How Much Should You Tip a Bad Waiter?

by Jason on June 4, 2009

There have been some interesting discussions in the Personal Finance blogosphere this week centering on how much we should tip a waiter or waitress who gave bad service or had a poor attitude. I didn’t realize this was such a hot topic and one that invokes a range of strong emotions and opinions.

This got me thinking about what our response should be as Christians to bad service and tipping in general and also what our tipping reveals about our theology if anything? Are Christians generally bad tippers even if the service is excellent?

A quick Google search for “Christians are bad tippers” netted over 12,000 results. Certainly there are some who have had some horrible experiences.

Bob at ChristianPF recently posted about bad service he received at a local restaurant once the waiter realized he wasn’t ordering alcohol. Bob said he gave the waiter the benefit of the doubt and still tipped around 20%.

Is Bob the exception or the rule? One story that Scott Lamb tells about is his trip to a local restaurant during the Southern Baptist Convention in North Carolina a few years back. Here’s what he said:

We ate at a restaurant for lunch today after the rush was over. The waitress was either about to cry or about to punch a wall. She asked if we were with “that convention”. We said yes and asked her if she had experienced a good day with “us”.

She said that in fact she had not. She had worked about 3 shifts in the last 30 hours, and she said that her tips were measley.

He goes on to say:

What is worse is that she said that everybody was leaving her these little papers with Bible verses on them.

You guys have any idea what she is talking about? She even had low-tippers leave her one of those phony dollar-bill tracts.

She asked us if we knew what it felt like to pick up what you thought was a great tip, only to find out that it was not real, and that the patron had actually been a cheapskate after she served them well?

We apologized on behalf of the clods who left her 5% and a tract. My buddy Klay was picking up the bill for us, and he tipped her so well that she ran up to us with a big smile and said, “Guys, you have just made up for the whole afternoon!”

I must admit that I have tipped less for bad service before.  In fact, my inclination is to “punish” the server for being rude or not keeping my water glass full. 

But is that right? 

I’m not so sure that “stiffing” the waiter is the best way to teach a lesson.  Perhaps we should take some notes from Bob and give the waiter or waitress the benefit of the doubt. 

What does tipping say about our theology? 

Shouldn’t Christians be the best tippers!?  After all, God gives generously to his children, shouldn’t we lavish the same kindness to others through little things like tips?

So what are your thoughts?

  1. Should Christians tip more than the average person?
  2. What do you do when you receive bad service?

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