Leaving a negative tip

What happens if I leave a negative tip on a bill, as in:

Subtotal: $40.00
Tax: 3.00

Total: 43.00
Tip: -7.00

Total: 36.00

Will the restaurant only be legally allowed to charge me $36.00? Will they still charge me $43.00? If so, will the credit card company pay since I only signed for $36.00?

Yes, this is a serious question.

If you mean a situation where they automatically add a gratuity to your bill (eg, a large group or something) then I don’t know.

If you mean normally, the restaurant would probably have problems with your credit card - IIRC, charging a card for anything but the signed-for price could be considered fraud (though I may be wrong). If you try to pay cash and stiff them like that, then the meal still cost the same, and at most places, a ditched check comes out of the server’s pay.

Also, that’s just not a nice thing to do.

Your signature is (in some states) only a formality. Was your card run before or after your decision to try a negative amount?

The store will run your card at $43.00. You think you can get a food discount by “tipping” -$7? I’m not actually positing that, it was just for rhetorics sake.

On a practical level, when credit cards are “batched out”, there is usually an “add tip” function. You can’t add a negative tip on the machine.

As far as you giving yourself a “$7 coupon”, not gonna happen. The store runs the card, it goes through. You refute the charge, then there’s an investigation. I’d bet that 9 out of ten times (if not more) the decision goes to the merchant. They pay their bills.

If you don’t want to pay the gratuity, ask for it to be taken off the bill.

This is a good thing to do if the management is using this gratuity to make up the minimum wage of the staff. Once you’ve had the amount removed from the bill, you put that amount of money into your server’s hand, in cash. I guarantee you that the server will appreciate it.

If the service or the food was so bad that you don’t want to tip- for goodness sake, don’t tip and ask to speak to the manager. Usually if the food was terrible, they’ll comp it or bring a free replacement and if the server was out of line they will be reprimanded.

There is no call to try and steal from a restaurant by negatively tipping them (and my hunch is that it won’t work anyway).

It sounds like you want to punish the server in a situation where tip has not been included in the amount billed. On that assumption:

Although you may mentally group the food bill and the tip together as the total cost of eating out, that’s not how it works legally. You owe the restaurant for the entire food bill. You can (not must) tip the server for service. If you have an issue with the server, that does not affect what you owe the restaurant. You want a “negative tip?” - get your $7 penalty directly from the server.

Now, if the service was truly lousy, a complaint to management is in order. In some cases, they might even offer a discount on the food bill. But they don’t have to, and you don’t get to decide whether they do or not. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, your recourse is to stop patronizing them.

There are some locales where the law is that you are not obligated to pay for a meal you were not satisfied with. That would apply to lousy food, and might extend to some forms of lousy service. Even so, that has nothing to do with tip, or lack thereof.

In a lot of restaurants, simply stiffing the waiter has the effect of leaving a negative tip. The waiter is required to tip the bar and the kitchen a set percentage and has to pay it whether or not he actually received a tip himself.

What percentage of nothing amounts to a payment?

You didn’t understand me. He has to pay a percentage of what the restaurant charged. Say (simplifed) that the bar percentage and the kitchen percentage are both 1%. The bill’s $100. He has to come up with two bucks, even if he got stiffed.

Gotcha. I was thinking percentage of the tip, but I see it’s a percentage of the bill.

Wow- that’s…wrong. The management should pay the staff properly, the other staff shouldn’t have to!

I’m not really in favour of a tranche (a communal pot that everyone has to put their tips into- often used by management to make up pay to minimum wage), if I tip my server because they did a good job, I want the tip to go to them, not the girl who washes the glasses, or the idiot waiter who never makes tips himself and certainly not to pay the electricity bill of the restaurant!

It is up to the management to pay a living wage to their staff, tips are just that, a free gift given in appreciation of service. Tips should not be used to make up staff wages, and they should not be compulsory.

While many here in the States agree with you, the current system (low wages for servers, customers expected to tip them) is pretty well entrenched. For the most part it works out reasonably well.

Pooling of tips (i.e. among all the servers) is done at some places, but certainly not all. It can be a good system when there is great teamwork, such as servers helping with tables they’re not assigned to. In fact it can foster great teamwork. But it can also be unfair in cases where those who don’t do their share get benefits earned by those who do. Depends on the establishment.

Sharing of tips with cooks, busboys, etc. again is not done everywhere. But again it goes hand in hand with teamwork, where all make their contribution toward the goal of satisfied customers.

As in many things, there are pros and cons to the above when compared with the living wage/rare tip system I understand is prevalent in Europe. Neither system is perfect, neither is awful, and often one’s perspective is colored by what one is most familiar with.

Well, in the OP’s listed example, it’d be stealing. If the restaurant listed a “required gratuitiy” of $7, and you deducted that, you could likely get away with it. However, if the service was that bad, discuss with the manager. I have done so, and gotten:

  1. Free drinks
  2. The entire meal comped
  3. Free dessert.
  4. Blown off/ignored. (Steward Anderson’s Black Angus- bad food, and bad service)

In fact, after a rather mild complaint by email to a resaurant in Carmel, the manager emailed me back with a free dessert offer and a sincere apology.

I’d just scribble “Seabiscuit in the third” on a napkin and tuck it into the check folder.

We don’t tip rarely here- we tip 10% standard for good service in restaurants, and usually put a coin in a tip jar at coffee shops and diners- it’s also polite to leave whatever small coins were given as change.

We don’t tip bar staff, but they usually earn above minimum wage (which is what glass collectors are paid), although when there is table service, or a more up market bar, we might tip.

My sister used to work part-time as a waitress, bartender and cocktail mixologist, and she could earn an awful lot of money in a night in tips. In one upmarket bar where she was serving cocktails, she could make £50 in a night from tips alone- and this is in Edinburgh, the land of notoriously stingy tippers.

The system may be entrenched, but when there was no minimum wage in the UK employers could pay bar staff £1 an hour- that changed when the minimum wage was brought in 7 or 8 years ago, and although price hikes and mass unemployment were predicted as a result, it never happened.

The law should be changed so that everyone is paid a guaranteed minimum wage by their employer, and tips are considered a bonus.

A communal tip jar doesn’t encourage teamwork- it de-motivates people. If you’re not getting 100% of the tips you make, you have very little incentive to work hard.
Would having to give 80% of your pay to your colleagues motivate you?

I stand corrected.

I have no doubt the U.S. would likewise survive a change. However, I don’t see much groundswell in asking for a change.

No doubt in some situations that is what happens, but it’s not always that way. Remember, if you’re giving away 80% of your tips, you’re also getting 80% of everyone else’s tips. It’s to everyone’s financial benefit for tips to be high at every table, and to everyone’s emotional benefit to to have a spirit of cooperation rather than of competition.

Part of this is necessarily peer-pressure enforcement of work ethic. A slacker brings everyone down, financially and emotionally. And as I mentioned it can be unfair if a stellar server’s rewards are trimmed and a poor server’s rewards are enhanced. The other side, though, is the minimization of a penalty for being unlucky enough to get the stingy table, and the sharing of the wealth from an unusually generous tipper when many worked to satisfy him but only one was lucky enough to be assigned the table.

When it comes together - and sometimes it does - it’s a win/win proposition. Customers get great service, servers get good tips, working atmosphere is pleasant, and of course the establishment does well due to satisfied customers.

When it doesn’t come together, it sucks, as you suggest.

I can only speak to the little place where I work. There is one bartender, one cook and me. All three of us bus and do dishes and we have a communal tip jar. We all also make minimum wage (as far as I know). Tip sharing seems more than fair because A.) I don’t have to spend any of my time pouring drinks so I can serve more people and B.) Without a chef who makes awesome food fast, I’d be making a LOT less in tips.

It only makes sense to split it between the three of us. Maybe it’s not a good idea for larger restaurants, I don’t know, but it still seems like it would be.

Tipping out is a long standing custom in restaraunts here, having busboys and kitchen staff thinking happy thoughts about you is helpful especially since if the busboys spend more time clearing your tables then you can seat more customers faster. Also many a busboy can and will refill a drink or fill other small requests. If you don’t like to share they will most likely not make requests from your area a priority.

I think that the management always needs to know when the service was below standard - not so that you can get a free meal, but so that the restaurant can be improved for the benefit of the next diners that come in. And it might be you. So when I get lousy service, I give a less than 20% tip - sometimes less than 15%, and I tell the manager. But I don’t wuss out and ONLY tell the manager. I also make it my business to tell the waiter. Not to ream him or her, but to let them know why I though the service was below par. Sometimes, they need to know. Sometimes, they don’t realize it. I sometimes just have to level with them - hey, I felt you were just surly and you didn’t give us the attention we expected at these prices, or, you seemed to ignore us much of the evening and the service wasn’t what we were looking for, and I just wanted you to know we didn’t appreciate it. I don’t think it’s fair to tattle on a waiter. If you’re going to stiff them, or short them, you have to have the stones to be direct and tell them why. And not be snide about it. I sometimes feel that people take advantage of servers just because they can. They do it not only anonymously, they steal the guy’s wages, and to top it off, they try to get a free meal out of it. Least you can do is face the guy and tell him why you’re taking his money.

The reason there isn’t really a groundswell is because in the end for the consumer there would probably be little difference between a tipping regime and a no-tipping higher pay regime when it comes to the overall bill.

This is what I was getting at. Perhaps I should have emphasized that I have absolutely no plans of doing this. I realize that here in the US servers are paid only a token amount and are expected to make the bulk of their earnings through tips. It takes truly abysmal service to warrant not leaving anything at all