Q: My husband and another business associate went to lunch the other day and, later as we were having dinner together at home, he told me about their waitress. She brought their bills at the end of their meal. His associate gave her a credit card for his bill. My husband gave her a $20 bill, with a considerable amount of change due back.
My husband is a good tipper and he said his bill was a little less than $9. The waitress returned with his change: a $10 bill, a $1 bill and some small change. He looked at what she gave him, then looked at her and politely explained that he needed some smaller change in order to give her a tip. She told him that was what the cashier gave her, but she would take the $10 bill back and see if she could get change for him. He said he quietly and kindly told her that would be a good idea and suggested she explain to the cashier to always give lots of small bills in change rather than bigger bills in order to give the customer the opportunity to leave a a bigger tip.
She took the $10 bill and then returned with two $5 bills. He told me he couldn’t believe what he saw and at that point he decided she was either the smartest waitress in the world, trying to get a $5 tip, or she was a rather stupid waitress in not insisting on some $1 bills from the cashier. By this time, however, he said he had lost some of his patience because he and his associate needed to get back to the office after what was supposed to be a quick lunch. She darted away from their table after she handed him the two fives, so his associate told him he had some ones and handed them to my husband. My husband left her four $1 bills, which was over a 40 percent tip, and they left their table and the restaurant.
They laughed about the experience as they drove back to their office. His associate said he would not have given her the opportunity to go back for change at all, much less a second time. He would have just left her the small change and not even mentioned anything at all to her because he said it wasn’t his job to train her on how to get maximum tips. He apparently chastised my husband because he thought my husband created an embarrassing situation for both of them.
My husband asked me if I would have been embarrassed if I had been with him. I told him, no, but I wanted to pass this story on to you and ask your opinion. I thought he was being a really nice guy, but from a good manners perspective, did my husband make a faux pas?
A: Your husband was truly trying to be a really nice person by asking the waitress to get change for the $10 bill. Explaining to her why he was requesting change or suggesting she speak to the cashier about what kind of change she should be given, was stepping outside the boundaries of being a polite customer.
Even though he was kind and was trying to help her, it would have been more appropriate for him to try to catch the attention of the manager on the way out of the restaurant and politely give the manager a couple of suggestions to pass on to all of the wait staff and the cashiers regarding how to get the best possible tips.
The comments from your husband’s associate also indicated he was somewhat uncomfortable with the conversation that took place with the waitress. However, his comment about leaving the waitress with just the small amount of change rather than attempting to get change, was inappropriate. To do so would have been very rude and ill-mannered.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.