If you’re trying to live within your means, you certainly shouldn’t eat out. Dining is expensive; the average household spends about $3,008 per year at restaurants, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (link opens a PDF).
With that said, there are plenty of ways to limit your budget while occasionally dining out. Stick with water, skip the appetizers, and if you’re really hard up, order off the kids’ menu. Just don’t go overboard—nobody likes eating out (or dining in, for that matter) with total cheapskates.
We collected a few of the internet’s best stories involving cheap customers and the ridiculous lengths they go to save a buck (and lightly edited them for readability and clarity). Keep these tales in mind the next time you ask to split a $5 check.
1. Never try to pull a fast one on your server.
Reddit user Aaronp6 was at a restaurant with a group of buddies from work. A few new people had tagged along, and one of them—yes, he’s the cheapskate—ordered boneless chicken wings, a side order of fries, and a Coke.
“After our meals, we were deciding what we were all doing the rest of the evening, and we ask for our checks. The waitress, who has been exceptional for such a big group, hands the new guy his check, and he responds with, ‘Hey, your chicken wings sucked, and the fries were cold.'”
“He had eaten all of the food already, and he had the audacity to ask her to refund the money to his card. She comes back with her manager and apologized and told him that his card was refunded, to which he responded: ‘The tip, too?’”
Remember, kids: Your server doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the food—especially when you don’t tell them about a problem. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.
“Oh, it set all of us off,” Aaronp6 wrote. “We told him to get his [stuff] and leave. Then, we all tipped the girl $20 extra. She made about $200 in tips for dealing with that [jerk].”
2. When you’re pulling a scam, make sure you’ve got your facts straight.
Reddit user counters14 worked at a pizza place and occasionally fielded complaints from irate customers—missing toppings, too many anchovies, that sort of thing. However, one caller went way over the line.
“A woman called to complain about a long blonde hair in her pizza,” they wrote. “I informed her that it was only me—with short black hair—and the bald delivery guy [that were] working at that time.”
“She told me she deserved her next order free because ‘it was between the layers of cheese.’ What? If you’ve ever made a pizza in your life, then you know it is either on top of the cheese or underneath, not woven between.”
“I told her that, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to help. That was when the delivery driver walked through the back door, grabbed the phone from my hand, shouted ‘If you wanted to scam a free pizza from us, you should have left me with more than a $0.05 tip,’ and hung the phone up.”
That wasn’t hyperbole.
“He showed me the nickel,” counters14 continued. “Apparently, she had exact change for the pizza, counted it out in front of him, and handed him the nickel, saying, ‘This is for your trouble.'”
“And no, she wasn’t an elderly lady. She was a mid-30s woman who seemed to be hosting a dinner party—she got a party size pizza with a huge side order of wings. I think it came to like $70 altogether.”
3. If a restaurant offers anything for free, customers try to take advantage.
Reddit user MikeDuck1 worked at a Chili’s that offered free chips and salsa to bar patrons. As he explains, the chips weren’t actually “free,” per se—customers could get one bowl per entree—but the bar was pretty lax about the rule.
“This lady comes in one day with her four children,” he wrote. “She had to have been about 250 pounds. She orders water and chips for everyone. They devour the first plate, I bring a second. They devour that, I bring a third.”
“I ask if I can take an order, and she tells me they’re waiting for some more people. At this point, I know something’s up, and while I’m in the back, I see her kids stuffing chips into ziplock bags.”
“I [had] brought out something like 10 refills on the chips before they tried to leave. My manager intercepted them before they got up and dropped a ~$50 bill on their table. (Each bowl was $4.99). She starting [complaining] that chips and salsa were free. He called her out on the ziplock bags.”
“Long story short, she had no money on her, the cops got called, and she got arrested, or at the very least escorted out of the restaurant. We didn’t honor her bull****, never saw her again.”
4. Some people go to extraordinary lengths to save a few bucks.
“I had a customer say that I had placed her water glass too loudly on her table,” said a former waiter. “The worst part? She was vocal enough about it that she actually ended up getting free food.”
That’s obnoxious, but some cheapskates would rather punish themselves than their servers.
“My grandfather had a firmly held belief that any drink served in a restaurant should cost no more than 10 cents per glass,” wrote Reddit user DariusJenai. “So if the restaurant charged $1.50 for a sweet tea with free refills, he would sit there until he’d drank at least 15 glasses. Nobody else could leave until he was done.”
And that’s certainly not the only dubious use of a restaurant’s “free refill” offer.
“A woman brought a cooler into McDonald’s, the kind you store several drinks and ice in, bought a large sweet tea, and started pouring it straight into the cooler,” wrote redditor JustDroppinBy. “When she saw someone staring at her she said, ‘Free refills.'”
When a restaurant doesn’t offer free refills, a true cheapskate knows how to make adjustments.
“My grandma would take my brother and sister to a restaurant, and instead of buying us milk, she’d make us drink the tiny creamers,” wrote one Reddit user.
Apparently, that wasn’t a rare tactic.
“[The cheapest customer I ever saw was] a buddy who always asked for water and a plate of lemons and sweeteners, then made his own s****y lemonade,” Reddit user GringoKY said. “He had a good job and was living in a house his parents bought him at the time. Thankfully, when he got married, his wife made him stop being such an embarrassment. ”
“I almost felt the need to tell the waiter I am a good tipper at new restaurants because I was afraid we would both be branded cheap from the start,” he wrote. “I would like to add that he would sometimes ask if they were going to charge him extra for the lemons. That was the worst.”
5. One coffee shop worker says that some customers don’t understand the concept of tipping.
Seriously, people: If you’re going to be cheap, don’t make it someone else’s problem. One Reddit user said that customers at his coffee shop didn’t understand the concept of tipping.
“The tip jar isn’t a mandatory tip,” he wrote. “It was only for us when we went above and beyond for a customer, and they wanted us to have extra. I had people go, ‘Oh, I’m short?’ And just rummage through the jar for two dollars. I had to stop then more than once and tell them, ‘It isn’t a free goodies jar for you to buy that extra doughnut, you [jerk].”
He didn’t use the word “jerk,” by the way. Reddit user MST_ChiefsFan said that poor tippers can easily ruin a night out.
“A buddy of mine is the worst tipper I’ve ever met in my life,” he wrote. “Our server at Buffalo Wild Wings one time ‘brought refills too quickly,’ causing her to ‘frequently interrupt our discussion.’ To [my buddy], this meant that she didn’t deserve a tip from him at all.”
“After my buddies and I scolded him for a while, he left a 5 percent tip. We figured this was as good as he was going to get. However, after we all left, I looked back and saw that he took his tip money and put it back in his pocket.”
6. If you’re running a restaurant, avoid the words “all you can eat.”
Reddit user Mkeating used to work at a fish-and-chips restaurant that offered an all-you-can-eat option.
“I wasn’t in school at the time, so I worked a lot of day shifts,” he wrote. “Maybe once every two weeks we had this family come in of 15-20 people, depending on who shows up that week, and they would constantly try to get the all-you-can-eat meal to share.”
“They would order one kids’ all-you-can-eat for all of the kids there, and then they would order the adult one. It wasn’t as if they weren’t familiar with the system, seeing as they came in so regularly, and we would literally have to bring out the manager or owner every time they came in. They would argue for much too long until they would finally agree to order properly.”
“Then, there is always the group of people who order one [soda] with a ridiculous amount of side cups. Of course, they were expecting that they could share the one bottomless soda with the whole table. No, sorry, it doesn’t work that way.”
While those customers were annoying, the restaurant’s staff usually let things slide. That changed one Friday night.
“My coworkers and I were sitting at the staff table after finishing work, and this restaurant only had 22 tables, so we had a pretty good view of the rest of the tables,” he wrote. “There is a group of guys sitting at one of the tables, eating their all-you-can-eat meal. They are bigger guys, which explains the massive amounts of food they ordered. They’d been there for a while, and we were just waiting for them to head out so we could close up the restaurant.”
“One of my coworkers nudges me, and I look over to see one of these guys putting the fish and chips into his shirt. Sure enough, that’s what they had been doing with the majority of their food. We were laughing at them—they hadn’t realized that they’d been caught—and trying to figure out where all that fish was going.”
“Eventually, they leave, and we look outside to see these guys just ecstatic with their feat, stripping off their outer layers and displaying disgusting, grease-soaked, fish-and-chips-filled t-shirts tucked into their pants. ‘Twas a good night.”
“I’m not sure how appetizing that food would be, after having to ‘fish’ it out of your shirt,” he wrote. “I wonder if they ended up eating it.”
7. Sometimes, your penny pinching can actually cost you money.
Reddit user itsme1704 has a notoriously cheap friend.
“At parties or potlucks where we all brought food to share, she would monitor how much people took of what she brought and would scold them for taking too much,” they wrote. “She would also bring Tupperware and bring home all the leftovers, not even giving people the chance to take their own food home. Or worse, she would start piling the food in Tupperware halfway through the party. We finally called her out on it and stopped inviting [her].”
“Before we stopped hanging out with her, a big group of us went to a Brazilian steakhouse for a celebration of another friend. We all agreed to pay for ourselves and split our friend’s tab because that’s what normal, nice people do.”
“My friend and I had actually won gift cards to the restaurant, and we were going to pay for everyone. At most, people would only pitch in for tip. As soon as we got there, cheap friend makes a big deal about separate tabs and made sure the server knew she was only paying for her and her husband and 1/8th of our friend. Totally ridiculous.”
“We say nothing about the gift cards at this point. All of us—except the cheapos—are ordering drinks and appetizers, etc., and she is losing her mind about the 1/8th she has to pay for our friend. The cheapos are drinking water.”
“We have a great time anyway, and when the bill comes, she’s livid that our friend had two drinks and a dessert—that she had to pay an eighth of. None of the rest of us gave a f**k. We were there to have fun and celebrate.”
“I tell her I’ll pay her eighth, and she is visibly relieved, going on and on about it ‘just being fair.’ I tell the server I’m paying for everyone but the cheapos and hand over the gift cards, which were even enough to cover the tip, since we didn’t have to pay for cheapos dinners. The looks on their faces were priceless. They couldn’t believe we wouldn’t pay for theirs and kept saying how unfair it was. We never went out to dinner with them again.”
8. If you really want to find cheapskates, head to your local sandwich shop.
Before you try to cheap out on a bill or pull a scam on some unsuspecting Sandwich Artist, remember: Food service isn’t exactly easy. This story comes from a Reddit user (who has since deleted their account).
“I work at Subway,” they wrote. “People go through a lot to get free food. One guy came in after eating his entire footlong and complained that there weren’t enough jalapeños, demanding a free sandwich. Or the guy that came in a few hours after purchasing his food with a small bit of sandwich—and a huge moth in it. He said it was in our spinach and that we just didn’t notice putting it in the sandwich.”
To be fair, he could have realistically found that moth in the sandwich, right? Not quite—the guy’s home was apparently infested with moths.
“He showed all of us pictures of moths on his phone that he had found in his house,” the Reddit user wrote. “He demanded 15 free footlongs and kept bragging about how great he was for not suing.”
That customer wasn’t the only individual who tried to take advantage of Subway employees.
“Once, a younger kid came in with a knife bigger than his sandwich, saying he took a bite and ‘found it in there.’”
“We also used to give out free cookies on Sundays, and it would always be two random less popular flavors. One day, a lady calls the store three times within an hour to angrily tell me how much she did not like the flavor of free cookie she got. We ended up having to give her a free cookie of her choice. People are lame.”