The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had a column on Sunday about how tipping is down. It includes a quote from one expert who says, “‘the good old days of 15 percent even for mediocre service are probably gone for now.’”
While I’m definitely not an advocate for stiffing folks who count on tips, I feel like there’s a definite social contract implied by the tip: if service is good, you give more; poor service merits less. Only once have I been in a situation where i thought a waitress deserved no tip whatsoever, but I was pressured by my dining companions into leaving something for her.
It was a couple of years ago, when Aurora and I were visiting New Orleans for a friend’s wedding. With our friends, we went to Lebanon Restaurant for what we thought would be a quick lunch. the one previous time i had been, service was poor; but that had been a couple of years, and there was no reason in my mind to hold the restaurant responsible for one bad dinner server. Turns out I might have been wrong.
A good half hour after we were seated, we were still waiting for the waitress to return to take our orders. We were getting hungry, and we had places to be; so I took our orders back to the kitchen and gave our list to them, saying that I had no idea whether our waitress would ever get around to handling it for us.
The food, once prepared, sat in the window long enough for us to stare at it and wonder if it might be ours before our waitress picked up the order and delivered it to us. That was the last we saw of her until we tracked her down and asked for the bill.
I wanted to leave her a total tip of $0.02; but my friends said we had to leave her at least 10-12% out of common decency. Instead, i got approval to leave the two pennies on top with a note that said “this is the only tip you deserve” even though we had actually left more than that.
The waitress was gathering up the money from the table as we drove past; she was complaining to a coworker that “This is all the tip they gave me!” As Aurora tugged on my shirt and tried to pull me back into the car, I leaned out the window and yelled to her that “We left you a better tip than that but you didn’t deserve it!”
I can’t imagine service worse than having to place the order myself is the only reason i advocated for stiffing her as penalty for her dismal service. Otherwise, I can’t imagine dining at a sit down establishment and not leaving a resonable tip. In Pennsylvania, state law allows tipped employees to be paid as little as $2.83 per hour, in expectation that their tips will draw them up to a livable wage. Other states’ minimum wage laws can be determined by visiting http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/state/tipped.htm and clicking on a state on the map. Once you see how little the person filling your coffee mug might be getting paid, perhaps that will make you feel somewhat more generous with your gratuities.