I went to see Harry Potter at midnight at a theater that had a bar/restaurant in it. We showed up a couple hours early to grab a couple drinks before the movie started. A guy (seemingly functioning as a busser) came and got us water, and about ten minutes after we were seated, our server came to get our orders. We'd had time to figure out what we wanted, so we all each got a drink, and one person ordered a sandwich.
Our server never came back to the table ever again. The same busser delivered our drinks, a different server brought the sandwich, and when the busser came back to refill our waters, I asked if we could order another round through him or if we had to ask our server (had to order through our server, naturally). It was pretty lackadaisical service, since she was standing 5 feet away the whole time at the server station. We weren't able to get another round, or coffee, or anything. Granted, we didn't try TOO hard to get her to pay attention to us other than aggressively staring her down to catch her attention, or thinking to flag her down if she walked by the table again, but she never even glanced our way.
Eventually it was announced our movie was seating, so one of my friends actually got up and asked her for our bill. She dropped it off and walked away without a word. We saw she had hand-written in an 18% gratuity (expected, it said so in the menus parties of 5 or more would have it added), and we probably wouldn't have said anything except for the fact that she added up the 18% after tax. Ie: did 18% of $83.34 (omg guys the drinks were so expensive) instead of 18% of the pre-tax $75 subtotal, which is what you're supposed to do. It was only a dollar or so difference ($15 vs $13.50), but since the service was so non-existent we decided to see if we could get the gratuity lowered, or at least fixed.
A manager was promptly gotten for us by the busser who had come to refill our waters again. She listened, apologized, told us we could just scratch the gratuity out and tip whatever we wanted. She also got those of us who wanted another drink, another drink (only two took her up on the offer). So we figured a ~$10 tip would be appropriate, gave the manager $70 in cash and asked her to put $25 on a card. She came back with the credit card slip to be signed for the $25, and $5.xx in change, saying she just cashed out the bill for it's total without tip, and we could just leave what we wanted. Done and done?
She didn't give us back our original copy of the receipt, however, so we sat there trying to figure out what went wrong with the math. Because if she had done what she said, we should have gotten $11.xx in change back. We pondered this for a few minutes before flagging down a different server to find the manager again. A few minutes after that (and dangerously close to when the movie was beginning) she came back and somewhat impatiently re-explained what she had done. She offered to reprint the original receipt, and when she brought it back, we realized that the bill she cashed out was more than the one we had been given. The subtotal was $81, not $75, which explained the missing $6 in change. It looked like the first check we'd been given had been missing one of our drinks. So we agreed that it was fine, obviously we should pay for the drinks we consumed, and left the $10 tip we'd intended.
I guess I mostly just feel weird about it after the fact because I realized that, after all that effort to leave a tip we felt the server actually deserved, the total amount of money we spent was almost EXACTLY what we would have paid if we'd never complained at all. The original $83+gratuity bill was $98.xx, and the final (including the mysteriously appearing drink)+$10 tip bill was $99. Considering the server would have had to eat the money for the forgotten drink (assuming she'd rung it in late, or the system didn't register it until later, or whatever), the outcome would have been exactly the same. Blech. I suppose it's "the principle of the thing" but it left me feeling like a big jerk since it made no difference, monetarily.