I am probably opening Pandora's box here but I wanted to get some views on whether it is ever justifiable to leave no tip and under what circumstances you would not tip.
Here's what happened to the wife and me a while back. We went to dinner at a place we had been to a few times before and the dinners had been perfectly pleasant in the past. The restaurant is owned by a chef who has at least 3 places I know of and a Michelin star to his credit. In our prior experience at his places, the FOH staff was always professional. We are generally good tippers. I've waited tables in my youth so I have no issue with tipping and generally tip at least 15% even for sub-par service.
So we are seated and given the menus and wine list. I order a bottle of wine. Waiter brings the bottle and after opening it pours the wine until each of the glasses is nearly full. Almost to the rim. That's ok if you're getting a generous pour of wine by the glass but I have bought the bottle so I ask the guy to ease up. By the way, this is one of the places where they don't leave the bottle on your table but where the server is supposed to make sure your glass doesn't go empty.
So we give our order. Wife is eating light so she skips the app but orders a main. Waiter recites the order and then leaves. So we drink some wine and it seems every time we get a little below the 3/4 level, the waiter refills the glasses. I think to myself what is he trying to do? Have us finish the bottle before we get the app so we will order another bottle?
App comes and my wife shares some of it. I'm guessing by this point the bottle of wine is 3/4 empty. My app is cleared and the waiter brings my main. Nothing for my wife. We wait a few minutes and nothing else comes.
I flag down the waiter and ask about my wife's main.
He says she didn't order anything.
I say are you nuts? Of course she did. You repeated our order back to us when we ordered. You didn't think it odd that we would come in for dinner and only one person would order anything to eat?
He gets defensive and rushes back to the kitchen to tell them to get my wife's entree started. I sit there with my dinner getting cold. My wife tells me to go ahead and eat. So we begin to share my dish.
Next thing I see our waiter come out of a door in his street clothes and begins to walk out of the restaurant. I call out to him and ask what in the world is happening. He said he's leaving and another waiter will cover our table. Then he walks out the door. It becomes clear that the crappy service we had been getting was a result of his rush to leave.
So now what? My dish has been finished and cleared and another waiter finally brings my wife's dish. We have finished the bottle of wine and I ask if we can get the wine list so that we can order some wine by the glass while my wife has her main.
Never get the wine list. No one is paying attention to our table.
Wife finishes her meal. We wait for her place to be cleared.... forever....
Her place is finally cleared and we're asked if we want dessert. By this point my wife is fed up with what has happened and all she wants to do is leave. We say no and ask for the check.
And again we wait. Nothing for at least 15 minutes. We've been here now for 2+ hours. My wife is furious at this point. She gets up and goes to the manager and asks for our check. When we get the charge receipt back, she takes it and draws a big X through the tip line making it clear we did not forget the tip.
The sad part is that we used to like the restaurant but the experience so infuriated my wife (who is normally a very good tipper) that we don't go there anymore as she refuses to step in to the place again.
Does an experience like that justify no tip? When have you left nothing and made it clear that you didn't simply forget?
Europeans and other non-Americans are welcomed to add their thoughts! ;)
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