Growing up, my mom taught me a really important life lesson: 20% of a number is a decimal point to the left, and that number multiplied by 2. "Why 20%?" you may ask. Because 20% is the number you should always tip when you are pleased with the outcome of a service (restaurant, hair salon, nail salon, etc.).
While I'm not going to lecture you on how to tip (as that has already been done far too many times before), I will instead be providing you with some tipping horror stories from friends in the business that clearly demonstrate how not to tip in restaurants. Whether you're a generous tipper, a little bit stingy, or a front of house staff member yourself, these experiences can serve as helpful warnings to all:
1. Repeat Customer
"I once had a couple come in to the upscale restaurant where I worked, and I could tell the husband was obviously very controlling, and from his accent, very British. Upon misunderstanding his wife and thinking she wanted her dish cleared out of the way, I went to grab it only to have him scream at me. I was told (in a very angry British voice) to 'calm down,' 'walk away,' and 'take a lap.'After getting understandably frazzled, I asked a coworker to clear the table and did not interact with the couple until it came time to pay the bill. This guy left me a massive tip, which I can only assume was his version of an apology. No, a few extra dollars scribbled on a receipt is not the same as a verbal 'sorry.'" —from Red Bank, NJ
2. False Hope
“Any time a customer says ‘You did an amazing job, I’m going to take care of you,’ and leaves below 20%.” —from Lake George, NY
“I once had this guy my age come in and write a really small number for the tip, then cross it out and write a higher amount with his cell number on the bottom. I later saw him out at a bar and subtly called him out, only to have him tell me that he does it ‘for every cute girl that’s my waitress’. Smooth.” —from Charlottesville, VA
“On a really busy night I had a couple come in that freaked out about how long their food had been taking (it had only been about 15 minutes). When it came time to pay the check, they completely stiffed me. Flash-forward to the next Monday, guess who’s seated in my section… if only I had realized before going over and introducing myself as their server.” —from Red Bank, NJ
"There were these two guys who came in and racked up a $500 bill... I was obviously doing my best to check up on them, especially when it came time to pay the bill. After reassuring me that everything was fine and they just needed a few minutes, they dipped on me once my back was turned. So, no tip, and also $500 to explain to my boss." —from Baltimore, MD
“I had a table that tipped me really low and wrote on the bill that I should ‘be more attentive.’ They ended up coming back the next week, and since I was busy I ended up giving them pretty much the same service as the week before. They ended up leaving me a pretty average tip and thanked me profusely for ‘being so attentive!’. No problem?”— from Boston, MA
7. "Ur Cute"
“This guy came in and tipped me UNDER 10%, but still had the nerve to write ‘Ur cute’ at the bottom, along with his number.” —from Charlottesville, VA
The reason why tipping is so talked about is probably because it’s difficult to understand. Most servers are not paid a decent hourly wage by their employers, so it’s quite nerve-wracking for servers (and customers) when the outcome of a paycheck is in a strangers’ hands.
As a customer, it’s your right to decide how much to tip. Explaining a poor tip in a non-condescending manner can be helpful, although no tip should ever really go below 15%. And please, never write ‘Ur cute’ on the bottom of a receipt – at the very least, use proper grammar.