What's your stance on tipping at restaurants?
I realize that waiters don't make a whole lot of money, and therefore, I try to always leave a good tip, typically around 20%. Of course, I'm also not eating at the most expensive of restaurants, so a 20% tip might not amount to much. Most of my friends share this opinion, so we rarely have difficulties calculating a tip on a shared bill.
When service is bad and it is clearly the waiter's fault, I still tip, but I might knock that tip down 10%. That means that I don't like to penalize the waiter for having too many tables at once or for a slow kitchen. If the waiter is down and out rude, they might not receive a tip at all, but I've only experienced service that awful once in my life.
I'm always conflicted on how to tip for substandard service though. A few friends and I dined at a restaurant here in D.C. known for slow service, so I wasn't expecting a quick meal by any means. The waiter was hard to track down, though, and even though he was busy, a drink refill shouldn't take 25 minutes.
The major frustration was with the food, however. One of the parties dining has a food allergy. She knows what she can and can't eat and often calls restaurants beforehand to find out ingredients. She had eaten at this restaurant before and knew what she could order, but needed to order it without a particular ingredient spooned overtop the meal, something done as a last minute garnish. Of course, her food arrived with this garnish. Luckily, it was a very visible mistake, and after 10 minutes of trying to flag down the waiter (another staff member brought the food), she pointed out the mistake. He first told her she hasn't mentioned it. Then he asked her if she could just brush it off. He was asking these questions in a kind manner, but the general attitude was "I don't want to have to deal with this problem if at all possible." He told her it would take half an hour to make a new meal.
She opted to just sort of pick the offending ingredient out of her meal, something I think she's learned to do over the years, and she didn't seem too frustrated by the whole thing. I was impressed with her patience. I think she just didn't want to hold up the rest of the group, but she shouldn't have had to do so in the first place.
The rest of the meal went off without a hitch, though the service remained slow. And then it came time for tipping. "Conveniently," the bill came printed with a calculation of the tip at 15%, 20% and 25%, just so we knew. We actually debated the tip because of the service, and we ended up somewhere around 15%. I'm not sure if this was an appropriate tip or not, based on the service and the attitude we were given regarding my friend's food allergy.
What would you have done in this situation? I strongly dislike not tipping or leaving a ridiculously low tip because I realize that people who wait tables make very little money. And I realize that mistakes happen. But I found myself frustrated by this waiter's annoyance with my friend's food allergy. To me, that bordered on rude, rather than just being bad service. I don't like to be stingy. But I also think that on some level, a good tip should be earned.