Seeing as I was born and grew up in England, I have never truly understood the tipping system in the USA. I've been to the States a few times, and I understand that servers are paid poorly and that so many of them bend over backward to ensure the customer enjoys their dining experience (the service really is so much better over there), but I've never understood why restaurants don't just pay their servers more money.
Instead of it being this rule where customers are expected to leave a 20% tip so the server can actually make rent and feed themselves for the month - why not just add a dollar or so onto the cost of a meal and pay the staff better?
That's what happens in the UK - any tips I've ever received working as a barman/waiter were just a kind bonus, not a necessity.
Especially when you consider the amount of crap servers have to go through working with the public every day! The customer is not always right - that is the biggest lie on the planet and you know it.
For an amazing story about how one waitress was rewarded for her kindness, check out the video below:
They deserve a living wage, and if the customer feels the service was exceptional, then it should be up to them to leave a tip - not an assumed protocol.
Regardless of what I think, the fact is servers in the States rely on their tips to make ends meet. But what happens when a customer doesn't tip enough? Well, 99% of the time, the server will just take it, throw on a fake smile, then trash talk the cheapskate once they've left the restaurant.
But when Imgur user 'noctynight' could only scrape together a 15% tip for his server during a meal (which, IMO is still pretty decent), he was left stunned by his waitress' reaction.