to their drinks. When I made it back to my last remaining ‘buffet’ table, they had been waiting for a while. They left me the amount of the bill, rounded to the next dollar. Was that fair? Yes, no, maybe. I wasn’t mad at them because I understood that from their perspective, it was bad service for no discernible reason. From my perspective, I had to choose whom to keep waiting and perhaps I chose wrongly. I no longer work as a server because I don’t see how, except in the highest-priced restaurants, a server can make decent money. A server can only provide good service to four or five tables. There is an hour of setup, another half hour or more until you get a table, and an hour of cleanup. If it is slow, you might be cut early, having worked 3 hours with only one table. IMHO, if tips were better, servers would compete for positions. In the establishment I currently manage, I frequently cannot fire anyone, because I have no acceptable applicants to replace them. The recession hurt us – servers leave because they don’t make good money. You get what’s left. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

    • 79


      Great comments! In your particular scenario, I think that communication is key. Unless I am in a hurry (and I’m usually not whrn I go out to enjoy a nice dinner out) I usually don’t mind waiting if I know there is a reason for the delay – not enough staff, kitchen is backed up, etc. That’s just my two cents. :-)

  17. 80

    Joyce says

    I’m a server for a local Waffle House. We’re certainly not considered a fine dining restaurant, but even so, I make reasonably good tips. There is no mandatory tipping required with our table service, so we get tipped on the basis of our service, period. Since the economy has gotten worse, I’ve noticed that the tips, per table, have, for the most part, gotten smaller. Everyone is struggling, not just us waitresses.

    If you receive bad service, you shouldn’t have to tip, unless you know the server and realize that he/she isn’t up to par that day…and even then, you don’t actually need to feel that you’re required to tip. So, I agree that a mandatory gratuity is wrong. We take our chances with every new customer we wait on. Fortunately, most of my customers are wonderful.

    The customer basically can control the service, believe it or not. If the customer is rude, arrogant, hateful, wants to argue over the printed menu prices, his chances of good service are slim to none. If the customer has the right to refuse to tip, we should have the right to refuse service…and we do, which is something many people don’t seem to realize. And if I refuse to serve you, and ask you to leave, and you don’t, I am within my legal rights to call the law and have you escorted out. Customer/waitress go hand in hand, it’s pretty much a symbiotic relationship, don’t you think? You can’t get your meal without me, I can’t pay my rent without you. Too bad more servers don’t realize that.

    I’ve been waiting tables for about 47 years, and let me tell you, I have NEVER worked for minimum wage, and wouldn’t be able to survive if I had to. I’ll hustle tips until I’m too old to walk the floors.

    • 81


      Wow. Sage words, Joyce. You’ve shared some terrific insights. Thank you. :-)

      Needless to say, I completely agree with you. You’ve been in the business for a long time. However, among most of the younger servers working today, I suspect your point of view, sadly, may be in the minority.

      Am I wrong?

      • 82

        kt says

        yes you are very wrong. i am young and i have been waiting tabled for almost ten years. i consider myself a very attentive, courteous, and helpful server, was even when i encounter some of the rudest, drunkest, demeaning people in the world. i have given great service and been given 0 tip. i have heard excuses from “we can’t afford to tip” or “i didn’t like the food that i knew every ingredient in”. those are not my problems but i still have to pay taxes on the food these jokers eat and don’t tip on. and since so many people see servers as lowly, uneducated people, i am a 28 year old woman with two bachelor degrees and a masters. within the job market, i make more waiting tables than i would teaching, or working in any 9-5 job. i see people all around me getting laid off and i’m raking in 70,000 a year. so next time someone treats their server like trash maybe they should realize that NO ONE is better than anyone else. we just have different paths.

        • 83

          Len Penzo says

          I think that is great that you are making $70k annually as a server — but I’m not sure why you are complaining. Or think that you are entitled to an 18% tip for lousy service simply because the government makes you pay taxes when you get stiffed by a cheapskate. Whether you want to admit it or not, we all have bad days on occasion. (Heck, I’m having one right now. LOL) Besides, cheapskates and rude people come with the territory, kt! You knew that when you agreed to take the job! Right?

          • 84

            kt says

            i very much knew that cheapskates come with the job, and unlike my peers i don’t typically let it bother me because i know some great customer will come out and make up for it. what i am sick and tired of is the people that treat servers as sub-par humans because of what we do for a living. some of us like interacting with the public. it’s the ignorance to how business works that infuriates me. and yes, i have bad days like everyone else, but i know that i can’t hide my bad day behind a computer, i have to buck up and smile and be as pleasant and attentive as possible. despite what people think, serving is a taxing, exhausting business, but it can be very lucrative if you know how to do it well.

    • 85

      RJ says

      Great comments Joyce!! True professional. Its a business. Its a trade. Both parties should be at an equal level.

  18. 86

    Joyce says

    Thanks, Len, glad you feel that way about my post. Sadly, you’re right. Most younger servers don’t seem to have caught the connection between friendly, courteous service and their tips. If they would stop to think about it, they’d realize, as I mentioned before, the TIPS and the CUSTOMER, NOT the restaurant itself, pay our rent, buy our groceries, our clothes, put our kids thru school, etc. Somtimes we just have to bite our tongues and keep smiling. It’s really a difficult job, and contrary to popular opinion, no, not anybody can do it. The stress level is unbelieveable, btw. Just thought I’d mention that, too.

  19. 87


    These are great tips! My hubby is a chef, and for parties over 8 they put on the gratuity. I think it’s 18%. BUT it is a 4 star restaurant, and if someone got bad service I am sure they would complain about it. Personally I think the added on gratuity is kind of crappy, but that’s just me.

      • 89

        Tomas Quinonez says

        Most people don’t tip at a soul food joint? What are you implying, Doug? Sounds racist to me.

          • 91

            Samantha Beck says

            Let’s see.. googling “soul food”. First hit: “Soul food is a variety of cuisine popular in African-American culture.”

            Apologizing for implied racism is definitely racist.

    • 94


      @Mrs. Money: I would think that wait staff at a four-star restaurant – where I would expect the service to be 4-star as well – would really be upset with the mandatory gratuity because it puts a cap on their tips by a lot of people who think like me.

      @Susan: In a perfect world, I agree. But sometimes that is easier said than done, especially if you have no control over who the location.

      @Sam: I know where you are coming from, but I was addressing so-called “mandatory gratuities.” Simply walking away from a restaurant that advertises a mandatory gratuity risks costly civil litigation or potential criminal prosecution, as I illustrated in the article. :-)

      • 95

        Brian says

        Hey all you a-holes who don’t want to tip, I have the perfect solution… Don’t go out to eat!!! I was a waitress when I was working my way through college. It’s hard, tiring work. Also, in Texas servers only get paid $2.15/hr. Today, when I go out to dinner I already factor in what I think about 20% of my bill would be and plan on spending the money ahead of time. If you can’t afford it, you probably should be eating Ramen noodles at home. Enjoying the company of yourself because no one wants to be around a stingy selfish prick.

        • 96

          Len Penzo says

          Normally I delete comments from folks who must resort to juvenile name-calling in a lame attempt to make their point, but for you, Brian, I’m going to make an exception.

          Cry me a river. I’m an engineer; believe it or not, that’s hard, tiring work — sometimes with many long uncompensated hours too. In fact, it’s quite stressful at times. I hate to break this to you, but everybody works their asses off to earn their paychecks. What makes servers so special? Maybe you’d like to tell the rest of us out here who work in other fields this: What makes servers’ blood sweat and tears any more valuable than the customers who you’re insisting should be forking over their hard-earned money for mandatory tips for lousy service? I’m sure all the ditch-diggers, soldiers, janitors, bricklayers, car dealers, grocery store clerks, middle managers and farmers of the world are dying to know why a server’s job is harder than theirs. I know. Because it is. Right.

          Let’s face it. Nobody is arguing that a tip isn’t justified for decent service; service should be rewarded with a tip that properly reflects the quality of service provided. But your argument boils down to this: You willingly admit that you (at one time) chose a job that pays substandard wages and so you want everybody else to make up for that poor career decision by subsidizing your paycheck — even when you provide lousy service.

          Talk about stingy selfish pricks.

          • 98

            Kim says

            I am a server, and although the restaurant I work at has a “mandatory gratuity” on parties over 8, I will have you know that in the entire time I have worked there, I have never once needed to implement this “rule”. This is an option in our computer system. I don’t add the mandatory gratuity to my parties because I trust in my customers and am confident in my service. I have never received less than 20% on my big parties. I believe that a GOOD tip is earned, as well.

            With that said, Len, in a lot of cases, if you’re getting lousy service it is because the restaurant is understaffed and the servers are overworked. Nobody is saying being a server is harder than any other job, but it is absolutely hard work. And while I hate to admit it, being a server, I have walked out without tipping ONE time. The waitress took our order, never brought our drinks, another server brought the food and we never saw a server again. After 35 minutes of sitting there waiting to have our food wrapped, we decided to calculate what the bill was, threw that on the table, and left. We later found out that our waitress had been in the parking lot smoking weed the whole time. Does she deserve a tip? Hell no! Not with my hard earned money! Is this the industry norm? Absolutely not! A lot of people are using the excuse “bad service” as a way to get out of tipping their server when their food takes 25-30 mins to come out (9/10 times it’s the kitchens fault), or to get out of tipping when they clearly can see their server running around to 10 different tables (managements fault). Nobody is saying tip for shotty service, but please be a little bit more considerate to the fact that there are people that work in the restaurant making salary, and don’t care that it all falls on the servers shoulders.
            Some of us love what we do and really don’t mind taking the good days with the bad, but there are just a-holes out there that come out to eat only to pretend their an American idol judge and they deduct points from your tip if you don’t keep their Coke 3/4 full the entire time.

            I hope I got my point across here, it’s really late lol.
            Bottom line – unless your server goes out of their way to be a douche, the customer should be understanding of circumstance, and try to maximize their dining experience by laying off a bit. After all, you’re spending your money, why waste it on scrutinizing your servers every move?

          • 99

            Lauren Nabi says

            Also please explain to me how you work uncompensated hours? I’d love to hear that… my husband is an engineer and I promise you he is compensated for every hour he works and every expense he encounters while working. Don’t give me that bull**** because while I will agree it is hard work an oil company will not and cannot legally just decide not to pay you for work you already performed based off trivial reasons the way cheap entitled customers do to their customers. You cannot be denied payment for being an asshole on the job and many oilfield workers are.

            • 100

              Len Penzo says

              Wow. Who tinkled in your cornflakes, Lauren?

              Ever hear of something called “a salary”? Most engineers who work for a corporation — as I do — are paid an annual salary that is independent of the number of hours worked. We don’t punch a time clock; we get paid the same amount every week — whether we work 40 hours, 36 hours or 80 hours. Look it up.

          • 101

            no you says

            Seriously, this is ridiculous. You’re talking about punishing servers for the unethical practices of their bosses. Restaurant workers typically receive $2.83 an hour because IT IT LEGAL FOR THEIR EMPLOYERS NOT TO PAY THEM MORE THAN THAT. If you go out to a restaurant without writing to your Congress people about this unfair industry standard than you are stating that you agree with it. And you are thus required to compensate the person who is now working for YOU – your server – for the work they do for you – waiting on you. Instead you are wasting your time making excuses for being cheap. 15% is not a good tip for good service, it may have been in the 80s, but I bet you’ve gotten a raise since then haven’t you?

            • 102

              Len Penzo says

              Unethical? Servers are offered a job at a given wage that they can either accept or refuse. Unless an employer offers one wage and then reneges on the original agreement, or forces them to accept the position at the point of a loaded gun, there is no ethics problem.

              Your entire argument is based upon the flawed assumption that servers lack the free will to say “no.” Waiters are not indentured servants beholden to restaurant owners. They can willingly quit and look for a better-paying job whenever they wish.

              Oh, and I’m not cheap. I believe in personal responsibility and accountability. Since you felt compelled to judge me, let me give my thoughts about you. You seem to feel entitled to the sweat off others’ brows, whether it’s deserved or not, just so you can have a few extra bucks in your wallet. I consider people who think like you to be self-centered and greedy.

              As for your comment: “15% is not a good tip for good service, it may have been in the 80s, but I bet you’ve gotten a raise since then haven’t you?”

              Oy. A tip percentage represents a proportion of the entire restaurant bill. So as the price of the meal increases over time, the tip amount follows by a proportional amount. Even though the percentage holds steady over time, nobody gets cheated by inflation.

              15% of a $10 meal in “year X” = $1.50 tip
              15% of the same meal that has risen to $20 a decade later = $3.00 tip

              Meal price doubled; tip doubled. The server got a $1.50 raise even though the tip remained a very reasonable 15%.

              See how that works?

              So tell me again why tip percentages that were perfectly acceptable back in 1980 and 1990 are no longer good in 2013. (Hint: greed.)

          • 103

            Paul Bartlomain says

            Regarding poor restaurant service—
            I think you have to consider the possibility of what could happen when you complain about the service or the food.
            I hope this does not happen too often, but human nature being what it is, think about what someone might be doing to your food order back in the kitchen where you are not able to see. You are better off telling the manager about your experience and why you WILL NOT be back. Just leave and go somewhere else.

        • 105

          Deebers says

          Click the link below to get the actual facts on how much tipped employees make:

          Don’t take the word of a server who felt they received a lousy tip as the gospel truth.
          If you are a tipped employee and not getting paid in the manner explained in the link above, then you need to report your employer.

        • 106

          Jipper says

          Brain, you were a waitress? I would have never given a good tip to a cross dresser. I don’t want my kids seeing that. As far as your job being so important, guess what – it’s not. I just wish the nicer restaurants would let me order at a register and I’ll walk own food out, and refill my own drink, and pay when I’m done. I’d rather keep getting up doing all this than getting up asking people where my server. Your job can be replaced.

          • 107

            Ren says

            Jipper … you’re just a cheap a-hole who doesn’t want to tip. As far as I’m concerned, you can keep your business at home. It may not be brain surgery, but waiting tables is an exhausting job that deserves compensation. And I have no idea what line of business you are in, but your replaceable too. That doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to get paid. Most people who are paid hourly or by salary do not get their pay deducted because of mistakes. But it happens all the time to servers. Servers rely on their tips to pay their bills and feed and cloth their families. The only excuse for tipping less than 18% is when a server is purposefully being a jerk and clearly doesn’t care to wait about the servise he/she is providing. All that being said, you are just a cheap jerk who shouldn’t be allowed to eat out. To anyone who reads this … IF YOU DON’T WANT TO TIP, OR FEEL THE NEED TO LOOK FOR EXCUSES TO DEDUCT FROM THE TIP, STAY HOME!!!!!

        • 109

          Camille says

          A mandatory gratuity is added for large parties to ensure that a server who provides good service isn’t stiffed by a group of people who have been eating and drinking for hours and don’t remember or care to worry about a tip when they are hit with a large bill at the end of the night. It doesn’t cap a server’s tip, it meets the minimum. A person can always tip on top of it. If the service is poor, a guest can request the tip be taken off. It sounds like the author of this article is assuming service will be poor and/or is looking for any way to avoid paying gratuity. THERE IS A REASON THIS POLICY HAS BECOME NECESSARY. Too many times people have stiffed servers and bartenders who have provided excellent service!

          • 110

            Camille says

            I realize this article is about how to avoid the mandatory gratuity when presented with bad service, but some of these scenarios are assumed from the moment the guest walks in, like splitting the party up beforehand and preemptively requesting the charge be waived.

          • 111

            Len Penzo says

            It sounds like the author of this article is assuming service will be poor and/or is looking for any way to avoid paying gratuity.

            Hold on, now. I am assuming service may be poor, Camille.

            It sounds like you are assuming service will be excellent and/or are looking for any way to ensure the server will get a mandatory gratuity — even if service is poor. (See what I did there?)

    • 112

      Doug says

      hhmm sounds like you have a plan before you even meet the server. sounds like a very cheap person trying to save 20-30 dollars I hope the 20-30 breaks you

      • 113


        Hey Doug,
        I’m a server. Had a table last night that complimented me on my flawless service. They had a private room for 12, but only 7 showed, reflecting on the amount of the bill. Our establishment does not have an automatic gratuity, and our corporate does not want us to point out that the grat. is not included. What do you suggest?


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