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Jul 8, 2007 07:33 PM

Bullied into a 20% tip or just a sucker.

Went to Da Nico restaurant in NYC's Little Italy today. The food was very salty and was bothered by fruit flies throughout our meal and we had to wait forever for the check. When the waiter finally brought the check, i noticed that they added a 20% tip onto the check. Now I know that they sometimes add an automatic 18% - 20% tip for a large party but it was only the 3 of us. The busboy took the creditcard before we got a chance to ask the waiter what was up. When the credit card holder was returned, the waiter had put a dash in the tip area and took it upon himself to write in the total area with the 20% tip already added just as it was in the computer generated bill. As we were entertaining a guest, we didn't want to alarm or create an uncomfortable situation for our third party so we just left. We are pretty decent tippers, usually leaving 15%-18% and 20% for exceptional service (this by no means was exceptional.) I feel so angry about this. How arrogant of them! Can this be considered illegal?

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  1. You should call the restaurant. Any responsible manager would not stand for their server doing this.

    If it just happens to be a VERY disreputable restaurant (where this is the policy) you may want to call your credit card company and dispute the charge.

    1. Sounds like you had the opportunity to challenge the charge when you first received the bill. Unfortunately, not wanting to upset your guest is not a legal defense for not speaking up about the bill. At this point, your best recourse might be a call or note to the manager and/or the owner, and possibly to the Better Business Bureau if the menu did not put you on notice that there would be a 20% service charge added to the bill.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fsd1116

        I would suggest forgetting about the Better Business Bureau. For some reason that I cannot fathom, many people seem to think that the BBB is a government agency, when, in fact, the BBB is itself a business and as a result, it lacks any real punitive or regulatory power. The BBB solicits membership (for a fee) from businesses, and may help to resolve problems with those members.

        Please note that I said that the BBB MAY resolve problems, as there are many instances where the intervention of the BBB has no impact on the member business. The strongest penalty that the BBB can impose is to refuse to accept a member's dues for the following year. And, since this reduces the bottom line profit structure of the BBB, this is done only in extreme cases, with multiple offenders. The BBB sells local franchises, and thus, there is also a difference from one local BBB franchisee to another. Some local BBBs actually charge a fee to file a complaint.

        If you contact the BBB regarding a business that is not a member, there is absolutely nothing that they can do to entice that business to satisfy your claim. If someone wants to contact an agency that actually has regulatory and punitive powers, the agency to contact is the Department of Consumer Affairs. In NYC, this agency is actually quite effective in many situations, unlike the BBB.

        1. re: Ted in Central NJ

          You are so right about BBBs! When I was in my 20's (and naive) I started a business (non-food/restaurant). I thought it might be important to join the BBB, so I called my local BBB, spoke to a guy there who basically bullied me into joining. At that time I paid them around $ 300.00, which is a lot when you are just getting a business off the ground. He gave me a line of BS that I cannot believe now I fell for, but I am a stronger woman now and I have learned how to stand up for myself. He left me with a completely bad taste for this very unnecessary group. Never again would I join one and I now know what they are all about.

      2. If you signed the reciept, or if this was specified on the menu in large, up front, easily accesible type you may be stuck. It was, however, incredibly rude, arrogant, and inexcuseable. (I was in the restaurant business for years.) *Definitely* talk to the manager, and if satisfaction is not achieved, the owner(s). Heck, show them your post.

        Start politely, but do not be shy about this. Keep in mind that if they did this to you then they are indeed almost certainly doing it to others.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Richard 16

          "if this was specified on the menu in large, up front, easily accesible type you may be stuck. It was, however, incredibly rude, arrogant, and inexcuseable"

          How so? If it is specified on the menu, what is rude, arrogant or inexcusable about applying the charge on the bill?

          Should the wait staff repeat the charges on the menu? 'You do realize that steak you just ordered will cost you $27.95?"

          1. re: FrankJBN

            I should have separated the lines. If it was specified on the menu, it was not rude, etc. Annoying, maybe, but it is what they do. Since it apparently was not specified in advance, it was rude, etc.

        2. I am always totally amazed by post like this. A spine grew after the place was left. I grew up in the "business" And being a chow, for that long as well, I have had all sorts of things tried, like the automatic tip, the "send the busboy" (BTW most places do not let a busboy or even the non- resident server touch the chargecard) and yes, change the tip after I left.

          I have spoken to managers (while on "potty" break") in just such cases. Guest never knew, issue resolved. And sad to say, way more than a handful of times. Almost like dishonest servers pick up on vibes like a "guest".

          1 Reply
          1. re: Quine

            Sometimes the spine grows afterwards because in the beginning you are in shock so much that you can't think quickly and straight, especially when you are in a situation where you don't want to embarass anyone, want to "save face," or don't necessarily know if you're being reasonable or not. It's one thing on top of another. With time, you've had a chance to stew, discuss it your significant other, co-worker, whomever, and then you feel like you were ripped off. Then you come here to vent and make sure you're on the right track, and really, to learn what to do next time. I'm just explaining emotional toll I went through the last time I had a situation come up.

            I've done the "potty break" thing for other things when I can think straight or had similar experience before, but my response is a little slower when it's a new "scam."

          2. If the server just wrote in the dash and the total, which was completely inappropriate, why didn't you just cross those out and write in the amounts that you wanted to pay?

            1 Reply
            1. re: slacker

              I'm not so sure it was completely inappropriate. A service charge (which is the formal name of what we're talking about here) is *not* the same as a gratuity/tip when it's pre-added to the bill that's given to you. And if there's any grey area in your mind as to whether it's a service charge or tip, it's definitely not the same when it's pre-added as an itemized line by the computer, as yours was.

              The cost of the 20% service charge, if it appears on the menu, is no more negotiable than any of the food items that appear on the menu.

              Maybe the software is incapable of generating a charge signature receipt that doesn't have a tip line on it. A *really* sleazy restaurant would leave the tip line blank in the hopes that you wouldn't have noticed the service charge and might add an *additional* 15-20% on top of your meal, tax and service charge.

              In hindsight, that waiter may have been doing you a favor by crossing out the tip line. I've made that mistake (adding a tip on top of a bill with a service charge) before.

              Of course, all of this assumes that the 20% service charge is noted somewhere on Da Nico's menu. At a place as busy as Da Nico, I suspect the NYC consumer affairs folks would have paid them a visit by now if it's not on the menu.

              If you're convinced the 20% was not adequately disclosed, the NYC DCA's number is 212-487-4444.