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by Abigail Van Buren

Friend Who Pockets Server's Tips Deserves Dressing Down

DEAR ABBY: I just learned something about an acquaintance I have known for about 12 years. She was my customer until I stopped working a few months ago. I have taken her out for coffee once a month to stay in touch and keep with the news.

Last week, after coffee, she took her time leaving the table. I glanced back and was shocked to see her pick up the tip I had left for the server. I watched her again today as we were leaving the coffee shop. She did it again.

Abby, I like her, but I no longer want to take her out for coffee, especially not in this restaurant. It's one my husband and I visit frequently. I'm embarrassed that the servers haven't been getting my tips and must think I'm cheap.

How do I handle this friendship, and how do I walk into that restaurant again without hanging my head? -- BAFFLED IN TACOMA

DEAR BAFFLED: You may have been acquainted with this person for 12 years, but you're just now getting to know her. How to "handle the friendship"? Confront her. Ask if she's having financial difficulties. Lay down the law and tell her you will not stand for this kind of behavior.

As for the personnel who have been stiffed: Talk to the manager of the restaurant and offer to make good the gratuities that have been pocketed by your guest.