There are a number of topics about serving and restaurants that are open for debate. The opinions are generally split between those who have been in the industry and those who have not. It is very similar to the political process as it currently stands. Most people have chosen either the Server Party or the Guest Party. This moderates in the middle are enough to give either side a majority opinion. The two parties are as opinionated and uncompromising as the political ones. There seems to be one issue that even the moderates are split on. Whether it is acceptable to leave less than 15% when the service is poor.
I discussed this issue with a couple of friends from high school. It took all sorts of different turns. If everyone gets 15-20%, isn’t that punishing servers who deserve 20%? Can even an educated guest know all the factors that contribute to slow service? I knew my vested interest in the topic precluded me from being truly objective. This is why I asked one of them to write a post outlining her position. I know from first hand experience that she is a good tipper and a very nice person. Please refrain from death threats since she did do me a favor in writing this. With that in mind, here is what she submitted:
Is Less Than 15% Gratuity Hitting Below the Belt?
I humbly come to the table never having served one my entire life. The closest I ever came was in high school when I was required to ask my customers if they would like extra butter on their popcorn or a bag of over-priced candy to go with their soda. With that in mind, I approach the subject of tipping cautiously. I may have missed the window to strap on an apron and bring out a tray of entrees, but I have spent a lifetime with pen in hand trying to figure up the tip.
When our favorite blogger posed the question to me of whether it’s ever appropriate to leave less than 15% gratuity as a response to poor service…several thoughts came to mind. The main one being that the customer is always in a tough spot when the check is dropped off. We are kind of darned if we do and darned if we don’t. Word on the street says that 15% is status quo for average/good service. Sadly, most diners today cannot figure what 15% of their bill is without the aid of a calculator or laminated tip card…therefore lazily just round up to the nearest dollar or two. I, for one, am pleased to do the math and leave a proper tip for proper service. I struggle though with the concept of allowing your tip to reflect your opinion of the service.
Like the newer generations are grappling with paving the road of cell phone and facebook etiquette surely never to fully agree…restaurant patrons have struggled with the duty of tipping for years. If we allow our tip to reflect our opinion of the service received we run the risk of the server just thinking we are cheap instead of taking some time to reflect on why their tip may have dipped below the standard fifteen percent. If we are thankful for exceptional service and tip accordingly, the recipient could easily take that as a signal that they are deserving of an above average tip from every table and not continue to strive for that above-and-beyond attitude.
So as we circle back around to the tight spot the diner is placed in at the end of the meal, I choose to take the high road. Although money talks, so can the patron…If I feel the service has been wonderful I will reflect that somewhat in my tip and make sure I compliment the server on specific areas that were appreciated. I have often flagged down the manager and passed along the compliment as well; who knows – perhaps they will earn an extra piece of “flare” and their monthly staff meeting! On the other hand, if the experience was less than hoped for I will slightly reflect that in a monetary fashion and let the server know why I was less than pleased. No one benefits from the server just thinking I am flirting with him, or conversely, a cheap jerk. Public awareness of what servers think about tipping or a standard pre-paid gratuity at all restaurants would make the whole situation more palatable.
Everyone take a deep breath. I know some of you are ready to pound away at your keyboards. That is actually the point. Some of you probably think she is completely wrong. Others of you probably think you could do a better job of making the point. She took a pretty middle of the road position and that leaves room for members of both parties to respond. I would be happy to give a forum to anyone who wants to take a side here. If you leave a lengthy comment, be sure to sign it with the name you want it attributed to. If it disappears after a couple of hours, that means I deleted it to move into a post of it’s own. Those of you who feel very strongly and want to write 300-1000 words on the topic can send it to me via email at email@example.com and I will use it in a future post.
Be civil. Reasonable people can take both sides of this issue. There is probably not a right or wrong answer to this question. By making both sides heard we might at least understand the other party a bit better. Let the great debate begin.