Here’s a tip

February 12, 2007 on 10:34 pm | By | In Reviews | Comments Off on Here’s a tip

Now that I’m a personal chef I’ve become much more generous with tips. While I used to consider 15% a good tip, 20% is now the norm for good service; 25-30% for stellar. But I’m a bit stumped when it comes to dealing with poor service. The hospitality business is tough work, so I’m hesitant to totally stiff someone. But does leaving even a measly tip reward bad behavior? Is it better to leave nothing at all? My darling and I debated this issue on Saturday during an unfortunate restaurant experience.

We were scheduled for an 11 1/2 mile run, which meant we would treat ourselves to burgers & beer afterwards (they’re an incredible motivator, especially as we near mile eight). We discussed several options, and settled on a pub that not only has great food and drinks, but also a relaxed and comfy ambiance (VERY important for our soon-to-be weary muscles). It’s one we frequent fairly often (as well as others in the pub’s chain), so we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed.

It was 3 p.m. when we arrived — well after the lunch rush but before the dinner crunch — so the place was basically empty. Our server took our order; my darling ordered a beer and I ordered a cider and a glass of water. When I mentioned the water my darling made a face as if to say, “Yes, I would like one as well.” Mind you, he didn’t verbalize his desire for water, but my experience is that the server will automatically bring water for everyone at the table, or at least ask the others if they would like some. Neither happened; she came back bearing only one glass of water. Strike #1.

A few moments later I asked for another glass, along with some Dijon for my fries. Note I did not just ask for “mustard;” I specified Dijon. But instead she brought a housemade stone-ground mustard. Admittedly it was very good, but since fries are a very rare indulgence for me, when I do treat myself, I like ’em the way I like ’em. Strike #2. I very politely told her that I would prefer Dijon. She brought some immediately, and I thanked her.

After I finished my cider I asked for a beer, the name of which apparently sounds like “napkins,” as I heard her mumble something about getting more napkins as she walked away.

“Did she think I asked for napkins?” I asked my darling. “Or is she getting my (insert name of beer here) PLUS some napkins?” He shrugged, not knowing the answer. Sure enough, she soon appeared with a stack of napkins, and no beer. I again politely told her that I had actually asked for a (insert name of beer here) rather than the napkins.

“Oh, okay,” she said flightily.

Now if I were a server who made such a mistake I’d immediately rectify the situation. But not this server. In fact, it took her so long to bring the beer I thought she had forgotten about it. (And remember, the place was pretty much empty; I’d understand if they were slammed). Taken on its own, each of these were minor transgressions attributable to a somewhat scatterbrained server. But added together they became downright annoying. To top things off our food was just so-so — definitely not the quality we’ve come to expect from this establishment.

By now my darling was quite miffed with the service, so when our tab for $25.38 arrived, he wanted to leave just $26. Although I was very disappointed with both the food and the service, I convinced him to leave $29 — not a great tip, but not a total slap in the face either. He grudgingly did so, but griped that we were rewarding bad behavior.

It wasn’t until we got in our truck to leave when he told me our server not only didn’t rush to get me my beer, she actually sat down at a table to chat with a couple of other customers (my back was turned toward her so I couldn’t see what was going on). If I had known this I may have been less likely to insist on a larger tip.

I realize this may sound petty, but I believe if I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on dining out, I should get good food and service. There are too many choices in Seattle to settle for mediocrity. Thing is, while I’m certainly not going to bash the establishment by name (although some locals may be able to figure out who I’m talking about), it’s doubtful I’ll choose it the next time I’m hankering for burgers & beer.

It’s a shame, really. I wonder how many restaurants eventually wither away due to indifference; to customers who don’t voice their concerns to help management improve the situation, but rather just stop going. Perhaps no tip at all would have left a clearer message.

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