“Let’s Play a Little Game.”

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation

Posted: 07/24/2012

Last night a customer tried to “play a little game” (his words) with one of our servers, where he put twenty dollars on the table and said, “I’ll take one away (from your tip) every time something goes wrong.” I asked to speak with him outside of the restaurant and put an abrupt end to his “game”.

Where the hell do these people come from? Demeaning fellow human beings is never funny or cute. You don’t play games with hard-working people who are just trying to make a living. We need to continue to call these people on their shit, or they will continue to get away with it.

I guarantee you that the guy who came in last night will never try that again, and if the woman he was with ever dates him again, she’s a fool. I believe in the old adage that if you really want to know someone’s true colors, observe how they spontaneously interact with service industry workers.

Have you ever had anything like this ever happen to you or anyone you know?

I’ll provide the details of how my confrontation with the customer ended after reading your comments and recommendations on how you think I should have handled it. (The outcome will surprise you.) Thank you.

Here is how the story ended: https://www.servernotservant.com/2012/07/31/game-over/


86 Responses to ““Let’s Play a Little Game.””

  1. soldiner says:

    I can remember playing liars poker as a busser in private room at the palm with a 12 very rich men they asked me If I wanted to gamble my tip I told them I am in I won 1500 cash and I wanted to stop. they were so mad that I took their money and ran. I explained that was a days pay for them and 2 weeks for me one guy was proud that I took the money and he squashed the grumbling. that was the early 90s probably wouldn’t allow my staff to start that game today due to the possiblity of loosing good customers in the future.

  2. Dan W says:

    I would love to ignore him long enough for him to call for me, then take 19 of the 20 dollars and say, “Well, it seems the only thing that went wrong from your perspective was that we refused to serve you.”

    I would also like to go to where he works, hold up his paycheck in front of his peers, and say “OK buddy, you want it all? Earn it, right here, right now!”

  3. Dava says:

    Some “game.” I wonder what else he does for “fun.”

  4. Jersey Joe says:

    It was funnier when John Lithgow did the same thing on an episode of “3rd Rock from the Sun”.

  5. Jeff says:

    I once served a guy who tried to impress his date by insulting his server (me), and bending the spoons. She not only dumped the cad, but invited me out in front of him. Best tip I have EVER gotten…

  6. Mk says:

    I would not mind accidently pouring hot coffee on this player…twenty times.

  7. Dee says:

    I love Dan’s fantasy comeback! Another one would be if the server handed the customer $20 and said, “And I’ll do the same for everything YOU do wrong.” Then yanked it away and put it back in his/her pocket.


  8. Patrick Twohig says:

    I remember this was actually a joke from an old TV sitcom. John Lithgow’s character does exactly that in an attempt to “revolutionize tipping.” It was funny as hell in the show, not so funny in real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1ZZWhSvOMI

  9. Seabisquick says:

    Good for you Patrick. Jerks are everywhere, it’s nice to hear about someone standing up to one (and standing by hard working people). I remember reading in a book about the Rockerfellers that John D Rockerfeller (the senior) used to hold out a palm of coins and tell a waiter, doorman, etc, to choose his own tip. Imagine JDR, the most powerful businessman in the country, peering at you while you picked coins out of his hand, at a time when there was zero security, health care, etc.

  10. M says:

    I remember the same scenario in an episode of Cheers. It was the open of the episode and a guy does the same thing to Carla, only it is $5. Turns out it’s her brother and I don’t recall but I think she ended up with no tip.

    People are animals.

  11. Steve says:

    Sounds like this guy was trying to reproduce one of my favorite scenes from the old TV show 3rd Rock From The Sun. Here’s the clip http://youtu.be/V1ZZWhSvOMI

  12. Tom Dick and Harry says:

    This is from an episode of 3rd rock from the sun… Maybe he was an alien or one of you really like the show.

  13. Puddin says:

    I would, with genuine enthusiasm, agree to his game. And i would ask him what the ground rules are. I would not play if he could not define ‘something goes wrong’. I might offer that the tip ‘reward’ has more to do with how i solve problems and address his concerns than those things (many times out of my control) happening. If he could abide by that, I would have a good time with it.

  14. Bren says:

    I would bring him a plate and say “this is what your dinner looks like right now. I will take one bite every time you act like a condescending asshole” and take a big bite right there. What a douche…………..

    Actually, I would have given him the best service he had ever received in his life, made him feel like a king and make him believe that I was doing so to get that prized $20. Then if I were presented with the money I would tell him that I would prefer that he keep it and that I had provided that level of service to him to show him that his money meant nothing to me in terms of whether or not I would rise to the occasion.

  15. Carl says:

    Holy crap this was in a movie. Or a TV show…

    OMG. It was on 3rd Rock. Season 5, episode 7.

    Wow. Just wow. Someone should tell the diner what happened to Dick’s food in that episode.

  16. Ky says:

    It’s a bit from Curb your Enthusiasm. Not sure what motivates someone to try in IRL as the whole point of the scene was what a jerk he was, but there you go.

  17. Christopher says:

    Had an ass play this game with me when I was waiting tables at Owens Restaurant in Richardson Texas back when it was still around in the 90s. Guy came in about once a month, always alone, and looked like he himself lived a life of getting crapped on by authority — and this was his way of feeling better about himself. He was one of about 4 or 5 regulars i looked at — no matter how deeply lost I felt in those days — and thought “at least I dont have his life”.

    Was always insulted by the game. Got to where I just went down the official store ‘checklist’ of things I ‘had’ to do and just wrote off the table every time he ended up in my section and concentrated on the other customers. When he eventually refused my section, i knew i had won the game.

  18. John Williams says:

    “Demeaning fellow human beings is never funny or cute.”

    Well, you’re in a demeaning job, frankly–waiting on people. You have to go the extra mile to rise above that and to have people see you as the person outside of that role. And that’s up to YOU.

    Maybe he could have handled it better or said different words, but I don’t disagree with the basic premise at all. Here’s your pay; it’s up to you to prove that you’ve earned it.

    And now you *know* what’s on the line, so it’s up to you to perform–not whine about it. By whining you sound like a spoiled brat who feels entitled no matter what.

    Next time, just smile and say, “Watch this” and then give him the best damn service in the world. You need to do it because it’s the right thing to do and/or it’s what you would have done no matter what, and to show that he doesn’t control you. Imagine if he had not put that money on the table; what kind of service would you have given? Right. You would have given your standard great service. So you give that service even this time. The only difference is that this time, you know for certain the stakes you’re playing for.

    By doing what you would normally do, you remain in control of yourself and you refuse to let him or anyone else control you. Your behavior and your emotions do not belong to anyone else to control, so make sure you keep it that way. Your response to this situation tells me that you have allowed this guy to control you, and that’s never good.

    Do what you would normally do, be the professional that you apparently want to be, and don’t let this guy affect you one bit.

    No matter how he plays it, you’ll end up with the tip he was going to give you anyway. So why make a big deal out of it?

  19. Jerry says:

    This really happened? I’m skeptical.

    That said I’ve run into assholes this big before (though never so brazen as this implies) so I suppose it’s possible. Back when I used to work tables, this is one I’d just leave. If they wanted to place an order, have their drinks topped, or get their check it’d be up to them to flag down someone on staff (if we we happened to notice their hand waving and yelling…which, for some reason we didn’t seem to very often…haha).

    I’d take the loss of a table for a night not to have to pretend to be nice to someone like that. I never had to deal with their likes twice as I suppose they got the message or thought they were better than our joint. Either way was good for me.

    I suppose if it were a regular who was in every week and had treated me fairly previously, I’d play along knowing that it was just a game to impress his ‘friend’, but the next time he came back alone or with buddys, I’d rib him the whole time to ensure he over tipped to make up for the slight.

  20. cj keeney says:

    this was a scene from the television sitcom 3rd rock from the sun, undoubtedly where the customer got the idea from.

  21. Jesse says:

    I would say “sounds like you need it more than me. Why don’t you put that away, leave and never come back. You’re banned.”

  22. Andrew says:

    I don’t work in the industry, but I don’t get it. Assuming we’re talking a restaurant where the bill is going to be under $100, this guy is putting a great tip on the line. As long as you provide stellar service, you’re going to get a $20 tip.

    I consider myself a generous tipper, typically ~20% but will cut that down to 10% or less if the service is abysmal.

    As long as his idea of good service and yours are similar, it should be a good experience. Seems like the expectation should be that you’re going to do the best job possible, so earning that $20 shouldn’t be an issue.

  23. Wesley says:

    People like that should be refused service by the management. I have never worked as a waiter before, so I have never had to happen to me before but the guy was a tool for sure.

  24. Fred Klein says:

    Tipping is a scam. It screws over the customer, as they have to pay extra, above and beyond the actual price of the meal.
    It screws over the waiters, as they are never sure how much they will take home each day.
    The real winners are the restaurant owners. They get to pay sh!t wages (=More $ in their pocket!), they get to advertise lower prices (=more customers= more $ in their pocket!), and they force upon their customers the role of disciplining their employees.

    And I’m not even getting into the implied threat: Pay me $ or I’ll mess with your food.

  25. ihatetipping says:

    Oh cry me a frigging river. Here is a hint for you “hard working people” Its not that hard to fetch a plate and bring it to someone. You mean i should have tipped my mom all those years growing up that she brought food to the table? Oh wait that was her job just like its your job. I liked this guys idea but i do something close to it. I will start at 5% (sorry dumbasses you are’t getting 20% of my total just for fetching a plate or refilling a soda) and then i’ll start deducting from their tip.

    Spitting on or otherwise messing with my stuff? better believe i will have you charged with food tampering/poisoning and not only will you be fired but i will sue you and the place I’m at for hiring mentally unstable people. You better find a new job quickly once that lawsuit hits.

    You a-holes want a “reasonable” tip then i want exclusive rights to fire you for your failure to do your job correctly. Since i would be the one paying more than your boss that would make you my employee and i should have the right to fire on the spot. its this self entitlement BS that your type has that’s why i at max will tip 3$ regardless of whatever my total is. Don’t like it? get a better job, or don’t agree to working for 2.xx an hour..morons.

  26. eddie says:

    i would have poured his coffee right on the stack of $1’s… i don’t get the tip, but he has to take back a soggy stack of bills…

    that’s worth $20 to me.

  27. Agree, Patrick Twohig, not so funny in real life.

    Yes, this really happened. I couldn’t and wouldn’t make it up.

  28. bigtipper says:

    @ihatetipping : Good thing you only visit places that have happy meals on the menu.

  29. kurisu7885 says:


    I bet you always wonder why you get bad service.

  30. demoncat4 says:

    omg talk about such a big shot customer . the guy sure demanded the impossible by doing that with the twenties. would have added a new charge to the bill. a stupidity and arrogant tax. wonder if he does this crap at a diner does he also do that when he is doing other things like shopping at the grocery store. talk about a new twist on customer from hell

  31. Al Iverson says:

    I haven’t worked in restaurants in years, but I feel for ya. I probably would have put up with it while secretly hating life and wishing I had told him I wouldn’t serve him, or that I had gotten the restaurant to escort him out.

    By doing this, he’s already telling you that he thinks he’s better than you, that he has had problems with service elsewhere enough that he thinks the solution is to publicly demean whoever is serving him. It’s a sucker bet; somebody whose sense of how to act is that far off kilter will have a similarly misaligned sense of what good service means.

  32. Chuck says:

    Good attitude. I like your own sense of entitlement, whilst condemning that of your server. If you really think that being a server is so easy, go try it. I never have, but I have worked a lot as a delivery driver, and the concept is the same, not to mention the self righteous attitudes of fuckers like you. “I’m sorry it took an extra 20 minutes to get here in the snow, so stiff me.” When you tip, you are buying a service, and, typically, your future service. Don’t think that you won’t be remembered by the wait staff, for better or for worse.

  33. NYC_Dave says:

    This customer clearly lifted this from an episode of “3rd Rock From The Sun” where John Lithgow’s character, “Dick Solomon” plays this exact tipping game.

  34. alish arteh says:

    I don’t know if this is the same guy or not, but I know my friend’s uncle used to do this. It didn’t surprise me since he was a lobbyist.

  35. Grgs says:

    You need to have more respect for other people, including your poor mother. I bet you didn’t do your own dishes or clean your own room, or do your laundry either, did you? She was your Mother, not your maid. I feel terrible for everyone that has the curse of actually knowing you, and getting to deal with you every day.

    The person in this story is a monster, and I hope you told him as such. I’m not a server, but I did a little bit of it in school. While I am not one to tip a bad server if they are not doing their job, I always try to tip well, and to be personable with the server. I like to think that they might remember me and think of me in a positive light. Sure enouch, I end up getting the “regular” treatment from a lot of the places I go to. I think I enjoy my time there more, and it’s nice think that the server might get to enjoy some of his work, too.

  36. Jeff Toister says:

    Patrick – I’m impressed and amazed as always at the stories you are able to uncover, and even experience, to share on your blog.

    Without the benefit of knowing exactly how you handled it with the customer, I think pulling him aside was totally appropriate. Customers deserve a high level of service for their money, but in my mind they stop being customers when they cross the line and treat their server as less than human for no good reason.

  37. oldgraygeek says:

    As a former cabdriver:
    –I didn’t always get a tip.
    –I made enough money that tipping was optional… we were raking it in, and tips were wonderful but not always expected.
    –Restaurant servers do a much tougher job than cabbies (minus the risk of “lead poisoning”), and their base salaries are the farthest legally possible amount from “raking it in,” so they always deserve a tip… and it should not be decreased if factors beyond their control diminish the dining experience.

    My wife gives me a hard time for OVERtipping. The smallest tip I ever gave was exactly 15.0%, in Fairbanks Alaska, for truly terrible service (but the food was excellent).

  38. Ktown says:

    Dear friends- “Ihatetipping” is obviously a troll- an internet blog-stalker attempting to incite outrage in a fairly close-knit group of people who support the idea of camraderie and genuine hospitality (in real life as well as during working hours.) He or she just wants to play a game called, “let’s you and him fight, but I will win because I made you mad!!!!” It’s childish and borderline sociopathic behaviour. Please don’t feed the troll.

    @ anyone who thinks that a job in the service industry is simple, just remember this…”I can tell you that something that looks very simple indeed can be incredibly complicated. The sun is simple. A sword is simple. A storm is simple. Behind everything simple is a huge tail of complicated.” -Sir Terry Pratchett

    Thank you for sharing, Patrick!

  39. Bill Smith says:

    Take $18… leave one for him to leave on the table and one to take when something went wrong (you taking the $18). His service would depend on how well he takes to being “gamed” himself…..

  40. shthar says:

    It was in a book before 3rd rock.

    Although in the book the guy said, ‘everytime I have to ask for something, I’ll take away a dollar’.

  41. Lorem Ipsum says:

    Faced with that same problem. I told him, “I’ll take you up on that game and I can choose from two strategies. You take away my $15 tip and put it in your pocket. I provide you my best service and perform my job duties with integrity. I win. The other strategy is you take away my $15 tip and put it in your pocket. Knowing that I have no incentive to provide you with good service I’m going to treat you in the same rude condescending manner you’re treating me with now. You’ll get your drinks and food when I feel like it. I will provide you with the standard of service I think that YOU deserve. I win.
    Now tell me, which strategy should I use?”

    Unfortunately he didn’t answer and got up and left. The table next to him though gave me an extra $10. I win.

  42. Trixie says:

    I would hand him his twenty ones and say “well I guess I win because you are going else where for lunch”
    And by the way that’s what I would expect my floor staff to say also. I do not let folks like that act out in my restaurant.

  43. GraceR says:

    I’ve noticed a handful of comments on here which basically stated how being a server (or in the service industry) is in itself a demeaning and lowly form of existence, and that servers should find a “real” job… To this I say, what on EARTH are you talking about? I imagine the people who made those comments are in a far more “superior” position in life (i.e. have lots or at least a good amount of money to blow). So why don’t all of you superior people just please discontinue your patronage in the service industry– since you obviously hate people catering to your every greedy whim and demand so much! Demand comes before supply. If we don’t have customers, there wouldn’t be a business. Soooo until you lazy pretentious jerkoffs start fetching your own drinks and dishing your own dessert and doing your own laundry and driving your own car and cleaning your own house and carrying all of your own luggage and picking up your own dog’s nasty crap and shaving your own balls and ogling your own wife’s tits and actually RAISING your own children EVERY single day of your oh so important life, WE service industry people will be here -warmly smiling- whether you like us or not, ever discretely getting back at you for being your ever “superior” (superiorly CHEAP) self. The smart ones know how to keep any getting even tactics completely to ourselves. 😉 Enjoy your meal 😉

  44. p.mac says:

    To ihatetipping,
    I think that you sound like a sweet, wonderful, charming dinner companion. Are you free for dinner tonight? maybe we could get some take out food, and kick some dogs in the park, and maybe punch a few trees just for fun.

  45. bben says:

    I have a relative who does this. Here in the south, Ice tea refills are always important. He will drop $5 in ones on the table in a small cafe at lunch and tell the waitress that he will take one dollar back every time his tea glass is half empty. In most of these smaller cafes a good waitress will never let it get below half full anyway. I doubt if his threat to take away a couple of dollars on the tip actually has any effect on how often his glass is topped up. Remember, we are talking about a $5 tip on a meal that likely cost less than $12, including the tea. And the locals who eat there regularly are likely tipping $2 or $3 per person with $5 being at the top end.

    But we do have a local well to do businessman who eats there when he doesn’t have to impress a client with an expensive meal. He is scrupulous about tipping exactly 15%, even if he has to get change from the register. The place has great home cooked meals and the waitresses are always friendly (even to my cousin) And deserve a generous tip.

    I would dearly love to win the lottery and be able to drop $100 tips for the wait staff in some of these small cafes.

  46. Bob says:

    waah waah waah! i get so tired of hearing waiters and waitresses whine. you are employees and, while you are serving (operative word) me, you are my employee

    Like every other employer, I get to set the standards for your employment and pay you based on how well you meet them

    Your customers have difficult jobs and work for their money too. We are not obligated to give you free money just because we feel sorry for you because your base pay is low. You need to do what every other working person in the world does: work hard, earn your money, stop bitching or get a different job

  47. Shawn says:

    I would have either suggested he take all 20 dollars and pocket it, stating “I feel comfortable passing on a 20 doallar tip when the source of that tip feels the need to attempt placing themselves above me with such a rude gesture.”

    Either that or take the fork provided to the customer’s date and stap him in the eye, look at his date and say “there, saved you a step.” 🙂

    I have no tollerance for people with napoleonic complexes.

  48. Good Tipper says:

    I am a good tipper, usually 20% or more. What impresses me the most about my waitress or waiter is the friendliness and their interest in me and my wife. If they tell us something about themselves, that is nice, too. It is like we are making a friend. We like happy, friendly waitresses and waiters that make us laugh and we usually go back to those kinds of restaurants.

    I am really surprised and a little shocked that so many of the comments have been from people who seem to not be happy in their jobs and almost seem to hate their customers. Just because a few of your customers are jerks and cheapskates, don’t let that ruin you feelings for your job and the rest of the people. Enjoy your work, enjoy your customers and you will be a much happier person and receive better tips.

    Be proud of your jobs and be proud of all of the customers who love you. You have a great deal of influence over the attitudes of the customers and your smiling face may be the only one they experience that day.

  49. Alex says:

    I’m UK-based so we have a different culture on tipping here. Servers get paid the same minimum wage as any other similar job (store cashier/clerk, bar staff, etc.) who do not receive tips. I will tip around 10% if the service is excellent, and less if it is Ok. If the service is poor, I’ll happily not tip at all. I understand that in the US, servers get paid below what would be considered minimum wage for any other profession and have to make it up in tips, but I still struggle to understand why you’d tip anything at all if the service was bad.

    On a side-note, last time I visited New York and checked into a hotel there on business, the porter practically ripped my luggage from my hands so that he could carry it to my room and then demanded a tip.

  50. Libgeek says:

    “Oh, so you’re playing the carrot and the stick? Well, you can stop dangling your little carrot and stuff it back in your pocket. Your dignity might be worth $20, but mine’s not. I wouldn’t take your money if YOU begged ME to take it.”

    Any decent manager would realize that the morale hit the staff would take for siding with the customer isn’t worth the business. Figure a $20 tip is reasonable on a $100-120 check. That’s not all that much lost for a place doing decent business.

  51. Ed says:

    I’ve never worked as a server, but during my time in retail, I developed a knack for giving a level of service in accordance with the customer’s attitude. Polite and respectful people got quick, friendly service. Rude people got “the stupid treatment,” wherein I pretended to not know how to work the cash register or find any information about anything. Extremely rude people got that treatment plus the occasional double-scan on their items.

    With this guy, I’d put on the stupid act and really ham it up. Drag the meal out as long as possible, but put on a good show of actually trying. Inconvenience him. Irritate him. Get the kitchen in on it. Maybe they can “lose” his ticket or something. You’ll end up without a tip, for sure, but he will have suffered for it.

  52. Steele says:

    The point of the $20 to me seems that you earn your tip. That seems to be something that people in the service industry have forgotten. You are NOT entitled to your tip, you earn your tip through doing your job correctly, and in a timely manner.

    Tipping is based on quality and quantity of service. If you do the minimum you are suppose to, then you get the 10%. If you give above average service, you get 15%. If you do your job, and do it well, checking back, then you get 20%, which I’m sure you would only claim 8-10% on your taxes.

    You are NOT entitled to any tip just because you are in the service industry. You earn your tips, they are a gratuity, and a reflection of the quality of service you provide. You are not entitled to a tip of any kind.

    And yes I worked in the service industry to pay my way through college many years ago as a waitress and bartender.

    If someone would have done the $20 trick to me, I would have looked at him and said okay you do what you feel is right and continued to do my job of taking his order in a timely manner, serving it to him in a timely manner after checking to make sure it was what he ordered and is presentable, checking back with him in a timely manner after serving him his food, offering refills when the glass is 1/2 to 1/4 full, and then watching to ask again if everything was okay, if he wanted anything else, and then give him the check.

    But it seems that’s too much to ask for these days with MOST waiters and waitresses, which is why you don’t make decent tips.

  53. Cecily says:

    Man, I wish I could personally respond to a comment from a “John Williams.”

    You, sir, have obviously never worked as a server. Demeaning fellow human beings -isn’t- cute. Most people don’t work in a restaurant because it’s their dream – they do it because they have to. That doesn’t make it okay to belittle them or “play” with them like that. And serving can be very, very hard work. Ask anybody that has ever worked a weekend brunch shift.

    As for you, ihatetipping, I don’t even have words, except that you live a sad, sad little life.

  54. Rob says:

    All this guy did is be up front about what we already do in our minds. I start you guys off at 20%, if it takes you 10 minutes to get over to my table, another 10 minutes to bring drinks, then your tip drops to 15%, not refilling drinks? Or checking back with us, drops to 10%. You take forever to bring the check, or forgot stuff, well you get the hint.

    You do a shitty job, you get a shitty tip. Don’t like it? Then go get a job that is not tip based. Too many crappy servers in this world, that think just because they do half their job and expect a full tip.

  55. Erin says:

    @ Steele

    The point of the $20 was the guy was trying to be witty and funny with someone else’s grocery money. While the guy likely thought he was being just hilarious, the simple fact is that behavior like that comes off as more as “Dance, monkey” than “please do your job to the best of your abilities as you’ve been trained to do.”

    Having waited tables more recently than you (I suspect) I can tell you that with the prevalence of credit card transactions, servers don’t often get to fudge on their taxes as much as people would think. In addition, my restaurant would investigate if your tips were too low to cover their own behinds. If you were a bartender, you also had no choice in declaring your tip-outs from the waitstaff.

    And please keep in mind that waitstaff to date still get paid so below minimum wage it should be criminal. I had a table once that stiffed me on a $150 meal because I wouldn’t serve their allegedly 22-year-old and I.D.-less daughter alcohol. Was that my fault? Didn’t matter. Does that mean I should have been robbed (even if you’d call the service “minimal”) of $15 worth of groceries?

    This guy was acting like a jerk. It’s harder to give good service to a jerk. While I’d likely have done the same as you, smile and give the best service possible, I would have hated every second I interacted with him and wished more than anything that I could just take his $20 and burn it. I’m glad someone decided to set him straight.

    Other people in the service industry don’t have to put up with nearly this amount of crap.

  56. GM says:

    @ihatetipping…..Come to my restaurant in midtown Manhattan if you can afford it. Try and prove someone tampered with your food. I dare you.

  57. Su says:

    The deal is that every industry has those that fare below standards and those that perform above. Servers are in the few that get penalized directly by the guest if they don’t perform to an unknown standard set by several guests simultaneously. Furthermore, they must meet requirements set by management and the kitchen. It must also be mentioned that in New York servers are taxed assuming 15% tip on sales and paid at a rate below minimum wage. That means that if you are a tough customer bent on teaching the server a lesson and tip them below 15% they are still paying tax as if they made it. Most servers receive their wages entirely in tips with their paycheck going to taxes. To term all servers bitter because we don’t appreciate the worst type of guest is an unfair categorization. Every industry has its problem customer and everyone has complained about a customer at some point.
    The problem with this guests’s behavior is not the amount of money but the manner in which it was presented. It was tacky, unappreciative and assumed incompetence prior to service. If you do not like service provided in a restaurant you have two opportunities 1)communicate with the server and/or management, 2) vote with your feet and do not return.
    As a service professional I recommend that guests walk into a restaurant open to social interaction and communication, prepared to pay at least 15% minimum and to have a pleasant attitude.

  58. Anonymous and appalled says:

    To the commenter John Williams above, who said “No matter how he plays it, you’ll end up with the tip he was going to give you anyway. So why make a big deal out of it?” It boggles my mind how a guy like you can read about something like this and think that the sole point is the number of dollars exchanged. Do you truly not realize that your inability to understand or appreciate the social behavior at work here is maybe borderline autistic? Are you really so unable to pick up on the complexities of human interaction apart from the exchange of money as to be blind to them? I’m willing to bet much more than $20 that you do not. I’m also willing to bet that a guy like you often finds himself dining with precisely the company he deserves: a woman who is focused on the transactional aspects of your company rather than the social pleasures.

  59. Larry says:

    This was a scene from an episode of Third Rock From The Sun.

  60. Dara says:

    Dear ihatetipping:

    The most ironic part of your rant is that you, sir, are the one filled with self-entitlement. I think that good tips are earned, not expected for what you describe as “fetching”. The description you provide clearly shows your ignorance of what a server’s job is–it is much more of a finely tuned craft, and one which I believe you could not perform with any finesse or competency. Do you know why? Because being a server requires compassion–something you do not possess, as it would appear.

    Another skill you lack for all your years of experience is proper punctuation or grammar. I wouldn’t normally point this out, except that you remark about “dumbasses”. Be careful not to throw stones if you live in a glass house.

    Finally, what I always take away from “your type” is that your effect is fleeting, just like your compassion towards others. When I was a server, I was always so thankful that I only had to deal with people like you only for a meal–and not a lifetime.

  61. smhatter says:

    I just don’t get the logic with some people. I have only ever worked jobs that didn’t allow tipping. I had people offer to, but had to refuse. That was when I worked retail. You would think that anyone who has had an angry-customer-centric job would understand.

    You should always tip unless the service is REALLY bad. Even if the service is just what you would consider to be par. That is how a lot of people make their money. I don’t even fault them if it takes a bit of time to get my food, because I know that other customers aren’t as patient, and are going to be jerks about it.

    I think I have only ever not tipped once.

  62. pablo says:

    It really bugs me that people seem to think that giving a tip is mandatory. Its not. A tip is a reward for good service. Ultimately, the server is the face of the company. If the service sucks it makes the business look bad and everyone else who works there.

  63. Van says:

    This is not a job that adults should be doing for a living. These positions were meant for young individuals to earn part time wages. If you are over 24 and still working as a server than it is your fault that you dont earn enough to live. Your tips suck because you are old and tired of serving food to people. Young 18-22 earn better tips because they are happy to be doing what they are doing part time for some spending cash while in college. Get out of the restaurant and get a real job and quit worrying about tips getting you through your life. Im 30 and I couldnt imagine going to work every day worring about making enough tips to pay the rent, I get a regular paycheck twice a week from a real job. The longer these servers stay in these jobs the more and more jaded they get, always expecting more and more money and beliving they actually deserve it.

  64. (Anonymous loser) “Van”- Who the hell are you to judge what anyone does for a living?

  65. S says:

    @Van: Good thing jobs are in such great supply that we can all just get steady, salaried jobs, right?

  66. Andrea Taylor says:

    I note that people here say that they feel that good service includes frequent checkbacks, and the server being really friendly, to the point of feeling like they made a good friend.

    I’m actually kind of the opposite. To me, good service is quickly and accurately taking orders, delivering the food quickly after it comes available, being available in case I ask for anything, and bringing the check in a timely fashion. I don’t appreciate being in a good conversation with the people I am with, only to have a server interrupt with a checkback with no obvious cause. I don’t mind a quick ask if I want a refill if my cup/glass is near empty, but again, I’ve had servers who just came by and automatically refilled before my cup/glass was even half empty, not respecting the fact that they’ve now just diluted anything I might have added to the drink to make it to my liking. Just walking through the area looking for guests signaling for assistance would be great (IMO I think call buttons like they have for flight attendants would be awesome). I even once had a “hostess” come by, interrupting our conversation to start up a completely bizarre conversation about where everybody went to high school. I am a regular at a local restaurant, and I enjoy friendly chatting with the staff there, but we got to know each other gradually over years, not this fake friendly crap with people I will probably never see again. I’ve had a server try to bully me into ordering alcohol, even going to the point of teasing me about what excuse could I possibly have for not, with exaggerated sigh and whisking the empty wine glass away just because I didn’t want wine with my dinner.

    And yet, I know all these things are usually pushed on servers by management, so I don’t take it out on them personally. Even at my regular restaurant where they know what I like, they’ve confided that they will be marked down and possibly even fired if the manager doesn’t see them doing all the “checklist” things with every guest, even the ones they know don’t want them. That’s a very overlooked part of good service, responding to customers as individuals, not just statistics on some consultants research into “what the public wants.”

  67. Eleanor says:

    This customer is a complete JERK!!! I would tell him where he could stick his $20.

  68. Rob says:

    The icing on the crap cake for many servers is that beyond having the taxes deducted from their 15-15-20 percent tip, they also have to “tip out” a percentage of their *total sales* (not total tip) to the host/hostess, to the barkeep (if there’s a bar in the restaurant), and usually to the busboys and kitchen staff. Got screwed over and only got a buck on a $50 ticket? Not their problem, you’re still giving 5% to the host/hostess, 3% to the bar staff, and (sometimes) 5% to the busboys/kitchen staff… so you might have to give out as much as 13% (this, of course, varies from restaurant to restaurant, some don’t do it at all, most do it in some fashion), regardless of what you got for a tip. In this hypothetical, you’d be upsidedown by $5.50 on the table.

    What’s worse is when your employer (the restuarant) itself requires a tip-out *to the house*. Legal? Technically it’s not in most areas. Is it done regardless knowing you won’t complain because then you’d lose your job? Yes. It sucks. And depending on how they file your W-2, you might well be on the hook for taxes on your entire tip amount, regardless of how much of it you were forced to give away…

  69. timothy says:


    You got some world-class douchebags trolling around here, don’t you?

    Been a long time since I worked for tips, but never forgot how hard it can be. Especially when you’re dealing with the ‘I don’t believe in tipping but really I’m just cheap’ crowd.

    And, had I ever had a customer try that particular trick on me, I would have made it my mission for the night to get him to put every one of those bills back in his pocket…

  70. m says:

    “Van”, there are many jobs that are based solely on commission. I think there is a pride to be had working hard for every dime you make as opposed to showing up and sitting at a desk and making the same, no matter how hard you work. There is also something to be said for people who do what they love, even if others may look down at it. Not everyone is trying to fit into a cookie cutter lifestyle. It also sounds to me like the tipper involved likes to feel in control a little too much, which usually means he is lacking control in other aspects of his life.

  71. Sam In Philly says:

    Van – Thanks for your insightful guide to the service industry (where’s the sarcasm font when I really need it).
    I worked as a waiter from 1981 to 1992 – During that time I bought a house, bought a car, went to Europe ten times, got married and saved money for my retirement. I got out because I started to hate the self entitled assholes, like you, that think waiting tables is for “kids”.
    I worked with a guy who started working the Holland-America LIne in the 1960’s and put three kids through college, had a very nice house and a new car every two years.
    Get a real job? REALLY? Be a wage slave like you?
    Service is a real job, it’s just demeaned in this country. It is entirely possible to spend your life working in restaurants and have a full life – though it’s getting harder. No one should have to depend on the kindness of strangers. Servers should be paid a minimum of $15-25/hour and not rely on tips. And restaurant prices should reflect that with a notice that says “Service and tax included.”

    You obviously haven’t been to France. Waiters there start at 16 as bus boys, and work their way up. Many retire at 55 very comfortably. Of course, they are paid a living wage and get health insurance. And don’t actually depend on tips.

  72. John says:

    Hi! I’m new here, and I don’t mean any offense, but that @ihatetipping guy sounds like a total toolbox. I hope somebody dicks every morsel he ever eats outside his home from now on.

  73. nana909 says:

    Actually, Van, the “kids” I work with are the biggest whiners and have the worst attitudes. They haven’t developed the self esteem and thick skin of us old farts.
    I make better tips than they do because assholiness does not affect my sense of identity, which incidentally,is not wrapped up in how much money I may or may not make.
    The point of this article is that tipping does not entitle a person to power trip. When you’re a little older, you might understand.

  74. Beev says:

    I have to butt in to all of the 3rd Rockers (a show that I LOVE, btw) and say that Cheers did it first. YEARS earlier, in fact.

  75. KMC says:

    Newsflash: if you dine out in the U.S., you are participating in American dining culture. That culture dictates tipping. Why? Because the restaurant is not going to pay your server. Would you prefer that they do? Your crabcakes just went from $25 to $40. Your free soda refills? Gone. Think wine is marked up now? Haha!

    All restaurants run on a rigid cost structure. Labor hovers around 1/3. If you add to that, you have to lower the food and beverage cost percentage, which means higher prices for the same product.

  76. Patti DiVita says:

    Hey Patrick!

    Glad to see the array of comments here! So many people mentioned the 3rd Rock episode, so I watched it for the first time and just want to point out one part that is typical of tipping behavior.

    When she told him that they were out of the monk fish, he took away a big chunk of the dollar stack. She was blamed for something that was beyond her control. We as the servers do tend to get the brunt of things, but we still have a great time and learn to let it roll off our backs. We have to!

    She showed bad service behavior when she didn’t know the specials dressing even though he asked before she was done reciting the complete salad…people…;-)

    “Did I Say Thousand Island?” that’s the name of the movie to get remade and now the whole movie is on the website for free!

    Thanks Patrick for keeping up the conversations. Sooner or later people will start getting the message about how to treat others and your blog is a great help!

  77. big paulie says:

    In our restaurant, this person would be asked to get up and leave. The reason? We’re a professional restaurant and don’t have time to play games.

    I actually feel sorry for someone with such a lack of self-esteem that they’d rely on an embarrassing “game” like this to bolster themselves psychically. Anyone who behaves this way has issues that won’t go away by themselves.

    It’s exceedingly poor manners to discuss a server’s tip with the server (or anyone else, for that matter, except perhaps one’s dining companions – but even that’s a stretch). Any discussion of money, particularly sums paid to others, is in very bad taste. Making light of it reflects horribly on the individual doing it and on the way that individual was raised.

  78. Roy says:


    I am really surprised about some of the comments here. I have read more than one comment that truly believes that if they sit at a waiters table, that they are the waiters employer. That is absolutely ridiculous, I assure you the restaurant is the employer, you are a patron of the restaurant.

    Waiting tables is like any other honest job, it deserves your respect. I wish more restaurant managers would stand up for their employees. The first manager that I see actually walk over to a table like that and make it clear that their staff is not there to take abuse would be my hero.

    The customer who ‘wants to play the game’ is usually ruining my meal when I am the unfortunate person to have a table next to him. It puts everyone in an awkward situation when someone breaks the social contract of treating everyone with respect.

    Why would a restaurant even want a customer like this? God forbid he becomes a regular.

  79. Roy says:

    Sorry I forgot to post this earlier, it may help someone out there, especially the ladies.

    1. A man who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter is not a nice man.

    2. How you treat people in your employ speaks volumes about who you are. In fact among rich ladies, not the ones you see on reality tv shows, but the real ones who would never go on a show. A common thing used as a’put down’ is:

    “She can’t keep help.” If you are rich and you can’t keep help for any length of time others of your social circle use that as an insult. The idea that nobody can stand to work for you longer than 6 months, despite you paying them.

    In fact when you watch a show about rich people whether it is Batman or Downton Abbey, the rich people that you are suppose to like always have help that have been with them forever.

  80. Todd says:

    Just to make it clear to some of the commenters here: the reprehensible part of what this customer did is NOT that he wanted the server to earn his tip, but that he tried to make a “cute”, insulting “game” out of it.

    I am not a circus monkey dancing for your amusement, and if you insist on treating me as such, then you can take your $20 and shove it. And don’t expect fantastic service with that sort of dehumanizing attitude, either.

  81. James says:

    I work for Sysco, I know many of you hard working men and women, many of you are my friends, I couldn’t do your job.

    From my time in Foodservice, I have learned alot about service.

    Today I tip a minimum of 40%, 99% of the time, slow service is due to understaffing.

  82. James says:

    BTW, if this is true, that person needs to be beat like cornbread batter!! Anyone that would be that brazen is truly a sad little person.

  83. Michael S. says:

    This is totally unexpected. I’ve never worked as a restaurant server, but I do know that these people work pretty damn hard for their tips, and I usually tip above the norm for good service. I even tip at buffets, which I’m told I shouldn’t do, but I’m not clearing the dishes myself, nor am I refilling my drinks myself.

  84. Dan says:

    I saw the guy with the girl afterwards at Hub Pub where he was bragging about it to everyone. They were tourists from NYC. And complete assholes.

  85. p.mac says:

    Does this “ME FIRST” stuff ever work in a dentist or medical office? I know damn well that it doesn’t work at the DMV.

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