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.


      • 3

        Tomas Quinonez says

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

          • 5

            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.

  1. 6

    Susan Tiner says

    Here’s a tip I would add: vote with your feet by avoiding restaurants that charge a mandatory gratuity.
    .-= Susan Tiner´s last blog ..Financial Organizing Soap Opera Episode #5: Paris Shoot =-.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      @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. :-)

      • 9

        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.

        • 10

          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.

          • 12

            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?

          • 13

            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.

            • 14

              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.

          • 15

            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?

            • 16

              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.)

          • 17

            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.

        • 19

          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.

        • 20

          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.

          • 21

            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!!!!!

        • 23

          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!

          • 24

            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.

          • 25

            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?)

    • 26

      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

      • 27

        Tim says

        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?

  2. 29

    MLR says

    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.

    • 30

      Len Penzo says

      @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. 31

    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

    • 32

      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.

      • 33

        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.

        • 34

          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.

          • 35

            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.”

          • 36

            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?

      • 38

        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.

        • 39

          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.

          • 40

            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.

        • 41

          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.

        • 42

          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!

          • 43

            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.

            • 44

              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.

              • 45

                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.)

          • 46

            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?

            • 47

              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.

          • 48

            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.

          • 49

            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.

            • 50

              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! :-)

          • 51

            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.

        • 52

          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.

          • 53

            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.

        • 54

          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…

      • 55

        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.

  4. 56

    Ashley says

    As a former server I’ll say that after a few occasions of…
    - providing impeccable service to large parties
    - getting screwed on the tip, sometimes no tip at all
    - paying out of my own pocket to serve them (servers owe a percentage of their total sales to others regardless if you tip)
    …I decided something is always better than nothing and I’d rather grat to ensure I got the something. The people who appreciated good service were going to take care of me even if I grat’ed them. The ppl who were cheap or felt I should pick another profession to get paid weren’t going to leave a tip unless it was added on the bill. Just my 2 cents.

    Also Len, you’d be surprised how many people tip poorly at nice restaurants.
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..Bankruptcy: Filing Chapter 7, 13, 11, and 12 =-.

    • 57

      CK says

      Everybody wants to make more money, and everybody wants to spend less money… Tipping based on the bill is the crazy part. It does not take more effort to be nice and deliver a $20 plate vs a $50 plate and filling free water glasses adds nothing to a tip based on the bill. If I go to a restraunt and spend $200 to feed 4 adults and take an hour to eat, I pay $40 more for that hour of service; if my bill is only $100 I pay $20 for that same hour of service. If I add two more adults and make the bill $300, should the same hour of service really be $60? It would seem $45 for the hour would still be good a god tip even though it is only 15%. Oh and don’t get me started on tipping pre tax or post tax…

      • 58

        CMC says

        Simple explanation for this CK;

        When dining in a restaurant where the average plate is ~$10-$15 the server is usually dealing with 4-5 tables at a time. When dining in a restaurant where the average plate is ~$40-$50 the server is likely dealing with 2, maybe three max tables. On top of that the turn around time is is often much longer (almost double). This is to ensure that better service is provided. You are correct in saying that filling a glass is easy. What isn’t easy is timing the meal so that each course is brought out without overlapping or having too much time between. This is often difficult to judge because everyone eats at a different pace and different types of food require different times to prepare. When things go well the customer rarely notices and that is the point; seamless dining experience. It is only when something disrupts that flow that it is noticed, so there always seems to be a reason to reduce the tip but never one to make the customer think to increase it. In more expensive restaurants there is also usually more support staff who share in the tips. So while it seems the server is making a lot more money it is only the guests perception. Similar to buying a BMW vs. Kia. Just because the customer is paying more doesn’t mean the profit is more. There are a lot more expenses involved in providing the higher quality. The server is making more on one table but working with half the number of tables and spending more time with each, then sharing a larger portion of the tip with the help.

        As for large parties; when the bill gets to be over a certain amount people have a tendency to throw out the math because the amount seems large to be “giving away” and they mentally cap it at, for example, $20, even on a $300 check. Sometimes it is simply a matter of people having difficulty dealing with the math when the numbers get large.

    • 60

      Len Penzo says

      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.

      • 61

        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.

        • 62

          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

      • 63

        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.

        • 64

          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.

      • 65

        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.

          • 67

            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.

  5. 68

    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

    • 69

      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.

    • 72

      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?

  6. 73

    Ribeye of your Dreams says

    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!

    • 74

      Len Penzo says

      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.

  7. 75

    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 :)

    • 76

      Len Penzo says

      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. :-)

      • 77

        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

  8. 79

    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 :)

    • 80

      Len Penzo says

      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.”

      • 81

        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.

        • 82

          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.

  9. 85

    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

    • 86

      Len Penzo says

      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.

  10. 87

    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.

    • 88

      Len Penzo says

      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.

    • 89

      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.

  11. 90

    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.

    • 91

      Len Penzo says

      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.

    • 92

      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.

  12. 93

    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.

  13. 95

    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!

    • 96

      Len Penzo says

      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. :-)

  14. 97

    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.

    • 98

      Len Penzo says

      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.

  15. 99

    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.

    • 100

      Len Penzo says

      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?

  16. 101

    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.

    • 102

      Len Penzo says

      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.

    • 103

      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.

  17. 104

    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’.

  18. 105

    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.

    • 106

      Len Penzo says

      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. :-)

  19. 107

    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.

    • 108

      Len Penzo says

      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?

      • 109

        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.

        • 110

          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?

          • 111

            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.

    • 112

      RJ says

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

  20. 113

    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.

  21. 114

    phil says

    What is with the 18%?? Jesus Christ only asked for 10%..
    Are we being asked to tip or pay the servers wages??

  22. 115

    Jenna says

    YOU SHOULD NEVER REFUSE TO PAY THE GRATUITY. ARE YOU INSANE??!! Because of your large party, you are preventing the server from picking up other tables. You are preventing them from making any money. Your large party needs more attention. They can’t have other tables. All their attention should be on you. Not to mention, most problems with the kitchen arise because of large parties. It is very difficult to prepare 10 entrees to perfection all at exactly the same time without at least one side order being less than piping hot. PAY THE DAMN GRATUITIY IT MAY BE THE BULK OF THE MONEY YOUR SERVER MAKES FOR THE ENTIRE EVENING. STOP BEING SO EFFING CHEAP.

    • 116

      Len Penzo says

      First off, Jenna: please stop shouting. Second: So in essence you are suggesting that if my server gives me lousy service I am obligated to “pay the damn gratuity” because, well, it’s the customer’s responsibility to pay the server’s wages. Did I understand you correctly? I thought that was the responsibility of her employer.

      Do you really believe servers are entitled to their tips whether they deserve them or not?

      Now I’m really curious. If your kid told you she was entitled to an allowance whether she did her chores or not — would you give it to her?

    • 117

      kt says

      jenna makes an excellent point for you laymen that don’t understand why there is an extra tip for large parties. when i wait on a party of ten or more, they stay longer, they are more needy and while i am running around for them, i could have waited on 15 or 20 other tables in that time frame that i could double my money one. big parties take up space and time and any person can understand that concept. any worker in this country can understand this mentality, the more people you can help, the more money you make and big parties hinder that.

  23. 118

    Wally says

    I remember it started years ago when the IRS started to require service people to report their tips as income and tax them on it.
    Now the IRS requires service people to pay taxes on all sales, weather the customer tips or not.
    So now it just another tax that the government can add to all the other taxes.
    The restaurant owner is caught in the middle and he’s lucky if he makes 5% profit on the whole mess.

    I sold my restaurant years ago and now operate a hot dog cart.
    No employees… no landlords… no problems… and happy customers.

  24. 119

    Lyssa Kimball says

    This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine…it is simply not fair to add a “tip” to the bill..that is the customer’s choice based on the service they receive! Its not like you have ordered something and not paid for it. Restaurants should have absolutely NO legal right to do this. The last time I was at a restaurant that added the tip to the bill, I took a pen and changed it to what I wanted to pay. When the waitress came back to take the bill, I politely informed her that I had changed the gratuity because I did not feel that the service we had received warranted a $25 tip. (And it didn’t…she was rude, forgot most of our order, did not come back in a timely manner to take our order, etc etc…not $25 worth of service at all!). Nothing happened and I do not plan to go to that restaurant again (the people that I was with joked on the way out that next time the waitress would “spit in my food!”) Bottom line, the tip is the customer’s choice, its not part of the restaurant bill.

    • 120

      Len Penzo says

      Lyssa, I’m not sure it is very enforceable if a restaurant decides to tack on a “mandatory gratuity” and the customer refuses to pay it. Now, if they called it a “service charge” then maybe that it is another story. Not sure.

      I think you did the right thing and I am glad you held your ground. However, you might want to stay away from that restaurant from now on — at least until that particular waitress is no longer employed there.

  25. 121

    Shannon says

    A restaurant in Philadelphia charged a mandatory 18% or 20% tip (can’t remember now). I felt the service was not up to par and asked them to let me adjust the tip, which they did. Come to think of it, I probably would have let it slide if it was 18% so I’m sure it was 20%, way too high for the level of service I received.

    • 122

      Len Penzo says

      I’m very encouraged to hear that, Shannon! Like I said, as long as it is called a mandatory gratuity, I think restaurants have no leg to stand on when it comes to enforcing it. Besides, it’s just bad business to force customers to pay a large tip if they’ve received crap service.

  26. 123

    webcarpenter says

    I blame the restaurant industry for “gratuities” becoming out of control. How was this industry able to lobby for laws that require them only to pay $3.30 an hour to their employees and expect the customer to make up the difference? Now everyone expects a tip. Barber, beautician, cab driver, massage therapists, ect. Where does it end? A tip jar at my doctors office?!

  27. 124

    siegi says

    Is the tip percentage calculated from the sub-total amount BEFORE the sales-tax is added or from the total that has the tax included? I don’t see any reason why I should tip also on the TAX.
    I wished USA would change to the European (i.e. Germany etc)system where the tip is already included and one CAN CHOOSE to only round up to the next Euro ($ 15.60 bill= pay $16.00) waitstaff gets a living wage which includes health/dental/vision insurance and paid vacation and sick leave etc. just like any while or blue collared worker.

    • 125

      Len Penzo says

      Tip should be calculated before taxes, siegi.

      You don’t worry about the guaranteed-tip model of Europe, taking away the incentive of the wait staff to perform well?

  28. 126

    sonicBoom says

    Sadly Len, you seem to be missing the point here that A LOT of people think that not tipping or under tipping is OK regardless of if they received stellar service or not or they just dont know. When someone receives a bill for $300 for a meal, their eyes bulge out of their head! They suddenly feel that $25 is too much to pay for service and start to find reasons to justify their position (just used $25 as an example from what a previous poster said) even though if they were dining in a smaller group 15% or more would be fine with them. Sadly, suddenly, when that large bill comes, a lot of people will try to find a way to save money (it truly is human nature). Is it fair to pay for terrible service, by no means however, when we go out to dine, it is an unwritten contract that is expected in societal norms that a gratuity should be provided for good service Unfortunately, Cheapness gets the better of some people and restaurants over the years have had to implement this policy. I do agree with you that they should change the name to “service charge” and if it is a reputable place, they probably would have no problem reducing it if you had a legitimate beef, but even so MRS “$25 is too much” said she wouldnt patronize that establishment even after they honored her request which just shows the ridiculousness of our society.

    • 127

      Len Penzo says

      No, I realize some people are cheap, sonicBoom. I really do. But that doesn’t justify forcing anybody to pay a mandatory 18 percent gratuity for lousy service — which was the subject of this post. :-)

  29. 128

    JD says

    I do not agree with mandatory tips added to bills. I live in Canada wait staff is paid min wage where I live 10.00/hr currently and most don’t declare most of their tips (only required to declare 10% of hourly wage I believe) Meanwhile i pay 12,000 of income tax on a 63K income (remember this is Canada) While i see some wait staff live like kings and collect all the low income subsidies that I have to pay for. I used to work in the restaurant industry BTW but went to school to get a better job.

  30. 129

    JW says

    I think that one thing most people do not understand is that you WILL pay a gratuity regardless of whether you want to or not. Look at it this way, if everyone in the world (read U.S. for this discussion) decided to stop tipping then the restaurants would be forced by minimum wage laws to compensate said servers to the tune of an extra 5 dollars an hour a piece.

    This raise would cost roughly 200-250 dollars (average for a smaller restaurant) extra per day in labor costs. I am not sure if any of you have seen restaurant overhead sheets, but just labor by itself eats up about 30% of net profits. After rent, electric, restocking fees, etc… are payed, the usually profit margin is about 15-20% depending on month of the year.

    Now assuming that your average smaller restaurant takes in about 3000 a day net, the profit is about 450-600 daily. This 200-250 dollars eats an extensive portion of profits. Most restaurants that you go to would not be able to survive. So, the only solution would be to raise prices on everything by that margin to recoup expenses to pay servers. That means that everytime you go out you would now be paying that extra “gratuity”, if you want to call it that, when you go out to eat and would not have a choice about it.

    I honestly cannot believe that I never hear this arguement. It seems to be common sense, but I guess people do not realise that servers get paid well below minimum wage and that’s how you get your food at the prices that you pay for them. Also, if this were to happen then no college person or adult would go into the service industry because of the pay to bullshit ratio. They would just go to another minumum wage job where they do not have to deal with people. You would always be waited on by a high school kid that makes minimum wage and could care less how your meal was because there are no real incentives to care. If you complained to the manager, the manager wouldn’t care either because they know if they fire one snot-nosed brat then they would have to hire another exactly like it to take the first ones place. In the end, you would not only still have to pay roughly the same amount of money that you do now with gratuity, but you would have a kid waiting on you that couldn’t care less about you or your food.

    • 130

      JR says

      Perfectly put JW.

      Someone has to pay the servers and by tipping, restaurants put the cost in the hands of the customers, hell, even servers pay fellow employees (expo, busser, hostess, bartender, food runner, etc etc.) This is what allows restaurants to keep their business running and allow menu item costs at a more attractive price.

      By eliminating the tipping culture will only do two things:
      1. The cost of menu items will sky rocket
      2. The level of service provided will drastically plummet

      I think changing the “automatic gratuity” to “service charge” is a great idea however keep in mind, customers are paying for the same thing called by a different name. How is that so much better? What’s in a name?

      To make myself clear, I do believe poor service deserves a poor tip however, I most certainly do not believe ANY server to deserve a zero tip. Because when servers receive a zero tip (which may be fair in the eyes of the customer but to I don’t know, any person with some empathy it is wrong) for a server to have to pay out of their own pockets.

      I also want to make clear of my stance and that is that large parties should indeed have a mandatory service charge on their bill. They take up more room, can do with less food by sharing, they stay longer, they tie up the kitchen for long time at the same time which can interfere with other customer’s food, they are louder, they make a bigger mess, and they are most definitely higher maintenance. A service charge would most definitely be appropriate.

      Oh, one another thing. In cases I’m part of a big party dining out and have an auto gratuity, I am sure to tack on more as 18% in my opinion is not enough tip to express my gratitude for great service. The national average is not 19.1% from what I understand and I have never been the one to be shy to go above and beyond the standards, big party or not.

      In return, the servers recognize my gratitude, they talk with other servers, and this prompts a very close relationship and hey, why not, I like to invest To Insure Prompt Service and reep the reward? Sure there were some servers who might have not been great but I still tip well as it’s worth it to me and next time I’ll just politely ask to be served by another server I may know is better. It’s a small price to pay to filter out the bad ones and keep the servers to know I’m one of the good guys who will take care of them as I expect them to take care of me.

  31. 131

    Kelsey says

    As for where the mandatory gratuity came from, or at least why so many restaurants think it’s a good idea, I can answer that. I used to work in a restaurant that went back and forth on gratuity. We did see one common feature in larger parties, though: The tip stopped being a percent. Tables of four or five would tip a decent percentage, but once you hit the larger groups (8, 10, or more), whoever was paying began to look at the tip as a dollar amount instead of a percent, sometimes leaving the servers with 5% or less on large bills.

    Combine that with our tipshare, which was a cruel 3% of our total SALES, and big tables became a source of dread when they weren’t charged a mandatory grat.

    • 132

      Razor512 says

      Remember, restaurant food has the highest profit margin in the entire food industry. A large group is a windfall for the restaurant overall, and smart restaurants will try to incentivise groups by offering them discounts and no mandatory gratuity, and then give the staff a bonus for working those tables.

      Most of the bad business practices are due to greed and shortsightedness. for example, sacrificing overall sales in favor of higher profit margins (for example ask your self is it better to sell 10 items at $10 profit each, or sell 100 items at $5 profit each)

      When you make a mandatory tip and it causes many people to avoid your establishment, then you are getting better tips at the cost of a large amount of potential customers being put off by the rudeness of that mandatory tip.

      some of the more successful restaurants that don’t rely on a brand name do this in order to sell more food. The servers also like those arrangements along with the customers because people are rewarded for bringing their friends with a 20+% discount on the food, the servers still get their tip (and regardless of the tip, they get a bonus percentage of the final order, making their better paying days, the days when large groups come as they make more money than the days when relying on tips from really small groups or individuals)

  32. 133

    Heather says

    Holy Cow! Are we ( you) really this stupid!? I’m a F-ing server!!!! I slave, smile, laugh at your STUPID jokes!!! I take your orders…which are aka ways super stupid. Dressing on the side… Chicken well done…separate checks….screw off. Who are you making up this blog/ website?! Get a life and a clue. EVERY SERVER TALKS AND LAUGHS AT YOU!!! Lol

    • 134

      Len Penzo says

      Holy cow, indeed. Somebody is really bitter! But thanks for being this thread’s poster girl for the pathetic entitled class.

      Psst: You’re in the wrong job, sister.

      Just curious … What else do you think the public should be forced to subsidize with their hard-earned dollars in order to support you?

      • 135

        Kelsey says

        To be fair, no one is forcing you to go out to eat, or to go to a full service restaurant instead of McDonald’s. So you can’t really say they’re forcing you to give up your money–if it’s that big a deal to you, call ahead to check what the restaurant’s policies are regarding tipping.

  33. 136

    Pauline says

    I think you should work for everything and not think the gratuity is something you are entitled to, plus expect a tip on top if you push a bit harder. I was charged the “party of 8 gratuity” when there were only two of us at the table. The waitress was terrible and I had to raise my voice to get the fee waived. She was insolent, saying ” you are going to tip anyway, I put that 18% so you don’t have to do calculations yourself”. She had ”accidentally” added items to the bill, then when she removed them, she ”forgot” to take the amount off the tip amount as well! No need to say she didn’t get a penny from us.

  34. 137

    Rick Kacel says

    First time commenting, love your site. I agree with you fully on this whole tipping issue. In my experience most people are not assertive enough to tell the waitstaff that they are giving lousy service. They pay the mandatory tip, leave, and never come back. If you own the restaurant, wouldn’t you want to know that you are losing customers? The places we like are the ones in which the manager comes around to each table and asks if you are satisfied with the service and the food. Once I mentioned to the manager that although the food was great, it took a long time to get it. She gave our dinners for free! Wow! We go their a lot now. Mandatory tipping is nonsense. I heard San Francisco legislated a 25% mandatory tip at all restaurants. Is that true?

    • 138

      Len Penzo says

      Glad you enjoy the site, Rich. Thanks for reading.

      +1 on the restaurants where the managers come around asking how everything is. We were at an Italian restaurant chain a couple years ago (Carino’s) and we got similar results when expressing our displeasure with the service, despite the good meals. We received a two free desserts — which went a long way towards ensuring we became repeat customers. Since then, their service has improved markedly and we eat there a three or four times a year.

      As for San Francisco … we took a family excursion there in October to do a little sight-seeing. While we were there we ate at three different restaurants and never encountered a 25% mandatory gratuity.

  35. 139

    partgypsy says

    My father worked in all areas of restaurants, from waiter, to manager, to owning and running restaurants. The number one rule, if you are having a problem with your meal, either the food, or the service, ask to speak to the manager. For one, things that servers get blamed for are perhaps not the server’s fault (meals coming out late, steak served the wrong temperatured). If you speak to the manager, many issues can be resolved with an improved dining experience, or the manager will be alerted to frequent problems with the same server. If all you do is not leave a tip and do not complain, all you will be seen is an ingrate, and if there is a problem, no one can correct it because you didn’t tell anyone! Sometimes there are problems with servers. But personally, my father had a lot of experience with people who had a fine experience UNTIL they receive the bill and saw the mandatory gratuity (printed on the menu for parties of 6 or more) and then suddenly finding a problem with their service or the meal.
    Seriously. If you cannot afford to tip at a full service restaurant, either stay home to eat, or frequent fast food restaurants, that’s what they are there for. PS I never worked at a waitstaff but I have worked in jobs which involved customer service.

  36. 140

    Shirley says

    I spent 13 years as a server and I met ALL kinds of tippers. If I had a large party come in and tell the manager that if he removed the mandatory gratuity, they would compensate me well for good service, I would tell him to take off that mandatory gratuity! A problem I always encountered with large parties where many contributed to the bill was, people would see how much they owed and throw in some $$ for the tip. But not everyone figured it out correctly, or allowed for tax or gave enough for the 15% tip. So in the end, the server gets screwed b/c people always can justify themselves by saying “I know I gave enough for the tip.” But not everyone does. I agree one should not have to pay for bad service. I knew when I did and when I did not deserve a good tip. I mostly made out well, but there were times when I did a LOT of work for a large party and was very disappouinted with the outcome. At one large party on Thanksgiving Day, the person in charge said “Everyone put in $50.00″ and everyone did. My co-server and I were left a $300.00 tip which was generously shared with everyone who helped us out that day. I understand both sides of this. EVERYONE does not have integrity when it comes to tipping. If they did, there would be no need for a mandatory gratuity on large parties. I agree one should not pay for bad sevice. And, I dont know, maybe servers dont need to try so hard if they are assured a good tip…

  37. 141

    Edward says

    What the heck kind of oxymoron is “mandatory gratuity”?!! If a restaurant thinks this is the way to go, simply put–they should raise their damn prices. If my dinner is $20, but I’m *required* to pay $23, just write $23 on the friggin’ menu!

    I once asked if the cook could come out for a second. I tipped him $10, pointing at the waiter I said–”Thanks for the great meal. But this bonehead gets nothing.”

  38. 142

    Daisy @ Everything Finance says

    This is a hot topic, but we’ve had a situation just like this. We were in a party of 14 or so, and they had TERRIBLE service. Unfortunately they had the mandatory gratuity, and we didn’t bother disputing it. It would have saved us tons!

  39. 143

    John@MoneyPrinciple says

    Wow! This touched a nerve. (although some of the comments may be from 2009???).

    Going to a restaurant, particularly with friends and family, should be a celebration although of course many people just eat out regularly – or have to if they are away from home on business. When the service is bad, it makes the whole experience bad and having to pay for the meal is more than enough without shelling out for non-existent service.

    Anyway there is a culture in the US of paying waiters peanuts and expecting them to live on tips. Maybe this is not the best way of doing it but it is efficient from the business point of view because no customers, no (or little) wages for the waiters. Of course it sucks if you are a waiter.

    Over here there is a different culture – waiters are employed and should get at least a minimum wage. We generally tip 10% but it is certainly not mandatory.

    When the minimum wage was introduced, some restaurants paid under the rate and told the waiters to make up the difference but that has been stamped on by the courts.

    In the end, you can pay what you think the meal is worth and leave your name and address for them to prosecute you if they want to. Few have the nerve to but that happened to me many years ago in a party of 8 and when challenged, my lawyer friend said at the top of his voice that he was quite happy to discuss their bill in front of their other customers.

    In fact we don’t often go out these days as it is much nicer to have meals at home, inviting friends etc where there is not a table of shrieking girls on one side, a table of drunks on the other side and you can get up and walk around if you want.

  40. 145

    Oscar says

    You’ll forgive me if I find myself a little incredulous at your first suggestion of promising a tip higher than 18% when just before it you say that a 15% tip is completely acceptable for good service.

    Restaurants aren’t stupid. They know there are many more people like you than there are people who will go overboard. That’s why the mandatory tip is there. Over a thousand customers, a flat 18% will pay a lot more than chancing higher (and lower!) tips.

    • 146

      Len Penzo says

      Oh, okay. (rolling eyes) And I hope you’ll forgive me if I find myself a little incredulous with the fact that you are obviously unable to discern a difference between good service and excellent service — or realize that most people don’t appreciate having to pay an 18% tip for lousy service. Just sayin’.

  41. 147

    Justabiker says

    Maybe a look at your Funk & Wagnall for those who think a gratuity is a requirement:

    gra·tu·i·ty [gruh-too-i-tee, -tyoo-]
    1. a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip.
    2. something given without claim or demand.

  42. 148

    quantum says

    Seriously? Why would a customer required to pay gratuity to servers? If I dont tip im kinda like a bad guy because I didnt acknowledge the great service by the servers? Why put the burden on customers who usually pay high price for the food on fancy restaurants? If servers are gonna be mad for customers not paying good tips, why cant they complain to there managers for paying crappy wages?

  43. 149

    Guy says

    I hate tipping waitresses. I think it is silly to tip someone just for running back and forth with my food (and usually taking a while to do it anyway). I almost always sit at the bar because they are much more attentive about my well-being and at least need to make my drinks. Seriously, if anyone deserves a tip it would be the cook, he did the real work. How does a waitress who just takes a few orders, put them into a computer, and then takes the finish good and place it in front of me deserve 10$ on my 50$ meal? I’d be willing to type it into the computer myself and then walk over and fetch it.

    • 150

      kt says

      then stay at home and do it yourself, you are obviously oblivious to anything that has to do with how a restaurant works. stay your lazy ass at home

  44. 151

    Razor512 says

    If you own or run a restaurant and charge a mandatory tip, the make sure it is clearly printed in the ad. If I have to find out when I walk into your restaurant (spending my time and money coming over for what looked to be a good deal, only to find an 18% additional tax, then I will not pay it.

    I find that business practice to be incredibly disrespectful and deceptive (just like all bait and switch scams)

    Many restaurants will do this crap and have the fine print listed in some random location that is not easily seen (in the hopes of people not noticing and being hit with it in the end.

    If I go to a restaurant and the ad does not show that charge, expect a charge back and a report to the FTC, and no additional tip.

    I have no problem giving a tip for good service, but if it is not clear to me before making the decision to go to your business, then no matter how good the service is, don’t expect a tip. (tips by nature are optional)

    And if you are a worker, don’t bring up the crap about making $2.15 an hour, you can make 2cents an hour and you still would not get a tip after that crap.
    Understand that the behavior/ policy of the business reflects on you. (doing your job is never an excuse. (It was Hitler’s policy to kill the Jews and the Schutzstaffel were just doing their job, (history does not take very kindly to Hitler, or the Schutzstaffel, again, the policies/ behaviors of the business you work for reflects on you, you chose to work for that business and you get to experience the impact of the bad policy)

    A restaurant visit is more of a special occasion and it is a given that it will cost more than making your own food, I have no problem with giving a 25% tip for great service, Just don’t disrespect me with a bait and switch.

    About 1 block from where I live, a new restaurant opened up a few months ago, at first many people went to check it out and the food was okay, but it got negative word of mouth advertising about people who were pissed off at the 18% mandatory tip (now about 6 months later, that restaurant is mostly empty and no one from the neighborhood goes there. The ads they sent out never mentioned the 18% scam charge and people who purchased food there felt deceived.

    If you add a mandatory charge, you will sacrifice regular customers for the one or 2 passer-by’s who will try it and avoid it after being scammed 18%.

    The most successful restaurant in the area has no mandatory tip, has been around since I moved into the area about 18 years ago, offers a discount for large groups (in order to encourage people to bring friends and thus buy more high profit margin food, which means more money for the restaurant)

    A friend of mine works at the restaurant and on top of what ever tip the group decides to pay, the owner gives the worker who served the group an additional 30% bonus for the day.

    Why most restaurants charge more for larger groups is completely illogical especially considering that just about every other business charges less for larger orders. (some neighborhoods pool together orders from wholesalers to meat the minimum orders in order to get food for pennies on the dollar.

    Groups generally mean that someone got a bunch of other people to come to your business and smart businesses reward them for that in order to encourage more customers and more people trying the food, and in turn (if you make good food) liking the food and getting their friends to come)

  45. 154

    mark says

    First.. the issue on tipping. Why is it such a big deal? Does holding onto that last dollar gain you additional happiness? I am certain that just giving an extra dollar means a lot to the waiter/waitress. When eating, a simple $15.00 bill, this is only a $2.00 tip at 20%. Leaving just an extra dollar means a lot to that waiter/waitress. It actually can make their entire day. As human beings, isn’t one of our jobs to make others happier? Or is your entire existence just about what you can get by with? If it is.. what have you improved in life?

    Secondly, You wonder why restaurants add gratuity with larger parties.. it is because invariably, with larger parties, somebody doesn’t pay their share. It is inevitable. I have eated in large parties over 100x, and at least 70% of the time, the last person paying their share is paying MUCH more than their share. I ask you, when you eat in large groups, how many times did you hear someone saying…whoa… we need to look at the bill and the amount again? It happens quite often.

    • 156

      Len Penzo says

      I guess when you know you have no logical rebuttal, all you’re left with are cheap, baseless, ad hominem attacks.

      So, by your logic, I guess that makes you a member of the entitled class who expects hard working people to pay your way in life.

      See how that works?

      • 157

        Ganderplus says

        The reason people think your cheap is because tipping is a social norm. It has very little to do with the quality of service or procedure used by individual restaurants. In fact it has very little to do with the amount. For example, in Philadelphia tipping averages somewhere between 20% and 25% and very few professional servers apply automatic gratuity (automatic, I think is a more accurate word than mandatory). In fact, the purpose of automatic gratuity is to adjust the the server’s tip rate for decreased table turnover because larger parties take longer to wait on, and not because larger parties are cheaper.

        See how that works?

        Consider this, if a cocktail server is working a room cash-and-carry (charging each customer for each drink individually) the customary tip is $1 and the remainder of the next whole dollar. This generally doesn’t negate the custom of tipping at the end of the night and almost always yields a higher tip percentage than full service dining. The tip rate does, however, drop dramatically when one person orders a round for the table as it’s considered imprudent to expect a high tip from someone who is exhibiting generosity in another form.

        When you consider tipping as a business arrangement or contract people in hospitality will always have a tendency to think of you as a bit gauche. Remember in college when you’d go to a house party and there would be a jar that everyone would put money in to cover the cost of throwing the party? You don’t have to put money in it, but it’s best not to announce it as soon as you walk through the door. Nobody wants to be that guy at the party.

        The expression ‘the customer is always right’ comes from retail, not hospitality. In hospitality customers are referred to as guests. They are providing for you as they would in there own home. The word hospitality comes from the Latin “horpes” which means to have power. If you can’t appreciate the difference then you really should stay out of restaurants and free up that 8top for those of us that can.

        • 158

          Len Penzo says

          “The reason people think your [sic] cheap is because tipping is a social norm. It has very little to do with the quality of service …”

          The social norm in my neck of the woods, Ganderplus, is that tipping is an incentive — not a subsidy.

          Merriam Webster defines a tip as: “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service.”

          Everybody has heard of the Latin term, “Caveat emptor” (buyer beware), but fewer folks are familiar with the phrase “caveat venditor” which is Latin for “let the seller beware.”

          Servers who sell their services to an employer should realize that tips are voluntary (regardless of what the social norm is in Philadelphia) and, therefore, not part of the wage agreement entered into between themselves and their employer.

          If you can’t appreciate that, then tell me which restaurant you own — or work in — and I’ll be more than happy to stay away from it the next time I find myself in the City of Brotherly Love.

          But, hey, thanks for the Latin lessons.

  46. 159

    Sara says

    Here is the thing, Servers have a very difficult job and the job deserves a livable wage. Also, if you come in to my restaurant and your bill is $100 and you do not leave a tip, it just cost ME money to wait on YOU! Now, if you are unhappy with gratuity being a social contract that you agree to by siting down to eat out, then you need to take that up with the restaurant industry, not the laborers who are just trying to support themselves! If you are stiffing servers as a protest for the tipping standard you are only hurting your fellow citizen who is trying to earn a living and your protests fall on deaf ears. In fact, you are now just a jerk with no social awareness! If you cant afford a minimum of 18% for good service, go to McDonalds and wait on yourself! Furthermore, if you have never waited tables, you have no right to comment on what your server is doing to earn his/her gratuity! If there is a large party with Grat added it is because you are completely monopolizing the time of 2 or more servers and a large area of the restaurant for a more than average amount of time. This means that, if you choose to be a jerk and stiff them, they have worked for several hours and LOST money! Does that happen at YOUR JOB? Take it up with the industry and vote with your feet, don’t eat at establishments who refuse to pay their employees a livable wage!

    • 160

      Razor512 says

      A tip is not a social contract or any contract for that matter, that is the opposite of what a tip is. A tip is something you give to reward good service. If I go to a restaurant and the server has an attitude, is dismissive or rude, then that tip is going to be 0%

      It is easy to tell which issues are within the server’s control and which are not, If the restaurant feels that the servers need a mandatory tip of make a livable wage then include that in the price of the food and pay them what you think they should get and don’t bait and switch people.

      Bait and switch is when you advertise 1 price but charge a different price at the point of sale.

      The only items by law that do not contribute to bait and switch are government taxes, since they tend to exempt them self from their own laws.

      If at a restaurant, the ad states $15 for a meal, then you should be able to have that meal for $15 + the applicable state tax rate.

      Anything else must be listed as a service charge and at the minimum, provided in the fine print of the ad. if not then it is a bait and switch.

      Also making the mandatory tip a opt out situation does not make it not a bate and switch. (CVS got fined for exactly that last year)

      Tips by definition, are opt in payments.

      Fees that vary from state to state (if you are a country wide organization, (eg how your phone company can advertise $30 a month service but make you end up with $20 in additional fees, is if those fees vary from state to state and are due to regulations (thus the fee is related to the government)

      If the fee has no direct relation to the government, then you cannot separate that charge, eg ford cant retail a car for $20, then add a $17,000 service fee at the point of sale (it would be illegal even with fine print on the ad)

      This is why no mandatory tip case can stand up in court. it does not have any legal standing (as long as the person pays the advertised pricing and state taxes0

      Even if the mandatory tip is listed in the fine print of the ad, it still has no legal standing. For it to have a legal standing, it must have the proper legal definition of a service fee.

      The mandatory tip is pretty much in a legal gray area that restaurants are able to abuse due to lack of law enforcement understanding of this area in law and often side with the business initially since they often deal with a lot of theft where the customer has stolen.

      A police officer with understanding of this area in law will instead either let the restaurant owner off with a warning, or arrest the restaurant owner on charges of making a false police report, and those charges will stick.

      If you run a restaurant and you charge mandatory tips then make sure you list it in the ad so that people will know in advance before ever coming to your business so that these issues do not reach the level if litigation.

      • 161

        Sara says

        Tipping in a restaurant became a social contract when the industry decided to pay its employees $2.13 per hour. Also, all of your grammatically erroneous jargon about the government, service fees, and advertisements do not excuse you from the CUSTOMARY (custom being the root in that word, meaning; a long-established practice considered as unwritten law) 15% gratuity! Also, as I said, if you don’t like the social contract, take it up with the industry, not its employees!

  47. 162

    Former Server says

    I find it quite offensive a person who has never waited tables informs us all of what he believes is an appropriate tip and how to only pay that.

    Has anyone thought about how much food would cost if the owner had to pay their employees enough for them to do this without tips? Being a server is not as easy as this author believes, they deserve every penny and DO NOT deserve to get looked down upon like the person above who makes the condescending comment about ‘I am skilled enough to not wait tables.’

    Personally, I judge people on how much they tip. I have not gone on second dates with men who were bad tippers or who were rude or condescending to the wait staff. How people treat EVERYONE, even those they feel are ‘beneath’ them is a very good indicator of what kind of person they are.

    If you have a problem with mandatory gratuity, go to a place that doesn’t have one or with a smaller group. But if you go to the same place every week and tip only 15%, don’t be surprised to see your server busting their tails harder for someone else, someone who will appreciate it, while you get completely adequate but not stellar service.

    • 163

      Razor512 says

      Restaurant food is usually marked up 500-8,000% depending on the meal. If the owner wanted, they could keep the price the same and pay the servers minimum wage (in fact they do it in some states and the prices are not higher than in states that do not have that law. (I live in NY buy have been to states that require the servers to be paid like $8-9 an hour. the food was not more expensive. There are market rates for food and restaurants will charge as much as the market will pay. in states where the restaurant cant get away with paying the server around $2 an hour, they simply accept a smaller profit margin on the food compared to operating cost, but they do not increase the cost.

    • 164

      Collon says

      “I find it quite offensive a person who has never waited tables informs us all of what he believes is an appropriate tip” A tip is given FROM the Customer TO the Server. By definition it is the person PAYING that decides on the amount; why in the world would I need to wait tables to be qualified say how much?
      I have no problems paying for 10% service fees charged in many places of the world, or paying more for my meal in places that pay their workers full salaries. But mandatory gratuity is nonsense, at least call it a mandatory service fee. And as a consumer, I certainly will take my business elsewhere.
      Restaurants are businesses in which servers make their living off of; ostracizing customers, calling them cheap, telling them to stay home and eat or go elsewhere is not the type of behavior that makes you an asset and successful in the long run. I personally cannot wrap my head around your example of a weekly customer that tips ‘ONLY’ 15% as a bad costumer; I’ve worked shifts, run businesses and I can tell you that your regular customer is your absolute core – and countlessly more valuable than some one time 40% tip.
      Everyone works hard to make a living. I will respect you by awarding high tips for high performance and not cheapen it by giving the same amount to someone who’s worked only 1/2 has hard as you. On the other hand please don’t insult me by demanding 18% of my hard earned money for an unearned tip.
      Btw judging a date based on one criteria is probably not the best idea. Lots of great guys out there with different tipping standards than you. Personally my last gf always loved that I was kind to servers and tipped generously (15-20%), until we got married and it became ‘our’ money that was getting signed off.

    • 165

      Andrew says

      Has anyone thought about how much food would cost if the owner had to pay their employees enough for them to do this without tips?

      Absolutely. In Canada, wait staff are paid minimum wage >$10/hour + tips. You don’t see less restaurants here or significantly higher prices.

      • 168

        Sara says

        If you ask the manager to remove the grat before the meal (as stated in your first example) you may as well kiss any decent service goodbye! Also, you will get what’s coming to you. Never mess with those who handle your food! your “Only if you tip before the meal” comment implies that you intend on being cheap no matter how great your service is.

  48. 169

    Skip Colon says

    I would love to see American restaurants move to the European system where workers are paid a fair salary and tipping is not done at all. Of course customers should understand that if we went to that system they would see an increase of about 30% to each food or drink item they ordered to offset the very large amount of money the establishment would be laying out in salary.

    Truth is, as someone who worked in restaurants before graduating college, it is a very difficult job that is not only physically taxing but is also mentally exhausting. People tend to be at their most miserable and angry state when they are hungry and often times are abusive and dismissive of the people who are serving them their food. Add to that the fact that there are groups like the author who simply don’t think they should earn a fair wage for their effort. So lets flip the script and move to the European system for waitstaff and move to a tipping system for writers who really don’t do all that much work at all. Mostly tongue in cheek…

  49. 170

    John Tsouris says

    Cheap guy. You’re going to split up a group of friends to multiple tables to avoid paying an extra 3%? You’re not fooling anyone. Anyone that goes through trouble like that is looking to get out of a lot more tip than that. And what also amazes me is when cheap people like you make it public like this. You’re not scoring any points here, cheep-o. LOL!


    • 171

      Earl W. says

      It’s not about getting out of the 3%. It’s about getting out of the compulsory 18%. If the service is above and beyond I will always tip 18-20%. But you need something to protect you as the customer from being forced to pay what you would for excellent service for really bad service.

  50. 172

    Jo says

    I have a great tip on how to get out of a mandatory tip, don’t eat at a restaurant that has mandatory tipping! Problem solved.

  51. 174

    Earl says

    The thing is if you are a terrible server in this economy you shouldn’t have a job. Why are we rewarding people doing what they are hired to do. Also I look it up but tips are only supposed to take place for minimum wage if the tips exceed or are the same as minimum wage.

    I am pretty sure I saw that rule somewhere. The government would never let owners stiff workers otherwise now I am not saying that it probably does not get enforced but to knowledge as written that is what it is for a least a good deal of states.

    Good service will have it’s reward but for people to expect to be rewarded for doing their job and get upset if they are not is wow. Do you know how many jobs people have where they don’t get rewarded or a pat on a back and they do very good jobs on whatever project and make their company or place of work look good.

  52. 175

    Earl says

    Also it appears that a lot of people’s arguments suggest most people have bad work habits. Some people were raised to work hard regardless. Not everyone has that sense of entitlement. I know a lot of kids are getting that now and it is sad.

  53. 176

    Earl W. says

    I don’t really have a problem with mandatory tipping on large parties as long as it is very clear up-front that you know to expect that on your bill. Then if you don’t want to pay that then you can choose to break up into smaller tables or go elsewhere. But telling you after is just not acceptable. I had a dinner not too long ago when we were charged an 18% “service charge” for having a party of six. Of course the “service” was non-existent, including orders being wrong, food cold, and never a single drink refill. Then we are given the bill and I am trying to math out what I should leave in tip that would say, “this isn’t small because I’m cheap, it’s because you did a bad job” only to see that we were classified as a large party and had a service charge already added (with the brass to leave a space for “additional tip” as well). I spoke discretely with the manager about the poor service and how we weren’t informed that as a party of six we would pay nearly an additional fifth of our bill automatically. The manager was unsympathetic and said that it was policy so it was “out of his hands.” I begrudgingly paid the entire bill deciding at some point it was not worth the fight, but went immediately home to write a poor online review and will never return to the restaurant.

  54. 177

    kt says

    This thread just shows how pathetic and entitled the American pubic really is. Tipping is not a “bonus”. In most states it is the main source of income. And for all of you that think it’s such a terrible job to rely on, then maybe all servers should boycott and then where will your entitled, idiotic asses eat? If you have never served, then you can make no comment about it. Serving is a very hard job, harder than most of you 9-5ers who think you’re so much better. Most of my fellow servers have college degrees, even masters. We just happen to be in an economy that makes it difficult to find jobs. I wish all of you that oppose tipping could wait tables for a day. I’d give you an hour before you broke. We are constantly abused, talked down to, worked to death. And it is all so we can pay our bills and take care of our families. Just hope that I don’t wait on you one day, because karma’s a bitch!

    • 178

      Len Penzo says

      “This thread just shows how pathetic and entitled the American pubic really is.”

      Huh? You believe that servers are entitled to an 18% tip, regardless of how well they perform, because the job is tough — and you think those of us who believe servers have to EARN an 18% tip based upon the service they provide are the entitled ones? Really?

      Oy. I have a headache.

      • 179

        kt says

        Good, a headache is necessary for you writing this article. If someone receives bad service, for whatever reason, they need to take it straight to the manager. What you don’t understand is that tipping gets cut off for things that have nothing to do with the service. Maybe they had to wait a long time, maybe the food took too long, I have no control over that. So why should that affect my tip? And why shouldn’t I get and 18% tip for a large party that is taking up my section and keeping me from turning tables and making as much money as I can. Big parties take up space and time that could easily be doubled by normal sized tables. It in turn, hurts the servers money, takes longer because they bar and kitchen cannot whip up 10 or 12 entrees as fast as they can for four people. I live in a very urban city where I see entitlement coming out of people’s ears, luckily I work at a bar that states clearly all of our practices and says if you don’t like it, get the hell out. As awful as you may think that sounds, we are a nationally praised bar with business coming out the wahoo. And that is for taking on our tip or die stance.

        • 180

          Len Penzo says

          “If someone receives bad service, for whatever reason, they need to take it straight to the manager.”

          Is this thing on???? Isn’t that what I wrote in the article, kt?

          “I have no control over that. So why should that affect my tip?”

          Um, because it comes with the territory. As a salaried employee, I sometimes have to work weekends without any additional pay. I knew that when I agreed to take the job. If I don’t like it, I am free to find another job. I am struggling with the mindset of those who insist they are entitled to a gratuity for poor service. How did this come to be? Help me, kt.

          • 181

            kt says

            i by no means think that a tip is required for poor service. but what most people need to understand, if they want quality service and want their regular restaurants to maintain a quality staff, the patrons must assume some responsibility. if cheap assess come in a lot and leave no tip on good service, great servers leave and the quality of the entire restaurant goes down. i’m just tired of the mindset that waiting tables is such an easy, mindless jobs. i know ceos that couldn’t handle 5 minutes of it. i have worked in many other fields and service is by far the hardest physically and patience-wise. i stick with it cause i genuinely love people and enjoy working with the public and in my years have come to understand the ups and downs. but instead of making it harder on servers, use this tip:if you go somewhere and receive bad service, don’t go back. find places and make yourself a regular who tips well and is nice and you would be thrilled at the perks and special attention you would receive every time.

  55. 183

    Michele says

    Reading some of the comments on here make it very obvious that not all have been servers or bartenders. Years ago I was a bartender and a server at one of the best restaurants in Tyler, Texas. I had a party of 25 come in. They ran me ragged and ended up with a bill that was over $500.00. They called my manager over and told him what a wonderful job I did and how they had barely any wait time on any of the items they requested. A half hour later when they left they proceeded to completely stiff me of any tips. Since the restaurant did not have gratuity I had to pay the 7% tip share of $35.00 out of my own pocket. It’s because of people like the ones that let me nothing the gratuity should be added to the total bill.

    • 184

      Razor512 says

      Sounds like a bad restaurant if what you pay is based on the total price of the order and not based on the tips.

      It is also known that large groups do not tip well which is why the restaurants that care about business in the long run offer discounts to large groups and then offer a portion of the sales as a bonus to the server (regardless of how many tips they get) Remember the price of the meals are at an extremely high profit margin and if a lot of food is purchased then it is a lot of money for the restaurant that day.

    • 185

      Len Penzo says

      Hold on. Getting stiffed occasionally by cheap customers is, sadly, part of the job. Servers are in denial if they end up taking the job while expecting they’ll never encounter cheapskates who are going to skip out without leaving a fair tip for a job well done. So a server’s earnings — and losses — are baked into their expected earnings on the day they agree to take the job.

      You are arguing that it is the customers’ responsibility to indemnify the servers for those losses — which they should have known about when they agreed to take the job in the first place!

  56. 186

    Dave says

    To everyone who is saying a tip is completely optional: Legally I guess that’s so, but it’s not. Everyone in this country knows when you go out to eat roughly 15% additional to the waiter is expected. You’re just a jackass if you don’t accept that.

    To everyone trying to call people cheap for complaining about mandatory tipping or not tipping enough: Keeping inline with the spirit of what I said above, poor service doesn’t deserve a single penny of tip. You would send the food back to the chef if it was inedible (as in not cooked all the way, or had hair in it, etc) wouldn’t you? You’re not paying for raw chicken with hair in it that you can’t eat. That aforementioned 15% or so pays for you to be served. If the waiter doesn’t refill your drink and gets your order wrong or leaves you waiting endlessly, they didn’t earn it and you shouldn’t pay for it.

    Although most service problems can be resolved by being vocal about issues as soon as they come up instead being shy and just hoping things go away. I’m not saying you have to be a jerk complainer customer, but you can solve most problems with a polite but assertive complaint as it happens.

  57. 187

    Aserver says

    Servers/waitresses make half of minimum wage and the credit card fees are passed onto them. That fact that someone would write an article on how to avoid tipping is shameful. Karma is a bitch Len

    • 188

      Len Penzo says

      And so that entitles them to extort an 18% tip from their customers for bad service? Right back at ya in the karma department, Aserver. In spades.

  58. 189

    CJ says

    I have been in the restaurant industry for 22+ years. I have done everything from wash dishes to to being a Chef and a Manager. When I have trained empoyees (i.e. servers, and bartenders) i teach them to take dollar signs off of peoples heads. Why do they do this? Well Gratuity or T.I.P.S started in the late 1800′s in England as a way for guests “To Insure PROMPT Service” ( yes I realize that that some use the word Proper there). This T.I.P was presented at the begining of the dining experience. Most restaurants outside of the United States pay their employees a salary which is figured into the cost of the meal, thus it is more expensive. We in America have allowed the industry to shift this remuneration to the gratutity as pretty much the sole means of income for servers and bartenders. If one of these people is not consistantly doing a good job and giving bad service then I would have them consider a new line of work that is less demanding of good service. The paltry $3-$4 dollars an hour these people are paid is to cover the Federal and State taxes that may apply. And while every State has a minimum wage the restaurant ONLY has to pay this when the server/bartender has not meet the hourly minimum wage through gratutity. Different States have different laws regarding this but the vast majority of restaurant workers fall into this category. Mandatory Gratuity on larger parties came into being for one reason… a server is much more likely to come away being stiffed by a larger party than they will by a smaller one. It takes longer to do things for a large party (6 or more)than a small party. Now I came accross this from an article about a pastor who refused to T.I.P their server ecause they “already gave God 10%”. After the first 5 years waiting tables i started to not work on Sundays because in leiu of gratutity I would recevive the cards that said “Christ Loves You” I grew up Cristian I know this already. But Christ does not Pay my electricity, water, mortgage/rent, gas or any of my other bills. And what does God need with money anyway it is the Church that needs this money. Why? So that they can pay their bills I.E. power, water, gas,…etc. If you are in a party of 6 or more and have crappy service inform the manager don’t play games with the server. If the manager is any good at all they will make it a learning experience so that it will be less likely to occur again.

    • 190

      Len Penzo says

      “If you are in a party of 6 or more and have crappy service inform the manager don’t play games with the server. If the manager is any good at all they will make it a learning experience so that it will be less likely to occur again.”

      Did you read the article, CJ? I gave 5 alternatives for ensuring a customer wouldn’t have to pay an 18% gratuity for lousy service. Five of them. Number 4 suggested informing the manager.

      What am I missing here? Lord help me, I feel like I’ve been transported to Bizarro world.

      • 191

        BarbaraEBj says

        You forgot the most obvious one of asking for separate checks by person, couple or family unit — regardless of where everyone sits. My explanation for why this would be necessary is further down on this list of comments.

        I alway pay at least 20%, round UP to avoid change in the tip, and NEVER leave less than $1 even if all I bought (back then) was a coffee (cheap coffee making the $1 tip more than 50% generally at that time.)

  59. 192

    Marie says

    This is for you Andy and whoever else seems to think that we server’s only get paid 2.13/hr is BS. Email me at (deleted) and I’ll freaking send you a copy of my pay stub showing how much I make!! Yes in some states servers are lucky enough to make state minimum wage but they are few. As far as it being an easy job, try it I DARE YOU! Put up with some tables with your attitude and see if you can keep your composure and smile while gritting your teeth. It’s not just about bringing you your food. It’s about the experience we make sure you have. Running our butt’s off to make sure you have an enjoyable time, that your glasses never empty, that you have everything you need, like those 10 extra ranch’s you ask for. Don’t come in with a large party during a rush and expect your food to rush out. It’s not gonna happen. Know why??? IT HAS TO COOK!! At the same time I put your order in there are likely 10 other servers sending order’s back to the kitchen as well. Gee, did you ever think of that?? No, from my experience you did not. You try taking care of 5-10 tables of varying sizes during a rush while making sure they have a good experience. It’s not easy. No, this job does not require an education but it does require very good people skills, multitasking, and a ton of energy. I am a server because I enjoy it. I am good at it and make good money at. Because I work hard!! I’m grateful to the one’s who see my effort and tip accordingly. The one’s who don’t, well next time you come in I won’t go that extra mile because I already know what to expect from you.

    Now, as for the topic at hand, the automatic grat. I’ve worked places where I didn’t have a choice. The computer automatically added it based on the guest #. I’ve worked places that didn’t have the option of adding it at all. My favorite is the place that gave me a choice. Depending on how the table treated me as a person (such as if you were rude, ex: don’t cut me off while I’m speaking) I would add it to the check. However, if you were nice and actually let me do my job then no I wouldn’t add it. I would leave it up to you.

  60. 193

    Levity says

    After reading your responses to Chef, it is clear you are utterly clueless. Tips at restaurants are wages. This premise is codified in American labor and tax laws. It is why min wage for servers is significantly lower. It is why restaurants have to accurately account for and collect taxes on the servers tips.

    Furthermore, Tips are part and parcel of the social contract in America. When you choose to sit down at a restaurant, you are explicitly accepting that premise.

    • 194

      Len Penzo says

      Says you.

      Sorry, Levity, but it is you who is living in a dream world. Tips might be considered wages by the IRS, but there is one little problem with your theory: The IRS doesn’t force customers to pay those “wages” to the servers, nor do they guarantee them — and rightly so.

      Look, just because you believe you’re entitled to tips in exchange for providing lousy service — that doesn’t make it so. It really doesn’t.

      • 195

        BarbaraEBj says

        That’s where you are wrong, Len. The IRS forced customers to pay a minimum of 10% on all of the sales checks on which they were the servers, because the IRS assumes that the server did receive much more than that 10%. The IRS also states that the servers must pay the taxes on the actual tips they earn, so some businesses targeted by the IRS because all their servers claimed to get less tips were told flat out by the IRS that they either had to report their tips nightly, hand over all of their tips to the manager and have them doled back out to them (usually shared between all servers for “fairness” at those joints, including those who didn’t serve but cleared the tables,) or to add on a mandatory tip to customers.

        The IRS does expect at least their 10% regardless of what the server actually made and did back then actually do audits on the restaurants that had too many servers who did not report MORE than that 10% at least some of the time.

        And, that was almost 25 years ago — can’t imagine how it is now.

        You obviously never worked as a server.

        • 196

          BarbaraEBj says

          I am sorry — my mistake. Not customers were forced… typo of the mind. SERVERS were forced to pay taxes on at least 10%, so most servers would ONLY report 10% because some nights they received almost nothing and other nights they might receive more… and they would have to vary the actual dollar amounts of the tips to avoid an audit by the IRS which could include the IRS checking into their spending habits also to make sure that they had not been buying more than they were saying they could actually afford.

          • 197

            BarbaraEBj says

            In New York, at some very high end restaurants, the servers (who are almost always men) make no wage from the restaurant at all and are actually required to PAY the restaurant for the right to serve at the restaurant.

            I imagine you have not interviewed any of those servers for your research on this topic.

            And, in NYC, the servers at a lot of restaurants are a lot more likely to get customers who will absentmindedly not pay a tip at all (again at the high end restaurants) because those customers are from Canada or other places around the world where servers don’t receive tips but instead get paid a living wage for their work. They don’t realize that there servers are either making nothing at all per hour from the company or they make next to nothing.

            Again, your research is a bit lacking.

          • 198

            Jon says

            I don’t understand why anyone would work as a waiter under those conditions.

            I’ve worked at McDonald’s in the past. I didn’t complain to those buying burgers about my wage. As an employee, it’s your duty to negotiate your wages and find the best job that fits your needs. No one is forced to work as a waiter.

  61. 199

    Callie says

    I’m a server… thank God for only a few months more (graduating college!). I have had a bad a experience where I have asked to have the mandatory gratuity taken off before. All restaurants have the ability to take it off and will do so if you approach the manager with reason and understanding. In my case, I was able to list the outrageous amount of time things took (ten minutes to be greeted, 15 for drinks), and the lack of care displayed by the two servers on the party of 8 other people I was with (friend had water spilled on her by the server, the server didn’t apologized just tossed her a spare napkin).

    I went to find the manager near the end of the meal, and calmly explained this to her and asked for gratuity to be taken off. I completely still planned on tipping, because when I go to a restaurant I plan ahead to tip, I just wanted my servers to know that they didn’t deserve anything automatic. As a server myself, I felt like this was necessary… because I always try to give good service.

    The servers came back with attitudes, one of them making a snide comment about how we must be in a hurry or something. My meal was comped, as it had been my birthday dinner and the manager was very nice. I gave them 20 dollars, mostly because I wanted them to feel guilty, and encouraged my friends to give them tips as well regardless of the grat being off. Server’s will call you cheap asses and transfer all the blame on you when you stiff them. When you calmly speak to a manager and still give them a good tip, they will feel guilty and maybe consider how they can do better in the future. I would say I am an above average waitress because I genuinely want my tables to have a great experience, but when I do mess up I definitely am humbled by my tables giving me a good tip anyway. Besides, if a manager gets involved they are already going to get in trouble.

    I did have some issues with your list, as someone who knows both sides of the experience well.
    1. Request the mandatory gratuity be waived.
    This is actually by far the best suggestion. However, be reasonable. Drinks take longer, clearing the table takes longer, paying the bill takes longer with a big group. If things took a long time and your server was still friendly and willing to do things for you, please don’t. When you ask for the gratuity to be removed, often the manager you speak to will be upset with the server, so please judge if you are frustrated enough with your service to get them in trouble. While some may say that you should never get someone in trouble, I know how easy it is to give DECENT service, so please just use your judgement.

    2. Break up your party into separate tables.
    This is okay, if you are okay with some tables taking longer than others. Let’s say half of your party orders appetizers, the other half go straight to entrees. Often servers wait longer to put in the entree order if the table has appetizers. Also, there may be some check confusion if Mark is on the same ticket as Linda but they are at different tables, and if this is the case, the servers might still treat it as one and grat the group- I have done this in the past. As well, sometimes if the same server is on all the tables, we still treat it as one big table if we know it’s the same party. So this really doesn’t work every time, but you can try it.

    3. Talk to your server.
    Oh my gosh, I would die. Servers know if they mess up, and you will seem like the biggest pain. You may get faster service, but not nicer service. Just be sweet to them and maybe find a way to compliment them and they will want to do a good job for you.

    4. Inform the manager you’d like a different server.
    Oh my gosh, only do this in extreme extreme cases. And don’t do this if the restaurant is even kind of full. Servers have set sections, and you still may not get better service if the server is pulled from a busy section to help you guys. Plus it’s extremely confusing to figure out what goes where and who had what. You’re better off asking the manager if he can find someone to help out your server with the specific problem- lets say drinks. Find a manager, and say “Hey, I think my server is really busy but we are all out of drinks at my table, do you mind finding someone who can help us?” The manager may help you himself or he may find someone, and I guarantee you he will get on to your server for not asking for help if he was too busy, or for doing a terrible job if he wasn’t busy.

    5. Dispute the tip with your credit card company.
    The manager would rather you talk to him and ask it to be taken off. Otherwise, some restaurants have already paid their servers the cash for it, or they have paid their servers on their paychecks (like my company), and have to go through payroll, fix the books, etc. It’s a pain. The manager did nothing wrong in most cases, please just deal with it when you are there.

    I understand not wanting to pay gratuity, I really do, but always consider where your server is coming from first. Make sure you have a real problem first, and make sure its the service, not things the server can’t control (bar drinks, food, restrooms, etc)

    • 200

      Len Penzo says

      Now THAT was a well-stated, reasonable, non-emotional counterpoint to my post. Well done, Callie. And thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. :-)

  62. 201

    Franklin says

    Since you are an engeneer, you must make good money so you obviously don’t know what it’s like to make $2 an hour from your job and be completely dependent upon tips to survive and pay your bills. These are completely ignorant tips, pun intended. 15% may have been common place 6-10 years ago but today it’s more like 18-20%. If you don’t want to tip, or can’t afford to, go eat at McDonald’s! My paychecks are just enough to cover my taxes every 2 weeks. I depend on my tips to pay my rent, bills, buy groceries, etc. It’s people like you that give the general population a bad name. Do servers everywhere a favor and do not go out to eat.

    • 202

      Jason says

      Hey Franklin. It’s people like YOU who are the reason why this country is in the shape it’s in today. You expect handouts and others to support you. Why should anyone have to “eat at home” or limit their restaurant choices to “McDOnalds” because they believe tips must be earned? You don’t like your pay? Learn a skill that pays more in the marketplace. But don’t ask me to fork over an 18% tip if you aren’t prepared to shell out top-notch service.

  63. 203

    Lauren says

    I respect the way you all feel, but i am a bartender/waitress….i make $2.13/hr….and my bar currently does not have a mandatory gratuity for large parties. Tonight i just got off, took care of a party of 16 people for 6 Hrs straight of nonstop running, food delivery, and drink making. Not to mention they were not very nice. I served them with a smile none-the-less. They ended up spending an accumulation of $600. I made $16 . I am a fulltime student with real life bills. .Aftertaxes my check is $0.00. That’s so wrong on all parts. If service is good them we should be tipped. I wasted my whole night with these mean spirited people :( what other solution would there be?

    • 204

      Jon says

      I’m sorry that a lot of waiters in the US make a lot less than the minimum wage for other workers. However, I simply don’t understand why waiters are more willing to complain that their customers won’t leave a good tip than to complain to their bosses. Why not ask them to pay more than $2.13/hour? I’m pretty sure McDonald’s pay higher than that. Maybe you should consider working there.

  64. 205

    Barth says

    I apologize in advance for the length of this, but it was hard to restrain myself… As I read the comments, I tried to gain a better perspective of what a server or service provider (based on what has been posted) must feel and deal with when in performance of their job. I have never been a server, but I understand that it could be and more often than not really is quite a challenge. There is a fair measure of knowledge and skill required to not just take orders and bring food and drinks, but to cater to your charges before, during, and after the meal, all while trying to remain composed and pleasant. I imagine that doing all of this may be no easy feat, and I applaud the efforts of any and all that are able to do this well enough to keep customers happy and coming back for more.

    Without being callous, however, I submit that it is just that, A JOB. A job that is accepted by the employee with the understanding that there are duties to be performed, and for those duties a wage is paid. If a server is doing their job at an adequate level, then that wage is earned. If said server goes beyond just doing their job, and provides the customer with a positively memorable and/or pleasurable experience, then not only has that wage been earned but a tip, at the customer’s discretion, is wholly and completely understandable. If the service is just adequate, it seems unreasonable to expect a customer to tip anything or pay any kind of gratuity for just getting the job done, one that a server is getting paid to do.

    What I find interesting is the sense of entitlement that some have seemingly expressed, just for being a server. A job in the food service industry does come with its challenges to be sure, and no one should have to be subject to unreasonable or unruly treatment from customers, but as the job is in direct service to someone, the objective is to ensure the service is provided. That doesn’t necessarily entitle a server to extra compensation or reward just for just doing the work (tips), or to a restuarant owner just for offering a paid service to the public (gratuities).

    From a roadside diner to Denny’s to a high-class restuarant that serves fine cuisine, the basic concept is still the same: if the customer perceives they have received above-average service, they will be more likely to enjoy the experience and perhaps even offer an expression of their gratitude to server and establishment alike.

    Having lived in Japan for a number of years, I can honestly say that the service received in just about any eating establishment here, be it a simple ramen bar, outside beer stand, fast-food eatery, or 5-star hotel restuarant, is almost always top-notch – the type of service that I’d gladly pay tips for, but tips aren’t accepted. If you try to leave a tip, they will actually chase you down to give it back. Why? Because the idea is that they are doing their jobs to provide a high-level of customer service; that, in simple terms, it what they are supposed to do. If additional compensation is awarded, it comes from their employer, not something that’s mandated to be provided by the customer. Some may argue that this is part of the Japanese culture, and perhaps it is, but there is also the expectation that if customers are happy with whatever service they’ve received, they’ll be back again to spend more money later on. This concept is not exclusive to Japan, as their are eateries around the world that share a similar philosphy, and as a result enjoy a thriving business.

    I applaud restuarant owners that apply good business sense, innovation, continuous improvement, and quality to enhance their customer experience, and I also appreciate those who work as servers of any sort that not only get the job done but also make the overall customer experience more enjoyable, but I don’t think it should be a requirement that customers be forced into paying extra just because they are being served.

  65. 206

    BarbaraEBj says

    I’ve got a better idea than any of these. Ask your server for separate checks by person, couple or family unit in the group. Each person, couple or family unit must reiterate this same request before starting to order.

    The reason that this would be necessary is to avoid being stiffed for the 18% on the entire group even though they are sitting at different tables. And a group doesn’t need to sit at different tables to get the separate checks.

    I had to start doing this after the very first time I went out late at night (when no one else was actually in the restaurant but us) with a group from a particular Church meeting. I got stiffed that night for the full 18% on the bill for the entire group after everyone else had left and my daughters and I were the only ones left.

    I couldn’t get arrested that night because I had my kids with me. The server for that event absolutely REFUSED to even discount it even though my daughters and I had only had soft drinks and a coffee but the amount still owed on the check was for nearly $100.

    She also knew I hadn’t known, that the others DID know but left me with worrying about it (actually, they probably thought I would leave quickly after putting my money up, too… but I didn’t want to walk out leaving that much money on the table.)

    I had no idea until everyone was gone except my daughters & I that they even had an 18% tip OR that some of the people in the group didn’t even pay for their meal while all the rest either gave no tip at all or gave significantly less regardless of what they had.

    Absolutely no one else in the group paid even 10% for their tips, but I had put into the pile of charges & tips together my regular 20% (I round up generally, and I never give less than $1, so my tips can go up to more than 50% if all I had back then was a cup of coffee.)

    So THAT is the answer to both why the server will go to any lengths to get his or her proper tip for a party of greater size whatever greater size allowed by the restaurant and how someone at the party could get stiffed.

    After we started getting separate checks, I still gave my regular 20%, but absolutely no one else in the groups that could number to between 20 & 40 people did…

    BUT, the ones wanting to skirt the bill for an entire meal had to start asking someone else to pay their way before hand and weren’t always successful when they NEVER wanted to pay, so the server might have still been stiffed by them until she figured out who was skipping out and banned the person.

    A couple of freeloaders stopped coming, a few more stopped coming due to “anger” over the stiff of me (even though they never reimbursed me and pretended to others to be really upset about it but too impoverished to do anything about it.

    The group number dropped to more like 10 on average after a while… The ten more honest, but not all that generous, so at least the server didn’t have to run as much for so many of the most demanding who also included the freeloaders…

    BTW, that couple of freeloaders who skipped on the entire cost of their meals or managed to get some other sap to cover them ALWAYS bought a huge expensive meal before that time. Talk about taking advantage.

    • 207

      BarbaraEBj says

      Oh yes, I forgot to mention that every one of the attendees at that particular outing claimed to not only have paid for their meals (or been covered by someone else) but also to have left a HUGE tip… leaving people to wonder who STOLE all that money. But, no one stole a single coin. The pile of money was on the table and because of my paranoia about someone taking any of it, I had watched like a hawk to insure that no one took any out, but only put money IN.

  66. 208

    Lauren Nabi says

    Len Penzo,
    Your article has me enraged on so many levels I will be honest and admit that it makes me want to resort to juvenile name calling because I honestly think your head is shoved so far up your butt that regardless of how eloquently and effectively I articulate my point you would still not get it because you seem like a genuine a**hole void of any tact, social grace or reasoning if it isn’t beneficial to you. You seem like the kind of guy who thinks responsible finance is trying to weasle into demanding things for free and it is this kind of horrible entitled attitude that is the reason why the tipping system should no longer be left to the discretion of the customer. The only problem here is that your bill would go up around 20% or more at any tipping establishment if the restaurant were to pay servers a comparable wage to what they make in tips. This is the thing American’s have forgotten in the generation of obesity and entitlement is that things like eating out is a LUXURY, it is expensive… having a personal servant at your beck and call breakfast, lunch and dinner costs money. If you don’t like a mandatory gratuity or you don’t like to tip then please stay home. It is mandatory that servers work for a living but it is not mandatory that the general population demands service but expects it for cheap or free.

    • 209

      Cody says

      This is the most callous and delusional argument yet. Let’s look at the facts.

      Did he say you should try to weasel your way out of a mandatory tip? No. In FACT he said many times he tips anybody, he just doesn’t want a tip imposed upon him that he deems is unworthy. A tip should be a reflection of the level of service you receive.

      you seem like a genuine a**hole void of any tact, social grace or reasoning if it isn’t beneficial to you;
      The fact is that he has actually articulated his views exceptionally well. He has given reasons and circumstances to back anything he has expressed as opinion. What YOU (and most) in fact do not do, is offer supporting evidence for your views of him.

      It is asinine comments like these that make me want to go back to the stone ages where the intelligence level was slightly higher. the fact that people can make assumptions about a person’s character because they say they would rather CHOOSE what they tip is beyond me, and highly uncalled for.

      If people would cut the opinions of character and extravagant vocalizing and twisting of words, this would be a hell of a discussion. Great debates are won the basis of fact and principle. You won’t win anyone over by forcing ideals. However, it would take a completely sociopathic human to deny a fact that is well presented. Just saying

  67. 210

    Horapollo says

    I don’t tip. It’s stupid. If they want more money they can talk to their employer. If I want to pay someone for service myself, I’ll hire a fucking plate jockey.

    How do I avoid mandatory tipping? I tell them to go fuck themselves, they won’t get blood from a stone.

    I don’t go out to eat to improve the lives of the people who are serving me food. That’s their own damn problem. My wallet is not a charity.

  68. 211

    susan says

    A ‘Mandatory GRATUITY’ IS AN OUTRAGE. How about the restaurants pay their servers a proper wage instead of having the wage supplemented by the customers. I avoid all restaurants that impose a mandatory gratuity. ‘Tipping’ in general has gotten out of hand anyway. In fact, many people already choose to cook at home, or host lovely dinners with friends at home because restaurant service is often poor; food is often not worth what you paid for it in a restaurant. And you wonder why so many of these businesses fail?

  69. 212

    camphilips7 says

    Tipping is very much still at the customer’s discretion. A reward for good service. So, nobody else gets tipped unless they are doing something special to deserve it, like manual labor or an extra errand, or giving me some sort of special treatment. That’s why it’s annoying how this culture is held hostage by guilt when it comes to tipping. The pay should be worked out with their employers or the state not the patrons.

  70. 213

    samuel hernandez says

    Im going to end all this nonsense for yall … ive been a waiter in every type of restaurant from mom and pop to fine dining. And i mean real fine dining. And yes i start sentences with and while writing entirely in lower case. Here is the horrible truth straight from the top.

    All waiters begin waiting tables around the age of 18 simply because everyone knows its easy money. Waiters who say the work is hard work are the same type of people who say mowing lawns for 6 hours while mowing quickly and efficiently is hard work.

    Yes its hard … if you suck at working hard!!!!!
    The shit doesnt do itself !! You have to be intelligent, knowledgeable about food, wine, culture, and you have to be genuinely caring,kind, and have a desire to help others. Its just like mowing lawns is hard if you are too proud to do it or if you hate being sweaty. Waiters give off such a bad image because they are ALL greedy ,hateful, and very racist.. plus they whine and moan like sissys all day and they truly believe people owe them something. You get what you put in and you get paid literally on how intelligent and professional you have the potential to be. You got hired for 2 dollars an hour thats your fault man work it out nobody owes you anything. Whatever you recieve is a gift !!

    On the flip side the hardest thing about being a server is the emotional toll it takes on you when you are viewed by many people who tend to look down apon you or take pleasure in taking out their hatefulness on you. Its about as hard as mowing lawns all day !! Which can get tuff i admit lol.

    Look … waiters need to quit being wimpy sissy asses … and guests need to realize its the restaurants fault for the service charge not the waiter. The mngr doesnt pay his employees he makes the guests do it. And it causes a horrible relationship. About 98% of waiters have no positive feelings toward the guests unless they leave a 25% tip. They basically hate you unless you give them money. The mngrs alsi dont care about the guest they just want your money by any means even if if it means pretending to care about your experience. I know i said alot but believe me its entirely true. I am a professional waiter lol. One day i will get a real job. I make about 35k a year. And my only skills are intelligence and thankfulness.

  71. 214

    Mitchell says

    Get a bird’s eye view into this matter, please people… Mandatory isn’t really the issue. Tipping itself is. Get rid of it. The servers when finding employment should, WHEN THIS STUPID CUSTOM DISSIPATES, should consider the employer’s offer of wages, and only that. Why should the consumer have to absorb the cost of tips? If you like the service, the handout should be voluntary. The servicemen should not expect a tip to begin with, and not be altered in good intentions whether a tip is given or not. It should be that natural.

    On matter of sales tax… I think the price needs to be reflective of the tax the merchant that he shall be paying to the Board of Equalization.
    A $5.00 burger must be %5.00
    The merchant should think ahead and price the merchandise accounting for the market value of goods and the sales tax he needs to allocate to BOE. No hiding prices ass-bites…

    A twenty dollar transaction must be exactly twenty dollars. The consumer will handout extra if and only if he desires it or the woman. <~ not a chauvenist,,, just being resoundingly clear about what extra really means however dumb it might be,..
    Thank you…

  72. 215

    Mitchell says

    na~aah~ <- a teasing way of saying no no

    The people who still hold tight to this tipping Anglo-American system is a dumb fudge up his tazz.

    What's all this crap about the employer not paying enough and shoot. If our idiotic predecessors hadn't let this absurd custom get out of hand (remember a decade or two ago when tip was at 10% and somehow got lobbied to 15%? Dumb-Fudge for letting them do things like that…) They should HAVE BEEN paying something that is a natural equilibrium arising from market supply and demand of employer/server.

    Let's see,,, I get paid a bit more than $50 an hour to put aircrafts in the air. I deserve more than that but that's what the aerospace industry has equilibrated to be comfortable paying…
    I am apt to think the servers should get no more than $15 an hour,,, but let's be conservative for argument's sake and let's cap their compensation at $20 gross taxable rate (don't give 'em CASH). Let's face it, their social hierarchy is as such. I have no problem with their profession but it becomes disgusting very quickly if their compensation becomes anything comparable to skilled laborer.

    In any case…

    I used to own a fast-food, mostly takeout but can can dine in type of restaurant and it became quite clear that the front workers were just as invaluable as the cooks in the back that actually manufactured the food. This was because, I was spread thin just maintaining the shop. Those who have run a restaurant I'm sure know what I mean. Anyway, these indispensible servers or front counter workers, who also attended the dine-in customers, would voluntarily come into my shop asking if there was a need for them. Generally I didn't but kept their contacts for such an occasion when a worker wanted to leave. In fact, I posted a HELP WANTED sign 365 days a year, even if I didn't need it. I was pretty good about electing the clever and adaptable girls when I did hire. Boys tend to be duh~~~ so I kindly accepted their contact information to be politically correct only to tear up their contact info as soon as they leave.

    Restaurant servers have a very high turnover rate. It's beyond this scope to explain why. And no dumb-shoots, it's not because the employer didn't pay them good fair market wages. (rolls eyes for these simple rebutters) It's in their socio-economic genes to leave someday… let's face it, it's not a career.

    I paid them good wage to show how much I cared (much to the distraught of my wife for the lavishness) and so they would feel wanted, and not inclined to embezzle, and stuff. I even puffed up their ego periodically. They got their wages just fine. At the end of every two weeks, I paid them a lump sum and would usually round up to the nearest five or dollars ending in zero, as if to convey, I'd sooner give than take (however little that might have been). For good weeks, I think I gave 'em something extra out of whim, but I made sure I drove how much they got and not fixed to any particular percentage.

    They knew what they were getting when they started.
    I made sure they knew that they were happy to get what I offered them. Everyone is eager when they start.
    They were made to remember this fact if complacency set in and they started to pout about advancements.
    There was a nice and smiling equilibrium between the employee and I when we started.
    The POINT IS: We never talked about tips. Tips occasionally come in… and it was mine. We never talked about it when they signed on but when some server thinks that a customer gave it to them and dares to bring up the issue, I quelled that issue immediately. I never said you will get tips (or in some cases, I made it clear that tips were business income. Although, it wasn't the actual reason, I cited that it wouldn't be fair for the front people to enjoy the benefit of having a cushy non-laboring job. I kept the tip, usually cash (Cash was mine completely, nothing to the tax collector… only credit cards were reported income.

    If they wanted tips -or- wanted to get an elevated monthly wage that would have effectively equated to some monetary prospect for tips,,, I, as employer, and the prospective employee would not seen eye to eye and the hiring would not have happened. As a natural flow of negotiations, the push and pull would have equilibrated to some value we were both comfortable with.

    I think I used to pay minimum wage + about 1 or 2 dollars depending on whether I thought she was adaptable and clever.
    A server at Red Lobster should be comfortable and thankful (as thankful as when she landed the job in the very beginning) with their relatively extravagant wages. They should get tipped. They just convey food and they get paid doing so. The cooks are more deservant of tips than the server, if anything.
    I don't think any of them deserve the tip, in any case. Actually I think the owner deserves it for offering an eatery to the public, if anything.
    Carrying the responsibility and the burden.

    Some dull one mentioned having to pay more hourly wage. It don't work that way son. And if the natural market forces act in such a way to elevate the status and wages of server, that's the way markets work. Of course at that point, Servers would be a sought after job or inflation would pump up everyone's wage at all levels.

    I'm tired…

    Suffice it to say… tips or prospect of tips must not be a variable in earning a living. And consumers should not have to pay any more than what the merchant set out as fair market value for the merchandise. They need to handle their own disgruntled worker. They need to be bold about handling insolence and complacency in workers. Why are we paying for the merchant's happiness and luxury. Pootooey~

    By the way,,, we should all try and use credit cards whenever possible. Don't pay with cash. It all gets pocketed without paying taxes. I did that, and everyone else does. I don't believe in people making tax free income unless it's me.

    - a non-tipped employee -

    I know I went all over the page trying… I'm tire and peeved about the whole stupid tipping thing.

    Oh yeah… I usually walk to the cashier to pay and write CASH or CASH ON TABLE on the gratuity line on the credit card slip. Then I leave. If they can't find the cash at the table after I leave, someone at the next table probably lifted it.

  73. 216

    pjk says

    Len you exemplify EVERYTHING that is wrong with the service industry DB’s, please stay home, shut up, and cook for your selfish self. You make our job harder than it should be……. have a great life.

    • 217

      Len Penzo says

      I make your job harder? Little ol’ “selfish” me? How so?

      Because I dare to point out that servers like yourself — who believe their customers should be forced to pay an 18% gratuity for lousy service — are the real selfish ones?

      On behalf of diners everywhere, pkj: Do us all a favor and please find your selfish self a new job. Despite what you think, you’re NOT entitled to an 18% tip for substandard service. Good service, yes. DB service, no.

  74. 218

    Amber says

    I am a server and I do not expect to be tipped if there is bad service.
    However, the mandatory 18% gratuity ensures servers that they will not be stiffed after giving great service. I am a college student trying to make a living and I put my pants on one leg at a time like you. What makes you think that it’s ok to argue about a tip because this is the job we as servers chose? I would like to know how you got by when you were in school studying to be an engineer? Spoiled by your parents maybe? I would not even consider adding a mandatory gratuity if I knew my service was bad! But why is ok for people to go out to eat and treat their servers like trash? Don’t you think a server is entitled to the proper gratuity after he/she deals with your crap? I understand the folks who earn a salary and are overworked. And nobody is saying servers should be privileged. But please understand we are paid $2.33 per hour and the rest of our living is dependent on our tips.
    P.s. 15% is unacceptable unless you are in your 80′s. The rate is 18%-%20

  75. 219

    Nikki says

    I currently work as a server in a restaurant because I am in college and the hours are perfect to work around my school schedule. The place I work at also does the whole automatic gratuity added to a party of 6 or more. I actually do not like this at all. I feel very weird and uncomfortable about adding an automatic gratuity onto a bill. I would never do my job less than the best because of the automatic gratuity, but I am sure there are servers out there that use that as an excuse not to do a good job and that ruins it for the rest of us hard working individuals. But, I will tell you why restaurants do the automatic gratuity; because a lot of people do not tip 15-20%! And the place where I work, as servers, we tip out to the sushi chef’s, the kitchen staff, the dishwasher, the bartender and the bussers. Which this is all fine and I do not mind doing it, but regardless of how much we make in tips, we still tip the other employees the same amount, the amount is based off of our sales, not how much money we make at the end of the night. So, if a big party comes in and spends $400 and they leave a $20 tip, then I would literally have to pay out of my own pocket to tip everyone else in the restaurant. This is how it works at a lot of places. And I understand that it’s a choice to work as a server and that it’s the restaurants owner’s choice to have their servers tip other employees out, but, I feel that since this is how restaurants work, then why not tip your server appropriately if they give you good service? I don’t think that servers work harder than other people, but they do get paid under minimum wage because it is expected that if you go out to eat, you leave a tip.

    • 220

      Len Penzo says

      ” …then why not tip your server appropriately if they give you good service?”

      You’ll get no argument from me there, Nikki.

  76. 221

    Luke says

    Lot’s of complaints of the American tipping system here. It’s a mistake to think it would be better to just have salaries incorporated into food costs. Not as good for customers since let’s be honest, at the lower-end with lots of youth and unskilled labor working the job (while certainly not all) plenty of servers would really slack off on their effort if they got the same money regardless. And not as good for professional career servers who work at the higher end since regardless of wide policy, a very small percentage of restaurants are going to pay waiters then$25-30/hr which can be expected for a good server at an upper tier eatery.

  77. 222

    The Duke says

    I’m the owner-operator of a mid-priced bar & grill. In the past I’ve encountered problems with keeping quality servers on staff since our regular clientele seemed to be very stingy with tips (perhaps our location and primary demographic…those in the biz may know some of who I mean).

    About five years ago it became such a problem I instituted a radical change: A no tipping policy featuring prominent signs on the wall and announcements on the menu. We built a service charge into the price of food (done so in coordination with a menu revamp so the corresponding price increases would not be obvious). It’s been a hit and the best of both worlds.

    The servers still receive a percentage of food sales as a commission and not salary (but just priced into the food, so the customer never sees the charge on paper), so it is in their interests (and thus good for me) to keep customers happy, acquire regulars who ask for them – we’re a ‘regular’ heavy joint – and up-sell. But they know they won’t get skunked on a tip by a cheapskate.

    It was great for business too. Word that you don’t tip has become a gimmick for us and brought us buzz. Also I saw my wine and liquor sales skyrocket. Any restaurateur will tell you that your alcohol has some of your highest profit margin. My customers became much more likely to order an expensive bottle of wine or top shelf drink service when they think, “Oh I can spend more on drinks because I don’t have to tip on it.”

    And my servers all love it. They never get skunked for a tip, and while they’re supposed to politely decline a tip if offered (and there’s no option to add a tip with credit cards) some customers will still leave a little something on the table anyways. Since that is legally not considered part of their expected wages we don’t pay attention to it and they don’t have to tip out on it, and how they handle the taxes on it is up to them.

    I certainly can’t say it would work for every restaurant. I’d actually say there are places it probably would not work. But for us it allows us to cater to a clientele that enjoys knowing the price on the menu covers everything and keeps quality servers happy.

    Like any restaurant even though we employ the best we can from time to time we have a customer unhappy with his service. Since there is no “service charge” (as i said it’s all just commission of sales) to waive I don’t have to address that, and customers are usually happy with a free desert or appetizer if for whatever they are unhappy with service. Any restaurateur will also tell you in the long run giving away a small item (even in well run inventory there will still be some stock you need to move anyways or will just end up throwing away) than adjust a bill.

    Just sharing our different way of doing business.

  78. 223

    Len Penzo says

    Congratulations, Duke! Thanks for showing us there are workable solutions to mandatory gratuities that can make everybody happy.

  79. 224

    Sandy Sawyer says

    GOOD FOR YOU — this is the way it should be EVERYWHERE, for the sake of all parties! The owner could plan, the servers could be sure of a living wage and still be motivated to do an excellent job, and the customers would know how much their meal was going to cost them when they looked at the menu (menu price + tax)! What a concept…sure hope it spreads!

  80. 225

    Levity says

    Do you see the inconsistency in your argument? You are against mandatory tipping, but a no tips policy with a built in service charge is explicitly a mandatory tip.

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