This is a foul-mouthed guide for you, the customer, when dining out. I can't speak for all of you, but most of us servers agree that the majority of you are assholes. Follow these rules so we don't think you're asshats anymore.
First off, the standard tip is between 15 and 20% of the check. It is now getting closer to a standard 20%. This isn't 1939; the Great Depression is over, you can tip more than 10%. I know in the 70's your parents tipped 10%, but listen, Flowerchild, it's now 2011. Times have changed, and so has the standard on tipping. You can't really go wrong with 20%, so if you ever have a question about how much to tip, just multiply the check by 2 and move the decimal over one to the left.
Total = $20.00 x 2 = $40.00
Move the decimal over one place to the left. That makes $4.00.
Tip = $4.00, Total = $24.00
I know that mathematical equation might have baffled most of you, but for those of you who followed me… that's how you tip.
If for some reason you are absolutely disgusted with the service, contact a manager. Don't pick a fight with the server, just ask him or her nicely to see a manager. Odds are, if they screwed up, they already know why you want to talk to them and will have no problem getting a manager to the table. If you're service was simply horrible, just remember, you never know who was up all night with a screaming baby, or who just got dumped by their girlfriend/boyfriend of 7 years, or whose mother just passed away, or who's working their 6th double shift in a row because management suckered them into it. Everyone has bad days, just keep that in mind. If the server was rude as hell, and they really were just horrible, then there is no excuse. I understand leaving a shitty tip for shitty service, but please, never leave zero tip, you never know what's going on in that person's life right then. And yes, a nickel, quarter, or even one dollar counts as no tip.
Fuck you, dude…
If you go to a restaurant and get hooked up—like, the server doesn't charge for drinks, or leaves off some soups or something—chances are they did that intentionally. If you want to point it out, feel free, but most of the time the server will not go back and charge you. What should you do?? Well, leave a little extra on their tip. They'd appreciate it.
If for some reason your food was taken off the bill because it was wrong, or for any other reason, don't take it out on the server. The server doesn't get paid when you don't pay them. If your bill gets taken care of, it's still customary to tip based on what that bill would have been if the food was still charged.
If you or your kids destroy the dining area around you, don't tell the server as you leave, "Hehe, haha, sorry man, we made a huge mess!!!" Chances are the server already knows that, is pissed about it, and doesn't need a reminder. If you really feel bad about it, leave a little extra on the tip. Or just don't let your kids trash the area.
This is what cleaning up after kids looks like…
Don't act like you're a high roller when you give the server the check by saying, "Hey, that's all you," or "Keep it," when it's a shitty tip. Also, don't give the server a credit card to pay for your meal with the cash tip in it already. It gives us a chance to get really pissed at the tip before you leave, and that can lead to confrontations. Or, just don't act like a high roller.
Don't leave the tip sitting on the table 10 minutes before even asking for the check. It's tacky. The entire time the server is waiting on you they're thinking, "What the hell is this $5 doing on the table??" or, "That $5 dollars better not be for me, those bastards have a $60 check!" So just don't leave money sitting on the table.
I know this next one seems kinda weird, but oh well. Don't over-compliment the server. If you feel like they're doing a great job, it's great to let them know. But for some reason, people who compliment the service a lot don't tip well at all. It's the craziest thing, but it's true. 90% of the time, when the customer dishes out too many compliments, they tend to tip really shitty. So let 'em know you're enjoying yourself… just not tooo much, otherwise we assume you're overcompensating.
This really happens…
Don't let your kids run around the damn restaurant. I mean SHIT, people. You're at a RESTAURANT, not Chuck E Friggin' Cheese. There are other people in the establishment, and I promise you, no matter how cute your kid is, no one else wants them running around their table hootin' and hollerin'. I've had tables ask me to move before because other people could not control their children. Also, keep in mind that servers are running around with steaming hot food that could easily fall on your wild child. So remember to spay and neuter your pets!
And if you look to our left…
You'll see our ball pit!
If you ate light, and your bill is only $8, please don't tip a buck fifty. You came in and took up a spot at our table, a spot where someone else could have spent $50. When most servers go out to eat, they tip a minimum of $5p. That means if they get an $8 burger, they're gonna tip $5 on it. I'm not asking everyone to tip $5 on a $3 check, but please consider that your server could have served someone else with a check many times larger than yours. So if you have a really cheap ticket, show the server some love occasionally. I'd be happy getting $3 on 8 or something no problem. It's just when I open it up and see $1.13, you weren't worth it.
"It's just me. Yeah, just me. No, no one else is coming. I'm not that hungry either."
Don't have a party of more than 15 or so. It gets ridiculous. And if there are a lot of you, try and avoid 37 separate checks and splitting five appetizers and three desserts seven different ways. It's horribly inconvenient and ungodly confusing.
"Oh yes, separate checks please. And keep the alcohol on separate checks as well, it's business you know!"
If your check has a gratuity, it is still acceptable to tip on top of that. It is most likely a 15 or 18% gratuity automatically added to the check. Well, the tip you should leave is 20%, so feel free to make it that by leaving extra. And when you leave EXACT change, I mean down to the penny, on a check with gratuity, it makes you look like a cheap ass/ douchebag. The gratuity was made to ensure that a server doesn't get screwed on the tip. When you have 8 or more (6 or more at some places) a gratuity may be added. This is done because waiting on a table with 8 people or more is more difficult than waiting on a table with fewer people. You have to get 8 separate orders, and keep your eyes 8 different glasses, instead of 2 or 4. Large parties take up more than one table in a server's section, and most of the time take longer to finish a meal. So a gratuity is added to ensure that a server is compensated for that.
Prime candidates for an auto-gratuity.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you EVER ask for a gratuity to be taken off. The whole point of a gratuity is to ensure that dickbags and cheap assholes like you leave a tip. You might as well wear a shirt that says "I'm the World's Biggest Douchebag" if you ever ask for a gratuity to be taken off. And there will be a special spot in hell for you.
If you're done with your meal, and your bill has been settled, you have about 10 minutes to finish your conversation and leave before the server gets antsy. Any more than 10 minutes and you're officially camping. This is not only annoying, but it costs the server and the restaurant money. Once you're done, they can seat another table where you were sitting, giving the restaurant, and the server, another opportunity to make money. Weren't you kind of perturbed about having to wait an hour for your table? Well you definitely aren't helping out the person behind you when you sit there for 45 minutes after you're completely done.
This next one mostly applies during busy hours, but it still holds true in slow times as well. The server may be "cut" as it's called in restaurant world. This means that the server has to finish up the tables they have, do whatever side work or tasks are assigned, and then are free to leave. This normally happens well before closing time. If you're done with your check, and you are the server's last table, and you decide to stay a while after paying, that server has to stay too. And most the time do nothing but wait.
Sure, as a server you can ask another server to clean the table off when your party leaves, but then you still have to go get the check cashed out, or collect the tip. And let's face it, it's awkward to basically tell a table you're ready to leave and get the hell out. But most servers will say it in a nicer way, like "Excuse me, I'm really sorry, but I need to get out of here. Is it ok if I go ahead and take this?" If you hear a server say anything like this, what it really means is, "I am literally ready to go, there is absolutely nothing left for me to do besides get this and leave. As much as I would love to waste time and sit at an empty table scowling at you, I have better things to do with my life. So if you could please pay me or tip me so I can go to class/pick up my kids/let my dogs out/go to the bank/just get my ass home, that would be greatly appreciated, asshole."
Remember, you may want to chit chat, and that's fine, but the server has somewhere to go, and doesn't necessarily want to hang out with you all night. So if you must continue your conversation, please leave a "camping tax" as we like to call it. This means that the tip is inflated to compensate for taking up the table longer or for making us stay longer. The normal tax rate is about $5 per extra 20 minutes. Or if it's a large party, 5-10% per 20 minutes. If I have to wait 30 minutes before you leave, I will be a lot more understanding when I open up the check and see a $20 tip on a $70 check.
Kinda like that, but at a table, in a restaurant.
Don't ask for a server's advice, then do the exact opposite. We know the menu better than you, and odds are we've tried everything or almost everything. If you ask us what's good, and we tell you, then you ask about a specific dish, and we tell you it's "not the best" or "it's kind of bland" or "it's not a great seller," this means it's gross, no one likes it, and you'll probably send it back. So when you order that dish anyway, it's very annoying. I have no problem when people order a dish, and genuinely don't like it. I'd be glad to get you another one. You see, when you aren't happy with the food, you aren't happy. And when you aren't happy, you don't tip well. It's in both of our interests to get you what you want.
However, when the server warned you about a dish, and you got it anyway… It's very upsetting. We basically told you not to, gave you a plethora of infinitely better options, and you chose to try something not recommended at all. Most servers are pretty honest; they won't tell you, "Everything is great, not a single mediocre dish on the menu!" We all know this isn't true; every restaurant has something that only 1% of people like. It's just the way it is. If we tell you, "Well to be honest, that dish gets sent back a lot," please don't take it as a challenge. It's not.
You'd be amazed how often this happens.
This brings me to my next point: What to do when something is wrong with your food.
The restaurant world is far from perfect (about as far as you can get) and mistakes are made, quite frequently. So what do you do when your food is wrong/not hot/improperly prepared/marred by a foreign object? Like I said earlier, it is our job to keep you happy (within reason). If you are not satisfied with the meal and the experience, you are less likely to take care of the server, so we want you to leave happy. If something is legitimately wrong, please tell your server, in a non-confrontational way, and we should be glad to get it fixed for you. Yes, there are some servers who would roll their eyes at you for saying anything, but 99% of them want you happy. Stopping your server and yelling at them about your problem will not get it fixed any faster—in fact, it'll probably make it slower. If you're extremely rude about it, we'll take our time. But when you present your problem calmly and rationally, we will do our best to get it fixed as fast as possible.
If your food was not hot (it happens sometimes because your food was made first, then sat under the heat lamp briefly while the rest of the table's dishes were made) then let us know, and we should either get it reheated, or bring you an entirely new dish. If we bring you the completely wrong dish, let us know. If you ordered, let's say a burger, and you got hot wings, then that's a problem. Odds are that the food runner, or whoever put the food on the tray made a mistake, and it can be quickly fixed. If you notice that you have the wrong dish while the person is about to place it on the table, let them know before they leave, and assuming everything was alright. If the meal was improperly prepared, let us know, and we'll try to fix it.
Sometimes though, you're just an idiot. If you send back a medium-rare steak because there's blood in it, then you don't deserve that steak (or oxygen). If you order a medium-rare steak, and it's as black as your mother-in-law's heart, then you have every right to send it back. But when you meant to order the parmesan chicken, but you said "shrimp alfredo," don't get all huffy with us that it's not what you ordered when we wrote down exactly what you said. Yeah, sometimes we mess up, but sometimes you do too.
So, shit happens. You get the wrong food, or it's just not prepared right. OMG DON'T SEND IT BACK THE KITCHEN, THEY'LL PEE AND POO AND SPIT AND VOMIT AND SEX YOUR FOOD UP! False. 99.99% of servers are god fearing people who would never harm your food. And that .01% of sickos who do things like that, well, most the time it's because the people really really provoked them. Cursing and screaming at your server because your fries are cold will 99% of the time get you fresh new fries, but yes, there is a chance you get nasty toe jam phlegm fries. But this punishment is only for the most bastardy shitty of people who, let's face it, sometimes deserve it (and we all know that one guy who you would totally cheer if you saw him drink a big ole glass of pee tea).
So although not a threat by any means, just remember, we are the last people to handle your food before you get it. You might piss off that one guy or girl who would totally re-salt the rim of your margarita with some taint salt. That being said, don't just assume that's what we're going to do, and if you do, don't say that in front of us.. When you say, "Oh don't send that back, I've seen what they do to food people they send back on Dateline NBC," it's just awkward for everyone, and then we have to inform you that no one really does that. If your food is wrong, tell us, don't be a dick about it, and we'll fix it.
Anything can happen.
One thing that always gets on our nerves is the incomplete credit card receipt. After paying with a credit or debit card, most receipts have three blank lines:
Filling out just one of these isn't enough. The most obviously unacceptable version is just the signature. This means you didn't tip, and that means you can go to hell. Another is everything but the signature. Now, although we still get that tip, we're technically not supposed to accept it without a signature (no one really cares).
But the most annoying is everything but the tip, which could happen for two reasons. The first is that you've decided not to tip at all and have written the same total, in which case, I hope your tires are gone when you get back to your car. But the other and most common reason is the lazy mathematicians—the people who do tip, but don't write the tip on there, instead just making up the total they want. Like leaving the tip line blank, and making the total from $60 from a $49.72 bill. That's cool and all, but what the hell is wrong with you? You can't add or subtract? I mean we can do it, but shit, are you just that damn lazy or that damn stupid?
Just fill out the entire slip please. The only reason you shouldn't fill out the tip line is if you're leaving a cash tip on the table. In which case, just about anything is fine to put on the tip line. Leaving it blank, or simply writing "Cash" or "On table" is perfect. But please try not to write a huge a ZERO with a line through it. It makes us look bad when a manager sees it, because when they check out our paperwork, they just assume those people didn't tip. And when they see that, they assume they didn't tip because we did a bad job, and no one wants that.
It's a lot like this to figure out what the tip would be subtracted from the total.
Coming soon: How to PROPERLY get a server's attention, the one drink per person rule, arriving 15 minutes before the restaurant closes, arriving AFTER a restaurant has closed, and more!