10 occasions when you might tip less than 20 percent

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]eaders of this blog know I have a burr under my saddle about chintzy tipping of restaurant wait staff. I asked another server today whether “Bad Christian Tippers” is a myth. He assured me it was real. “I’ve only been here two months,” he told me, “but at the restaurant where I worked before, [called the name of a prominent suburban Nashville restaurant], it was true. I didn’t even believe it when I started, but when I worked Sundays I found it to be true.”

I asked, “Where they just chintzy or were they rude, or some combination?” He replied, “Mostly just chintzy.”

“And they shall know you are my disciples by your chintzy tightfistedness.” Jesus Christ

tip 20%

Tip well!! [Image credit]

A friend of ours currently is on the service staff at a national Italian restaurant chain. In an upcoming interview, she relates not only how bad the reputation is of church people regarding tipping, but how it has affected her co-workers perception of God.

We have been tipping 20% or more on meals for a while. If we do not have enough for a good tip we either eat at home, take out pizza or pay a visit to Chick-Fil-A. Our position is, “A good tip is as much a part of the meal as is the food.”

This whole tipping thing got me thinking: when you can realistically tip less than 20%? While it is a standard we should studiously aim toward, here are ten circumstances when you can tip less than 20 percent and not feel guilty.

1. If he/she spits in your face for no reason. It is within the realm of possibility that your server takes offense at your face and spits on you for no reason. If so, you have permission not to tip 20%. If your criticism of their family, tattoos, heritage or other ignorance incited the spitting you still must tip 20%.

2. If he/she intentionally pours a scalding hot liquid on you. Accidents happen. While painful–even life threatening–unintentional spills are not reasons to lower or omit a tip. Even the most inept server hopes for a tip and will not purposely jeopardize it. If, however, he/she brings over a boiling cauldron of soup, smiles fiendishly and yells, “FIRE IN THE HOLE!!” before dumping it over you, you have permission not to tip 20%.

3. If he/she curses you out. In more than 30 years of eating out, I can count on one hand the number of times a server has even used a curse word in the course of our ordering or in general conversation. If, however, your server commences to turn the air purple with objectionable language directed toward you (because you left a chintzy tip, maybe?), you have permission not to tip 20%.

4. If he/she places your infant in the child seat upside down. This one was on the bubble. Not everyone knows which way is up, and not everyone has experience with infants. To cover the cost of comfort food in the eventuality some trauma is induced on your upended youngster, you have permission not to tip 20%.

5. If he/she has obviously placed hair (not a hair) in your food. A single stray hair can come from anywhere. This is not necessarily the fault of your server. If they return to the table missing the ponytail you see underneath your seasonal vegetables, you have permission not to tip 20%.

6. If he/she makes an overtly obvious pass for your significant other. “Wow, your wife is really attractive,” “Lady, your husband is turning heads in the kitchen,” and the like do not count. Compliments are rare and a heartfelt one should not be diminished. If upon your return from the restroom, you find your server on a knee with a rose in his mouth in front of your wife, you have permission not to tip 20%.

7. Your “rare” ordered steak arrives with the hide still attached. Admittedly this could be the fault of the chef or cook, but the server could slice off the leather and fur before bringing to the table. In this case you have permission not to tip 20%.

8. You get a mixed browns salad. Nothing worse than brown lettuce in a salad. Again, the server should not receive 100% of the blame as they do not buy the stuff. But in this case a good server would have let you know on the sly, “We are out of salad. Trust me, we just are.” Got served a mixed browns salad? You have permission not to tip 20%.

9. If your server makes less than 3 visits to your table. Under most service scenario three visits are required: one to introduce him/herself and take drink/appetizer orders, one to take the meal order, and one to bring the order or check to make sure the kitchen staff brought the order. Any less than 3 visits and it almost cannot count as having had a meal. If you do not get a meal, you have permission not to tip 20%.

10. If you server answers his/her cell phone during your order for any reason other than a family emergency, a game show lifeline, parole officer check-in, or confirmation of new housing. Those warrant no further explanation. If your server is under 18, check-in call from a parent is also allowed, but not a “check-up” call from a boyfriend/girlfriend. Anything else? You have permission not to tip 20%.

Now, tip big or stay home!

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Stuart

    I’m still curious to know how they identify these chintzy Christians as Christians. Personally, I always take my Christian ID badge off before going into the restaurant. Is this based on attire? Sunday lunch crowd? A table full of iced tea glasses? Chick tract stuck under the edge of the plate instead of a tip? How do they make this determination? I’m also curious where 20% comes from. When I was a kid, it was 10%. Then it was 15%. I’ve always been a “double the tax and round up” guy, figuring that around 18% is a good tip. Now I find out they don’t think that’s good enough either. So how can Christians avoid being chintzy? Using your 20% guide…do we tip 20% on the total bill or is there some other formula? If we drink water should we tip as though we ordered $2.25 Iced Teas? If we ordered $2.25 Iced Teas, should we instead tip as if we’d ordered $4-6 bar drinks? I’m only being partially sarcastic.

    • martyduren

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

      Not sure if any servers will join the conversation, but from my conversations with them, it is all of the the above re, IDing: prayer before meals, discussion about church, the “Sunday lunch crowd,” leaving of tracts in lieu of tips (or with small tips), etc. I’m pretty sure the local atheists union is not doing those things.

      I’ve tried to clarify with servers whether this is just an urban legend of some kind, but I get the same answers over and over. Maybe it’s just everywhere I happen to live.

      I also remember when it was 10% and 15%. Servers I speak with would be cool with 15%, I think, as long as the party were not ridiculously needy and impossible to please. There are plenty of patrons–I’ve seen this–who complain about everything as an excuse not to leave a tip. Like most other businesses costs increase. Acceptable tipping remains largely socially determined, I think.

      In the U.S. many, many restaurants pay less than 1/2 of minimum wage (legally) and depend on tips to make up the difference for the servers, greeters and table bussing crew. We may not like that, but when we step into that environment we should own up to the rules on the field. A server who just isn’t good but is trying to learn the ropes should be penalized by a lousy tip? A server who is just having an off day doesn’t need a blessing? God doesn’t want me to provide it? God doesn’t want us to give more than we have received? Yes, I do think most bad tipping from Christians is the lack of a generous spirit. Sometimes I wonder if there does not exist some kind of deluded sense of moral superiority over the lowly server.

      And, Proverbs 3:27: “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one it belongs to.” Argue over whether you should tip over drinks you don’t order if you want, over the few cents difference including the tax amount in your tip would make if you want, or just be generous.

      • Stuart

        I’m not questioning whether or not there exist bad Christian tippers; I’m quite certain there are. I’m just not as convinced as you that this isn’t one of those instances where the servers’ presuppositions are informing their conclusions. We won’t settle that here, though. Regardless, I couldn’t agree with you more concerning any or all of the reasons WHY Christians should be the most generous tippers. We should be the most generous givers. Period.

        I think I know what irks me about much of what is written and said concerning this subject. On a level, it reminds me of so much preaching that occurs on the subject of giving. “You have an obligation to meet God’s (or this other person’s) legalistic minimal demand…anything less is sin (or chintzy).” It’s a message that kills joyful grace-giving (grace-tipping?) and turns Christians into something other than Generous Souls in the long run is it not?

        • martyduren

          Appreciate the product placement. ;^)

          I guess where we differ (?) is I’m trying to encourage people to meet or exceed social expectations for the sake of a good witness. Not trying to create a “new law.”

  • Chris

    In a previous ministry role that I served in, every Sunday we would have lunch, as a large group (15-20) at a local restaurant, usually a chain. After experiencing what you described above the first couple Sundays with my group, I actually set down some ground rules if you were going to go and sit with us. First, no tipping less than 20%. Second, do not argue with the server if there is a problem with your food. Just simply state that you’re not satisfied, the reason why, smile, and ask if they can correct it for you. You’d be amazed how many times a server gets blamed for something the cook did. Third, if a tip is automatically charged because of the group size, you’ve got to pony up the difference between that and getting to the 20%. Fourth, you are not allowed to simply order water and bread. Fifth, no mooching off of others unless you’ve previously decided to share. There are others, but I won’t go into detail.
    As a former server I can tell you I tip differently now. This group above, by the way, was a 50+ adult crowd; not a youth group. If you broke the rules you could come to the restaurant but you were not able to sit with us. In the five years I served this group I only have two times where I had to ask someone to not join us the next week. They were the same person and it was in the first month of doing this.

    • Springs1

      ” Second, do not argue with the server if there is a problem with your food. Just simply state that you’re not satisfied, the reason why, smile, and ask if they can correct it for you. You’d be amazed how many times a server gets blamed for something the cook did.”

      You do realize most issues with food are your server’s fault or another server’s fault, right? I am not saying always, because of course the cook can be at fault at times, but MOST of the time your server is at fault for your food being wrong.

      You’d be amazed how many people like yourself probably have no common sense to speak of, here’s why:

      90% of the time it’s the SERVER’S FAULT:

      1. They can put in the order wrong into the computer or if it’s a written ticket they submit, they could have written something down wrong or hard to read.

      2. They could have forgotten to put in the order in the first place.

      3. Servers can also misunderstand what the customer is saying such as 2 times when I ordered 2 sides of bbq sauce and the stupid idiot servers thought I didn’t want bbq sauce on my ribs when I NEVER ONCE SAID I didn’t and I didn’t say “ON THE SIDE”, I SAID SIDES, which means extra. One of those times I said extra even.

      4. Most mistakes with food are visible:

      A. Condiments of any kind regardless of who brings out the food can be brought out by the server ahead of time.

      B. If someone orders extra crispy bacon with their pancakes, then the bacon looks limp, not stiff, and you can even see some white fat on it, guess what? MY SERVER COULD HAVE SEEN THAT TOO AND TOLD THE COOKS IT WASN’T CORRECT, TO RECOOK IT INSTEAD OF BRINGING IT TO ME WRONG IN THE FIRST PLACE!

      C. Any wrong side dishes or entrees are the fault of the server if they bring out the food even if they put in the order right. You can tell the difference between a baked potato and mac n’ cheese, yet, a waiter at Logan’s Roadhouse was so stupid as to bring me mac n’ cheese when I ordered a baked potato. I noticed it within 5 seconds of the food hitting my table. Like DUH a baked potato looks completely different from mac n’ cheese.

      D. Any MISSING side dishes, appetizers, condiments, or entrees ARE the server’s fault if they bring out the food as well. Have had that happen a few times or so. Our servers aren’t blind, so they can tell if something is missing or not.

      E. I have seen a red steak delivered to someone before at Outback which means let’s say the customer ordered their steak well done, that the server could have noticed the color difference as in your example “Steak cooked rare instead of well done ? It’s not your server’s fault, they didn’t cook it, it’s the kitchen’s fault.”

      F. If something LOOKS burnt such as a piece of bread with the food and the person didn’t order it burnt, my server is at fault for serving me that.

      G. If my server forgets an item that an entree or appetizer comes with, that’s their fault if they brought me my food without the item such as a side dish or ranch.

      H. I have ordered at Outback my fries “lightly cooked” “Not overdone and yellow not brown.” I have had their fries before cooked the way I like them before many of times before this time I am talking about. This stupid waitress decided to blame the kitchen staff for REALLY DARK BROWN FRIES as if she was blind or something and my husband even told me he could see that they were really dark. My husband may not agree with me on every subject of course, but with that, you could EASILY tell just by LOOKING that those fries were overdone and very dark. She said she put in the order correctly. I am thinking, SO? I wish I could have said “Are you blind?” That was HER FAULT she DECIDED TO SERVE ME THOSE FRIES THAT WEREN’T CORRECT. I noticed the mistake within 3 seconds of my food being placed in front of me.


      You can tell in this picture above the bacon is very crispy just by simply LOOKING at it.


      You can tell in this picture above the bacon is NOT CRISPY, just by simple LOOKING at the bacon.

      While the server didn’t “COOK” the bacon, it’s obvious to the *SERVER’S* EYES that one batch of bacon is crispy and the other isn’t to decide to BRING the food to the customer wrong or not. It’s my server’s fault if they decide to bring me the bacon that’s like in picture 2 if I ordered it crispy that she or he didn’t tell the cooks it was wrong and get them to cook the bacon more instead of SERVING it wrong. WHY bring it out only for the food to be sent back?


      You can clearly see the fries are overdone in the picture above if the customer ordered them “NOT OVERDONE, lightly cooked.”


      In this picture above, you can see the fries don’t appear overdone and the bacon is NOT CRISPY. If a customer asked for their bacon to be crispy, I would REFUSE to serve it and I would have enough CARING and COMMON SENSE to get that fixed **BEFORE** I brought it to the customer only to have the customer send it back or leave me a bad tip for not caring about their food.

      My server’s job isn’t just to bring out what the kitchen staff gives them, it’s also getting the order OBVIOUSLY correct to the table as much as possible in order to get that good tip. As someone said on a blog or forum “They just want to be tipped well and will do pretty much anything reasonable to get your money”, which that IS VERY REASONABLE to think OUR SERVERS ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THEIR TIP TO GET THINGS RIGHT TO HAVE A BETTER TIP!!


      You can notice a lot of things on her plate in the picture above like if the customer asked for no sour cream, well DUHH, it’s STARING in your face. If the customer asked for a side of ranch(I would have), it’s missing, DUHH!! If the customer substituted fries for rice, well DUHH, that’s not on the plate.

      Get what I am saying here? MOST of the mistakes happen due to either your server if they bring out the food or another server that doesn’t compare the ticket to the food(assuming the order was put in correctly by the original server of course).

      You also can notice if someone has wing sauce “On the side” vs. “On the wings” themselves. This isn’t rocket science.

      Most of the things that are wrong with the food can be caught by the server if they bring out the food, even if they didn’t cook it. If it’s another server, they can catch obvious errors on the ticket and menu(such as menu states the item comes with bbq sauce and the ticket doesn’t say “no bbq sauce”) if the ticket was correctly put in by the original server that took the order. Condiments(in bottles or on the side in containers) can always be offered to be brought out ahead of time REGARDLESS of WHO brings out the food to the table.

      So most of the time when the food has something wrong with it, chances are, your server or another server could have caught the mistake before it got to you in most instances. I NEVER said ALL, but in most cases, it can be caught BEFORE bringing out the food(unless another server brings out the food with the ticket wrong), because then the original server that took the order is at fault for putting the order in incorrectly into the computer.

      There are few rare cases where the food being wrong is the kitchen staff’s fault such as raw food(such as raw chicken), slightly undercooked or overcooked food that you’d have to CUT into to know if it was under or overcooked, or anything the server cannot see with their eyes unless they were to TOUCH the food. Things such as a pickle under a bun the server can’t notice unless they lift the bun, so unless they put the order in wrong, they wouldn’t be at fault, but in general most food mistakes can be caught BEFORE bringing the food to the table.

      What I am saying is, MOST mistakes ARE PREVENTABLE by the SERVER if they bring your order to you that they can NOTICE things wrong by comparing those written orders to the plates of food.

      Once a waiter at Chili’s said “The kitchen forgot” when I had ordered 2 sides of mayo and 1 side of mustard. The thing is, my waiter brought out the food, so NO, HE HE HE HE HE FORGOT, the kitchen staff didn’t step out the kitchen to bring me my food and forget obvious missing containers from my plate that aren’t covered up by anything. MY WAITER DID THOUGH!!

      You walk in one room in your house with a plate of food, but forget the ranch. Even if your mom or significant other plated your food, which you even told her you wanted a side of ranch for your fries, but you bring it to another room. HOW IS THAT THEIR FAULT? It’s YOUR FAULT YOU LEFT THE ROOM WITHOUT THE RANCH AND DIDN’T NOTICE IT SINCE IT’S SOMETHING OBVIOUS YOU DON’T HAVE TO *TOUCH* TO NOTICE THE MISTAKE!!

      Even if he didn’t bring out the food, that waiter could have prevented that type of thing from being forgotten since it needs no cooking to bring it out ahead of time. It is always the person bringing out the food that is at fault for any type of mistake that you don’t have to TOUCH the food to notice the mistake, unless of course, the order was put in wrong by the original server that took the order with another server bringing out the food. Of course unless, the kitchen goofs up, making it correctly even if the ticket is wrong, but that’s highly unlikely scenario.

      I cannot believe you honestly think that the server is not at fault for most food mistakes. WE LIVED THROUGH THE “DUH” MISTAKES, SO WE CAN SEE WITH OUR EYES WHO WAS AT FAULT!!

      We had a waiter once admitted he grabbed the wrong entrée from the kitchen. It was just my husband and I. This waiter not only admitted he didn’t compare the WRITTEN ORDER with the entrées he was bringing out, but also we saw he had other entrées for another table that he didn’t ONCE get his pad of paper out to see WHICH ENTRÉE WENT WITH WHICH TABLE!! So 2 times he could have caught his mistake, but didn’t *****TRY HIS BEST AS HE SHOULD HAVE, because that’s HIS JOB**!!

      He admitted that he grabbed the wrong entrée from the kitchen. He brought my husband fried shrimp w/fries when he ordered crawfish au gratin w/baked potato. Those items look NOTHING A LIKE, but yet THAT WAITER WAS TOO LAZY AND UNCARING TO VERIFY *WHAT* HE WAS BRINGING US!! We still left him 17% BTW, just to let you know since he profusely apologized TWICE and FIXED THE SITUATION IMMEDIATELY just about. We honestly shouldn’t have though, because that really didn’t make him LEARN anything. If I had to do it all over again, I would have tipped 13%. It’s because since that happened(a number of years ago, maybe like 4), me and my husband have had some terrible experiences. We have had good ones too of course, but the servers need to LEARN that they can’t just hand you ANYTHING like McDonald’s cashiers do. They are there to EARN a tip, NOT to just hand you anything.

      It’s very rare that it’s not the server’s fault. Things like if I order no pickles if you took my order and brought out my food, which there are some pickles under a bun that you’d have to lift it to see it, unless you admitted putting in the order wrong, I will assume it’s the kitchen staff that is at fault and probably is.

      Things like raw chicken tenders aren’t the fault of the server unless they are pink or something.

      A slightly over or undercooked steak if the order was put in correctly is not the server’s fault.

      Also, some people assume things as well, that end up being wrong.

      If another server brings out a wrong side dish or if they are missing items other than condiments, no it’s not the server’s fault if they put in the order correctly, but it still counts against the tip. It’s part of the service.

      Why also is it when you say “no pickles” or “ONLY lettuce and onions”, they still have a pickle on the plate? WHY you servers can’t understand that if the customer states they don’t want pickles, that means on the plate, because otherwise, they’d specifically state they would have wanted it “ON THE SIDE.” Think about it. WHY do I keep having servers bring me some pickles on the plate when I ordered no pickles? NO SERVERS ARE BLIND OR ILLITERATE that they cannot determine any of the obvious errors that don’t have to be touched to notice the mistakes or mistake.

      • martyduren

        And a very Merry Christmas to you, too!!

      • Chris

        Apparently that hit a nerve. I hate to break it, but arguing on the internet is like peeing in the wind. You might be right, though (Jon Acuff would be proud). The point is tip well.

      • Beth Duren Lancaster

        tl;dr: Springs1 hates servers.

    • Springs1

      “As a former server”

      Since you have served WHY are you acting like servers can’t be at fault for food issues, huh? You should know more than I do and I haven’t ever been a server, just counter help at a donut shop/diner at the closest to that type of job many years ago.

      “First, no tipping less than 20%.”

      If the service isn’t good, YES tip less than 20%. It greatly depends too *HOW* was it handled. I am not going to for sure tip 20% to someone that can’t say they are sorry for messing up. They can go fly a kite.

  • Springs1

    Occasions where everyone should tip less than 20%:

    1. Server is rude.
    2. Server doesn’t apologize for their mistake or mistakes.
    3. Gets your order obviously wrong.
    4. Forgets to put in your order.
    5. Forgets lots of things.
    6. Isn’t attentive enough.
    7. Brings things when you aren’t ready for it(such as bringing me the check when I want dessert).
    8. Walks away too quickly so you can’t ask for everything you need.
    9. Doesn’t write things down, then gets them wrong.
    10. Tries to take things when you aren’t finished with it rather than asking first.
    11. Overcharges you.
    12. Orders for you without your consent.