Negative Tip At A Restaurant: Is It Possible?


One of the most common practices followed in American restaurant dining is leaving a tip for the server who made it a point to ensure that you had quality dining with them.

However, there are times when we actually don’t want to tip or when we actually did not have the best time eating at a restaurant for various reasons, such as the server or waiter’s service. So, if that is the case, can you actually leave a negative tip in the most extreme bad experiences at a restaurant?

You can’t leave a negative tip at a restaurant because this is equal to asking the waiter or the restaurant to pay you back. When you try writing a negative tip, the most likely case is that you will still be charged the full bill and with no tip to the waiter. Or you can leave no tip at all.

Tipping has always been customary in American dining, but you don’t always need to leave one if you didn’t like the service or if the food was unsatisfactory to you. But you certainly can’t leave a negative tip to find a way to get some of your money back because you were unsatisfied by either or both the food and the service. Still, let’s talk more about this topic so that you will understand it.

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Can you leave a negative tip at a restaurant?

For those who haven’t tried dining in America when you are on vacation in the US, one of the things you should know is that it is customary for you to leave a tip behind when you are eating at a restaurant. That’s because the tip is for the server or the waiter who served you your food as you are basically complimenting his/her service. In fact, tipping has become so customary that you are considered rude when you don’t leave a tip or if you are a bad tipper.

So, what if you didn’t like the food at the restaurant and/or the server’s service? For example, the food quality was way below what you were expecting to the point that it didn’t seem right that you had to pay the price it was advertised for. Another example is when the server or waiter was rude to you and took too much time to serve you or attend to your needs. Can you actually leave a negative tip behind when you get the bill so that you could get back a portion of what you are supposed to pay for because you were unsatisfied?

Technically, no, you cannot leave behind a negative tip at a restaurant when you get the bill. No matter how unsatisfied you were with the food or how rude or bad the service of the server or waiter was, you still can’t leave behind a negative tip. When you try to write a negative tip, the most probable scenario is probably that the restaurant will still charge you the full bill but with no tip left behind for the server or waiter.

Read also: Do Waiters In America Expect Tips?

What can I do if I didn’t like the food and/or the service?

So, now that you know that you didn’t like the food and/or the service that was given to you by the restaurant and its server or waiter, you might be wondering what you can do to get your money’s worth or to make sure that you are compensated for the trouble you had to go through? After all, the restaurant shouldn’t get the full price plus a tip if the people running it didn’t even do a good job at giving you the best kind of experience you were expecting when you dined with them.

The best thing that you can do here instead of leaving a negative tip is to ask the server or waiter for the manager. You can explain to the manager the predicament, such as how you didn’t like the food or that the server or waiter was not doing a good job. So, if the food was unsatisfactory, the best that the manager could probably do is write off a part of your bill so that you are essentially compensated for the trouble.

Or, if it is only the server or the waiter’s services that bothered you in times when the food was excellent, but the server or waiter didn’t do a good job or was actually rude to you, the best that you can do is not to tip the server or waiter and then explain why you didn’t leave a tip. Explaining shouldn’t be mandatory but, in a culture where it is rude not to leave a tip, it might be a better idea for you to try to explain why you didn’t leave a tip so that the server or waiter can understand your side.

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Should I always leave a tip?

Frankly speaking, this is something that has been puzzling a lot of people who often eat at restaurants because tipping has become so customary in American dining that it has to be something that you automatically do or else you would end up getting branded as “rude.” Even those who leave tips but small ones still get branded as bad tippers by restaurant servers and employees.

So, should you even always leave a tip when you are eating at a restaurant, no matter what kind of service you get from the server or waiter?

Society will tell you that you should always tip or be branded as a rude customer who doesn’t respect the servers or waiters who actually make below minimum wage. But, at the same time, common sense might tell you not always to tip because tips are supposed to be incentives that restaurant workers have to earn by working hard.

So, in a sense, if tipping has become so automatic that servers and waiters expect it at the end of service no matter how bad or mediocre it was, it doesn’t incentivize him/her to work harder to earn the tip. By not always giving out a tip, you would avoid getting bad service from the restaurant worker. However, while you might say that you are free to do whatever you want to do with your money, it still is better to tip if the server or waiter actually did the best job possible to accommodate you.

That said, if you are tipping only to avoid the rude or bad tipper stigma, you are not helping out the customers or the restaurant itself. However, if you actually tip based on merits and service, you are a sound and informed tipper. Just make sure you never leave a negative tip.

Also, remember here that bad food is not an excuse not to tip a server or waiter who did a good job. Keep in mind that bad food is a bad chef who probably didn’t know how to cook good food and used a bad knife because he didn’t use a kitchen tool as good as this knife. But the way the food is cooked and prepared is out of the server or waiter’s hands. That’s why you still need to tip a server who did a good job, even if the food was subpar.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS and while I love working in a busy restaurant, I also enjoy more peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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