Tipper Score

A gratuitous guide to bad tippers

Does it sometimes seem that, no matter the restaurant, you always get poor service? Even when diners nearby are getting the royal treatment? It could be true. You may not be aware of it, but you could be sending signals to your server that you won't be tipping well when the check comes.

Good servers are trained to "read" their tables as soon as their guests sit down. As a general rule, businesspeople get crisper, more professional service. Tourists receive more relaxed and verbose service. Romantic couples are pretty much left alone.

But there's another distinct diner personality -- the bad tipper. An appropriate tip is 15 percent to 20 percent of your total bill. Servers can spot bad tippers, and, though there are (surprising) exceptions, many servers will play the odds and take it out on you.

Rose Johnson

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Here, then, from a restaurant insider, are some signs that make us think you'll be stiffing us:

You always insist on separate checks (usually if there are three or more in your party): Yes, we know you, you cheapskate. You're the one who leaves the 10 percent tip, apparently thinking that the others in your group will make up the difference. I'm sorry, your buddies know you're cheap, too, and are tired of paying your share. What's your logic here -- the server worked harder to give you three accurate checks, so he might as well get less money?

You're with an all-women group (usually six or more): Okay, let's be fair here. Women have that glass ceiling thing, granted, and often don't make as much money as their male counterparts. But that's still no reason to economize when you're paying the check. The worst is when you're all paying separately, even on a single check -- everyone tips 10 percent, and no one even tries to make up the difference. You decided to treat yourself to dinner -- if you can't play by the rules, don't play the game.

You're the perpetual restaurant VIP: Why is it that the "VIPs" of a restaurant, be it regular guests, business partners or celebrities, tip so poorly? You're the folks who demand the extra fawning, the suck-up service and most of our time. You're also usually the one with the most money. But, for some reason, you think it's our privilege to serve you, and our joy to walk away with a lousy 10 percent gratuity.

You're the guy who waits to pay until his date is in the restroom: You, the guy on the first date, are nervous, excited and way too eager too please your companion. If your date is at the table when the bill comes, we may get 25 percent. If she's in the restroom, we can expect a meager 10 percent. You're saving your money for when it can really impress her, perhaps? It won't help -- she'll be running out of the room screaming when she finds out who you really are. But we know who you are, and we're not bringing the check until she's back from the bathroom.

You're paying, but someone else in your party ordered the expensive wine: We can see the look on your face when your guest goes for the pricey bottle -- bitter. The wine is $30 more than you'd ever pay, and now the table's on its second bottle. So now your bill is twice what you expected, and after tip, it's going to be huge. The solution, you think, is to take a few dollars away from the tip, and now the check's more reasonable. Yeah, 10 percent is probably enough. The server's got other tables, right? He'll make good money from them.

You're the one who orders by price: Hey, you, the food is listed in the left column! Why are you only reading the right column? We can see you scanning down the right, stopping at the price and looking left to find out what you "have" to order. You, friend, have serious issues with being in restaurants. Since you aren't willing to spend money on the entree you really want, you start out your meal feeling cheated, and your server has no chance of getting a decent tip. Hey, we didn't make you come here, and everything is not overpriced.

You're the one who wants it on the side:For some reason, the less adventurous you are with your food (you want your sauce on the side, please), the less likely you are to put down a decent tip.

You're wearing a Members Only jacket: And this is your dressed-up look. Your fashions date from the early '80s. You haven't spent $50 on a decent jacket in a decade and a half. So why would you suddenly splurge on a respectable tip? You may be so clueless that you don't even know what a proper tip is. Have you ever noticed that the check always gets dropped away from you, toward your better-dressed friend?

You're a CPA: Accountant? Paying real money for food? 'Nuff said.

You're gushing: "You've been great tonight," you tell us with a goofy grin. "What wonderful service." Somehow, you think this compliment counts toward the overall compensation. Too bad we can't buy health insurance with your cheerful pat on the back.

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