Ask The Salty Waitress: Does My Server Think I'm A Bad Tipper?

A woman dining alone suspects she’s receiving less-than-stellar service.

I am 63, and was a waitress for over 15 years. Now I have an advanced degree and am very fortunate to be comfortably middle class. I recall from my waitressing days that a single woman alone was expected to be a bad tipper. I am a 25-to-35% tipper, and have been tipping 30% or more during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, I think the stereotype lives on. I often note I am given service that is not as attentive as that given to men and other groups. Do I continue to reward these servers by tipping 30% to show that single women are not bad tippers? Or do I reduce the tip because of the not-so-great service, running the risk of feeding the stereotype?

—Single Hungry Female

Dear Hungry,

First, let's raise a couple of chipped Flo's Diner coffee mugs to your tipping practices! It's guests like you who make me want to dance in my Danskos and dish out a round of tuna melts on the house. Good on you, hon.

Now, to your question, which I think has two parts. Part one: are single women dining solo considered lousy tippers? Buckle in, sweetheart, because it's time for an anecdote. One night, halfway through a grueling shift, I snuck out back to air out my tootsies. One of the line dogs looked me dead in the eye. "Salty," he whispered, "No two tortellini are identical. Remember that."

To be honest, doll, I have no idea what he was talking about (seems like he'd been tipping into the ol' alfredo, if you know what I mean), but I think the same idea applies here. No two tortellini are identical, and no two servers agree on the "worst tippers" stereotype.

In my early days waiting tables, my vision of a bad tipper was a businessman—I'd know if a table full of suits was going to stiff me on the tip before the bread basket even came out. But I've also worked with folks who swear big families leave the worst tips, especially considering all the ketchup splatter that their brats leave behind. Others say teachers give the worst tips; some say it's postal workers. The truth is that none of these groups are necessarily bad tippers. I've had lovely tips from mail carriers, teachers, and businessmen alike. The point is that everyone has different experiences out there on the floor, and those experiences might feed each of our assumptions about bad tippers. With that in mind, there's a good chance the whole "single ladies" stereotype is less widespread than you think.

Now, as for the second part of your question: should you keep on tippin' even when the service is slippin'? Dollface, I'll be straight with you. You mention that you're comfortably middle class, so I think you should keep tipping generously because it's the right thing to do. If you can swing 30%, tip 30%. On the off chance that your server actually harbors ill will toward women of a certain age, a good tip might just turn 'em in your favor.

One last thing: you mentioned that you've had some less-than-phenomenal service, especially when compared to people dining in groups. My theory is that you're too much of a peach to make as many demands as some of these rowdier restaurant patrons, which could be why your servers are giving you some space. If you're dying for a water refill or you're ready for the check, don't hesitate to flag somebody down. Otherwise, enjoy your solo meal, and keep the tips flowin'.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

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