IS it customary to always leave a tip at the end of a meal, or should it only be a reflection on good service?
This was the question facing my friend and I at the end of a meal at Bella Italia in Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre last night.
The meal itself was very pleasant. My heaving bowl of spaghetti was just the tonic for a hungry tum on a winter's night, while my pal's pizza looked fresh and generously topped with veggies.
But the service really missed the mark.
I had that sinking feeling as soon as we arrived at the restaurant. Staff ignored us for a good few minutes as they chaotically dashed around tables. No greeting, no eye contact, no welcome.
Had I been with my other half he'd have said 'let's go elsewhere'. But, seeing as it was a pre-Christmas outing (and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we were brandishing a two-for-one main course voucher), we continued to smile and eventually we were spotted and shown to a table.
Our waiter was friendly but struggling to attend to the tables in his small quarters.
Food and drinks arrived in satisfactory time, although at no point were we checked upon, or offered more drinks. I guess a parched mouth means a fuller wallet, so I shouldn't complain.
But then we made the mistake of ordering coffees; a regular white coffee and one laced with Baileys.
Safe to say it'd have been quicker to fly off to Costa Rica and bring back the coffee beans myself.
After a 20 minute wait we looked, rather urgently, at our waiter - there's only so long a girl can wait for a cup of coffee.
'Two minutes,' he said, acknowledging that other tables had enjoyed three courses in the same time it was taking to fetch us a brew. He disappeared for another 10 minutes.
'That's his tip gone,' said my friend. And there our quandary began.
I nearly always tip. I've worked waiting tables, and behind a bar, and appreciate that tips boost a minimal wage and provide a sense of satisfaction in a sometimes thankless job.
But on this occasion service had been disappointing and careless.
So we declined to leave to leave a tip, but as we walked away I wondered if we had been mean.
What do you think? Do you always leave a tip, or only when service has met - or surpassed - expectation?
Let me know what you think please...