A couple of days ago, I posted my opinion that undertipping food servers shows a lack of character. While I expected some disagreement, I was surprised at how many people insisted on punishing servers (with low tips) who didn't make them happy.
From the way some of these commenters described their experiences, it was clear that 1) they frequently received bad service, and 2) bad service made them incredibly angry. One commenter left a YELL CAPS screed five times longer than the original post.
So I couldn't help asking myself: why do some people feel so threatened by the idea o tipping 15% even for lousy service?
I think there are two reasons.
The first reason people feel threatened by a 15% tip minimum is that they get bad service so frequently that they're afraid they'll get even more bad service if they don't whip those darn servers into shape.
However, what these unhappy customers don't understand is that they get bad service because they have a chip on their shoulder.
From the moment they walk in the door, such customers wordlessly communicate that they're difficult to please. Servers sense from the get-go that they're getting a small tip no matter what, so they shift attention to customers who are easier to please.
Perhaps in an ideal world servers would work even harder to delight these crabby-appletons. But in the real world nobody wants to fight an uphill (and maybe impossible to win) battle. So customers with lousy attitudes get lousy service.
In other words, the "I tip zero for lousy service" crowd would rather finger-point, complain and punish than take control of their attitude and thus their own dining experience. I used to think that way, too.
Today, thoug, I consistently get good service. My secret: when the server approaches, I say: "Hi! I'm Geoffrey and this is Natalie and we're going to be your customers for the evening." It always gets a smile and almost always results in fabulous service.Try it sometime.
The general case here, though, is that your life is always what you make of it. You can obsess about and react to what you don't like about your experiences, or you can take charge and make them richer and more fulfilling.
The second reason some people feel threatened by a 15% tip minimum is that those who are low on the social totem pole feel better about themselves when they can crap on whoever is even lower down that pole.
Anybody who's watched Downton Abbey knows what I'm talking about. The upper class toffs are unfailingly polite and kind to the servants, while the servants themselves are pettily obsessed with reinforcing their own position in the pecking order.
In exactly the same way, people who punish servers with lousy tips are revealing that they feel helpless, weak, frustrated and underpaid. Rather than take control of their destiny they'd rather feel important by abusing the "servants."
In other words, people who can't imagine tipping 15% for poor service lack what used to be called "noblesse oblige." Their pettiness reflects a perceived lack of social status and an inability to clearlyimagine a positive change in that status.
Reacting to events rather than creating your life inevitably results in small-mindedness. Let me put it this way: if you believe in your heart that someday you'll be rich and successful, you don't stiff a waiter for a lousy $5 even the service was below par