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Should I Tip For Bad Service? Mint Answers

Should you leave a tip if you’ve had terrible service at a restaurant? What about getting take-out: do you tip if you pick it up yourself? What’s a good tipping policy, anyway?

Ah, the perennial tipping quandary. It isn’t mandatory, for sure, but everyone knows that here in the U.S., the wait staff at restaurants makes a living largely thanks to the generosity of their customers. Tipping is customary, we know that much. But there really are few, if any black-and-white rules built into that custom. The result: most of us have, at one time or another, had a tipping-related question.

In this week’s round-up of Q&A activity on Mint Answers, we feature three such questions, along with some of the suggestions shared by the Mint community.

To read more answers or to chime in with your response, click on the links below.

What’s a good tipping policy?

Many people say you should tip 15% of the bill when it comes to tipping. Others are more cautious about whether the waiter earns commission or not. What is the best tipping policy when it comes to eating out?

1. I’m probably not the best to answer this as my wife says I’m “stingy” or “cheap”.  But, thinking about this, I’ve come up with this formula that basically sums my thinking:

Rmax = Maximum tip amount, based on restaurant.
Twait = Time, in minutes, waiting for service.
Ttotal = Total time, in minutes, where service is expected (table seating).
TIP = Tip Percentage

Rmax x (Ttotal – Twait) / Ttotal = TIP

Also, my Rmax (maximum tip) varies with the establishment.  For example, my Rmax is ~18% at a normal chain restaurant (Friday’s, Applebees, etc.).  My Rmax at a quality establishment goes to ~25% (Fine Dining).

Here’s my thinking using this method:

I’m at Applebee’s and I have waited a total of 8 minutes during service for my water to be refilled.  We stayed at the restaurant for 55 minutes.

18% x 47 / 55 = 15.38%

As I said, this answer probably isn’t the best :)

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Should you still tip 20% for bad service?

Whenever a server does a poor job at a restaurant, I never want to tip them, but I feel I should give them something. What would be an acceptable tip for bad service?

1. Of course! But you never come back…and you write a very negative review on Yelp. Satisfaction at last. 

2. A good friend of mine, who is a waitress, gave me this advice: for great service, leave a tip plus a penny. This lets the waiter/waitress know that you thought their service was good/great.
For bad service: leave a penny. The waiter/waitress will be aware that you did not forget to leave a tip and that their service was unsatisfactory.
When asked if this was applicable in any eating establishment, she responded that any professional waiter/waitress would know EXACTLY what was meant by the leaving of a penny.

3. I am a waitress, and you should always tip at least 15%.  If you do not, the server is PAYING TO SERVE YOU.  99% of the time they have to tip out to other people in the restaurant (bartenders, hosts, bussers, food runners, managers, etc.) so by not tipping them, they are paying for you to sit there and eat your meal.  Also, what a lot of people don’t realize is that it may not be the servers fault, kitchens/chefs mess up orders a lot of the time.

If you have a problem with something, ask to speak with a manager and complain about what was wrong to them. 

4. When I get terrible service, I always leave a tip under 15% AND a short note saying why.  The note is always written compassionately (because you never know what kind of suffering in that person’s life caused them to perform that way) and gives a solution instead of just complaining.  This lets the server know what went wrong so that they can do something about it and so that this won’t happen again!

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Are you supposed to tip when you pick up take out at a restaurant?

When I go to a restaurant to pick up take out I’m given a credit card receipt with a space for a tip.  They didn’t serve the meal and the tip given when you eat at the restaurant isn’t for the cook, right?

1. I don’t know the proper etiquette answer to this question, but I often find myself tipping 10% or so out of sheer guilt.  I guess I just don’t want to hand back the receipt with the tip space empty.

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Do you have a money question that you feel has no black-or-white answer? Go to Mint Answers and ask away! While you’re there, feel free to answer questions from other community members. Come back often, as we introduce new enhancements to this feature.