Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Awkward tipping moments - when establishments either refuse or demand a tip!

Have you guys ever encountered an establishment that refused a tip because it was too generous? It’s happened to me a while back. And no, it wasn’t yours truly (aka your royal cheapness) that was over-tipping. It was my friend, C. Me...I usually tip the usual 15-20%. Every once in a while, when I am really really pleased, I may stretch the money belt a little and tip a little more. And of course, there have been those infamous times when I was so pissed off that I didn’t even leave a tip and thought so adamantly that they were lucky I was even paying anything at all. But I was kind of surprised when I came upon an establishment that actually refused the given tip and asked for something smaller.

The Past Memories is one of the Korean bars that I actually like the food at. I have been to too many Korean bars where the food (and often drinks) sucked! Since I am always getting home late, there aren’t many options (bars being one of the few options) available for grubs. So this is one of the places where I might end up coming to...
I usually get the strawberry makgeoli when I am here.

But I am usually coming here to eat than drink. It’s usually after work…and we all know how hungry I can be after work. Sometimes I don’t even want to drink anything. But C already ended up ordering my usual, so what the heck. Fine….I’ll just sip a little…might as well since I am already at a bar anyways.

I haven’t tried everything here, but these are what I have tried so far:

The (regular) ddukbokki (spicy rice cake) here is surprisingly yum! And it doesn't hurt that I am usually very hungry when I come here. Maybe that's why it tastes extra yum.

I didn’t like the seafood ddukbokki much though. It seemed like the proportion of seafood to dduk (rice cake) is off, with there being more seafood than dduk. I felt like it should be called seafood bokki than a ddukbokki. The fishiness from the seafood kind of overwhelmed the dish too.

I don't really like the bossam (boiled pork wraps) here that much. I've had better. It's alright, but I don't think I'd order it again. And I usually love bossam.

I love spicy soupy dishes with my drinks! I like them for hangovers too. I like the budaejjigae (Army based soup) here. I once came here when I was just dying of starvation. And it totally hit the spot.

The banchans are actually not bad either. I just hate it when I go somewhere and get served yucky tasteless banchan. Thank goodness the banchans don’t take a long time to come out. It certainly helps to munch on them as I wait for the food to come out.

I had about a cup or two of makgeoli. And I didn’t want to drink anymore. C insisted that I finish it, or at least drink a little more. And it’s a shame to waste alcohol, right?

I drank some more…but couldn’t finish. C doesn’t really drink fruity drinks. He sticks to his soju and beer. I had to finish it by myself, but I just couldn’t. C was already kind of tipsy at this point. As he was reaching for the makgeoli pitcher, it somehow slipped and dropped. The makgeoli spilled all over the table and his seat. Poor C. it was kind of embarrassing. But being a bar and all, I guess the staff understands. They were quick to bring towels and clean up the mess. Our poor makgeoli was gone.
We were getting ready to leave anyways. When C was getting the bill and received his change, he tried to hand them a $20 (for the trouble), which isn’t much at some places…but this was a low key, very casual setting Asian bar. I can’t remember what the total was, but it’s usually around $50-$60ish when we have come here…so yeah $20 would have been definitely over-tipping.

The lady in front was saying “no no” and trying to give the $20 back, insisting that it was too much. C placed it back on the counter saying it was okay, and we walked out. About ten seconds later, a young man (one of the other waiters) ran out after us saying that he was told to give the $20 back because it was “too much”. He and C went on insisting that the other take it back. In the end, the waiter just ended up obliging and was extremely grateful. Seeing a $20 on such a teeny tab is probably not something that is seen often, so it probably caught them off guard too. I guess it made their night.
This encounter kind of took me back to a different scenario of being chased out because of tipping related matters (but for the totally opposite reason). I will never forget my experience of being chased out at King Dragon, a Chinese Korean restaurant that I have been going to for decades. After like 30+ years in business, they have been replaced by a Mexican restaurant (which I tried recently after hearing so many wonderful things about it…but the food there is not good at all).

About ten years ago or so, I did not have change on me when I was dining at King Dragon, so I had to get change when paying at the counter. After getting some change, I left a tip with the owner at the counter, whom my family, friends, and I have known for many years.
The waiter was new at the time, I guess. He didn’t know me. It was my first time seeing him, but definitely not the last. As I was leaving, he chased me out and said, “I noticed you didn’t leave a tip,” he said something about being the first table and how a tip should be left…yada yada. I was like WTF (silently in my head…I refrained from saying it out loud)? I kindly told him that I did leave a tip. I also wanted to tell him that a tip is not mandatory and that it’s ludicrous to be chasing customers out of the restaurant to demand a tip. Before I even got to say anything, the owner came out and seemed kind of embarrassed. She told him that a tip was, indeed, included. The waiter then apologized and was MODED. It was the first time ever seeing anyone demanding a tip, so it was definitely a WTF moment.

This waiter actually ended up working a very long time at King Dragon after that, so I saw him regularly. We saw him for many more years after that, so I am glad I didn’t pull a Miss Kim and throw a tantrum at him during our first encounter.
I actually saw him working at another Chinese Korean restaurant a couple of years ago. I guess that was around the time King Dragon was starting to really slow down in business. And he probably needed another job to make ends meet. When a friend and I saw him at King Garden (a few miles down from King Dragon), we were like, “hey you are from King Dragon!” Yep, small world! I will never forget that man that chased me out to demand a tip.

There was another time when I was demanded a tip….but at that time, I actually did not tip because I was super pissed off. It wasn’t at a food establishment, but at a hair salon. I started going to MyStylist because of their promo that was going on, $30 for cut and color. That really sounded like a great deal. The first time I saw no difference in my hair color, I just let it by and assumed the color didn’t really change because of various plausible hair scenarios and basically my hair not being prone to certain color changes or whatever.
But the second or third time I saw no difference in my hair color (I tried giving them another chance and take advantage of the promo at the same time), I have had it. I told the lady that my hair color looked exactly the same. I went through the time consuming process and waiting around just to be pissed off about my hair. She tried giving me some BS excuse saying how it’s not showing well at the moment because it’s not that bright inside the salon, but when I go out in the sunlight the next day, the color change will show. I was getting even more pissed off at this woman’s moronic logic. I’ve been coloring my hair all my life (well, since I was a teenager) to know that color changes are visible right away.

In situations like this, it’s only a waste of my time and energy to be arguing about what happened. And it’s not like anything could have been done anyways. It’s not like I can ask them to dye my hair again (and do it right)….my hair would’ve probably burned and fell out to dye it again so soon. I was just like…eff it, let me just pay for the incompetent service and get the eff outta there.
Then this woman had the nerve to tell me that I didn’t include a tip. I bluntly told her that I am not paying a tip. Tips are earned, not mandatory. I didn’t even want to pay for the service because I was so pissed off. She was lucky I was even paying at all. How dare she expect and DEMAND a tip from a pissed off customer for a job screwed up? She didn't really speak English. I am guessing she hasn't been in this country (USA) very long and probably thinks that tips are mandatory just because people usually leave them. I honestly can't even remember if I just refused to tip at all or left them a penny for the tip, or what the eff I ended up doing.

Mystylist is known for making girls cry after getting their hair did. And promo or not, that was the last time I ever went there. I’ll stick to my regular place, even if I have to pay a little bit more. At least I know that I will always leave satisfied.


  1. I've never had bossam before (thank you for putting the English translation next to the dishes too!). What's that red slimy stuff in front of the pork (it looks like squid). Your story about the $20 tip was kinda heart warming. I don't hear alot about these small Asian restaurants anymore that are humble. So thanks for sharing that one. I've never been chased after for not leaving a tip/or leaving too small of a tip. I agree with you that tips, these days, seem mandated even though service was lacking. What's your take on these restaurants that now put an automatic 17%-18% tip on their bills (even for parties less than 6). There's one place here in SD that does that and they get a lot of criticism for it.

    Is this the same stylist that straightens your hair? Seems like just yesterday we were talking about that in your post from last year.

    1. The red thing is radish, a must have for bossam.

      So you HAVE left a tip too small or no tip at all? lol...
      IDK...I would think that parties that don't tip have got to be a very small percentage in most places. It's a shame they have to spell it out.

      With my experiences, I think the people that were demanding tips were FOBs from Korea. In Korea they don't tip, so it's a culture adjustment when they come here to the USA. They get into the mindset that tipping IS a mandatory thing. And maybe that is why they chased me.

      I did get a magic straight perm years ago from Mystylist, but I didn't like that either. It sure was cheaper, but it seems like they skipped some steps. And I wasn't too pleased with the outcome. My hair wasn't silky and bouncy as it should be, it was kind of dried out and rough, so I know they fucked up. The last time I got it (when I blogged about it) was at a place called Minjee's. The price is not bad and they did a good job. Yeah, where does the time go, right?!

  2. Whhaaat?! I've never heard of that happening before! I've left a really large % tip before if the service was amazing but the food was either on special or just not that expensive. The most notable being $2 taco night and I felt kind of bad that all we ordered were 5 tacos and water. She was so nice that I left well over 50% tip because less seemed one chased me down the street! ;-)

    I think I just need you to show me the ropes because I would walk into a Korean place and have no idea what to order but everything you have or make looks delicious!

    1. Lol's not something you would normally see. I was pretty surprised too when they were asking for a smaller tip. Most would welcome it.

      Are there a lot of reputable Korean restaurants in your area? Maybe you should start with KBBQ. But just hope it's yummy because first impressions matter! It may make you either fall in love or hate and never want to try Korean food again. Reader Dave Norman might be of help in sharing his experiences. He was in the same boat too at one point, with little to no familiarity and had some apprehension of trying. But once he tried, he fell in love. But be careful, there are some (as with everything) nasty places out there. And as usual, nothing beats home cooked.

    2. I have no idea if there are or not! I'll have to do some digging, but I assume they are like Chinese food where there is an "Americanized" version and then the good stuff. After living in Hong Kong and traveling extensively in China, I refuse to eat Chinese food in America. I did make an exception in China Town in San Fran. I can't resist Dim Sum. I just can't.

      I think you said that Dave gave me some pointers on another one of your posts, so I'll have to go see if I can find that!

      I LOVE BBQ of any kind, so I'm pretty excited to try it!

    3. Lol yeah the "Americanized" stuff I don't touch. I've been to places like that here and it just does not taste right. You usually wont find a single Korean in sight at those places because the taste just doesn't deliver what we like and are used to. I really hope you don't end up going to a bad place for your first time and end up not liking Korean food for life lol. Personally, I think the best (though now always convenient or easy) thing would be to make Korean friends in your area (sorry we live so far away) that is a good cook that can gently break you in. Most people I know usually started that way....trying different dishes at get togethers at a home of a Korean, or the friends will be kind enough to offer different dishes for them to try when they are cooking...etc. Nothing beats a home cooked meal!

      I can't wait to hear about your first experience! How exciting.

  3. Tipping can be very awkward especially if you aren't used to it! In Brazil 10% gratuity is always automatically included and if you have bad service after the check comes you can ask your waiter to remove the tip. SO weird. My mom has actually done this a couple times when service is truly awful and its always the worst to have to look your waiter in the eye and ask them to remove the gratuity....

    On the other hand my parents were here for my little sister's graduation and I later realized they had been tipping 10% on all our meals and all of our servers were probably like WTF..... :/

    1. Lol how funny about the 10% tipping your parents were giving. Live and learn.
      Wow that tipping system in Brazil really does sound a bit awkward! I wonder if there are many people that pay more or less than the required amount. Do the servers ever try to talk you out of it or get all apologetic?

      Hate to admit it, but when I was a kid (you know how teenagers can be....they are one of the worst groups that servers probably hate waiting on), I used to hate tipping and thought it was unnecessary. I used to think, "it's not mandatory. Why bother?" Thank goodness I grew out of it though.

    2. They sometimes ask why but it depends on the person. We had one guy that apologized because he understood service had been pretty bad (lots of wrong dishes, some people never got their food all night) and another time this guy got really mad and we literally felt like we could not go back to that restaurant...

      And I think with the automatic 10% people don't even think about it they probably end up tipping 10% whether it was bad or really good. And especially if you're shy you probably won't want to ask to remove the 10% and deal with a pissed off waiter.

      Here you have to think about it every time you sit down and write in the numbers then add it up. So it probably correlates more to how good/bad the service was. Its always nice to be in countries where tip is not a thing and that tax is included because then you know exactly what your final price is. And I imagine in places where there is no tipping then the prices are more fair because they already include the labor costs? But no idea maybe those people just have to work for less :/

  4. I never heard that somebody wud run after a costumer lol! That is pretty shameful if you ask me..but I guess he was not ashamed to ask for a tip! I am so drooling over your know that I have soft spot for jjigae lol...I could eat it even when I am full! Great post! Cant wait for the next one :))

    1. Thanks!! I thought it was a bit shameful too haha. The nerve of him! But I guess he wasn't too familiar with the USA tipping etiquette.

  5. Have you heard about that 'Tips for Jesus' thing? That first waiter would have fainted. I like that this establishment was very honest though. Maybe it happened once to me but I always have this feeling that when you pay all cash, they might assume the extra is tip and won't even come back with the change!

    I don't remember any awful experiences so I have always left a tip. Still, I can't believe someone would directly ask a customer for a tip! I think that act in itself would warrant a 'no way jose' response right there! That waiter stuck around though because he learned his lesson!

    I only get cuts, but I used to go to the cheaper asian salons with a different stylist and varied results due to the language barrier. The cut itself was usually okay but just needed to be restyled by me to get it how I wanted it. I still tipped them because they would spend up to an hour working on me! I recently changed to a slightly more expensive american salon and my stylist takes good care of me. Of course her tip is deserved since I'm happy with my hair when I walk out. It's worth a few extra dollars for sure.

  6. Haha wow...I am impressed that you never had any awful experiences. I haven't had THAT many, but I have had my share. I haven't really heard too much about "Tips for Jesus". Fortunately, I don't think I have ever had anyone just assuming that the rest of the cash of a bill was their tip. They always bring back the change. I've had similar instances at car washes though. If I have some coins laying around in my little coin spot, they assume it's for them and they will help themselves.

    Lol you are so lucky that even the less than satisfactory hair cuts were at least "okay"!! OMG I cant even tell you what horrible experiences I have had with butchered cuts. If they did an okay job but I was not that thrilled, I still tipped. But if they butcher it to the point that it makes me look like I ran my hair through lawn mower or something, I get pissed off. The worst hair cut I have ever gotten in my life was this one time I was living in SF. I didn't really know the area at the time and I found a Korean owned salon while I was out and went in. I was the only customer and this lady took over two hours just to cut my hair and it appeared she had no idea what she was doing. My hair was cut so unevenly cut and just basically looked effed up as eff. Yep, paying a little more is so worth it. We don't have be nervous what the results will be and can relax while sitting in that chair!

  7. Miss Kim,

    The only waitstaff that ever told me I tipped too much is my friend who works part time at the family's Korean restaurant. I do tip them even more generously than others. But let me tell u she earns it!

    However, in general I tip 20%. It has to be pretty bad for me go down to 10% and I could count on 2 fingers the number of times have left no tip.

    I realize how hard it is to deal with (as a computer sysadmin in a past life I came up with the saying "user is a 4 letter word) so I tend to be at least a decent tipper.

    BTW...i can make should I mdo the recipe to make that strawberry flavored? Do I add strawberry puree during fermentation or after when bottling? What do you think?

    1. What happened during the times you did not leave a tip? The waiter gave you a dirty look?

      I never made cocktail makgeoli before. I imagine they blend it (already made makgeoli) with fresh strawberries....similar to when I make strawberry soju. I add strawberries, ice, and a bit of sugar to the soju. Or I freeze the strawberries and skip the ice. Then it is slushy enough since that's the way I like it.

    2. Ha! At that time I didn't give a flying f*ck because they were rude and didn't even really serve us. We had keep asking and waiting. We will never be rude to the waitstaff no matter what they do to us...they will just not get a tip.

      Thanks for the tip on the makgeolli. I will try the frozen strawberry technique and then post a pic on IG and let you know the flavor. It sounds really good and refreshing.

      My wife actually put a star anise pod in one and cardamom pod in another. I had the star anise one and it was really good! Haha she's the creative one. I just follow instructions. And sometimes not very well! Lol ^^


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