Readers may recall the story of Chelsea Welch, the server at an Applebees restaurant, who was fired after she posted a receipt on the internet on which a local pastor she had served had written “I give God 10% why do you get 18″. Welch explains what happened and her bafflement at her firing here.
In a new column for The Guardian, she discusses more generally her experiences as a server. The good news is that she estimates that about 95% of customers treat the wait staff well by speaking courteously, ordering from the menu, and tipping. It is the other 5% that not only make life difficult for the servers but also tip poorly or not at all. They tend to be easily identifiable to experienced servers.
You could ask a random sampling of servers across the country, “who are the worst tippers?” and they’ll all tell you a very similar list. I’m going to generalize a bit here, but you get the idea. The worst tippers are the most showy. They’re the type that can’t get out a complete sentence without mentioning how devout of a Christian they are, or the ones that mention that they’re not from America before you’ve had time to finish saying hello, or the ones who giggle about how high-maintenance they’re going to be before running you ragged.
Showy pennypinching isn’t reserved to those who make a show of how exotic they are. Many people have learned through positive reinforcement that complaining long and loud nets them free food, extra drinks, and a discounted tab. When a customer has a legitimate complaint, it is common practice for an establishment to apologize by way of free items or discounts, typically on top of replacing the offending item. Instead of being grateful that their concerns were addressed and reparations were made, some begin to feel entitled, now putting on the bellyaching act at every opportunity, leaving harsh notes and no tip on their already heavily discounted bill.
I was surprised by this but it explains something that happened to me some time ago. I was hosting a lunch for four people at a nearby restaurant. The server brought out only the meals for the three other people. When I asked her what had happened to mine, she was mortified at having forgotten, apologized, and insisted that my meal would be free. I argued that this was not necessary because not only was having my meal delayed not a hardship, I was worried that she would be penalized and docked for that amount for what was a trivial error. But she insisted that the management wanted me to have my meal free.
But apparently, according to Welch, this courtesy extended to possibly disgruntled customers is known to frequent restaurant goers, some of whom use it as the basis of a deliberate strategy of complaining about something or other to get a free or reduced meal. She says that these people seem to arrive with a prepared script: “It’s easy to tell a bad table from a good one. Most dirtbags will begin setting the stage for their cheapskate production as soon as you’re within earshot.”
She also gives five tips for how to be a good customer and it is an interesting read.