We’ve all been there: We have a bad experience in a restaurant and are seriously tempted to stiff the server. Some of us have probably left a restaurant without leaving a tip at some point. But is it ever acceptable to do this?
First of all, a little primer on why tipping is necessary. When you leave a tip, it doesn’t immediately go into the server’s pocket unless you’re at a little roadside diner. In most cases, tips are pooled, meaning that all tips go into a separate account that is then distributed to all the restaurant’s employees. If you stiff your server, you’re stiffing the entire restaurant. At the same time, servers make tiny salaries because of the fact that they’re tipped, so they’re dependent on tips to get by.
With that out of the way, let’s revisit the initial question. Not leaving a tip is a huge insult to both the server and the restaurant, and you might find yourself being chased down the street by the server for the offense. That said, there’s still one scenario when it’s okay to not leave a tip, and it goes something like this:
When you arrive at the restaurant, you’re ignored for several minutes before the host or hostess begrudgingly leads you to a table and tosses the menus at you. Then the waiter or waitress ignores you for several minutes before taking their sweet time to walk over and rudely ask you what you want. Then your food takes forever to arrive, and it’s terrible, but the server only comes back to drop your check and never asks how the meal is or was (and if you do manage to flag them down for anything, their response is rude and dismissive). Then they vanish.
So in short, the only time it’s appropriate to not leave a tip is when the entire meal, from start to finish, is terrible, and it’s clear that the staff doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t want you to be there, either. Because this situation is such a rarity (and because the server isn’t responsible for mistakes of the kitchen), you should always leave a tip. If the service is egregiously bad, leave 10 or 15 percent. And if you enjoyed your meal, never leave less than 20 percent.