Tell server of mistake?

At breakfast today I wanted another drink and couldn’t get my server’s attention. She was 20 feet away talking to a (very slowly) departing customer, not looking at me. I chose not to get up and approach her, nor to call her name loudly enough to be heard. I expect servers to look to their tables occasionally. After a good eight minutes of her not looking over, I flagged down a passing server who got her attention for me.

Her demeanor and service were otherwise fine, but being ignored for so long due to socializing bothered me. Where I would normally tip at least 20%, I tipped just under 15%.

I’m wondering if I should have told her of my dissatisfaction. On the one hand it cost her some tip, and for whatever reason it appeared she wasn’t mindful of checking her customers. On the other hand I worry about seeming to scold or patronize, being the layman telling the pro how to do the job. All opinions welcome, but I’d be especially grateful for those of restaurant servers.

In case it matters it was an informal but rather higher tier place, in between Ruth Chris and Applebee’s.

Between applebee’s and ruth Chris? That’s like saying you ate somewhere between a dumpster and ruth chris.

As for your server situation, leaving a smaller tip is fine for a minor annoyance. If it was something really egregious, tip really low and tell the manager.

8 minutes? If your server cannot respond because they are dealing with another customer (or any other reason), why isn’t another server picking up? This is NOT the server’s problem; rather it’s the restaurant’s problem.

My guess is that between the low tip and having another server inform your server of your request she knows what happened. My attitude would be that I’m not paid to evaluate or train waitstaff. Enough low tips and she’ll learn or quit. An eight minute wait to catch your server’s attention is too long.

The lesser tip is all the communicating that needs to happen. Were it something wildly out of the ordinary, I’d consider saying something. But this was overt bordering on cliche. She’ll figure it out, if she notices at all.

But what you did was exactly spot on, don’t give it another thought, is my advice. (Server 20+ yrs)

Wait staff need to earn their tips. You’re not obligated to tip 20% for shitty service. If the server was inattentive, feel free to tip less. No need to second guess or feel guilty about it.

Waiting 8 minutes is shitty service? Wow. Obviously my expectations and experience are vastly different.

Now, I’ve anecdotally heard that customer service is better in the US than in Canada, but 8 minutes would barely register with me.

There’s no point in telling the server. If you want to, tell the manager. Even 15% is a lot for bad service. My wife and I stopped going to a local diner a couple of years ago after a similar incident. The wait staff wasn’t busy, they were just chatting with each other and ignoring tables. It wasn’t the first time the service there was bad and 2 strikes is enough for a restaurant. There’s a better place a few miles further away so it was a good thing in the end, giving us the incentive to drive a few more miles for a better experience.

I have to ask, living in a place where tipping is a non-event, just how much did this breakfast cost? I find it hard to believe that patrons think a 5% reduction in the tip on a cheap meal will seriously make an impression on the server. How does the server divine what the tip would have been had they been better at their job? Can they tell whether or not the customer is simply cheap?

If your server is giving her full attention to a non-customer (someone who has finished their meal and is on the way out the door) for eight minutes and is completely ignoring her customers who are still eating, then yes that is shitty service. If the restaurant was busy, if the staff was short-handed, and she was doing her best to keep up, that’s another story.

Bah it’s not a non-customer. Just because a customer is finished doesn’t mean that service stops. This might be a regular that always tips high. Who knows?

That said, I would not give lowering a tip a second thought and, as others have said, I wouldn’t let her know why or talk to management. If it happens often for her then she’ll either eventually pick up on it or not. If she does she’ll either change or not depending on how much she values higher tips or if her boss says something. Go on, live your life and don’t feel guilt or obligation.

That’s what I was going to say. Would the server even notice, unless the OP is a regular? I still know people who tip 15% as standard, so I can’t imagine a tip of 15% or just under is going to be noticed as a ding without another reference point.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of money or an expensive meal. A waiter will be mentally calculating percentages (not dollar amount) as he/she accumulates check payments throughout the shift. A 10% (vs 15%-20%) tip would be noticed, even if the meal was only $20.
The server doesnt always know if a low tip is due to a cheap customer or an actual error in service, but Im sure in the OP’s scenario, the server would know.

Honestly seems like some people would prefer slaves to serve their food.

Just look at this from the OP

That massively inconvenient 8 minute delay is partly on you. I’m sure you managed to re-prioritise your packed schedule, though.

Nah, slaves only get a 10% tip.

I don’t want to give performance reviews every time I eat out. I wish there were no tipping, and the servers were paid adequately from the listed prices. I’d be happy to complain to the manager if the server was egregiously bad, and give a brighter “thank you” if the service is especially nice, but I really don’t want to sit around thinking “how much less should I tip for this? Should I report that?”

I’d not say anything, and go on with my life. I’d probably have tipped 20%, too, because I don’t want to deal with evaluating service.

I think 8 mins is too long to try and catch the eye of the server. Her job is to attend your needs after all. If she was rushed off her feet that’d be one thing. But she’s free to chat, within sight, but doesn’t notice? Yeah, 8 mins is too long in my book.

As an aside, service is better when business is steady. When it’s slow there’s not much to do, while you’re eating, to keep your server out on the floor and at hand. So they kill time by talking to a coworker. But people are just human, it’s easy for that to stretch longer then the speakers perceive. Plus, Murphy’s law says as soon as you go into the kitchen someone will spill their drink or need something NOW ! Most servers are trying not to get distracted, but it can easily happen when it’s slow. They are by nature ‘keep busy’ types, so when they have spare minutes they go fold napkins or wipe menus etc, etc. Just saying, distraction is more likely when it’s slow than when it’s busy, not by way of excuse so much as explanation.

We were eating dinner out one time when the server brought our food and drink and then disappeared. Never came back to check on us and ask if we needed drink refills, dessert, or anything. She was visible in the bar area with a co-worker, chatting up a couple of guys. Eight minutes? This was more like 40 minutes.

Maybe the 29 cent tip alerted her to the fact that something went wrong. :dubious:*

*this is the only time I ever left such a “tip” in response to poor service.

You get to tip whatever you want to tip. That’s how the system works. That said, my existence has been pretty privileged for some time now, and restaurant service can be a pretty shitty job, so I need good reason to ever go below 20% on non-business dinners. The op example wouldn’t qualify, being ignored for the entire meal after the plates were not placed but dropped on the table has, though. Best I can remember that was once in the past decade.

Business dinners are different - I’m working, and if the waiter makes my job harder - i.e. when service is so bad that it becomes the topic of conversation, and so reflects poorly on me as the “host” of the meal, it pisses me off. The reason I pick high price-point restaurants is so the experience helps me achieve my goals, and that means service better be great. If I am charged around 500 bucks for 3-4 people, and the attitude of any of the wait-staff is distractingly bad, I won’t tip 100-125. It can go pretty low at that point, percentage wise.

The tip itself is not the solution here. The server either knows or doesn’t know she provided good service, but either way it is clear she didn’t care, and she probably won’t notice that a 15% tip is supposed to reflect poor service. As I said before, if you want to express your displeasure then talk to the manager. Nothing you say to the server or leave as a tip will make a difference.