A national debate is rearing its ugly head amongst us and I must confront it. It seems that some people need to know if there are times when it is okay to completely stiff a server. And my answer may come as quite a shock to some of you, but I say: yes. On the rare occasion, it is okay to stiff a server. A reader named Dee writes:
Only once was it so bad that I decided a tip wasn't deserved. When the waitperson came to pick up the signed credit card receipt, I took the opportunity to tell him that there was no tip included for his service. I told him that since he waited until clearing from the appetizer to tell me that they'd run out of Prime Rib, that I never received the hot tea I'd ordered, that I got baked potato as a side when I'd ordered rice pilaf, and that my dining partner's entree arrived 15 minutes before my second choice was served... for all those reasons, I told him I didn't feel he deserved a tip.
I think Dee was right to refuse a tip and she was also right in explaining to the server why he wasn't getting one. Forgetting to get the hot tea was his fault. Of course, things slip our mind and we can fuck up. And sometimes at work you can have only four mistakes happen all week but all four of them happen to be at the same table. It's like the perfect storm of bad service. Maybe the kitchen didn't tell him they were out of Prime Rib until it was too late. Shitty, yes. But maybe he should have accepted the blame and try to make up for it by bringing another app that was comped while she waited. He certainly should not have brought out her friend's food when her order wasn't ready to come out with it. That was dumb. And maybe the kitchen sent out the wrong side, but if a table has already been slighted, it's the server's responsibility to make sure everything else is right. I would have been hovering in that kitchen to ensure that it came out quickly and correctly. I have found too that it helps if you just are completely honest to a table when this shit happens. Tell them: I Screwed up. I am sorry. What can I do to make it better? Customers like it when we accept responsibility for mistakes. They hate it when you blame the kitchen or the the runner or the host or whoever the fuck. They aren't dealing with any of them, they are dealing with the waiter, so therefore everything is the responsibility of the waiter. Period.
Of course, I think it's better to leave at least 10% so that there is enough to cover the taxes and tipping out. And if you are really unhappy with the service and you feel it was the waiters fault, let a manager know or just don't go back. I stiffed someone once. It was at The Black Eyed Pea in Houston. The waiter was an idiot and kept fucking up our order. And then at the end when we mentioned something about going back home, he said, "oh to your trailer park?" What the fuck? Did he just call me trailer trash? Now I may have spent my formative years living in a mobile home (trailers are for horses and mobile homes are for people, just so you know) but he cannot insult me like that. He should have had the decency to go to the sidestand and then do it like all self-respecting waiters. That was the final nail in his coffin and I picked up his 20% and put it right back in my pocket.
Yes, Dee, it is okay. Choosing to leave no tip is alright if there is justification. We know when we are doing a shitty job and sometimes it just happens. When it happens to me, I am not surprised with a stiff. What we don't like is when we know we gave great service and don't a tip. Or when we realize we fucked up, we tried to fix the problem and they say they are satisfied and then they still don't tip. Fear not, sweet, Dee. You were okay in your actions. We love that you tip above 18% when it is deserved. For that, you rock.
What are your thoughts, fellow servers?