The Rant

The Tipping Point

Women are lousy tippers, but women of a certain age—my age—are the worst

Women are lousy tippers. There, I said it.

And because women are lousy tippers, we often get lousy service. Yeah, I know it's a sweeping generalization, but like most sweeping generalizations, it starts with a seed of truth. So let me clarify: A lot of women tip less than most men, and because of it, all women tend to get service that's less good than most men get. And that irritates me.

I'm entitled to say this because I'm a woman. And because I worked in restaurants for years, and know how important tips are to people who wait on tables or tend bar for a living. I know how poorly women tipped back then, and because I eat out with women friends now and still sometimes sit at a bar by myself and still know people who work in restaurants, I know that a lot of women are still lousy tippers. But women of a certain age—my age—are the worst.

Ladies, if you're sitting at a bar waiting for someone to join you and the bartender ignores you, or you're having lunch by yourself and nobody comes to your table despite the fact that the restaurant is half-empty, it's not because you're no longer a hot young thing: It's because your sisterhood doesn't tip. And bartenders and servers, especially of the male persuasion? They know that. (The whole issue of waiters and waitresses treating their patrons of either gender differently is a whole other story, and a lesson for another time.)

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When I first started traveling alone on business, in my late 20s, I would get service that was absolutely deplorable, and I was a hot young thing then. I once sat at a table in a nearly empty hotel dining room for 10 minutes trying to make eye contact with a waiter who was chatting up one of the waitresses and knew damn well I was there, but when two men were seated nearby, he went right over to them, before ever coming over to me.

I'm not saying there aren't rude, lazy, incompetent hospitality workers who shouldn't be fired—this guy should have been. I'm just saying he didn't expect me to tip, so he took his sweet-ass time getting around to me. And I knew that even back then, having waited on or served drinks to countless females who left me spare change, if that. And it's not like they were any less demanding—although I don't think you'll ever see a female snapper, you know, that guy who snaps his fingers at the server when he wants something.

I'm a very good tipper, and I always have been. But in places where I'm not known, I still get service that's deplorable, say when I'm waiting at the bar for my husband to join me so we can have dinner, but I want to order a drink while I'm waiting. I once had the wine guy tell me at a table, while I was waiting for my husband to park the car, that he'd bring the wine list when my friend got there. I'd had a hard day, and I wanted a glass of wine now dammit, but he cost himself a tip and his employer a sale because I was a woman sitting alone. He was a jerk, but I also blame my sisterhood. Many don't know how to tip and a lot of them don't even know how to dine out.

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Groups of women are the worst. A couple of years ago, I joined 7 other women—a few friends, and some friends of friends—for a little celebratory late breakfast the day before Christmas Eve. I watched them run our poor waitress ragged with the half-cafs and the dry toast and the eggs cooked just so.

Admittedly, I know too much about what it's like to run or work in a restaurant to ever not worry whether I'm being a pain in the ass—in this case, ignorance can be bliss—but I was mortified. We sat there for two hours gabbing, taking up a table while other people were waiting, not spending a cent but asking for repeated refills for the last hour. I tried to suggest we get a move on or order a round of Bloody Marys: no go.

When it finally came time to pay, a couple of them piped up that we all wanted separate checks. Mind you, we had all ordered essentially the same thing, and if any of our tabs were more than 50 cents different I would have eaten coffee grounds, but they all wanted separate checks. Easier for them, right? The waitress, to her credit, kept her eye-rolling to a minimum, but I was desperate. "I'll pay the check; just pay me!" No go.

Thus commenced a 10-minute round of changing twenties and charging different credit cards and in one case expecting to pay with a personal check, and when we pushed back our chairs I noticed that there was only change on the table. I slipped a $20 dollar bill under the sugar bowl and got up, but not before the friend of a friend demanded to know what I was doing. "Just leaving a little extra—she gave us great service and it's Christmas," I said.

The friend of the friend turned to the friend and said: "She's trying to make us look bad."

Sister, you already do.

Tags: friendship