What to Tip?

When milling through Fark today I came across an article in the Star Tribune, “Restaurant tipping points“. I was thinking that this article would be about what is the proper way to tip those that serve you when dining out. Instead it was about how the people that serve you try to get back at you and what they think you, their customer, should be tipping. So, that made me think about what do I think about when I go to tip somebody for service done when dining out.

Before I get any further into this, I just want to mention that this is more of a reflection/response to the article. There are a lot of things that go into how and why I tip people the way I do, but this is more of an overview of the Einstein type thought processes I have when I tip… or something.

For any of you that have dined out with me in the past, you know how much I regard good customer service. For me, this is one of the most important things when interacting with a company, be it a restaurant or whatever. I say this in the frame of dining out, but it goes for all other things as well. However, I’m mainly focusing on the service provided when dining out.

Overall (99% of the time) service when dining out isn’t poor, it’s good or even great. It is just exactly what is needed for the meal to be ordered, enjoyed, and then conversation afterwards. Now, it goes without saying that you could typically expect service to be much better as the cost of the meal increases. From my experiences this tends to be true, but there are cases were opposites happen (better establishment/not as good service and vice versa).

There are many cases in which I’ve had great and really outstanding servers. This is usually the case, like I said, 99% of the time. They are just great servers and they make you glad that you are out and enjoying their restaurant to get a meal. Their attitudes are what usually seal the deal. One place that does a great job time and time again is Red Robin. I can’t remember of a time where service was poor. Especially when you are there with a large group. They will split checks for you and they are just outstanding. It makes me want to go back there more often (despite it being right across the street).

I really enjoy going out and getting food or drinks. But, sometimes the service can make or break it for you and your experience. I try to leave the suggested 15% for each server that I have, but sometimes the service will lead me to increase or decrease that amount. But, I guess I’m tough on servers at times. However, excusing bad service because a tip is expected just won’t fly with me. I’ll tip you in regards to the quality of your service every time and if it’s really bad I just might tip the chef.

Edit: It was not my intention when writing this to offend those who have worked in the food service industry. I am writing this as a consumer of the service that they provide simply not knowing what it is like to work in a position like that. The closest that I can come to that is IT Help Desk support, but that is a wage job without tips. I realize that people have bad days, I do like everybody else. Maybe the person in my example was having a bad day, I just don’t know. But, like I sad, bad service is very very rare and I can only think of a handfull of times in the past 10 years where this was the case. My apologies to those whom I may have offended.

5 thoughts on “What to Tip?”

  1. I usualy leave 20% for good to excellent service, 15% for fair, and just a little something for poor. Whenever I feel that I’ve gotten poor service, though, I always ask the waitsperson to get the manager. I’ve actually had to do this a couple of times – the most recent was when my wife, a friend and I were getting breakfast at Sam Choy’s in Honolulu. Our group arrived before another group, but the other group recieved thier service first, and was munching on thier food by the time our waitress came around. We ordered our meal, and when it came time to get the bill, called for the manager. I then told the manager that we would be paying for the meal,but there would be n tip, and this was why. Needless to say, we never went back there again.

  2. Taken from November 12, 2004 Lazyi.net/blog entry :

    So, for any of you who have lame users where you work, this is kind of for you. We tend to deal with them every day and at times it is just a little more than you really want to deal with…It is just that sometimes users just drive me up the wall and this post is about those users that make me do it.

    Consider that people working in restaurants go through the same thing, only for them, YOU are the lame user. They work there to make a living; being your (or anybody’s) servant comes as an unwanted necessity. Maybe this sort of understanding only comes from working in the service sector at a place where customers feel that by virtue of them spending money, they are always right. Granted, I believe that you should get what you pay for, but keep in mind that people have bad days too, just like you. I don’t think they should be penalized for it simply because it happened
    to be on a day that you strolled into their establishment. From here I would say “Put yourself in their shoes”…but it seems you already have to some extent, where even you were unable to heed your own advice:

    Well, for one, never berate your customer.

    Only you were able to do it hidden behind a keyboard.

  3. kOOnatellO – For as I can see the parallels in the two scenarios, I feel that they are different in only minor ways (tech vs restaurant). For one, I would never do as in my example in front of the customer. Never. If they find it online, fine. That is no different that the websites listed in the article. You yourself even criticize lame customers in your comment. Again, no different than what I just did. So, really, the post you cite is an example of that non-confrontational ranting. It is not in front of the customer. It would be completely naive to think that people don’t do this (ranting, etc..). You do it, I do it, we all do it to some extent, jokingly or not, in varying situations.

    Having worked in places where customer service was needed (not in the food industry), I only try to understand the parallels that you mention. However, just because service is bad due to a bad day doesn’t mean any reward (monetary or otherwise) should be offered. It is about the experience that one encounters, not that one that should have been encountered. Again, I should point out that poor service like I mentioned is few and far between. The majority of service is excellent and it is rewarded accordingly, as it should.

    Now, I realize that I could be the lame one in their establishments, but I never walk in there with the attitude “man, I hope our server is terrible so I can get out of a tip.” That would lame. I would like to think that I give them as fair a shot as anybody else. But, when you work a job where part of your wage is your tip, you should do your best to earn it. This could be similar to a person who is working towards a bonus or even a raise. It just doesn’t happen, you have to work for it.

  4. wow, such long comments. i was just gonna say how this post reminds me of the openning scene of resevoir dogs. yeah i cant spel.

    oh yeah, and if any waiter/esses are reading this. all i ask for is that my glass of water is never empty.

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