Anti-Stiff: Tipped Workers & Dealing with Stiffs

Use this powerful technique at your own risk

Despite the prevalence of tipping in American culture, the ongoing discussion about an increase to the minimum wage, and wide-spread awareness of tipped workers’ fixed wages, every tipped worker deals with the occasional stiff. This article is written for the tipped worker, and it provides a tactful method to dealing with the stiffs that you come across in your line of work. I assume herein that you do an impeccable job and communicate effectively with your customers.

If you’re reading this, I want you to dwell on that for a moment. If you aren’t doing your job well, then this doesn’t apply to you, yet. You must follow all standards of your role before employing what I’m about to tell you.

As you get to know the clientele, you’ll quickly grow aware of the stiffs among them. Your co-workers know the stiffs, as does management. However, the latter isn’t willing to do anything about it, because the mantra in customer service is “the customer is always right.”

Tipped workers generally deal with stiffs by giving them inferior service, passing the stiff to the new guy at the establishment, letting others know about the stiff, but rarely by mustering up the courage to confront the stiff. You engage in these behaviors to keep from having to endure the stiff. Meanwhile, we all want to land the customer who is known to be a good tipper – you know, the one that makes up for all the bad tippers!

The question: how to handle the stiff for the best possible outcome?
Passive-aggression is not going to work. If the customer stiffs you, it’s likely that they stiff others, too. While most people prefer to avoid confrontation, it’s the only way to turn most stiffs around.
Brief aside: can you imagine what service must be like for the customer known to be a stiff?

I came up with this one while delivering pizzas in the spring of 2014. It gradually coalesced while I was mulling over the few particularly distasteful experiences I’d had on the job.

Introducing: Anti-Stiff

The goal is to call attention to the customer’s behavior in a way that doesn’t make you out to be an entitled tip-seeker, while providing the customer with multiple outs. These word tracks can uncover the customer’s hidden objections, put otherwise lost money into your pocket, and might even provide feedback on how you can perform your job better.

I noticed that you didn’t leave me a tip.

I pride myself on delivering exceptional customer service.

Were you satisfied with the level of service that you received? Have I met your expectations for customer service? (In what way did I fail to meet your expectations?)

Why haven’t you tipped me?

This is inherently different from the question, “Where is my tip?” or, “What about my tip?” because it focuses on the customer and is a request for an explanation, as opposed to focusing on the tip. “Where is my tip?” and “What about my tip?” both come across more negatively, suggesting a sense of entitlement.

Anti-Stiff is unexpected because we seek to avoid confrontation on a societal level, and calling people out on their behavior forces them to reexamine it. It never solicits a tip. Ultimately, it’s not a pleasant line of questioning, as it places the other party on defensive. However, it works.

Most probable positive outcome: you get a standard tip from a customer who is a known stiff

Most probable negative outcome: you leave the interaction having gained insight into how you can perform your job better to the benefit of all your customers, benefitting you in turn

Using Anti-Stiff reinforces the social contract of tipping. Use it when the situation calls for it, but don’t tell your coworkers about it when you do. Because you’ve confronted a customer, you’ve engaged in behavior that most people would find uncomfortable. If anything, let them in on your secret after you’ve cashed out.

Some of you may be wondering what to do if the customer threatens to speak to your manager, and actually follows through with it. More on that, later, with a personal story involving one particularly angry customer.

Articles I read during the writing of this piece: