[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.”
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!