I worked during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college at a small locally owned Greek restaurant in my hometown in Indiana. I actually really liked that job. You could leave with cash in hand and I worked with some really fun people, some of which were also on their college summer break. We would often go out after work, smelling like grease and all, and celebrate the good weather and worry free job we had just completed.
I am a pretty friendly person to everyone I meet. Maybe even overly friendly to strangers because at times I am afraid that someone won't like me. This was especially true of my younger days. During one particular dinner shift, I approached my next table with a big smile, welcomed the two women who were sitting in a window booth, both heavier set white women probably in their late 40s, and took their order when they were ready.
When I brought their food, everything was correct and on time, one of the ladies looked at me and said "You can stop trying so hard, tipping is optional you know."
Stunned but still smiling I said, "Yes ma'am, I know."
I then continued to refill their beverages, clear their table, put their leftovers in boxes and bag it up, plated and served them dessert, and gave them their bill... for which I was tipped NOTHING on about $40.00.
I was shocked. I have since then experienced more disappointing things in my life, but at that age you would have thought this was the worse thing that had ever happened to me. I went to the back of our restaurant to our dark empty banquet room and started to cry. Why would they do that to me? Do they know that I only make $2.15 per hour and my income depends almost solely on tips? Not even just the money, but the fact that for some reason they didn't think I deserved a tip really hurt the most.
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To this day, I don't know why these two women would do that to a 21 year old girl who I am sure seemed nice enough and gave at least average service. I think it says more about the type of people they were than I was or am. How unhappy must they have been to say such a mean thing to a young girl just trying to make some spending money for college? I wonder what they are up to now since it is a decade later...
This experience gave me an additional lesson on why you treat people the way you want to be treated. Attitude, criticism, nastiness - they can make or break someone's day! To this day, the service has to be pretty bad for me to tip less. And even at that it is probably just lowered to 10%...
I have never stiffed anyone nor have I lowered a tip for a mistake or even several mistakes. Now, general lack of interest or rudeness, that will get your money lowered, but has only happened about 4 times in 10 years.