Your Server Probably Knows If You’re a Bad Tipper
Once someone has waited tables for a number of years, an acute sense of awareness comes with the territory. It’s almost like they develop a sixth sense. It alerts them when food is ready in the kitchen before the line cook rings the annoying little bell and tells them when a customer has just crammed an inordinate amount of pasta in their mouth which is the cue for the server to ask how everything tastes. This keen sense of awareness also lets servers know in advance when a customer is going to leave a bad tip and there are telltale signs that will give it away almost every single time. None of the indicators are foolproof, but any server worth their salt will feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand up when any of these signals become apparent.
Bragging: If someone introduces themselves as a great tipper or promises to “take care” of their server, most of the time the tip doesn’t live up to the expectation. When a server hears those words, they immediately prepare for a disappointing tip and the braggart usually perpetuates the notion that self-proclaimed good tippers seldom are.
Senior Citizens: Any server will tell you that a patron born before the end of World War II is prone to leaving a meager tip. Maybe it’s because they’re on a fixed income or maybe it’s because they have some 50-cent pieces and a two-dollar bill burning a hole in their pocketbook, but it’s definitely more of a surprise to get a good tip from a senior citizen than it is to get a bad one.
Black AmEx cards: It’s almost as if the owner of the card thinks a server should be impressed by simply handling one of these mythical charge cards and that’s enough of a tip. Maybe because the server knows there’s no preset limit on a Black AmEx card, it seems cheap to see a standard 15-20% tip, but sometimes a Black AmEx cardholder reinforces the old adage that rich people got rich by keeping all their money for themselves and not giving it to others.
21 Questions: A customer who asks “How much will this be with tax?” or “Do you offer free refills?” or “What can I substitute this side for that won’t be an up-charge?” is always a good a indication that the customer is watching their pennies and they for sure aren’t going to watch very many of them go into the apron of their server.
Overly friendly: An affable customer is always a good customer to have, but when Friendly Freddy announces his name and shakes the hand of his server, it very often leads to a lower than average tip. Perhaps he feels that his jovial nature and witty charm will blind the server into thinking that waiting on him is all worth it, but the server knows he’s just overcompensating for a lackluster gratuity. This friendliness goes hand in hand with being overly complimentary and praising a job well-done. “You deserve a raise” basically means they want their server to be paid more so they no longer have to tip.
“I used to wait tables”: When a customer offers this nugget of information, a server prepares for the low tip that will likely soon follow. The further away from college the customer is, the smaller the tip will probably be. A 50-something who waited tables thirty years ago was probably only collecting tips to pay for beer and weed and not for rent and groceries. They might think they “know the business,” but nine times out of ten it just shows they’re out of touch.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. There are some older people who tip exceptionally well and there are some overly friendly customers who do too. It’s just that most servers will recognize any of the above people or behaviors as a warning for a paltry tip. However, they will gladly accept that sad little tip and use their sixth sense to hone in on the next customer who is likely to make up for it.