Monday, February 09, 2009

Tipping Point

Some New York City restaurants are attempting to play fast and loose with the tipping conventions. Most establishments in the US do not add gratuities as a part of the tab for groups of under six to eight people, but instead leave it up to the customer to add the amount to the bill, which is usually 15-20% of the pre-tax tab.

Now, these restaurants are adding in the gratuity, but aren't telling the customers who may not realize that the tip has already been added to the bill. (HT: Gothamist) That violates consumer protection laws and is highly unethical.
New York City eateries have begun tacking on automatic gratuities to meal checks, making up for the economic downturn by socking the wallets of unsuspecting customers.

The Post last week found a dozen restaurants foisting tips on diners - sometimes as high as 20 percent and regardless of party size and without noting the policy on the menu, all in violation of consumer laws.

"I felt cheated and taken advantage of," said Dazi Chen, who discovered a 20 percent tip stealthily added to his check at Midtown's Bombay Eats, where he dined with a friend.

"They're trying to get double gratuity," fumed Chen, 31.

When he complained to a waitress, he was told the tip is "programmed" into the cash register and could not be refunded.
It's one thing to state up front that the gratuities are already added to the bill and separately stated as such, but it's another to throw in the tip and bury it in the bill. I always scan the bill for such instances, which are common when you have a larger group (6 or more), but these restaurants appear to be adding the gratuity on groups of two.

One of the excuses is that these restaurants find that Europeans don't tip the staff. Given that European restaurants often build the tip into the bill, it's understandable that those tourists coming to the States might not see a reason to add the tip to the bill, even though tour books often highlight the need to tip in American restaurants (and those tour books of Europe highlight that tipping is built into the bill in Europe so American tourists should avoid overtipping).

I have mixed feelings over mandatory tipping because good service should result in a good tip, while bad service shouldn't be rewarded with a mandatory tip (at whatever amount set by the restaurant), but including the tips into the bill can make it easier to split the bill for the math challenged. However, when those tips are buried into the bill and aren't clearly stated, it crosses the line and I would not do business with such restaurants again. I would also make a stink with the restaurant manager over the unethical and illegal practice.

No comments: