On a team lunch, we agreed that one of the team members would handle the bill. We all paid her on the assumption that there would be around 15% tip. Note that we are in the United States.

However, I thought I saw her leave no tip at all. I found the situation so unusual and wasn't sure if I really saw the sum correctly, so I didn't make a big deal out of it at the time. However, out of curiosity I later called the restaurant and found out that she had indeed left no tip.

Is this a big deal enough to bring up with the boss of our team? The employee in question will be leaving the company soon so I feel like making a fuss about it wouldn't benefit anyone.

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    Comments removed. 37 of them. This is not the place to have an argument about tip amounts, wages, and the like. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 16:08
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    Why are you asking about taking it to your boss? Have you broached the subject with the coworker in question? The other coworkers involved? Why is your first instinct to take this to your manager, rather than addressing the issue with the people involved first? (Or did you leave that part out of your question?) Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 17:10
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    Did you verify that the tip was not included in the bill? A lunch of above 6 or so, at least where I'm from (in the midwest US), would often have the tip included in the bottom line amount.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 19:01
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    Can you clarify what you mean by you saw her "leave no tip at all"? Do you mean she didn't tip herself or she didn't pass on the tip she collected from the rest of your friends?
    – slebetman
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 0:42
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    You called the restaurant to find out if she did tip? It sounds to me like you've got some vested interest in running this persons name in the mud? Tipping a person is not a requirement, and certainly not related to your job. Stop being petty and leave these extra-curricular events as just that: extra-curricular (not part of your job/work).
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:35

9 Answers 9


If I am at a lunch, and everybody contributes money to the bill under the assumption that there is a tip, and the person handing over the money is not handing over a tip, then this is not just "stiffing the waiter", that person is also defrauding everyone contributing to the payment.

Say five people, £100 bill, you agree to pay £15 tip, everyone contributes £23 = £92 from four people, but the last one hands over £100 only - that person got his or her lunch for £8 instead of £23 like everyone else.

If you are indeed 100% sure that there was no tip paid, then doing this is absolutely, totally unacceptable. She has been stealing from her colleagues. Whether you should go to your boss, I don't know, but the people she defrauded have a right to know.

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    "She has been stealing from her colleagues" +1 because I wanted to make the same point everyone has been wronged, but the question says "we had all paid her on the assumption that there would be around 15% tip", not "we all, including her, agreed to tip 15%, and gave her the corresponding cash". So until shown otherwise, and unlikely as it seems, I think she has to be given the benefit of the doubt that perhaps she didn't realise everyone else was including tip, didn't count the cash she was given, and for whatever reason paid the headline bill without tip. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 10:21
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    but then she should have turned round and said, hang on you've paid too much rather than just pocketing the difference! Personally I wouldn't make it into more of a deal than it needs to be, I would just quietly mention that it wasn't what people expected her to do and they wouldn't find it very acceptable. That gives the benefit of the doubt if it wasn't intentional but also highlights that someone noticed if it wasn't.
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:49
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    Back in the olden days, we used to collect cash and have one person pay. If the group got bigger than 3 or 4 people we never seemed to collect enough cash even though everyone insists they gave extra. Now that I've gotten older and now live in the 21st century, we all pay our bills separate. Thus, this is no longer an issue. So rather than blame the person collecting the money, why didn't everyone pay for their own bill? I can almost guarantee that the amount of money collected was insufficient to cover the bill and the tip, because I've experienced the exact situation many times.
    – Dunk
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:53
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    +1 "...the people she defrauded have a right to know" is a very important point that I missed until you mentioned it. The waitress's tip and your own money aside, other people are being stolen from. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 15:52
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    I duuno, here in New Zealand we do not tip the waiting staff. So if I got money from everyone around the table, I'd just stuff them in the wallet without counting and would pay the bill with the credit card - no tip. So if I were surrounded by Americans at that table, I could totally see this happening with me. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 7:10

This has nothing to do with your manager. If you are the only employee that noticed this then you may want to just leave it alone. If you are all talking about it then the sensible thing to do would be to ask your co-worker about it. I would just be straight forward, "We noticed that you didn't leave a tip at the restaurant. Is there a reason why?"

So she has two options:

  1. Tell why she thought the waitress didn't deserve a tip.

  2. Lie. If she lies I would tell her you already called the restaurant. And ask for the tip money back, then go pay the waitress.

There is nothing wrong with being straight forward and honest with people who do "bad" things. It is however bad to sit and do nothing when you know what right is.

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    Techically it's your money, which she just 'stole'.
    – Martijn
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:05
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    Now hold on a minute here - a tip isn't obligatory and no one's money was actually stolen. If the co-worker was dissatisfied with the service or simply did not feel like it it's well within their right to not leave their own tip. As for your tip, it is extremely common that people think they paid for all their food and left 15% tip but in fact they didn't since they forget something they ordered - I would at least give the co-worker the benefit of the doubt. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:18
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    @BenjaminGruenbaum I think it is unclear in the question whether the everyone paid the coworker for their meals and the coworker put the entire check on her card, or if the co-worker paid for everyone's meal herself. In the former case, yes, your money was stolen. You put in money plus tip, and she then did not pass the tip onto the server. In the latter case though, you would be correct.
    – David K
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:34
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    @DavidK only if in fact those people paid with service. My comment here is that it's certainly a possibility that while people thought they were paying their bill + tip some people actually forgot dishes they ordered or miscalculated - I find that this sort of thing happens quite often when I go out to eat with my friends. I'm commenting to say that there is a really reasonable scenario where the co-worker is not to blame nearly as much (in hope blankip would clarify that so I can later delete my comments :)) Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 12:37
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum - I just went with the facts presented to me. You could be right but that isn't what the question stated. Also I am assuming that a person that went as far as calling the restaurant, did the math right.
    – blankip
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:55

Before going to your manager, you should ask two questions to yourself:

  1. What would I like to achieve by sharing the information with my manager or anyone in the team?

  2. Does sharing the information with anyone/manager help my team or my employer in anyway?

If there are no valid answers for these two questions, it is better to forget about it as the person is leaving soon.

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    There is another thing to consider: the impression this makes on the restaurant. Returning to a restaurant after having stiffed the waitress may result in bad service! One way or another the waitress should receive her tip.
    – teego1967
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 14:33
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    Best answer right here. Since you feel making a fuss about it wouldn't benefit anyone, the obvious course of action is not to make a fuss about it. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 17:11
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    @teego1967: You are absolutely right that the impression left is a big deal. A few years ago a group I went to a restaurant with ended up tipping the waitress around $300. People were coming and going and just throwing money in the center of the table. At the end I was the one settling up and realized we had far more cash than the bill. I went ahead and added in my part and handed it over. The next time we showed up there were quite a few "free" drinks...and she still ended up with a huge tip.
    – NotMe
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 21:00

Don't assume malice for what [insert a reason] can explain.

One such reason can be misunderstanding. For example in Europe tips aren't something you have to pay. Foreigners may not be aware that tips are expected to be paid in the States. Just talk to your co-worker and explain your expectations. No need to get the boss involved at this stage.

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    If I was a foreigner in the USA in that situation, I would be wondering why the amount I have to add out of my own pocket is so much less than a fifth of the bill, and I would ask about it. Say the bill was $150. Not knowing about tips, I would expect everyone to hand over $30, and I'd pay the remaining $30. If everyone handed over $35 I'd already have $140, so I would ask why they paid too much, not just take the money and have my dinner much cheaper than everyone else.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:43
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    Just don't assume malice all the time. Personally, I can get miles away when I pay bills I can think about how to debug a kernel driver on a remote virtual machine. At such times I don't care how much people gave me and how much I should have paid. Why not simply ask the person why he/she didn't hand in the right amount? Especially if the amount written on the check is different from what you are expected to pay.
    – oleksii
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:48

I would mention it to the manager because:

  1. It's a matter of treating the wait staff fairly. They put in the work. They make their living from tips - in many cases, exclusively from tips. They went home without the income they depended on.

  2. The group put the money in for the tips. And most likely, the group is getting from the wait staff the credit for stiffing the wait staff. Right now, the group is getting the worst of both worlds: putting up the money for the tips and being blamed for not tipping.

  3. Your co-worker, no matter what she did with whatever intention, has no rights on that tip money. The money is not hers.

Before I talk to the manager, I would email just the coworker, remind her that the group had given a tip and let her know that I had confirmed with the restaurant that she had left no tip. I'd want to hear her side of a story. If there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication of some sort, she has to make it right by the wait staff.

If there is no reaction from her, then I would confer with the manager about what to do next. Going forward, letting her to do the paying on behalf of the group would not be a good idea.

  • And if the manager was planning some sort of going away part, this may give him a reason to reconsider.
    – user8365
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 16:15
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    Treating wait staff fairly (the first point) is tangential to the issue here. The amount one tips on one's own food at any given restaurant is no business of one's manager or coworkers. The only issue here is that she's (presumably) taking (i.e. stealing, if it was on purpose) her coworker's tips to cover her own food bill (or just pocketing it) - her own tip doesn't seem at all relevant. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:53
  • @Dukeling It is tangential to YOU but it is NOT tangential to me or to those who upvoted me and expressed support for my viewpoint. The fact is, a whole bunch of people got stiffed starting with the wait staff. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 14:11

Since she's going to be leaving soon anyways, you making a big deal out of this is just going to look bad on you in your manager and co-worker's eyes.

Unless she's doing it all the time and taking the tip for herself, you should just leave this one off thing alone.

  • 2
    Just want to clarify - in the question OP said that the employee in question agreed to pay for [all coworkers]. In other words, there is no issue of "pocketing the tip for herself". Unless I missed something, the only issue is whether the employee should have decided to leave a bigger tip (which is a very different issue compared with pocketing someone else's money that was supposed to be for the tip).
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 8:32
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    @Brandin A little further on in the question, it says we had all paid her on the assumption that there would be around 15% tip. Given this, she was indeed pocketing someone else's money that was supposed to be for the tip.
    – Jenny D
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 8:54
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    @JennyD That's why I asked what that really meant. To me, an assumption means "well, I just sort of figured she was going to add 15%, but I'm not going to say anything". An "agreement" on the other hand, means something like "Hey, if we all pitch in, make sure there's enough so we can leave a 15% tip.". I think the situation should really have been clarified before leaving the restaurant. Not after the fact.
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 9:06
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    @Brandin: The usual way is that four out of five diners pass one fifth of the bill in cash to the fifth person, who then pays the bill.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:47
  • +1 it already looks bad that he phoned the restaurant instead of speaking to the coworker in the first place Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 6:33

Let her get away with it... once.

Don't do anything. Treat it as a one-off and give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she really did mean to pocket your tip, maybe she didn't count the money she was given and assumed people hadn't tipped, maybe people thought they had tipped but actually had calculated wrong. There's no way to know for sure at this point.

The point is, even if it was intentional, bringing it up with your manager doesn't help anything. It's not really your manager's business, and bringing it up just makes you look unprofessional.

Next time, take preventative measures. Work out your contribution out loud:

"Let's see, my meal was $20, plus two $5 drinks, that's $30. How much are we tipping? 15%? Okay, so that means I owe what, $34.50? Has anyone got 50 cents?"

You've explicitly mentioned the tip, so if anyone has forgotten they are reminded, and if anyone disagrees with tipping or with the percentage they can say so. I used to do this when I was younger and had a group of friends whose default was not to tip (whereas my default was to tip) and it works reasonably well.

When people are adding up the bill, you can remind them again if necessary. For example, if they're totalling to "$100" and that's the sans-tip price, you can gently correct that to "$115 with tip". If they continue, at least make sure that your tip gets passed on and doesn't go towards reducing the price of a coworker's meal:

"Well, $4.50 of that was my tip, so at the very least the cash should come to $104.50 even if no-one else tips!"

(This could come across as aggressive if delivered as so - make sure to say it in a friendly way and you'll still get your point across without sounding mean.)

If she somehow manages to get away with it a second time, then you can bring it up with her (I still wouldn't recommend going over her head and reporting her to the manager - it seems like overkill, and it might just be an honest mistake about differing expectations) and see what she has to say.

  • You can still bring it up and give here the benefit of the doubt. If I failed to leave the tip by accident, I would want to know.
    – user8365
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 16:16
  • @JeffO If it was a close friend, sure. I can't really think of any way it could be brought up in a work environment after the event without it being incredibly awkward. The time to bring it up was before they left the restaurant. It would be very hard to convey that you are indeed giving her the benefit of the doubt when you are clearly bothered enough by it to bring it up several days later. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:20

It's perfectly possible that your coworker didn't notice that he ended up with extra money.¹

Suppose you were 7 people and the bill was $121,45. This means you need to pay $17,35 each. Bills and coins start moving around, so he receives that much from each of you. Assuming a 15% tip, you may have provided $26, but another one may have given $20 expecting back $2.65. Nobody explicitely said «I'm leaving a tip of $2.60»²

In the end, your coworker saves all the money and pays $121.45 with his credit card.

If you want to bring it up with someone, I would start asking the coworker who paid the bill.

¹ The opposite scenario could have occurred, too.

² in which case you would have agreed in an uniform amount or started keeping the track of how much tip to give.

  • 5
    That's why I exert my influence to avoid the nickel and diming. If the bill is $121.45 for 7 people and the tip is 15%, that's another $18 and change that's added to the bill. In this case, the total is a bit less than $140. Since there are 7 people, everyone coughs up $20. If the total were $142, either somebody volunteers the $2 or we all cough up $21. It's not complicated, unless everyone is hell bent on paying to the cent. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:04
  • Heh, of course that's easier @VietnhiPhuvan. Obviously, I 'cooked' the numbers not to divide easily. You can take it into account in advance (turns out quite well in this case) and include the tip in the calculation from the beginning, but unless someone noted the problem when splitting costs, it's relatively easy that a similar involuntary problem happened in the OP dinner.
    – Ángel
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 16:07

Did the coworker pay the bill by credit card? If so the tip could have been, and probably was, written in there., and you're jumping to conclusions.

In any case, the right way to handle the situation is to talk to the coworker: "hey, I don't remember whether I contributed to the tip. Do you recall what the percentage came out to?" That asks the question without asking the question. If they say oops, problem solved. If they can give you a number or otherwise seem to be responding honestly, assume the error is yours until/unless it happens again.

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    Read the post: "...but out of curiosity I later called the restaurant and made sure that she had indeed left no tip." Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:07
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    Missed that, thanks. This does assume whoever answered the phone had a clue, of course.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:11
  • Every society around the globe assumes that the person on the phone has a clue and the assumption is good 90% of the time - otherwise, the society would fall apart. Having said that - yes, it is possible that the person on the phone does not have a clue of how to do their job. And that happens more often than I really want to know :) As an aside, the credit card receipt that the restaurant has includes a line for tipping. I myself tip in cash, so any restaurant receipt will make me look like a skinflint :) Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:39
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    For unusual questions like "did we remember to tip", I would NOT assume a correct answer. It's in the wait staff's interest to tell you "no" if they aren't sure, and there may not be a way to be sure in retrospect. Odds ate that they could find the receipt and were being honest, but I would hesitate to accuse anyone on that basis.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 15:06
  • @keshlam Also, if the tip was left in cash, they may have viewed the credit card receipt, seen no tip on it and said "no" even though there was one. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 13:22

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