How Do I Punish Bad Service?

luis-guz-man-waitingDear Mesdames Courtesy,

The etiquette of tipping has been covered in multiple places, but those are more for rewarding good service. What is the polite way to punish bad service? Say, for a waitress that ignores you for an hour, or a cab driver who has no idea what he’s doing and gets lost before you have to get on your phone and figure out how to get home?
Sincerely,
Where’s My Waiter?

OFFICIAL ETIQUETTE
Amy Vanderbilt says that you can reduce a tip in a restaurant if “service is minimal or unbearably slow.” She also says that, although a tip is a reward for good service and not required, it usually ensures better service in the future. Mr. Pink also has some strong ideas about this.

OUR TAKE
Jaya: I definitely think you can tip less/not at all for bad service, though it really depends. The only time I’ve not given a tip at all was when a cab driver spent the entire ride complaining that I was going to Queens (from Manhattan), and that he’ll never find a ride back, and it’s gonna cost him so much money and time to do this, and basically implying that I was a real bitch for wanting to take a cab home.

Victoria: I would definitely not tip the driver in that situation.

Jaya: I was even trying to convince him to go to the airport (not far from my house) to pick up a fare! I was trying to help! And I was all ready to tip him nicely for a long ride, but nope.

Victoria: For bad service in a restaurant, you want to call the manager and really let them know that the service is bad rather than tipping poorly.Then they have a chance to fix it or make it up to you instead of you stiffing someone out of their already low wages.

Jaya: Yes, because it’s often so hard to figure out whether it’s actually your server’s fault, since there are so many moving parts. Maybe your server put in the wrong order, or maybe the kitchen messed it up. Talking to a manager will usually result in the right person being reprimanded, instead of you giving a waitress a 10% tip when it’s not her fault.

Victoria: I feel like i see a lot of server complaints that are like, “they left a 10% tip and I don’t know if I did something wrong or they are just cheap.”

Jaya: When I was a waitress that happened a few times, and I asked the people dining if I had done anything wrong, and it turns out they were just bad at math and thought they left a 20% tip.

Victoria: Hahahaha! That’s why tipping should be abolished- Americans are becoming increasingly bad at math and can’t calculate a proper tip even though there are apps for that!

Jaya: I’m trying to think of other tipping situations.

Victoria: Getting your hair done. But if you’re not happy with a cut, you can ask them to fix it rather than tip poorly.

Jaya: Yes, and usually you can see what’s going on, so if it takes a turn you can speak up.

Victoria: Changing your tip only works if the person you’re tipping has complete control over the situation.

Jaya: I’d add that they should have complete control and don’t seem to be trying very hard. What if your bartender is slow because the other person didn’t show up for their shift? Or a machine broke in the coffee shop? Always try to be understanding first. But yeah, do not tip your cabbie if he gives you shit about a totally legal request to take you home.
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3 thoughts on “How Do I Punish Bad Service?

  1. I can only comment from the side of a server but I believe you should not leave a tip only under the most extenuating circumstance. I waited tables for 4 years and the degree to which I had people tip was appalling. What people forget is that servers are paid less per hour and rely on tips for full wages. And despite what many restaurants claim, I never had them compensate up to minimum wage if my tips didn’t add up. I always tip 20% whenever I go to restaurants. It has to be blatant mistake on the servers part in order to warrant less (ignoring your table when its clear they do not have another table to serve, extremely rude). And that does not count for when the kitchen messes up or bussers don’t clear tables. That is not the servers fault. Also majority of servers have to tip out at the end of the night based on their food sales. So if you’re not tipping on the full price of the meal (i.e. you used a gift card, or an appetizer got comped), servers lose out even more. And that’s not even considering that servers have to split their tips with bar staff, bussers, food prep, etc. I cant speak for cab drivers, hair dresser etc but why is it that food servers are the only job that gets scrutinized about their performance in terms of payment? We dont get to pay less for clothing when the woman at the department store is rude to us?

  2. “or an appetizer got comped),”

    If that reason was because the server messed up such as forgot to put the order into the computer or put it in wrong, you should give less tip, because that was a MAJOR mistake that you cannot make up no matter what you do you can’t give back someone’s time, you just can’t.

  3. “Yes, because it’s often so hard to figure out whether it’s actually your server’s fault,”

    No it’s not in most cases and you know it. If they put in the order right and still brought me the completely wrong food, they are still at fault for serving it obviously wrong, like DUH, they have a SET OF EYES and CAN READ.

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