A business card and $11—on a $700 bill.
The worst tip a server can get is always no tip at all, but that doesn’t mean a handful of dirty coins is great, either. As these five servers have shared, some tips are laughingly—insultingly—small. Others are head scratchers. And some may make you question your career.
From a tip that jingled—it was paid in all coins—to an apology written on a receipt to being stiffed on a $700 bill, these servers have serious tipping horror stories. Read on for more.
One dime, two nickels, and 17 pennies.
“It was my first day as a waitress at a restaurant in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. My second table was a table of 12 people. They gave me a very hard time. I was only 16 years old, so I was easily flustered anyway—but they were just downright rude and they knew it. They all ordered very big meals and ended up sending half of them back for various reasons, plus they had me running back to the kitchen at least another dozen times for extra gravy—they put gravy on everything. All in all, I must have run back to the kitchen at least 30 times for them. It was ridiculous. When they finally left and I started cleaning the disaster they left on the table, I saw my tip tucked under a leftover, gravy-filled plate: one dime, two nickels, and 17 pennies. That was it. It was at that point in time I made my first real, calculated decision about my future, and it was definitely not in food service! I gave my notice that night.” — a former server who asked to remain anonymous
Exactly zero on a $700 bill.
“I didn’t get a tip from a $700 bill once. I wondered if it was misunderstanding, because the guests were from Sweden and perhaps they were not aware that we tip in the U.S. Then again, maybe I am being generous in thinking that, and they just didn’t want to tip me.” — Casey Lee, server at Back Bar and social media strategist at Toast
“Sorry, I’m ballin' on a budget.”
“The worst ‘tip’ I ever received was not a tip at all. Instead, the customers wrote, ‘Sorry, I’m ballin' on a budget’ on the receipt's gratuity line. I gave them great service and even helped them out when the pasta the customer ordered was a bit cold. They were perfectly nice and even knew me personally from high school. I was dumbfounded. I showed my coworkers the receipt and we all laughed in disbelief. When you’re a server, you unfortunately become accustomed to customers leaving you less-than-worthy tips. But this one was a real slap in the face. When the same customers returned and sat in a coworker’s section, she refused to serve them because she knew she wouldn’t receive a tip and they had been so rude to me.” — a server in South Florida who asked to remain anonymous
A business card and $11—on a $700 bill.
“My worst tip came about five years ago. This was at a previous resort I used to work at, a very beautiful and elegant property. I was the bartender in the main lounge, and on this night, the place was empty and it was close to last call. I had already began to break down the bar and clean up. That’s when two young women came in and sat at the bar. I served them each a glass of wine and appetizers. The two of them began to tell me that I’m friendly and professional but working in the wrong industry and how I should get into their line of work. As I recall, I they were involved with a health food supplement company that would soon revolutionize the country, they said. One of them told me that the day before she bought a new Bentley. They told me that I needed to join their team so I could get rich like them. One of the ladies then ordered a $500 bottle of 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne and a few more appetizers. By this time, it was an hour past closing time, but I stayed open, because I had a couple of high rollers, and it had already been a slow night. I didn’t mind. Finally, when they had finished their food and Champagne they got the bill, and it was around $700. They signed the tab to their room, thanked me for the evening, and again asked that I consider the job offer. Then, they left. Of course, I was very excited to look at the bill to see what kind of tip I would be getting from these ‘millionaires.’ To my surprise, they left $11. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I tossed the business card.” — Robert Porter, head mixologist at J&G Steakhouse and Cocktail Artist mixologist