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Waiters Explain Why They Have Rejected A Tip From A Customer

Thanks, but I don't need charity.... or blood money!

Waiters Explain Why They Have Rejected A Tip From A Customer

Being in the service industry is an incredibly difficult career. It is not for the lazy or faint of heart. In fact it has been scientifically proven that it takes an emotional toll on the soul, the body and most especially the mind. So what could possibly make a server reject the coin they are working for?

Danial N was on Quora and wanted those in the service industry to discuss some reasons as to whose money isn;t worth taking by asking....

As a waiter/waitress, have you ever rejected a tip from a customer?

No Thank You.


Oh yes.

I used to work at a place that had a popular breakfast menu among senior citizens. They would come in by the busload every morning and while a lot of them were wonderful people, most were on a fixed income and took it out on me. They brought coupons, ordered water, shared meals and when the time came to pay they would often tip $0.10 - $0.25 cents (if anything).

While I understand not having a lot of money, I am also of the opinion that if you cannot afford to tip, you cannot afford to eat out. Eventually I started making a point of swiping the chump change into my bus tub with the dirty dishes when the people were still there; not for all of them, but for the ones that had been particularly difficult, yup.

One time I did this and the old bat that had been a serious pain in my butt all morning saw and two bright spots of color appeared on her cheeks, she looked positively enraged and reached into the bus tub to retrieve her dime squawking, "If you don't want it I certainly know of someone who will!" But here's the thing, it was a bus tub full of dirty dishes and she screamed squawking in rage when she only succeeded in coating most of her hand the edge of her white sleeve in ketchup. That was glorious.

Once I had a lovely couple who were super friendly and sweet. She was clearly sick (chemo-bald, thin, sickly looking) and he was so sweet to her. When it came time to pay they presented me with a gift card they took out of an envelope from a local church, their dinner out had clearly been a gift to them. He tried to give me $10 in cash to cover the tip but I said, "absolutely no need, it's been a pleasure to serve you. Please use it to buy your lovely young lady some flowers!" It felt good to make them smile.

And once, I turned down a $20 tip from a guy who was a positive perv. He was lecherous to the point of offense all evening and when it came time to pay he swaggered up to me, tried to shove the $20 down the front of my blouse and said, "and this is for you sweet cheeks." Or something like that, I don't recall word-for-word what he said but I know it was cringe-worthy. I jerked to the side before he could get his filthy mitt down into my shirt and said coldly, "no thank you." He was totally offended but I couldn't have cared less. Angel S

"The Dram Shop Law."

I did not reject the tip, I rejected the reason for the tip.

I was a bartender in a restaurant in Texas.

I had a party of 6 come in and order house wine and then proceed to order several more carafes.

Drinking at restaurants or bars in Texas has an issue, it is called "The Dram Shop Law." As the bartender, I am responsible for how much the customer drinks. If I serve a customer too much alcohol, they proceed to drink & drive and then harm or kill someone, the restaurant AND the bartender will be held responsible.

(The issue is simple if someone has only been drinking with your establishment. It gets more complicated when they have been drinking someplace else and their last drink is with your establishment. As a bartender you depend on your servers to tell you if someone is too drunk already. This is a whole other story.)

These folks had only been drinking with us. They consumed too much alcohol and too quickly. I did the responsible thing and cut them off.

I was waiting on their table too. I let my manager know I could not serve them any more. Then I let the customer who was ordering know they had hit their limit.

The customers talked about it, got their tab and left. The customer I had told that they were cut off said as he was leaving, "I left you a good tip so we can come back and drink as much as we want."

Customer left, I go get their check and he had indeed left a generous tip, $100.

The issue was that was not a good tip for service, that was a bribe for future law breaking. I took the tip, I did not take the bribe.

If I got sued for a dram shop violation, the $100 would not even dint the cost of a lawyer and the fine I would receive.

Thanks for the tip and I would have cut you off again if I had ever seen you again and you were drinking too much. Steve B

Eternal Damnation.


When I was attending college, I was going to a Christian college and considered myself Christian. I started waiting at Shoney's to help pay tuition in addition to attending school full time.

My colleagues were good at training me but when a large group of 20 people filed in and asked to have a group table, they all snickered, knowing I was going to Bible School and told me I could take that table. They knew this group and one of the kinder waitresses told me in an aside that this group only left a religious tract as a tip.

Not only were they obnoxious, they all had 'special needs' orders and I worked myself hard to keep up with their demands, even slipped them a few free soft drinks and so forth.

As they were getting up to leave, I hovered nearby, helping bus a table and I saw their leader, a woman in her 50's reach into her purse and pull out a tract to leave as the tip.

I swooped in and said with a kind smile, "Oh! Is Eternal Life the only tip you're planning on leaving?"

She looked self-conscious, as if she KNEW she was doing wrong and stammered, "Why… yes?"

I frowned and said, "You can keep that, I'm doing this job to put myself through BIBLE COLLEGE." (I did emphasize that to be perfectly clear.)

She looked taken aback and I added, "You know, you are doing Christianity a big disfavor as none of my "non-saved" coworkers like you for being so terribly cheap."

I turned away so she could leave and noticed she managed to fish out two $20s and left it.

My co-workers were amazed. They always tipped each Wednesday they came in after church from that point on.Stephen H

Keep the Change. 

Yes, multiple times over the course of 7–8 years in the 90s, but it was far more frequent when I was bartending.

I worked in a fine-dining steakhouse with auto execs filling the rail. It wasn't terribly uncommon to have patrons make sexual advances, and the clearest way to shut it down quickly was to not accept a tip, both monetary and non.

Often I refused monetary tips when a new patron was particularly lecherous. This made it clear that his behavior was unacceptable without making a scene and making other patrons uncomfortable. These were white collar guys so often I'd get a blush, apology, and a slink away from the bar with their tail between their legs. It was sometimes innocent enough but the message sent was clear.

There were times when I refused non-monetary tips too: lingerie, an ex's engagement ring, perfume, even a 5 year old car (at that time I was in my senior year of undergrad paying cash through college and my car broke down), to name a few.

I've also turned down tips when I was waiting tables because of racist/abusive/mysogynistic behavior. While it may not have been within my power to kick them out of the restaurant, refusing a tip was my way (albeit shortsighted) of protest.

I even had a particularly incredulous fellow demand to the manager that I be fired on the spot for not accepting his tip.

There was one instance that still haunts me. I was 18 and just took my first job serving alcohol. I was waiting on a couple and the guy was clearly abusive calling her "a useless piece of crap" and other equally endearing terms throughout dinner. I served him two drinks with each becoming more belligerent.

As I was taking their check and he said "keep the change" I noticed what appeared to be the remnants of a black eye under a lot of makeup and strategically placed bangs on the woman. I became internally irate. I cashed them out and brought back the change in the check valet. I handed it to the man saying something to the effect that the money would be better served towards his counseling bill. I then proceeded to hand the woman a $20 bill to "take a cab away from this asshole, on me."

In my youth I thought that action was somehow gutsy and heroic. In retrospect I realize how much my action may have caused her additional angst and abuse; I'm guessing she was the recipient of his resulting anger. I found the $20 and an extra $10 tucked between the salt and pepper on the woman's side of the table after they left.

I can still see her face, 20 years later. Annie J

Bingo the Clown.....

I was working one evening at the classic Ground Round where they had penny a pound Bingo the Clown, popcorn and of course balloons to entertain the kids. I had a mom with a little girl that wasn't more than 6 years old sit in my station. As a server you think to yourself, 'welp that's gonna be a crappy tip, why couldn't the hostess seat adults there?' After taking her order and chatting for a moment I found that she was a single mom with no family.

Every time I went to the table we talked a bit more. She clearly did not have a lot of money but liked to treat her daughter once in a while to dinner and this was the cheapest way to do it. I made sure she had a great time. I brought her extra crayons and coloring books, had Bingo the Clown spend more time at the table and brought her an ice cream sundae at the end of her meal. That little girl was having so much fun. Her big eyes lit up when Bingo the Clown came around and handed her a balloon. There was so much excitement in her when she got her popcorn and dinner.

It was obvious that what other kids take for granted she did not. When I went to make change for her $20 bill for her $11 tab she said keep the change, the way I treated them was worth the price. I made change on the spot and told her to use this money to bring her daughter back again. I felt blessed that day to be able to take care of such a wonderful family.Lisa B

All the Problems.


I have been in a restaurant in my hometown, no big deal, but they look nicer than they are. I brought my girl there, "how about a dinner sweetie?" So I wasn't really searching about the place, but gave it a shot. We sat there, the waiter was kind, but we have not been seated. First problem occurred. But I did not lose my cool, we took a seat and ASKED for the menu.

Second problem. After 5 mins (as a waiter I always compare to myself and to the rules, counting the seconds even) we were served drinks, nothing special to bring, my gf drank some wine, and I drank a coke. We chose one course, because the soups were not good for either of us. The main course was a shrimp pasta for my gf and I ate a steak medium. We got things right off the bat, the waiter was quick with our order. Yes, we were hungry, we went to eat not usual. We WAITED 85 minutes to get served TWO main courses. Third problem.

The waiter has known that we are waiting, and getting angrier as he passes by all the time and not even tell us "your meals are getting ready, please wait a bit more." Fourth problem. Nothing, this was the worst thing he could have done. Not telling us anything. But once we were done, I decided to tip him 10 %, and he rejected, and I knew why, he has done it fair. He, and the restaurant did not deserve any tip.

Hope this is an answer for your question, feel free to criticize. Dániel C

Let me tell you why....

Oh yeah, and I couldn't just refuse it, I had to tell them why.

There was a family that would come into the restaurant I was working at, every Sunday like clockwork. I trained waitresses there, but sometimes would work a Sunday shift for extra cash. And it seemed that every time I did this, they were put into my section. I noticed immediately that the wife did not like me, spoke down her nose to me, actually got insulting once or twice, but the husband was fine. Of course, the kids followed their mother's lead, so overall the table was a handful. They also tipped very little, about 5% on their bill.

Without going into great detail, they trashed their table, returned their food a couple of times, and just generally got even the manager angry at them one Sunday. In fact, I can remember the manager told them that they needed to keep their children under control among other things.

After that mess, they left their usual $5 tip on a $75–100 bill, and I carried it up to the register while they were paying for their bill. I handed it back to her, told her that I would rather receive nothing than be insulted by the tip. I walked away, and never saw them again in that restaurant. I heard from other people that they would come in other nights, but not on Sundays. Susan W


Sort of. People can be very degrading when they're the ones paying. I was in a bad spot waiting tables right before the night crew came in, but right after the day crew was cut. There were easily 32 tables in that place, and just about every single one filled up about 30 minutes before the night crew was scheduled in.

So, I was just doing laps. One at a time I would touch each table, the manager ran food for me. I'll never forget, I touched this one table, one dude asked for a Miller lite. The second lap in, I realized I forgot the beer. He physically pulled me aside and put a small stack of quarters on the table. "This is your tip," he said, "every time you forget something, I'm taking a quarter away."

I looked at his friend. "Is he serious?" I asked. His friend shrugged. I said, "A quarter. You're going to take a quarter away from me. Did your grandma give you those in your birthday card? Can I borrow one for the pay phone to call the Ferrari dealership and tell them I'm going to be a quarter short on this month's payment? Get the heck out of my face with that." It goes without saying this was a very relaxed environment, but not so relaxed that one could come in and get away with treating someone like that. As a server, I was extremely accommodating, even blurred the line of customer/friend more than a few times. But, I'll never accept gratuity from someone who tried to make me feel like a second class citizen. If memory serves me, I grabbed some quarters out of my apron and put them in the table and said the tip for the next server was on me, they'd be here shortly. Peter B

Full on Psycho.


I never was a waitress but I did get tips for what I did. Someone who ordered carry out tipped me .50 cents before. I smiled, kept it and said thank you. It may have been a "poor" tip. Especially since I did more work than most people thought as carside to go. But that's what they felt should be given. Maybe they didn't like my service, or maybe they didn't have much money on them to add more for a tip. Or maybe they didn't think you should tip carry out. It doesn't matter the reason. It's their right to tip me what they want.

I always saved my cash tips up. Until the jar/box they were in got full and then I took it to the bank. I usually kept cash on me to pay for things I needed from the store. And used my card very little. So those two quarters went into the jar. The way I saw it, I had very little money. Lived with my parents and worked for whatever money I did get. I worked for that .50 cents.

So with that said. I always hated when servers threw tantrums over the tip they got. I mean instead of quietly complaining about it later like everyone else. The ones that went full on psycho at the table about it. I've seen some servers yell and throw it back at the guest. That's just unacceptable. Don't reject your tips. You work for them. You smile and say thank you. Keep the tip. And if you felt you deserved a bigger one. You quietly tell your friends in later like every one else.Jacqueline

It's all about the Service....

As a manager there have been many times that in the course of providing outstanding service far above and beyond what was expected that the guest felt obligated to offer a cash tip out of their appreciation. The greatest act of service is to kindly, gently, and appropriately decline the gratuity to make it abundantly clear the level of commitment we have toward legendary service.

I believe this does more to define the heart we have for serving our guests when we give out of personal sacrifice. I never want to embarrass the guest who has kindly offered a gratuity so it must be balanced by a sensitivity to how they may feel if we decline their gracious offer. A server has no obligation but as a manager I usually decline the gratuity that a guest offers me in the normal course of my service.

One time we lost a guest's keys (they dropped out of the valets pocket into another vehicle while he was quickly parking another car) and he was stuck 2 hours from home.

We put him up for the night in our five star hotel and then the next morning I took he and his wife home in my own vehicle just to keep him from having someone come to pick him up. He was grateful for the ride and we had a wonderful conversation on the way. In this case I emphatically declined the cash bundled in his hand and he continued to insist. This is when I reluctantly accepted it but sincerely declined the offer. Sometime receiving the gift is the easier thing to do. Chris C

For Services Rendered. 

I once had an older couple who were beside themselves, because I couldn't offer hand and foot service during peak at brunch. I'm going to set the record straight when I tell you what I did give them.

While I'm trying to flip tables, I give them: store intro, discuss specials, discuss menu, discuss food substitution (No, not for an allergy, but because "most breakfast food is iffy."), and spend a minute on how to make her perfect cup of tea when I got it in less than 10 seconds. Repeatedly I say "Let me get back to you on that, one sec," to only get pulled back in. I'm now "in the weeds" (or in over my head with my workload being back up), sweating, and can hear the kitchen manager screaming my name.

"But no, now wait a minute, child, I need to ask you this…"

Eventually I cut and ran with a "I need to help my other guests." But when I returned, they had both become sour puss poopoos.

By the end of their meal, I had just gotten deweeded, and put back on rotation. The wife comes back after cashing out and puts 2 pennies on the table, as I'm wiping it down. "For services rendered."

In a moment of inspired brilliance, I haphazardly wipe the pennies with my sanitation towel to the floor as she's waiting for my response, turn to her and profusely thank her.

The scrunchy nose and bitter taste in her mouth were all the tip I needed. Aerial A

Damn Kids.


When my oldest son as a college, he was a waiter for a national restaurant chain; he had a table of college students. These students were goofing off and making a mess of their table. They were also very demanding.

Their final bill was over $50. As they went up to the register to pay; he noticed that they had left ten pennies on the table with a smiley face drawn in the spilled sugar.

He gathered up the ten pennies and gave it to them while they were at the register. He smiled and said; "You left some of your money on the table by accident. Have a great night."

The female student in the group seemed to be upset by this. When they got to the parking lot; the female student was seen hitting the male students with her book bag. Linda W

Happy New Year! 

Yes, actually. One time I was working for a corporate chain restaurant. I had just gotten a diagnosis from my doctor that changed my entire life, we were busy and I was waiting on two young women. Their appetizer came out with a hair in it (or so they said). I brought them a new one, paid extra special attention to them and even comped their appetizer. They treated me so bad and left me two pennies as a tip. As a waitress that is basically a tell tale sign that you are a terrible server, and the customer hated your service.

I cried when I found them. I noticed the two girls were still not in their car, walked out and gave them to them with tears in my eyes, and said nothing.

The second time I rejected a tip, it was "keep the change" which was 80 cents. I calmly once again walked to the table, handed it back and said "Obviously you are in need of this much more than I am, and I only make 2 dollars an hour. Have a wonderful day."

There was a time a couple left me a 70 dollar tip on a 30 dollar bill. By the time I realized it, they were gone, otherwise I would have told them that was FAR too much. They also left a note saying "Happy New Year!" I cried happy tears that day! Kendra F

Choose your Bills...

I wasn't a waiter but I worked in a golf club as caddy master at 18 years old. Part of my responsibility was cleaning the club members' golf shoes. At the end of the summer (back in 1968) they were supposed to give me a tip. One member, a car salesman, was a swaggering, show-off type. When tipping time came around, he took out a large bunch of bills: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and I think there was at least a hundred dollar bill (Canadian money). At the time, those larger bills seemed like a fortune to me. And I needed to pay for my next year in school.

He said: "See these bills?Choose the one you want for your tip." Of course my first thought was to take the $100, But I caught myself and on an impulse, did a very stupid thing. I chose a one dollar bill, just to spite him and take away his bragging rights. His face went beet red, he scowled at me, picked up his money, and walked away without a word. During the few days left in the season he neither spoke to me nor looked at me. I felt smug about having put him in his place but it was really very silly of me. He lost face, I made an enemy and lost out on quite a bit of money. That's what pride does. John F

Worse than a dog....


Yes. If they are treating me like a slave or a dog and I will make them pay their tab and leave.

While working in a neighborhood pub, if I was being sexually harassed by guests, (almost unavoidable as a fresh face 19 year old with a cute body, and your regulars are 60 year old men out for their drinks and cracking jokes amongst their buddies) I had to endure rude comments or questions about my measurements, what my boyfriend does with me, etc, what really bothers me if when they say sexual things followed by "well I'm the one tipping you aren't I", implying that if I don't tolerate it, they won't tip me. This is the point I tell them to knock it off, threaten to refuse service and tell them I do not NEED their few dollar tip.

Guests have even gone as far as placing a $10 in change onto the bar, and regardless of how busy or full the bar is, they expect the BEST service or they remove a dollar here and there and reduce the amount they plan to tip. Yes I have refused a tip, usually do to mistreatment, because it made me feel like a dog accepting it, I refused to allow myself to seem desperate for their tips, but usually cutting service off and telling them to leave is done before this so I could care less about their tip. Elle L

Indecent Sir. 

Only once. I was cocktailing at an upper class bar that was infamous for wealthy and celebrity customers. A very wealthy man came into the bar and sat at a corner upholstered table. I knew this man from Church when I was young and I was very close to a couple of his siblings. I don't think he remembered me as he was about 12 years my senior. Anyway, he ordered a drink. When I went to deliver his drink, there was a key on top of the table and a $500 bill sitting next to it.

He told me he was staying at this nice hotel which was very close to the lounge. He stated that he would like me to come visit him at the hotel when my shift ended and that we could have a real fun time. I held back from barfing and placed his drink down on the table. Then, I told him that I would pass on his offer and to enjoy the drink as I would not be serving him again. Later I kicked myself in the butt for not taking the money and then just not show up at the hotel! Andy C

$5 Prize.

I was serving in a sports bar on a UFC night and two middle aged men, obviously old friends, were hanging out watching the fight. They had a decent tab, about $27 each, and they seemed like nice, respectable peeps so I was expecting a decent tip of around $5–6 each.

When it was time to cash them out, one of the two made a big deal about how he wanted to pay for his friend. Loud, selfless… let me get this one. You know the deal. He paid in cash and tipped me about $5 on the $54 dollar check. It was clear from the cash he left me that he expected the change to be my tip.

I wasn't bothered by the poor tip (less than 10%.) I was bothered by the fact that he felt the need to play the 'big important generous man' who bought his friend dinner and hid the fact that he was too cheap to tip properly. I mean, his friend would probably have given me a decent tip. Most people do. But this dude actually cost me money so he could impress his friend.

I gave him his 'tip' back as change and pleasantly told the two to have a nice night. His face grew red and he was obviously either shamed or angry, I don't know which. I'm guessing he was offended, as he took his change and left me no tip whatsoever. Either way, I think I made my point.

Best $5 I ever spent…

; ) Mika B

Blame the Hostess...


I can't say I "rejected" a tip, because it was on the credit card charge. But at the end of my shift and after I'd cashed out all my charged tips, I gave it to the busboy and hostess to split. It was a very large tip, over 100% of the bill, and it was an expensive restaurant, but I felt if I kept it I was telling myself it would mean that the money was more important than my self-respect. I won't go into it, but let's just say I told the manager I would no longer serve them.

The next time they were seated in my station I told the hostess to give them to someone else and I'd take their next table. The person who served them (his first time doing so) also refused to serve them in the future. Fortunately, the manager was protective of his employees and allowed us the freedom to refuse service based on the behavior of the patrons and if we felt it was warranted. One day they came in and were refused service altogether - there was no one left who would serve them. There was no Yelp back in the day but I'm sure if there had been they'd have panned every place they'd ever patronized. Anne

'No Thanks'

I'm a Brit...

Tips left on tables, fine, tips in the tip bowl, thank you, tips straight into hand…

Oh my god.

It's a typical Brit thing, you say "oh no it's quite alright, thank you though" then they insist, then you say "well thank you very much, you're very kind" then take the tip and place it in the bowl.

So yes any tip that someone had tried to physically hand to me I've rejected out of pure British embarrassment to deal with a stranger's money.

We had a Scottish guy (couldn't understand a word he said) but he was flapping an RBS £20 at us asking if we wanted a drink, me and the waitress looked at each other confused and kept saying 'no thanks' but he persisted, in the end he huffed and shoved the note in the tip bowl, queue a mix of laughs and gasps, we asked if he wanted it back and he said no that it's ours and we should have a drink after our shift. Very kind man indeed. Megan T

Keep your $50....

I used to be a hostess and I have turned away tips before. According to the managers at the time, you weren't supposed to accept tips, even though I did multiple times secretly.

I had a guy give me a fiver to go check on his BMW to make sure no one else was parked beside it


Anyways, someone wanted to give me a $50 tip for sitting them at a table that they really wanted. They said they had the best service of their lives and they appreciate how nice I was and they wanted to tip me for it too. They said they tipped the waitress a lot, but they were waving $50 in my face, begging me to take it.

I told them "No, there's no way I'm taking your $50. I can't take it, I'm not allowed to. I would not only get fired, but the managers would take it away from me."

They still slipped me a bit of cash secretly and I gave it to the first waitress to come up to the host desk. Leah C