To the Jerk Waiter

Friday, October 13, 2006

After a lot of thinking I finally decided to post this piece. It's probably going to upset a few people, and make a few people happy. Hope you enjoy.

I met a waiter today, a friend of a friend, who decided to vent to me since as a frequent restaurant patron, and as someone who has worked in food service before I would lend a sympathetic ear. He had a table that racked up a $300 bill. He only scored an $80 tip, and was going on about how he was so nice and perfect to this table and they only gave him a measly $80.

Now, I've had crappy tips and good tips. Here is a good tip for the said waiter: Shut up.

First, you scored more than 20%, so stop whining. You made more in one tip than most people make per hour.

Second, you are a waiter, you provide a service. That is your job. Every job provides a service, but yet not all of them get tips. I work at a non-profit that provides a service. I also work with plenty of people who work with highly special needs children. These are children who are emotionally troubled. Many came from very troubled homes and nightmarish conditions. Some were just born with troubles. They can be very cute, funny, sweet, and adorable. Yet because of their problems the counselors who work with them have to worry about physical harm. Not on just a daily basis, but an hourly one.

Staff have been sent to the hospital on occassion here. Twisted joints, bruises, cuts, and being spit on is what you should expect coming in to work here. Do they do it for they pay? No, not really. They do it for kids who need help. They do it because they are wonderful, compassionate, lionhearted people. They get paid about $11 bucks an hour. You may have tough customers, but when did one kick you in the face?

The best tip our counselors get? Try to move fast to avoid getting hurt.

If you serve a $100 bottle of wine, or a $10 bottle you did the same amount of work (oh, unless you decant it and get the fancy balloon glass; try not to strain something). The tip here is either $2 or $20. I'll be damned to tip an extra $18 between the two bottles.

I was raised by my parents to always tip 20%, and after working at the cafe' I make sure a buck goes into the tip jar. I tip more or less accordingly to how good the service was. I also work lots of overtime and do a bit of freelance writing to cover bills and make sure I have cash to go out to restaurants, and have enough to tip. If I can't dish out your precious 35%, you still have no right to treat me like shit. I'll tip 20%, but if you pass me off because I didn't order a bottle of wine, and am thus not a big spender, thus lowering your potential tip, you can expect less.*

I feel justified making this comment. I'm sure there is plenty of dissention and disagreement on this, tipping is like politics and religion, you just stay out of it. Especially on the internet. Yet, if anyone wants to express their opinions, comments, or arguements about this feel free.

*Side note: Once a friend and I had really bad service, as in appalling and the guy was a total jerk, throwing the check at us, ignoing us, giving us dirty looks and blatantly oogling my friend. For a tip she left some change she had in her pocket and wrote on the tip line, "Don't be a dick." Freaking hilarious.


  1. Yikes! That's about a 27% tip! How much was he expecting? Is he just bad at math?I say anything over 15% is an acceptable tip and 20% is typical for good service. I doubt I've ever left more than 25%...

  2. Good for you for stating your piece! Its your blog and you can say and do what you like. Personally, I think $80 on a $300 bill is very generous. I would have left $60 without feeling guilty at all.

    My issue is with hotel room service, and getting dirty looks when I don't tip on top of the included 18% gratuity. Its included for a reason! I shouldn't have to tip on top of a tip!

  3. I will forever feel lost at this tipping business that changes from country to country. I hate having to calculate stuff right after I had a meal [and wine, you know]. I like how they do in Brazil, where tip is always included in the check - 15%. It's not very flexible, but I guess if the service is really bad, you can go to to the manager and arrange not to give it. I've done it once, when my sister, friends and I were forgotten at the table in a very busy pizzaria.

  4. wow!!! If I had spent $300 on a dinner, I would have thought I would be leaving an awesome tip if I left $80!! But only if theyd been phenominal or something.. good service.. $60 for that bill... crap service even less!! I cant believe he was angry because he didnt get more than $80! Makes me think twice about the how waiters really feel about me at the restaurants I frequent.. I almost alwyas tip 20%... but never more... makes me wonder if they think they seserve more!

    Geesh! And I can hardly break my dad out of the 60s, he still wants to tip everyone 10%!!!

  5. Wonderful prickly funny true post. You are my hero.

  6. Lots of people don't make that much in a day at work! I totally agree with your perspective on this.

    Love this website!

    I linked you up at mine cause I want lots o people to know about it. Fabulous dahling.

  7. Here in London there's usually a 12.5% service charge added to the bill and I don't think anyone ever pays more that 15%.

    Some people manage to live on $80 a day! How spoilt is this guy!?

  8. That's odd! Did he not understand he was getting such a healthy percentage? I left 25% for one astounding service once. Otherwise, I leave no more than 20%.

  9. When I waited I worked hard for a $300 table--working a mid-range restaurant you rarely get a check this high for less than 6 people. Before booze and tax? I'd expect a tip to be $45, but hope for $60. If it was a huge group I'd like more, but expect less. This guy is in the ****wrong**** profession.

  10. Great post and well written. I totally agree.

  11. What in d*g's name was he expecting? And please, before you tell me, warn me so that I can put down my tea. $80 on a $300 check is, as Amy pointed out, more than generous. Shut up indeed!

    Also, thank you for the perspective. $11/hour is criminal for the kind of work your coworkers do.

  12. That's a pretty damn good tip. I've stopped OVERTIPPING as of late. I just cannot afford it. For good service they usually always get at least 20%. I worked for a salon so I have a bit of experience in seeing stiffers!

    As for complaining about it- it's better than nothing!!!

  13. To ALL: Thanks for the support on this, LOL, one or two people I told this story two said I was being stiff with my wallet. Ha ha. Said waiter said the group was loud and boisterous and should have given him $90 or so bucks. In go with Amy, Fleagirl, and everyone else: this person is in the wrong profession.

    $80 too little? Want some cheese with that whine?

  14. I'm with you and the majority of your readers on this one -- 27% of a $300.00 tab is a nice chunk of change for what was undoubtedly a fraction of this guy's total take for his shift.

    Like others, I tend to tip based on the service provided, not necessarily the total tab. Last night, for example, we spent $40.00 on dinner for the two of us, but left a $15.00 tip because we were a party of 14, with four checks, and our waitress was phenomenal with our group. I wanted her to know that we appreciated the extra effort I know she put in.

  15. I tend to think the opposite from him--the bigger the check, the more acceptable to leave a smaller percentage tip. The only time I leave more than 20% is when my bill is small and I feel embarassed to leave an exact percentage.

    For example, I often eat at a small Italian place near my work that is very cheap. The food is good and prepared fresh and on large portions. Most importantly, there is one waiter to handle a busy lunchtime. He does a fantastic job in what I think is a stressful situation and I always leave him close to a 50% tip, because when dining alone, my bill is maybe $10 or $11. No way I'm leaving $2 for better service than I get in many expensive restaurants.

    I also agree that an expensive bottle of wine can artificially inflate a check without adding a proportionate amount of work for the server. I would still leave 20% just to not be perceived as a cheap bastard, and because it's not the server's fault if the mark-up is high, but still ... annoying.

  16. Great post Garrett! I think the next time someone is whining to you about how little they get paid you should just laugh and kick them in the face (maybe spit on them too) and say "That's what I get where I work!"


  17. I agree with Zero's comments about tipping. I don't tip based on percentage so much as the size of the bill.

    I remember when 10% was considered generous. Now it's 20% (and did I hear something about 35%? Egads!). Let me ask this: Where does it stop? At 50% of the bill? 100% of the bill? Or maybe the limit is 125% or 150% of the bill? I think you get my drift.

    There is bad math at work here. Waiters and waitresses (I used to be one) think that they aren't getting a raise if the tip percentage doesn't increase.

    The fact is when the price of restaurant dining goes up, they get a piece of that increase. For example, an expensive meal 10 years ago might cost $50. A 10% tip would net the waiter/waitress $5.00. If that same meal now costs $100, the tip is now $10 - double what they used to get.

    My point is, even at the old 10%, food servers are still getting an increase, commensurate with the increase in the cost of the meal. To keep increasing the tip percentage as well is just ridiculous.


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