Keep Dallas Observer Free

When Can You Call Out a Rude Diner?
(Hint: Probably Best to Be Armed.)

I recently had dinner at a restaurant where the seating was shoved so close together that it was hard to keep my elbows off my neighbors' tables while I was cutting my steak.

The closeness didn't bother me, but it meant I was privy to almost everything my fellow diners said -- including a tipping decree with which I wholeheartedly disagree.

"You never tip on tax," a man explained to his date.

Granted, there is no accepted alchemy of tipping: Restaurant goers still dither about a baseline tip percentage, and whether tax and alcohol are tippable.

But, as a former waitress, I firmly believe it's stingy to tip on the pre-tax total, and seriously considered explaining my position to my table neighbor, until a sense of decorum and my husband stopped me. Restaurant etiquette calls for patrons to pretty much ignore one another, even when they're seated inches apart.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

I'm willing to yield on the tip-on-tax question, but I've been wondering whether other comments would have justified my intervening. What if he'd loudly announced his intention not to tip at all? Or said something horribly offensive that had nothing to do with restaurant-going? What if he'd yelled at his date or told a racist joke?

The question of calling out strangers isn't unique to dining, of course: Americans are constantly negotiating the boundaries between public and private spheres. But I'm not sure a restaurant table is as intimate a space as some eaters believe.

Eating out involves eating with other people -- and not just the people at one's own table. That's what makes restaurants exciting. I don't know if there are any situations in which it's appropriate to reprimand a fellow diner, but I am surprised at how infrequently restaurant goers interact. The fun of dining out is found in remembering there are other people in the room -- even if they don't know how to leave a proper tip.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.