Cheap Tips: When the tip isn’t enough

by EPI Staff on January 12, 2011

Q: Someone took me out for a meal at a nice restaurant but left a horrible tip. The service wasn’t great, but not bad either. Could I have left cash at the table?

A: It depends on whom you’re with. If your host is a close friend or relative, you can say “Would you mind if I put down a few dollars? You probably didn’t notice, but our server was very helpful to me.” With someone you don’t know well, however, it’s better just to let it go. You wouldn’t want to seem like an ungrateful or judgmental guest.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille January 12, 2011 at 12:40 am

I find that a lot of people have wide differences on what is considered a good tip. I am of the opinion of 20% even more if the service was outstanding. but a lot of people think 10 or even 15 is good. I find what works for me is I say “Thank you for he dinner, how about I get the tip?” Or I insist that I get the tip since you bought the lovely dinner. Some such thing like that.

You could leave cash I suppose, but I would do it stealth if I were to do that.

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Alicia January 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

If the lack of tip is well below what it should be like 10% or at least $20 I would and have come back the next day and found the waiter and given the tip then. Actually this makes a huge impression on waitstaff and if it is a place you go to semi frequently they will forever remebe your kindness in this regard.

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Di January 12, 2011 at 1:14 am

Oh, I would definitely leave a stealth tip before I let the poor server get underpaid.

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Chara January 12, 2011 at 4:30 am

This drives me crazy because I waited tables and I know what kind of lousy treatment that they put up with. Unless a waiter is truly bad, or neglectful I think that you have to remember that their tip is the way they make their money.
That being said- my Father-in-law never (NEVER!) leaves a decent tip. It drives me up a wall because he always gives them a hard time and then leaves them a bad tip, and I have no way of sneaking in a few extra dollars to compensate.

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Elizabeth January 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I too feel like it’s important that waitstaff are appropriately compensated, and when your host fails to do so, it’s a tough position. I agree that the host should never be challenged or told that their tip is not enough. I’m a big fan of making up an excuse to go back and leave some extra money. “Oops, I forgot my glove at the table” or, “I’ll meet you in the car after I visit the bathroom.” It’s tough, though, if you regularly dine out with people who are stingy tippers. In that case, Camille’s advice is great: you offer to leave the tip as a thank you for the meal.

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Rusty Shackleford January 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think Camille’s answer is brilliant. It balances all the competing interests. Yes you are a person’s guest and sneaking extra money onto the table can be very disrespectful to someone who is taking you out to eat. Yet it is always polite at dinner to either offer to leave the tip or split the check. And its important to remember that the tip is someone’s livelihood. Tipping less than 15% is the equivalent of docking someone’s pay. Tipping less than 8% is actually stealing (since the IRS assumes 8% of gross sales as a servers tips). We all have bad days at work, and for most of us, our pay is not docked.

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LC January 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Queue the Friends episode where Ross goes back to leave a tip because Rachel’s father under-tipped… :)

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