Servers. Drivers. Barbers. Delivery boys. Bellhops. We tip lots of people. Or we’re supposed to at least.
I’m a good tipper. I’ve worked for them before and understand that some professions really require a good tip in order to survive. However, one thing has always bothered me: the expectation that I should tip. Even when I worked for them, I never assumed I'd get a tip regardless of the service level I provided.
So, when I get the check, I consider my service. Was it good, bad or just ok? As I said above, I’m a good tipper. For an average level of service for a server I’ll give them, a 20% tip. I don’t have a problem with that. For exception service, more can be expected.
In my years of dining out, I can count on one hand the number of bad dining experiences I’ve had. But they always face me with a dilemma. When you don’t tip well, the server staff will generally treat you worse and punish you the next chance they get. Everyone has heard the stories of what goes on behind the scenes. They punish you because you don’t tip them well.
What if they don’t deserve it? I mean, if my waiter sucks ass, why should he expect a tip? But if I don’t tip him well, and he gets a chance, what will he do to my food? The problem is that he expects a tip regardless of how crappy a job he does. It’s built into his wage, so he thinks it should be set in stone.
It’s just not right in my eyes. If you suck, you don’t deserve the extra tip from me. A tip is a gift, a reward for premium service. Even dulling that down to average service, if you don’t meet the bar, you’re not realty deserving of the damn thing, are you?
The best meal I ever had involved a four person server staff that was focused entirely on our needs. When a glass was half-empty, it was refilled. When bread crumbs got on the table, they were cleaned up. Plates landed in front of each person at the exact same time. The covers removed with precision. It was marvelous. I gave nearly a 40% tip on a very expensive bill. The waiter sent me a postcard within a week, thanking me and inviting me back. He (and his team) deserved it. They were rewarded with a nice gratuity.
Now, I don’t expect that when I go out to the local chain restaurant. But I do expect certain levels of performance. You don’t need to smile, but you can’t really grimace. My drinks don’t have to be fast, but if it’s empty for over half the meal, we’ve got a problem. If the order is completely wrong, something is amiss. I understand busy nights. I understand that the waiter is at the mercy of the kitchen if the food just isn’t good. I wouldn’t dream of punishing for trivial things like that.
But damn it, I don’t think a bad service person should be able to expect a tip they didn’t earn. It’s extortion by playing on the fear that they will do something to my food/ luggage/ whatever the next chance they get. On top of that, it demeans those people that actually put forth the effort to earn good tips.
Drives me up the wall that I actually have to think about that sort of thing. Fact of the matter is that tips are implied in some service jobs. Failure to tip is done at your own peril, regardless of the poor performance you received.