Check Please

Ah, the check – my favorite part of your meal.

I know this is the part of the dining experience most people could do without. But it’s when I get paid! A lot of people are idiots when it comes to the simple act of paying for services rendered so I’ve compiled a little tutorial to make the whole currency exchange a little smoother.

1. Know when it’s time to leave. Are you finished? Plates cleared? Dessert and coffee gone? Are there twenty customers waiting by front door for a table? Is the waiter hovering nervously around your table? Did the hostess offer to get your coats? That’s probably because the restaurant needs the table. It’s our fault we overbooked the restaurant you say? Not so fast. 15% of reservations never show up! What are we supposed to do? Lose that money? No – so we overbook Take the hint and get out. I know that attitude ticks people off but a restaurant is a BUSINESS – not an extension of your living room. It’s time to pay the bill.

2. Ask for the check. Sounds simple right? It’s considered rude for a waiter to drop a check without the customer asking first. Some people are unaware of that convention so they sit around pissed off wondering why the waiter hasn’t produced the checkbook. We’re not psychic! A sure fire way to discreetly ask for the bill is to put your credit card or wallet on the table. We can figure out you want to leave. (However, if you do get the bill before asking for it that’s waiter speak for “get out.” A tactic usually employed when a waiter’s under pressure from management to turn tables and increase revenue. Or the waiter just wants to go home- usually the later.)

3. Don’t fight over who’s paying the bill. Sometimes your friend wants to pay for dinner. I say let them. However, if you anticipate a “fight” over whose the more generous party please keep the waiter out of it. We always lose out. Go to the waiter at the start of the meal and hand him your credit card. If there’s still a disagreement the waiter will follow the following rules to avoid dropping the check on the table like a hockey puck and letting you scramble over it:

a. Will give check to the regular customer of he or she demands it.
b. Will give check to person who made the reservation.
c. Will give check to person he or she knows is the better tipper.
d. Hand the check to the five year old and crack everyone up.

I’ve had people chase me and try and take their friend’s credit card out of my hand so they could pay the bill. Don’t make a scene. Grab something out of my hand and you’ll have more than the bill to worry about.

4. Don’t fight over who’s not paying the bill. Sadly this is the reverse of Rule # 3 – no one wants to pay the bill. Every waiter recognizes this situation. You’ve dropped the check and no one make a move to pay it. Passive aggressiveness all around. This usually happens with adults eating with grown children or excessively parsimonious middle aged yuppies. Occasionally they get into shouting matches. Someone had better pay – and fast.

5. Sticker Shock. Can’t believe how high the bill is? Well the prices are posted on the menu. Did you ask the server how much that Osso Buco on special was? No? Caveat emptor pal. Don’t complain to me about the prices because I don’t set them. It’s your responsibility to keep track of what you’re spending not mine. My job? I’m like a stripper. It’s my job to separate you from as much of your money as possible.

6. Let your server know the check is ready. Don’t leave the checkbook lying forgotten in the middle of the table while you’re having your “my son/daughter is more successful than yours/I make more than money than you/I live in a nicer building/I’m thinner/I have a better job than you” conversation. The waiter has things to do. He can’t hover over your table waiting to see if you placed cash or a credit card in the checkbook. You have to let the server know it’s ready to be picked up. We hate going to the table and asking “can I take that for you?” when you haven’t even looked at it. Ways to avoid any unpleasantness are:

a. If you’re paying in cash make sure the bills are peeking out of the checkbook.
b. If you’re paying by credit card use the old stand by – set the checkbook upright on the table with the credit card sticking out.
c. For the love of God don’t put the bill in your lap, under a napkin, or, my favorite, lean on it with your elbows. That’s some passive aggressive shit. It screams that you don’t want to part with your cash. Don’t look like a cheap bastard. Just give me the friggin check.

7. Splitting the bill. That’s easy. Most restaurants’ computer systems can split a bill four or five ways. If it’s a mix of credit cards and cash explain how you would like me to process the bill. Separate checks? Unless you asked at the beginning of the meal for separate checks you ain’t getting ‘em. There is no way I can remember who got what two hours later. Fuck you and your expense account.

8. PAY IN CASH! – If at all possible pay in cash. The owner will love you. The waiter will love you. Why? Credit card companies charge a fee for every transaction. (Some unscrupulous owners take the transaction fee out of a waiter’s tips. It’s illegal but it happens.) Now I don’t always pay in cash when I go out. I’m not unreasonable. But leaving the TIP in cash will always make you the waiter’s friend.

9. Dine and Dash – Thinking about skipping out on the bill? Don’t even think about it. I will chase you down like a dog and hold you till the cops arrive. You ain’t doing dishes – you’re going to jail. If a customer skips out on the bill it’s the WAITER who has to pay for it. I’m sorry but I don’t like you that much

10. Credit card declined? Nothing warms the cockles of my heart than to tell some Sex in the City wannabe, “I’m sorry but this card is experiencing some difficulty.” (Translation? – YOUR CARD’S NO GOOD YOU LIVING BEYOND YOUR MEANS DICKWAD!) Don’t argue with me either because I’ve run the card several times. That’s why there’s a bunch of declined slips in your checkbook! And don’t get on your cell phone and fight with your credit card company. It makes you look like an asshole. Just give me a card you haven’t maxed out at the Sharper Image.

11. No money? Hey it happens. People occasionally leave their wallet or purse at home. If you’re a regular, no sweat, we’ll get you the next time. But if I don’t know you? I’m taking hostages. Leave your wife or girlfriend behind as a bargaining chip while you go and secure funding. If you don’t come back? You’ll have given your companion a date she’ll never forget.

(It also helps to leave your cell phone, PDA, Rolex, or youngest child with the waiter until you come back with the money. Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of them.)

12. Don’t subsidize your friend’s meal. This has happened to all of us. You get a salad and a bowl of pasta. Your friend gets the rack of lamb and several martinis. When the bill comes he or she says. “Let’s split it.” That’s bullshit. Grow some balls and stand up for yourself. Make them pay for what they ate.

13. THE TIP What do I need to say that I haven’t said already? You know what to do. 15% and up.

14. Automatic gratuity. Most places add a mandatory 18% gratuity or service charge on parties of six or more. Language is important here. If it’s listed as a gratuity you’re under no legal obligation to pay that amount. (You will, however, discover you’ll have a tough time getting reservations in the future) If it says “service charge” you’re legally obligated to pay it. Don’t like it? Cry me a river. I can dial 911 really fast. The French Laundry adds an 18% service charge to EVERY bill so give me a break.

15. The Double Tip. Now here’s where reading Waiter Rant pays off for you the consumer. Beware of the Double Tip! Sometimes customers, often drunk, are unaware the gratuity is added to the bill so they TIP ON TOP OF IT! Example:

Bill – $100
Mandatory Gratuity – $18 (figured pre tax)
Total $118

Customer stupidly leaves $141.

That’s $23 extra bucks! Now some waiters will be pissed that I’m telling you about this little secret but tough shit. It’s dishonest and I’d rather you come back to my bistro and give me money over the long haul. It doesn’t pay to alienate customers with petty thievery. That being said – if the customer’s a complete asshole my ethics might get compromised real fast.

16. Don’t bitch to me about the taxes on the bill. Do I look like the governor? Write your assemblymen.

17. Making sure you did the right thing. Most waiter manuals say its bad form to take a paid check of the table before the customer leaves. That’s crazy. I always check the bill before a customer walks out the door. Why? To make sure there are no problems. I can’t tell you how many times the customer has taken BOTH credit card slips. It also helps to embarrass the shit out of some tightwad who’s stiffed me on the tip. I position myself at the front door when they leave and say “Oh thank you for the nice tip sir!.” Asshole. Don’t come back.

18. Don’t think the check is the credit card slip! Customers, usually smashed out of their minds, think they’ve handed me their plastic and sign the bill thinking it’s the credit card receipt. Hold on! I need the credit card FIRST Einstein. Don’t make me chase you!

19. Repeat after me. The yellow copy’s yours. The white one’s mine. The yellow copy’s yours. The white one’s mine.

20. I say “Thank You.” You say “You’re welcome.”

21. Problems with the bill? Ask for a manager. Since I’m the manager at my place pray I’m in a good mood. Your rights as a customer?

a. Bill should be clearly itemized and legible. (Does not apply at Dim Sum restaurants)
b. Never pay for what you didn’t order.
c. If you see something on the bill you don’t understand you have every right to have the matter explained courteously to you.
d. If an establishment says it takes a certain credit card on the door than they have to take it. I ate at a French place once and paid with Amex. The waiter said, “We prefer Visa.” I said I saw an Amex logo on the door. “We still prefer Visa,” he said. “Well I prefer American Express,” I replied handing him the card. He ran it grudgingly. Tough shit pal. Some waiters can be assholes.

22. Paid up? Go home.

If you have any additional guidelines I didn’t think of feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Addendum

Ask for change. If you hand me a checkbook filled with cash tell me if you want money back. Sometimes this isn’t a problem. If you hand me two hundred dollar bills and the check’s $130 that’s a no-brainer. However, if you hand me a hundred dollar bill and the bill’s $80 am I assume you’re a great tipper? Should I keep it? Let your server know.


Comments

Check Please — 102 Comments

  1. It is really illegal for the owner to take the credit card fees out of the waiter’s tips? The resturant that I work at takes 3.5% of our charge tips towards paying the credit companies, so that it doesn’t come out of his pocket. please respond — schiano.nospam@gmail.com

  2. Ah, Waiter, I trust you to nurture my spirit, and when you use alla them bad words, I feel wounded, especially when I believe that THAT’s not the real true, great you!

  3. What’s the deal with free bread? One friend says it’s bad form to ask for a second (or third) basket. Other folks (including me) feel that at an expensive restaurant the stuff should keep coming. I understand it’s a hassle for the waiter-person, though. Thoughts?

  4. You know it sounds to me like you need to find another job, its your JOB to do what you do, it has its good days and bad, dont expect everyone to know your little do’s and dont’s and I personally dont care. Most waiters and waitresses anoy the hell out of me while i am trying to eat. If the service persons are nice and leave me alone, they get a tip, if you dont get a tip from me, its because the service sucked!! So feel free to stand at the door and make your smart ass comments, I will be sure to leave you a few of my own.
    Get a life and different job.

  5. I love these. A friend of mine is a waiter and once told me about people who tip while drunk and then call back the next day to ask for their tip back–and the manager did it! And then had the balls to go after the waiter to get him to reimburse the restaurant! Unbelievable.

    If I may though, I’d like to post a couple of rules for waiters:

    * No “you guys.” Unless the table is all men, do not refer to us as “you guys.”

    * No “Are you still working on that?” As a character in a recent Doonesbury complained, “It’s not some pile I’m trying to remove!”

    Thanks!

  6. Hi,

    Interesting comments, most of which i think should be common sense. But then I am constantly amazed at just how thoughtless and unaware of etiquette people can be.

    Fortunately in Australia we have this thing called “award wage”, which means that people can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be screwed over royally by their employers, and hence mostly removing the need for tipping as a means to supply a service employee with enough money to live. That said, i am a big fan of rewarding wait people for good service… It’s just common sense.

    If you plan on going back there, it’s in your best interest to treat the people who work there well.

    Like the somewhat appropriate adage goes… You don’t crap where you eat.

  7. A thought for rookie waiters:

    I normally pay in cash and am a good tipper. One thing that is good for everybody is when you bring me the change in denominations that help me to be a good tipper. Bring on the singles, yes seven of them. Thanks.

  8. Waiter Rant: Great post but to be honest anyone who wants to go to a decent restaurant should know these small set of rules! I agree with everything you said and I feel like you are doing a favor to those out there who don’t follow these rules! I’ve known these rules since I was a child!

    Pissed Off Comment Writers: Wake up people! You should be thanking Waiter Rant for what he’s doing! He’s merely enlighten those of you who need a little lesson on what to do!

    My Thoughts: I wish there were more blogs like this cause it seems like there are many people who don’t know what to do in specific situations and are affraid to ask! Keep up the good work!

  9. These should definitely be posted in every restaurant, even though they’re all common courtesy.

    I think the golden rule for both customers and waiters is to treat each other like you want to be treated.

  10. I always tip but sometimes I don’t see why. Even with a fairly quick waiter there’s a latency in getting more chips or drink refills; if they’d let me serve myself I could do it faster.

    It’s like valet parking. You pay someone to take longer to retrieve your car than you could have yourself. what!?

  11. Two things that would make every dining experience better for me:

    It’s not rude to drop the check without being asked for it. I *hate* asking for the check. This is not the same everywhere and in fact, I think it’s only New York where one has to explicitly ask. You can feel free to ask if it’s OK to drop it if you’ve asked if we’re all set, ready for another round, etc. and we’ve declined.

    Secondly, always always always bring change, no matter what. It’s up to me to decide your tip, not you. You know what happens when you assume, right?

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    Signed, a former but prolific waiter

  12. I’ve waited tables before, although never in a high-pressure setting like NYC, but one thing that I never understood was the “always tip in cash” concept. Where I worked, I always walked away at the end of the night with all my tips in cash. So the only reason I ever understood for my co-workers preferring tips in cash was so that they didn’t have to declare them. Maybe there’s another reason that I’m not aware of, but if the only reason is so that the waiter can cheat the government and, by extension, all the other tax-paying citizens (including me!), I don’t really have any sympathy for that position.

  13. I agree with the previous commenter on two matters:
    a) I think that if you ask if we want anything else and we say no, it’s a pretty good sign that we want the bill (although I agree with you that it doesn’t hurt for us to say “just the cheque/bill, please” and that there is no sin in asking for it when we are ready to leave).
    b) I definitely agree with the previous poster that your addendum is way off – we should never have to ask for change; the presumption should be that we’ll get it. If we want you to keep the change, we should say so when you take our money. I also agree with a previous poster that if you bring the change in denominations that makes it easier for us to leave a tip, it is better for everyone.

  14. A tip for waiters on credit/debit card rejection – don’t be a dick about it, because there’s a very good chance that it’s not the customer’s fault. I’ve seen the machines malfunction, had bank systems screw up, and had it not work at all when the “lines are busy”. Most people have alternative ways to pay, so try not to embarass them by assuming they’re just too poor.

    I think everyone should have the experience of being a waiter/waitress (waitron??) at least once in their lives so they know what it’s like.

  15. It may help too to let customers know that if they are done with their meal to place all eating utensils on their plate; this tells the waiter/waitress you are done and she doesn’t have to worry about taking your plate while you are still picking at it for over an hour; this will help clear the table faster, and she does not have to interrupt your conversation.

  16. Let me tell you something. If you stood at the door and commented on the tip that I left you you’d be the one left feeling like a dumbass not me. If I don’t tip there’s usually a reason for it. Service in the restaraunt industry is shity at best. Most managers don’t have a good idea of what their doing and the wait staff is a bunch of clowns. There is nothing better, however, than going to a place to eat and getting top notch service . . . I don’t care if you’re at applebees or a five star.

  17. Lordy, lordy. A good, informative, and needed post, and while there are a good many attaboy’s, there are way, way too many asshats replying with a pissy, whiney ‘fuck you, you’re not the boss of me’ – if you don’t like it, then these rules certainly don’t apply to you. Go back to McFatass and eat your fill, no tipping needed.
    That said, I don’t always tip 15%. I tend to tip based on the level of service I receive. Really, really bad service? Nada. Not quite up to par, but still good? 15-20%. If I can’t think of anything I would complain about to my friends? 20-40%. I believe in rewarding the people that make my dining experience enjoyable. Those that make me not want to go back to a restaurant, I give them a not-so-subtle hint that they may be in the wrong business.
    I still can’t believe there are people that think that tipping isn’t necessary. And get angry when told that it should be! Back when I worked in the service industry, when given a bad tip, I would quite happily give it back to them, chasing them into the parking lot if needed. “Here, you can have this back. You need it more than me, obviously.”

  18. I am a recovering waitron (15 years of bliss) and can say these tips are sensible and totally right on. Bravo.

    Oh, and as for Mr. “Get a life and different job,” fuck off and go back to reading your Sharper Image catalog.

  19. Listening to waiters bitch is like listening to doctors complain that they don’t make enough money. I really don’t care.

    I love it when waiters act so smug b/c they they know the “rules” of eating out while the customers are such cretins. Hey, waiter, if you’re so smart, why don’t you get another job. Oh, you can’t.

  20. awesome and so true! on the flip side, tho, a couple of waitron pet peeves:

    1. someone already posted this, but it bears reiterating: i am not “working” on my food. im eating it. thanks.

    2. the converse of the guest that doesnt leave, is the waitron who doesnt bring the check. when im done, i want to GO. after ive said ‘just the check, please,’ BRING IT! dont dawdle around pouring water for other customers, announcing specials, smoking, whatever. finish clearing the table AFTER i leave. never leave a guest who wants to pay waiting. bring the check, keep your eye out for the signal (the cash/card sticking out, the upright checkbook, etc), take it and process the card or change. pronto.

    many thanks!

  21. As a recovering waiter, I’d add this:

    When a waiter asks you if you’d like a refill on your drinks and you’re only halfway through the current one. Say Yes. They’re telling you it’s busy and they’ll time it so you’re not dry or double fisting.

  22. Interesting and insightful comments.

    Here’s a few tips from a longtime customer (and high tipper) to wait staff:

    1. Fill my drink, be it a soft drink, liquor, coffee, or just water. Sometimes it’s hard, I know. If it’s busy I’m forgiving. But if it’s been 30 minutes and I’m done with my meal without having a single refill, each minute takes off a percentage from your otherwise high tip.

    2. Don’t talk to your work buddies in front of me – especially when you have things to do on my table. We all goof off at work, it’s a fact of life. But if you’re flirting with another waiter on the floor, or telling a long joke with the kitchen staff through the door, someone you’re serving is going to think you’re wasting their time. I’ve had several instances in the places with the open kitchens where I see our entire table’s food waiting for us while the waiter was chit-chatting with the kitchen staff.

    3. Listen, dammit.

    4. Apologize when something is wrong. If the kitchen gets an order wrong, or the food is burned, or it’s taken an unusually long time for th efood, don’t blame it on the kitchen staff or even the management. I’m not tipping them, I’m tipping you. To me, you’re the restaurant, and so the problem is your’s: deal with it. In the very least, apologize, then fix it. The best places I’ve been tend to apologize profously and even offer a free desert (or something like it), even when they don’t need to. A genuine apology is enough for me.

    5. Dont’ count the tip while I’m still in sight. It’s awkward, even if I’ve tipped you well.

    6. Realize that sometimes you might have gotten the order wrong. As a vegetarian I never order meat. So when I get a completely different plate, that has meat in it, I know someone besides me has made a mistake. Yet on more than one occasion I’ve received the non-believing look and “Ooohhhkkkkaaay” from a waiter who is clearly thinking that I am an ass. There are times when clearly it is the customer’s fault (the customer is not always right). But more often it’s uncertain who made the mistake, and when that happens you should assume it was you, or at least act like it. If the customer’s a jerk about it, fine. But I’m a really nice, patient, understanding guy, and if I’m treated like an ass when it was probably the waiter’s mistake, I’m not tipping well, and I’m not coming back.

    7. Don’t talk down to me, talk _with_ me. If I don’t understand the menu, or don’t know what a certain kind of food is, don’t talk to me like I should have known since birth. Be congenial, friendly but professional. In the kind of restaurant where you can, laugh with me, and talk to me at eye-level. Studies have shown that wait staff who offer their name, who are friendly, who bend down to talk to the table and (especially to kids) always receive higher tips. Clearly there are restaurants where this is in appropriate, but if you can you should.

    Finally:

    8. Be a nice guy, and think of the instances where you were a customer and needed something, whether it was on the phone with your cell company, at a repair shop getting your car fixed; whatever. If you’re having a bad day, you shouldn’t show it me. We all get bad days, and fate usually determines that we have to work on those days. If it’s a bad enough day that you can’t act friendly and professional ask off.
    I’m not asking for a pushover wait staff, but I think that waiters could be more understanding of customers. A few of your comments – like the one on the credit card declines – show you could do this as well. People are like you: they sometimes forget to pay credit cards, or sometimes the card has been stolen, or sometimes they have splurged. So what. They’re humans, like you. You shouldn’t look down on them for that.

    Whew.

    I have a few questions:

    * Why the problem with subsidizing the bill with a friend? Isn’t that what friends do anyway? Subsidize each other?

    * I read an article here from a waitress who hated it when people asked for her name and used it. She saw it as demeaning. How do you feel about name-usage?

  23. Just a small addition to the paying by credit card rules.

    Sign the slip!!! I can’t tell you how many people don’t. If a customer contests the charge and there is no signature then they don’t have to pay it.

  24. Just curious. What are the rules for tipping. I’ve always tipped on the amount before taxes. Is this correct? Or have I been unknowingly stiffing hard working waiters/waitresses?

  25. You know, most people commenting negatively saying “get a job, goto hell, etc” are probably people who never served a day in their life. I’m a college student and the quickest way to cash for me is to wait tables. I’m sure, for these commenters, mommy and daddy gave them money throughout college. Get over yourself.

  26. interesting, the ones asking for the magic “15%” and above are those who are, or at one time were, waitors – interesting

  27. Your rule about “knowing when it’s time to leave” — I see your point, but this is one of the least attractive aspects of American restaurant culture. In civilized countries, restaurants expect customers to lounge around talking & perhaps smoking for hours after the meal.

  28. I don’t want to ask for the check. It’s pretty obvious when I am done – no more food on my plate, napkin on the table, etc. Just bring the check. If for some reason I’m not ready to leave, I’ll let the check sit there until I am ready, which is much easier for me than trying to flag down the waiter when I am ready to pay. In return, I always make the credit card or cash stick out enough to be easily seen.

    As far as rejected credit cards, if it hasn’t happened to you for reasons unrelated to your balance, you haven’t been using a credit card very long. I’ve been rejected, called the credit card company to find out why, only to discover they never received a request for authorization, much less rejected it. Glitches happen.

    Finally, a question. What’s the general consensus for tipping in a mostly self-service buffet type of restaurant? Here in L.A. we have Souplantation, Hometown Buffet, various Chinese buffets, etc. where we get our own food, but staff clears plates and may fill drinks. Not quite busboys, not quite waiters. Any thoughts?

  29. “i’m like a stripper…” i think that’s my favorite line in that entire post because all i could think about was a bunch of hot waiters lined up on a stage in nothing but aprons and ties.

    ;)

  30. Oh yeah, all of us leaving negative comments are the big bad people who’ve been fed with a silver spoon? How ’bout just the opposite . . . we’ve worked in the industry and have a clue about how to take care of the customer. Remember . . . employees need to be trained no the customer.

  31. Insofar as the tipping above and beyond the already-included gratuity — I do that sometimes, on purpose, when I feel the service has rated it. Don’t tell me I’m an idiot for doing it; I am under no obligation to do so. I have an appreciation for customer service people, being one myself, and I try to make a point of giving what rewards I can when they do a superlative job.

  32. Although I am not fond of the “American” way of dining, I am used to it. My least favorite part of the meal is the five minutes after I receive my food while I wait for the server to return and ask how everything is, when I have either a mouth full of food, or I have only taken one bite! Argh, I’ll let you know if these’s a problem, really I will. And I don’t mind asking for the check when I want it, as long as I can find someone to ask>

  33. ugh. i can’t stand foreigners commenting on american ways of life. if you don’t like it, seriously, go home. i don’t think anyone would care. and your comment just stands out in that long list of stereotypical foreign (usually british) actions. you think you’re so much higher than everyone else.

    i hate brits.

    i enjoyed this article. although i find it hard to enjoy articles where people complain about anything, so that’s really saying soemthing ;)

  34. Coming from a country with no tradition of tipping (New Zealand), tipping is still a bit confusing for me. I had thought tipping was meant to be like a bonus for particularly good service, but I’ve also heard that waiter depend on tips as a basic part of their wages – which one is more correct?

    Personally, I’d be much more willing to tip the chef than the waiter, but that’s just me…

  35. When I was a kid, I waited tables for awhile, and today I am a good tipper and generally a good customer. There are two things I expect and very rarely get from the waiter. 1. Leave me alone when I’m involved in a hearty discussion with my co-diners, but just automatically refill my coffee; 2. Remember who ordered what! It’s not that hard. Why does the waiter have to ask, “Who ordered the ….?” Do your job and remember or make a note of who ordered what. One more thing, I so hate it when the waiter sits down at my table to chat. Who are you? Why are you sitting here? Do you actually think you are a stripper?

  36. Excellent read. For those commenters who complained, this blog’s called WaiterRant. Did you miss the word rant, or do you just need a dictionary?

    I agree with a couple comments that I’d like to reiterate for waiters everywhere:

    Bring the damn check. While I understand that there may be differences from one region to another, in California I have been to two or three establishments where getting the check is like pulling teeth. I always attribute this to poor attentiveness by the wait staff, and it almost always affects the tip. Hello? I’ve been finished for 15 minutes here. Hi? Hello?! I’m trying to make eye contact with someone…ANYONE! See me waving my arms in the air? (Yes, seriously, I had to do this once.) Give me my damn check! Let me pay you and leave! There is one excellent Mexican restaurant (the food is excellent, the service is excellent until I need the check) where I have always — every single time — had to flag someone down to ask for the check, or even go up to the register to ask for it. I often go to this place alone, so it seems ridiculous to assume that they didn’t want to disturb me after I was finished. I’ve literally been done with my food for 10 or 15 minutes, plates removed, sitting there bored and looking at waiters as they walk by, and waiting for the check.

    Don’t interrupt me. I really appreciate you asking how the food is, is everything all right, etc. Just don’t butt in with the question when I’m in the middle of a sentence, talking to my friend. Hover for a heartbeat, we’ll see you and look up. Don’t be rude. My conversation is more important than your question.

    Common sense isn’t. Several commenters marveled that these rules needed to be pointed out at all. C’mon people. Do you really believe “most people” know these things? “Most people” don’t know their own congressman, fercryinoutloud.

    And a question for anyone: A waitress friend of mine (and don’t use non-words like waitron, that’s just pathetic) informed me that it’s better to tip in cash even if you pay by credit, because (in California, at least) the state taxes affect tips paid by credit card more than those paid in cash. And no, she wasn’t suggesting that because tips paid in cash went unreported to the Taxman. Does anyone else know about this, or how the rules vary from state to state?

  37. * if the waiter has to refill your drink before the appetizer arrives, leave. If 2 drinks are finished before the entree, leave. it ain’t a restaurant, it’s a friggin bar.

  38. More helpful tips for waiters:

    I’m Hungry and Thirsty! Bread, water, and menus NOW! Aggravation increases with hunger and thus tip decreases. Don’t bring bread then water 10 minutes later then menus 10 minutes after that. Happy customer = bread + water + menu NOW!

    Don’t make us repeat ourselves Where the f*ck is our water? I asked you 3 times already! WATER! THRISTY! AGUA AQUI, PRONTO!!!

    Don’t interrupt our conversations!Pause for just a second so we can pause the conversation and answer your question.

    You are not the French Laundry so get over yourself.

  39. i worked in the restaurant business for years. i understand that this is your little spot on the net to rant about your job, but… when i got to the point where you’re at, this damn cranky, i knew it was time to swap jobs with the dishwasher for a few months and get away from john q. public. it’ll show in your tips if you’re not a happy camper.

  40. Hey buddy, I got a tip for you. Get an education. Then you wont have to beg or steal cash from people just for doing your job.

  41. Several comments:

    1) Your use of the word “checkbook” is confusing. I think I figured out that you mean the little plastic book owned by the restaraunt, that the check comes in. But others might think you are talking about oddball customers who use their own personal checkbooks as holders for cash. Anyone who thinks that’s what you meant will dismiss your comments as not applying to them.

    2) It would be nice if you explained should the tip be calculated based on the pretax bill, or the bill with tax. It makes a difference sometimes, albeit small.

    3) What’s this about “I say thank you.. you say you’re welcome”??? In my opinion people who are in a win-win relationship should say thank you to each other, not thank you, you’re welcome. It always irks me no end when people who are clearly receiving service say “you’re welcome” to people who thank them for enjoying that service. It’s very arrogant. Sure, the patron is honoring the establishment with his/her presence. But not to the point that we need to get into a groveling relationship. You thank me; I thank you.

  42. What to base tip on?
    When I was young (years ago), I was taught to tip on pre-tax bill, excluding drinks! With a $40 bottle of wine, that means an $8 difference in the tip. I tip including the bar bill. What are the expectations? What’s right? Also, I support that the waiter should remember who ordered what and not ask who gets what. That’s bush. When they remember who ordered what, without asking, that’s good for an extra couple of dollars on my tip.

  43. Any waiter worth his salt learns to figger oot who’s sitting where and to delineate their meals , drinks and, therefore, their bills from the moment any group up to six sits down. Even if they move around. So cry me a river and then learn some basics.
    Anyhew; a word to the consumer – if there is something wrong with your meal -underdone, overcooked, you hate wasabi mash fusions, whatever; PLEASE SAY SO DURING THE MEAL. We build these unfortunate events into our food costs so you can enjoy your meal and go tell your friends to come check us out. Your satisfaction is our future success. If you tell me, your server, at the end of the meal; then you’ve wasted both our time. If you take it out on me verbally or out of my wallet through lack of gratuity; I am left feeling confused, lost, or filled with confused, lost hatred towards you. Why not just say it so we can attempt to make it right for you? It won’t take long and you’ll look like a champ for holding out for what you would like to pay for!
    Oh, and please stop showing up drunk for your meals – you may feel like champs, but when you get belligerent in the middle of the meal because your butter isn’t soft; you look like a chump and I and my abilities will bail on you in a heartbeat so you can deal with a floor manager that hasn’t served a table since the good ole days of ’78.
    Cheers; a six star waiter in a five star restaurant in a seven star ski town.

  44. When my kids were little, they would always manage to get about half their meal on the floor. Im not a waiter but I would always pick up after my kids. Even though its the bus boys job to clean up, I dont think he should have to pick up drool covered bitter biscuits from my kids. I would also overtip if they leave a mess.

  45. Ask for change. If you hand me a checkbook filled with cash tell me if you want money back.

    Hey, no fair. Surely the correct approach is for the waiter to just ask Do you need change? Making me ask for change makes me sound like a cheapskate in front of my companions.

    Regarding declined credit cards, I once had mine declined in a restaurant because the buggers at Visa had sent me a new one and had automatically put a stop on the old one. Bastards. I’d only been living in the US about a year and only had one card.

  46. oh, and a word aboot tipping; if I may. Generally, oot here on the left coast of Canader, eh!; the servers have a wee little issue to deal with at the end of our shift called ‘tipping oot’. This involves leaving stipends of our hard earned tips to all of the lovely people who enabled us to serve you the customer. In our case – 1% to the bar, 1% to the hostess, 1 1/2% to the busboy. ,5% to the kitchen and 1% to the manager on duty. So; the $15 the basic, happy customer leaves on the table is automatically $10 to the server at the end of their shift. I know many other cultures (Europeans, Japanese, French Canadians, Teachers, Real Estate Agents) are seemingly unaware of general tipping guidelines as their service staff are all paid a straight wage across the board – i.e. the bus boy makes the same as the barstaff. Just a quick addendum to let you know the horrible truth.
    Cheers! Same waiter, same restaurant, same ski town

  47. I disagree on the matter of asking for change. If I put down cash I expect change and it should be returned without question. If I intend the entire amount to cover bill and tip, I will say so.

    If I have to ask for my change back, it makes me look like a money-grubber. It puts focus on the money and takes away from the overall dining experience. It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding the particular restaurant and server.

    If the server asks if I want change back, it makes the server sound presumptuous and greedy, and can result in a lower than anticipated tip. I’ve noticed this mostly with younger servers, not the old pros.

    (No, missy, you are not getting a 67% tip. Bring me my damn change.)

    If the server were to say “I’ll be right back with your change,” it gives me the opportunity to say no change needed, or thank you, as the case may be.

  48. I don’t buy #2. Seriously, who really considers it rude for the waiter to bring the check at at a reasonable time after you’ve finished eating? And it’s not hard to tell what a “reasonable” amount of time is. We’re all adults here, you can figure it out. It’s a cop-out to put the onus on customers to always have to ask for the check… be pro-active and pay attention to when we’re done eating!

  49. As a Chef for 16 years I say give me a break. Waitstaff for the most part are pathetic. I lost count of how many times a waiter/watitress screwed up an order then blames me… (the kitchen staff). Take some responsibility for yourself already. As to Tipping you get what you deserve, I tip usually in the 15 to 20 percent range but if you suck at your job.. or I am waiting on things throughout the entire meal… then you anit getting shit. If you rock.. then you get up to 50%. Gee go figure. As to the splitting of the tips… VERY few restaurant that I have worked in or any one that I know works in tip out that much… a busboy gets maybe 5 bucks the dishwasher gets 3 to 5. The waiter pockets the rest. It doesn’t matter if ou are in a Diner or a 5 star… Plus the few that do require a waiter/tres to tip the kitchen it is usually a straight amount… I.E. $5 for the shift… NOT a percentage. and the ENTIRE kitchen staff splits that aamount… AND the wiater whines about that much give me a break… if it wasn’t for the kitchen staff you wouldn’t have shit.
    Also alot of the time I eat out… I am sitting waiting on getting me food… while the server is standing around talking/joking with there friends/co-workers, While my order sits under a heat lamp… let me tell you they keep food WRAM not HOT, hey look another reason that your tips will drop… don’t expect me to tip well for luck-warm food and crappy service.
    If the customers bother you so much change businesses… just don’t try and get into the kitchen you will be even more incompetent then you are already.

  50. Great list. My best friend is a waiter and these are the same sorts of things I hear him talk about.

    I do agree, though, that some waitstaff needs a list of rules. I’ve been asked for the tip, overcharged on purpose (after being lied to about a price), and then had the tip kept off the top of my change–all in one sitting. The girl’s manager tried to support her actions (“well, she only makes 2-something an hour” So?). I know not all waiters are that way, but the ones that are tend to be the ones we remember.

  51. If you have a problem with the food, TELL ME!

    Don’t sit there and whine and moan and fume like some kind of pussy, and then leave me with a shitty tip as some kind of punishment.

    Grow up! Explain your problem, and I will try to take care of it.

  52. I think that most of the comment here simply reflect common courtesy and common sense. While there are some bad waiters, most deserve the tips they get and work hard for them.

    One suggestion: I usually leave at least 15% tip unless the service is noticeably bad. In that case, don’t leave no tip…the waiter probably thinks that you forgot. Instead, leave a very low tip like 1 or 2% if the service was really bad. Then there is no doubt that the waiter knows he/she provided bad service. Waiters might not like this, but I only do it in extreme circumstances.

  53. Thanks for the tip in cash tip, I never knew restaurants were taking some of that money for the cc charge. That’s just horrible.

    My one request of waiters and waitresses is to please bring my drinks and appetizers before the actual meal. Chances are if my appetizer comes with my meal, i just won’t want it anymore.

  54. While I agree with much of what you said – I think it is overshadowed by your condescending tone. I also recognize that this site is called waiter rant but you cant expect anyone to either take you seriously or put into use the information provided.

    I have worked as wait staff before, i know it sucks when people do annoying stuff and tip you little or nothing. The Golden Rule applies to everyone though. I tip 20% even when I dont like the service. Truth be told – much of the waitstaff I’ve been waited on by recently have all been terrible. The simple things such as keeping my drink filled are so easily missed. I dont drink a whole lot during my meal, so if my drink gets low – there is definitely a problem.

    My biggest pet peave is when the waitstaff chooses not to write down my order and then when it gets screwed up because they were to lazy to write it down and then gives me the dirty look.

    Here’s the Caveat Venditor for you – if you treat me like I’m below you, in the end only you will suffer.

  55. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t been said yet. The smoothest way I’ve seen for the change vs tip question is for the person taking the money to say, “I’ll be right back with your change.” That gives the customer an opening to clarify intent: “O.K.” or “Keep it.”

  56. Ah yes, common conventions are the lubricant of a well ordered society, but the tone of this rant is way off base. Sure a restaurant may be a business, but it’s in the business of hospitality…or is it the trendier spots that are in the business of rude? and 2. the waiter serves and the diner is served.

  57. I eat fast, I admit it. But I’m tired of waiters who, when they take my empty plate away, ask if they can get my companion – girlfriend, friend, etc. – a box to “take that home,” when they (my fellow diner) are clearly just in the middle of their meal and even have a bite of food on their fork! WTF? I’m also tired of waiters who ask if “we” want dessert under those same circumstances. Look, it’s the LAST person at the table to finish his/her meal who determines when it’s appropriate to offer take-home boxes, dessert, etc., not the FIRST. This is common sense and common courtesy. To be fair, I don’t think all waitstaff do this to intentionally speed me out the door; some are just overzealous. In fact, unless they’ve been downright rude to us, that person will still get my usual tip, which is about 20-23%. But this poor practice is something that waitstaff and their managers should be more conscientious of.

  58. 1. Know when it’s time to leave
    If you want to put a time limit on our stay, feel free to let us know when we walk in the door so we can choose to patronise your competitor instead.
    Otherwise, we’ll leave when we’re damn well ready.

    2. Ask for the check
    Just drop off the check with desert/coffee or immediately after we say “No thanks” when you ask if we want any.
    Anyone offended by this is an idiot.

    3/4. Don’t fight over who’s (not) paying the bill
    None of your damn business how we decide to negotiate the bill paying.
    But anyone who drags you into it is an ass.

    6. Let your server know the check is ready
    My god, man, haven’t you been a waiter for long?
    The standard signal is: YOU stand it on end and I’ll lay it down (preferably at the edge of the table) when I’m done with it.
    If it’s still standing up, I obviously haven’t touched it yet.

    8. PAY IN CASH!
    Hello?!? It’s the 21st frigging century. Cash is dead. Get over it.

    9. Dine and Dash
    Any employer who makes his waiters pay for a dine’n'dash should be shot.
    This should NOT be your problem.

    12. Don’t subsidize your friend’s meal
    Again, none of your damn business.

    13. THE TIP
    Where did you get this “15% and up” bullshit?
    15% is for standard service. Add or subtract from there based on quality.
    But I’ve got low standards. If you merely manage take my order promptly and refill my water/soda without prompting, you’re getting 20%.
    But slow or bitchy service (or multiple screwups in the order) do NOT earn you 15%.

    17. Making sure you did the right thing
    If you’re the type of person to snidely bitch at the customer about a bad tip, you’re likely the type of person to have rightly EARNED a bad tip.

  59. 1%+1%+1.5%+0.5%+1%=5%

    95% (your cut) of $15 is $14.25 not $10.

    If you could do basic math, then you might not be stuck waiting tables.

  60. While I do not dissagree with the opinions you have posted I do dissagree with the fact that you expect the general public to understand what only an insider in the service industry could understand. We, and yes I have been a bartender and waiter for more than 11 yoears, are here to provide a service. The rewards, ie, “tips” we recieve are due to a job well done. The amount of the tip is not important on a customer to customer basis. We all have bills to pay and if those needs are met at the end of the month then that is a job well done. I myself have been very well rewarded over the years by being honest and working very hard, I am very good at what I do and my customers let me know that on a regular basis. I have fed my children and supported an ex-wife in the process. I find it humorous that you need to rant to the general public about things that only concern those of us in the business. Bitch to your friends and coworkers and do the best job you can. The public in general will never understand how hard and stressful the job we have is and we would be fools to expect any different. I believe that to think otherwise is unreasonable and narrow minded. Take the money and run. Have a beer or four after work and blow it off like the rest of us… See you at AA in a few years. Best of luck to all of us and may the cashflow never stop…

  61. What a load of crap. Here’s what I hate as a customer – and I tip well when deserved –
    1. Write down my order. I don’t care if youthink you have a great memory, write it down so I can feel confident you actually got my order. 9 times out of 10, if you didn’t write it down – it gets messed up.

    2. Don’t ask me how we’re doing. My wife/friends and I are fine. I don’t know how you are.

    3. What’s up with having twelve different people bring me different parts of my order? Who the hell am I supposed to tip?

    4. If I ask for a refill, don’t wait until I’ve finished my meal. Just get it.

    5. When my meal is messed up (read number 1.) don’t give me excuses. Just fix it. And an offer to fix the situation would be nice.

    6. When I pay cash for a bill, DO NOT ask if I want change. Just bring it to me. As a waiter YOU should not EXPECT a tip. You should EARN it. So with that, there should be no assumption that you’ll get one. It makes you seem like less of a tool.

    I work in a servicde industry too and the CUSTOMER is king. Quit whining and do a good job. I rely on treating my customers well to earn my living – you should too.

    Now to everyone out there – if you do get good service – which is becoming rarer allthe time – be sure to let the manager know. This way, there is a further reward for the waiter and perhaps they will stay around. I will go out of my way to let a manager know if my waiter has done an excellent job.

  62. I’m a waiter and I have been for five years.

    I make good money at it. TOO GOOD.

    I’m sorry if what I’m about to say comes off as rude, but I feel that I can say it, as I am, as stated, a fellow server:

    SERVERS NEED TO QUIT WHINING.

    Think about it: our job is soooooo easy compared to a cook’s. or a dishwasher’s. ESPECIALLY when you factor in how many hours they work and how little money they make!!!

    Some customers are quirky. Some like to stay a while. Who are you to tell them to leave — after all, they just paid WAY too much money for a meal that probably didn’t even fill them up, and they had to throw a damn extra 20% on top of that!

    Expecting a customer to know all these little esoteric things about the restaurant business is, in my opinion, just plain greedy and short-sighted and ignorant.

    Keep in mind that I totally relate to what you’ve said in this post. And yeah, of course I do my fair share of complaining concerning customers. But all in all, when I step back and look at the situation, when I get home four hours before the cooks are finally done scrubbing the floors, when I’m counting the $200 I average on a good Friday night, I realize that being a waiter spoils a person. I’m not saying you’re spoiled, but perhaps you should put things into perspective.

    On a positive note: I really like your writing.

  63. Here is a major rule for the wait staff… When I pay in cash, NEVER EVER NEVER ask if I want change back! That is about the rudest comment you could make, and it happens quite often. When it does happen, I always reduce the tip.

  64. I was 8 years a server, now 8 years since. I understand the frustration. I was lousy when I started, got much better with training at better restaurants through this career.

    What I took away, which helps me evaluate service now, as a patron (keeping in mind USA service):

    Deliver the check immediately after the end of the customer’s meal. Prompt service during the meal followed by a long wait for a check is frustrating.
    NEVER ask if a customer wants change, the customer will tell you if they do not.
    Customer should never have an empty glass. Anticipate, at least with water, and try to pick an appropriate time to check on bar drinks.
    Ask once about the food, soon after it is delivered, e.g. to make sure the steak is cooked properly, then keep an eye on but do not hover, even at the end of your shift.
    Serve equally well for a small order as a large one, you never know what repeat customers you generate from a few words or actions.
    Finally, remember that many people think that your job consists of simply taking orders, and bringing food to the table. They don’t realize the multitasking, labourous sidework and cleaning, and 10 hour shifts on your feet. Or the fact that you are basically working on commisson, with 95% of your paycheck consisting of tips.
    I agree with much of what you said, and commend you on trying to make the dining out experience better for all.
    Smile~~

  65. One thing was said about writing down an order. Many restaurants do not allow order books. They require that the server memorizes the order at the table.

    Same with sitting down next to the customer. That is not the server’s fault or arrogance. It’s the way management trained them.

    You tip your server, they will “tip out” the food runners and bartenders who help them deliver the food to your table on time.

    I think it was “hi rev” who said servers “can’t” get a better job. You are exactly the person the rant was directed to. A server is not a slave. Professional service is rewarding.It’s really a pleasure to provide a happy dining experience. This has nothing to do with “smartness”.
    I expect that you are justly compensated for whatever work it is that you do and would like to see the same for the persons who serve you dinner. In my home, I expect standards of conduct, like politeness and cleaning up after oneself. For me, these do not change when I am in a restaurant. What about you?

  66. Don’t expect me to ask for the check. When I’m having dinner with friends, the last thing I want to do is disengage from the conversation so I can be constantly scanning the dining room looking for my server to flag him/her down. Just ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?”. I may answer “Just the check” or I may simply say No. They mean the same thing.

    My biggest rant is when meals for the table are not served at the same time. Last week we went to a place that served my children’s meals so quickly that they actually finished before we even got our entrees. We had 3 options, 1) Have our meal constantly interrupted as we tried to entertain our kids to keep them from bouncing off the walls from boredom. 2) Wolf down our meals as quickly as possible. 3) Just put the entrees immediately into a to-go box and have it cold at home. All 3 options make for a miserable dining experience. All are easily avoided with a savvy server.

  67. As a former server and having been in the business for 20 years I feel that servers need to be aware of the fact that the guests comming into the restaurant are how we get paid. Just so you know(Guests) servers only recieve around 2.00 to 3.90 per hour. Depending on the restaurant and the server we may not get a check at the end of the week. We live solely on our tips. That said we as servers need to make sure that all of the needs of the guest are taken care of. Perfect service to me is when the guest dosen’t have to ask for anything throught the meal. My biggest problem is with people who get great service then tip under 15%. The above rules, although kind of snooty and cocky in essence are true. (take out the swear words,all servers dont think that way) I enjoy the interaction with the people that come into my establishment. I want them to feel like they are dining in their own living room, they should feel that welcome and comfortable. If you can accomplish this you will have a busy restaurant. SERVERS…..the guest is the lifeblood of our restaurants….take care of their needs and you will be compensated. Take the good with the bad. Not everyone knows how to tip. Guests…..start at 18% not 15%. 15% has been the standard for 40 years ….this needs to change. Look at gas prices. Please let me know if anything is wrong with your experience BEFORE you leave. Taking it out in the tip or never returning doesn’t help me make changes to get better at my job. Silence only closes restaurants. Servers …..assume nothing…bring change. See above for any questions on this. Also, anticipate what the guest wants…them not asking for it increases your tip. I dont agree with the comparison of servers to strippers, we offer items for sale depending on your expectations, we are a store with FULL service…order what we offer snd enjoy, you get a bill either way. Great blog…..thanks for letting me rant. Randy

  68. I’d just like to add another comment here on how waitstaff should treat their customers.

    I’ve just moved to a new city (San Francisco) within the last couple weeks. I like to eat out, but I don’t know that many people here yet, so I regularly eat at restaurants on my own.

    If you seat me in a corner, or behind a pole or tucked away in an alcove or something, hiding me not only from everyone else, but also from decent service, I’m going to be annoyed. Think about it. I’m on my own, I want to look at what’s going on around me, because I have no stimulating dinner-conversation to keep me entertained.

    On top of that, I know you’re thinking that “my table” isn’t going to tip well, but you have no idea how well it’s going to tip 2 months from now when I bring back all my new friends to eat in your wonderful restaurant. Treat me poorly now, and you’ll never see me again.

    This has happened twice already, and so I have 2 less restaurants to take anyone back to, even though the food was great.

    Thanks for making the list of choices a little shorter jackasses.

  69. A “lesson in what to do”? the first time I take a “lesson” from a waiter….hit me.

    Also a tip is choice not mandatory. If you are a bad waiter then you don’t get a tip. Use it as a “Learning” experience

  70. I’m so glad I found your site! I posted a rant “Waiter’s are pieces of shit” June 1st. It centers on the vengence the customer is subject to for bad behavior.

    I’m linking you. Thanks!

  71. OMG that was too good. I used to be a waitress (and I have waited on every one of those people. I need to add these two:

    for customers – Yes, I know his wine glass is bigger than yours, but they have the same amount of wine in them. different wine = different glass. Quit crying about it.

    for waitstaff – don’t assume that because I am not the classiest person in the place that I don’t deserve the best treatment. Keep in mind that the rich are often cheap and those of us who have worked for $2/hr and depended on tips (waiters, hairdressers, etc) are usually the best tippers.

  72. To the mental giant who posted:

    “1%+1%+1.5%+0.5%+1%=5%
    95% (your cut) of $15 is $14.25 not $10.
    If you could do basic math, then you might not be stuck waiting tables.”

    Those tip-out percentages on the top line are for the entire bill amount, not the tip amount.

    The bill = $100
    tip = $15

    That means the bartender gets $1 (1%), the busboy gets $1, the chef gets $1.50, etc.

    The waiter ends up with $10, or 67% of what you thought you gave them.

    His math is stronger than yours.

    I would add one more thing to this rant:

    - If you have a coupon for a buy-one get-one, are there for the late-night 50% off special, whatever, you tip on what the bill would have been without it. The waiter worked just as hard.

    I’ve waited tables, and I never wish to again. I have done many things of high and low status, from working a farm to working in aerospace, medicine and academe. Only retail is harder than waiting.

    “Specialization is for insects.”
    -Heinlein

  73. Randy said : “Also, anticipate what the guest wants…them not asking for it increases your tip.”

    NO, it DECREASES the tip I give because I actually change soft drinks or don’t want any more sometimes. I HATE it when servers can’t let the CUSTOMER order for THEMSELVES. I don’t like it even if I want another refill, because I was NEVER asked or got a chance to ask them. I SHOULD get to decide that, not the server. For instance, I remember one time at Chilis the waitress brought refills without asking, I deducted from the 20% I was going to give her. If she can’t take those extra steps to make sure I WANT it in the first place, then she is LAZY.

    As far as asking for change, I WILL take off for that because that is implying “You’re going to get tipped.” Never ASSUME that. Tips have to be EARNED. Let the CUSTOMER decide for this too.

    Customers should be making these decisions, NOT the staff.

    I HATE when the staff is making decisions for me like bringing a check without asking first.

    anon said “Waiters who ask if “we” want dessert under those same circumstances. Look, it’s the LAST person at the table to finish his/her meal who determines when it’s appropriate to offer take-home boxes, dessert, etc., not the FIRST.”

    My husband and I sometimes have gotten dessert even though we didn’t eat all of our food. Some people actually want left overs. I say ALWAYS ASK, NEVER ASSUME.

  74. Being a waitress is often a very stressful job. Some days go smooth as silk, orders come out perfectly and timing is perfect and everyone is in the zone. Other days nothing ever goes right. Half the bus staff has called in, the cooks are having an off day, the hostess just caught her husband fooling around, and the bartender is taking an eternity to get your drink orders. Being proficent at your job means having to deal, keep a good sense of humor and trying not to let, if at all possible to effect your customers. Most people will be understanding if told difficulties are occuring. I detest when I go out to dine and everything is substandard with no explanation. I don’t need the gritty details, but just let me know it’s a rough night and let me see that you are trying hard. I think most people in the industry are trying to do a good job, but sometimes things are beyond your control.

  75. I’ll have to vote with the “bring the darn check already” croud. Once you’ve brought desert/coffee or we’ve declined it, nothing more will be added to the bill so bring it. I don’t feel I should need to send mysterious “signals,” that now is the time. I certainly don’t feel improperly rushed by the presence of the check on the table, and I do try to be aware if we’ve been hogging a table for a long time to tip extra. (although I’m aware that this doesn’t help the owner any)

  76. I have been a waitress for 8 years and the biggest thing that I hate is when I come to the table and you are on a cell phone, if I see you on one I will not come to the table untill you are done. I hate it when I say “hello” and no one and I mean no one knows I even there. And one more thing, people when your server asks you if you would like a drink, it means all and every possible liquid you can consume, not just boose. So don’t get mad at me when I come back and don’t bring you water. People when you go out to eat treat the person who will be taking care of you with respect and acknowlege their presents. thank you.

  77. Hey, I know this is a day late and a dollar short, what with the last comment having been posted in ’05, but I want to put my two cents in anyway.

    1. The 15% up thing is not something invented by waiters or the Waiter. It’s CUSTOMARY. This custom is reinforced by the fact that as waiters, we make a sub minimum wage. If you don’t get this or agree with it, cook your OWN DAMN MEAL.

    2. The kitchen staff actually makes an hourly rate, in some cases good, in some cases not so good. They are not among the tipped staff because they get more than minimum wage. If they don’t, the restaurant owner should be dragged through the street tied to the back of his SUV, tarred and feathered.

    3. If the guy who told Waiter to get a degree had actually read any of the blog other than this entry he would know that the man is educated, some might say over-educated.

    4. And finally, some customers do actually get pissed when you bring the check and they didn’t ask for it(even if they’ve declined drinks or desert). They feel like they’re being rushed out. Which they are. Just because you don’t mind doesn’t mean we can make that a policy.

  78. I love the comment about waiters cheating the government. By the way, Patrick, the government technically has no legal grounds to tax us. At all. There’s no law. People have sucessfully fought in court and not paid taxes. Its completely voluntary, but our loveley government likes to make us very uncomfortable should we choose to fight them.

    I make about 26K a year and the government takes over 20% of that. That’s right – at the end of the day, I worked over an hour and a half for someone else’s benefit. Every day. Which makes my yearly income just about 20k and that’s not enough to live. If I weren’t married, I’d be unable to support myself. On 20k. Now imagine having how much you earn based on idiots who tip you less than 10%.

    Patrick, I’m guessing you don’t tip a server unless they help you wipe your ass in the bathroom – assuming the bathroom is sparkling clean.

    I also love the comment about people who say tip 15% and up were waiters…uhm, no. My parents have always taught me to tip well becaue their parents were stuck in another time and still believe that $.25 per customer is an acceptable tip. They spent their adult lives leaving something at teh table for an excuse to go back and add to the tip. Neither ever waited tables – instead, they worked their asses off in shitty government jobs so they could have healthcare for me and my brother when we were young, put my father through graduate school, and now live comfortably upper class. My father tips a min. or 20% now.

    Growing up, he always told me not to order more than I could afford to tip well for.

    The rest of you need to stop taking this so seriously. He works in an upscale restaurnt. I’ve been to many where at least 18% is added whether you have a large group of just two. And its to cover to asses of people who get in over their heads trying to live above their means and tip shit to save money.

  79. “Growing up, he always told me not to order more than I could afford to tip well for.”

    Your father is very wise.

    I usually tip 20% or more, but I must say I don’t understand the people who say 15% used to be fine in the past but is now too low because things cost more now. The cost of dining out has also gone up, which means the tips have automatically risen at the same rate. In the past you’d get tipped $3 on a $20 dinner. Now you’d get tipped $9 on $60 dinner. What’s the problem?

    I guess these are the same people who don’t understand the concept of the flat tax.

  80. As much fun as reading this blog is, it is absolutely gut-churningly offensive to read some of the comments. It’s staggering, that so many people out there are just total and complete assholes with zero social graces and a complete inability to act like a human damn being, and pay people for their service. Jerks and scumbags.

  81. On the auto-gratuity for parties thing, I have one beef.

    An example for you as to why you might want to give extra to the server:

    A server has a 4-table section and your party of twelve is reserved for 3 of those. In my experience, those tables are held for an hour beforehand, so if your reservation was at 7, those tables were held at 6 or earlier. That’s 3 tables for one hour with no tips on them.

    Some or all of you arrive late or separately, and the party won’t order until all are present. People dump their stuff on the 4th table, making it unseatable. You order, eat, chat, etc. Large parties are rarely there less than 2 hours once lateness kicks in, so that’s 4 tables for 2 hours with one tip across all of them. If you cheap out (as many parties do) or have a lot of kids, or just don’t order much, or don’t drink alcohol, and your tab comes to $200, with the auto gratuity, the total tab is $230, including the $30 tip.

    3 tables held for one hour + 4 tables used for 2 hours = 11 tables that could have been seated and turned. If each of those 11 tables left only $5 each (and most of my tables tip more than that), then that’s $55 compared to your $30. If those tables tip $10 each (much more normal for me), then that’s $110 to your $30.

    Many times servers take a loss on parties. We do it because we have to. Sometimes we luck out, and the tab is big. Sometimes, we get tipped extra. Most of the time, not so much.

    I’m not saying that you have to, but a little extra on top of gratuity is very nice and makes us feel appreciated. Otherwise, a lot of parties make us feel like slaves.

  82. About the credit card declining thing, the bank I use has this new stupid identity protection thing. So if I spend more/les than usual they turn it off, if I go out of town and use it they turn it off, when I go back in town they turn it off, if someone in Michigan ate an orange for breakfast, they turn it off to “protec my identity” it’s embarressing, it’s inconvienient, and I’m sorry. But don’t assume I can pay, and I’ll apologize for the inconcienience but yes I do need to call my credit card company to get them to fix it.

  83. Here’s a rule for you:

    Please for the love of GOD think twice before you bring small children into a nice restaurant. At the very least call ahead to find out how they can accommodate children. I work in a relatively upscale Greek restaurant that is happy to have you bring your children along, but that does little in terms of menu items to cater toward children.

    There’s nothing more aggravating than approaching a table of screaming toddlers, and having the exasperated parents ask “Do you have a children’s menu?” The answer is no, this is not McDonald’s. And if we DID have a kids menu it would have been given to you when you were seated, along with our regular menu. If you don’t see it on the table, you aren’t getting one.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone demand “Well, what can you do for kids then!” While I want to respond that I know a few kids in high school that babysit, I simply reply that we can do a small plain pasta, possibly a burger or small pizza from the lunch menu if the kitchen isn’t slammed. Maybe some plain grilled chicken. And we only have Greek fries, not French Fries (this generally sends toddlers into fits of “I dont WANT Greek fries I only want FRENCH fries.”) If you’re kids wont eat the food at the restaurant you chose, leave them at home.

  84. I LOVE this blog! Unless you are a complete jerk-off wait-person, you will get 20% tip or MORE from me. I worked in a fast food restaurant when I was a teen & saw the dark side of humanity. You have to work very hard to piss me off. That said, you will always get a very good tip from me if you 1) wait on me right away–at least for drinks, 2) keep my drinks re-filled without me having to ask, 3) bring my food in a reasonable amount of time–HELLO! I’ve worked in a restaurant! It doesn’t take 45 minutes (even in a BUSY place) to serve hamburgers and french fries, or tacos. AH! HA! Here’s a BIG ONE you might want to know about::::I don’t have any kids! I don’t want any kids! I would rather deal with smokers, pets, or anything other than KIDS!!! DO NOT SEAT ME NEAR obnoxious, screaching, squealing, f*ing kids!!!! If you want a good tip, keep those f*cking kids away from me! That having been said, I do know kids (my nephews especially) who behave wonderfully at high end restaurants!!! Please keep your loud, arguing, obnoxious, idiot children at home! I’ve been at several restaurants with my nephews where they have been the most civilized persons there!

  85. 1″Hey, waiter, if you’re so smart, why don’t you get another job. Oh, you can’t.”
    and
    2″finish clearing the table AFTER i leave. never leave a guest who wants to pay waiting. bring the check, keep your eye out for the signal (the cash/card sticking out, the upright checkbook, etc)”
    1. I have a master’s degree, sorry that i chose to get an education in a field i love, yet doesn’t have many career opportunities(not to mention today’s ecconomy, where I’m lucky to have this serving job).
    2. I understand your request;however, at my restaurant i get reprimanded for not pre-bussing a table. My job is more important to me than your happiness. If I didn’t have it I guess it really wouldn’t matter how long you waited to get your money/card and leave. Also, occasionally we aren’t lucky enough to have people like yourself actually notify us that you are finished with the check, they instead chat, or “forget it was there” (3-4 times), or make it a game to find or determine you are actually finished with it, sorry that was my waiter rant.

  86. I would love to know why is it that some waiters (or waitresses) insist on dropping off the check without even bothering to ask if anyone wants dessert? I think that is extremly roud….. anyone with an answer?…

  87. I have to add to this little lot.

    All these comments only cements one thing in my mind.

    Yes. Whether it happens to be these rules or some other rules… there really -does- seem to be a need for a set of concrete written down rules that everyone will follow without a doubt.

    Seriously, you guys all writing in… are they even reading the rest of the comments?

    “You should know that I don’t want you to ask”

    “you should know that I want you to ask”

    “you should know that I want my bill now”

    “you should know to ask if I want my bill now”

    “you should know if I want my bill delivered on a handmade pink elephant the size of the restaurant” (seriously, I was half expecting one like that by the end of this).

    So many contradictive statements all summed up by “All waiters should know to…” whatever their personal preference was.

    Get over yourselves. Seriously.

    Ask if you want stuff… if you expect your waiter/ess to offer you service in some way that you feel you are not getting, -tell- them. If you have an idea that you may not be given the service you want in the way you want it, tell them before you even get the meal.

    Honestly? A good server just wants you to enjoy your meal and your dining experience so you will feel happy to leave them their desired tip or as close to it as you are willing to get.

    Yes. It’s about the money again. Honestly though, how many of you non servers are in your job -just- to make the customer happy? How many of you would be willing to say “no, no, don’t pay me, I’m just doing this out of the goodness of my heart.” (Volunteers are not part of this group, but they already know they can afford things in one way or another or they wouldn’t be volunteering. If all servers were to “Get a life and get a real job” then you would have no one to serve you, all restaurants would be self service and you -still- wouldn’t be happy. be glad these guys do the job they do. Be prepared to tip if that is what custom dictates and if they have done the job they are being paid to do.

    From a Brit. (Sorry to the anon who hates all us Brits btw… although I find it ironic that you’re saying you hate all Brits because we stereotype…)

  88. I’m late to this party having only discovered this blog by chance a few days ago. I love your writing and am presently reading from the beginning. I find a lot of this very interesting as many aspects of service in the US are so different from the way we do things here in Australia.
    The whole tipping thing seems confusing and extremely unfair to both waiters and customers. But if I was in your country I would certainly hope I would make the effort to do the right thing.
    One thing I am confused by is that everyone keeps referring to keeping drinks topped up as being a sign of good service. Here, unless someone has a bottle of wine on the table (in which case I would pour a refill for them if their glass was getting low ) or they are low on water, I may offer to get them another drink but I would never be permitted to automatically assume they want another one without asking. Are drink refills free there? Aside from the fact that our service of alcohol laws do not allow us to pry people with unsolicited alcoholic beverages I would not pressume to add anything to a customers bill that they did not ask for.
    So much of what you write here resonates with me as a fellow server, yet so much is also so very foreign to me. Regardless, it’s always an interesting read.

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