Tipping all Foodies

Bad Night for a Waitress

HuffPost hosted this article by Ed and Deb Shapiro about how waitresses deal with rude people (and how the rest of us deal with them too).  What it brought up for me was the fact that I know a lot of people who consider themselves foodies who tend to treat waitresses like debt bondage workers or like the pimple on their lover’s back (you know, to poke and poke and pinch and poke some more until something awful squirts out), rather than as the person who is working her/his fucking ass off for a low wage job.

I’m mortified when people treat waitstaff in a less than respectful way.  I think I might be extra sensitive to it because one of my family members once made a waitress cry and almost got us kicked out of the restaurant.  That’s not to say that there aren’t bad waiters and tricky situations that arise from bad service or kitchen mishaps.  But really I try my utmost to show my appreciation to waitstaff and I try not to be a pain in the ass.

But what about all you ESers?  Are there some rules of thumb we should all follow?

1. Should you get chatty with a chatty waiter?

2. How demanding can you be of a waiter during lunch rush or the dinner hour?

3. Is it okay to send dishes back? If so, when?

4. Is it okay to tip less than 10% for poor service?

5. What kind of patron behavior mortifies you?

(Photo: El Mundo del Cappytan)

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  • BS March 27, 2009  

    @4…yes, if they are for some reason just downright rude – never just because it’s slow or you didn’t like the food. There have only been two or three occasions in my life when I’ve tipped that low, but a tip is, after all, a thank you for making a meal pleasurable, and if a waiter/ress seems to go out of their way to make my meal unpleasant, then I’m not going to thank them.

    @3 – I’ve never had the balls to do this, but I think if your meat isn’t cooked the way you asked for it, then it’s reasonable to ask them to put it back on for longer. If it’s overcooked is it reasonable to ask for a rarer piece? Not sure about that…

  • belmontmedina March 27, 2009  

    This is probably a result of my waiting tables, but you have to be an unbelievably poor server/bartender for me to tip less than 15%. I figure everyone has a bad/off day- I certainly had a few. Also, I would like to personally shoot with a crossbow any patron that snaps to get the server’s attention. It is rude, demeaning, and you’re asking for someone’s attention, not calling a dog!

  • JoeHoya March 27, 2009  

    I think there’s definitely a level of respect that everyone is entitled to, and it’s way too easy for people to forget that when in a situation where the person they’re talking to is literally serving them.

    That being said, I think patrons have certain rights as part of the contract that is a meal in a restaurant.

    For me, the answers are:

    1. You can be friendly without being chatty. A smile and polite small talk are always acceptable, and if the restaurant isn’t especially busy it’s all right to chat a bit with your server. But let their level of engagement drive it – don’t force a chat.

    2. Ideally, you should never be demanding, regardless of the timing of your visit. Again – be respectful. If you’ve got a request, make it politely. But I certainly don’t lower my expectations of a restaurant and its service just because they’re busy. They don’t lower the prices to reflect an anticipated sub-par experience, do they?

    3. It is definitely all right to send a dish back if there is something wrong with it: under/over cooked, wrong item, incorrect temperature, sanitary issues. But it’s important to remember that most of these things are completely out of the server’s control. Blaming him/her or chewing him/her out isn’t going to do anything to fix things, but it will lose you an ally when they go back into the kitchen to return the food.

    4. I know that servers are paid next to nothing (in most cases) and that they live on the tips they make, but I still believe that the tip is a reflection of the service you’ve received. If a waiter is hostile, surly, unresponsive, or generally rude – ie, if they basically fail to do their job – you shouldn’t be expected to tip them the same way you would someone who provided great (or even merely adequate) service.

    5. Patrons who treat servers as servants, snapping their fingers to get attention or otherwise acting as though the server is beneath them, are definitely my biggest pet peeve.

  • Meg March 27, 2009  

    1. Should you get chatty with a chatty waiter?
    Well, I tend to chat but if a server is clearly busy, I won’t make them talk to me. My aim is to always be the friendliest table they have.

    2. How demanding can you be of a waiter during lunch rush or the dinner hour?
    I’m not sure what you mean by demanding. Obviously, you can’t play the “oh now that you’ve just brought our food, can you also get me another coke and then wait until that coke shows up to ask for extra dessing on the side” game. I think you can ask for what you need, but you need to be understanding if it takes a couple of minutes.

    3. Is it okay to send dishes back? If so, when?
    It is only okay to send a dish back if you asked for a specific preparation and that’s not what you got. Example: requested sauce on the side, got sauce all over the thing. Now, if you meant to ask for a substitution but forgot, TOO BAD. You are eating it as is.

    4. Is it okay to tip less than 10% for poor service?
    Never. For me, average service is 20%, above average service can go up to 35%, but poor service never gets less than 10%.

    5. What kind of patron behavior mortifies you?
    When patrons ignore servers, never looking them in the eye, never saying please or thank you, never acknowledging that there is an actual person giving you food and/or drink. That makes my skin crawl.

  • Pinch o Minch March 27, 2009  

    Maids, I just had this experience. Normally I still give poor service a 20 percent tip – but I was just in Moroni Brothers where they 1) brought out the wrong pizza (the only one on the menu I DIDN’T want), 2) charged us for diet coke refills without telling us – 6 bucks for soda!, and 3) didn’t offer to discount said wrong pizza. I left 14.5 percent tip. That’ll show them.

  • Maids March 27, 2009  

    I’m really reticent about sending dishes back, but i will if it contains something that wasn’t listed on the menu (like a big slab of chicken or melted cheese. I’ve been known to pick non-melted cheese off of something just so the waiter/waitress doesn’t feel bad. As for tips, I only tip ten percent if the waiter went out of her/his way to make me miserable. Even then I feel really bad about it. I understand when other people tip less than 20%, but I just can’t do it. I too waitress one summer.

  • Rhonda B March 27, 2009  

    Wow! I have to wonder about my harshness . . . I once tipped a waitress a nickel for a table of eight because she was such a bad waitress, was rude to members of our party, lied, got the orders wrong, over-charged us, then was rude about fixing her mistake, and blamed her poor service on the bartender when we could see our drinks sitting on the bar with ice melting! And I have been a waitress several times. Everyone has a bad day but this was “willful misconduct” and she would have been fired if I was in charge. (food service personnel everywhere tremble in fear) Otherwise, I tip according to people’s efforts ’cause you can tell if someone is trying.

  • Ria March 30, 2009  

    I’m a waitress in Little Italy and I can tell you where I work, we are only paid in Tips (the owner now took away the pay out this weekend so from 5 pm to 1 am if I only get 30 dollars in tips that’s what I get).

    1. Should you get chatty with a chatty waiter?
    I personally love talking to the guest, I enjoy knowing who they are, what brings them here, vacation, birthday, etc. I want them to at least look back on the restaurant and think “Well the food sucked but our waiter was nice” kind of feeling. I can also tell when they don’t want to engage in conversation so I really don’t push.

    2. How demanding can you be of a waiter during lunch rush or the dinner hour?

    3. Is it okay to send dishes back? If so, when?
    By all means, please send a dish back if its not what you ordered, it’s no skin on our backs, sure the chef may get huffy but in most cases it’s the cooks fault not the waitresses so don’t worry about it.

    4. Is it okay to tip less than 10% for poor service?
    You know what, it happens. Most times I don’t even get a tip at all (those table usually consist of girls who have been shopping on canal street). But I can understand if the service was WAY below average such as the waiter ignored you or was thoroughly rude. I think, personally, that’s my whole beef and confusion with getting a dollar tip from a 86 dollar bill or nothing at all since even during lunch rush, I try to take care of everyone as much as I can as well as make sure they are having a pleasant experience.

    Side note, Yeah, so far with me being a waitress the only people that have left no tip or a nickle tip have been women! What is up with that?

    5. What kind of patron behavior mortifies you?
    As long as they don’t treat me like a dog or me below them I let a lot roll off my back. I’ve had moments though, such as one time a woman claimed I was wrong with the total of the check and she was excellent at math (out of ear shot she was calling me pretty mean things and talking about how incompetent I was. Lady, I am only three tables away from you. I may need a calculator, But I don’t need a hearing aide). Anyways, turned out she forgot to add the cheesecake she ordered. Even though I didn’t get a tip, it was a nice feeling of showing her up by a calculator and patience with numbers.

    I also had one woman call me fat and didn’t leave me a tip even when she claimed she knew the owner and was friends with him. I asked for her name to let her know I will tell him she said hi and she refused to give it to me. Obviously she knew she was wrong in the situation.

    Being a waitress basically sucks, especially during times and situations such as these. So, just a cry out to Little Italy patrons, give your waitress a break, she’s only trying to help make your experience enjoyable.

  • Ria March 30, 2009  

    2. How demanding can you be of a waiter during lunch rush or the dinner hour?

    Sorry, skipped this one! Hey man, you are paying for something you want to eat specifically. Go ahead and ask the questions you want answered and if I don’t know, I’ll find out for you. Of course patience is a virtue in these cases but we’ll always try to appease your questions.

  • Maids March 30, 2009  

    thanks for your input. Fucking absurd that a patron would think it was appropriate to comment on your weight. Did the lady WANT spit in her food. Christ!
    I wonder if male patrons are nicer to female waiters and whether female patrons are nicer to male waiters…. That gender dynamic is interesting, especially since the majority of waitstaff is female….

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