Sympathy is fine, but tips are better
"I briefly worked at a lunch/dinner/bar restaurant near an urban national landmark, staffed by national park rangers. They regularly came into our restaurant for lunch, and sometimes their table of two to four was the only lunch crowd we had on weekdays. When I started working at the restaurant, other servers told me that they never tipped and were sort of picky, and mostly just a pain in the ass. Lots of stories about sending food back and complaining the sweet tea wasn't sweet enough.
"We offered a 10% discount to police and fire department employees, and our ranger friends had bamboozled their way into this discount. Yes, they were technically law enforcement officers, but unlike park rangers in Yosemite that deal with bears and stranded hikers and stuff, these guys were basically glorified mall cops guarding a house and a statue.
"Being the new server in the restaurant and an overall cheery person, I was determined to make friends with these folks and get a solid tip out of them. My first few lunches, I was a little dismayed by the '$0.00' handwritten into the tip line on their bills. But one day, one of the female rangers came in by herself and looked like she was having a tough day. We slipped into a conversation about her life, her measly government paycheck, her bills she was behind on, and she explained how her pension from the government worked, and that she couldn't retire for 15-20 more years (she was probably about 50). She asked me how things were going at the restaurant -- she knew I was new and things were slow at lunch. I casually said it was OK, but it was frustrating sometimes because the only money we actually got to take home was from tips. I told her that sometimes our paychecks were zero dollars because of taxes and stuff. She was very sympathetic and gave me some 'Oh honey, I remember working for tips!'-type of stories. By this point another table had come in, so I walked away and got them situated.
"Walking by her table a few minutes later, she motioned for the check, which I had already printed and had written 'Hope the rest of your day is great!' on. I left it on the table and walked away smiling, getting ready to gloat to my co-workers at shift change that I had won over one of the icy rangers. I ran her credit card, dropped it off at her table, and checked on my other table. I went back to the table after she'd left to pick up what I knew would be a solid tip.
"The tip line said '$0.00.' I quit two weeks later." -- Felicia Baker
Not so fast, lady
"When I was a senior in high school, I worked in a coffee shop franchise located in a grocery store, where I saw a lot of obnoxious customers, but one took the cake.
"Immediately after she came in, she slammed her manicured fist on my counter and demanded one of our frozen fruit drinks, but with a flat lid instead of the usual domed lid. I went to get the ingredients, when my co-worker asked me if I needed help closing that night. I turned to answer her and this woman screeched that I had to do my job. So I turned back and went back to making the drink, placing both types of lid on the counter (you need a domed lid to blend the drink and not make a mess). I served the drink and told her the total and she completely lost it, screaming how dare I place her lid on our ‘filthy’ counters. Then she started berating me, telling me I'd probably never bathed and that my clothes hadn't been washed in years (by the way, the counters were freshly washed, just like my clothes and self). After nearly reducing me to tears, she reached for her drink and told me she wasn't paying for it, due to how disgusting I was.
"I meekly told her she had to pay for it or she couldn't have it. She went for it again, so I finally grew a spine and snatched it from her, and tossed it in the sink. She stormed off, muttering she'd get me back for that.
"A few months later, she was banned from the grocery store for harassing a mentally challenged bagger." -- Jenny Dillinger
"I was working at an independent sports bar/pizza place. It had been open forever and had a reputation for awesome pizza and the owners and other workers were awesome. We also had a very large group of regulars, one of whom we'll just call Bill.
"Bill was the soul of cheapness. He would drink whatever was the cheapest thing we were selling -- usually some shitty dorm room-class draft beer. In his defense, he did tip alright, always 15% [Editor’s Note: We have different definitions of ‘alright.’], but he was that guy that got his bill and if it was $15.63, the calculator came out and you got $2.34.
"Bill had a strange habit on the weekends, which is what makes the story. He would come in, drink four or five beers. Then he would leave for about two hours and return to have some more beers. This went on for months and was so regular that when one of us saw him gulping his beer, we'd automatically bring him his check.
"Finally, months and months later, I asked him where he went. He looked at me like it was the most self-evident thing in the whole wide world. He said, 'Well obviously, YOUR COMPETITOR (insert name of) Sports Bar has 70-cent wings on the weekends. Your wings are 75 cents. I'm not paying that.' I was puzzled, because (insert name of) Sports Bar was 25 miles away from us, in a totally different part of town. Dude was making a 50-mile round trip when gas was $3.50 a gallon to save 50 cents on his wings. This logic was lost on him. I asked why he didn't just go there to begin with. His answer: our beer is 25 cents cheaper, and he didn't drink their higher-priced beer. The idea that the greater savings on the beer negated the slightly higher wing price also eluded him. [Editor’s Note: And driving after drinking, apparently? Can we talk about that part?]
"It must have dawned on him sometime of the next week because on the following weekend there was a huge blowup between him and another bartender. He apparently tried to order a bunch of pizza toppings without the pizza and have them baked together for him in a dish. He lost his mind when they charged him a reasonable price for making a special menu item for him rather than adding all of the 50-cent toppings together and his grand scheme for a $4 big meal menu hack was thwarted.
"I've dealt with cheap people before, but he's the only one who took miserliness to a religious level." -- Mickey Myers