*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Going out to have a great time usually means you're willing to appreciate the service you get as well as the food in the restaurant you choose. But what happens if you feel like there's no need to add anything to the food price because your salary must be lower than what your waiter is making? Is it fair to refuse to give a tip, or do you have to do it just to be polite?
My friend Danielle has been married to her husband Ron for 16 years. They have four sons together, and she's been a housewife all these years, making sure her kids had everything they needed.
"Keeping the house tidy, making meals, helping our sons with their homework, doing laundry, buying groceries, and running errands are more than a full-time job. I chose my family over any promotion because I couldn't be happy knowing a babysitter I don't know much about would be with them. I had my mom and a few friends help me out a few times, but I'm usually able to handle everything myself. It took some getting used to, though, especially the first time I became a mom," Danielle said.
Her husband agreed to keep working so they could afford trips, cover the bills, and help their parents with other expenses from time to time.
The couple was happy to be parents, but once they had four kids, spending time together became a challenge, and they had to be very organized to still be able to go out or have date nights.
"I thought it was very important not to be just a mom. I was still Ron's wife, and I loved him. And I wanted him to know that. Just being parents together wasn't enough to be happy and to feel like we were all a family," the mom said.
Every Wednesday, the couple went out for dinner in Phoenix, Arizona, and they also managed to have a date most Saturdays. Their parents looked after the kids, and Ron's parents stayed over on some evenings to give them more free time.
"I love my in-laws for how nice they were to us when the kids were little. We couldn't have done it without them. And my mother-in-law even cooked for us on some days or bought cookies for the kids. My mom couldn't do much since she lives in a different state. She visits two times a month, but I couldn't count on her for babysitting issues," Danielle said.
Time went by, and their kids grew up. They went to kindergarten, then to school. As they got older, Danielle and Ron got more time for themselves; the house gradually became quieter, and while they still had to deal with teenage challenges, they felt like they were getting closer again.
"Ever since the kids all started high school, things got more relaxed. We now have three dates a week, and each of our sons does his laundry, cleans his room, takes care of house chores, and helps me with cooking," Danielle said.
Last Wednesday, they wanted to celebrate the first time they met. And they decided to go to a new restaurant and have a good time while thinking back on the day their paths crossed on a morning walk.
"We met while we were walking our dogs. And they wanted so much to be friends that we had no choice but to continue that walk in the park together," Danielle recalls.
Unfortunately, on that day, she learned they were behind with paying their bills, but she didn't want to worry Ron or give up on their night out. She was still annoyed and had a hard time picking what to wear for the evening.
When it got close to their reservation time, they drove to the restaurant, ready to have a nice dinner. Both she and Ron had exchanged cards and gifts before going out.
They were seated as soon as they got in, and as they ordered their drinks and appetizers, they talked about their memories and remembered how their love started and what they were thinking about when they first saw each other.
Their waiter brought them refills each time they needed them, and he was ready with napkins, extra plates, and different sauces; he even added an extra crunchy plate of appetizers when he realized they weren't that pleased with some of the dishes.
"He was so helpful and kind, and I particularly liked how he complimented my wife and was attentive to anything she might need. Good service is more than half a good dinner," Ron said.
They moved on to the main courses and desserts. And the waiter, James, stood by their side and was ready to help every time he could.
"He was careful, and he did the refills on time. But he dropped napkins on me, and he got close to spilling some soup on my dress. And I found it annoying to have him constantly at my side. I didn't come there to have dinner with him. I wanted to be with my husband and talk about our relationship and the things that mattered to us, but I had to watch what I said since he was too close. That was annoying," Danielle said.
At the end of their dinner, James brought their check. Danielle got ready to pay, but she didn't feel like adding a tip.
"Because of all that hovering, I just felt the service was nothing like what I wanted. And why would I be embarrassed to make that clear?" she said.
So, when the waiter came to pick up the check, he saw there was no tip whatsoever. He came back to their table to ask if they were upset about something. Danielle told him she disliked how he stayed too close, and he apologized.
"And then he had the nerve to say I still owed him a tip for making such an effort, even if I didn't appreciate it. 'No tip, you earn more than I do!' that's what I told him. And he deserved it. I'm a housewife; why would I tip him?" Danielle said.
The manager also showed up when he heard raised voices. As soon as he learned what it was all about, he tried to persuade the couple to add a low tip, but when he saw Danielle was set against it, he let it go.
Their night out wasn't their best, and Danielle doesn't think she overreacted because she was upset about the unpaid bills and the fact that she doesn't have a salary. So, to her, the waiter was trying to get even more of what they didn't have.
What do you think about this situation? Was Danielle being fair when she refused to tip the waiter because he'd been standing too close to them? Should she have left a tip since James had been very attentive and polite throughout their dinner?
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