Word of Mouth

Save the verbal tips -- give cash

Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.

The dinner is going well. The customers are enjoying their food and each others' company. They like the wine I recommended and I even manage to appear witty and competent. The table is compiling a nice bill -- so nice that I'm thinking about upgrading to the second cheapest beer at the bar after work.

As the customers leave, they tell me how great everything was and thank me profusely. I'm getting excited to see the credit card slip. Is 30 percent too high an expectation? I mean, they were excessively grateful.

But soon I'm reminded why I never raise my expectations when dealing with people: People suck. They ruin everything. Not you guys, but the others. Because It turns out that 30 percent was about three times higher than I should have expected.

I suppressed the urge to run down the street and destroy the good vibe of the meal by going all Walter Sobchak on their car: "Do you see what happens? This is what happens when you verbal tip a stranger!"

But I didn't have a crowbar handy, and it would have just left them wondering why the seemingly pleasant waiter smashed their car, and what a verbal tip was. They should know -- they just gave one.

A verbal tipper is the worst kind of tipper outside of a non-tipper. I'm glad that they enjoyed my service to the point that they repeatedly complimented me; it does wonders for my self-esteem. But on the first of the month I can't tell my landlord, "I don't have the rent money, but I would like to recite to you a series of compliments given to me by my customers. That will cover me for this month, right?"

The deal between customers and a server is pretty simple: I tend to their food and beverage needs and they give me money. I use that money to live, buy beer and save starving children. So the next time they dish out excessive praise in lieu of cash, they're letting children starve. I hope they're comfortable with that.

I would much rather get a regular old bad tip than a verbal tip. A bad tipper is a cheap and flawed person, while a verbal tipper either wants to create false hope or has the misguided opinion that they don't need to tip as much if they're really nice.

But vocal praise does not offset cheapness. Just don't play with my emotions, that's all I ask. If diners plan to tip poorly, they should keep their mouth shut. Don't pretend like this is the best meal you've ever had, force me to have wild fantasies about a 1,000 percent tip, and then turn me into a tornado of expletives and shredded receipts.

You can't go to the car mechanic, tell him how great a job he just did, and pay only half the bill. Try it: They'll probably start ripping parts from under the hood to make up the cost of labor.

I get it. They're taking advantage of an opportunity to get quality service at a discounted price. The only problem is the small detail of them making me poor. I get paid $2.50 an hour. I've received multiple paychecks for $0.00. When they don't tip they're basically stealing money from me.

That's something I've become surprisingly accustomed to. But not when someone was clearly so pleased. If someone verbal tips and returns, I might just be overly friendly the entire time only to dump dessert and coffee in their lap and charge them double the marked price for everything they ordered. They'll probably try to pay with compliments.

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Kyle Garratt
Contact: Kyle Garratt