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Why You Shouldn't Overtip

Don't feel compelled to pay for bad service. Instead, a restaurant industry veteran says you should save your money to reward good service.

Would you pay for a meal you ordered but never received? The answer likely is no, unless you like paying for things you don't get.

Now, say you actually got your meal but the server brought it to you cold and wouldn't take it back to the kitchen to have it warmed up. The server also didn't refill your water despite repeated requests. And it took him 15 minutes after you asked for your check to finally bring it to you. Would you leave a tip even though you didn't receive good service?

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Restaurant patrons frequently leave a standard tip of 15% to 20% regardless of the service they receive, says Tom Frank, a restaurant consultant who was one of the founders of P.F. Chang's China Bistro. Over the past three years, he has been surveying consumers about their tipping habits. Nearly 40% of the people who have responded to his informal survey said they have left a tip even if they received bad service because they felt obligated to do so. More than a quarter of those who responded said they left a tip when they received bad service because they felt sorry for the server.

"There is nothing else you would pay for if you didn't get it," Franks says. Yet people pay -- by leaving a tip -- for service they don't get, he says. Instead, he says that people should stop giving good tips for bad service and save their money to reward good service with a generous tip. As a result, you'll get more value for your tipping dollars.

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Frank says that he won't leave a tip if the service isn't good but adds that most people aren't comfortable doing this. So he offers these tips for sending a signal with your tip.

-- The best way to send a signal that you were unhappy with your service is to tell the manager and to let him or her know that your server won't be receiving a good tip from you, Frank says.

-- If you don't feel comfortable approaching the manager, leave less than the standard 15% and write "Bad tip from a good tipper" on the check or credit-card receipt.

-- Don't leave a good tip and save your negative comments for Yelp, Urbanspoon or other restaurant review sites. You're only sending mixed signals, Frank says.

-- Do let the manager know when you've received exceptional service.

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