January 22, 2014

I Reserve The Right Not Reward Bad Service

This past Monday, we celebrated my mother's 73rd b'day at a local restaurant here in town. We, as in a baker's dozen of us. While the food was pretty decent (huge portions as benefiting an Italian restaurant),  the service left a lot to be desired.

Now normally, when I go to one of these family b'day get togethers, I usually put my food order before everyone else's. That way, not only do I eat at a reasonable hour, but I can take my meds at a reasonable hour as well (I do bend the times when I take my meds, but it usually has to start in the morning in order to have things balance out). Afterwards, I can socialize a bit while everyone else eats (no one in my family is punctual, save myself and the wife when we're together). This time, since we got there early enough (4:30p) to get a large table, I decided to go along with the program and eat when everyone else ate.

Everyone eventually arrived by 5:15 or so, and we put our orders in by 5:30p. Around six o'clock, my sister in-law inquired about the status of her youngest son's meal (he being 5 so patience is truly impossible at the age). When the waitress said it would be coming right out, I happen to ask about the status of our food. The waitress said, "Oh, I put your order in about 10 minutes ago."

To which I replied, "Are you shittin' me?"

The waitress went slack jaw with surprise, and while my mother tried to make light of the situation, I gave off body language that said in no uncertain terms just how upset I was with her answer. So upset, in fact, that I took a walk outside the restaurant (mind you, it was only in the hi-20's Monday night) sans jacket, to calm down.

My food actually came out a few minutes later, but for the rest of the meal, she pointedly ignored me and I ignored her as well. Afterwards, I showed my displeasure with her flippant answer by leaving a $3 tip on $46 check. I found out afterwards that my mother told my wife who told me that she overheard the waitress complaining to a co-worker about the size of my tip.

I'm not apologizing for what I said, in fact I have never in all my decades of eating out in regular restaurants swear at waitstaff, because what got me upset was the fact that she said that my order was put in (separate checks that night as I was paying for four) some 20 minutes after it was taken. Nor am I apologizing for leaving a 6% tip, because frankly, I wasn't going to reward what I thought was bad service.

I've only experienced bad service like this only two other times in my life: the 2nd time, strangely enough, was during my mother's 72nd b'day at the Olive Garden, when I put my order in early (and it took me quite a while to find something on the menu I could eat) and they promptly lost it. I wound up receiving my meal when everyone else got theirs; the 1st time was during a family vacation in 1999, when at a Bob Evans in Jefferson, Missouri our breakfast order got completely lost (another couple got seated right after us, they ordered after us, got their food, ate it, and left, all while we were still waiting for our order, which got lost. The manager wound up comping our meal that day.

I actually got some decent feedback on this incident when I'd posted it on Facebook, but I'm curious on what your opinion of this might be. Was I wrong for being upset? Was I wrong for giving her a tip at all? Do you think I acted like jerk about my order supposedly being put in late? Inquiring minds do want to know.

I will add one salient point. One, while the food was decent, there is a very slim-to-zero chance I will ever go back to that restaurant again.

(c) 2014 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Other than putting in the order late, how did the rest of the party feel about her service and how many were in your party? By the total of the check I would guess five including the child. How many other tables was she responsible for? You say the food was decent so that is a plus. Would you recommend the restaurant to others if you took the late order out of the equation? I need more information before making a call on the small tip. And were you able to recover enough from the incident to give your mother a happy birthday celebration?

  2. I don't tip at all for bad service. But in Canada, wait staff receive minimum wage (unlike the US) so it doesn't dramatically affect their earnings. I tip 10% for adequate service, 15% for good service and 20-25% for outstanding service.

  3. G.A.: Overall there were 13 people in the party, and there were three separate checks that night. The total mentioned was for four people: my daughter, my wife, myself and my mother. She was responsible for other tables in addition to ours. I'm not sure if I would recommend the restaurant to others, or rather, that particular location. And I recovered quite well from the incident to give my mother a very happy b'day. To be honest, I do not know what everyone else tipped nor do I know what everyone else's experience was, I can only talk to mine.

    Debra: The running standard for tipping here is 15%, higher in some better establishments and a mandatory minimum of 18% is tacked on to parties larger than 8. Most of the time, I'll tip between 12 and 15% for good, 10% for average, zero for bad.

    For me, since I've worked in retail on and off for roughly 20 years, I have a higher tolerance of what people might call bad customer service. What might be bad to some could be considered to be average to me.

  4. I have, and would again, leave only a small tip for inadequate service. It has happened to me at times. On the other hand, I tend to leave very good tips when the service is really good.

  5. Charles: I rarely skip a tip at a sit down restaurant, simply because I have a high threshold for what people consider to be bad service. However, once they cross it, then I won't leave a tip.

  6. I think you did pretty much what I'd do: what you said, being calm, ignoring her, and then leaving a small tip but not NO tip because you're not heartless, but understandably pissed off.

    There's no excuse for that shit. And she should have been extra attentive to you after fucking up, as well as apologizing.

    And having to eat on a regular schedule to avoid sugar crashing, I totally get that part too.

    I wouldn't go back either.

  7. M: The main reason I'm not going back has to do with the cuisine. I simply can't do Italian. But definitely bad service will factor in on whether or not I make a recommendation to that particular location.

  8. The last time I had a bad restaurant experience, I reviewed n posted it online, which was punishing to the business. I have never not tipped 15% to punish a waiter- but go with 20% plus when the service is good.

    Nowadays I never get to eat out...

  9. Snaggle: That's one good way of getting even with a restaurant.


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