Good tips can result from bad service
Published: Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 17:07
Three years ago, I was working the morning shift at a restaurant in my hometown when a couple called me over to their table.
"Where's our server? We've been sitting here for 15 minutes," the woman said.
The couple was not sitting in my section, and it was not right for me to take another waitress' table. I apologized and told her that the server was rolling silverware. The server was actually smoking a cigarette in the back and chatting with the cook, but rolling silverware sounded better.
Another five minutes passed, and the couple still had no server. With another apology, I went ahead and took their order. The woman barked each detail of the order and asked if she could have hot chocolate. With yet another apology, I had to tell her we did not serve hot chocolate. With that, the woman stood, said something under her breath that I was glad I did not hear and left the restaurant.
Her husband, who had been reading the paper the whole time, did not leave. Apparently used to this sort of behavior, he ate his meal and left me a $7 tip for a meal that was only about $14. I didn't expect to get a tip, much less one for 50 percent of the bill. Was it good service or just guilt? Seeing as how they were waiting 20 minutes to be served, I am sure it was not the former. According to an article from National Public Radio's Money Talk blog, I could be right.
According to the blog, a leading theory on tipping suggests that it is a social pressure. It says that how big a tip is rarely has to do with good service, but rather on extraneous factors like the weather or the restaurant's lighting.
Michael Lynn, associate professor of consumer behavior in Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, also says that tips are loosely based on customer satisfaction with the waiter. However, non-verbal communication such as lightly touching the customer or crouching next to the table substantially increases tips. Lynn says the study of tipping in restaurants is interesting because it is not usually required. Some restaurants force customers to pay a gratuity, regardless of how good or bad the service was.
In 2009, two students in Bethlehem, Pa. were arrested for refusing to pay a $16.35 gratuity. They refused to pay because they felt they received sub-par service. According to the students, they waited for over an hour for the wings and salad they ordered.
The students should not have gone the way of Mr. Pink in the film "Reservoir Dogs" and not tipped. If food takes too long to get to the table, it is usually the cook's fault. If it is cold when it gets there, it is usually the waiter's fault. A lousy tip for poor service is better than no tip. I do not think people leave tips out of guilt. They do so because they do not want bad service when returning to the restaurant.
I always tip because I feel like the waiter or waitress knows I am a college student and gives me mediocre service because he or she thinks college students do not tip. With my 20 percent tips, I feel like I am changing waiters' and waitresses' perception of college students. But, of course, that is not going to happen.
I will not ever be sure why I got such a large tip from that couple. They might have felt guilty giving it, but I certainly did not feel guilty receiving it.