Bad Service – Should I Still Tip?

Bad service happens to the best of us and, even more often, to the worst of us. However, knowing what to do about tipping when it comes to bad service is not always easy. There are some who believe you always tip, while others say a tip must be earned. However, what about those fuzzy cases when bad service is not the server’s fault or, even worse, when bad service is simply your fault?

Bad Service – What is it?

Bad service can be a variety of things. It can be that the server was completely rude or neglected you in favor of other tables. If so, you can easily say that, indeed, you got bad service. However, if your experience was bad because of crowds, a shortage of your favorite drink, or something else that is out of the server’s control, then it is not something you can blame on your server.

Sometimes bad service is about the customer’s expectation. If you expect quick service at a restaurant that is known for taking its time and offering an unrushed experience, you will likely feel that you have received bad experience. Know where you are going and what to expect before you complain about the service.

Your mood can easily turn potentially good service bad. How you treat the server often impacts the kind of service you get. If you give your server a share of your bad mood, chances are you will get some back in return. Realistically, if you are a difficult person, you will likely get bad service more often. So consider your role in service before considering whether to withhold a tip.

What are some examples of Bad Service?

If you are still unclear about just what bad service is, we can clarify. Here are some sure examples of bad service, so you know it when you get it.

  • A waiter who is nonchalant about rodents, or claims that all food service establishments have mice, is giving bad service.
  • If you have no service after 30 minutes, the service is bad.
  • If a server refuses to acknowledge that a problem or mistake was made, the service is bad.

Bad service is also when you are ignored, the server does not make eye contact, or if he or she is apathetic towards you.

Why should I always Tip?

Many people, especially those who have worked in food and drink service professions in the past, firmly believe that you should always tip. Essentially, most wait staffs earn much less than minimum wage and depend on tips for their income. There is actually a minimum serving wage, which is often less than one-third of a state’s minimum wage for other types of jobs. It is so low because of the anticipated amount of tip income. However, in reality there are always those who do not tip and those who chronically undertip. This leaves many servers with barely enough income to bring them up to minimum wage rates.

If you are a believer in always tipping, but have received bad service, be sure to only tip on the low end of tipping guidelines. This means 15% for sit-down service based on the pre-tax total and $1 per drink or 15% of the total to a bartender. If you are known as a generous tipper, this will send the message that you are unhappy. However, if you are a first-timer at an establishment, tipping on the low end of the scale sends no message.

Why should Tips be Earned?

If the answer to the question should I still tip for bad service is “Oh no no no!”, then you are a firm believer in the idea that tips must be earned. In this case, if you get bad service, you should not tip. Well, unless you are a regular or plan to be a regular of the establishment, in which case you may want to tip bad service in anticipation of getting better service next time.

Even if you are one of those who believe in tips being earned, how do you ensure that the server gets the message that you simply are not one of those people who stiff all serving staff? By leaving a one- or two-penny tip, you send a clear message that you have not forgotten the tip. You are really unimpressed with the bad service you received.

Another way to ensure that the message has been received is to speak with the manager or tell the server directly that the service you received was not what it should have been. How the individual or the manager reacts will help you decide whether or not to tip, and certainly whether or not to return.

Just avoid the “tips” that will land you in a story on the Internet, like the customers who left “tips” such as “get a better job” or “lose a few pounds.” These are no good for anyone.

If you are the victim of bad service, consider carefully if you will or will not tip. A bad tip or no tip may ensure that you always get bad service from that server or even from that establishment. However, a good tip despite bad service also sends that message that you get the same from me no matter whether you deserve it or not.

Essentially, tipping is a personal choice. So go with your gut. Leave the tip that makes you feel like you’ve done the right thing. Cheers!