Is There Ever A Good Reason For Not Leaving The Right Tip?

Is There Ever a Good Reason For Not Leaving the Right Tip

Earning tips is why many good waiters love their job.

Ask most anyone who has ever worked as a waiter or waitress, and they’ll answer this question with vehement, “No! There is never a good reason not to leave the right tip!”

Yet, many restaurant goers might disagree.

Let’s look at this topic and work our way through the question: Is there ever a good reason for not leaving the right tip?

The Right Tip

Before we look at the reasons why you should or shouldn’t leave the right tip, let’s first define the right tip.

According to USAToday, tipping at 15% of your bill is a good starting point. For coupon-users, that means tipping on the pre-coupon amount. Your server isn’t part of the coupon rate.

Other standard tipping rates include the following:

  • 15-20% for sit-down restaurant service – more if the service was extraordinary
  • 10% for servers at buffets (for help with drink orders and plate removal)
  • $1 to $2 per drink for bartenders or 15-20% of the bar tab

Now let’s see if there is ever a good reason for not leaving at least the right tip.

Tips Are Their Salary

Restaurants typically pay their wait-staff between $2-5 per hour, depending on what part of the country they live in.

For example, Kansas abides by the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. So, wait-staff in Kansas must earn that much per hour. Yet, there is a slight catch. In Kansas, employers can pay their tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour and claim a tip credit.

This means employers can consider a portion of the employee’s tips toward their federal minimum wage requirements. If the employee’s wage plus tips earned doesn’t add up to the $7.25 per hour, the employer must make up the difference.

Tips are considered wages, and you can bet servers think of them this way. For tippable employees in America, most of the burden of their salary falls on their customers not on the employer. If a restaurant server wants to make a decent living, they’re going to depend on their tips because it’s terribly difficult to live on $7.25 per hour.

This is one reason why it’s not ever a good reason to not leave a tip.


One waitress on duty. Not her fault. Does she get a bad tip for poor service?

The Service Was Awful

What about the late food, the unfriendly server and the empty beer glass?

On these occasions, your first instinct is not to leave a tip. But, we already discussed that tips are your server’s living wages. If you don’t tip your server, they aren’t making a decent wage, right?

Here are a couple suggestions if the service was awful:

  • If the food was slow to arrive, complain to the manager. Let him know his kitchen was slow. This isn’t your server’s fault. So, tip the server.
  • It took 10 minutes to get a new beer. Again, this may not be your server’s fault. Perhaps the bar was backed up. If so, this is on the manager for not staffing appropriately.
  • If your server was rude, definitely let the manager know. You still want to leave at least a 15% tip. After all, your server did bring you your drinks and your food. They fulfilled their basic requirement.

Here’s an example. Suppose you are an attorney. Your client comes to your office for a meeting. You’ve had a bad day, and you are incredibly grumpy to your client. You do your job, ask the questions and make a game plan for your client. But, you weren’t overly friendly, and you shuffled him out the door.

Do you still get paid? You bet you do. The bill goes out, and you get paid. Using this example, you can see that it’s only fair to tip the server.

Bad service is not an outright excuse to leave a small tip or no tip at all. (tweet this) Bad service is a reason to leave the minimum 15% tip. Good service deserves more.

Lastly, if you can’t afford to tip, choose a less expensive restaurant or one where you don’t have to tip at all.

The Case for Doing Away with Tipping

Some restaurants have recently decided to take matters in their own hands. Wanting to ensure a fair wage for the servers, they’ve done away with tipping.

How does this affect servers? For many, it gives them a sense of well-being and financial security. No longer do they have to worry whether or not they’ll make their rent that month. They’ll know.

When restaurants do away with tipping, they increase the starting salary at their restaurant. How do they afford the bump in salary? Some restaurants are adding on to the bill. For example, they might add on a 20% gratuity or administrative fee to cover the costs.

What happens to the bad service? With this system, it doesn’t get punished by the customer. Customers are encouraged to talk to the manager and let the restaurant handle the issue.

Taking tipping out of the hands of the customer takes away their ability to punish for what they decide is poor service. (tweet this) There are few industries in America that could get away with a system like this, yet customers do it daily.

Lastly, for some of the restaurants who’ve done away with tipping, they’ve found that a no-tipping policy encourages teamwork. It causes servers to look at doing their job well for the sake of the job and not for the dollar signs.

How do customers feel? They for the most part have mixed feelings. One survey found that 65% of people would rather eat at a restaurant where they control the tip. Yet, about the same amount support higher wages for servers.

The History of Tipping

The history of tipping can be traced to Tudor England. Back then, tipping was a practice conducted by the aristocracy. It was their way of sharing the money with their social inferiors. Yet, even back then, it caused feelings of anxiety and resentment.

When did tipping in the United States begin? It started after the Civil War. It almost certainly was something brought over from Europe.

When tipping was done, though, it was done at the beginning of a meal, and it was just a few coins. Folklore says the word “tip” came from British coffeehouses. Coin bowls were left out with signs on them that said, “To Insure Promptitude” or TIP.

To Conclude

So, we’ve answered the question, “Is there ever a good reason for not leaving the right tip.” If we haven’t yet convinced you that the answer is no, and that you should always leave a tip, here’s another thought.

Many people believe they should punish the server for what they’ve arbitrarily decided is bad service. But, would these same people then reward the server who provided excellent, above-the-call-of-duty service?

At the end of the day, the grumpy sales clerk still gets paid, the fussy car repair person still gets paid, and the angry airline pilot still makes his salary. And, it’s not dependent on the service they provide. Shouldn’t the same respect be given wait-staff?

What do you think?

Do you think there is ever a good reason for not leaving the right tip? Have you ever done it? Please tell us about your experience below – we’d love to hear what happened and how you handled it.

Images: John Bastoen via Visual Hunt / CC BY and sarahmworthy via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

3 responses to “Is There Ever A Good Reason For Not Leaving The Right Tip?”

  1. qwerty says:

    The rule of law says tipping is not required. It is optional. No one has to tip if they do not want to.

  2. Emmentaler_Limburger says:

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue – as a restaurant employee and as a customer. If I knew something was wrong with the service, I never expected a tip. There have been many occasion when I have been given slipshod service by disinterested and dispassionate “employees” sent out to service my table, and I have let the tip reflect my satisfaction with their efforts. I have also been served by obviously professional, diligent, and attentive waitstaff. My tip has also reflected my satisfaction with their efforts – on several occasions, I’ve been moved to leave more than 100% of the bill as a tip. Without the incentive of a good tip, waitstaff become inconvenienced automatons, and I’d rather management send a mobile kiosk out to see what I need….

  3. telemanjones says:

    Uh no, wrong. Merriam Webster defines a gratuity as: “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation”. I leave 15% for adequate service and 20% + for going above and beyond. I do not penalize the server for kitchen issues, ever. But if my server is rude or willfully ignores my table, they get nothing. Being pleasant and attentive is a basic requirement, not a bonus.

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