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What is Either The Worst Tip (Restaurant/Bar) You Ever Gave Or Received?

October 11, 2010 · 82 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

OK, I am a huge fan of the ‘Squirreling Gone Wild’ series over at Squirreler’s.  Last week, Squirreler wrote a post that described a scene where a waitress acted like it would be a big deal for her to dig up change for a 5 dollar bill, most likely in hopes of receiving a 5 dollar tip.  (Dumb move waitress, especially since the bill for was for less than 10 dollars.)

So, it got me thinking about some of the poor service that I have experienced over the years, and how I have reacted.  In my adulthood, when the service was bad, I have pretty much just left a 5-10 percent tip and left.  However, in college, I wasn’t so kind…

My story takes place about 20 years ago.  Our waitress that night was bitter to say the least.  She was not providing decent service from the get-go, but it got worse as the night progressed.  (Probably because we stopped ordering beer and had moved on to water.)   By the end of the night, I had enough of Ms. Bitter.  So, when it came time to leave a tip, I wanted to make sure she understood that her service was poor, and not just that we didn’t have enough money to tip.   I rooted through my purse for tip-inspiration and came up with my worst tip of all time: 3 pennies and a little green army man.  I put those items on the table, and left the bar, feeling oddly satisfied.  Maybe not the most mature thing I have ever done, but I often wonder if it made her a better waitress, or just made her more bitter.  As a side note, I am now a very generous tipper.  I give 15 percent for mediocre service, and 20-25 percent for good service.

Now that I have confessed, what is the worst tip you ever left?   For you servers out there, what is the worst tip you ever received?   I would love to hear some stories!

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew October 11, 2010 at 6:48 am

“A little green army man” …. heh! 🙂 Not the most mature thing, you say, but eloquent nonetheless.

Typically leave only a single dollar bill after getting bad service, which is only occasionally. Serving food is a hard work, so I generally overtip by a couple bucks even when the service is average.

It’s easier overseas. The tip is either included automatically in the bill, good service or bad (Europe), or not even practiced (Asia).


Kris October 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

I didn’t know there wasn’t tipping in Asia! Hopefully the servers are properly compensated.

I always struggle on how to handle bad service. Late food is not always the fault of the server, so I can’t punish a waitress for that unless I see her gabbing or something. However, I cannot tolerate rudeness of any sort.


Andrew October 12, 2010 at 6:21 am

That may have been an overly broad statement, about tipping in Asia. I can only vouch for where I’ve been personally… China, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. It’s not an expectation by the servers or the establishment, to be tipped for good service. There’s not even a space on the credit card receipt (assuming you can use a credit card) for adding in a gratuity. I’ve also been told that if you leave a tip, the server will turn it in to the restaurant manager or owner, and may not even see a part or all of it.


Kris October 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Andrew – that is fascinating. How honest the servers must be to turn it over to the owner, especially since they are being rewarded for hard work!


The Biz of Life October 11, 2010 at 7:37 am

I’ve left as little as a penny if the service was absolutely atrocious. This hasn’t happened very often, but if the server is rude, lazy, makes mistake after mistake or is extremely slow they haven’t earned a tip.


Kris October 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

Biz – A penny, or a dollar I am sure is very effective. I often want to know what they thought of my tip. Do they think I am just cheap, or do they realize that are bad at their job?


Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Wow, a penny is a really serious statement!


Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 11, 2010 at 8:20 am

Years ago, I have certainly left less than 10% for a rude server. Such rudeness happened very rarely though. Even though I likely would give higher now for a rude server, I really don’t think there is any excuse. It’s quite annoying!


Kris October 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

Roshawn – you are right, it is very rare I get poor service. Most servers work very hard and are very pleasant. Some just are not very good at their jobs and try, but just can’t seem to get it together. If they try hard, I still tip well.


Nicole October 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

I guess I’m boring. The worst tip I’ve left is 15%. Followed by a nasty post on any restaurant rating site I could find.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 11, 2010 at 9:14 am


I’m a lot more likely to do this now as well. I don’t know whether it’s boring or being mature (or a little bit of both).


Kris October 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

I wouldn’t say that is boring at all. I have had only the one instance in my life where I really ‘took a stand’. You are right though, the internet has provided a wonderful venue for sharing displeasure. However, the internet was not available 20 years ago, and this waitress was so rude!


Nicole October 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

In pre-Yelp days we did grab a comment card at a fancy restaurant once and left a strongly worded rebuke against upselling. If a person doesn’t want wine, don’t force the issue. Asking once is enough. We also didn’t order dessert or an appetizer like we usually do because we didn’t want to have to give her a tip on those either. I think now that I’m older I would have delivered the rebuke in person. What was really irritating was this waitress had a shadow waiter that she was training! Not one of our best anniversary experiences. The vegetables were over-salted too. We almost walked out and would have if it hadn’t been our anniversary. The next year we went to a cheap Malaysian place and had a truly wonderful time.


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Nicole – I have also found the simplest places the best, except for a steakhouse that I just love.

I never, ever order wine with a meal, and I hate that they try to push it on customers. I don’t care about the drink specials. As a matter of fact, I know how to read the menu myself.


Philip October 11, 2010 at 9:46 am

Worst tip was after really bad service that I never saw the waitress after ordering the food (someone else filled the water and someone else brought the food out) was I used a credit card and then put $0.02 for the tip. This forces them to still have to go run the transaction and not just throw the coins in their pocket. Also wrote on the receipt “crappy service”. Hopefully the manager sees that one.


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Philip- I love that one. Two cents on a credit card is great, she definitely had to get the message. (Although I am sure the ‘crappy service’ comment probably further explained it in case she was confused!) 🙂


Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I love it! I think using a credit card really drives the point home.


Little House October 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

I like the little green army man, that adds to the effect of the 3-cent tip! As for if that made her a better waitress, probably not. Perhaps she realized waitressing wasn’t her calling. I’m a pretty decent tipper and only one left a paltry tip of about 5% because the service was so poor. Usually, though, I tip at least 15% (I waitressed years ago and know it’s a hard job.)


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Little House – I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be a waitress. I never even attempted it because I knew I would be a flop.

If I did waitress, I definitely wouldn’t be one of those waitresses that attempts to remember everything. It makes me so nervous when they do that!


etinca October 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

Once I was out with a group for happy hour & since I still had to drive home, only had one beer – at happy hour prices. Handed the waitress a $20, & she actually asked me whether I wanted my change back….

I’m generally a good tipper, but my husband & his dad are lousy tippers. So if things go badly at the restaurant, I let one of them figure the tip! If things go well, I jump in & say I’ve got the tip covered.


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Etinca – That is quite a lot of nerve from the waitress to expect that much of a tip.

I can’t stand when I am with bad tippers. There is someone in particular that I always went back to leave more money when I knew they were being cheap and the service was good. (This person does not read this blog, so don’t think it is your anyone out there!)


Crystal @ BFS October 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Hahaha! My mom thought the service at this one particular place in Spain was awful and left nothing. I thought the waiter was cute (I was 16 and boy crazy), so I said I forgot something and went back and left him the little leftover spending money I had, lol.

I also leave extra dollar bills under my plates sometimes for the fun of it (I imagine the bus boys or waitress being happy) and especially when I’m with someone who left a crappy tip.


Squirrelers October 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Thank you for such kind words on the Squirreling Gone Wild series! Much appreciated.

I’m with you in that I also try to tip well. For me, it’s typically in the 15% to 20% range. Servers work hard for such wages. If I see an older person or someone who works hard but seems unhappy in his/her life, I’ll give them a bigger tip – maybe 25%.

That said, there have been a few instances over the years where I have received some less than ideal service. My favorite story, however, involves a friend of mine who received terrible service from a very rude and condescending waitress.

The way the story goes, he responded to the bad service by leaving a penny in a salt shaker. Before doing that, he first emptied the salt shaker of a lot of it;s salt. Then, he filled it with water. His next step was to add the penny, with the idea of trying to get it to float. He then wrote “TIP” on a napkin, as he drew an arrow pointing toward the salt shaker.

He was younger then, and I give him credit for being innovative:)

I can see how one would feel “oddly satisfied”, as you put it. Sure, we all know that the penny in salt shaker and 3-penny/army man combo aren’t the most mature things many of us have done, but we also feel good when we make our point. Sometimes, when someone is so terribly rude, you have to let them know. Frankly, leaving these goofy tips is more civil than getting angry, in my view. Funnier, too:)


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Squirreler – Maybe bad waitresses shouldn’t give us so much time to be creative by dismantling salt shakers and rummaging through purses for odds and ends and should be a bit more prompt! 🙂

Did the penny float??


Car Negotiation Coach October 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I think you may have been too nice :). She may have enjoyed getting the little green army man.

If I’m at a crowded bar and it’s hard to get a drink, occassionaly I’ll leave a very big tip for the first round of drinks (like $5 or $10). You’ll never have a problem getting a drink the rest of the night and is completely worth it!


Kris October 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

CNC – I see your point on the army man, although this waitress didn’t look like she even knew what fun was. I think she knew bitter very well though.

I couldn’t agree more about leaving a good tip at the beginning. I do the same thing when I am staying at a hotel. Time the maids well right off and I will hopefully end up with a nice, clean room!


Crystal @ BFS October 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I put a tip on my pillow every morning at a hotel – I want to make sure that every maid who makes my bed gets something, lol.


Crystal @ BFS October 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Other than 3 occasions, I have always tipped 10% for crap service, 15% for okay service, and 20-50% on anything good-awesome. The 3 times I haven’t were very special…

The first one was at an Ihop. We were seated and waited 10 minutes for anyone to approach us. After that, she got our drink order wrong (we ordered 2 waters and she brought 2 coffees…we don’t drink coffee, lol). Then we went to order and I asked for my plate with bacon. She asked if I meant sausage. I said no, I’d like bacon. She really suggested the sausage. I asked if something were wrong with the bacon and she said, “no, but I like sausage better”. Huh?

Anyway, when our meals finally came, mine had sausage and my husband-to-be received someone else’s dinner. I asked for bacon and pointed out the other meal was just wrong. We finally got to eat about an hour after sitting down. I asked the manager if we could just tip the cooks, she said no, so I said “then I’m sorry but I cannot in good conscience give that woman a tip. That was the most awful service of our lives.” And I told her everything, signed the credit card slip, and we left.

The second occasion was that a friend, my husband-to-be, and I went to a restaurant the night before graduation. They sat us immediately but waited 15 minutes to take our drink order. We said we were ready to order but the waiter said he just needed to know what we’re going to drink. We ordered 3 cokes of some sort. They got delivered 10 minutes after that and he still didn’t take our order. 15 minutes after that we flagged down the manager, explained that we had been ready to order for 40 minutes, and that we were leaving. I also made sure the manager approved the fact that we were not paying for our beverages.

The last occasion was at the local Olive Garden. 5 coworkers and I went for soup and salad for lunch. 30 minutes after ordering we had our salad but the soup still hadn’t been delivered. 10 minutes after that we asked about the soup and she said it would be just a minute. 10 minutes after I was voted group speaker somehow and told her we wanted to cancel the soups and just pay for the salad so we could go back to work. She said that she was “just going to get the soups” and we would have to pay for them. I said we didn’t have the time to eat them or get refills, so we didn’t want them. She said “too bad”. I asked to speak with her manager and explained the whole situation. Everything was comped and we walked out.


Squirrelers October 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Crystal – the waitress said “too bad”? Those exact words? Wow, that takes some nerve! I’m glad they comped everything, as they should have. That’s just wrong yet funny what that waitress said.


Crystal @ BFS October 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Yes, I think it was in the sentence, “Well, I’m bringing them out so too bad.” It definitely set me off. I was surprised everything was comped since the salad was good and refilled and there were 6 of us, but I’m glad it was. 🙂


Kris October 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm

You have really had some cruddy service BFS. Did you smack any of them?

I cannot stand stewing while waiting for someone to take my order. I usually just trap the waitress and order drinks and food at the same time because I don’t have the patience to wait for the return visit. I usually know what I want, so I don’t need to do it in baby steps.

I can’t believe she said ‘too bad’ too you! I wonder if she got fired? She should have been. Ya know, if people are really busy, they can at least apologize, that always makes me a little more compassionate.

Next time, order sausage- everyone knows that! 🙂
Freeganism! (Just hadn’t said it in awhile)


Crystal @ BFS October 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I can’t help smiling every time I order bacon now, so at least she gave me that.

I also could not believe the other waitress was being so flippant. We kind of laughed about it in the car because part of our going away “comps” were free drink refills. I had water so I didn’t get one but my closest coworker had one of those strawberry lemonades and was too scared of waitress spit to drink it. So, I got a free lemonade too, lol. It didn’t taste gross… 😉


Money Reasons October 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm

In college, I once has a waitress got snotty with my friends and I. So we each tipped 2 cents. With me in particular, she said I ordered something that I’ve never heard of before on the menu. When I told her she was mistaken and that I didn’t even know they carried that meal at that particular restaurant. She blamed it all on me, and started to insult me.

I did feel bad about leaving only 2 cents, and I’ve never done so since, but then again I’ve never had that bad of service since either.

But I think if a waiter or waitress get’s confrontational with you, then leaving 2 cents is okay. Afterall, the entire experience was lessened or ruined, depending how badly you take it!

Now that I’m older, I would just ask for the manager and complain…


Kris October 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I love that she blamed you and then insulted you when it was obviously her fault. Not to mention that anyone knows that the customer is always right- and she just needed to apologize and shut her yap.

I think the two cent tip was just about perfect, if not generous.


Aloysa October 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I am a horrbile tipper as it is. If I get a horrible service, I don’t leave anything. My husband always tells me to leave at least 15% even the service was awful. I had plenty of awful experiences… Somehow I am lucky that way. LOL


Kris October 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Aloysa – You gotta do what you think is right! I admit though I still leave around 10-15 percent if the service is bad, but I will also make my dissatisfaction be known.

The problem with leaving nothing is they may not get the message or they might think someone else took the tip. However, I do have a problem with paying for a service I did not receive satisfactorily.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I am trying so hard not to laugh out loud while reading this! A little green army man?!?!?! Hahahaha – I can’t believe it!

I’ve left no tip on a few occasions. However, I think my worst tip was $.36 on my debit card. I only left the tip because my bank rounds up debit card transactions to the nearest dollar and puts it into savings, and the bill was $xx.75. So I added $.36 to bring it up to $xx.01 and get $.99 in my savings account!

Then I wrote “for terrible service” on the receipt!


Kris October 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Good job taking a stand. That is the great part about paying with a credit card, you can ‘personalize’ the tip with a nice message! I need to start doing that when the service is bad.


Sandy L @ First Gen October 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I was a waitress for 4 years in college, so I usually way overtip everyone. Even the crappy people get 15%. My husband will tip 10% for crappy service. Fortunately no one has been openly rude to me like some of the commenters have experienced. Most of the time, bad service was just the waitress chit chatting with someone while our food got cold waiting in the kitchen.


Kaycee October 16, 2010 at 11:38 am

I have, a few times, been tempted to leave a less than “full” tip. BUT, call me a realist (or paranoid if you prefer) I suspect that the server is more likely to think that “YOU” are just a lousy tipper rather than “THEY” were a lousy server.


increase reverbnation song plays April 10, 2012 at 9:31 am

I hit like but i dont know why but it didn’t post to my page. ..


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