Would You Give a Tip for Bad Service?

Would you give a tip—that is more than the total cost of the meal itself—for bad service? If you’re thinking “No way”, that’s probably the logical reply. No one would fault you for not tipping.

So what led an Iowa couple, Makenzie and Steven Schultz, to tip a waiter US$100 after a terrible US$66 dining experience? The short answer was that they wanted to show they understood what it was like to be in that waiter’s position.

It was a simple but unconventional story that went viral with the couple’s Facebook post garnering more than 1.5 million “likes” just one and a half weeks after the encounter. Makenzie was later reported saying that she hoped her example would encourage others to have more compassion and smile more.

Mulling over the news, I wondered how I would react in such a situation. I hate having to wait for my food, especially when the waiting time is unreasonable (I think waiting 20 minutes for a glass of water is unacceptable) and especially when I’m hungry. I would most likely resolve never step foot into that place again.

At the heart of why so many people felt the couple’s story was so praiseworthy and uncharacteristic was probably that the waiter didn’t deserve it. It seemed irrational to give such a handsome tip in the first place, and even more so to one who didn’t do a good job in fulfilling his role (aside from the fact that the restaurant was completely packed and terribly understaffed).

We marvel at why the couple would “reward” the waiter who failed to carry out his duty well, but isn’t that exactly what God did for us? I was reminded of Romans 5:6-8:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)

God offered the gift of salvation to completely undeserving sinners like us. Christ died for us while we were sinners, not when we were attempting to be good or righteous. It was God’s all-surpassing love for us that motivated His sacrifice. Pause and reflect on this for a moment. Doesn’t it sound completely incongruous? There truly isn’t anything more precious and significant than what Christ did for us.

“Paying it forward” is what the couple scribbled on the receipt to the waiter. And that’s how we can respond to God’s gift of grace—by making it known to others who have yet to receive it.

Would you “pay it forward” to a friend today?

Photo credit: Ervins Strauhmanis / Foter / CC BY

1 reply
  1. Randy Laxson
    Randy Laxson says:

    i left a tip for bad service once. i did not leave a 10-15% tip but i left enough to let her know that she would have gotten more if she put some effort into it. As i walked out the door she picked up the tip in shock and looked at me.


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