Thousands of people have worked their way through school as a waitress or waiter. I am one of them. I recently turned in my apron for good when I graduated from college and was hired as an advertising copywriter.
I am writing this long overdue letter on behalf of everyone who has, is, or will be a "waitperson." This letter is directed at anyone who has, does, or will eat in a restaurant.
After working as a waitress for over five years, I've heard just about every complaint there is, from both servers and customers. Servers often complain about the tip, or lack of tip, and customers often complain about the service, or lack of it. It is a gross miscarriage of justice to reduce a server's tip when the problem was not his or her fault. Believe it or not, most problems with your service are not your server's fault. What follows is a simple guideline for customers when they are considering reducing the gratuity.
First off, always ask the server to repeat your order back to you before leaving your table. So many mistakes are avoided this way.
Do not reduce a tip because it took a long time to get your food! I cannot stress this enough. Your server does not cook your food, so any problems with it, i.e. cooked medium instead of medium rare, no mayonnaise when you asked for it, are not the fault of your server. You have every right to send back food that does not meet your expectations, but do not take out your frustrations on the server.
Many customers feel that a good way to show their disdain for a bad experience is to reduce the tip, or leave no tip at all. This is terribly unfair. A good way to show a restaurant how you feel is to discuss your complaint with the manager. The best revenge is simply to never eat there again.
The only time you should reduce a tip is if you had a direct problem with your server. You should never be treated rudely or ignored. Your server's job is to greet you politely, make you feel welcome, take your order with a smile, correct any problems with your food, check on you periodically to see that you have what you need, and deliver the check at the end of the meal. If these duties are not carried out well, you have just cause to reduce a tip below 15%. Anything else that goes wrong should not be reflected in the tip. A server is entitled to a 15% tip, and if someone intends to reduce that amount for any reason other than the ones I cited, they should stay home.
I can only hope this message gets through to at least one customer. With all the trouble in the world today, it seems rather ridiculous to let something as trivial as an undercooked meal cause someone to be so very miserable and rude.