When is it ok not to tip at all? How poor must the service be? I love having brunch down the road at Tonic on Saturday or Sunday mornings, but it seems that lately the service has been declining steadily each time I go. The waitstaff gets slower, the food is less and less consistent, stuff like that.
This morning I headed over a little later than usual as I’m normally there around 10:30 shortly after they open. So my normal table by the window wasn’t available and I was ok with that, as I was mainly just hungry. So I wait to be noticed by the staff and the guy comes over and says, “Oh just sit wherever you want, I’ll be right with you.” I don’t mind the casual and laid-back vibe, however because I just sat wherever I liked, the next 3 groups to sit down after me were all attended to before me. I’d brought a paper and was working on the sudoku puzzle so I wasn’t really bothered, but I hadn’t planned on spending a long slow brunch at Tonic. By the time the server came around I was ready with a drink order (coffee, of course) and my meal order and I tried not to be snippy about it, but I was already peeved. The coffee took forever to arrive, the food took quite some time too, and after the food came… that was the end of seeing my server. No coffee refill, no visit back to ask how things were, nada. The food wasn’t great, the eggs were… eggs, but the grits were dry (I added some cream from the coffee service), the english muffin soggy and the bacon saltier than something really really salty. And in all the time I ate, since I’d finished my coffee, I had nothing to drink and I didn’t even catch sight of either server so I could flag them down for more.
When the dude finally refilled my coffee (I was already done with my meal by then) I asked for the check, handed over my card and tipped barely 10%, and I felt bad for doing that, but it was just a really crappy experience and not what I’ve become accustomed to from Tonic. Ah well, I’m sure the rest of the day will go much better.
I think it’s really important to tell the server or the restaurant owner/manager why you were dissatisfied with the service. It is in your servers best self-interest to make you happy, after all. On the occasions that I’ve felt it was so bad that I tipped less than 15%, I’ve handed the tip to my server in person and politely explained why it was so low.
Look at it this way. If your waiter doesn’t know why the tip is lousy, he will just mutter insulting things at your back and chalk it up to you being a bad customer and he probably will not make the connection that he is being a bad waiter. Believe me, if you sit in that waiter’s section again, he WILL remember you. We remember bad tippers. We remember GOOD tippers. Wouldn’t it be better if he pegged you as the guy who was unhappy but up front and polite about it? Especially if you make it clear that next time you expect and will tip him well for better service. He’ll work harder for you, I guarantee it.
It was not a happy thing for me to get lousy feedback as a waitress, but as long as my customers were polite, I still preferred it to the commentary of a bad tip. At least the first way meant I had a clue and could fix it or at least try.