Should You (Do You Tip) For Bad Service?

April 16, 2014
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Tipping has become such an established social norm. Most people expect to be tipped when offering a service to clients. I believe that tipping should not be taken for granted. It’s earned and bad service does not require tipping.


Now I understand that most waiters and serving staff tend to be paid poorly. They count on the tips they receive (usually 15-20%) to make up for their low wages. However, when service is bad, diners often struggle with a moral dilemma — should you still tip your server despite the fact that they took too long to bring you your food, messed up your order or was generally rude to you? A tip is considered a “reward” for a job well done.

Well, what if that job wasn’t well done?

I tend to tip based on the level of service. I generally will leave a 15% tip when dining out alone and 18% or more (when dining outwith a large party) when the service is good. I will reduce it to 10% – 12% if it’s bad. I don’t think I could ever not leave anything but I did once leave a 50 cent tip for truly atrocious service and spoke with the host/manager on duty and explained why. It’s amazing to me that some people just expect the gratuity without any effort. I read that in Japan, the service is first class and there are no tipping policies in place.

One thing I think is important is to let an establishment know of your issues. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the manager on site, call or send an e-mail to the place to let them know what happened. Not that I ever expect them to do anything about itanything but it’s more of a heads up, because if they don’t know of the problem, they can’t be expected to fix it.

What do you do in the case where several people in a restaurant serve and you experience bad service from one of them? I usuallystill tip because the tip is usually split among multiple people, such as the host, water/drink person, server, the person who brings your food and so on. But it’s unfortunate that someone will be short changed because of the not so stellar tip.

One of my closest friends (Sherry) is a waitress in a local popular restaurant and this is what she shared with me regarding tipping.

Sherry: “I really believe people should tip for the service they receive. I work really hard to provide my customers with fast and friendly service and make sure they have a good experience, and I am usually well rewarded for it! It bothers me that other wait staff don’t treat their customers as well. That being said, don’t ever penalize a waitress for something out of her control. The amount of time it takes you to be sat is the hostess’s issue, not the server, same with the food. If something is wrong with your food, let your server know and if they take care of it efficiently, don’t punish them! We don’t do the cooking! But if your server is mean, slow, never refills your drinks, or has other issues I don’t think there is anything wrong with leaving a lesser tip.

imageBut, a tip for customers, if you want better service, be nice to your server! The minute we sense hostility or anger about something we did, we will back away and you probably won’t see us again. If we can tell you’re not going to tip, we’re not going to waste our time to be berated by you. A friendly “could you fill my glass more frequently, I’m really thirsty tonight!” will give us the hint we need.”

Jonathan (a 2nd year music major @ Columbia College) shared with me, “I live on tips and I have a love/hate relationship with it. Sometimes I feel like a begger on the street dependent on the generosity of others. However, unlike a begger, I do provide a service. I like to consider myself a very personable and friendly person who does have a genuine concern about my customer’s happiness. I usually get fantastic tips for my service. There are times when I cannot provide good service that is out of my control and I would not mind getting a lesser tip or none at all. However, there are way too many cheap people who straight out stiffs me or gives me a marginal (insulting) tip when I do provide them a great service. Those are the people I wish would just stay at home and not use my services. Ultimately, if you cannot afford to tip or have to complain about it why don’t you just do it yourself or stay home!
 P.S. Thank you to the generous souls out there whose tips somewhat compensates for the rude tightwads out there.”

Here are some examples of bad service that will definitely be reflected in my tipping:

You are seated by the host in a restaurant and are left waiting 15 minutes before anyone notices you.

Your water glass goes unfilled and you have to ask for some water.


Your server is not knowledgeable of the entrees on the menu.


The server is not attentive.


You take a taxi and the driver is driving slower than molasses and there’s no noticeable traffic, or he’s driving like he’s racing in the Indy 500.


Should you expect the same service at a restaurant chain or a “fine dining” establishment? The first answer that comes to most people’s mind is no but actually it should be yes. For your patronage and well-earned money spent, you should expect the same prompt, courteous and knowledgeable service from the staff regardless of the establishment.








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