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An Open Letter to Bad Tippers: Why Not Tipping Your Waitstaff Is Inexcusable

Dear tightwads -- if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip your wait staff.


A reader, "MJ," sent me this:

Dear Matt,

Can you write something about people who don't tip??? I see you've posted about people who are rude to customer service and people who leave their carts in the parking lot... what about people who don't leave tips. I'd like to tell you about what happened to me. I'm a waitress at a steakhouse in a different state from you. Myself and my coworkers get stiffed all the time by people. Especially older people who drive expensive cars to get here then order expensive drinks and expensive entrees and leave a 5 percent tip. It's so infuriating!!! This is how I feed my kids ... I'm a mom... recently divorced.. and I take care of my family through tips! Yesterday a couple came in, stayed at a table for two hours, ordered appetizers, entrees and desserts... I took good care of them... they even complimented me on my great service.... and then they left a note on the reciept saying they "unfortunately" couldn't "afford" to leave a tip. They just spent 80 DOLLARS ON THEIR MEAL!! You can afford to spend 80 dollars on one dinner but you can't afford to tip??? Sorry Matt this just makes me so angry and its a really common problem. I thought maybe you could talk about it to bring to people's attention.

If you use this just call me MJ.

This woman has challenged me to speak out against non-tipping tyrants, and I could not live with myself if I failed to answer her call. I will address my response not to her, but to the tightwads who torment her and her fellow toilers in the grueling, thankless "service industry."

This is the least that I can do. I love to eat -- it's my favorite pastime -- and eating out is always a treat. Yet I know that this experience requires the labor of many people; labor that I could not do. I lack the patience and temperament required to deal with the daily onslaught of pompous cheapskates and verbally abusive egomaniacs.

And now to speak directly to a certain terrifying subset of this species. These are the lowest, most shameless sorts of customers. Their existence is a constant, chilling reminder that evil exists in the world. They are the non-tippers:

Dear Non-Tippers,

Are you thinking about going out tonight? Considering a nice little jaunt to that cozy steakhouse down on main street? Looking forward to a pleasant evening of being fed and waited upon by strangers? Maybe catching a flick after dinner? Good. Good for you. Sounds like a splendid evening. I'm happy that you've got the money to treat yourselves.

Oh, but you don't have it in your budget to tip your server?

Then it would seem that you, in fact, don't have the money to treat yourselves after all.

My friends, if you have 35 bucks to drop on a meal, but you don't have the 7 dollars to leave a 20 percent tip, then what are you doing in a restaurant in the first place? You need to hire a financial adviser (well, maybe see if you can get a free consult) because it's just plain unwise to blow your entire net worth on a couple of entrees at Applebee's. Save your 35 dollar nest egg, run to Walmart, buy a box of spaghetti for a dollar, and enjoy a home cooked meal.

For a while in my early twenties, after I paid my bills for the month, I usually had about 30 or 40 dollars left over. I often drove by sit-down restaurants and thought, "Hmmm, I wish I could pull in and have a bite to eat." But then I remembered, "Oh, I'm broke; I have no money, I'm poor," and so I went back to my apartment and ate peanut butter and jelly or ramen noodles. These are the traditional cultural dishes of Broke People -- not big, juicy hamburgers at high class joints like Chili's.

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