On "Bad Tips" And "Bad Tippers"
A Word About “Bad Tips”
In the years since the first publication of The Renegade Server, I’ve had the honor of meeting and speaking with thousands of hospitality professionals. Many relate how they have taken the techniques and philosophies written about here and applied them to their own work. Some with amazing results. I’ve spoken with countless servers and bartenders who’ve related stories of tip incomes that have doubled and more... many of whom make six figures every year working the same hours as they did before.
One of the most frequently asked questions I encounter, however, is what to do about the “Bad Tipper.” Some servers have said things like, “I tried the things in your book, and I still got stiffed on a tip last night!” The sad fact is that, no matter what you do or what training you receive, book you read, who you are or how you serve, there will always be times when you receive a “bad tip.” Even if you do everything right, the eventuality of a “bad tip” is beyond your control. When it comes to a “bad tip,” the only thing you control is how you respond.
I believe there are no such things as “Bad Tips” (or Bad Tippers). Tips can be big and small, but no gratuity is ever “bad,” or taken for granted by the Renegade.
I’m reminded of a story a server was telling me about a regular customer who came into her restaurant several times a week. Because this customer was a straight 10% tipper, the servers working when he came in always tried to get out of serving him. Eventually, though, everybody occasionally got ‘stuck’ with this low-tipping regular and grumbled about how they never made ‘good money’ on him.
I advised this server that there was a way to make good money on that loyal regular. Instead of dreading his visit and trying to get out of serving him, she needed to make sure that only she - and no one else - served him every time he came in. The reason? If you’re only going to make a small amount, the only way to turn that into ‘good money’ is to make it often. If I had a magic box that spit out $110 dollars every time I put a $100 bill in it, I would spend all my time shoving C-notes into that thing and throw rocks at anyone else that tried to come near it. At the end of the week, she will have made 30-40% on that frequent guest with a little more work. That’s how to turn a ‘bad tip’ into big money. Work.
We all show up for each shift with a finite amount of ‘emotional currency.’ Meaning, there is only so much you can give and so much you can take in one day. You choose how that emotional currency is spent, invested or squandered. The crucial question for the Renegade Server throughout their shift is “how will I deploy my emotional currency in this moment?” If you get bummed out, infuriated, sidetracked or derailed by a low tip amount, remember that wasting your emotional currency on that fleeting situation will take away valuable time, attention and positive emotional currency you could be investing in the next (potentially big-tipping) Guest or party.