The Ugly American At Home: Is It Ever OK Not to Tip?

An Applebee's waitress posted the receipt online of a patron who did not tip. She lost her job. Are Americans obligated to leave a tip?

A patron of an Applebee's in St. Louis recently refused to leave a tip, handwriting the note, "I give God 10%, why should you get 18?"

Although it was not her table, waitress Chelsea Welch took a photo of the receipt and posted it on Reddit.com.

Welch told Consumerist.com “I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical. I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”

Welch told the Guardian that she makes $3.50 an hour plus tips  and after splitting her tips with nonwait staff, she makes $9 before taxes.

There is no hard and fast rule for tipping in America.

It's supposed to be optional, but is it when some restaurants include a gratuity of 18 percent for parties of six, eight or more?

Is it time for restaurant owners to pay their staff a living wage, instead of leaving customers to make up the difference?

Would you rather pay a bit more for your meal than try to determine if your server should be paid 15, 18, 20 or 25 percent?

And, do you think restaurant owners, guest house owners, owners of hairdressing shops, taxi cab owners et cetera should be tipped, too, when they pitch in to help their staff?

When do you tip? How much is a good tip? Do you tip on tax? And, have you ever received excellent service or do you tip because it is expected?


Maggie February 01, 2013 at 06:36 PM
In Massachusetts restaurants do not pay waitstaff minimum wage, so yes I think you need to tip. Tip according to your service, if it was great be generous 20-25%, if it's lousy 10%. I would not mind paying extra for the meal if those serving received at least minimum wage. Then you can leave extra for those working hard to make your dining experience pleasant. Waitstaff are some of the hardest workers I know, they work long hours, stand all day (or night), smile (even when things are tough) and are dependent of those they serve to make a decent living. Not being in that business....I think hearing from those who do, will give us better insight!
Karl Stier February 01, 2013 at 07:04 PM
I believe the correct question should be "Is it ever okay to eat at Applebee's?"
Casey Meserve February 01, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Hahaha, Karl! As a former, albeit very poor, waitress, I can understand the frustration of both sides. Waitstaff work very hard for their tips, but if I get lousy service that wasn't the kitchen's fault, I'm not giving a good tip. Lowest I'll go is 5%. I've given up to 30% though.
Karl Stier February 01, 2013 at 09:32 PM
I'm with you Casey, I'm a good tipper, I appreciate the hard work. A lower tip might send a message, but no tip is asking for trouble and is unfair to everyone involved. A better way to get the message across is to speak to a manager or the owner. Otherwise you are just dismissed as a crank and nothing is resolved.
Sallyanne McColgan February 01, 2013 at 11:46 PM
I have worked in food service as well as other industries, In healthcare I didn't get tipped for a good diagnosis, I got paid. As a professor I didn't get tipped for a good lecture, I got paid. As a computer analyst I didn't get paid for suggesting a good system, I got paid. Pay wait staff a living wage: the waitstaff can pay their bills, the owners know what taxes to pay the government, the diner knows what the real cost of the meal is. And no one has a gun to their head saying if they truly want to they cannot leave a pourboire
kim February 02, 2013 at 11:06 AM
If I dont leave a decent tip there is a reason.I will look at the waitstaff as I leave and either thank them or letmy eyes tell them what I thought of the service.I would never not tip at all.Also working for tips myself as a Housekeeper(please dont ever call me a maid) I understand what a couple dollars as opposed to no dollars means to me.When people single you out to comment on exceptional service it also works out for the next patron as im now in a great mood and motivated.no tip hurts most when tips are pooled so dont leave nothing.....leave accordingly.
Lisa February 02, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Unless the waitress is rude i think you should leave a tip, for sub par service 10%, for good service 15%, and for above average 20-30% . I do not think that a waitress should get paid by the restaurant an average wage as i do believe that the incentive to give a "better service experience" would not be there on the servers part, i waitress part time and it is hard work, some customers can be rude and disrespectful , nothing worse than going to a table asking a question and being totally ignored, or they just keep talking away on cell phone, and hello i am a waitress, not a babysitter or to stand there while you ask you "darling" child what they would like to drink while they are playing on their video games and while not reply for several minutes . I think everyone should hold a tipping job as some point so they can understand.
denise February 02, 2013 at 12:47 PM
No worries! for all the cheap people who don't tip there are 5 more who do tip 25%-30% which make up for those who do not. The servers know who they are and they are the ones wwho are treated like gold.
Janice Perry February 02, 2013 at 12:50 PM
I agree w/u Lisa, a waitstaff job is very difficult. It's too bad we can't find out what the patron does for a living,(if anything at all) & belittle her. All rests. add an 18% tip for parties of 6 or over, if u don't want to pay for service, stay home. WHAT does tithing have to do w/going out to eat? Wait until u c all the new taxes in obama care!!! The young lady should not have been fired, I will not go to Applebe's again, food is____.
Martha Shaw February 02, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Each time I get a coffee, a drink, a meal with friends or catch a cab, the mental gymnastics of the tip is how the experience winds up. You wonder how much they are being paid, if they are underpaid, overpaid, have free medical insurance, pay taxes on the tips, etc. I think employees should be paid fairly and if they don't treat customers well, they should be replaced. College kids have a hard time finding jobs on the Vineyard in the summer to help pay their tuition. They wind up begging for tips, if they are lucky enough to get a job, from customers. We should support higher education and fair wages. I run a business, and don't get tips. I know that I give bad services, they won't come back.
Martha Shaw February 02, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Adding to my other comment, there is more I want to share because this is an important topic. In junior high, I worked at coffee shop was a motel chamber maid, then in high school at diners and restaurants (usually two), in college I was a cocktail waitress at two places at once, plus scooping mashed potatoes in the cafeteria by day. In grad school, I had a job that was not as annoying and where I felt valued and respected (I agree that you see the worst side of people when you are a waitress and house cleaner) but didn't get tips. I made way less than as a cocktail waitress and had to pay taxes. So, it's the system that doesn't work. I want to show waiters that I respect them and appreciate them, just like I want to show respect to the people who haul garbage, write legislation, cut hair, whatever. The tip issue is important because customers don't know if the people serving them are being fairly compensates for the skills and services they offer. Maybe someone should write an article. Really great topic, that extends to take out. Thanks for starting the conversation. Most people don't want to feel like they're "cheap." Most people are kind.
Gail February 03, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Waitstaff should be paid a living wage to begin with. I have never had bad service in Europe, where there is no tipping; it's included. It's a profession, like any other.
Jenn February 03, 2013 at 05:41 AM
i completely agree. i lived in northern ireland for years, and even bartended and waitressed there. a tip was a nice bonus but at least you know you'd get a paycheck at the end of the week. i don't understand how restaurants are allowed to pay less than $3 an hour to the waitstaff and in turn expect them to tip out the bar and bussers. a restaurant must be a well oiled machine starting with the hostess to seat the tables in equal rounds and waiters getting orders in at the right time and chefs keeping up with the orders. it all must work together but if something goes wrong it's the usually the waiters that hear the grief. i pretty much always tip at least 20% which drives my irish husband nuts!
Atrain February 03, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Service people work for tips!!! Betters tips for better service! Athletes attorneys etc all get paid based on talent skills performance! I've been in the industry for years and know a lot of other people that have! Not many things a person can do and make $500 a night wo a degree!! Not to mention that probably over half the servers bartenders have college degrees and would be making half the money working in their field of study! Just like on the field if your good you'll make good money!! And there's a lot of other perks as well lol!!


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