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How to get on a restaurant’s hit list

Think no one’s noticed you routinely send back the wine? Or that you filched the pepper grinder? Think again.


 

How to get on a restaurant's hit list

The owner of a popular Toronto gastropub who asks to remain nameless is showing off what he calls his “nightly journal,” though “naughty journal” is a more accurate descriptor. Most of the handwritten entries deal with the dull details of restaurant life—nightly sales, tables turned, supplier snafus. Where reading turns interesting, even salacious, is in its dutiful recording of customer misbehaviour collected via staff and fellow customer complaints. Names are used when they’re known. Otherwise, physical descriptions suffice.
A notation was made the night a notoriously difficult-to-please regular, a well-known writer, pulled a diva act, and told her waiter: “When you make me unhappy, you make thousands of my readers unhappy.” Another entry refers to a couple found in flagrante delicto in the beer fridge; they were married, though not to one another. Then there are the customers who’ve been banned—the restaurant’s “no-fly” list. They include a patron who was a little too free with his hands with female wait staff and a big-name businessman the owner says is known for stiffing restaurants: “His MO is to hand over his credit card; then when it’s declined he promises to come back the next day. He says, ‘I’m worth 30 mill, I have two luxury cars.’ He’s burned me in other establishments. He showed up a week ago and we said,‘Mr. Doe, we asked you not to come back.’ ”

Keeping such careful track of customers may seem creepy—like moralizing black marks made by a 19th-century schoolmarm or potential ammunition for an aspiring extortionist. After all, who wants to go out for a romantic dinner and have to worry that the waiter is doing double duty as a Stasi agent? Yet the note-keeping proprietor, who has been in the industry for decades, defends the practice as an essential part of doing business, like keeping glasses spotless. Staff are expected to read the latest entry every night before service as a precaution, he says: “You wouldn’t want to go to a bad restaurant and we don’t want a bad patron.” Some of the most successful restaurants he’s worked at, he says, kept a similar book.

They’re not alone. Restaurateurs may not all use a handwritten journal to monitor errant customers, but keep track they do. Most refuse to admit it on the record; when they’re assured anonymity, they’ll dish about keeping track via intra-staff communication, emails, and reservation-taking software like Open Table that draws up a customer’s record—the number of times he or she has come in and how much they’ve spent. “Open Table is a computerized version of a maître d’s head,” says Steve Dublancia, the New Jersey-based author of Thanks for the Tip: Confessions of a Cynical Waiter. Notes about customers are often written in code, he explains: “BB for ‘big bitch’ or ‘This person is God,’ which means: ‘Give them anything they want.’ ” The owner of one upscale Toronto restaurant admits he uses the software to keep out problematic customers: “I came in this morning to 30 phone calls and we’ll prioritize in terms of people we want to be here and those we can live without.”

At the top of the list of customers restaurateurs can live without are the habitually drunken, the loud, and the abusive. As well, there’s the “kleptos” who can’t resist filching the pepper grinder and diners who abuse the staff. Also unwelcome are couples who routinely see a night out as an opportunity to re-enact their version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The most common irritators are the constant complainers angling to get a freebie. The marketing director of a major high-end restaurant enterprise says a frequent gambit is to call up the next day with mysterious “food-borne illness complaints” that didn’t afflict any other diners, she says. Her theory: the “illness” has “more to do with sticker shock than any real gastronomic distress.” Their names are duly recorded, she adds. Another insider refers to customers who inflame the kitchen by asking for so many substitutions on a menu item that they end up with a totally new entree. Then they insist the doctored item be removed from the bill because they didn’t like the way it tasted.

“Some people make a game of it to see how much they can get away with,” says one well-known Toronto restaurateur. He recalls evicting a party of six after one man at the table returned two bottles of pricey wine, then sent his lamb back, complaining it hadn’t been cooked to order. “I thought, ‘It’s me against this guy; I’ll out-service him!’ So I sent the table complimentary glasses of Armagnac, but he sent that back, saying ‘It lacks finesse.’ I finally went out on the floor and told him: ‘If anything here lacks finesse it’s you. Out.’ I ended up eating a $450 bill.”

The cost of customers from hell is far greater than a direct financial hit, he says: they can disrupt a restaurant’s ecology to the point that it rattles staff and puts a pall over the entire evening. Recently, he had to call a patron whose boisterous table had caused numerous complaints to tell him he wouldn’t be welcome again. The customer was “aggrieved,” which has been the typical response the few times he has had to do it. The restaurateur evokes the spirit of John Stuart Mill explaining his rationale: “We have to make the satisfaction of the greatest number of people the priority.”

Michel Deslauriers, a 35-year veteran of the Montreal restaurant scene, says blacklists and customer surveillance are far more common than people know. Good restaurateurs, like good parents, have a low misbehaviour threshold: “You’ll adjust the bill once for a table that complains about the food,” he says. “But if you see there’s a pattern, you don’t want it to take over. So you say, ‘You’ve been here two times and all we’ve done is dissatisfy you so I’m sorry, you’ll have to leave—there’s no charge and you are not welcome here again.’ ”

In cases when a customer’s irritation quotient isn’t high enough to justify blacklisting (but still warrants “Oh God, here come the Baxters”), restaurants often employ passive-aggressive techniques to discourage return visits. One manager recalls having to routinely serve a close friend of the owner, who was an arrogant jerk. “I regularly made sure he had a poor table and so-so service. And I overcooked his steak,” he says.

High-maintenance diners are destined to receive poorer service, says Dublancia, whose Waiter Rant blog dishes on the industry. “When you’re a waiter you want to maximize your effort-to-earnings ratio,” he explains. That means known poor tippers also lose out. Dublancia, who’s no longer a waiter, remembers one regular customer who was a wonderful person but a lousy tipper. “We might not have given him the utmost of our effort and he probably wondered why he didn’t get the best seat in the house,” he says. He confesses he adopted a bad attitude to make sure known bad tippers and diners with bad attitude would request another section: “I’d slip into arrogant waiter mode: when they’d mispronounce the entree I’d snort. Or I’d call women ‘Madame.’ They just love that. Or I’d give the impression I’d rather be somewhere else and they’d get the vibe quickly.”

Restaurant karma exists. “People can run you ragged,” says Dublancia. “So if you see someone who you know is going to treat you well, it’s human nature to treat them better.” It isn’t unheard of for a difficult patron to be subversively “scolded” by a waiter, like one customer at a difficult-to-please table who didn’t have the cellphone she left behind returned as quickly as it might have been. “Rude behaviour in a restaurant won’t get you anywhere,” Deslauriers concludes. “A lot of people think that the customer is always right, but that’s far from the truth because at the end of the day the person handling the stick is not the customer. It’s the server, the maître d’ and the owner. They’re the ones who make your experience pleasurable or not.” The man who keeps the nightly naughty journal agrees: “People who are generous, both in monetary and human terms, generally reap one hundredfold what they sow,” he says. “Conversely, those who are miserly beget misery to themselves and others in all aspects of their sorry existence.” And he’s got the lurid stories to prove it.


 
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How to get on a restaurant’s hit list

  1. Alot of hair salon keep the same "black book'' for bad behaviour from clients.

    • How should a client act when they find a $60.00 over charge after they have left the salon

  2. Too bad that restaurants don't seem to get that bad food and atrocious service will not only earn them ire from customers, but also a promise never to visit again…

    • Isn't why they are serving the bad food and giving the atrocious service?

    • they give you crappy service because they don't want YOU to visit again, dummy

    • Dexter, as an owner and past server…good riddance to good rubish! If you're behaving like a child and do everything in your power to have your food discounted by whining, and being downright rude to my serving staff then stay home, or go to McDonalds. My repeat customers are always as glad as I am to see those diners gone, and my business most certainly does not suffer from those refusing to come back.

      • why was my comment not posted

    • you can debate this forever people are people some are never happy shitty food and service go out of business this article seems to have comments from reputable establishments that deal with unreasonable people and believe me they are out there some people just like to complain and see if they can get a freebee read eat this by wayne jagoe

  3. My wife and I generally refuse to dine with her sister and husband at a restaurant we've chosen. The moment we get there, they start a tag-team of critiquing the place and looking for reasons to reduce the tip, or confront someone, which my sister-in-law loves to do. In Florida, we chose a restaurant with a patio, which for some reason, annoyed the hell out of her sister. She was in such a foul mood that when she felt her cutlery wasn't clean enough, she demanded that the waiter replace it and then asked him what he could have been thinking to have put it out in that condition in the first place. People who act like they are better than the staff are asking for trouble. We were appalled.

    • I have an uncle who's much the same. Let them go to McDonalds and Pizza Hut, I'm not letting them ruin my reputation in my city's fine dining establishments.

  4. During my university days earning minimum wage as a line cook, I witnessed some fairly ingenious tactics from some obviously cruddy people. My favourite: One guy ordered his steak rare and sent it back three times, saying it was overcooked. Naturally, he had already eaten half the steak before he decided it didn't suit his taste. You can't uncook a rare steak, so I'd have to restart with a fresh piece of meat. Finally, my manager came into the kitchen after the third return, slapped an uncooked fourth strip on his plate, then charged the guy for all four steaks and threw him out.

  5. A friend of mine couldn't take dining with his father, he named him "the king of complain", it was just too excruciating to be out with him anymore.

  6. This sounds like a nice excuse to provide lousy service. Everyone has to deal with negatives that come with the job. If someone acts in such a way they deserve to be removed from an establishment or blacklisted then fine, thats the owners decision. But to purposely provide subpar service because you don't care for a customer is wrong. Grow up.

    • Actually, I've watched the way some people treat individuals in the service industry… especially in one restaurant I frequent. Servers are not slaves. If you treat them with respect, make eye contact, don't talk on your cell phone when they're trying to serve you and give a decent tip for decent service they will bend over backwards for you. That old adage, treat others how you would like to be treated, it really does work because if you don't, your service/treatment will mirror what you've given. That's human nature.

    • lol…you have obviously never been a server

  7. In this economy, if a customer is prepare to shell out for a decent restaurant meal, they are entitled to expect good service. An attitude like this won't keep you in business very long….

    • stay home pig

      • very mature

    • You are incorrect. Money does not excuse boorish, or childish behavious. Perhapes some people lack the proper upbringing and have yet to learn proper etiquette. My restaurant has flourished for well over ten years with it's little black book. Paying for something does not entitle anyone to belittle anyone, and if after a night of abuse, one of my servers gets snippy or rude with the customer responsible, I hardly hold that against them.

  8. In any economy, if a customer is rude, belligerent, manipulative or quick to find ways to turn a meal into a scam, then they are entitled to find something unexpected in their food.

    Nice to know that someone is keeping track. I, for one, have no problem with this…

  9. I really don't understand all this tipping situation. Why do we have to pay the menu price of an item followed by a gratuity. I buy a car and the dealership pays the salesman. I have home renovations done and the contractor pays their employees. I take the city transit and the city pays the driver. Why doesn't the restaurateur pay his employees? This concept of a better tip for better service is silly. You don't tip the miner that worked underground to retrieve the gold in your jewelry. You don't tip the street sweeper that cleans your neighborhood. Nothing against the wait staff. Could you imagine the concept of going into an eatery and receiving great service and delicious food all for the stated sticker price!

    • TIPS meaning..To Insure Prompt Service. I sent the man that sold me my car a nice bottle of wine, hairdresser 15% tips, garbage men always a nice little gift at Christmas. I am a server and if I never recieved tips I would be on welfare or homeless or starving. I have done this for 20 years and give excellent service but if people aren't going to consider how hard I work for how little I get paid they will be the last table that I am running for.

      • I have to go with Let's be fair on this one; while also giving a nod to Jody. I do appreciate the services provided when I eat out, get a haircut, etc, but why am I (particularly in the instance of 'eateries' also expected to pay the staffs wages? I KNOW wait staff are paid poorly, and generally work short shifts (not a full 8+ hrs wherein more $$ could be earned). But I believe it is up to the owners of those establishments to pay their staff properly! 'm already supporting their business by 'shopping there' (so to speak) and it does bother me that I have to remember to tip because the staff isn't paid well!
        No one… no one single person has ever [at the multitude of bad jobs I've had] offered me a tip for just doing my job.
        I have held down many public service jobs where though experience I had much more knowledge than co-workers and often went out of my way to ensure a customers satisfaction with the product they were buying, but I was employed in industries where people don't tip. I would like to see all wait staff get organized and form a union.

        • idiot

        • cheapo

      • My comment was not meant to bash wait staff. It is directed solely at the owner(s) of the establishment. Why are you, the wait staff) paid so poorly. We pay every high price for our food and service but you are not compensated. Tell me another industry that does that.

      • Exactly what he was saying – why doesn't your employer pay you a decent wage? I am infuriated by the custom of tipping as well. It is not expected to be given for good service but to everyone, regardless of the food or service and you are considered a lout if you don't. I think it should be banned. Taxes aren't paid on tips and there are hundreds of service people getting the same wages as you for much harder work and they don't expect to be tipped for it. Grow up! MacDonald has it right – for its tipping policy at least!

        • There are several errors in your statement.

          1. We are expected to pay taxes on our tips. I can't help it if some other servers are dishonest.
          2. We are NOT getting the same wages as other jobs. Liquor servers get paid less than minimum wage as is ONTARIO GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION.
          3. McDonald's can say whatever they want: their employees get paid a minimum of 10$ an hour these days, at least in Ontario. That's 2$/hr more than liquor servers.

    • Can you spell cheap. People who work in restaurants subsist off of tips. If nobody wants to tip, then the restaurant jacks up the price of each item so they can afford to pay their staff adecent wage. Now its like the government. No matter how bad the service or food is, everyone gets paid the same. You should probably eat at a place where they have a drive-through. Then you don't have to tip anybody.

      • I realize people who work in restaurants subsist on tips. Why is the onus on the customer to pay more than the "sticker price". Why is it not on the restaurant owners like most other businesses. Do you realize that the raw product, not including prep, of a $20 dish is about $5? It is not like the government. If service is bad the patron has a choice. Go elsewhere. With the government… well…. not so much. I don't mind paying the tip. I am just making a point as to why do we have too? The restaurant owners get away with too much. Their employees are paid less than the average Canadian worker and they get away with this. I was in a restaurant once and a couple of the girls were cleaning pictures and light fixtures and complaining that they were making server wages while doing labor that should have been done by cleaning staff making $8 an hour more than they were. I am sure there is a lot of wait staff out there that can attest to this. Sorry, getting off the subject a bit.

        • Perhaps you should check out the Canadian Restaurant Association website. The industry profit average is 6.5 cents on the dollar. Once rent, wages, hydro, heat, cost of goods have been payed there's not a lot left. Raise the wages and the restaurants would be out of business. Are you ready to pay $20 for a burger?

          • A 6.5% percent return on your money? Then you are in the wrong business or your cost of sales is way too high and your restaurant managers should be fired. Sorry, but I cannot believe that you would continue an enterprise that had that little return for your hard work and due diligence.

          • 4-6% pre-tax profit isn't that horrible as far as businesses go. You won't get rich by owning a run-of-the-mill restaurant, but a restaurant that averages 100 customers a night will be looking at half a million to 1.5 million in revenues. 4-6% of 1.5 million isn't great for the hours worked, but it's a competitive industry.

            Tipping is part of a tradition. It's part of the dining experience.

          • No idiot. All restaurants have a very low profit margin. In fact, the cost of purchasing the ingredients for any given menu item is about the same as if you were to go to the grocery store. You are another example of someone who has zero knowledge about this industry, and makes ignorant comments. When you go out to eat, you are paying not only for the meal, but for the cost of people to cook it, the people who wash the dish and untensils that the food was served on, the lights and heat that are required to be on when you are there, and so much more. The servers are paid, by you, to cater to your needs. Don't like it? Stay home and microwave a meal.

          • I have worked in the foodservice business for 30 years. I DO know costs. Buying in bulk drastically cuts the cost of food compared to home shoppers. As a server, do you actually think about the bus people, dishwasher and cooks. I give you a $20 tip on a $80 bill and how much do the others in your establishment receive of that? Probably not much!

    • I agree. Most civilized nations have service charges automatically included in the bills, and servers are paid, if not handsomely but decently. And the food is better usually, too.

    • I have something that no one so far has considered. I'm a server and I average about 35% in gratuities…..I'm VERY good at what I do….I also don't serve people that I don't want to serve. I'm THAT good at my job that people vie for my section.

      If an establishment were to include service charges in their pricing, the prices of items would go up FAR more than if you were to add your measly 10-15% on to the price of the bill. Companies price according to "profit margins" and in order to include the price of service in the bill, the price of every item of the menu would have to increase by the percentage of the "service" and then the company would want a chunk of THAT too. THEN you'd get the people that would still tip on to of that for superior service, and the whole cycle would start all over again.

      Bottom line, be generous with your tipping if you get good service. It really does keep prices down. It goes directly to the service staff without the company getting involved and wanting their extra piece of the pie. Better for consumers, better for servers.

  10. Having been in the restaurant business for over twenty years I know that wait staff rely on their tips to supplement their wages. In fact, any waiter worth his/her salt makes far more in tips than in wages. Many of my wait staff would easily make $1,000 weekly. This means that this particular server would usually be getting more than the standard 15% which indicates to him/her and the restaurateur that the food, service, ambience, price etc. is above average. Obviously, customers do not resent tipping when it is justified; in this instance they are tipping more than "expected" therefore are doing so entirely of their own free will without any feeling of being coerced into tipping. Tipping is a good guide for everyone involved- the customer can express their satisfaction with the food and service and the server and restaurateur get the message.

    • But why should the wait staff rely on their tips from your customers? In most other industries poor performance is followed by the unemployment line. As far as "tipping is a good guide", repeat business is a good guide.

      • It's straightforward economics…it would increase the price of everything else if there was no tipping…only there would be less incentive for a server to do a good job.

        • i definatly agree. if wait staff are all paid the same, with no tipping, whre is the insentive to do any better than they have too? they would have no reason to go the xtra mile to ensure customer satisfaction, and end up just doing the bare minimum to keep their boss happy. i work in tech support for an internet isp, and le me tell you, we dont get tips, and nobody there is trying very hard at all to do anhything more than just keep the supervisor happy and off their backs.

  11. Tipping also has the effect of weeding out poor wait staff and food. Because servers receive low wages they are forced to rely on their tips to earn a decent living. Many good servers have been in the business for years and earn well above an average income. Any server with bad skills and poor customer relations will not earn enough tips to make the financial returns interesting enough to keep them at it. Therefore the tipping practice has the effect of weeding out the less skillful and rewarding the best. Could you imagine what the effect would be of giving all servers the same wage (many now make upwards of $50,000 yearly tips) ? The customer would pay an increased price for his meal with no assurrance of a corresponding increase in quality or service. Wait staff are, in a sense, self-employed…work hard and keep our customers happy and you'll succeed; do a poor ljob and you'll fail…just like any business.

    • Adrien, if I buy a car and the car sales rep is not a good sales rep, I do not buy the car from him. If I have a problem with a printing service, I return the prints to the printer. If I am badly served on a flight, I file a complaint or I change airlines. How is that different in a restaurant? If a waiter gets several complaints from different customers, wouldn't that be an indication that the owner should get rid of that employee? That's what most employers would do. How is it different in the restaurant business? Tipping is discretionary, not an obligation.

  12. I visited Kelseys with my family during their special all you can eat wing night. My husband and I went for the wings – but instead of promptly filling your plate between refills, they cut each order down by about 5-7 wings each time ( so you get less and less) and on top of it make you wait 20 minutes between your orders. This not only discourages people from coming to all you can eat wing night – it's downright lousy service to make people wait that long with kids between courses. Needless to say we only refilled 2X as we slowly caught on to this strategy. It was a long and not well worth it night. Of course we won't be back – ever!
    Goodbye Kelseys!

    • Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man who had "all he could eat?" :)

    • I don't think the establishments we're talking about generally in reference to this article are at the level of Kelsey's, which is pretty much a glorified cafeteria. A good rule if you want all-you-can-eat: eat at home.

  13. I think most people tip well because they feel they have to (myself included). I have family who work in the service industry and who have told me horror stories about what sometimes happens in restaurants. People who have their food spit in etc… If the wait/kitchen staff feel a customer deserves to have their food sneezed in either kick the customer out or grow up. It's unbelievable people think this is acceptable. Guess what guys, sometimes you screw up the food or the service. If you don't like the risks of the business then find a new job.

  14. I think restaurants here should look to our brothers in the commonwealth in Australia. Tipping is not expected there, and historically has not been the norm – basic wage rates and overtime payments in the hospitality industry have generally been protected.

    Waiting tables is a JOB not a CAREER. If you make a career out of it then thats pathetic.

    • And your grammar is atrocious!

    • You're an asshole – many people have made great careers in the restaurant industry. And they're probably making a hell of a lot more money than you are. Jerk!

    • Alex, with all due respect, I'm a lawyer, and even I appreciate and indeed respect those who have chosen the restaurant business as a career, regardless of the position they've chosen to fill.

      In France, where a 10% gratuity is added to any food service bill by law, most waiters take great pride in their occupation. They even have a yearly marathon which they speed-walk in full dress and holding a full platter!

      To be frank, if waiters are making 50K in tips (which are like bonuses), then I'm in the wrong industry!

      • Yah! Me too…what are these people complaining about again?

    • Based on this comment you are eating at places where service is considered a job rather than a career; and that reflects much more on your own taste than anything else.

    • Wow…how dare you insult anyones choice of career? Do you think it's pathetic to be a garbage collector, a janitor, a hotel maid? What would our cities look or smell like without anyone to remove our waste? What condition would our schools, hospitals, or other public buildings be in without someone to clean them? Where would you stay if there was no one to clean your hotel room? So until you've walked a mile in a servers shoes and realize what a difficult and yet rewarding career waiting tables can be….keep your narrow minded opinions to yourself.

  15. Now a recent 'senior', in my youth I waited on tables and back in the 60's while tips were modest, there were guidelines…. when you sat a table +/- 15% tip was the guideline. If the service was bad, a tip was very minimal if existant at all. If you sat at the 'counter or take out, tipping was infrequent as the service level requirement was minimal. Today even the takeout pizza slice shop is looking for a Two'nie or Loon'ie on the $ 4. slice. You cannot even escape the less than subtle inference with the newer 'chip' credit card devices, where they pass the machine for you to put the tip on before they total it up. My kids, all adult seem to throw money at all servers..Tim Horton, McDonald's Drive through… the list goes on. And if you aren't tipping, they want to 'vacuum' your change into the endless line of containers on the counter or the drive-through. I attribute much of this 'give us your change' attitude to the evolution of the Two'nie & Loon'ie. Myself, when $ 5. & $10. coins come out I'm dusting off my apron & jacket and manning a station…

  16. I am surprised that no-one has brought up the subject of tip-sharing. A lot of establishments have a policy of dividing tips amongst other staff, such as bus-people, line cooks, dishwashers et. al. – if you think wait staff have a rough go of it, think of what these other people do for an absolute pittance.
    It is bad enough in chain restaurants, but stop and wonder how much a dishwasher might make in a mom-and-pop immigrant restaurant. Not being racist at all, but a lot of illegal immigrants are virtual slaves in the toilets of our eateries.
    I do tip the owners of certain establishments who are serving me, because I know these tips will go to back-of-the-house employees. I also tip my hairdresser, as she has to rent the space and the chair she uses. I'm iffy with sullen taxi drivers, and I overtip good ones who I know will pick up on my next call. Reasonable behaviour deserves reasonable recompense, however, if I get stuck with a really stupid student who couldn't care less about serving me, you can be assured that she will receive one penny in the middle of my placemat. Here's to all the hard-working people who understand that business is just that: the better you do your job, the better your reward.
    P.S. – I have never, even in student years, taken a service job, except at a supermarket counter. As a professional, at 59 years, I know to this day that I am perfectly capable of emptying a jug of beer over a jerk – and there are a lot of jerks out there.

  17. I refuse to tip most Ottawa taxi drivers.
    Most charge an extra $1.50-2.00 over the fare fee is you use a bank cardor credit card and still want a tip.

    They have always had to pay these fees before and are now making that the customers job "because" it is expensive.

    Visa and mastercard policy states that there are to be no user fees for transactions on credit cards and will actually give you the extra fee back if u complain.
    They will also eventually take away the credit privileges from those people.

    I try to take the buswhen I can but if I am too ill to drive and take the bus I have no choice…
    Taxi drivers also put upsigns in theircars saying it is allowed to have these "new transaction fees".
    Those fees are actually illegal and do not even show up as transaction fee on your receipt just as '$1.50' on another line.

  18. After many years of eating out virtually all the time, albeit usually at the bottom end of the food industry spectrum, I recently began eating at home all the time — and drinking at home too (beer, cocktails, etc.). I must say, it's a better experience in almost every respect, and not least in the ability to have guests over. We have so many restaurants and bars nowadays because we've collectively gotten incredibly lazy and — most of all — disinterested in domestic life. Even if eating chez soi cost the same as eating out, I'd still prefer to eat in. Now, on the very rare occasion when I go to restaurants, though of course I tip 15%+, I find the service almost uniformly terrible: slow, flustered, too friendly or too disinterested, in short unprofessional. This is in Toronto, FWIW. What a contrast to Paris, where being a waiter is a serious career; there are, of course, a few restaurants in Canada where the waiters are professionals, but they're extremely few. I feel like most establishments, with the full support of their staff, are exploiting the public's inability to manage their domestic space. Don't like the food or service here? Try the next place, where it's worse. Or do yourself a favour and try your own oven and your own liquor cabinet. Won't work if you want first-class French cuisine or, say, oysters, but as long as there's somebody in your household with skill (disclaimer: it ain't me) you're not missing anything and gaining (and saving) a lot.

    It's au revoir, or (better still) adieu,
    To fake reviews, the agonising queue,
    The third-rate table at the very back
    Beside the guys who never cease to yak,
    The menu full of profit-making wine,
    Th' unspoken sadness when you must decline,
    The implication that you need a three-course meal
    As though a servant knew what were genteel;
    The wait, the half-hot food, the wheedling voice
    Solicitous to know if you despise your choice.
    You know the rest: at last, post-tax, post-tip
    The poorer, ill-fed couple gets to slip
    Into the cooling night, to tell each other
    Just how much the trip was worth the bother.

  19. Another thing to keep in mind is that minimum wage for servers is actually less than minimum wage for all other retail jobs, at least in Ontario. The reason behind this is that even the government expects servers to make up the difference in tips. So, if the government says we are to be paid less because we will receive the difference from customer tips, but customers say we shouldn't be tipped because we are being paid for doing our job, what's a waitress to do?

    That being said, I personally never expect to be tipped regardless of the quality of service or food. I do my best to keep my customers happy, practically bending over backwards to make sure they enjoy every moment of their experience. If the smallest thing goes wrong, I do everything in my power to make it right. I work darn hard for those tips, and while I don't have a sense of overall "entitlement," I know full well when I deserve them.

    • Koodos to you TSP!!

  20. Well said Jack! At my place of residence we are following your advice. A lot less frustrating and a little more saving.

  21. No surprise- there are a lot of miserable people out there trying to take advantage.

  22. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: a waiter/waitress believes that those seated at a table are poor tippers and refuses to provide good service. The patrons are appalled at the lack of service, and subsequently, leave a poor tip. The waiter/waitress feels validated in his/her actions.

    I regularly go out for dinner with my fiancé, and we generally tip in the 15-20% range. However, one night, we went to a "nicer" restaurant, wearing decent but not elegant clothing. Based on this, I assume, we must have looked like cheapskates and poor tippers, because we received horrible service. In any event, we did in fact tip less than 7%, which I assume reaffirmed our waitors belief that we were not worth his time.

    Ah well.

  23. stay home and cook your own kd!

  24. Poor tipping is bad behaviour? That's ridiculous. I pay $100 for a meal and then I have to pay the waiter to keep him from spitting in it? Nobody tips me at my office job so I don't pee in the coffee. I don't pee in the coffee because THAT would be bad behaviour! So who's worse? The poor tipper, or the waiter who spits in someone's food because they got a $10 tip instead of $20?!

    • If you're going to order $100 food & then give a 10% tip, STAY HOME.

  25. this article doesn't get into what they do to the food for people they really don't like, i worked at a farily upscale restaurant and i heard some stories

  26. I've watched the way some people treat individuals in the service industry… especially in one restaurant I frequent. Servers are not slaves. If you treat them with respect, make eye contact, don't talk on your cell phone when they're trying to serve you and give a decent tip for decent service they will bend over backwards for you. That old adage, treat others how you would like to be treated, it really does work because if you don't, your service/treatment will mirror what you've given. That's human nature.

  27. I used to manage a restaurant in Vancouver, I had a woman who ordered a meal to go. she came back a half hour later with one single bite of her meal remaining and a long red hair across it saying she'd found the hair and wanted a full refund. I looked her straight in the eye and said no. she protested and threatened and kicked up a storm but I stood firm. Thing of it was, I'm asian, and have short black hair. all three of my cooks had just shaved their heads for some cancer thing, and my two servers where blondes. The only person in teh whol situation with red hair? the BB.

  28. Well said Aurore! These are exactly my same thoughts. I do not have a problem with paying the sticker price. I am of my own mind and can chose whether or not to buy.

  29. Couldn't agree more and the tips is entirely insane, they are based on the cost of the food – not the service anyway.

  30. Tipping is non-existent in Japan. But you get excellent service everywhere.

  31. Servers in restaurants make less than minimum wage, we have no benefits, if we get sick, we don't get paid, if a table does a "dine and dash" it comes out of our pocket. We also have to tip out between 2-5% at least of our total before taxes sales on a shift. So if a table doesn't tip, even a little, it costs the server money to serve them. Yes, servers should get paid more, but that's not going to happen. I had a full time office job for 12 years and lost it last year. I was lucky that I could get a job serving. I don't make nearly as much as I used to, even with tips, and just scraping by is not the best feeling in the world. But when I run my butt off for a table and don't even make enough to cover the tip-out? If I see them again, they won't get my full attention. It's not right, but it's the way it works.

    Just a final comment: everyone who thinks that serving tables in a busy restaurant is a easy job, try it for a shift. We may not work full 8+ hour days, but I worked 7 hours one day and my pedometer said i walked over 13 kilometers. Isn't that worth the 5 extra dollars?

  32. http://www.notalwaysright.com is the best website for showing where bad customers, or people having dumb moments, can shine.

    I've worked in an office, I've worked as a waitress, and there are tons of arguments for and against tipping. The fact of the matter is, you work with people in whatever field you work in. It doesn't matter what you do in life, you work with people. Piss those people around you off, you get a bad go of it. Be a civilized human being with caring, understanding and compassion, and you get a hell of a lot more bang for your buck.

    Problem is, people just don't care anymore. We've stopped caring, stopped understanding, and it's sad. I personally find it pathetic that me, who can only afford to go out to dinner maybe once every 2 or 3 months or so will still tip the staff at least $5 more than the bill (usually all I can afford) no matter if the service is poor or not, but there are people out there who make more in a month then I'll probably ever see in my lifetime and they insist on being high and mighty about a tip.

  33. Love this post! Like Adriayis, I am of two minds on the topic of tipping. I have worked as a waitress where I could not subsist without my tips; I have worked in the financial industry, where my bonuses were a good chunk of my salary; now I work in social services where I am happy to get a gift card at Christmas. I do think servers should be tipped, but where I have a problem is that there is little wiggle room to reward good service and to alert poor service.

    Let's compare two servers. One server provides what I would consider poor service. The second server provides flawless service. Now when the $200 bill comes, etiquette assumes that you pay 20% gratuity or $40; yet, 20% does not provide a lot of wiggle room to reward good service or to alert bad service (even if you give the flawless server 25%, that's a $10 difference between poor and exceptional service).

    At least back in the day when 15% was standard, it was easy to reward good service with 20-25% and to give bad service 10%, so the difference between bad, standard, and exceptional service was 10-15%. Now, it's poor etiquette to give less than 20% period. I understand that tips are servers livelihood, but where is the "gratuity" in gratuity if everyone is expected to get the same amount?

  34. i have worked as a waitress since i was 21 that was 26 years ago i have seen the good and bad there are always the people who you remember as good or bad tippers but i do excuse a few and its usually the older people who you know don.t get out much but are treating themselves. but they are nice friendly and not demanding.I have worked at the same place for 10 years and i have one customer who i know will leave me 2 cents and he always tells me to keep the change(i laugh everytime to myself but i know what he wants and treat him the same every week when he comes in . It is his treat to himself to come and have lunch . It;s the people who fight over who is going to pay the bill and nobody leaves a tip that freak me out .Also I love the people who say the meal was great and thanks but leave nothing . In this day I know things are tough but your waitress makes 8.25an hour and if you can spend 100 dollars on a meal leave at least 10 %

  35. I find that Toronto Restuarants, specifically chain or franchise types take full advantage of customers and expect tips dispite poor service. Don't order drinks or come in with a family and see what quality service you get. Solution is to learn to cook at home or find a small restaurant that makes home made food and provides quality service.
    Check a few of my blacklist of restuarants: Milestones down on Addalaide, Milestones in Vaughan at 400 and Hyway 7, All Montana's restuarants from Barrie to Toronto and list goes on.

  36. After working as a waiter and owning two seperate restaurants I have found some answers. There is a simple solution to this problem. Don't allow tipping….If restaurants paid wages fairly to their staff then there would be no issue. Go to a place where tipping is not allowed, see how much better the service is.

    If waiters/waitresses want better money, take it up with the restaurant owner, not the customer. I already paid for the overpriced meal, why should I pay for the over priced staff.

  37. I agree with Pat for the Milestones. I actually find that across the board. There and Moxies! Poor service, poor food quality and the expectation that I need to leave money for that.

    If I have to name my own black list from my area, Boston Pizza in Cambridge, the "new" Blackshop in Cambridge and the worst of them all is the Montana's in Cambridge. Slow and the food just ooozes Sysco. I do my best to stay away from the chain restaurants.

    For good food, there are plenty of places out there, as for good service, that is truly hard to find.

    • When my wife or I tip, its for the service I recieve from my server,,not for the quality of the food. If the quality of my food was poor and service was good i will tip my server and make my displeasure known, or vice verse, weather it be a coffee shop or a high end resteraunt , the price i`m paying for for your food i expect it to be good.

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