When its okay to not Leave a Tip

In our culture we have a tradition of tipping people who wait on (serve) us. The tip is both an expression of gratitude (hence the term gratuity) and means by which we reward the server for the level of service they have provided to us in carrying out their duties.

In general, most of us feel some bit of an obligation to tip someone who waits on us, simply because it seems rude to not, because regardless of how well they carried out their duties, or not, they did still in fact ask us what we want, and then proceeded to do whatever was needed to make sure we got that dish we ordered or more water in our glass.

Thus, it is the rare occasion that someone who waits on us deserves not a small tip, which would signify that we did still appreciate their efforts, if only in some small way the fact that they did serve us, but no tip at all.

In fact, there are really only five instances where leaving no tip at all for the wait staff is in order:

1 – They do not do their job. If they fail to show up to take your order, or to deliver it, then they didn’t do their job and thus forfeit any tip they might have hoped was coming.

2 – They insult you. One of the jobs of wait staff is to make customers feel comfortable while they dine. This is after all, the reason people eat at restaurants instead of at home. They want to have a comfortable dining experience without having to do the work, and are willing to pay for not just the meal, but the service. If a waiter insults you in any way, you are well within your rights to do the same by leaving nothing for them in the way of a tip.

3 – They forget about you. It is inexcusable for wait staff to forget that you are there. After all, that is one of their main purposes in being there, to note your existence and to offer assistance in getting your meal. If they forget you are there, feel free to forget to leave a tip.

4 – They intentionally ruin your dining experience. Sometimes wait staff, being human, find themselves angry or insulted by the behavior of diners. While this is quite natural as some people can be quite rude when communicating with wait staff, it still does not give them license to intentionally ruin your meal by their behavior or in some way ruining the food or drinks that they serve. Doing so is certainly grounds for leaving them nothing but a bad memory.

5 – There is an emergency. Sometimes bad things happen; it might be a fire, or you get a call saying your wife is dying outside in the parking lot or some other life threatening situation arises. In these instances it is unfortunate for the wait stuff, but people simply don’t have the time to deal with calculating tips and dispensing them. Granted, those that feel bad about it can call back later if they so choose or stop by and leave something for the person who waited on them, it isn’t considered necessary as wait staff understand emergencies.

These five reasons for not leaving a tip for service provided in a restaurant can be used as a general rule of thumb for those who are not sure about what is acceptable.


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