Sunday, February 16, 2014

to tip or not to tip?

Dear Red Robin Server

I came to dine at your restuarant on Saturday night to have a special date with my middle daugther, Norah.  She was over due for a date and I knew Red Robin would be such a fun and different treat for her, especially since it was time with just mommy and a step up from Chick-fil-a.  Plus I had another surprise in store for her after dinner, an ice cream treat at baskin robbins, which I knew for my little Norah would delight her little heart.

We arrived around 7pm (which is normally way passed our meal time, but this is the only way it worked for us on this particular evening with 3 other small children at home, one of which I nurse)  So a late dinner for one night was worth the date with Norah! I knew it would be busy, it was Saturday night and Valentines weekend, so when we arrived and were told it was a 25 minute wait to be seated I was neither surprised nor irritated, just ready to wait for a bit.

We were seated at about 7:25 (just as what was predicted).  You came to us just in a matter of minutes of being seated.  Being that it was a busy night, I ordered both our drinks and food right away.  We ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with oranges and chocolate milk and a hamburger.  Easy, Peasy!

You seemed nice, placed our order right around 7:30 and brought Norah her chocolate milk just a few minutes later and that was the last I saw of you.......for almost a whole hour!!!

We sat right near the expo area and could see into the kitchen.  Norah was very intrigued, she loved watching the kitchen and how it worked.  And since I was a former employee of Red Robin there was a lot I could tell her.  Oh yeah, you should know that I used to work at Red Robin, as a server, book keeper, trainer, and even mid manager  (you never know who you are gonna get at your table, right?). I know how the store works.  I know the expectations, and some how I still always hold mine low, as in low expectations for good servers....

As time ticked by and Norah became hungrier and hungrier I thought man "this kitchen is slammed tonight."  We kept looking for our grilled cheese and hamburger, but everytime we were thought we saw ours it went to another table.  After about 25 minutes I knew that to much time was going buy, I mean Red Robin usually has about 8-10 minute ticket times for food and even on a bad night 25 minutes is long.  So I began to look for you, our server, since you hadn't even acknowledged us since the chocolate milk.

I couldn't find you for a long time and then you appeared serving the table across from us, and then the table next to us, never once glancing in our direction to see if we had our food, if we needed a refill, or if indeed we needed anything even though you were only 10 feet away.  I thought maybe you just forgot to ring in our order, but that didn't really make since because I knew you had to ring in a chocolate milk to get it from the bar...... (one of the things I know since I used to work there)

Then I saw a family, the family who walked into the Door as we were being seated, get their food before us!  That is, they got to the waiting room as we were being seated at our table and placing our order and they still go their food before us!

It had been 45 minutes now, 45 minutes since we placed an order for a grilled cheese and hamburger. So I had to do it, so sorry, you wouldn't even come near us, I had to get a manager.  I politely told him we had been waiting for 45 minutes for our food, and I wasn't sure why it was taking so long and I had a very hungry little 4 year old.  He was very kind and got Norah her meal instantly ! The manager also got Norah some water to drink since her chocolate milk had been devoured, but you didn't seem to notice that either. Norah dug into her food, and I proceeded to wait for my mine, the manager told me the kitchen lost our food ticket and that we would not be paying for the meal tonight because of their mistake.  It happens, its a busy night, people mess up, we are human, I am a mom and I mess up all the time.  There is grace and thank you for the free meal Red Robin.  I waited about another 5-10minutes for my food, and Norah ate without me, kind of a bummer since it is few and far between that I get to sit down and eat at the same time as my kids.

And yet you still had yet to even stop by our table, not even to notice or check that Norah had food and I didn't, nor to acknowledged anything!  Why? Why would you not even glance in our direction?  I have been a server, I know our bill is not high, but I have a big tip for you!

I finally got my food, brought by someone else and the manager checks on us again and gets us more fries and brings me more water. The manager, who is not you, you are our server. 

Finally, One hour after placing our order you come by with another chocolate milk, which Norah does not need, do you not notice the 2 drink cups in front of her already, oh wait probably not since you haven't taken notice of us all night.  You never ask me how our food tastes, you just say, " I heard there was a problem with this table, is every thing ok?"  In my head all I am thinking is..... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  We waited 45-60 minutes for our food and you are wondering if there was a problem?.  I of course don't say that to you, I don't think yelling or meaness helps, all I say is, "well, we waited over 45 minutes for our food, but the manager has taken care of us, thank you"

And then you disappeared into oblivion again. Thoughts are running  rampant through my head, maybe you were having a bad night, maybe you don't feel good, maybe you just don't like us,  maybe you are in the weeds, or maybe you are just a bad server, I don't know, and I am sure there is much more to you that I would ever guess or know, but I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I'm just wondering why you chose to ignore us for so long?  Did you have no concept of time?  Did you not start to wonder, "where is table # 13's food, it seems like it has been a while?"    Maybe you didn't realize it had been so long, busy night and all, so then I wonder why you just can't simply say, "I'm so sorry I did not realize so much time had passed since you placed your order."  Or maybe even a "how does your food taste, I'm sorry you had to wait so long." Instead you chose to ignore,  ignore us, ignore there was any kind of problem, you probably figured your weren't getting a tip anyway so why bother right?

 Listen, I know that you do not cook the food, you don't have control of that, but you could have still served us, it is your job.   I came out to eat, to be served, to pay you so I could enjoy an evening off.  I wanted a break, I am a mom of 4 small children and all I wanted was an easy, yummy meal with my little 4 year old.  It was not fun waiting an hour for my food, but what was less fun was the fact that I had to even consider in my head whether I should give you a tip or not.  People make mistakes, I can get over that.  What I can't get over is pretending everything is ok, and ignoring us. I have never ever not given a tip, it is a horrible feeling to be "stiffed" to a have a table leave without paying you, because that is your only form of payment .  I know servers only make $2.13/hour and you rely on  tips for income.  This is the first time in my life I have had this battle, had a dilema of sorts on whether or not to tip.   But so much of our night had been wasted, my time is valuable, and although I got to spend some special time with my daughter, its not quite as fun when she was so hungry that 90 percent of the conversation was, "i'm so hungry momma, is our food coming yet?"

Oh and remember how I was going to take Norah to baskin robbins for dessert, well once the clocked ticked 9pm and we were still at Red Robin I knew that wasn't going to happen

Oh and as Norah finished her meal she asked if she can have more oranges, I know that at Red Robin they basically refill anything, they are Red Robin they do little stuff like that all the time.  And since I would rather her fill up on oranges than fries I tell her yes, but once again you are no where to be found, so Norah has to stand on her seat, lean over the expo glass and ask the manager if she can have more oranges.  He helps us yet again and graciously brings Norah more oranges!

You come by our table one last time, with a refill that I don't need and tell us that the manager covered our meal (which we already knew since he had been serving us the whole night), you don't drop a blank check or anything though, so we don't even know how much our orginial meal was, which can help me determine the tip percent.

So Red Robin server, what do you think, do you think I should tip you? Do you think you earned it?  Do you think I should leave a tip simply because I sat in your section?

Readers, what do you think?  Do you think I stiffed my first tabled or do you think my conscious wouldn't allow me to leave nothing?  I'm interested to hear your response and why or why not

OH and Norah fell asleep right after I put her in the car


  1. I'm the sort of person who leaves 20% standard, 10% if service is sub par, and over 20% if service is great. I've worked as a server for many years, and I strongly believe in TIPS- To Insure Prompt Service. Once a server starts acting like a tip is mandatory, service starts to plummet. Seeing as how your server really ruined your special night, and the meal was comped and you weren't even left a bill to view, I probably just would have walked out. It sucks- but I don't think filling up water a few times and being completely unapologetic for your experience is much of a reason to give her any extra money. If anything, I'd consider tipping the manager.

  2. I would not leave a tip. The tip is for service which you clearly didn't get!

  3. Maybe they were just having a rough night. Even if service is terrible, I leave something. As a former server, I understand the frustration but I'm also frustrated anytime anyone stiffs, regardless of the reasons. Remember, these people don't make minimum wage, they make about half of it and are supposed to make up the rest in tips. Sometimes it's just a bad night to get a particular server. Sorry that's probably not what you want to hear.


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