Should Restaurants Ban Regulars Who Don’t Tip Well?

I understand there are people who rebel against tipping in restaurants.

These people are often referred to as tourists.

They go to a place in the belief that they’ll never be back, so why bother giving away more of their money than they have to?

Some people, though, are ritually mean.

I don’t know whether they were whipped beyond reason as a child, or whether they believe that pride comes free with gall.

These people think nothing of tipping, well, nothing. Or, at least, very little.

Please grasp, these are not people who are unhappy with the restaurant or its service. They’re simply people who don’t see why they should add a tip.

Think of them as the conscientiously objectionable.

I came across one such person very recently. It just so happened that she came into one of my favorite restaurants, twice within a couple of weeks.

It also so happens that, both times, she sat near me and left slightly before I did.

I can only hope that these two facts are entirely coincidental.

However, both times I managed to peek at her credit card slip. She wasn’t shy, you see. She tipped openly and hardly at all.

The first time, her check was some $56.96. Her tip was $1.04.

You might be moved by the fact that she added the 4 cents, in order to make a round number. I was moved to toss chopsticks at her as she left.

Of course I didn’t. I want to come back to the place.

The second time she was there, she offered a fulsome $3 on a check of $39.

One person's view of famously bad tippers.

One person’s view of famously bad tippers.

I like to hope that my hissing stares at the back of her head might have left a scar. But perhaps it was merely because this time she was accompanied by a nice old lady and she wanted to make a good impression.

A word about this lady’s dress: she wore obviously expensive clothing. There was a tinge of Hermes, a soupcon of Von Furstenberg.

Her purse was certainly in the $1,000-$2,000 range, all soft leather beige and touched with gold.

The first time, she merrily typed on her iPad, while tucking into quite excellent food and first-class drink.

I watched the service she received. It was meticulous. Yes, even the second time.

Would the restaurant be entirely insane to request she never return?

Might the manager or the owner at least sidle up to her and whisper in her ear this small question: “Madam, was everything to your liking?” “Madam, is there anything we could have done better?”

Or even “Madam, is there a personal problem you’d like to share with us? Has the divorce money not come through yet?”

I only ask because it’s clear this woman thinks she is a fine and valuable customer. Just as it’s clear that the restaurant staff think she’s the mean-spirited result of a carnal evening enjoyed by Beelzebub and Medusa.

Legend has it that lesser establishments would ensure this woman wouldn’t return by slipping something painful into her food, something of nasal or fecal provenance.

I cannot imagine this particular establishment stooping to this. I can imagine them expressing patience, perhaps trying even harder to please, but still in an entirely subtle manner.

I can also imagine this lady not altering her behavior. Perhaps she’ll occasionally tease with an extra dollar here or there. But she’ll remain stubbornly attached to her warped principles.

That’s the time I fear I might stand my ground and take the law into my own hands.

I like this restaurant. The staff is excellent. What would happen if I sidled over to her and  mentioned her apparent tight-spiritedness?

Perhaps I could start with: “Does your psychologist know you’re here?”

People like to talk about themselves in America.

But should the restaurant say something first? Three strikes and you’re out, perhaps?

Or is being insulted once in a while just part of the retail experience?


Image: The Daily SAlvo/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk







Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Robert says:

    There is an easy solution: If the restaurant feels tips are required because they don’t pay their employees enough, just ask the company to add a built-in gratuity to the checks… problem solved. You’ll never have to complain about someone not paying you enough again.

    • tiffany says:

      I have been a waitress for over 16 years, and the restaurant I currently work for is a small mom and pop type operation. We frequently receive regulars who do not tip. We, the waitstaff treat them with mostly a polite tolerance because we understand that as the manager puts it “sometimes the house has to make money”
      It sucks for us to put the energy into them knowing that we will receive zilch but at least the money they spend goes to keeping the lights on and water running In our establishment.

    • Brent says:

      One problem with that solution, and that is making people pay gratuity. If a tip become mandatory, then it’s not longer a gratuity, it becomes a fee.

      Here’s an even better solution: Just raise the wage of the server. That way, servers can live off of their job, customers don’t have to feel guilty, and most importantly, you’ll reduce the amount of spoiled assholes who believe just doing their job entitles them to something extra. Oh, and you’ll reduce the amount of people who look down on people who don’t want to tip.

      And before anyone tries to give me the “servers do a hard job for not enough pay to support themselves” argument, I HAVE been a server myself, so I know that excuse is bullshit. Regardless of an employees financial situation, a gratuity means that a customer has NO obligation whatsoever to give more than what they owe. If the job doesn’t pay enough for what you need, then either find another job, or get a second one. Don’t be a dick because someone wasn’t generous!

  2. My mom raised us working multiple jobs as a waitress, usually 2 at a time, one for day shift and one for night shift. Because we were raised in a tipping culture, I probably overtip. I have not tipped once in my life, but that was because the service and food was so horrible I spoke with a manager. The manager offered to give me our ticket free. I have never gone back to that establishment again though.

    If your service is bad enough that you don’t want to leave a tip, you need to speak to a manager. Period.

  3. Madi says:

    I tend to disagree. I find this to be more a problem with our culture than any one person. I don’t really believe in a tipping culture, tips should effectively be built into the price of the food and the wait staff should be paid accordingly. This is how many countries outside the US do it and I believe it is a much better system. As for the lady you describe, I believe it is her prerogative to leave any tip she feels comfortable leaving. So no, I definitely don’t think the restaurant should ban here, the establishment is making money from here, as another commenter said, presumably, that goes towards paying for the lights, paying the waitstaff’s paycheck and hopefully going into making the restaurant busier and more profitable, something the wait staff should be happy for, since that means more hours and better pay/benefits.
    So, just because someone is a poor tipper, I don’t think the establishment should treat them any worse than their good tipping customers. And I don’t buy the ‘waste our time and energy’ argument, it is the waitstaff’s job to provide stellar customer service regardless of whether the customer is a high roller or a low roller, they get paid to do it already, so of course they should ‘waste’ their time and energy on every customer. If you don’t like how customers tip then ask your boss for a wage that matches the energy you put into your job better.

    • Joshua says:

      Are you crazy!? Just because you feel that the tip should be included in the price of the food, it’s still not. Do you not understand the hourly wage that servers make? If they don’t get tips, they don’t make money. Pay checks most of the time don’t exist.

      How can you be OK with having a server give you stellar service and you not tip a full 18-20%?? That’s like someone coming to your job and deciding that they are going to lower your hourly wage or salary for a day, just because they feel like it.

      Please rethink your thinking. Servers bust their ass for demanding people who think they are God. They deserve every penny they get.

      • Madi says:

        I am unsure how other states work, but in my state, servers must be paid at least minimum wage and tips cannot be applied to that wage, so they get at least minimum + tips. If you don’t like how your state does it, it’s simple, work to elect someone who will put in favorable laws.
        In your argument, in my state, you’re saying effectively we should tip retail personnel because their take home wages are lower than a server’s. (Since servers get tips and at least minimum wage in my state, whereas many retail clerks just get minimum wage) Also, what happened to 15% being a good tip… I really dislike the sheer entitlement servers have of getting 18-20% when it used to be 15% was a good tip and many left 10%.
        Your argument falls short with servers busting their asses, retail people do as well, and again for demanding clientele, so is it really fair for servers to be paid more?
        Furthermore, tipping is really just cultural, I have a problem with that culture, I much prefer the multitude of cultures that don’t tip or tip a flat amount rather than a percentage.

        • Joshua says:

          What state do you live in where servers make non tipped minimum wage? I’d like to know. Also, I’m not saying that this system is right or that I agree with it. I’m stating that when you know your server is making $2 bucks an hour, and you choose not to tip, you should instead be choosing to go to McDonalds because it’s down right rude and basically stealing money from that server.

          • Madi says:

            Washington, I believe Oregon and California are the same though. But your argument of me stealing from servers doesn’t make any sense. If I don’t give the server a tip, the establishment is legally obligated to make up the difference between $7.25 and $2.13. So if anything, I’d be stealing from the establishment, not the server, either way the server gets minimum wage, or do you believe they should make more than retail jobs?

      • Miguel says:

        Why don’t the owners just pay waiters and waitresses a decent salary to begin with?

        • Wilko says:

          That’s what I would like to know as well, Miguel!

        • Joshua says:

          I agree with you. I think the main reason they don’t is because then the cost of food would go up for the restaurant guests and people would either complain, or stop coming, or both.

          • Brent says:

            I don’t care so much care if the food is higher in price, as long as it’s worth it AND I have the maintain my rightly option of offering gratuity. If people will complain just because they don’t want to pay the required fee, then they don’t have to come. HOWEVER, customers have EVERY right to complain about required gratuity.

  4. Wilko says:

    Being from the Netherlands, but having spent a fair bit of time in the U.S. during my several dozen trips over there, I find this kind of message completely uncomprehensible.

    A tip is exactly that: a tip.
    I.e. it’s something symbolic that you can chose give to a person who went above and beyond what you could reasonably expect for the money you paid to eat and or drink at a certain venue.

    The lady you mention did exactly that, and I think she shouldn’t be the target of an almost vendetta or retribution from guests and staff alike simply because she doesn’t tip a certain percentage of the total bill.

    The idea that someone expects a tip is almost akin to arrogance in my perception.
    So what if a waiter has got a very low wage and needs tips to make up for that?
    It’s a choice to work at a place for that wage, and it is also a choice to work more than what a paying guest could expect in the hope (but not expectation or even the feeling of entitlement that I sense in the message above) of seeing that extra effort being rewarded with a tip.

    I may come from a different culture and nation, but it sounds to me that the problem is not the leaving of tips but the owners of restaurants who don’t pay their employees enough to live a decent life.

    • Joshua says:

      You come be a server in the states for a month, and I guarantee your mind will be changed. It’s absolutely disgusting to think that its OK not to tip. That’s how servers pay their bills and put food on the tables for their families. They cannot help the fact that the wage is so low. And sometimes waiting tables is the only job some people can get. Especially in this economy right now.

      If you can’t afford to tip, or don’t want to, go to McDonalds.

      • Wilko says:

        Joshua, you sound very emotional about this subject, as is the original poster IMO.
        Emotions don’t make very good or even valid arguments.

        If your suggestion is that everyone should go to a Mcd style place to eat, you effectively will put many restaurants and their staff out of work. That doesn’t sound like a solution to the problem you seem to want to address.

        Mind you, why anyone would want to work as a server, waitress or other job in a restaurant, hotel or bar is beyond me. However, if you know beforehand that your wage is so low and still take that job as a waiter, then the risk is all yours.

        Bottom line is that employers don’t pay people enough. So in my opinion the employees should start a union and demand normal wagesfrom their employers. You seem to think that the customer should make up for that lack of decent pay by paying the employee directly. Seems like an upside down approach to the world to me.

        I believe that tips are there as a reward for service above and beyond what should be expected at a certain venue and not for making up for lousy hourly wages by an employer. That is why they are called tips and not “mandatory service charges”. I also don’t see any right or justified claim on “tips” by an employee that doesn’t do more than what can be expected for what the customer pays the owner for a certain meal plus beverages.

        If these servers demand or even expect a “tip” (even stronger, from what you mention with the 18 to 20% they seem to expect a certain percentage of the price of the food and drinks that is paid to the restaurant), it’s no longer a tip but a service charge paid directly to the waiter.
        In which case I see the future of buffet style restaurants without servers booming. 🙂

        Finally, I don’t see why I should have to work as a server in a US restaurant to get sympathy for a server. I’m pretty good at imagining their income levels and work load, having worked shitty jobs all throughout my college educations, which made sure that I can now have a good job, earn a nice income and not have to work in an industry that at least in the U.S. seems to be a bad place to work.

  5. Josh says:

    I can’t believe any of you who are sticking up for the old hag. Servers work for very little wage per hour – here in Texas it’s $2.13 per hour. They depend on tips to pay their bills and feed their families. And someone mentioned something about a paycheck – servers rarely get a paycheck that’s more than $1.00! $2.13 doesn’t really add up to much, and after taxes pay checks are normally zero’d out, or we even end up owing money.

    Bottom line is if you can’t afford to tip 18-20%, then you can’t afford to go out to eat. It’s rude and downright unfair to mess with someone’s livelihood.

    • Madi says:

      So do you tip retail personnel? In my state servers get minimum wage, the same as retail personnel, servers get tips on top of minimum, therefore you’re messing with the livelihood of the retail personnel aren’t you? In this case, if you can’t afford to tip the retail people, buy at a thrift/second-hand shop. Same idea right?
      Servers here get paid at least $9.19/hr + tips. While many retail people get paid minimum wage at $9.19/hr.
      Honestly, states that count tips when calculating minimum wage are cheating their people pretty badly, and it should be the citizens duty to elect people who will work to change the laws.
      Also, everywhere in the US, servers have to be making at least $7.25/hr including tips, if they are not, they should file a complaint with the federal department of labor. Employers are legally obligated to make up the difference if the tips coming in do not add up to $5.12/hr. (since the employer is legally obligated to pay $2.13 to servers, servers must make at least $5.12/hr or the employer must make up the difference). Once again, this is better than retail workers, who earn the flat $7.25/hr, servers make that + whatever tips above $5.12/hr they get, minimum, many states are like mine and do not allow employers to count tips to make up minimum wage.
      So, I don’t buy your argument, it’s rather odd we tip servers when we don’t tip retail personnel don’t you think? And don’t tell me they don’t put in as much effort, stop and watch a make-up salesperson once, they put so much effort into everything.

  6. TravlnTexan says:

    I tip where the pay scale for waiters is below the minimum wage…like in Texas at $2.13…I tip 20% if the service is excellent. As the quality of service goes down so does my tip. However in Washington State where a server is paid $9.19/hour…unless these guys/gals are going to burp me when the meal is over I see no reason to tip if my meal lasts an hour or less.

  7. Tips are supposed to be voluntary, therefore noone should ever be pressured into tipping, or harassed, insulted, excluded, cajoled or otherwise abused if they choose not to. Such behavior would be absurd!

    People perform a job and they should be paid for it. If they don’t do it well enough they should lose their job. What sense does it make to have some people get paid more for working a little harder? I’ve worked for over 35 years at various jobs and there have been thousands of times I’ve worked harder than usual in fulfilling my obligation. Never once was I paid more because of it nor did I ask to be paid more and I certainly never considered heaping derision on anyone who didn’t ‘voluntarily’ pay me extra. That would be absurd!

    Tipping, if it’s necessary at all, should never, in any way, be tied to the amount paid for the food. Why should a person who orders lobster and fine wine pay a server more than one who gets a tuna sandwich and a coke? Is it somehow harder to carry a plate of lobster than it is to carry a tuna sandwich? Absurd!

    Finally, consider that wait staff get tips but cooks don’t. Putting aside for a moment the fact that cooks are overworked, underpaid, highly stressed and sorely disrespected, think about a server who serves 10 people in an hour. They receive their hourly pay plus tips from 10 customers. If they serve 15 people in the next hour they receive their hourly pay plus tips from 15 customers. More pay (higher hourly wage) for more work might seem reasonable, but…

    The cook who cooks for 10 people in an hour makes only their hourly pay, and in the next hour, cooks for 15 people receives… their hourly pay – Period. More work, but NOT more pay. How is this fair? How can snooty wait staff bitch about tips when the cooks (who create the food they serve, and without which their service would be useless) get the shaft? ABSURD!

    Make prices reflect the full cost of business, make employees’ pay fair and equitable and push tipping back to the Middle Ages where it belongs!

    • Joshua says:

      I’m not saying your views are wrong. But reality is, servers who don’t get paid minimum wage or above need to be tipped. It isn’t an option. And if you aren’t tipping, this is precisely why servers hate you. Ever watched the movie “Waiting”? If not, watch it. This stuff is very real.

  8. Dave says:

    I don’t tip because I paid for my food and I m not the waiters employer.

  9. Frank says:

    Hey Dave, god bless you. I’ve been a server for 8 years at various restaurants, waiting tables, driving, etc. How dare any of you not tip a server. I’m from a working class home where I’ve always had to find my jobs and get money on my own. My parents never helped me get any job. If I wasn’t a server and barely surviving, I would be like many other Americans and break into your overpriced houses and get money. Remember that when you use a credit or debit card, the server sees your name. When you don’t tip us, we remember your name. You might not remember our names, but I assure you that we do. Google is effective. Thanks for your time and patience. So when you see me at work, remember this friends. Servers are working hard to be able to eat ramen three times a day. A lot of times servers are also paying their way through school. Remember this Dave. Next time your salad tastes a little funny, remember the delicate relationship between the customer and the server. And if you regularly fail to tip the hardworking servers in your home town, I hope you have health insurance because salmonella is no joke.

    • Brent says:

      And you remember this, Frank: We may not remember your name, but we’ll ALWAYS remember where you work. And if YOU fail to do your responsibilities as a server and/or cause a health and safety hazard to the customer, I hope you have a back-up plan, because you WILL be fired. Oh, and that’s if you’re also lucky enough to NOT be fined or prosecuted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well.

      Didn’t really think that comment through, did you?

    • Praveen says:

      Wow, you sound very angry Frank. I can sympathize with you, but resorting to that low level behavior by tainting the customer’s food or stealing from their credit card is a crime pure and simple, and you WILL be fired and possibly spend plenty of jail time if caught. Good luck having anyone hire a character like you again. I hope you get caught if you actually go through with what you mentioned in your post!

      • Brent says:

        I’m glad you feel the same way, Praveen. Anyone who is so selfish and dishonest that they would sink as low as to contaminate their meal should be in jail.

  10. Jim says:

    The concept of tipping is alien to me as I am new in US. I wonder that the restaurants have no margin at all to pay minimum wage to their waiting staff?
    Another thing is that why its always insisted upon to tip the waiters at restaurants but not for other people who work in the service industry.
    Why nobody asks for tipping the people working at fast food joints like McDonald’s or subway, coffee shops like Starbucks. Or tipping the staff/cashier at retail/thrift stores.


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