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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Adding Gratuity Can Lead to Cops Being Called

Almost any restaurant you go into is going to have a policy set up that will automatically include gratuity to a check if the party is over a certain number. This is to protect the server from getting totally stiffed on a huge check because we pay taxes on what the government assumes we will get tipped based on our sales, whether we get the tip or not. A lot of servers look at the automatic gratuity as an excuse to give shitty service because they know the tip is going to get added no matter what. Believe it or not, I am not one of those servers. When I know the gratuity is going to be added, I feel an increased responsibility to do a better job so that the customers have no reason to object to the tip being included. At a restaurant in Houston this week, the tip was added to a check and it did not go over well.

According to reports, La Fisherman, a fancy sounding but probably not fancy at all seafood restaurant, added a 17% gratuity to a party of five. This policy is stated on the menu. A family was not pleased with the service claiming they did not get everything they ordered, no one ever refilled their drinks and the staff was rude. They did not want to pay the 17% tip and asked that it be removed so they could tip what they wanted to tip based on the service they received. So far, I agree. If you didn't get what you ordered and it's still on the bill, that is a problem. Well, the manager was all "Umm, we cain't do that cuz it's policy to add 17% to a party of five so umm...yeah. No." The family balked and the next thing they knew, the restaurant doors had been locked with them stuck inside and the police had been called. Okay, even the bitchiest of waiters would think that the restaurant went way past the line.The police showed up and eventually the family decided to pay the 17% tip, get the fuck out of the situation and forget the whole thing. Well, forget the whole thing after they call the local news crew and stir up some trouble. I like that family. Mark this day in Bitchy Waiter history because I am on the customers' side. That restaurant needed to just accept that they gave some crap service and let it go. I did a little research on La Fisherman and there are plenty of other people not happy with the service. From Yelp and Google:
  • The manager was rude and said she was refusing us service because of our seating request. I have never been treated this badly at a restaurant in my entire life,
  • The place is a dump, restrooms are disgusting, staff is appallingly condescending, lazy and slow.
  • Billing for water and sides of mayo, butter, etc.... Greedy!
Yes, they charge twenty-five cents for water. And they charge fifty cents for butter. This restaurant sounds like a real winner. If the manager was smart (we all know she isn't...) she would have let that family pay what they wanted and leave rather than letting the story get to the media. Now, every half-ass news station and food blogger is going to be writing about what it's like when you eat at La Fisherman. In Houston, Texas. On Highway 6. Not good business, La Fisherman.

To be clear, I think a restaurant certainly has a right to add the gratuity to a party, although adding it to five or more seems a bit greedy. However, when the service charge is added, the server must make sure they are earning that tip, Yes, sometimes there will be people who demand the gratuity be removed even when the service was exemplary and there will be servers who take advantage of the added gratuity and do as little as possible. However, in this case, it does seem that the restaurant went too far.

What do you think about adding the gratuity?




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20 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I don't have a problem with it.. It wouldn't be necessary to have it added if there were decent people who would leave a tip... I read awhile back how people in the uk were notorious for NOT tipping here... then again, gratuity is already added into the price of the meal... Its also helpful to see and make a choice of the different gratuity amounts given on the bill... To me the only ones who would have an issue are the ones who don't want to tip.

KB said...

I'm cool with gratuity added to 8 or more. Even starting it at 6 or more seems a little greedy. But I always found a way of bringing it to the customers attention as double tipping is especially great when you know that they know.
As for this particular situation at La Fishfood: I am embarrassed for everyone involved.

TheRealBarman said...

I think any restaurant named La Fisherman is a little suspect to begin with. Shouldn't it be something like La Pescado Hombre?

That reminds me of that Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley when he's all, "El Nino is Spanish for......The Nino."

Yes, I'm way off topic. That's my ADD kicking in.

Bianca Cannistra said...

In my opinion gratuity should be added to groups of 7 or more or if they take up two tables. I once had a party of five sit where a party of eight could fit comfortably. Im losing money on that table! However I also agree that if the service is bad they shouldn't be forced to pay it. People will abuse that and i'm sure servers will get taken advantage of but that's nothing new. 90% of people will just pay it.

Dewsterling said...

In large parties, there is almost always someone who has calculated their share of the bill to the penny - excluding tip, which they never seem to consider earned. Left up to groups, tipping becomes table-debate with frequently one or more guests coming in at 0% and the others waffling somewhere between 10 an 20%.

Many people have never worked service jobs and have conceptual understanding that it is slightly more complicated waiting on a table of 12 than a deuce. They don't fully "get" tipping, except that it's customary. Thus, generous souls are okay with 15-20%, while stingy bastards who think that waiters "deserve" their low-paying jobs because of poor life-decisions imagine that minimum wage is more than their scurrilous server probably deserves.

Anonymous said...

At my restaurant, we have a policy of 7 or more for added gratuity. I also make sure that if the gratuity is added, the party gets great service. If for some reason they don't, such as the kitchen being behind and the party waited a long time for their food, I won't add it...even though that's not my fault. I definitely breathe a sigh of relief for our policy when I have a large party of foreigners!
~Serenity

Wrial Huden said...

I've worked at several restaurants in Houston, and I can tell you that La Fisherman (though I've never set foot in there) is not the only restaurant in H-town trying to give the impression of being fine dining when such a classification is far from reality.

For instance, I used to work at a Japanese steakhouse (a la Benihana) whose owners loved to brag about it being a fine dining establishment when it was really nothing more than an upscale Chuck E. Cheese. All it was missing was a few pachinko machines...

zoobabe said...

I was upset when I first read this story, and then changed my mind when I found out your take on it BW. I am always one to agree with the added gratuity to a large party (if it is made clear on the menu),and will tip above that if the service was what I expected it to be- but the circumstances of this story make a good case for not having to be forced to tip that much.

Anonymous said...

As a former waitress, I agree that gratuity should be added for large tables. But there does have to be some give and take on both sides. I generally tip 20% (or more for really good service), but have had two occasions when the service was really very terrible and I refused to tip. The restaurant removed it without an issue. This restaurant went too far and is likely indicative of their service in general.

One further comment -- to the person who said people from the UK are notorious for not tipping. People in Europe to not tip. European restaurants are required to pay their employees a "livable wage" and cannot get away with the horrendous wages that are common in the US. Therefore, tipping is extremely uncommon. European tourists do not always realize that tipping is generally done in the US. They also are shocked when they get the bill and the taxes have been added. In all of Europe, the taxes are included in the posted price so nothing is added. It's just a completely different system.

CarrieMarie said...

definitely on the family's side in this one. excellent article.

generally, the added gratuity makes sense, especially for parties of 7 or more. 5 is definitely greedy, 6 could go either way, depending on who the 6 were. lol

NellieVaughn said...

I don't have a problem with it. It's easy to forget to tip the right amount when you are dinning out with a large party, and everyone is paying for exactly what they ate. If it's added in, they did the math for you. Terrific. I am horrible at math. I usually still tip a little more.

Anonymous said...

"European tourists do not always realize that tipping is generally done in the US. They also are shocked when they get the bill and the taxes have been added. In all of Europe, the taxes are included in the posted price so nothing is added. It's just a completely different system"

I understand this, but I think European tourists need to educate themselves regarding certain important USA customs before coming here. When I traveled to Europe, I did my research to find out what is customary over there, so why shouldn't they do the same?

Jenny said...

Have to agree with you here. I'm on the customer's side. And when I knew gratuity would be added, I always made sure to do an extra good job. The last thing I wanted was a complaint and having to call out the manager to remove the grat.

www.DiatribesAndOvations.com said...

I'm a firm believer that the amount of a gratuity should be determined by the customer. The price of the meal is determined by the restaurant. The server fits in the middle. http://wp.me/p1se8R-4e

Anonymous said...

I would far prefer to have a tip included in the price REGARDLESS of the number of people.

It would save me from drunkenly trying to figure out the 20-25% .. After a pitcher of sangria my math skills look like this:
18+26x0.25="IDK, look at the tax and double that then add all the singles in your pocket for a good measure"

It would also prevent the cheap bitch I work with from not tipping at all (and being proud about it).

-PolishSpring

SharleneT said...

I have different feelings about all of this. I think including a 17% on a table of 5 is too greedy, by far. That's not a large party, that's a fairly normal family size. Large parties are above six, requiring two tables. So far as foreigners are concerned, they're not stupid. They can do their homework as I've done when traveling to their countries. No excuse for choosing to be stingy. In large groups, their is one designated payor of the bill or it should be announced and discussed before the meal that there is a TIP to be considered if they're going to eat. I've seen too many people left with having to pay both meals and tips for selfish people who 'eat and run' or try to get out of paying their share. Payment should be discussed, up front, and if you're not going to pay both meal and tip, don't assume you're so special that you get to eat, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I think that one thing most people do not understand is that you WILL pay a gratuity regardless of whether you want to or not. Look at it this way, if everyone in the world (read U.S. for this discussion) decided to stop tipping then the restaurants would be forced by minimum wage laws to compensate said servers to the tune of an extra 5 dollars an hour a piece.

This raise would cost roughly 200-250 dollars (average for a smaller restaurant) extra per day in labor costs. I am not sure if any of you have seen restaurant overhead sheets, but just labor by itself eats up about 30% of net profits. After rent, electric, restocking fees, etc… are payed, the usually profit margin is about 15-20% depending on month of the year.

Now assuming that your average smaller restaurant takes in about 3000 a day net, the profit is about 450-600 daily. This 200-250 dollars eats an extensive portion of profits. Most restaurants that you go to would not be able to survive. So, the only solution would be to raise prices on everything by that margin to recoup expenses to pay servers. That means that everytime you go out you would now be paying that extra “gratuity”, if you want to call it that, when you go out to eat and would not have a choice about it.

I honestly cannot believe that I never hear this arguement. It seems to be common sense, but I guess people do not realise that servers get paid well below minimum wage and that’s how you get your food at the prices that you pay for them. Also, if this were to happen then no college person or adult would go into the service industry because of the pay to bullshit ratio. They would just go to another minumum wage job where they do not have to deal with people. You would always be waited on by a high school kid that makes minimum wage and could care less how your meal was because there are no real incentives to care. If you complained to the manager, the manager wouldn’t care either because they know if they fire one snot-nosed brat then they would have to hire another exactly like it to take the first ones place. In the end, you would not only still have to pay roughly the same amount of money that you do now with gratuity, but you would have a kid waiting on you that couldn’t care less about you or your food.

Tiffany said...

I am partly with you on this one, because I do not think those people who went to La Fisherman should've had to pay the mandatory gratuity. However even if the service had been wonderful, they still would not have had to pay the "mandatory" gratuity, because, by law, a gratuity is just a tip, and a tip cannot be made mandatory. Sure, a restaurant can have a mandatory tip policy for large groups, but if a customer doesnt want to pay it, they do not have to, whether or not the restaurant has a tip policy.. though that law is little known and so some stupid manager may call the cops on your ass,... just carry a copy of the law with you at all times, lol. :P

Anonymous said...

So I found this blog searching for an answer to something that is happening to a restaurant I work at. We also have a policy of adding gratuity to parties of 8 or more but we also have parties that have set up "direct bill" accounts that we are forced to add gratuity to. The catch is that the restaurant keeps 20% of the gratuity for the "house" to cover extra payroll tax and b&o tax etc because when you add gratuity the restaurant has to claim that as income. Also to clarify we add 20% to the check and the house keeps 20% of that so we get to keep 16%. I would be okay with this if we had the option to add it or not but they force us and just take the house cut.....

Iveta said...

Gratuity is Never added to the meal. The owner/manager will never give part of the meal cost to the waiter; they are going to take all of it.