Monday, July 16, 2007


Am I tight? Thoughts appreciated...

I have noticed a trend in restaurants in recent months, which annoys me.

In the past, if service was average or better, social convention forced me to give a tip to the waiter/waitress, and I fulfilled my obligation, most of the time fairly willingly.

But on Saturday night, for about the third or fourth time this year, my bill arrived with a service charge added to the bottom, and then a revised total presented in bold for me to pay. On closer inspection there is some small-print saying that the 12.5% is "discretionary," but if I wasn't such a hawk with my wallet (it's all in the breeding and the blood!) I wouldn't have even noticed, and the restaurant (not the waiters) would've got an extra 12.5%, not to mention any other tip I'd have accidentally paid without realising I'd already paid for service!

Where do these restaurants get off?! If I want to give a tip, I decide, and I decide how much. Not you. If you want an extra 12.5% then add it to the price of every item on your menu. And I'll go somewhere cheaper. What you're doing now is pretty much stealing an extra 12.5%. You thieves.

If I was in a party of 20, or I'd ordered something bizarre, then fine. As it is, you take an age to take my order, chuck plates at the table like it's a Greek wedding, and forget my drinks. So you don't get a tip.

So I picked the bill up and explained to the waitress that I only wanted to pay for the food and drink, not this added fee. She went away confused, since I was clearly the first person to spot the rip-off. The manager came over and asked whether anything was wrong, and I was actually angry by this stage and telling her that I decide on tips, not her.

And all of this was not exactly enchanting my companion, to whom I had wanted to appear chivalrous and distinguished in picking up the tab. By now I was appearing argumentative and tight.

Was I right? I don't know... But I can't help but think that if restaurants are being deceptive like this, they deserve to be caught out. I think next time it happens I may be purposefully loud in my arguments to alert every other diner in the place to the scam. And I won't go back either.


You don't mention where the restaurant was, but this is something which has been going on in London for years - and seems to be spreading. One one occasion, I had received particularly poor service, and so refused to pay the extra. The manager was summoned and a heated argument ensued. Apparently, as I had not complained about the service to him earlier it was my fault!
It pisses me off as well.

The level of service in restaurants in the UK is often shocking and I'm getting to the stage where I'll only give a tip if they have served me well. Having the tip included is wrong as it makes it more difficult not to leave one and the assumption that they automatically get a tip discourages good service.
I think you were right. But I work on the general principle that if there is something done wrong to me in a restaurant, I am not going to double the damage to myself and companion(s) by getting angry. I prfer to write a letter later. Or simply not to go back there and tell my friends not to go there. Or (in one case when we served a rubbish meal at a pub) walk out and ostentatiously plonk the half-eaten meal on the bar stating loudly to all those present "That is complete crap!" (I enjoyed that more than any refund!)
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