I currently work for a huge corporate restaurant. Unfortunately, my restaurant is at the mall and we get a lot of blue hairs, teens and the dreaded stroller brigade. I like kids, but it is the parents of "said children" that make me cringe every time I see a high chair. I live in Idaho and servers here make $3.35 an hour plus tips. People in Idaho generally seem to think that 10% or less is standard instead of the usual 15-20%. Most servers don't make a paycheck, since that is usually taken out in taxes and some servers actually owe money at the end of the year. Every shift I work I have to tip out three people out of what I make based on a percentage of my sales, whether they did any thing for me or not. I have to tip out my food runner, bartender and busser (they only make $3.35 and hour at our restaurant, as well).
I can honestly say that there are only rare occasions not to leave a tip. If the restaurant is busy and the server is running her/his ever living ass off-have some patience. She/He will get to you in a minute. If you are in a hurry, don't come into a busy restaurant, go somewhere else. If there is something wrong with the food, don't blame the server-they didn't cook it. If your server forgets something, have compassion, they have more than one table and are multi-tasking as is. They have a million and one things they are trying to remember. I can't tell you how many times I wake up in the middle of the night panicked because I forgot someone's straw or lemon, etc. Maybe your server is having an off day (didn't get enough sleep, money trouble, home trouble, doesn't feel well)-a server is a human being just like everyone else-just trying to be superman or woman to serve your every need. And above all, don't be a condescending dick! I am doing my job just like everyone else and deserve respect, not your shit!
The only time I have ever not tipped, is one year on my anniversary. My hubby and I went to what was the nicest restaurant in another Idaho town. After our order was taken, we never saw our waitress again. She was MIA. Someone else ran our food to our table, my water was empty, hubby's beer was empty, I wanted some lemon for my fish and couldn't get her attention. We were going to have dessert, but decided to go somewhere else instead, we had to have the hostess bring us our bill and the server still never came back to our table. We watched her flirting with people in the bar and schmoozing her big top on the other side of the restaurant-probably expecting that they were going to give her a big tip-little did she know that we probably would have given her more than the other table-for good service. In this instance, I can see not leaving a tip, but if your server is honestly trying to give you a good experience, treat them well. Servers are trying to make a living just like everyone else, but we put up with a lot of BS doing it. I think that all teens should be taught how to tip in high school economics classes-unless your mom or dad is a server, no one is going to teach you. I also think that everyone should be required to wait on tables, just so they know what it is like and maybe treat one another a little better.