Judging a Date’s Generosity by The Waiter Test

by TTMK on February 20, 2012 · 19 comments

When people first get to know each other, they are often on their best behavior. They might pay careful attention to what they wear, how much they laugh at your jokes, how closely they pay attention to everything you say, and other similar behaviors.  When thinking about the other person’s behavior, it may be a good idea to look beyond how you’re being treated and also observe how the person treats a waiter or waitress, when judging their generosity and character. 

These such observations can be a part of a concept that can be called “The Waiter Test”. This rule basically works by revealing a window into person’s true character by how they treat restaurant waiters (or waitresses) or other customer service staff.

For example, let’s say you’re on a date with Prince Charming, and he seems like a great guy. However, when it comes time to pay the bill – and he happens to take the bill, let’s say – he gives the server a low tip. Say, a 10% tip, despite the server being good and nothing negative coming to mind about the meal experience.  In this case, would this make you pause – and think about what he’s really like? Would it make you wonder if there’s a different side to him beyond what he’s shown you up front?

Or, let’s say that the tip wasn’t an issue, but the otherwise great guy complained about the food over what appeared to be a trivial issue, and was curt with the server. Would this be a red flag, even if he was totally cool and generous otherwise?

Keep in mind the above 2 questions could be asked by the guy of the girl as well. Either way, the idea is the person’s dealings with a waiter or waitress can reveal things otherwise not noticeable.

Back to the tipping issue in particular:

  • If the person tips well below what’s considered normal, or doesn’t even tip, is this person selfish, stingy, or difficult to please? Or all of these?
  • If the person tips around the norm of 15% to 20%, might this person be more mainstream in views, and easy to get along with? Or, a strict rule follower?
  • If the person tips well above what’s considered normal, going well above 25% lets say – is this person really generous? Will he or she be generous in sharing and in spirit with you? Or, will the person be a big spender with no concept of money, or is he or she a show off?

Or, is this analytical overkill? 🙂

Anyway, I think that this concept might be applied to other situations that are outside the dating arena. Examples of other relationships that could be considered are:

  • Interviewing – how does your potential boss or a job candidate treat the wait staff?
  • Business partnerships – what might a potential business partner be like?
  • New Friends – are they the cool people they seem to be, or is there another side to them?

What Do You Think?

Do you think that there is something to this notion that you can learn about someone’s generosity or character by how he/she treats the wait staff?

Have you ever noticed where somebody treated a waiter or waitress poorly, or tipped unusually low or high? Did it in any way influence your thoughts about that person?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF February 20, 2012 at 7:55 am

Honestly, I think the tip stuff is analytical overkill. I have never (well, that’s a strong word… not that I can recall) peeped at what percentage another person is tipping. I don’t think that gives you a lot of information unless you see a pattern over multiple meals. My husband, for instance, is not very good at mental math (though he is a whiz at graduate-level mathematics – go figure). How much he leaves as a tip is just ask likely to be an error as it is to comment on the service.

How someone treats a waiter verbally or how they react to disappointment I think does say a lot and it’s a major turnoff to me if someone is rude or excessively negative.


TTMK February 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Emily, oh I totally agree that how somebody treats a waiter (or waitress) can say a lot. When people get easily irritated, complain excessively, etc – it’s revealing in terms of what they might be like at other times. Conversely, it can say a lot if they handle a situation with grace and class.


Jeremy @ Personal Finance Whiz February 20, 2012 at 8:17 am

Watching how a person treats others that they aren’t trying to impress is a great indication of their true character. Once the “newness” of a new dating relationship wears off, he or she will most likely treat you the same way as they treated the waiter.


TTMK February 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Jeremy – yep, I agree. This applies to different types of relationships too, whether it’s a date, boss, business partner, and so on.


Michelle February 20, 2012 at 8:26 am

My friend always tips really low, and that’s because she’s extremely cheap when at a restaurant. I usually hate eating with her because people who work at restaurants always remember her, which then means that I get equally bad service.


TTMK February 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Michelle – good point! If you’re with someone they know to be stingy, you might get the same payback. Maybe you shouldn’t go with her to any restaurants you regularly visit. Speaks to the impact the company we keep can have on us!


Nick February 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I’m a big tipper from bartending for 6 years (although I did tip big before I bartended, it made me appreciate why it’s worth it in my mind). I am often at the receiving end of lunches, etc., though work and it drives me nuts when the people paying don’t tip well (especially when they’re demanding or jerks to the staff). I generally sneak a few bucks their way if that happens.

I know it’s a bit controversial, but I’m for big tips unless the server does something significant to call for a lower tip. I respect you if you disagree but am pretty sure the price would reflect at least 18-20% if it had to be “baked” into the price anyhow…pun intended. 🙂


TTMK February 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Nick – I generally tip between 15 to 20% – probably closer to 20% as I think about it. It’s not that often that I would lower a tip or not tip – in fact, I do not remember the last time that happened, though I know it has at some point years ago. Will have to think about it some more. Someone would have to be really awful for that to be the case, though it can and does happen.


Nick February 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Can’t fault someone for 15-20%. I generally start at 20% and usually end up at 25%. I try and talk w/ the staff a bit when it’s not slow to see why they’re waiting tables and what their story is (I don’t talk too long, but try and get a sense quickly). If they’re working through college or as a single parent I like to tip a little more and let them know why. I’m a bit nutso (and biased) with tipping as you can tell…


Kris @ Everyday Tips February 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Oh my gosh, I can totally tell if I will like someone based on their interactions with the wait staff. Few things make me more uncomfortable than when someone acts like they are truly ‘above’ the waitress and they seem to enjoy that someone is serving them. I do anything to avoid eating with that type of person again.


TTMK February 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Kris – I know what you mean, it says a lot about someone.


Daisy February 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I dont think the tip would bug me, but if he was rude to an undeserving staff member, that would irk me. It would show me that he’s not a very nice person – I wouldn’t want to continue on a relationship with somebody who was short with strangers who are waiting on him.


TTMK February 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Daisy – it sure does say something if a person is rude, regardless of tip. I agree.


Squasher55 February 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

Interesting posts….but all of these people assume that you have to leave a tip. In recent years I have traveled a great deal in Asia and Europe, where tipping is not expected….and is often considered an insult. This includes taxis. Also…many of the richest people in the world never tip…..Tiger Woods is a good example. He claims that he never carries cash…..which is of course a weak reason.

Many of these posts above do not seem to imply that perhaps good service and good food would be required to earn a tip.


TTMK February 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Squasher55 – yes, that’s true that tipping as a way to judge doesn’t necessary apply globally. I agree with that. I would say that at least in the U.S., however, it applies, as it’s a custom to leave a tip rather than view a tip as something that needs to be earned with exemplary service. Also, whether in the U.S. or elsewehere, the way a person speaks to a waiter can say a lot. It’s not acceptable to belittle or speak down to another person, waiter or not. I’m guessing this applies globally, though I can’t say for sure.


Jill February 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I absolutely pay attention to how my dates tip. I find most people tip in a range that I tip myself…around 15-17% usually. But I did date one guy who would always tip A LOT (30-50%). He was generally poor at money management and spent money for show (2 BMWs), and I think this just was another indicator of that.
If I was on a date and he was paying but didn’t tip, I’d probably offer to cover the tip. I’d be chipping in and maybe he’d get the hint. I wouldn’t want our server to not get their tip just because I was dating a stingy bastard lol.


TTMK February 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Jill – that’s interesting that the guy who tipped 30% to 50% also bought 2 expensive cars. Sometimes people just have no concept of how to handle money, or need to show off that they’re generous, powerful, or whatever.


Invest It Wisely March 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I thought the rule was to tip the tax, and since tax is nearly 15% here, that’s what we end up giving as tips. 😉

I personally think it’s overkill, and would pay more attention to behavior. It’s cultural, too — in Asia, nobody tips the waiters unless it’s a fancy restaurant, and then in that case it’s a service charge applied to the bill.


TTMK March 3, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Invest it Wisely – well, that makes sense in Canada with such a high sales tax rate. Over here, taxes on purchases are lower, so that rule isn’t commonplace. I agree that behavior is something to pay attention to.


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